Simple, Quick And Tasty Post-Workout Snack Ideas
By Emily Reilly
Don’t skip your post workout snack! Just make healthy conscious choices so that you are fueling your body and giving it the best nutrients for recovery so that you can come back for more.
The first order of business is deciding when to eat that snack. While we exercise we are; depleting our natural energy stores (glycogen), creating micro damage to our muscles, and of course loosing electrolytes and fluid as we sweat.
Eating within 30 minutes to an hour after your workout will help optimize your recovery. For high level athletes and intense exercise easily digestible snacks such as fresh, whole fruit, a smoothie or easily digestible carbs within 15 minutes post-exercise help restore glycogen. Waiting longer than two hours to eat results in 50 percent less glycogen stored in the muscle.
The food you eat right after you exercise has a very direct effect on how your body synthesizes proteins, rebuilds muscles, and responds to physical stresses for the rest of the day and following days.
Why Carbohydrates? Consuming carbohydrates immediately after exercise has shown to be an excellent strategy to maximize rates of muscle glycogen synthesis (energy restored to muscle cells).
Why Protein? Protein provides the amino acids necessary to rebuild muscle tissue that is damaged during intense, prolonged exercise. It can also increase the absorption of water from the intestines and improve muscle hydration. The amino acids in protein can also stimulate the immune system, making you more resistant to colds and other infections. Eating additional protein within an hour after exercise is also shown to improve muscle glycogen stores.
Still want to skip that snack? Hard workouts leave your muscles starving for fuel. Without proper nutrients our bodies cannot restore depleted glycogen stores, this leads to a negative state of protein balance. Instead of using up your fat stores and the fuel you are eating your body goes into starvation mode and will consume those hard earned muscles instead. That of course actually makes it harder to building muscle tissue and loose weight.
So you want to know how much to eat? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an endurance athlete to consume a 300-400 calorie snack with a 3:1 ratio. This equates to 75-100 grams of carbohydrate to only 6 grams of protein within an hour of exercise completion.
Low to medium intensity workouts are advised to follow a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio consumed within an hour and no longer than two hours after exercise completion. This breakdown equates to approximately 50-75 grams of carbohydrates and 25-50 grams of protein.
Now we are ready to talk about what to make that snack out of.
You may see lots of advertisements for fancy supplements but you can find great snacks around the house and at restaurants thatmeet your body’s post workout needs. These can be costly and may not tickle your tastebuds in a positive way. Simple whole foods can be delicious, budget-friendly, and fast. Some you can make ahead of time and pack in your workout bag, others whip up on the spot in the kitchen.
See below for lists of Carbohydrates and Proteins that you can mix and match to your hearts delight. Don’t forget, adding herbs and spices can literally spice up your snack and energize your tastebuds.
Carbohydrates: Berries, Sliced Bananas, Frozen/ Fresh Fruits, Sautéed Vegetables, Slice of whole grain toast or tortilla, Brown Rice, Granola, Oatmeal, Whole grain crackers/ chips, Whole grain pita, Chopped vegetables like carrots, Celery, Cucumber and the like, Apple Slices, Dried Fruit (remember it can be high in sugar),
Proteins: Nuts, Nonfat/ Lowfat Yogurt, Quinoa, Lentils, Beans, Lean Chicken, Lean Fish, Eggs, Hummus, Peanut Butter, Edamame
A last word on post workout snacks
Finding what healthy foods work best for your post-workout will be through trial and error. Everyone responds differently to each foods, and it also depends on what time of day you are exercising. Some people want a hearty savory snack, something to stick to your ribs, others just want a simple smoothy that feels light in the stomach. Having a nutritional strategy in place will create the success of your food plan post and pre-workout. Eating the right foods to fuel your body after exercise will be the most important part of achieving your goals.
Of course, drink plenty of water before, during and after you exercise. Stay tuned to our next nutrition blog where I will discuss how to hydrate for exercise, with a special focus on hot climates that you may not be used to.