7 Guidelines for Eating After Exercise

After a workout, especially after a challenging Body Revolution class, it is important to properly replenish your body.  Your post exercise meal is critical to recovery and improves your ability to train consistently. Training puts wear and tear on your joints, muscles and bones, and your body uses up nutrients during exercise, so what and when you eat is very important for you to reap all the benefits of your hard work.

You should be hungry after exercising and it is important to make healthy choices, rather that grabbing for chips or cookies.  Follow these helpful guidelines while planning your post exercise meals.

1. Time it right.  After a really tough workout, you should try to eat within 30 minutes if possible.  If you won’t be able to eat a full meal within 30-45 minutes of working out you should have a small snack so your body can start repairing itself.  Aim for a small snack with carbohydrates and protein, such as a few crackers with some nut butter, a protein shake or a low fat yogurt.  Once you are ready for you meal, make sure it hasn’t been more than 2 hours post workout.  Research shows that your body's ability to refill muscle energy stores decreases by 50 percent if you wait to eat 2 hours after your workout compared to eating right away.

2. Eat your carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are your friend; you just have choose them wisely.  Carbohydrates are the chief fuel for all bodily functions, they are important for replacing the muscle fuel (glycogen) you used up during exercise. You should be having complex carbohydrates with your post workout meal.  Healthy complex carbohydrates include brown rice, quinoa, oats, and multi-grain bread. Sweet potatoes and yams are also a good choice.

3. Protein is important.  Protein combined with carbohydrates creates a better muscle refueling and building response, and it reduces cortisol, a hormone that breaks down muscle. Be sure you are choosing high quality, lean protein such as fish, skinless chicken breasts, turkey, and lean beef.  Watch your portions; you should be having between 4 and 8 ounces.

4. Eat Green.  Be sure you are adding vegetables to your post workout meal.  Kale, spinach, broccoli, red leaf lettuce, asparagus and carrots are all quick and healthy options. When preparing your veggies try steaming, sauteing them, or roasting with a little extra virgin olive oil.  For your salads either make your own dressing or buy low fat salad dressing (watch out for high sugar content).

5. Limit alcohol.  The dehydrating effect alcohol has on our body will prolong the time it takes to rehydrate and recover after training sessions. Alcohol can also cause inflammation to muscle cells making you much sorer the next day.  If you are going to enjoy drinks after exercise try to limit yourself to two beverages and make sure you drink plenty of water and have eaten a balanced, healthy meal.

6. Drink enough water.  Hydrating after exercise is important for you to get all the benefits from your workout. Without adequate water consumption your muscles don’t have what they need to repair and get stronger for your next workout.  Through proper hydration you will feel better and have more energy for your next workout.  Hopefully you are hydrated before a workout and only need to replenish what you have lost. After an hour of exercise you should drink 4 cups of water to rehydrate. To really be sure you are drinking enough weigh yourself before exercise and then again afterwards.  To fully rehydrate you need to drink at least 2 cups of water per pound lost.

7. Keep it simple.  After a workout you may not want to put too much time into your meals. Here are some easy and healthy meal ideas.

  • Scrambled eggs with whole grain toast
  • Oatmeal with chopped almonds and fruit
  • Chicken breast with quinoa and a small salad
  • Vegetable stir fry with chicken breast or tofu served with brown rice
  • Greek salad prepared with salmon or chicken breast served pita bread
  • Salmon filet served with quinoa and roasted broccoli

Have fun with your post exercise meal.  You work hard and deserve to enjoy what you eat. By eating a healthy balanced diet you will have more energy to continue exercising and get stronger!