What you eat before a workout can make a big difference in how fast you move and how long you can go during the workout itself.
Did you know that what you eat after a tough workout matters, too?
That’s right! Choose if and what you eat after a workout carefully, because that’s when your muscles are repairing themselves and your energy stores need to be replenished. The right foods can help or hinder this process, enabling you to recover faster and have more energy in general.
For those desiring to lose weight:
- A workout that’s less than one hour may not require a post-workout meal.
- Exercising while fasting (and thus avoiding a post-workout snack) has no negative effects on muscle mass and provides other metabolic benefits.
Athletes as well as those doing longer workouts will likely need a post-workout snack for ideal recovery.
As a staple food group, dairy is a top choice for many people as a pre- or post-workout snack. So, is dairy — and more specifically, yogurt — really a good choice for you?
What are the benefits of yogurt?
Plain, natural yogurt is primarily made up of protein and carbohydrate, with varied fat content. It contains healthy bacterial cultures, which are good for your digestive system and overall well-being. Yogurt also contains a good amount of calcium, an important bone-building mineral!
Although carbohydrates are fundamental to building up your energy reserves after a grueling workout, you also need to help repair your muscles. And that’s where protein comes in.
Ideally, after you do a tough workout, you’ll choose a snack that is rich in a combination of high-quality carbohydrates and proteins to refuel.
That’s why the Mayo Clinic recommends combining plain yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit for a powerful post-workout snack. This way you can also avoid the nonnutritious added sugar found in sweetened yogurts.
By eating these foods together, you consume a variety of important nutrients, including:
- vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals
There are many different kinds of yogurt out there, from fat-free to full fat. Depending on the type of diet you’re on, you’ll want to read the nutrition facts label and choose your yogurt accordingly.
If you’re on a low-fat diet but want the thickness of a full-fat yogurt, a nice compromise could be low-fat Greek yogurt, although it’s lower in natural carbohydrates than regular yogurt so you’ll need to compensate.
For endurance exercise, a good rule of thumb is to aim for four grams of carbohydrate for every one gram of protein.
For weight training, aim for two grams of carbohydrate for every gram of protein.
What are other smart post-workout snack options?
Dairy is a smart snack choice for enjoying after a workout for two main reasons:
- Milk contains a nice balance of proteins and carbohydrates, including natural sugars — which you’ll need after a tough workout. Also, the whey protein found in milk is especially beneficial for rebuilding muscle.
- Dairy in general is portable and easy to eat quickly, fuss-free. Whether you have a quick glass of milk or take a small container of yogurt with you to eat on the go, dairy products can be incorporated into all kinds of busy schedules.
Of course, you might not be able to tolerate dairy well. Or you just might not be interested in having dairy every single day after a workout!
In that case, there are other snack options you can enjoy after doing a tough workout and still reap the health benefits.
Keeping in mind that you’ll want to eat a snack that includes a balance of both protein and carbohydrates, you could have an apple with peanut butter or a boiled egg and fruit, a half or whole turkey spinach sandwich, or oatmeal with milk and protein powder.
As you can see, you don’t need to go out and get fancy sports-related nutrition products to refuel after a workout.
For weight loss, you may not need a snack at all before your next main meal! But if you’ve determined you do need a snack, the trick is to choose a variety of high-quality foods in as close to their natural, whole state as possible, and to eat foods that you enjoy and that provide a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Ultimately, yogurt can be a great post-workout snack — especially when it’s combined with other, carbohydrate-rich foods.
Be sure to choose plain, natural yogurt. The only ingredient should be milk or cream and live bacterial cultures.
Consider adding fresh or frozen fruit, or even a little maple syrup or honey, to sweeten it if it’s too bland for you. You can even enhance the nutrients and add a little extra flavor by adding superfoods such as ground flax or hemp hearts.
Keep fit and fuel yourself right after every workout!
Sagan Morrow is a freelance writer and editor as well as a professional lifestyle blogger at SaganMorrow.com. She has a background as a certified holistic nutritionist.