Everyone gets hungry after working out, and it’s important to give your body the nutrition it needs. However, it’s all too tempting to reach for the cookie jar or feel like you’ve earned a big cheesy pizza after a tough workout.
And while those are clearly not good decisions, what is the right thing to eat after exercise? Whether you are looking to lose weight, build muscle mass, or simply keep healthy, there are certain nutrients that everyone needs post-workout.
Protein is an important part of any diet, but it is particularly vital after exercise. When we exercise, it triggers the breakdown of muscle proteins in our bodies. Eating enough protein after a workout gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair these proteins.
It also provides the building blocks required to build new muscle tissue, which is why if you are looking to build muscle mass, you should eat something high in protein straight after exercise.
When you exercise, you burn fuel in the form of your body’s glycogen stores. Even if you want to lose weight, it’s important to eat enough carbohydrates to replenish these stores. How much you need depends on the type of workout you just did. Cardiovascular exercise like running or swimming uses more glycogen than strength training, which is why runners need more carbs than bodybuilders.
In addition, eating carbohydrates along with protein after a workout stimulates insulin secretion, which promotes glycogen synthesis. So even if you eat enough protein and carbs, if you aren’t eating them together, you aren’t getting the full benefits.
When To Eat?
The rule of thumb is, the sooner after your workout you eat, the better. This is because your body’s ability to rebuild protein and glycogen is enhanced after exercise. Try and eat no later than 45 minutes after exercising. And while most people get hungry after working out, the difficult part is making sure you don’t give in to the temptation to eat something easy, fast, and unhealthy.
The most foolproof method is to prepare your food before you begin your workout and be ready to sit down afterwards and relax with a game of NZ Dollar Bingo. That way, you can use it as motivation to keep going as you exercise.
Plus, nothing feels better than training hard, taking a hot shower and then having a bowl of delicious food waiting. If you don’t have time to cook, there are many easy and nutritious snack options to choose from – tuna and crackers, rice cakes and peanut butter, a protein shake or simply a good protein-rich cereal are all great.
There is no one perfect meal to eat after every workout. What you should eat depends on the type of workout you did, how long you exercised for, and what your fitness goals are. And as long as you make sure to get enough protein and carbohydrates, you can be flexible.
That said, you need to consider your holistic health too. For example, you need to make sure you eat enough nutritious fruit and veggies and healthy fats every day too, so that might factor into your post-workout meal plan.