After your workout, the last thing you want to do is eat something unhealthy that could hinder the progress you just made; but at the same time, not eating anything can be almost as harmful. It is very important to refuel so your body can adequately recuperate and recover for optimal training results. Regardless of whether you workout to prepare for a competition, to lose weight or to stay in shape, it is essential that you give your muscles the power to succeed!
The primary goal of a post-workout snack is to rebuild broken down muscle. For the training athlete, this helps improve overall performance and training capacity. For someone trying to get or stay in shape, this helps increase your lean mass which speeds up your metabolism and helps burn fat.
When you are creating your post-workout snack, the most important thing to remember is you need high-quality protein, such as eggs or milk that can be quickly absorbed and used by the body to replenish broken down muscle. You’ll want to supplement your protein with a simple carbohydrate, such as fruit, bread or cereal to help refuel your energy stores for future bouts of exercise.
If you are searching for nutritious snacks to follow your exercise, try one of these five post-workout options that provide a tasty blend of complete proteins and simple carbohydrates:
- Protein Shake: One of the most obvious and easiest snacks post-workout is a protein shake. It’s easy to make with a complete protein powder from your local health food store, blended with a moderately low-glycemic fruit (like strawberries or blueberries) and plain yogurt. For a cool treat, use frozen fruits and a few pieces of ice.
- Apple & Tuna Salad: Combine a pouch of tuna with a diced apple, a dollop of low-fat plain yogurt, a splash of apple cider vinegar and a small handful of dried cranberries or raisins. Eat plain, with celery or on whole grain toast.
- Fruit & Cheese: For a quick and easy on-the-go snack, choose a low-fat cheese, such as fresh mozzarella made with 2% milk, and a piece of fruit, like a peach or a pear.
- Quinoa & Chickpea Salad: Even though quinoa is a whole grain, it is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids. Mix about ½ to ¾ cup of cooked quinoa with a handful of chickpeas, 2-3 chopped dried figs, fresh chopped mint and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a quick and tasty salad.
- Lettuce Wraps: Save a little leftover chicken from your dinner for this snack, perfect for those trying to shed a few extra pounds. Using a large, flexible leaf of lettuce, like romaine or Bibb, place several strips of chicken and julienned vegetables like carrots, red peppers and cucumbers. Top with your favorite vinaigrette dressing or plain yogurt mixed with spices.
Bonus after-workout snack: Low-fat chocolate milk! Studies from major universities, like the University of Texas-Austin, show that low-fat chocolate milk has the perfect blend of complete protein and carbohydrate to enhance muscle recovery and strength after workouts. So, if you're trying to improve strength, lose fat or enhance your cardiovascular fitness, grab a glass of milk or make a bowl of cereal for an easy post-workout snack.
Photo Credit: K.Landerholm http://www.flickr.com/photos/landerholm/3538569497/