Working out is one of the best ways to clear your head and take care of your body in my opinion, but if you're not refueling afterwards with certain post-workout foods, you may be doing yourself more harm that good. Post-workout foods are just as important as what you eat before your workout. They can hinder or help your recovery, your muscle strength, and even affect your weight depending on if you choose the right foods or not. One important thing to remember after your workout is not to eat too much fat. Fat is important for your health and you shouldn’t avoid it by any means, but right after your workout, it can delay your energy levels, and take more energy digesting than protein and carbs, which your body needs right after a workout. Protein-rich foods and low-glycemic carbohydrates are two foods to focus on right when you're done with your sweat session. These foods help replenish glycogen in the muscles, which gets depleted when exercising. Start adding the post-workout foods below to your routine, which are all easy for your body to absorb. Oh and don’t worry, they are extremely tasty, easy to find and use, and your workouts are likely to double in efficiency with the recovery effects of these powerful post-workout foods.
1. Whey Protein
Whey protein is one of the most well known post-workout foods, and with good reason. It is easy for your body to absorb and digest and easy to throw into a shake or smoothie. If you’re vegan, I know this won’t be an option for you, but if you’re not vegan, I definitely suggest adding whey protein to your post-workout routine. Whey protein has even been linked to a heightened immune system, lower body weight, better recovery and a higher metabolism than other proteins out there. Whey protein should be consumed in the healthiest version you can get, which is grass-fed and hormone-free whey protein instead of highly processed versions with hormones, artificial sweeteners or sugars, and any nasty preservatives. One of my favorite clean brands is About Time, which is only sweetened with stevia, and is only 100 calories per serving with no fat or carbs. I love to make a shake or smoothie post-workout with whey protein, and you can even make your own protein pancakes with it too! You can purchase my favorite brand of whey protein at iHerb.com.
Nonfat Greek yogurt is one of the best post-workout foods to eat. For starters, it contains whey protein, one of the easiest to digest sources of protein out there. A small 6 ounce serving is only 100 calories, yet contains 20 grams of protein with no fat and no added sugar if you buy the plain version. Plus, yogurt is rich in calcium, Vitamin D, and potassium, which all aid in bone health and nervous system function. The healthy probiotics in yogurt also increase your digestive health, and can even reduce the amount of sugars in the yogurt since the healthy bacteria "eat up" the natural lactose sugars in yogurt. Yogurt is also such a versatile food! Make a smoothie with it, or add some berries or a few walnuts on top and make a healthy parfait. Any way you eat it, plain, unsweetened yogurt is a great post-workout food!
3. Green Smoothie
Green smoothies are a mainstay in my kitchen, and I usually have one right after my workout using whey protein as an added bonus. My green smoothies don’t contain too much fruit, which can affect glycemic levels if you're as sensitive to sugar as I am. Instead, I fill my green smoothie with leafy greens, a few berries, protein powder, plenty of superfoods and calcium-fortified almond milk. Leafy greens used in green smoothies are great post-workout because they contain low-glycemic sources of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, chlorophyll, Vitamins A, C and E, plus magnesium. All of these qualities help increase bone health, aid in blood sugar regulation, increase mental function, aid digestive health, aid in recovery and increase your metabolism. Plus, greens just make you feel good!
4. Hemp Protein Shake
If you’re not on board with whey protein, no worries! Hemp protein is the best alternative, and truly a wonderful food overall, to add to your post-workout routine. Hemp protein contains all essential amino acids that your body needs to maintain strong muscles, bones and lean muscle mass. Amino acids also aid in recovery, which is so important for your workouts. If your recovery isn’t optimal, then you may suffer injuries, have low energy during your next workout, and even suffer pains, bone loss and muscle deterioration. Hemp protein is a plant protein made from hemp seeds, and is easy to digest, rich in magnesium, Omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. Use hemp protein instead of hemp seeds post workout since it is lower in fat and a little easier to digest. I love making hemp protein shakes for a delicious, calming, and nutty-tasting smoothie. Plus, feel free to use this in your green smoothie for a 100% plant-based post-recovery meal. Good brands of hemp protein can be found at iHerb.com.
5. Maca Root
Maca root is a root veggie from Peru that is commonly known as a superfood and sold as a powder here in the U.S. While most people may not think of maca when they think of post-recovery foods, I’m here to tell you why you should! Maca root is rich in amino acids which, as you know, aid in proper recovery, energy and strength. Maca is also an adaptogen, which means that when your body is stressed physically or emotionally, it can bring it back into balance. Maca is energizing and calming at the same time, which is an amazing feeling to have post-recovery when you’ve worked your tail off! Maca is also great for your hormones, which makes it great for post-recovery. During intense exercise, the stress hormone cortisol is raised to give you energy, and maca helps reduce the amount of cortisol your body excretes after your workout, to bring levels back down to normal amounts. Maca is one of the most important supplements for women in my book, and I personally have found I feel so much better using it. I love using the powder in my shakes since it has a delicious caramel taste, but you can also purchase it in pill form. You can purchase my favorite maca powder at iHerb.com.
Oh, the humble banana! If you tolerate fruits well, which I don’t, bananas are a great fruit to eat post-workout! Bananas are rich potassium, Vitamin B6, and magnesium, which make them great for your bones, muscles and lowering your stress. Bananas are also easy to digest for most people. They are also excellent sources of fiber and most people just love eating them. Pair them with a protein-rich food so they don’t spike your blood sugar. Good options are blending them in a smoothie, or eating them with some yogurt.
Overnight oats aren’t just popular because they taste great, but they’re also one heck of a powerful post-workout food! You can eat oats before your workout if you wish, but since they take awhile to digest, I would recommend eating them afterwards instead. Since oats are slow-to-digest carbohydrates, they won’t spike your blood sugar. Making overnight oats by soaking them in the fridge overnight in some almond milk or other milk is a tasty option post-workout when you’re not in the mood for something hot like cooked oats. Since they are soaked overnight, they gel up like a thick pudding or yogurt, and are a great way to cool off. You can even add in dried fruits, chia seeds, frozen berries, kefir, yogurt, cinnamon, stevia, maca powder, cacao powder, or whatever else you like! Oats will help restore glycogen levels in the muscles, and have a minimal effect on your blood sugar as well.
Recovering post-workout is so important and you should never skip a post-workout meal if you’re looking to lose or maintain your weight. To keep your blood sugar stable and aid in muscle recovery, eat one of these tasty and easy-to-make post workout foods! What are your favorite post-workout foods to eat?