Eating before and after your workout takes a little thought if you want to do it the right way, and there are certain foods to never eat after your workout for a few reasons. During exercise, the body uses up all the glycogen in muscles. Glycogen is the fuel, usually produced in the body after eating carbs, which gives you energy. After your workout, not only are glycogen levels low or empty, but your muscles are also damaged. Luckily, how you eat can help you recover from both of these issues very well, and fairly quickly. Yet, other foods, such as those which are high in fat and processed, refined sugar or too much fiber, can interfere with digestion and delay the recovery process. Complex carbs and lean protein are the ideal foods to eat after a workout. Complex carbs replenish glycogen, but digest slowly enough so they don’t interfere with your glycemic index. They also have some fiber, but not so much that it overpowers your digestion. Fiber and quick to digest sugars are better eaten before a workout, not after. Fat is also better eaten either later on in the day, or at least an hour before your workout since it takes longer to digest. Protein helps repair muscles after exercise, and keeping it lean means it is easier to digest and can help muscles recover faster due to less digestive work. Avoid these 9 foods to never eat after your workout so you don’t get lethargic, or short yourself of a good recovery.
1. Red Meat
Red meat is one of the hardest foods to digest, which makes it at the top of my list of foods to never eat after your workout. High in saturated animal fats, it not only clogs your arteries, but isn’t your choice protein, hun! Forego the steak fajita and opt for the chicken instead.
2. Full Fat Eggs
Eggs are a very healthy food, but if you’re eating a whole egg, keep it to just one egg, which has 6 grams of fat. One egg and two whites is actually an excellent source of protein and healthy fats after a meal, but using more than one whole egg directly after a workout might not be the best idea.
3. Full Fat Yogurt
Yogurt is another great food to eat after your workout, and quite possibly the most perfect, but there’s a catch. Keep your yogurt to 2% or better yet, nonfat and unsweetened, such as Greek yogurt, plain. Nonfat Greek yogurt is higher in lean protein than any other variety, so it repairs your muscles. It has slow to digest carbs as well, but is lower in carbs than other yogurt varieties. Just avoid full fat yogurt, which is full of saturated fat, not as high in protein, and will take much more work to digest than regular yogurt.
4. Nut Butter
A teaspoon of nut butter is perfectly fine to eat after a workout, but avoid eating a few tablespoons. Right after a workout, your blood is diverted away from your stomach, so it will take much more work to digest heavy fats like nut butter. Right after your workout, your body needs lean protein and carbs, not double doses of the almond butter staring at you in the fridge!
5. White Bread
I hope white bread isn’t on your menu anyway, but definitely avoid it after a workout for a few reasons. First, just because it is rich in easy to digest carbs doesn’t mean it’s best for you. It contains a large amount of gluten and sugar, which will mess with your digestion and also cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. Eat whole grain toast instead, or better yet, sprouted bread like Ezekial bread, which contains the live grains, not processed ones.
6. Fiber Rich Veggies
I love my veggies, but they are not your friend right after a workout! They are rich in fibers that might take some extra work to digest. Leave them for later in the day, and instead, use greens as a post workout ingredient, such as in a green smoothie, omelet, or even a nice whole grain sandwich. Good options are spinach and kale for the highest nutrient content.
7. Chocolate Bar
I like to eat a little chocolate each day, including dark chocolate, cacao nibs, and cocoa powder. Save your chocolate bar until later in the day, or eat it a few minutes before you work out. The fats will take longer to digest and give you fuel, along with the stimulants in chocolate. If you want to use chocolate after your workout, use cocoa powder, which hardly has any fat and is easier to digest. I like using it in smoothies, hot oatmeal, or even just a glass of cold almond milk.
Once again, forego a highly saturated fat option, especially one like pizza. The sad part is, pizza smells better to me after a workout than any other time, because I’m hungry from all my hard work. Instead of tempting yourself, avoid that pizza place at the mall or your local pizza shop, and just be sure to have an energy bar on hand to refuel afterwards, like a lower fat Larabar or Rise bar.
9. Coconut Oil
Lastly, coconut oil is a fabulous food for athletes, but the trick is to use it before your workout, not after. It is high in fats that do give you energy for your workout, but the fats won’t help your body recover after a workout. Remember, you want to replenish glycogen with healthy carbs and aid muscle recovery with protein from lean sources.
A great recovery meal would be something like a protein shake made with some greens but not veggies, protein powder, or nonfat Greek yogurt, and perhaps some berries and maybe a few oats. A sweet potato with nonfat Greek yogurt is also an excellent option. Or, a bowl of oatmeal, with some blueberries and a scoop of protein powder or nonfat Greek yogurt would also be excellent. What’s your favorite post workout meal?