If you are serious about building muscle and losing fat, you should be serious about your post-workout meals. After a workout, the body sends a signal to the brain telling you that you are hungry. In an effort to quickly satisfy that demand, many individuals reach for something quick and satisfying, but not necessarily what the body needs.
To avoid setting yourself back and to ensure your body gets the refuel it desires, avoid these common pitfalls for post-workout choices:
Your veggie tray might work great as a healthy, low-fat party snack, but as post-workout recovery fuel it simply falls short. When you exercise, your body uses carbohydrates known as glycogen stored up in your muscles. In order to get the biggest bang for your workout buck, it is vital to replenish calories and nutrients with the right combination of carbohydrates and protein. These minimal calorie foods just aren't substantial enough to help you restore energy and maintain a healthy metabolic rate. You can work to make them a little more substantial by combining them with protein-packed sides such as a yogurt dip, various nut butters or hummus.
High Fat, Fast Food
After a grueling workout, many use their hard work as an excuse to overindulge or to consume less-than-optimal recovery foods. French fries, nachos and cheeseburgers may sound like a worthy reward for that 3 miles you just ran, however, these high fat options can wipe out the progress that you just made while exercising. In addition, the fat can slow down digestion, which is the exact opposite of what you want to happen after working up a sweat. The goal is to replenish your body's glycogen stores, not add to the amount of fat that your body stores.
Soda and Fruit Drinks
So you've worked up a thirst. But downing sugary sodas, fruit juices or sports drinks after intense exercise is counterproductive for anyone seeking to lose weight. Reach for sports drinks only if your workout generated a loss of large amounts of sweat to replace the electrolytes that you lost. Otherwise, to quench your thirst and to rehydrate, opt for plain water. To replenish important electrolytes such as potassium, a banana can be added to your post-workout recovery.
Our bodies are mostly comprised of fluid, meaning that every cell, tissue and organ needs to get enough water in order to function. While water is the most important part of hydration, in order to perform at your best you also need electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. However, if you are consuming the protein and carbohydrates necessary post-workout, these foods will have enough sodium to cover your needs. The major concern is actually potassium, a mineral essential to your body for cell function. Grabbing a bag of salty snacks like potato chips or pretzels can lower your levels of potassium, which is of greater importance during your recovery phase than salt.
Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.