It’s no secret that your diet is winning the race in determining the overall effectiveness of your fitness and health regimen.
No matter how hard your workout is or if it’s just a simple beginner workout routine, it can never make up for a bad diet. It’s also a misconception among many athletes that crushing a huge meal as soon as they finish working out is a good idea.
If you’re ready to dial it in and get your easy diet in line with your goals, there are a few main principles to keep in mind when it comes to maximizing the effects of your workout and improving recovery.
#1 Restore Glycogen, Repair Muscle…
This is what it’s all about when it comes to post workout snacking.
Eat within 30 minutes
It can’t be stressed enough how important this is and the importance on how to get lean. Bring your snack to the gym or have it prepared before your home workout. The point here is not to have to think, delay or prep. Getting that nutrition into your body is an immediate priority the second you finish that last set or stretch. Timing is key.
The goal here is to consume a balance of protein, carbs and fat. Your body needs all of the above. The American Dietetic Association recommends 1–1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight paired with a maximum of 20 grams of lean protein.
This snack is the only time that you’ll hear me encourage high glycemic index carbs like potatoes, white rice and bread but these simple carbohydrates are critical in restoring glycogen levels.
Think about foods that your body can absorb and synthesize quickly. In most cases, these snacks should include fruit in place of starches because the inflammatory effects of starches are better to be avoided.
Snack vs. Meal
Remember that when you overeat, your blood flow will be centered on digestion and not focused on repairing your muscles. I’m not a calorie counter, but for those who are, experts recommend 200-300 calories per hour of intense muscle building exercise.
Get that snack in within 30 minutes, and a meal 2-2.5 hours later, consisting of lower glycemic index carbs like brown rice that will keep you satisfied longer as your body digests these at a slower rate.
List of My 12 Favorite Post Workout Snacks
Protein shake with fruit
The champion of all post workout snacks. Keep in mind that your body cannot, at one time, digest more than about 20 grams of protein. Add berries or bananas (I use both) for those critical fast carbohydrates.
Did you know that most of the vitamins in eggs are contained in the yolks?
Eat your yolks. Many people have come to consider eggs a super-food as they are a balanced meal in and of themselves containing protein, fat and carbohydrates. The are considered on of the best muscle building foods.
Mixed Raw Unsalted Nuts & Berries
Many people go for the trail mix, but take a closer look at those nutrition facts. Most store bought trail mix have a few problems.
First, many are peanut-based which are legumes and don’t have the same health benefits as nuts. Many trail mixes also contain a great deal of refined sugar and salt.
Nuts are a balanced snack containing both healthy fat and protein, add some berries for those glycogen levels and antioxidants to keep your body healthy—remember training takes a toll. Pistachios are especially recommended after workouts as they contain potassium.
Greek Yogurt & Fruit
Greek yogurt has become a very popular high protein food. This is a good one for any time of day. Also consider adding nuts for some healthy fats.
Chicken & Sweet Potato
This is a simple, nutritious snack with the health friendly and delicious sweet potato combined with the lean protein of chicken.
Your immune system takes a beating when you train hard. Include green smoothies in your life regularly, but after a workout is an especially good time.
Add kale, avocado and spinach along with some fruit to your protein shake.
If you’re new to green smoothies, feel free to add a small scoop of frozen yogurt to sweeten the mix.
Banana & Almond Butter
Banana has potassium and the necessary fructose for glycogen refueling and adding almond butter to this adds protein and a small dose of healthy fat.
Yes, really. Chocolate milk has a balance of protein and carbohydrates that many athletes find effective in recovery.
Tuna & Whole Wheat
Add 4 ounces of tuna to a slice of whole wheat bread for a low calorie, balanced protein and carb ratio. Simple and nutritious is the idea here. While we’re on the topic of fish, if you’re not already taking fish oil, get on that immediately.
Sliced Turkey Breast & Hummus on Whole Wheat
This one will hover around 300 calories. Using a single slice of toast instead of making an entire sandwich will provide the necessary amount of carbohydrates.
Turkey, Cheese & Apple Slices
This combination skips the bread altogether and uses apple slices to restore glycogen. This is an excellent gluten free option which can be very beneficial in minimizing the inflammation that is caused by high intensity exercise.
Greek Yogurt, Orange, and Peppers
A number of experts swear by this combination of vitamin C-rich peppers and oranges with protein rich and carb-balanced Greek yogurt.
Make your own variations and get creative but remember the most important things about post workout snacks are fast absorption, eating immediately and a balance of protein, carbs and fat.
Plan ahead and always have a snack ready for when you finish your workout. You can go into the gym and throw weight around all day, but if you don’t eat the right things, at the right time, in the right portions, then you are really doing yourself a disservice.
If your ultimate goal is optimized health and fitness, then don’t create more work for yourself by slacking on your diet—the right post workout snacks are a great step in the right direction.
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