You've sweat up a storm at the gym and you've burned several hundred calories. Now you're starving and that fast-food joint is calling your name. But not only will this greasy meal counteract all your efforts in the intense workout you've just completed, it won't help your body recover. Plan your eating right, and your body will bounce back quicker — and you can avoid achy muscles and sluggishness.
The body is fuelled by carbs, and when you exercise, you're burning that fuel. So you need to replenish your stores of energy. But no scarfing down cookies and cake — it's complex carbs your body needs. Think whole-grain bread (make a sandwich with some peanut butter); or, if it's suppertime, include some quinoa salad with your salmon fillet. If you've gone for a morning run, a bowl of steelcut oats when you get home would be a good choice that'll get you on the road to recovery.
Your body also needs protein post-workout. Protein is what helps your muscles recover — those same muscles you've just put to the test in your workout. Keep a protein shake handy if possible, or be sure to include a lean protein in your meal if you're dining soon after you exercise. As for a protein snack, a PB and banana sandwich on whole grain fits both the carb and protein requirements, as does some hummus and whole wheat pita bread. Or try some Greek yogurt (which is higher in protein than regular yogurt) and fruit.
Water is sufficient if you're exercising for about an hour, but if you go longer, you'll need to sip an electrolyte-type beverage while you work out. Once you are done exercising, consider chocolate milk, which is high in both protein and carbs (which is why you'll often see it being distributed after marathons).
Also, keep in mind that you have a window of about one hour after your workout to eat something to optimally restore your body and aid your muscles in recovery. So don't plan for a series of errands after the gym (or, if you do, then be sure to pack a proper snack to eat on the go).
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