If one of your goals is to get healthy in the new year, we’re sure you’ve made some plans to start an exercise program or re-vamp your existing routine. Maybe you’re looking to bump up your cardio to shed pounds or start resistance training to build long, lean muscles. Both cardio and strength training are essential for overall health and fitness, and what you choose to eat after a workout is equally as important if you want to see results. Self’s “Eat Like Me” blogger Sarah-Jane Bedwell explains why it’s mandatory that you refuel after a workout and offers some healthy post-workout snack options that will complement your workouts and keep you on track.
If you don’t eat something containing carbohydrates and protein within about thirty minutes of finishing an intense workout, your muscle may actually begin to break itself down for fuel rather than rebuild, which is the last thing you want. Consuming something with a healthy combination of carbohydrates and protein is essential because protein provides muscle-building amino acids and carbohydrates aid in replacing glycogen stores (glycogen is a form of sugar that muscles use for fuel). The ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein for a post-workout snack is 4:1.
We all know that staying properly hydrated during and after a workout is crucial, but remember, if you are sweating during a workout that lasts over an hour, you will not only need to replace fluids, but electrolytes as well (sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium), which are lost in the sweat. You might be worried that all of this refueling will undo the time and effort you’re putting in at the gym, which is possible, but not if you make a smart choice for your post-workout snack.
Tips for Smart Refueling:
1. Choose a nutrient dense food that includes a few of the nutrients mentioned above, but is not loaded with calories. A sweet and satisfying option is low-fat chocolate milk. With only 150 calories per 8 ounces, it offers a nice combination of carbohydrates and protein for a reasonable amount of calories (and it’s delicious!). If you like to exercise in the morning, refuel with a smart breakfast that has carbohydrates and protein such as a smoothie made with low-fat milk or yogurt and fruit, a bowl of whole grain cereal with low-fat milk, or a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread. If you prefer to exercise later in the day, try a light dinner following your workout such as a piece of fish with veggies and whole grain brown rice. If dinner is a little further away, snack on a quarter cup of trail mix or a handful of almonds and an apple in the meantime.
2. Consume enough fluids before, during, and after your workout. You should aim to drink 14-22 ounces prior to exercising, 6-12 ounces every 30 minutes during exercise, and at least 16 ounces after exercising, depending on how much you sweat. Water is always a great choice, but if you’re doing a cardio workout that is more than an hour long, be sure to replace your electrolytes with coconut water, a sports drink, or low-fat milk.
3. Skip the supplements because sports shakes and supplements are generally a more expensive (and often more calorie-dense) means of getting the protein and other nutrients that can already be found in healthy foods. Plus, you can never be sure about the safety of these supplements as they are not tested by the FDA. Real food is always your best bet, especially after a workout, so snack smart and keep moving!
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website at www.eatright.org has much more to offer to help you and your family play hard and eat well. For tips on fueling your little one for a sport or activity, be sure to check out our other blog post! If you would like to meet with one of our registered dietitians, you could be entitled to SIX FREE VISITS. Browse our Services page to see what we offer and if your insurance plan qualifies.
If you have any questions for the registered dietitians at Family Food, LLC, we’d love to meet you! We can be reached by phone or e-mail, or feel free to leave us a Tweet or Facebook message!