By Coach KB
A common attitude among gym-goers across America is that you work out to be able to eat whatever you want during the day, but I know our POINT athletes care about their health the other 23 hours of the day. We get lots of questions about what foods to eat BEFORE a workout; you know this has a big impact on how you feel during class. Since we know you have goals to build strength, improve performance, and just be a generally healthy person, I am here to offer you some tips on what to eat AFTER your workout to optimize your time spent at the gym.
A FEW GENERAL STATEMENTS:
The first thing I will say is that all of us are different. We all have unique, bio-individual needs determined by heredity, diet over your lifetime, and lifestyle. Given that information, know that not all of these tips will work for you. Try them out; mix and match; adjust as needed.
Since this is a post about nutrition I will say that this is something that separates Nutritional Therapists from other nutrition practitioners - we spent a lot of time in our program learning how to assess and address these differences. (Feel free to hit us up for a free consultation if you want to invest in an individualized plan. We will also be giving a Sports Nutrition talk in the fall that goes into more detail about all these things.)
Know that we always recommend whole, REAL foods. A protein shake can have its place - for athletes who complete multiple workouts in a day or if you really, truly will not have access to any other real food for a few hours. Given that most store-bought protein shakes that the average person would buy have tons of additives and chemicals and are nearly 100% artificial, we will just stick with whole foods for now.
Melissa and I love (good quality) fat - it’s good for you and delicious. But after a workout it should be consumed in lower quantities. Focus on protein and carbohydrates, with fat being only about 5-10% of your total post-workout calories. Generally for more strength-based workouts eat a higher ratio of protein and for more endurance-based workouts eat a higher ratio of carbohydrates.
The whole “eat within 30 minutes of your workout” thing is a good guideline if you work out before breakfast in the morning. It is also beneficial if you have elite training goals. Finally, if you have a generally average-to-poor diet the rest of the day eating within 30 minutes is probably a good idea. If you have an average-to-stellar diet generally then you’re probably fine to wait until you can get home and can cook a good meal.
SHOW ME THE FOOD!
GIMME THE MEATS! - Preparing meat takes time and if you are headed to work or have to run errands or leaving on a road trip then portability makes a difference. Prep a bunch of (grass-fed) steak strips, ground meat for meatballs or patties, or shredded chicken or pork to have on hand for a grab-and-go meal. You can do the same with fish or seafood. Honestly, you can just eat these things plain but bring along a bowl of greens for an easy salad. Canned (wild caught) tuna or salmon packed in water fill the same purpose without the preparation required, but use this method sparingly. Hard-boiled eggs are a great protein source that are easy to make ahead of time for the week. Pre-peeling is the best way to ensure a more civilized lunch with your coworkers!
YES, VEGETABLES ARE CARBS - Like the meat, if you are on-the-go good quality carbohydrates take a little preparation, but it is worth it. If you don’t want to “prepare” anything, grab an organic bag of greens and go to town! (I just heard a study on NPR that the nutritional quality of bagged greens is just about as good as a whole head of lettuce, especially if it gets you to eat more greens!) If you’re good with a little prep time, pre-chop a bunch of veggies like peppers, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower to eat in a salad with your meat. Pre-cook sweet potatoes, squash, and beets and, you guessed it! - throw them on top of greens! You can also sprinkle the potatoes and squash with a little cinnamon and eat plain or make the beets into beet-chips. When all else fails, grab some in-season fruit and eat it with some nut-butter or full-fat plain yogurt or blend those things into a smoothie to bring along.
FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT - Coconut oil, full-fat, no additive coconut milk, nut butters, soaked/dried nuts, avocado (which also means guacamole!)... ‘nuff said!
WATER IS A FOOD - Drink at least ½ your bodyweight in ounces per day if you are working out. Coconut water is good for replacing electrolytes after a particularly sweaty workout. You can also just add good quality sea salt, lemon or lime juice, and drop of raw honey.
What are your favorite post-workout foods? Leave a comment to let us know!