Post-workout snacks are crucial.
The right snack can help you feel energized and build muscles; the wrong snacks (or no snack) can make you feel sluggish and worn out. Luckily, there are plenty of easy-to-make or readily available foods that meet all of your post-workout nutritional requirements.
After exercise, your body needs to replenish its supply of glycogen. Muscles store glycogen in the form of glucose, a type of sugar (which, you may remember, is also a carbohydrate.) You might even crave sugary snacks after a workout, and this is why – your body actually needs it!
This doesn’t mean that you should gorge on donuts (even though I once did a 5k race where a buffet of pastries was served at the finish line.) Sure, you could replenish your glycogen stores with all of that white refined sugar, fat, and empty calories, or you could get some nutrients and the carbohydrates you need from fruit!
An apple or banana makes an easy snack. Consume your sugary snack about 20 to 30 minutes after exercise, since your body needs to replenish its supply right away.
You’ve likely heard about the body needing protein after a workout, which it does, but not as much as those aforementioned carbs. Many people look for a ratio of four grams of carbs to one gram of protein, but it’s a loose rule; others look for a ratio of two grams of carbs for every gram of protein.
If you eat an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter, you get a ratio of 3.1:1, right smack in the middle of the recommended amounts. That’s a great ratio, but how many carbs do you even start with? Runner’s World recommends consuming 0.5 grams of carbs for every pound you weigh for your recovery meals and snacks.
So a 160-lb person would need 80 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein (this may be more of a meal amount for you depending on the amount of calories you typically consume in a day.)
Have you heard about chocolate milk being the ultimate recovery food? It has a 4:1 carbs to protein ratio, which is great, but it’s not all about that number. It has that bad refined white sugar and the protein is the harder-to-digest animal kind.
It will work, and it is really easy to get and consume if you’re on the run, but there is better out there if you have a bit more time. Nut butter on apple slices or on whole-wheat toast is a fairly easy snack. A smoothie made with skim milk, fruit, and protein powder can also meet your nutritional needs.
For a post-workout meal, consider lean protein like skinless chicken breast or fish with sweet potatoes, brown rice, and a salad.
There are plenty of ways to meet your body’s needs for carbs and protein, but you can choose to do it with simple, healthy options. Working out is not an excuse to load up on bad refined sugars and greasy meats (no matter how good that hamburger looks!) You can maximize the results of your exercise and feel your best by just choosing the right foods after you work out!