After pulling on your Nikes and adding that new Jason Derulo song to your iPod, you drag yourself to the gym for an hour. It’s hard to get started, you’re just so tired, but twenty minutes later the endorphins are kicking in and you’re feeling great. You finish your workout, do a little stretch, and walk home feeling happy as a clam.
But that happy feeling won’t last if you don’t eat a little something after all that exercise. You need something to replenish your body, girlfriend! You want to get stronger, not burn yourself out. Your friends have suggested everything from protein shakes to lemon juice.What should you really eat after you workout? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not lemon juice.
Let’s start out simple. First, drinking water is essential for replacing what you lost in that intense cardio sesh! Everyone knows you should drink 8 glasses of water a day, but you should increase that to 10-12 on days you’re working out.
Now for food: when it comes to eating after a workout, the key is getting a snack in within 45 minutes of finishing. But that doesn’t mean chowing down on a piece of cake or snacking on a few celery sticks. Post-workout snacks should have both carbs and protein in them. The carbs help replenish glycogen, and the protein helps rebuild and rehydrate muscle tissue, as well as stimulate your immune system to keep you healthy.
So it’s CRUCIAL that you eat after a workout. If you miss that 45-minute time period, you risk slowing “carb replenishment by 50 percent and protein repair by 80 percent.” Not only does that make your workout less effective, but it also leads to that so-sore-I-can’t-cough-without-crying muscle pain that we all know and loathe. Getting that protein keeps your muscles happy so you don’t have to hold your obliques to laugh after a difficult Pilates class.
So what would the ideal carb/protein snack be? Ideally, you need a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein, as too much protein right after a workout can slow rehydration and glycogen replenishment. (So no 20-ounce steaks….)
Here are some tasty, easy and healthy carb-protein suggestions:
* Yogurt with fruit (Greek yogurt is best as it has more protein than your usual stuff)
* Peanut butter on whole wheat bread
* A handful of nuts
* Banana protein shake (bananas are an excellent source of potassium, which is great for those muscles)
* Peanut butter and banana on rice cakes
* Hummus and pita
* Turkey, cheese, and apple slices
* Tuna on whole wheat bread
* Pasta w/ chicken and spinach
I know many of us tend to skip out on eating after a workout – why gain back all those calories we just burned off? – but don’t! Eating will keep you healthy, strong, and actually increase those workout results.