There has always been furious debate over whether you should eat before or after a workout. Some people skip eating beforehand, thinking that it will force the body to burn fat. The truth, however, is that you should eat before and after your workout to keep your body strong and healthy.
Pre-workout meals, eaten three to four hours before the exercise begins, should be high in carbohydrates and protein but low in fat and fiber, which can cause cramping if eaten too soon before exercising. Post-workout, you should eat 45 minutes to two hours after exercising and focus on foods that are higher in carbs and protein; protein comprises amino acids that help your muscles rebuild their cells after working out. Try these easy-to-make, healthy post-workout snacks to give your body exactly what it needs.
The beauty of trail mix is that it’s fast, simple, delicious and totally customizable! Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, M&Ms, pretzels, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chunks and more all have a home in trail mix. You can buy a remade mix or make your own in bulk to always have on hand.
Stick to a nut and seed heavy mix to ensure you’re getting protein and carb-rich morsels instead of a lot of added sugar when you’re munching to refuel.
Greek yogurt and granola/fruit
Greek yogurt is packed with protein, so it’s a perfect companion to exercise: it will help those damaged muscles quickly repair. The granola adds some carbohydrates (make sure it’s not excessively sweetened), while fruit — berries, mandarin slices, grapes — can pack a powerful punch of complex carbs and vitamins that ward off free radicals. The key with this snack is to stick to low-sugar varieties of yogurt and granola.
Apples and bananas with nut butterSmear your favorite protein-rich spread on apple slices or a banana, or add some whole-wheat bread to make this a sandwich! With protein and complex carbohydrates as well as vitamins, this is a perfect snack to refuel after a workout. Try peanut butter, almond butter, walnut butter or even sunflower seed butter to mix it up.
Yes, your favorite childhood drink can actually do your body good after a workout — and there’s even research to back it up. In a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, cyclists who drank chocolate milk, which contains carbs, protein and calcium, were able to cycle 50 percent longer than some other athletes who did not drink it.
Hummus, veggies and whole-wheat pita
Hummus, made of mashed chickpeas, is bursting with healthy protein; the whole-wheat pita gives you an extra boost of carbohydrates; and the veggies (carrot sticks, for example) offer up some vitamins and minerals to keep your body fighting free radicals.
Crackers and cheese
Cheese and crackers — preferably whole wheat to avoid simple carbohydrates — give you the protein and carbohydrates you need. Cheese also provides some calcium, much like chocolate milk — just try not to overdo it!
This is not your regular tuna salad, of course, which features a hearty dollop of mayonnaise. Instead, spread a little tuna on whole-wheat crackers or bread and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice to flavor this protein- and carb-rich snack.
Hard- or soft-boiled eggs
It’s a stereotype because it’s true — eggs are great for athletes. They’re filled with healthy protein, vitamin D and amino acids, which are essential for muscle repair. Don’t toss the yolk, as that’s where you will find half the egg’s protein!
Some Words of Caution: Too Little Water, Too Much Protein
Perhaps the most important part of exercise is staying hydrated — and that includes after working out. In addition to a snack, drink a glass or two of water to make sure that whatever water you’ve lost, you’ve replaced.
Protein is necessary after a workout, but some people overdo it due to the belief that an infinite amount of protein equals more muscle. To help maintain a healthy balance, don’t overdo it on the protein (it’s an after workout snack not a post-workout meal). And remember, the more you up your protein intake, the more you should up your water intake as well.
Understanding your body’s nutritional needs after a workout can help you get the most out of your routine, but the food doesn’t have to be a boring parade of eggs and bread — mix and match these healthy post-workout snacks to see what you like best!