Ask a dozen different fitness gurus about eating after a workout and they’ll all have slightly different recommendations. Some recommend waiting until it's time for your next daily meal while others claim that eating directly after you finish is the most beneficial.
Obviously, the kind of nutrition your body needs after a workout will depend greatly on what kind of exercise you participate in. If you engage in a hard cardio session, experts recommend eating within an hour after finishing the workout so that your body can restore muscle glycogen and replenish its energy. Your body probably used up its fat and sugar during the workout, so you’ll need to eat in order to recover properly.
Similarly, eating right after you lift weights at the gym can facilitate muscle repairs and help you recover faster, according to Dr. Joseph A. Chromiak, Ph.D., CSC. Consuming food will allow your body to increase protein synthesis, which leads to strong muscles and healthy tissue. However, experts advise avoiding fatty foods right after your workout because they can be counterproductive.
In general, if you’re hungry after a workout, it’s a good idea to give your body a boost of energy with some nutritious food. Put down the Girl Scout cookies and consider these powerful meal alternatives instead.
When you’re starving after an intense stint at the gym, you want something easy. Don’t just reach for a bag of chips or a sweet dessert; stick to your favorite kid-friendly meal. Grab a slice of whole wheat bread, skip the sugary jelly, and go straight for the PB. Peanut butter will give your body the dose of protein it’s seeking, and its fiber content will make you feel nice and full. If you’re craving a bit of sweetness, drizzle the slice in honey.
Eggs pack a powerful punch, which is just what you need after a good workout. Just one egg contains 6.3 grams of protein and plenty of helpful vitamins. Whip some up in a skillet along with whatever veggies you have on hand. Chopped bell peppers and onions are great options.
No, we’re not talking about a yummy ice-cream based strawberry concoction. Instead, use low-fat yogurt and a protein-dense nut butter (almond butter, peanut butter, etc.) to create a smoothie that’s both healthy and energy-boosting. You can also toss in some berries or honey for added natural sugar. Try our Keep You Full Smoothie.
If you’re craving a real meal, keep it simple with this healthy concoction. Brown rice is a whole grain and therefore contains more vitamins and fiber than white rice, and salmon is a superfood when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids and protein. In the mood for some spice? Try blackening your salmon with paprika, thyme, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and oregano.
» Make it: Try our Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Cilantro Lime Rice.
The chickpeas in hummus contain protein and carbs, which can replenish your body after a hard workout. Although you could scoop your hummus with pita chips, a healthier option is to stick to low-calorie veggies like carrots. They’ll fill you up without making you feel bloated or sluggish.
Full of protein and potassium, Greek yogurt is one of the top options for exercisers. The probiotics will regulate your digestive system will the protein prevents your tired muscles from feeling achy tomorrow. Toss in some blueberries, almonds, or peanuts for an extra dose of healing antioxidants.
Although most people will tell you not to carb-load after working out, oatmeal is an exception to the rule. Your body takes quite a while to digest the carbs in oatmeal, which allows your body to take energy from the food for a long time as it repairs your sore muscles. Plus, oatmeal contains amino acids and glucose, which are also helpful in building muscles.
As much as you might want to run through the McDonald’s drive-thru on your way home from the gym, try not to give into temptation. Instead, stick to these healthy meals that will help repair your sore muscles and give you the energy you desperately need. Your body will thank you later.