You just had a killer workout, and you know what that means: time to refuel. However, you can't just pick up any old snack. You have to make sure it contains a good amount of protein to rebuild damaged muscle, complex carbohydrates to supply a renewed source of energy, and some healthy fats, to lower inflammation in over-used muscles. (And, FYI, here's what not to eat before that workout, too, because it does matter.)
When you workout, you break down muscle, so without adequate recovery, such as stretching, massage or foam rolling, and eating a healthy, macronutrient-rich snack, you can jeopardize your performance and open the window for injury or chronic soreness.
Luckily, you can keep your body in tip-top-shape and keep kicking butt in those grueling workouts by eating wisely post-session. Here are the best foods to eat after a major workout.
"Protein is essential for post-workout nutrition as it helps to repair and maintain tissue," says personal trainer Nicole Winhoffer. Of course, eating meat, fish, and legumes will also help you get protein, but if you're on the go, you'll need to make sure you have a go-to fix in time to repair muscle tissue. If you don't eat within 30 minutes or an hour, you could delay the recovery process.
"Pure Protein Dark Chocolate Coconut Bars are my go-to for post workout refuel. Each bar only contains 1g of sugar and is packed with 19g of protein to keep me going after a tough workout. I always keep them in my bag in case I get stuck somewhere or am running from an NW Method class," she says.
"Beans are also great option for protein post-workout and contain protein and fiber, especially for someone who is plant-based like me. There are many different varieties and two cups of kidney beans for example has about 26g of protein," she says.
You can easily pair with eggs, grains, or a piece of fish or chicken, if you do eat meat, as well.
After a tough workout, your body needs fibrous carbs and protein, so quinoa is the perfect fit, as it's high in both. "Quinoa is a hearty whole grain containing 8 grams of protein per cup. This super food provides you with carbs and protein for energy and muscle repair and is one of my favorites. It's a fantastic energy food," she says.
Have it in a salad, as an oatmeal or cereal, or with a side of beans or chicken. Or, try this vegan chopped quinoa recipe that'll keep you full for hours, too.
Here's a new one! "Manduka Honey is good natural energy and a great replenisher post fuel. I also have fresh coconut post workout for electrolytes and replenish hydration, with both the liquid and the coconut meat," she says. You can use both when making a juice or smoothie, or you can spread some honey on a slice of whole grain bread or chips with avocado or yogurt for protein and sip on coconut water, for some potassium and hydration.
"Fresh fruits contain enzymes to help your body break down nutrients that will then be sent to your tired muscles. They are also loaded with carbohydrates," which your body really needs after a lot of cardio or a high intensity workout.
"Pineapples have inflammatory properties to help your muscles recover and bananas are full of beneficial carbs that you need after a workout. (A tip? Try this pineapple mint smoothie for a total refresher.)
They help your body restore its glycogen supply to rebuild damaged muscles and also help you avoid cramping, [thanks to potassium]," she adds. For more protein, pair the fruit with yogurt or cheese. Your body needs that protein to recover torn muscles and get back some energy.