Having a strong post-workout snack game will ensure you get the most out of the effort you put into your workout. Research also shows that your body is uniquely primed to accept fuel and nutrients are an exercise session, which makes this window especially important. And if you are one of the people who tend to get ravenous after your sessions, having a snacks after workout plan can help keep you from making food choices that you later regret.
Why is post-workout nutrition so important? Working muscles use glycogen as a fuel source. Taking in some form of carbs after a workout can help restore these reserves. Working out also breaks down muscles, which require protein in order to rebuild themselves even stronger. In general, longer cardio workouts—60 minutes and more—require more replacement carbs, while strength workouts call for a higher proportion of protein. Try experimenting with different snacks and noticing how your body responds. The right snack will help you feel better and your body recover more quickly for your next workout adventure.
What defines a good snack? Portion control for one thing. A well chosen snack is generally 400 calories or less. Snacks that get much larger than that are more like meals and are likely to upset your regular eating schedule. An effective snack generally also has a balance of nutrients including some carbs and protein (and possibly a bit of fat). A snack with this mix will ensure all your body’s needs are met and keep you full longer. Experts often recommend a 3:1 (carbs to protein) nutrient ratio. You should also enjoy the snacks you pack, because you will be much more likely to eat them. Your snacks should also be easy to pack and transport if you are going to eat them on the run.
To sum it up, a good snack is:
400 calories or less
A balance of carbs and protein
Easy to pack and transport
Five awesome snack options
Whole grain peanut butter toast with fruit slices
The toast and fruit in this appealing snack offer a good portion of healthy, whole food carbs. Peanut butter snacks after workout brings the protein punch and adds a bit of healthy fat to the mix, which will keep you full longer. Try substituting different nut butters if peanut butter is not your thing. You can also use different fruits depending on what’s in season. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are especially delicious. For a lower calorie version, skip the toast and put the nut butter right on apple slices.
Research shows that chocolate milk is a powerful recovery tool, particularly for cardio exercise. Chocolate milk is packed full of nutrients including fats, carbs, protein, electrolytes and vitamins, in addition to being one of the most delicious snacks after a workout. It can also help with rehydration and is easy to make and enjoyable for most people to consume. Avoid commercially made chocolate milk—which is packed with added sugars—and try making your own with cocoa powder and the milk and sweetening option of your choice. Keep in mind that non-dairy milk alternatives are generally not as nutrient dense.
Yogurt, berries and granola
Yogurt—especially the Greek variety—brings powerful protein power to this snack option. Berries and granola add a balance of healthy carbs and some extra vitamins. For a lower calorie version, skip or use granola sparingly and choose a lower fat yogurt. When packing this snack for eating on the go, keeping the granola and berries separate until you are ready to eat will minimize potential sogginess. Cashew nut based yogurts are a good alternative for vegans or anyone looking for a non-dairy option.
Hummus and pita bread
Hummus and pita bread offer a great balance of protein and carbs, while also being fun to eat and easy to pack. Made from pureed chickpeas, hummus dip is an excellent plant-based protein which is also high in fiber and minerals. Pita bread offers complex carbs and a way to get the hummus to your mouth. Try cutting the pita into chip like shapes for ease of eating. Replace the pita bread with carrots or celery for a lower calorie alternative. If weight loss is a goal, several studies show that people who eat hummus tend to have healthier BMIs then those who don’t.
Tart cherry juice and hard boiled eggs
This unexpected combo gives your body everything it needs to recover from a grueling workout. The carbs in the cherry juice will help restore your glycogen stores as well as reducing inflammation. One study with recreational marathon runners showed that tart cherry juice helped runners recover considerably faster than with a placebo beverage. The hardboiled egg(s) bring easily absorbed protein and is easy to eat on the go.