Over the weekend, a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile was asking me for some health eating advice. We got talking about what to eat after a workout, and he asked me what I typically go for to refuel after a workout.
Refueling: What to Eat
My refueling food of choice definitely depends on what kind of workout I’ve just completed. Simply speaking: if it’s a weights day for me at the gym, I focus on protein in my refueling meal. If it’s a running day or some other form of cardio, I’m more intent on getting some good carbs in my system post-workout.
Lately, my favorite refueling protein snack is an amazing combination of Greek yogurt and fruit. I start with about a cup Greek yogurt in a bowl and mix in some cocoa powder and a dash of Stevia…which makes it taste like chocolate mousse…yum! Then I dice an apple (Fuji is my favorite at the moment) into small pieces, toss it on top of the
yogurt chocolate mousse, and sprinkle on some cinnamon. To add a little healthy fat and some delicious crunch, I top the bowl with a few peanuts or cashews and munch away!
Greek yogurt is a great source of protein – one serving can contain anywhere from 13 – 22 grams, depending on the brand. Greek yogurt has less sugar, less carbs and more protein than regular yogurt, and it’s now sold in most every grocery store. I’ve tried several different brands (here’s an article comparing the various options out there) but my favorite is definitely the Trader Joe’s brand, because of the consistency and creaminess!
For my post-run carb fueling, I usually opt for a bowl of oatmeal, with some frozen blueberries, cinnamon and peanut butter mixed in. There are lots of other good options for post-run refueling options – generally anything with (approximately) a 3-1 ratio of carbs to protein is best! In the past, I’ve tried everything from toast with peanut butter to sweet potato fries dipped in Greek yogurt (sounds weird but tastes delicious!) Don’t worry about getting the ratios exactly perfect…just focus on getting some healthy carbs into your system!
Refueling: When to Eat
Generally speaking, it’s best to refuel as soon as possible after a workout. A lot of fitness experts even suggest that you start sipping on a protein shake toward the last 15 minutes of your strength training workout to get a jump-start on the refueling process and get the protein to your muscles as soon as possible. As for post-run/cardio refueling, it’s best to get the carbs (and a little protein too) into your system within 30 minutes because your muscles are best primed to assimilate and utilize the nutrients directly after a workout. Your goal is to replace the glycogen stores in your muscles that were depleted during the run, and the first hour after the workout is the best time for that! Here’s some more information about this optimal refueling window of time: Refueling at Its Best!
Refueling: What NOT to Do
Refueling can be a downfall for some people because they can easily go overboard with their post-workout
feast snack. If you’re truly wanting to see results in your fitness and weight, you can’t go blowing all the progress you made during a workout with a refuel meal that sends you into a food coma! I’ve talked to a lot of people who are frustrated because they’re not seeing results from their workouts. Often, I find out that they’re going home after burning 300 calories on the elliptical and devouring a whole box of Girl Scout cookies or a huge plate of mac and cheese! Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional Girl Scout cookie or other indulgent treat, but again, if you want to see RESULTS in your fitness and weight, you need to be smart about refueling! You may feel ravenous after a long run or strength training session at the gym, but start by just consuming an average refuel meal, sipping some water or tea, and waiting for your food to start digesting. It’s easy to scarf down a lot of unnecessary calories as soon as you get home because you feel like you could eat the whole fridge. Pace yourself, eat slowly, and chew well. Listen to your hunger cues and stop when you feel satisfied – not stuffed. And in general, choose healthier options for refueling like whole-grain toast, milk, oatmeal, yogurt, and eggs, rather than hitting IHOP for a huge plate of flapjacks. 😉
Another mistake that is on the other side of the spectrum, but just as easy to do, is the mentality that because you just worked out (i.e., did something healthy) you’re going to continue your healthy habits by not eating AT ALL after your workout. FAIL. This isn’t going to help you in any way! You’ve just finished exhausting your muscles and pushing them to their limits…the best thing you can do now is give those muscles some protein and carbs to help them rebuild and grow! Don’t think you’re being “healthy” by denying yourself food for hours after a workout – get some good calories in your system ASAP so your body can start the rebuilding and refueling process.
There’s always more to say and write about this topic, but I’ll end here and leave you with some pictures from my sister’s wedding last weekend! It was a blast…everything went so smoothly and we had a great time party-ing it up! 😀 So happy for my sis and her new husband!