Working out is important, but so is what you eat before and after. Monitoring pre- and post-workout nutrition can boost your efforts in achieving your weight loss and fitness goals.
General guidelines for recommended post-workout nutrition includes:
- Adequate hydration
- Electrolytes such as coconut water to replenish lost potassium and sodium
- Complex carbohydrates with some protein and fat
- Protein shakes
Since everyone has different needs, however, it’s best to develop a personalized meal plan with the help of a registered dietitian.
4 types of meals to avoid after a workout
- Low-carbohydrate meals: You need to refuel your body after exercise. Foods rich in carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread, crackers, pasta, and fruits can replenish the depleted glycogen levels that are stored in your muscles for energy. Simple carbohydrates such as high-sugar protein bars or refined bread products should not be consumed because they can increase blood sugar levels.
- High-calorie meals: At times, you may be tempted to have a high-calorie meal after a strenuous workout. However, the more calories you eat, the more likely you are to minimize the afterburn effect, where your body continues to burn calories after exercise depending on duration, intensity, and other factors. Additionally, you could fall prey to an unhealthy diet and exercise routine in the future.
- High-fat meals: High-fat meals may also be tempting, especially if you are exhausted after a vigorous workout. Research shows that a higher amount of fat can interfere with carbohydrate digestion and conversion to glycogen. Your body stores glycogen in the muscles, which are required for further training sessions. If glycogen production is impaired post-workout, there is less energy available for the next workout session.
- Vegetable-only meals: Eating vegetables alone is not enough to provide you with essential macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins necessary for replenishing energy stores.
What should you eat after a workout?
Drinking water before and after a workout session is essential for preventing dehydration. For every pound lost post-workout, you should drink about 2-3 cups of water. Water helps replenish lost fluids.
If your exercise routine goes beyond 60 minutes, try having a sports drink, as it can help maintain electrolyte balances and provide you with an extra dose of energy.
Examples of meals to have after a workout include:
- Turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread
- Yogurt and fruit
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Low-fat chocolate milk with protein powder
- Whole-grain turkey wrap
- Salmon with sweet potato
- Toast with eggs
- Scrambled eggs on whole wheat tortilla
- Chicken breast, veggies, and brown rice
- Cottage cheese (or yogurt) and fruit
- Tuna and rice
- Rice crackers and peanut butter
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