Post-Workout: 7 Healthy Meals to Maximize Your Efforts
It doesn't matter what time of day you exercise; the foods that follow are what really count! You should have meals that combine protein, which helps your muscles to recover, and carbohydrates, which replenish energy stores and provide for long lasting energy.
It is best to eat 30 to 60 minutes after exercising, when muscles are most receptive. This time period shows an increase in enzyme activity which makes the body more efficient at storing glucose for energy and building protein in fatigued muscles.
Here are some great post-workout meals to make to maximize your efforts:
#1. Banana, Berry, Yogurt Flax Smoothie
Not just for breakfast, you can have a homemade breakfast smoothie any time of the day following a workout. Pair a banana with milk (raw is best), yogurt or almond milk for a satisfying and tasty sports drink. Bananas are packed with magnesium and potassium, both important for cell and muscle function. Raw dairy can provide a plethora of nutrients including protein and probiotics. Choose your favorite fresh fruits for antioxidants, and try adding ground flax seed, which lends a nutty flavor and provides extra protein and fiber.
#2. Whole Grain Hummus Sandwich
Sandwiches are an easy, fulfilling meal to eat on the run, and they can be just as fun as they are nutritious! Low-sodium deli meat replaces some of the salt lost during exercise, while fresh tomatoes are tasty and give a boost of vitamin C. Romaine lettuce gives a satisfying crunch while providing vitamins A and C as well as folate, calcium, iron and potassium. Skip the mayonnaise and try hummus, a healthy spread of blended chickpeas & spices that will make your sandwich moist and flavorful while adding extra protein. Use whole grain bread to boost the fiber and healthy carb content. Once prepared, grill your sandwich in the morning and pack it for lunch, or immediately enjoy this easy and quick meal.
#3. Granola Berry Nut Mix
Depending on when you exercise, it may be difficult to squeeze in a meal thirty minutes after your workout. Granola can be a satisfying snack that will also give you long-lasting energy. The oats, honey, and flax seed provide protein, carbohydrates, fiber and healthy unsaturated fats. Nuts and dried fruits have carbohydrates and protein, as well as iron for healthy red blood cells. Add to raw yogurt or eat by the handful, and store a bag in your car or desk for a healthy alternative to vending machine or fast food. Remember to eat this high energy, calorie dense food in moderation.
#4. Hummus Egg English Muffin
Eggs are generally considered a breakfast food, and this sandwich would make a great breakfast after your workout. Protein in the yolk and the white of the egg provides energy, while fat content and calories are low. Eggs contain zinc which aids in metabolism and immunity, and vitamin B12 supports cell production. Placed on a whole grain English muffin with a slice of tomato, bean sprouts and hummus or ajvar (a spread made from eggplants and red peppers), this sandwich is sure to deliver satisfaction and pack a protein punch!
#5. Salmon Stir-Fry
Salmon is an ideal source of protein as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Serve with steamed brown rice and veggies to balance the meal with carbohydrates and energy-producing B vitamins. Stir fry veggies with peanuts or almonds and look for a low sodium sauce or make your own sauce by thinning peanut butter with water, and a little cayenne pepper for heat. The protein and fiber in this meal should keep you satisfied and help you avoid late-night munching. Serve leftover salmon on top of a salad of mixed greens with a vinaigrette for lunch tomorrow.
#6. Bean and Grain Salad with Feta
Beans such as soy, garbanzo (chickpeas), navy and black beans are an excellent source of protein and are also low in saturated fat. Whole grain bulgur wheat, quinoa and couscous are loaded with hunger-fighting fiber. Feta cheese adds calcium for strong bones, and the peppery lettuce arugula adds fiber as well as vitamins. Pull your salad together with a squeeze of lemon juice, olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and ground pepper for a light and refreshing snack that'll be ready when you are.
#7. Peanut Butter With Anything
Peanut butter is great for a post workout snack or meal; it is versatile, affordable and satisfying. Don't worry about the fat content; just avoid hydrogenated oils and eat quality peanut butter in moderation. Cashew and almond butter are alternatives that contain healthy unsaturated fats while keeping you satisfied. Enjoy atop a whole grain English muffin, waffles, banana buckwheat pancakes, or bread; use as a dip for pretzels or fresh veggies at snack time, or eat straight from the spoon if you are really in a rush.
The most important goal after a workout is to get some nutrients into your body to help it recover from the stress. You don't want to undo your progress from exercise, so following these meal suggestions can keep you satisfied and trim. Remember to drink plenty of water following a workout, and feel good about eating, living and feeling healthy!