Did you know that what you eat after exercise is just as important as the workout itself? Whether you’ve just come out of the gym, finished a Pilates class or taken a long cycle, it’s important to give your body the boost it needs to repair muscle tissue, build strength and replenish energy stores.
Your metabolism is in overdrive after a hard workout, so the food you eat will be broken down faster, but try not to use that as an excuse to eat sugary or fatty foods for a quick buzz. Here are some suggestions of post-workout foods which will fill you up and give your body exactly what it needs to recover.
1. Grilled chicken breast
The lean protein and carbohydrate in chicken will satisfy you without leaving you feeling too full. Protein is essential for maintaining muscle tissue and boosting your immune system. A chicken breast is also a less fatty cut than a leg or thigh. Add some lightly stir-fried veg or a salad with nuts and seeds to make this into a delicious post-workout meal.
2. Sweet Potatoes
If a meal is nothing for you without a serving of carbs, try sweet potatoes. These are so versatile – try blending them into soups or chopping and roasting them with a little olive oil. YUM. As well as being a healthier alternative to regular spuds, sweet potatoes are also a great source of potassium, which is needed to avoid muscle cramps after a workout.
This supergrain is a great protein-heavy alternative to rice and can be used in a huge variety of ways. Add cooked quinoa to stir fries, throw a handful into a soup or onto a salad, or even use instead of oats in your morning porridge. Quinoa is twice as high in fibre than other grains – so it’ll keep you regular too, and prevent bloating!
If you’re usually starving on the way home or to work after exercise, be sure to have a healthy snack on hand to stop you reaching for that muffin in Starbucks. Blueberries are a good choice as they are high in antioxidants, and studies have shown that they can boost muscle recovery. Blend some into a smoothie or bring them with you in a small lunchbox.
5. Whole-grain pita and hummus
This is a filling snack that is full of flavour and won’t feel like a chore to eat. Pita breads have slow-release carbohydrates that mean you won’t be craving a bar of chocolate in ten minutes’ time. The chickpeas in hummus are full of protein and carbohydrates.
Whatever you choose, the most important thing after a workout is to eat something. Don’t think that starving yourself after a gym session will boost your fitness or weight loss – in fact, it could undo your hard work. So, dig in!