If you’re like most of us, it might seem as though eating a “proper diet” consists of a lot of greens and constantly reminding yourself to have everything in moderation. This, along with an active lifestyle, should help us accomplish our goals and get us into better shape right? Not necessarily.
In order to achieve your fitness goals, always having a few healthy and delicious snacks on hand (yes, you read that correctly), is step number one. There’s a lot that goes into proper post-workout nutrition, and for those of us who are hitting the gym regularly, that first hour after a workout is one of the most important during the day. Making sure we’re eating the right things during this window is vital in terms of helping our bodies heal, and preparing ourselves for the next sweat session.
In case you have no idea where to start, here are a few healthy foods to incorporate into your post-workout snack.
1. Protein Shake or Smoothie
Protein shakes and smoothies are the workhorse of the healthy nutrition world. Not only can you throw in just about anything, but the number of combinations and recipes are only limited by the extent of one’s imagination (or Pinterest boards). Incorporating a liquid into your post-workout routine also allows your body to absorb nutrients faster and more efficiently since it doesn’t have to expend as much energy to break everything down.
This is an obvious choice since it’s great for those on the go, and it’s most likely something all of us already have on hand. Bananas are an excellent healthy post-workout snack because they contain fast-acting carbohydrates. While some people may think these are “bad” carbs, they are actually very beneficial after a tough workout. Fast carbs help restore glycogen in our muscles which aids in recovery and reduces soreness. Another great option is to reach for a handful of blueberries. They pack a huge antioxidant punch that will have your body recovered in no time.
3. Non-fat Greek Yogurt
This hit the markets hard in the early 2000’s, gained in popularity exponentially a few years back, and hasn’t quit since. This is obviously for a reason - with over 20 grams of protein in just a cup of this stuff, no wonder it’s a healthy-living staple. Much like shakes and smoothies, plain Greek yogurt pairs with just about anything and can satisfy even the pickiest of pallets. Versatile is by far an understatement here. Try throwing in some fresh fruit and granola, or even use it as a substitute for sour cream on Taco Tuesday.
4. Trail Mix
This is another perfect snack for those who are crunched for time and need something quick and easy. With the right combination, you can make sure you’re getting all of your protein, carbs, and healthy fats with each mouthful. Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit make up the perfect blend.
This little grain is far more than something that’s just hard to pronounce (keen-wah). Aside from providing a healthy dose of carbs, there are almost 10 grams of protein in just a cup. That’s far more protein, and fiber as well, than any other grain. Brown rice, for example, can be equally delicious alongside a healthy meal, but it simply can’t compete with all the vitamins and nutrients in this superfood.
6. Lean Proteins
If you haven’t realized it yet, protein is the best nutrient to have after a workout in terms of recovery. It’ll help heal the small tears in your muscles that lifting and intense activity create, while also making them better equipped for the next time you hit the gym. Salmon has more protein than you’ll know what to do with and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids to soothe burning muscles. Eggs are also a great option since their relatively low in calories for the amount of protein they deliver.
This fermented milk drink (not as scary as it sounds) is an incredible source of complete proteins. These don’t occur naturally in the body, so the fact that one cup contains 11-14 grams of complete protein is a huge win for all of us. You can drink this on its own, mix it up with protein powder, or throw it in a smoothie for some added creaminess.
8. Chocolate Milk
Last, but certainly not least is the one item on the list that might be a surprise to some. It seems super basic, and our childhood memories of squeezing way too much chocolate syrup into a tall glass of cold milk could make anyone wonder “How is this healthy?” Chocolate milk is the latest craze in terms of post-workout nutrition because it’s everything you need in one glass. It’s quickly absorbed by the body just like a shake or a smoothie, and it contains enough protein and carbs to jumpstart recovery. The water content in the milk helps rehydrate and replenish all of the nutrients our bodies lose through sweating too.
Incorporating these items will definitely give you a head start in your fitness goals, and you’ll find yourself feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the next physical challenge. Whether it’s training for a marathon, or simply trying to get through a Monday night cycling class, having the appropriate amount of protein and carbs will help immensely. Diet is as important, if not more important, than what you do in the gym. If you make sure you take post-workout nutrition seriously, you’ll be in great shape...literally and figuratively.