Here’s the secret to getting a killer body. But first, answer these questions. Do you feel tired and worn out after working out? Do you think eating post workout is going to nullify your efforts at the gym? Then, KNOW THIS. Post-workout foods/meals are key to getting an enviable svelte figure. Because they help heal and rebuild your energy sources and muscle protein. But you must know which foods are best for you, and in what quantities. So, give this post a read to know what to consume and why post-workout foods/meals are important. Swipe up!
Why Is Eating Post Workout Important?
When you workout, glycogen (glucose stored in muscles) is used up as a source of energy. The repeated contraction of the muscles also leads to muscle fiber wear and tear. That’s why, right after working out, your muscles feel weak, and you feel like resting for a while. It’s your body’s way of telling you that you have no energy and need to refuel. This is precisely why you need to eat after working out. The nutrients from the good foods will help in the following ways:
- Restock the glycogen stores.
- Help the muscles recover from wear and tear.
- Build stronger muscles.
- Reduce muscle protein breakdown.
It is also important to know what to eat to reap all the benefits of post-workout meals. Broadly, you should include carbs, proteins, and fats in your meal. Let’s see how each of these food groups affect the body.
- Carbs Replenish Glycogen Stores
When you do cardio or endurance training, your glycogen stores get depleted. So, on the days when you only focus on cardio, you must consume about 0.5-0.7 grams of carbs per pound of your body weight (or 1-1.5 grams per kg body weight).
- Proteins Rebuild Muscles
Both resistance training and cardio lead to some degree of muscle wear and tear. Resistance training causes more muscle tears. So, on the days when you lift weights or do other forms of resistance training, make sure you consume about 0.14-0.23 grams of protein per pound of your body weight (or 0.3-0.5 grams per kg body weight) right after exercise.
- A Little Bit Of Fat Is Good
Fat may slow down the absorption of post-workout meals, but it doesn’t prevent your body from getting all its benefits. You must consume healthy fats in small quantities to help improve satiety levels.
Now, the main question is, how much of each of these food groups should you consume? The best thing to do is to include both carbs and proteins in your post-workout meal as this will help improve glycogen synthesis and muscle recovery. Maintain the carbs-protein ratio at 3:1. So, if you consume 60 grams of carbs, you must consume 20 grams of protein in your post-workout meal. Throw in some healthy fats, and you are all set! But which proteins, carbs, and fats are best? Find out in the next section.
18 Post-Workout Foods For Recovery And Instant Energy
1. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, radish greens, Swiss chard, lettuce, broccoli, collard greens, mustard greens, and arugula are loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins C, A, E, and K, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and other phytonutrients. These will not only help you replenish the glycogen stores but also protect you from a host of diseases, aid weight loss, and boost your immunity (1).
Oats are popular among those who want to lose weight. But did you know that the good carbs present in oats also make them an amazing post-workout food, especially if you make oats smoothie? Loaded with vitamin E, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, oats help increase satiety, lower bad cholesterol, and also fight cancer (2).
3. Fruits And Veggies
Fruits and veggies like apple, banana, pear, peach, plum, watermelon, muskmelon, dragon fruit, passion fruit, carrot, tomato, beetroot, scallions, and peas are great for your post-workout meal. And that’s because they help boost your energy levels and flush out the toxic free oxygen radicals. They also help fight heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancer. The WHO recommends consuming 4-5 types of fruits and veggies per day (3). You can easily blend a banana, spinach, and carrot to make a quick post-workout meal.
4. Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is the best substitute for white potato. It is low in calories, great for replenishing the glycogen stores, and keeps you satiated for a long duration. This instant energy source also has cancer-fighting potential, helps in weight loss, and flushes out toxins from the body (4). If you are on a weight loss mission, have boiled sweet potatoes instead of the baked ones as baking causes a spike in the GI of sweet potatoes (5).
Quinoa is a pseudocereal that has many vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, and dietary fiber (6). It helps prevent weight gain, improves digestion, and fills you up instantly. Toss some veggies and chicken/mushroom/baked beans with quinoa, and it becomes a great post-workout meal.
And you thought rice was bad for you! Well, not when you have it within two hours post working out and also have a cup of veggies and a source of protein (7), (8). Yes, white rice has a higher GI than brown/red/black rice. But the difference lies only in the way the rice is processed and the processing stage at which you consume it. Brown rice has more dietary fiber than white rice. But both are beneficial if you can control the portion size. Also, rice will give you that quick boost of energy by restocking your muscles and cells with glycogen and glucose respectively.
Like rice, eggs have quite a mixed reputation. Many people prefer eating only the white because they do not like the texture of the yolk or it smells odd. But many healthy eaters avoid having the yolk as they consider it to be unhealthy. However, that is not true. Whole eggs are excellent sources of water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and most importantly, essential amino acids and proteins. They are great for your post-workout meal as they are loaded with proteins and other nutrients that help protect you from various diseases (9). Having 2 whole eggs per day is ideal. Do not exceed the limit of 4-5 eggs per week.
8. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a milk product that is enjoyed in salads, wraps, pizzas, and sandwiches. It is a good source of protein, calcium, and other nutrients that help increase the satiety levels (10). Some commercially available cottage cheese is also fortified with vitamin D, an essential nutrient for overall well-being. You can have it with a few slices of avocado and a slice of whole wheat bread for your post-workout meal to rev up your energy levels and help your muscles recover from the wear and tear quickly.
9. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt and helps improve satiety levels (11). It is one of the best snacks, and consuming it post your workout is a great way to keep your hunger pangs in control for an hour or so. You can add it to smoothies or have it with some fruits.
Tuna is a great source of protein and healthy fats. One ounce of canned tuna contains about 7.1 g of protein and 78.7 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (12). It also contains a selenium-containing compound, selenoneine. It helps protect the hemoglobin and myoglobin from oxidation and also helps decrease mercury toxicity (13). Consume a piece of fish with some dark leafy greens and some healthy fats for a filling and yummy post-workout meal.
Chicken is another good source of protein that you can consume after working out. Three and a half ounces of skinless chicken breast contain about 31 grams of protein (14). Since protein is tough to digest, it takes longer to digest and absorb the nutrients from chicken. As a result, your satiety levels go up. Throw in some veggies, avocado, herbs, and olive oil, and your post-workout meal is fixed!
Tofu is a great source of vegan and vegetarian protein. Three ounces of tofu contains about 8 grams of protein (15). You can consume tofu salad, tofu wrap or sandwich or add it to your bowl of quinoa. Avoid it if you are allergic to soy.
Mushrooms are low in calories and good sources of protein. Half a cup of mushrooms contains about 1.1 grams of protein (16). Have sautéed mushrooms with veggies or mushroom soup post workout and get re-energized in just a few minutes.
14. Protein Powder
If you are always on the go and do not have time to fix your post-workout protein-loaded meal, you can have protein powder. If you have a few berries in the fridge but no yogurt, add protein powder and make a quick smoothie. There are various types of protein powders available on the market that you can add to milk, yogurt, and juices to make a healthy and nutritious protein shake to drink after your workout session.
Avocados are high-calorie fruits. But they are also loaded with healthy fats, dietary fiber, and vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6. Scientists also believe that consuming avocado might help manage weight problems, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and lead to healthy aging (17). Have half an avocado or add it to salads/smoothies/toasts to get recharged post workout.
Nuts are small pockets of health boosters. They are a great source of healthy fats, protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals (18). Toss a few almonds, peanuts, and pistachios in your smoothie bowl or just have a handful of them right after your workout.
17. Nut And Seed Butters
Nut and seed butters are also great healthy fat sources. Add them to your smoothie or oatmeal bowl to give it a nutty flavor and rev up your energy after an intense workout session.
Ghee or clarified butter is a healthy fat that you can use to make ghee coffee and smoothies. It has antioxidant properties that help flush out toxins and also help keep your hunger pangs at bay (19).
These are the 18 best post-workout foods you can consume. Still not sure how to fix your meal? Take a look at the following list.
Post-Workout Meal Ideas
- Fruits and Greek yogurt
- Banana and nuts
- Avocado and spinach smoothie
- Grilled chicken breast/fish with veggies and avocado oil
- Salad/sandwiches/wraps with veggies/cottage cheese/avocado/fish
- Mushroom soup
- Baby carrot and hummus
- Vegetable quinoa
- Rice, veggies, and fish/chicken/mushroom/tofu
- Boiled eggs
- Boiled sweet potato and kale salad with cottage cheese
- Protein shakes
Now, the glaring issue is – timing. Because timing is everything. Here’s why.
Why Is Post-Workout Meal Timing Important?
If you do not consume your post-workout meal within 45 mins-2 hours after working out, the following might happen:
- Your metabolism will slow down.
- Your muscles will not recover completely.
- The carb processing of your body increases post workout. If you wait too long, your body will not be able to process the carbs. And you will gain flab.
- You will feel tired and lethargic the entire day.
- Your muscle soreness recovery will slow down.
- Your brain and body coordination will be missing.
- You will end up overconsuming calories in a failed attempt to get energy from various food sources (including junk food).
So, you see, it is best that you make it a habit of consuming a post-workout meal. Here’s one last important tip.
Drinking water, in general, is good for you. If you are working out, make sure you drink 3-4 liters of water per day. Do not overdo it, thinking you will get back in shape quickly. Drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication. If possible, add a bit of sugar and salt to make your own homemade electrolyte drink that you can sip post your workout. This will help balance the salts in your body fluids and prevent your blood glucose levels from dropping suddenly.
To conclude, make it a habit of fixing a quick post-workout meal. It will help you in the long run and prevent muscle cramps and injury. Also, keep the timing, carbs-protein ratio, healthy fats, and portion control in mind. If you can do this, you are all set to surprise everyone with your improved stamina, muscle power, and strength. You will also look and feel great. And that’s something that you cannot overlook. Get going and give it your best. Cheers!
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