The post-workout period is just as important as the workout itself. An intense workout also means focusing on your post-training nutritional needs. This includes figuring out what to eat to replenish your body’s energy stores and rebuilding and repairing damaged tissue1.
When people exercise on a regular basis, their muscles experience a continuous cycle of muscle breakdown and compensatory remodeling and growth (especially with weightlifting)2. Several studies show that adding foods in the right combination within an hour after exercise will promote a positive response by reducing muscle protein breakdown1. Here are a few ideas of simple post-workout snacks to eat:
Tuna is a rich source of leucine, an amino acid that helps
- regulate blood-sugar levels,
- repair muscle, and
- promote wound healing—all things that make it a great post-workout snack.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed a group of active-duty military personnel that were given protein drinks containing different amounts of leucine while exercising. The study found that those who consumed leucine-rich drinks experienced 33% greater muscle protein synthesis2. If canned light tuna isn’t for you, other rich sources of leucine are eggs, roast chicken, and spinach.
2- Peanut butter and jelly (or honey) sandwich
PB&J isn’t just for kids. Peanut butter is a rich source of protein and vitamins. A 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains 8 grams of protein and can help speed up muscle recovery3. Peanut butter is also a great source of niacin, folic acid, and vitamin E3. Try having a PB&J sandwich within two hours of your exercise session4. And if jelly isn’t to your liking, substitute it with honey instead.
3- Low-fat chocolate milk
Chocolate milk isn’t the most obvious example of a refreshing post-workout drink but it’s a practical, inexpensive alternative to many high-performance drinks. Some research shows that fat-free chocolate milk beats out carbohydrate sports drinks at helping rebuild and refuel muscles5. Chocolate milk contains an ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. This is important for refueling tired or damaged muscles and assists with the workout recovery process5. The American Council on Exercise actually recommends chocolate milk for endurance athletes looking to refuel after a workout1.
4- Fat-free Greek yogurt topped with fruit
As a general rule, you want to aim to balance proteins and carbohydrates. Greek yogurt topped with fruit like
- pineapple, or even
are all healthy but filling post-workout snack. Change your fruit toppings from time to time to get different nutritional benefits.
5- Watermelon juice
This option is a little less mainstream but scientists have found evidence that watermelon juice can relieve post-exercise muscle soreness6. One of the naturally occurring chemicals found in watermelon accelerates lactic acid removal. A report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry claims that watermelon juice helps reduce the recovery heart rate and muscle soreness. It attributes watermelon’s effects to the amino acid L-citrulline6.
This tropical super-fruit is considered to be a fast-digesting carbohydrate. There are about 25 grams of carbohydrates per 1 cup serving7. In addition, mangos are bursting with over 20 vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants7. A handful of mango slices after a workout is probably one of the tastier ways to support a healthy post-exercise meal.