Are you confused about what to consume post workout? RD-to-be Sara Shipley breaks down the basics and provides excellent suggestions for post workout nutrition:
We’ve heard it all before: “You need protein after a workout!”
But why? And how much? Will two scoops of any protein powder in your morning smoothie cover all of your bases? Maybe, but here’s what else you need to know about properly refueling and repairing your muscles so you can get back to your life and get ready for tomorrow’s workout.
After strenuous activity our muscle tissue is damaged (this is normal) and our glycogen (carbohydrate stored in our muscle) is depleted. And, depending on how much fluid you consumed while exercising, you may also need to replace a good amount of fluid lost through sweat (and possibly electrolytes too). The right combination of protein, carbohydrate and fluids consumed post-workout will help your muscles recover faster with less soreness and fatigue. Here’s a breakdown on how much you should take:
Protein will help your muscles repair and build new muscle tissue (especially after a bout of resistance training). You can consume protein rich foods or sports supplements for convenience. However, you should aim for a minimum of 25 grams after resistance training (lifting weights for instance) and at least 10 grams after endurance training. If you are choosing food-based sources of protein opt for lean, high quality protein such as egg whites, skinless chicken, turkey breast, 1% cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt.
Carbohydrate is the fuel that powers your workouts. Your body’s stores of carbohydrate, in the form of glycogen, last about 2 hours (less if you are exercising very intensely). And, we now that athletic performance suffers when our carbohydrate stores become depleted. Therefore, carbs post-workout are vital to replacing glycogen stores. Aim for at least 60-75 grams or more. Bagels, pretzels and pasta are all good bets. If you aren’t hungry, try liquid carbs in the form of a sports drink or flavored milk.
Hydration and electrolytes are lost through sweat. And, drinking during your workout may seem like a no brainer, but sometimes you can’t quite makeup for your fluid losses through sweat. If your workout was intense, you need to replace electrolytes (primarily sodium) lost through sweat as well (especially if you are a salty sweater as evidenced by white salt crystals on your face, ears or neck). Sports drinks are a great way to re-hydrate or you can opt for other hydrating beverages (water, juice, milk) consumed in combination with salty foods.
Another thought to consider: post-workout inflammation. Some inflammation is good but too much inflammation may slow the recovery process. So, choose foods that may help combat inflammation including tart cherry juice (or eat cherries), mango, fresh pineapple whey protein and deeply colored fruits and vegetables.
Some of my favorite post-workout foods:
- chocolate milk
- eggs on a toasted whole wheat English muffin, with a sprinkle of cheese
- cottage cheese with sliced cherry tomatoes and whole grain pretzels
- Greek yogurt with blueberries and whole grain granola
- soup with grilled cheese (bonus – great for replacing sodium!)
- skinless grilled chicken and wholegrain brown rice
- whole grain pita filled with hummus, grilled veggies and a dollop of plain yogurt, paired with a large glass of milk
- Clif or Luna bar
- Sports drink
- Smoothie made with whey protein, any mix of berries, skim milk and ice (you can also add mango or pineapple)