If you've just finished up a torturous spin class or a long run outside in the freezing cold, it can be tempting to reach for the first thing you find in the cupboards when you get home.
A good exercise session boosts your metabolism in a big way, so technically your body will burn off pretty much anything you eat in moderation in the first hour after a tough workout, but that doesn't give you licence to head straight to the McDonald's Drive Thru either!
Here are a few simple rules to keep in mind next time you're looking for a post-gym snack or meal…
1. Don't waste time
Try to eat within 30 minutes to an hour of finishing exercise. If that means planning ahead and bringing something in Tupperware – so be it. Your body needs good food to help it recover and to avoid you feeling exhausted and achey later on. Exercise uses up key nutrients, so give your body a chance by replenishing what's been lost.
2. It's not just about protein
Protein shakes and other protein-rich foods (egg whites, fish, lean chicken and turkey) might be great for helping your body to reboot after a workout, but don't forget to include other nutrient sources too, like good fats (avocado, oily fish, heart-healthy oils, nuts, seeds) and starch (quinoa, sweet potato, lentils, pulses).
3. Eat wisely
Heading straight to Starbucks for a post-workout chocolate-cream frapp might seem like a great idea but be careful not to eat beyond the calories you've burned – all those extras can add up.
4. Keep hydrated
Always keep a bottle of water on hand – aim to drink before, during and after your workout to keep your fluid levels up. If you're exercising outside in hot weather, or in a hot environment like a Bikram yoga studio, you may find a sports drinks is necessary – it has the double whammy of keeping you hydrated and replenishing electrolytes lost in sweat.
5. Drink alcohol in moderation
If you're heading out for a few drinks after that gym session, be sure to eat before you start drinking to kickstart your body's recovery process. As for exercising with a hangover – if you're in a really bad state your body will thank you more for a rest day with lots of water and clean food, than a high intensity workout using dehydrated muscles that are likely to get strained or injured.