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The best foods to eat after exercise

You’ve just finished a workout and are proud of the calories you just burned. Don’t sabotage your hard work by eating and drinking all of the wrong things afterward. Here’s how to refuel your body after fitness, as well as tips to keep your weight loss goals on track.

Woman eating apple

It’s a common scenario.

You ran an extra kilometre. You swam a few more laps. You sweated harder than ever before during an exercise class — and now it’s time to refuel your body.

Confusing refueling with rewarding is the biggest mistake people make after exercise, says Theresa Albert, a Toronto nutritionist and author.

“For most of us, all you really need is a glass of water, and within an hour — a small snack,” she says.

While professional athletes use sugary sports drinks to recover from vigorous activity, the majority of the population doesn’t need to. In fact, those sugary drinks can sabotage your weight loss goals. The same goes with treating yourself to an extra cookie or large piece of cake after a workout. While sweets are great in moderation, if you ‘treat’ yourself every time you exercise, you risk cancelling out all of your hard work.

After a workout, you should focus on replacing your blood sugar and glycogen levels, but most importantly, you need to replace the fluids you just sweated out, says Albert.

What to eat

  1. An apple, Canadian cheddar or mozzarella cheese string with a glass of water
  2. Hummus and crackers with a glass of water
  3. If your workout was vigorous — a 5 to 10 kilometre run for example — a glass of milk is a great recovery drink because it’s full of the protein, minerals and vitamins your body needs to recover.

What not to eat

  1. High-fat fast food. You might be starving after your spin class, but ignore the temptation to go through a drive-through. A burger and fries will replace the fat you just burned off and slow down your digestion.
  2. Pop and fruit drinks. Laden with sugar, these beverages are full of empty calories that wreak havoc on your metabolism. If you think water is boring, add a slice of lemon or cucumber to your glass, and you’ll soon be going back for more.
  3. Pastries. Yes, you need carbohydrates after a workout but Timbits do not count. Heavy in fat and lacking in nutrients, doughnuts should be your once in a blue moon treat. A great alternative is a slice of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter.

How to deal with feeling hungry

It’s normal to feel hungrier than usual when starting a new exercise routine and watching what you eat. The key is to listen to your body over your brain, says Albert. While your brain might cause you to crave bad foods, your body is smart with managing calories over time and will tell you when it needs replenishment.

More healthy eating tips

Healthier fast food menu choices
5 Ways sugar hurts your health
3 Tips for staying satisfied between meals

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