Your post-workout snack can be much more than a reward for a hard effort; choose the right foods for that highly anticipated treat to aid recovery and build strength and fitness.
Why Recovery Food Matters
We know we need to push ourselves to reach our fitness goals, and those tough sessions can leave us tired, mentally and physically. This is because we burn a lot of nutrients during exercise—nutrients that we need to replenish in order to continue to build strength and fitness. Post workout food replaces the carbohydrates that our muscles use during exercise and provides protein we need to repair muscle damage and help build muscle. In other words, if you’re training hard and want to get stronger, recovery eating is an essential part of your routine—helping your body adapt to conditioning demands and getting you ready for the next round.
You won’t need to think about recovery eating for all workouts—a light to moderate session of less than an hour, for example, may not require refueling; but if you’re doing high-intensity intervals, planning more than one training session per day, or anything rigorous, you’ll benefit from a recovery meal or snack.
When to Eat for Recovery
Because your muscles are thought to be most receptive to nutrients like carbohydrates and protein for about 30 minutes after a hard effort, you want to aim to begin recovery eating within this period. Depending on your training schedule, you may plan another snack or meal a couple hours after activity, but try to have an initial snack within 30 minutes.
Try These Recovery Food Ideas
We all have our own preferred recovery meals or snacks, depending on what’s appealing after a workout, what doesn’t upset our stomachs, and our nutritional needs (how many carbohydrates and how much protein we’re looking to replenish).
Some popular recovery foods among athletes include:
- Turkey sandwiches
- Pasta dishes
- Rice bowls with vegetables and beans or chicken
- A banana and low-fat chocolate milk (full-fat milk may be harder to digest after a workout)
- Whole-grain crackers and peanut butter
- A smoothie with yogurt and frozen berries
- Find the food combinations that make you feel best and enjoy! And don’t forget to also rehydrate during recovery—possibly with a sports drink to replenish electrolytes.