As a runner and workout fanatic, I frequently get asked about what I eat after I workout. Huh.....come to think of it, I also get asked if it's important to eat after working out.
The answer is a resounding YES!
What you eat after you workout isn't necessarily dinner, lunch or any big meal. It's a smaller snack to aid your body in recovery and to support development of muscles. Personally, I'm always hungry after I workout, especially after a long run. But the only thing I can handle immediately is one of the foods listed below. Lunch or dinner usually has to wait a bit before I'm ready to eat!
And that post workout snack is all about carbohydrates and proteins.
Why carbohydrates and proteins specifically?
The carbs are to replace the energy that your body used while running, swimming, doing cross fit, killing it at bootcamp, downward dogging it and kick boxing the heck out of yourself. While you were sweating up a storm, your body was using glucose (available energy) and glycogen (stored energy) to fuel your workout.
And the protein? Yup, you guessed it. To support muscle growth and development.
Think about it like this. After you've gone on a long road trip, you need to refuel the gas tank.
Same philosophy. Within 30 minutes after a workout, you want to make sure that you are refueling your own gas tank.
If you don't refuel, or think that it's a good idea to avoid carbohydrates, because you are trying to lose weight, think again.
Simply put, if you do not replace your depleted gas tank, your body will excrete cortisol, a stress hormone. Without the support of carbs and proteins to aid in recovery, cortisol will start to convert some of your hard earned muscles into energy.
Ideally, you want to aim for a 4:1 ration of grams of carbohydrates to proteins.
.........RRRRRIIIIGGGHHHTTTT...what on EARTH does 4:1, carbs to protein mean you are probably wondering?
In normal people language, it means that you need to read the labels of your food and for every gram of protein you eat, you want 4x as many grams of carbohydrates. Yes, there is some math involved!
Here, let me illustrate with some examples. They might make you hungry - consider yourself warned!
1. Peanut butter and honey sandwich This is always, without a doubt, my favorite post-race snack. I make my sandwich on the morning of the race. And then, just after I cross the finish line, my mom knows to find me and hand this to me. IMMEDIATELY or else there's trouble!
2. Egg + english muffin + pb + honey Can't get enough of this snack! It's salty, it's sweet. I wrote about it here.
3. Oatmeal + pb or flax seed Now, for full disclosure, I'm all for mixing up foods in a way that might just weird you out. PB and Oatmeal? Why not? It takes care of your carbs and proteins issue without, well, issue. Plus after a run, it's nice and easy to digest.
4. Yogurt + almonds + berries Can't go wrong with yogurt because it's so portable. If you are like me, I pace the room when I come back from a run or race. I can't quite sit still until I feel as if I've walked it out enough to then plonk my behind down. Yogurt is great pacing food! Add almonds and voila.
5. Crackers and hummus Love me some hummus. Cheap, easy to make and so darn good for you. Bring on the chickpeas I say!
6. Chicken + rice So this snack as well as the following one, do take a bit more prep. But if you eat meat or fish, they are great refueling options. I don't tend to think of a small piece of salmon as a post run snack, but I clearly should.
7. Salmon + rice
8. Banana and peanut butter Aren't embracing this whole idea of eating right after you work out? No worries. Start with someone simple like a banana and pb. Or almond butter. Or sunflower butter. For every bit, spoon a bit of pb onto the banana.
9. Smoothie Smoothies are another great post run refueling option, especially if you aren't so keen on eating lots of food. Make sure you add in some PB or cashews, flax, chia or hemp seeds for protein!
Now tell me this, how do you refuel after you work out? Leave a comment below. I'm always up for more ideas.