Striving to achieve the perfect physique? Trying to build lean muscle and tone your body? Working out just to lose a few pounds and get in better shape?
Regardless of your end goal, exercise is great for your body and overall health. But it can be strenuous, and it can take a toll on you if you don’t know how to do it right.
And we don’t just mean knowing how to properly stretch or knowing how to lift weights the correct way. “Doing it right” also refers to what you do before and after you work out.
Eating and drinking the right foods and beverages after a workout is just as important as the workout itself. If you’re ready to learn how to make the most of your exercise routine, read on for 15 of the best recovery foods to eat after a workout.
Why Is It Important to Eat After a Workout?
If you’re working out simply to lose weight, it may seem counterintuitive to end your workout with a meal. But it’s actually the best thing you can do, as long as you’re consuming the right foods.
Exercise depletes the body’s levels of glucose, which is stored up glycogen. And when you deplete your body of glycogen, you need to restore it.
Recovery foods are those that replenish this fuel and restore your energy. They include proteins, healthy fats, and carbs.
Yes, you read that right:
Certain carbs are okay.
Some carbs can be useful in replacing the energy burned off during exercise. Working out can decrease your immunity, and carbs help to reduce that loss.
Eating certain types of protein will help heal your muscles, repair cells, and prevent you from losing lean muscle mass.
Healthy fats are also essential as they promote muscle growth.
Hungry yet? Let’s talk about the best post-workout recovery foods.
Proteins to Eat After Working Out
Dairy-based proteins and fatty fish are among the best proteins you can eat after a workout. Your best protein choices are:
1. Greek Yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt is a great on-the-go snack and a perfect post-workout treat. Need something more substantial? Add some fresh or frozen fruit.
2. Cottage Cheese
Cottage chest provides both protein and carbs. It also has high water content, so it’s a win-win-win as a post-exercise snack.
If you like milk but don’t love yogurt, you may want to try kefir. This fermented milk is sort of like a thin yogurt made with goat milk, sheep milk, and blended with kefir grains.
Whole eggs and egg whites are great sources of protein. Eat a hard-boiled egg as a quick snack or cook one up in a skillet with veggies and various spices.
Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids help to increase the size of your muscle cells by promoting the synthesis of proteins in your muscles.
Like salmon, tuna is rich with omega-3 fatty acids. Not only do omega-3s help reduce muscle soreness, but they also help to lower your risk of cancer and heart disease. Whether you work out or not, your diet can probably use more fatty fish, even if it’s canned tuna.
7. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
Unless they’re vegan, most fitness fanatics eat a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breast. You can eat it with brown rice, in a whole-grain wrap, or on its own.
Chicken goes well with just about any side or spice, so it’s a perfect ingredient if you’re looking to get creative with new recipes.
Carbs to Eat After Working Out
Replenish your body and refuel your system with beneficial carbs. If you’re on a low-carb diet, eating them after a workout is the best time to eat them.
Eat your carbs between 45 minutes and two hours post workout, when your body is poised to synthesize muscle glycogen more rapidly.
8. Brown Rice
Not only is brown rice delicious, but it also helps to replenish your reduced glycogen levels. It’s a great way to combat the fatigue that sometimes sets in after a workout.
9. Whole-Grain Bread
Whole-grain bread with almond butter or a whole-grain wrap with vegetables is the perfect post-workout meal. If you fill that wrap with grilled chicken breast and raw veggies, even better!
Like brown rice, oatmeal helps to replenish lost carbs and repair muscles. If you’ve developed a fitness routine and haven’t started eating oatmeal, you’re missing out.
11. Rice Cakes
Not a fan of those bland, blah rice cakes? They’re absolutely delicious when topped with a smear of peanut butter or almond butter.
Quinoa is both high in fiber and rich in protein. It packs a double punch of health benefits that make for a great post-workout meal!
Healthy Fats to Eat After Working Out
Not all fat is bad fat. In fact, it is necessary to have fat in your diet to promote hormone function and help the body to absorb certain nutrients. After a workout, stick to healthy fats, such as:
13. Peanut Butter
Don’t love peanut butter? There are plenty of other nut butters out there. Almond butter is a great addition to a piece of whole-grain toast or a whole-grain English muffin if you need a quick breakfast after a morning workout.
Avocados are the epitome of what a healthy fat should be. Delicious and creamy, avocado is perfect for spreading on whole-grain toast or adding to a whole-grain wrap with grilled chicken.
Drink Lots of Water!
It goes without saying that you need to hydrate the body before, during, and after every workout. So it should come as no surprise that the final (and perhaps most important) recovery food on our list is:
As you sweat, water and electrolytes leave your body. Replace those with pure spring water or give your body an extra boost by drinking water or a sports drink with added electrolytes.
Knowing what to eat after a workout is the key to getting the most out of that workout.
If you have an intense fitness routine with the goal of toning your body and creating lean muscle mass, eating recovery foods is crucial. But even people who are working out simply to lose weight can benefit from having a healthy post-exercise nutrition plan.
So the next time you spend an hour running on the treadmill or flipping tires, reward yourself by eating a proper meal and drinking lots of water. With the right recovery foods, you’ll see even greater results.
Caitlin Sinclair is the Property Manager at Verandas at Timberglen. She has been a team member since the doors opened at the community. She takes great pride in the management team’s superior service as well as establishing and maintaining relationships between Verandas at Timberglen and local businesses.