Physical activity has several benefits associated with it – improved mental well-being, stronger bones and muscles and uplifting your overall mood, not to mention reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. While following a training regime and eating a balanced meal pre-workout will help you optimise your performance, ensuring you fuel your body with the right food post-workout is just as important.
Before diving into food suggestions, it’s important to understand how food supports your training and how the body is affected by physical activity. Our muscles use up their energy stores for fuel during physical activity, triggering the breakdown of muscle proteins.
After exercise, our bodies attempt to rebuild their energy stores to repair muscle proteins – this is why post-workout nutrition is key. What you eat post-workout helps restore glycogen levels and helps the body recover quicker, meaning less chance of developing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
Although it can be tempting to turn to the snack drawer after an intense training session – after all, you’ve worked hard for it, so why not treat yourself? But, if you’re dedicated to training and achieving your goals, you will need to ensure you’re fuelling your body with the optimum number of micronutrients. This post explores what you should be fuelling your body with post-workout and how it helps your recovery.
Carbohydrates and Proteins
Eating the correct number of carbs and proteins is vital after a workout as they help to replenish the energy stores that were lost whilst training. For optimum glycogen resynthesis, the recommendation is to eat 0.5-0.7g of carbohydrates for every pound of bodyweight around 30 minutes to one hour after exercise.
Protein is important as it helps aid muscle recovery. As you exercise, proteins in the muscles start to break down – the rate at which this happens depends on the intensity level and stress of training on your body – which is why it’s important you consume enough protein throughout the day and post-workout.
What foods should I consume after a workout?
We’ve established how important it is to eat the right balance of protein and carbs after a workout – but what does that look like? Let’s take a look at the best foods to help restore those energy levels after an intense training session.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent nutrient-rich source of complex carbohydrates, making them the go-to for many fitness aficionados. With an impressive 26g of carbohydrates per serving, sweet potatoes are one of the most effective foods in helping to restore your energy levels.
Believe it or not, chocolate milk helps give you all the hydration and nutrients you need to recover after an intense session. Don’t get us wrong – water will help hydrate you just fine after a light session, but when you’ve been working at 80-90%, drinking chocolate milk is a great option. You get plenty of fluid together with carbohydrates and protein with the bonus of added calcium and healthy fats.
Biltong is a great post-workout snack – it’s super low in fat, jam-packed full of protein and is laced with all the essential vitamins and minerals the body needs. A standard 25g bag contains an impressive amount of protein (as high as 50% of the recommended daily allowance), meaning it’s great for helping tired and aching muscles recover more quickly. Biltong is extremely tasty and comes in many different flavours – you’ll be spoilt for choice with this beef biltong snack.
Quinoa makes for the perfect post-workout food as it not only contains both proteins and carbs, it’s also high in fibre (around 15-30g per cup) and contains high levels of magnesium and iron, which help with muscle growth and recovery. If that wasn’t enough, Quinoa also contains sufficient amounts of all nine amino acids and can even be enjoyed by anyone following a gluten-free diet as it contains no wheat.
Peanut Butter is one of the best (and most tasty) things you can eat after a workout. As it’s high in protein, it helps your body to recover when you’ve been going hard at the gym. You can add peanut butter into your post-workout meals in plenty of creative ways – on a sandwich as part of a PB&J or turn into a satay sauce by adding a small amount of warm water to it.
High sugar protein bars aren’t recommended post-workout, but if you love to eat something sweet after intense exercise, you’re in luck, as Bananas are one of the best things you can eat. They can help to reduce inflammation and quickly replenish muscle glycogen stores helping to promote a quicker recovery.
Salmon, Tuna and other omega-3-rich fish help to boost muscle recovery as they are packed full of lean proteins. As well as protein, they also contain healthy fats to help reduce joint inflammation and enable a healthy cardiovascular system.
Yoghurt, especially Greek Yoghurt, is a great and convenient post-workout snack. It’s thick and creamy compared to regular yoghurt and provides a high amount of protein and calcium per serving. Eating plain Greek yoghurt half an hour after training helps to replenish the body’s energy stores and helps promote muscle growth and recovery. Season with fresh berries and honey to curb sweet cravings or add in some protein powder for extra fuel.
Getting yourself out of the house and into the gym to train is just half of the battle but knowing what to eat to fuel your body properly afterwards is the other. The food and drink you consume post-workout help to aid your recovery, so it’s important you take the time to make the right choices. Whether you opt for a snack or a full, nutritious meal we hope you could find something to inspire you in this article.