It can be tricky when you finish a workout in between mealtimes. You know you have to eat something to feed your starving muscles as well as replenish your body with the nutrients that you just sweat out. But you also have to know what your body needs before you choose what to eat.
You most likely have learned that protein is essential. Eating enough of it after a workout will fill your body with amino acids to repair and rebuild your muscles. You broke down your muscles during a workout. You want them to grow bigger or tone and lean out, but you need amino acids to accomplish this goal. Try to eat about 0.14-0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight within a half hour of your workout. That should be between 20 and 40 grams of protein in your post-workout snack.
Depending on the exercise, your glycogen stores will be depleted at the end of a workout as well. Endurance sports, like running and swimming, will use up more glycogen than resistance training, like weight lifting. The more energy you spend, the more glycogen you lose. You will need at least 0.5-0.7 grams of carbs per pound of body weight after your workout to properly restore your body’s energy levels and synthesize more glycogen.
Some people choose not to include fat in their post-workout meals because it slows down digestion. While it does slow down digestion, it does not reduce any absorption. You will still receive all of the nutrients you have consumed while also making sure you are satisfied for a longer amount of time. Do not be afraid of a little fat in your snack, but do limit it as it does slow the rate that carbohydrates enter the bloodstream to replenish glycogen.
Below are three nutrition-packed snacks that not only feed your muscles, but also satisfy your tastebuds.
Bananas and Peanut Butter
After you wipe the sweat off your brow, you might notice a twinge in your stomach. It’s time to eat! For a sweet and savory snack, try eating a banana with 2 Tbsp. peanut butter. You can change out the peanut butter for any other nut butter, just make sure the ingredients only include the nut and possibly some salt. Salt is good, especially after a workout where you sweat it all out and need the electrolyte replenishment. But no sugars or oils are necessary in the nut butter. The banana also contains simple carbohydrates to give your system a quick energy boost as well as healthy amounts of potassium and magnesium. The peanut butter’s fat and protein slow down the simple carbs’ absorption, allowing you to keep the energy boost going for longer. This will not get you up to 20g of protein, but it will provide you with enough to get you through to your next protein-heavy meal.
You never have to wonder if you are ingesting enough protein when you supplement with protein shakes. You can add water or milk, shake the mixture up, and chug. Or, you can add in a few extra ingredients and build a post-workout smoothie. Throw the protein powder into the blender and add in berries, milk, ice, almond butter, and spinach. Now you not only have protein galore, but you also can sip on a fair amount of fiber, vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, vitamin D, and a little fat from the milk and almond butter to keep you satisfied until your next meal. Do check the ingredients on the protein powder container before purchasing it. Labels can be deceiving and long ingredients can be unnecessary. For the whey protein lovers, try Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein. For those who love to sneak in as many whole foods and veggies as possible, try Garden of Life protein powder.
Sweet Potato Toast with Chicken and Avocado
Cut a sweet potato into thin slices and place them into your toaster like a piece of bread. When the toaster dings, you have yourself some naked sweet potato toast in need of dressing. Chop up some cooked chicken breast and smear a quarter to a half of an avocado onto the “toast.” Add some garlic powder, a pinch of salt, and voila! For those of you who love to dip and spread extra sauce on their meals, try topping your “toast” with a spoonful of salsa. It serves as a low calorie, yet delicious addition. The sweet potato contains carbohydrates, fiber, and a small amount of protein as well as vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Your chicken will provide you with the rest of the protein and the avocado contains that fat.
Try LMNT electrolyte drink mix after your workout to replenish your system with the potassium, sodium, and magnesium that you sweat out. It’s a perfect way to douse the sweet cravings that pop up during the day, especially after a heavy lift when your body craves carbs. It’s also a Keto- and Paleo-friendly option that practitioners and scientists back. LMNT comes in several flavors, contains no sugar, and won’t bump you off your diet. My favorite flavor is Citrus Salt — it tastes like a margarita sans the alcohol!