Last week I wrote of the importance of the pre-workout snack. So what’s the big deal with the post-workout eating? Eating within 60 minutes after exercising improves muscle recovery and muscle resynthesis, as well as helps prepare you for the next workout. The secret, however, is what you put in that post-snack. On the way home from the gym, try to resist the temptation for that donut or fast food treat because you “earned it”. That doesn’t do your muscles any good, and I guarantee it will not help you reach your health or fitness goals. Instead, what you should eat is very similar to what I discussed last week for before your workout: Carb and protein. The difference is that now you’re done working out so you can afford to eat a greater overall volume with a bit more healthy fat without the fear of getting sick.
Here are a few ideas. Each of these contain about about 75gm of carb and 20gm of protein, which is what you should aim for after a workout:
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 2 Tbsp peanut butter, 1 Tbsp jelly, and 1 cup 1% milk
- 1 baked potato, 1/4 cup (2% milk) shredded cheese, 1 cup broccoli, 2 Tbsp tub butter/margarine (such as Olivio or Smart Balance)
- 1 pita bread, 1/4 cup hummus, 1 banana, 1 mozzarella cheese stick
- Clif Bar/Powerbar/Harvest Bar with 2 cups 1% milk
1. If you’re trying to build muscle, increase the protein and decrease the carb slightly from the recommendations above. Try for a ratio of 2:1 of carbs to protein (an example would be 50 gm of carb and 25 gm of protein). Some energy/granola bars on the market are this exact ratio…for this exact reason, so check your food labels. And try to eat your snack within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. This is when the majority of muscle synthesis is occurring.
2. If you’re trying to lose weight, try to work in pre- and post-workout eating as one of your snacks and meals, respectively. While it is important to decrease overall caloric intake to achieve weight loss, decreasing caloric intake immediately before or after your workout will cause your body to less efficiently burn fat for fuel, and instead be forced to burn muscle for energy. Focus on other times during the day when you can decrease portions.
3. If you normally head to a main meal right from a workout, there is no need to add in a separate post-workout snack, provided you eat that meal within an hour after exercise. At that meal, follow the guidelines above for carb and protein – the correct ratio is important.
So what’s the deal with low-fat chocolate milk? Many of you have probably read or seen the plethora of reports on the greatness that is low-fat chocolate in terms of recovery. The honest truth is…it really is quite great. Why? Because the protein in the milk plus the carbohydrate from the milk and added chocolate creates a perfect ratio of carb to protein post-workout. Plus it tastes much better and is cheaper than many of the “recovery shakes ” currently on the market. Just make sure it is low fat…you don’t need the added saturated fat in the whole fat varieties, plus too much fat will actually keep the good nutrients from getting to your muscles for recovery. And isn’t that the whole point of this jazz anyhow? So, indulge in that delicious LOW-FAT chocolate milk, but stick to no more than 2 cups as part of your post workout feeding.
So don't just stretch those muscles after exercise - refuel them!