It’s no secret that post-workout noshing is vital to muscle growth and recovery, but turning to the same old protein (boiled eggs again, anyone?) is boring and uninspired.
Rather than sticking with the same ol’, same ol’, give your post-workout snack a makeover with these protein-packed options that combine a little bit o’ carbs with protein for the perfect recovery meal.
The importance of a protein and carb mix
Contrary to popular belief, eating straight protein post-workout isn’t necessarily the best idea. During exercise, your body uses many of its stored carbohydrates (blood glucose and muscle glycogen) to fuel movement, so it’s important to consume a snack that combines protein with carbohydrates to help replenish lost stores.
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Rebecca Lewis, the registered dietician for HelloFresh, explains it this way, “Optimal health and exercise performance are dependent on the right foods and fluids, as well as the timing of intake. The energy systems used during exercise are extremely complicated. After exercise, dietary goals are to replenish fluids, electrolytes and energy — including carbohydrates and proteins. Carbohydrates are used to replace muscle glycogen. Protein is used to provide amino acids for building and repair of muscle tissue and ensure rapid recovery for muscle gains.”
Meal timing and ratio
It’s also important to understand that the post-workout snack isn’t just about choosing a protein and a carb, slapping them together and eating them whenever you want. There is an actual science to meal timing and the proper protein-carb ratio.
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Lewis says, “To optimize the benefits of a training session and jumpstart recovery, it’s critical to consume a post-workout recovery meal, blending carbs and proteins within 30 to 45 minutes after training. For a cardio-heavy workout, the ideal post-workout meal will have a higher ratio of carbs to protein, but if the workout was focused on weight training, the ideal post-workout meal will have a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrates.”
5 Easy post-workout snack ideas
1. Chocolate milk
Grab a glass of chocolate milk post-workout for a quick and effective recovery boost. Many studies have shown that chocolate milk offers the perfect ratio of proteins and carbs for post-workout recovery, particularly for endurance workouts. If you wrapped up a heavy-duty strength training routine, consider adding a handful of nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, on the side.
2. Plain Greek yogurt with honey and nuts
Like milk, Greek yogurt offers a complete protein (delivering all eight of the essential amino acids your body doesn’t make internally) combined with easily digested carbs. Stir in a tablespoon of honey and a handful of nuts to round out your snack.
Enjoy a flashback to elementary school and pack yourself a post-workout PB&J to go. The peanut butter offers a boost of plant-based protein, while the jelly and bread offer your body the carbs it needs to restore muscle glycogen.
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4. Cracker stackers
Put together a homemade version of old school Lunchables: Throw some crackers in a baggie and put together a container with protein-packed stackable toppings — a piece of cheese, a scoop of tuna or slices of leftover chicken breast. Stack ’em up and throw ’em back.
5. Protein shake
Blend a protein shake with a couple scoops of your favorite protein powder, a cup of milk, a half banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter. The high ratio of proteins to carbs is perfect for heavy strength-training sessions.
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