What to eat after a workout

What you eat after a workout is just as important as what you eat before.

11 March 2014
by Andreas Wilson-Späth

Most of us understand the importance of eating light, easily digested and well tolerated meals before engaging in physical activity and staying hydrated during exercise, but what are the best recovery foods for after your workout?

Don’t starve yourself

Regardless of whether you’re exercising to lose weight, gain fitness or build muscles, you should definitely eat something soon after you’ve done so.

While you exercise, your body burns stored fat reserves to release energy. By eating the right types of food soon after your workout, you’ll provide it with the nutrients required to repair and build muscle and tissue without replacing the fat you’ve just worked so hard to get rid of.

The essentials

According to dietitian Tristaca Caldwell, carbohydrates and fluids are among the most important things your body needs soon after strenuous physical activity, ideally within 30 minutes since that is the time when your body is best able to use them efficiently.

Aim to eat about 1.5 grams of carbs per kilogram of your body weight to help restore your glycogen levels, and drink one to one-and-a-half litres of water for every kilogram of weight you’ve shed.

If you’ve exercised for more than an hour, especially in hot conditions, Caldwell recommends a sports drink to replenish electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. If you’re trying to lose weight, chose “light” sports drinks with reduced carbs and calories.

Dr Christine Rosenbloom, an American sports nutrition expert, points out that a small dose of protein is necessary for muscle recovery and growth right after a workout. Whether you get it from a hard-boiled egg, protein powder or a protein shake, 10 to 20 grams are all that’s required. Try Evox Whey Protein powder or 32Gi’s Endurance Recovery protein sports drink. A PowerBar protein recovery bar is another convenient and tasty way to get in some protein after a workout. You’ll find these products and other fitness foods and supplements in Clicks’ stores.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, a glass of chocolate milk has been found to offer both the fluid you need, as well as the ideal ratio of carbohydrates and proteins required for recovery.

Also important are vitamins and antioxidants to help reduce inflammation and heal swelling, sprains and bruises. USN’s Men’s and Women’s Ultra Two A Day dietary supplement provides all of the micronutrients your body needs to deal with the demands of an active lifestyle.

Great post-workout food options

  • A granola or cereal bar. Clicks stocks a variety of these bars that are perfect for refueling. Buy a few and keep them in your gym bag so that you always have a suitable snack at hand when you need it.
  • Chicken stir-fry.
  • A fruit smoothie.
  • A veggie omelet with red peppers, broccoli and spinach, topped with a few slices of avo.
  • A handful of unsalted, unsweetened trail mix with dried fruit, seeds and nuts.
  • Grilled salmon with baked sweet potato or quinoa.
  • Fruit, especially bananas, blueberries, pineapple and kiwi.

What to avoid

After working out stay clear of foods that offer little nutritional value, like these:

  • Fatty foods, including samosas, potato chips and crisps, pies, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs.
  • Sugary snacks and cooldrinks, including chocolate bars, muffins, cupcakes, doughnuts, chocolate spread, yoghurt-covered raisins and candied nuts.
  • Salty treats, like bacon, salted popcorn or nuts, and pretzel sticks.
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