When and what you eat after a workout can have a big impact on your body. Refueling and repairing the muscles are important to keep your body healthy and ready to get moving again!
To promote recovery, especially after daily exercise that lasts for over an hour, the Mayo Clinic recommends eating a blend of protein and carbohydrates within 2 hours after you work out. Read on for snack ideas to keep you feeling the burn.
The ideal post-workout snack contains at least 20 grams of protein and 40 to 80 grams of carbohydrate.
The carbohydrate replenishes the muscle fuel that was used during your workout, while protein helps aid in the repair of damaged muscle tissue, according to the American Heart Association.
Try snacking on whole grain crackers with turkey or low-fat cheese, and a banana. Turkey and low-fat cheese contain protein, while the banana contributes carbohydrates as well as potassium.
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that the calcium in dairy products can reduce abdominal weight gain or even promote weight loss. Low-fat dairy products are preferable to full-fat products if weight loss or weight maintenance is your goal.
Try mixing fresh berries with 6 ounces of Greek yogurt. If you’re craving something sweet, low-fat chocolate milk is also an excellent source of protein and carbohydrates.
Hot peppers, such as habaneros and jalapeños, get their punch from a compound called capsaicin. Capsaicin is thermogenic, meaning that it raises your body’s temperature, which in turn causes you to burn energy.
Capsaicin increases fat-burning and may boost weight loss, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology.
If you think you can handle the spice, toss a few hot peppers into a stir-fry or sandwich for a post-workout meal. The spicier the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.
Lean proteins, such as turkey and chicken breast, pack a protein punch and contain high levels of iron.
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, which is responsible for moving oxygen through the body. It also helps keep your energy levels up by helping to prevent anemia.
We usually associate iron with meat. The following foods also are good sources:
- whole grains
- dark leafy greens, such as spinach
Try snacking on half a turkey sandwich made with whole grain bread and spinach, or sip a cup of lentil soup after an afternoon workout.
Fish is another excellent source of protein, which makes it a smart choice after a workout. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s are unsaturated fats that can reduce inflammation in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Omega-3s are also believed to help heart health by protecting against coronary heart disease. For a light, nutrient-rich (and delicious) post-exercise lunch, go for some fish tacos with hot peppers thrown in.
Some research suggests that substituting whole for refined grains can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess fat around your middle. In addition, whole grains contain more nutrients and fiber than their milled counterparts.
Choosing whole grain options can give you a nutrient boost, help your body run smoothly, and aid in exercise recovery.
To feed your post-workout hunger pangs, pair brown rice with a lean protein, or have some whole grain cereal or oatmeal with low-fat milk or yogurt.
In moderation, caffeine can increase metabolism as well as your energy levels, meaning you burn more calories.
Green tea is a good source of caffeine, and it also contains the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which may also have calorie-burning effects. This means that green tea may help you burn more calories than coffee.
After a workout, skip the sports drinks and quench your thirst with some iced green tea instead.
Last, but not least, replenishing the fluids you lose through sweat is crucial after a workout. Dehydration affects metabolism. Often, you will experience hunger when you’re actually thirsty.
Drink water before, during, and after your workouts to prevent dehydration. If you exercise for more than an hour, be sure to eat foods that contain sodium to replace what you lost in sweat.
A sports drink will help replace your electrolytes. Other quick snacks that help provide the body get necessary electrolytes can help keep your energy up all day. Try the following “smart snacks” after your workout: