Importance of Eating Well for Workout Recovery
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is required everyday, despite your activity level. However, eating healthy foods has a greater impact than working out for maintaining or losing weight.1
Did you know that the foods you eat after hitting the gym are the most important foods you will ever eat? So before you think of rewarding yourself for working hard at the gym with fries and burger, think again.
Importance of food for workout
You need carbohydrates to give your body energy. The more you work out, the more carbs you need because the stored energy will be depleted.1 Eating less energy-giving foods will deny you adequate energy during exercise and can delay recovery. Foods such as pasta, whole grain bread, potatoes, brown rice, and fruits are perfect sources of carbohydrates.2
Also referred to as body builders, protein is essential for muscle growth and recovery.2 Your body readily uses protein for muscle building immediately after workout. Eating protein within 2 hours post workout helps your body to build lean muscle.3
Get protein both from plant and animal sources to increase your intake. Some protein sources include legumes, dairy/ alternative dairy products, eggs, beef, fish, nuts, and poultry. Choose lean meats and low-fat dairy/ non-dairy products. Add a protein in your meals before and after a workout to aid with muscle repair.
A combination of strength exercises to build muscle with a diet rich in protein and energy from carbs and fat helps to keep the body fit and strong.
The post workout window
The first 45 minutes after finishing your workout is called the recovery period, which is a window of opportunity to help the body in muscle repair and growth.1 3 It is a critical period for muscle tissue recovery and repair, for the body to replace lost fluids, and for the body to recover from the stress of the workout.
Let's dig in deeper into some gym science. Your body breaks down food to get energy. It stores the excess energy in the form of glycogen and protein for future use. During your workout, the body breaks down the food you ate before the workout to provide energy. It also breaks down the stored glycogen. After your workout, your muscles break down the available protein to rebuild its cells.1 But most importantly, during the first 45 minutes post-workout, the body absorbs carbs and proteins for recovery. That is the workout window for recovery. For proper recovery and replenishment for your muscles, your goal should be to eat 30g of protein and 30 to 35g of carbs within 15 minutes post workout.1
For cardio exercises, ensure to replenish the energy stores within 30 minutes, while for strength training the window of opportunity extends up to 2 hours.3
Foods for post workout recovery
What you eat and drink after your workout can make or break your recovery process. You need to boost your carbs and protein to help you recover faster. Also, rehydrate with water to replace the water lost during the workout. Proteins and carbs are required to replenish glycogen stores in the body, repair muscles, and prevent muscle soreness.3
Therefore, it is important to choose healthy food options after your workout. Whole foods are ideal, because they offer complete nutrition, and they are rich in micronutrients, fiber, and high quality protein: (non-farmed) fish, chicken, eggs, milk/ alternative milks, and yogurt.3
Wondering what to eat to promote muscle growth and for post-workout recovery? The following foods are ideal.
Eggs are a perfect post-workout food. They are rich in protein required to replenish the muscles.2 Research reports that taking 10-20g of high quality protein within 2 hours after strength training is adequate for recovery and prevention of muscle loss.3 They can be eaten at any time of the day. You can eat them the way you love - scrambled, poached, or hard boiled. Eat them with a few slices of bread and vegetables, like onions, tomatoes, or lettuce. You can also eat them with avocado to give a healthy fat boost or lean turkey for an added boost of protein.
To get a quick supply of protein, make a simple recipe of protein shake. Add fruit and a nut butter to your favorite milk to get a boost of protein. If you’re a vegetarian, you can consider adding protein powder to the drink of your choice. Chocolate milk has been found to be a great post-workout option. Ensure to choose low-fat or even a low/ no added sugar one to avoid consuming too much added sugar and excess fat.3
Chocolate protein powder made with milk/ alternative milk, and an added banana is a good option.
Whole grain cereal
Oatmeal is a perfect cereal that is rich in fiber. You can eat it alongside a high protein snack, like walnuts, almond butter, or use a protein powder. Add honey to give a boost of energy. This can be a quick snack after hitting the gym. It will help to boost blood sugar levels, especially after a high intensity cardio workout.
Choose a high protein cereal rich in fiber and low in sugar. This helps to quickly replenish the energy stores in your muscles. You can also opt to add milk or yogurt to the cereal.
Whole grain sandwich
A sandwich is an ideal meal, especially for post-workout snacking during lunch break. You can make a chicken or turkey sandwich, with a bowl of vegetable soup. The sandwich is quick to prepare, and you can carry it to the gym. You can add salads to the sandwich to give it a vegetable boost. For example: stuff spinach salad with slices of chicken breast onto your toast. You can also layer avocado, tomato, and cottage cheese onto your sandwich for a boost of energy. You can also make a sandwich with banana. Slice the banana and place on the bread spread with peanut or almond butter.
They are a portable snack packed with healthy nutrients. They contain enzymes that help your body to break down nutrients quickly and assist in replenishing your exhausted muscles.2 Fruits, such as kiwi and oranges, contain antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. Pineapple has anti-inflammatory properties that aid your muscles recovery.3 You can combine fruits and nuts, like a sliced apple with a handful of peanuts or walnuts.
Although whole foods are ideal, smoothies are a quick, healthy fix when you are too tired to make a meal, or need to boost your blood sugars quickly.
You can make your favorite smoothie using our Tropical De-lite Blend - a mix of banana slices, pineapple chunks, orange segments (our newest recipe incorporates freeze dried strawberry slices), mango dices, and papaya dices.
This blend will provide calories for workout recovery and also provide fiber, antioxidants and minerals.
To prepare, rehydrate by soaking in water for a few minutes to make the texture smooth and pleasant. Add to a blender with yogurt or milk (depending on your preference), and blend until smooth. Viola! You have a power smoothie!
Water is also essential post-workout to replace the fluids lost through sweat. You can take pure water or electrolyte-rich sports drinks to replenish lost electrolytes. However, some of them contain high levels of sugar and calories.3 You should opt for snacks and water instead. You can take coconut water, rich in potassium and magnesium, to restore the lost electrolytes.3
For any workout to be effective, nutrition has to be the center of it all. You need to make the right choice to replenish energy and nutrients lost during the workout.