Should I Eat Right After Workout

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Should I Eat Right After Workout

After a Workout, What Should You Eat?

Whether you went jogging, swam laps, rode your bike, or lifted weights, the challenge isn't over when you finish your workout. Knowing what to eat after a workout can aid your body in refueling, rehydrating, and recovering from exercise, as well as rebuilding your muscles.

"You don't need to eat a lot after your workout," says Leslie Bonci, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Active Eating Advice in Pittsburgh. "Think about fueling up while you're cooling down—what that's a post-workout snack is for."


Why Should You Eat After a Workout?

For starters, Tara Collingwood, a registered dietitian nutritionist and sports dietitian in Orlando, Florida, recommends replenishing the carbohydrates and glycogen (the glucose stored in your muscles) you just depleted during your workout.

After your workout, you'll want to consume high-quality protein to rebuild and repair muscle tissue that was broken down during your workout, as well as to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is necessary for muscle recovery and adaptation to exercise. Micro-tears occur in your muscles during exercise, particularly strength training. Protein can aid in the rebuilding and repair of muscle fibers that have been damaged.

To protect your cells from exercise-induced damage, Collingwood recommends replacing the fluids lost through sweating and hard breathing, as well as eating foods high in antioxidants. On the other hand, skipping a post-workout snack can make you feel more tired and slow down your body's recovery and repair processes. According to Bonci, it can also lower your performance the next time you exercise.


After a Workout, What to Eat

A careful combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fluids is the cornerstone of post-workout nutrition. According to Bonci, the general rule is to consume 10 to 20 grams of protein after a workout, depending on your body weight. Adjust your carbohydrate to protein ratio depending on the type of exercise you did, she adds.

After a strength-training workout, for example, aim for a 2-to-1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio (meaning 20 to 40 grams of carbs and 10 to 20 grams of protein). According to Bonci, the ratio shifts to 3-to-1 after an endurance (aerobic) workout like jogging (with 30 to 60 grams of carbs and 10 to 20 grams of protein).

Another important factor to consider when refueling after a workout is the intensity and duration of the workout.

"Recreational exercisers who train two to three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes can easily recover by eating their usual balanced meal that contains carbs (to refuel) and protein (to build and repair muscle), such as oatmeal and eggs, yogurt and granola, a sandwich and milk, or chicken and rice,"

Those who work out for 60 to 70 minutes at a higher intensity may benefit from a 200-calorie snack that includes carbs and protein. More serious athletes (those who train for up to 4 hours per day) should refuel quickly, aiming for a high-calorie, carbohydrate- and protein-rich snack.

It's also a mistake to rely solely on your intuition, as studies show that people don't always make the best choices for healthy snacks after working out. Researchers presented gym-goers with the option of eating a snack after they finished their workouts in a 2018 study published in Nutrients. The participants were chosen at random to make their decision before or after the workout, and the timing mattered. After the workout, participants were 26% less likely to choose an apple and 45 percent more likely to choose a brownie than if they had chosen snacks before the workout. The findings of the study emphasize the importance of planning ahead.

Following are some good options for a post-workout snack that check all the boxes:

  • Chocolate milk is a delicious drink. "After a workout, chocolate milk has everything you need—carbs, protein, fluids, and electrolytes," Collingwood says. According to a review of scientific research published in the European Journal of Sport Science in 2019, drinking milk after exercise improves muscle protein synthesis and rehydration, replenishes glycogen stores, and reduces post-exercise muscle soreness.
  • Whole-grain toast and eggs Eggs are a fantastic source of protein, whether hardboiled, scrambled, poached, or in a vegetable omelet (with an average of nearly 11 grams of protein for a large one). Toast, on the other hand, is a good source of carbs.
  • a fruit smoothie (made with whey protein powder, coconut water, fruit and vegetables). According to Collingwood, the fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants that protect cells from exercise-induced damage, and the protein aids muscle repair. According to a 2020 study published in Nutrients, whey protein reduces post-exercise blood levels for biomarkers of muscle damage caused by strength training.
  • With a serving of tart cherry juice and dried fruit and nuts. According to Bonci, the fruit and nuts provide carbs, protein, and healthy fats, and the cherry juice may help with muscle soreness after exercise. In fact, studies have shown that drinking Montmorency cherry juice, which contains phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, improves muscular strength recovery after intense strength-training exercise.
  • Yogurt, berries, and granola sprinkled on top. According to Collingwood, the combination of high-protein yogurt and berries, which contain carbs and antioxidants, replenishes your muscles' glycogen stores and aids muscle recovery. The crunch and flavor come from the granola.


What Foods to Avoid After a Workout

Rule No. 1: "Avoid pure protein right after a workout," Collingwood advises, "because your body will just use it as energy again." Also, foods that are mostly sugar (cookies, candy, and the like) or mostly fat (a handful of nuts without yogurt or fruit to balance the fat) or fried foods should be avoided. These foods won't replenish your muscles in the way you need them to, and the high fat or sugar content may upset your stomach. According to Bonci, the right balance of carbs, protein, and fluids is critical for post-workout recovery.


When Is It Appropriate to Eat After a Workout?

The best time to use nutrition to help your body recover from physical exertion is within the first 30 to 45 minutes after a workout. "Right after exercise, the enzymes that aid in muscle resynthesis and glycogen replenishment are at their most active," Bonci says. Don't worry if you don't feel like eating much right after a workout: just have a light snack or a glass of chocolate milk.

A larger meal a few hours after your workout will also aid your body's recovery. Increase the octane by eating a more substantial meal two hours after your workout, such as:

  • An omelet with vegetables and cheese served with whole wheat toast.
  • A turkey sandwich with slices of tomato and avocado.
  • A whole-grain bagel with nut butter and banana slices.
  • A whole-wheat pita with hummus and raw or grilled vegetables.
  • On brown rice or quinoa, a stir-fry with vegetables and shrimp, tofu, or chicken slices.

According to Bonci, a meal that consists of one-third fruits and vegetables, one-third protein, one-third complex carbohydrates (such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, or quinoa) and a little fat for good measure is best for muscle recovery and replenishing glycogen stores. This macronutrient combination is ideal for post-workout recovery.

It's also important to replace fluids, according to Bonci. Have 20 to 24 ounces of fluid in the hours after exercising for every pound you lose through sweating and exertion, she suggests (weighing yourself naked before and after your workout can help you determine how much you've lost). Unless you're exercised for an extended period of time or in extreme heat, in which case you may want to consume electrolytes in a sports drink or coconut water, water is your best bet for rehydration.

Although this post-workout nutrition plan is generally sound, it's a good idea to keep an open mind about tweaking it to make it work for you. People respond to exercise differently and have different recovery needs, so it's important to be adaptable when it comes to finding a refueling strategy that works for you. You can ensure optimal recovery and be ready for your next workout in no time with a little personalization.


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