While you may have burned a thousand calories and crushed your workout, eating the wrong foods after your workout will make you loose your hard earned work! If you are serious about losing weight and/or improving performance, you are going to have to pay attention to your post-workout meals.
In an effort to fill the emptiness in our stomachs that lurks after a strenuous training session, it can be easy to reach for the closest edible thing in sight. Though getting in calories and nutrients quickly is key, to get the most bang for your workout buck, it’s crucial to limit calories from unhealthy and sugary foods and instead replenish your body with healthy and beneficial nutrients to help it perform its best.
1. Sugary Recovery Shake
Whatever you call it – protein shake, recovery shake, that cold thing you drink in a blender bottle after the gym – make sure it isn’t loaded with sugar! If you are buying it from a smoothie stand or somewhere like Jamba Juice, chances are it’s loaded with it.
That goes for a lot of the pre-packaged shakes too, and they could actually be doing more harm than good. A DIY shake can be a much healthier alternative and allows you to know and control exactly what you are putting into your body.
* For healthy homemade recipes, read *DIY Meal Shakes
2. Ultra-Processed Energy Bar
Don’t be wooed by companies high claims about the unlimited health benefits of their “protein bars.” Many are nothing more than a candy bar dessert in disguise. With most having more sugar than a doughnut and a ingredient list that is impossible to pronounce, its time to ditch the colored wrappers for a better choice.
You won’t have to give up the convenience of a bar all together. Exchange it for one made with real, whole-food ingredients ( the the general rule is the less and easier to pronounce ingredients the better ) that ideally has a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4:1 to refuel post-workout.
3. High Fat Fast Foods
It’s tempting to validate that sweat dripping, calorie torching workout as license to hit the nearest drive-thru on the way back from the gym, but your body will not thank you and you will see it’s negative impact on your performance, both mental and physical.
The high amounts of fat in fast food slow the digestion process in your gut, meaning your body takes longer to absorb those much-needed nutrients into the muscles. Fast food also tends to be high in calories, which means it takes much less food than you think to completely negate what you burned in training. Do yourself a favor and don’t eat this. Your body will thank you.
4. Low Carb Meal
That’s right, the lettuce wrap probably isn’t the best option for post-workout meal. One of your biggest goals to create a sustainable way of training should be to always refuel for the next workout. Having a low carb meal for recovery doesn’t adequately provide your body with the carbohydrates it needs to replenish glycogen stores, leaving you under-recovered the next time you hit the gym.
Post-workout, high quality carbs are a must: whole-grain breads, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice and fruits are rich in carbohydrates that your body uses to rebuild muscle and provide energy for training sessions to come.
5. Doughnuts or Pastries
Just the other day my buddy told me how he was leaving his gym and there was a box of doughnuts on the counter for people to take as they please. A box of doughnuts at a gym! And the worst part is, the box was apparently gone within the hour.
Yes, we understand you need to restore your glycogen stores after a grueling workout, but these artery clogging, fat and sugar bombs are NOT the way to do it. The large amount of fat found in these dough balls slows digestion, thus delaying the absorption of necessary nutrients that should be absorbed quickly after a workout.
Speaking of nutrients, they contain close to none. A better carb option would be whole-grain toast with peanut butter or low-sugar fruit preserves.
6. Super Salty Snacks
While that bag of potatoes chips may sound like a great way to replenish sodium levels ( especially after sweating vigorously ), these tasty snacks can provide too munch of a good thing. Snacks like chips or pretzels are high in sodium and chloride, but low in other minerals like magnesium, potassium and chloride, which are key ingredients to aid in the body’s recovery.
Though it is important to restore sodium levels after a workout, the American diet is already over-dosing on salt and most of us are getting much more than we need. Consuming too much salt post-workout can raise your sodium levels and increase risk for high blood pressure and other diseases.
You just crushed that morning workout, time to celebrate with a mai tai at brunch right? Sorry to be a buzzkill ( pun intended), but drinking after a workout not only dehydrates you, but also reduces protein synthesis and packs on empty calories. Alcohol puts off 7 kilocalories/gram, and no nutrients. Compare it with 4 kilocalories/gram of carbohydrates and their health benefits, you decide which is better for your performance.
If you just can’t shake your quench for the cold beer, make sure to eat a recovery snack first and dilute your brew with water to ensure your muscles stay hydrated.
8. Nothing ( or just water )
At all costs, avoid having nothing but water after a training session. Water is a vital nutrient for our bodies, however, it provides zero calories. Your body is designed to rebuild and recharge, but it can’t do that if you don’t give it any fuel! Without the proper fuel ( calories ) to rebuild micro-tears and damage to muscles, you are leaving yourself susceptible to injury during your next workout – not to mention lack of energy and focus throughout the rest of the day.
Skipping a post meal workout once in awhile isn’t a big deal, but it definitely shouldn’t be a habit. Make planning your recovery meal an equally important part of your exercise routine.