Do you give much thought to what you should eat post-workout? You’re probably putting a lot of effort into your workouts and it’s likely that you’re thinking carefully about what you should be eating pre-workout but did you know that consuming the right nutrients after a workout is just as important as what you’re eating before?
With that in mind, we asked nutritionist Liam Mahoney from Grenade (whose protein bars are genuinely some of the best tasting ones we’ve tried – and we’re not even saying that because we have to, o ye of little faith) how you can recharge and refuel your body correctly.
What you should eat post-workout
When you are working out, your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel. This results in your muscles becoming depleted of energy, and some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged. After your workout, your body needs to try and rebuild this damage and replenish its energy by eating the right balance of foods. Here are my picks of the best things to eat after exercise.
Many focus on protein and carbs when it comes to replenishing and repairing the body following a tough session at the gym, but vitamins and minerals are just as important. Eggs, especially the yolks, contain lots of important vitamins, such as Vitamin B12, B6 and A. Eggs also contain many minerals your body needs, such as magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and copper. People tend to focus on the protein content in eggs, but you would need to eat a lot of them in order to get a substantial amount of protein. One egg has 6g of protein.
As eggs are high in fat and cholesterol, I’d advise that you eat five egg whites with one whole egg following a workout. This way you are consuming approximately 21g of protein and still getting the good stuff that comes from the yolk without going overboard on fat and cholesterol.
High-quality protein snacks
Protein is one of the essential nutrients that we all need to maintain a healthy body, and protein is especially important to consume after a workout. During exercise, you are effectively breaking your muscles down and then letting them repair and adapt to become bigger, stronger and more efficient.
On a day to day basis, protein is consumed from eating lean meat, beans, soy protein products, nuts and other food. If you’re exercising, it is beneficial to supplement your normal intake of protein with additional sources such as protein bars and drinks. Protein bars and shakes are a really easy way to get a lot of protein, and there are a lot of options out there. I recommend the Carb Killa range from Grenade, which includes delicious protein packed shakes, bars and chocolate spreads, which contain 20% protein and 87% less sugar than other leading brands. (Other brands are available obv, but honestly try the cookies n creme Carb Killa bar microwaved for about 30 secs – it’s delicious. Really! –Ed.)
Not only are sweet potatoes readily available, inexpensive and versatile, they are also a top source of carbohydrate, meaning they’re an excellent source of energy for anyone hitting it hard at the gym. In addition to the carb content, sweet potatoes have numerous other benefits which make them a good food to eat following a workout.
Firstly, they’re rich in dietary fibre, which is essential for helping to control appetite, maintain healthy digestion and build muscle. Sweet potatoes are also loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin C, manganese and potassium. After a workout, your metabolism is fired up and your body has used up its glycogen. Adding sweet potatoes to your post-workout meal will help to replenish this.
Cottage cheese contains a high concentration of the amino acid glutamine, which is great post-workout to aid muscle recovery. As a source of protein, cottage cheese is made predominately from casein, which digests at a very slow rate in the body, making it a great nighttime source of protein to eat prior to sleep.
Cottage cheese is also light on the stomach and contains less fat than hard cheese, as well as containing more water to help re-hydrate your body. To add to this, cottage cheese is also rich in calcium which helps to strengthen your bones and reduces the risk of fracture, which is especially important when you are active.
Porridge is magical for a number of reasons. Not only is it incredibly filling and easy to make, but it is also a great carb source to eat after a workout as it contains essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre which can keep your hunger at bay later on during your day. It can also help in refuelling your depleted glycogen levels.
There are so many different ways of eating your porridge too: hot or cold, sweet or savoury (which sounds weird but is actually a delicious and quite novel way of getting your oats in. There are some good recipes here). There is no right or wrong way to have porridge and the versatility of it is what makes it such an excellent addition to your post-workout diet.
Natural almond butter is a great alternative to commercially sold peanut butter because it’s not processed and has no added salt, sugars and fats. Like peanut butter, it includes protein that helps to build muscles and carbs that provide energy. Almond butter is a great post-workout snack because the high protein content will maximise muscle repair and recovery, plus it’s delicious. We like Meridian almond butter, which is just 100% almonds and readily available in supermarkets.
Good fats are important for healing muscles and joints and avocados are a great source of mono-saturated fat and vitamin B which jump starts your metabolism. Many people think that eating fat after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients, however while fat might slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it will not reduce its benefits.