What to eat after your workout can be a more complicated thing to figure out than the workout itself. There are hundreds of articles online, all with different and contradicting information. “Eat fat!” “No, don’t ever eat fat!” “Carbo load!” “Avoid carbs!” There’s no end to it and they all claim to be backed up by real trainers. Food is a very personal thing and understanding what your body needs to work best is a process of trial and error. Here are a few important tips to help you navigate your journey to the perfect post-workout nutrition:
One thing that most people can agree on is that your body needs protein after a workout. Working out, essentially, is the process of wearing and tearing the fibers of your muscles so that your body will regrow them stronger. Protein is essential to this process and by eating protein after your workout, you can help your body in the rebuilding process and help avoid soreness. Just make sure you’re eating lean proteins. Go for eggs, grilled chicken and lean cuts of beef. For the vegetarians, try black beans and quinoa.
2. Complex carbs
Complex carbs are found in vegetables, beans, grains, and fruits. They’re a more complicated natural sugar that takes longer for your body to process and ultimately provides you with a longer burn of energy. Simple carbs burn up more quickly, leaving you hungry and tired again. Complex carbs will stick with you longer throughout the day, giving you more energy for longer. After a hard workout, many people will suggest eating carbs and your body will likely be craving it after expending so much energy in such a short amount of time.
3. Easy On Your Stomach
This may not be an issue for everyone, but for some, it can make a huge difference. If you’re having gastric distress not long after your post-workout meal, it’s time to rethink what you’re eating, no matter what the experts say. Begin by avoiding dairy, overly processed foods (looking at you, protein powder), and extremely fatty foods, even those that are packed with “good fats.” These may be great for some, but it’s important to find what works best for your body.
4. Beware the Smoothie
This isn’t directly against smoothies, but it is a warning to watch what’s in your smoothie. Just because the smoothie is sold at a kiosk in your gym doesn’t mean that they’re using the healthiest ingredients. Most will start with a dairy base which, as mentioned above, can be hard on some people’s stomachs. Most smoothie mixes, those used in stores and the ones you can buy at home, are loaded with extra sugars. Admittedly, this does make the smoothies taste far more appealing but they also cause a sugar crash within hours. The best thing to ensure that you’re getting the smoothie you need is to make it at home from fresh ingredients. Try dairy-free substitutions and natural sweeteners. Buying ingredients at home is also far cheaper than buying a smoothie for $5 each every time you workout.