7 Healthy Snacks to Eat After Your Workout
Working out is great for you. But to keep your body healthy, you must refuel properly. Here are expert tips on the best foods to eat after you sweat it out.
After an intense workout, eating protein and complex carbohydrates is a must. The amino acids of protein help with muscle repair and aid in building new muscle tissue, says HealthCentral obesity expert and certified personal trainer Amy Hendel. She suggests a handful of edamame—one of the only beans that is a complete protein—and some fruit after exercise.
It’s important to remember that you sweat out sodium and potassium during a robust routine, Hendel says. Try whole grain pita with hummus to get all the post-exercise nutrient necessities: sodium, potassium, carbs, and protein.
Dr. Cindy Haines, HealthCentral’s fitness expert, advises people to have a snack with protein and carbohydrates about 30 minutes after vigorous exercise, and then a complete meal within two hours. She says a snack shortly after exercise is important “so your body has ready access to carbs to replace glycogen stores, while getting a protein boost that is important for muscle repair and optimization.”
While both protein and carbs are important, Dr. Haines says carbs provide the fastest fuel for the body. She recommends avoiding energy bars or shakes in favor of real, natural foods. Cheese with whole grain crackers is a great option.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated! Okay, so this isn’t a food, but drinking plenty of liquids is crucial to avoid dehydration. And water is a better choice than sports drinks. Remember to drink water throughout your exercise session, even if you’re not thirsty and especially on a hot day.
A recent study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that watermelon juice helped athletes’ muscle recovery. The amino acid L-citrulline, naturally found in watermelon, increased levels of arginine and ornithine, which contribute to muscle growth. The study also concluded that L-citrulline aids in muscle relaxation and soreness.
Muscle fiber is damaged during vigorous daily exercise, says Jeanine Barone, Sports Medicine and Nutrition Editor of the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter. Free radicals can also form during exercise, so Barone recommends consuming foods with antioxidant phytochemicals, along with protein and carbs. One of Barone’s favorite post-exercise snacks is yogurt parfait topped with honey and nuts.