Refuel and recover with meals that combine the right balance of protein and carbohydrates.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD
May 22, 2009
1 of 8Photo: Getty Images / Skynesher
Refuel and Recover
What you eat after a workout matters! No matter what time of day you exercise, the key is to follow up with meals that combine protein, which helps your muscles recover, and carbohydrates, which replenish energy stores. For best results, eat within 30 to 60 minutes after exercise, when muscles are most receptive. During this window, an increase in enzyme activity makes the body more efficient at storing glucose for energy and building protein in fatigued muscles.
The combination of banana, milk, and yogurt makes for a fresh and satisfying sports recovery drink. Dairy products like milk and yogurt work double duty, providing both protein and carbohydrates. Bananas are packed with potassium and magnesium―powerful electrolytes for healthy muscle function. Have a smoothie for breakfast following a morning workout, or a small afternoon meal when you get in from the gym.
3 of 8Photo: Jennifer Causey
You can’t go wrong with a sandwich after a workout―it’s got everything in a hand-held package. Low-sodium cold cuts provide some salt to help replace what’s lost in sweat during exercise. Tomatoes add freshness and a boost of vitamin C. Use 100 percent whole wheat bread to boost the fiber content. Put together sandwiches ahead of time and pack for lunch, or whip it up in minutes for an easy weeknight dinner.
4 of 8Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez
Grab and Go Granola
It’s not always easy to eat 30 minutes after a workout. Granola is a great on-the-go snack. Leave some in your desk or glove box as a healthful alternative to vending machine food. Oats, honey, orange juice, and flax provide protein, carbs, and some healthy fat. Nuts and dried fruit contribute iron for healthy red blood cells. Mix this sweet and crunchy treat with low-fat yogurt, or enjoy by the handful. Just remember to exercise portion control, as this high-energy food is calorically dense.
5 of 8Photo: Greg Dupree
An egg sandwich is a perfect post-workout breakfast. There’s protein in both the yolk and the white of an egg, so pick a recipe that uses a combination of the two to boost protein while keeping calories and fat under control. Eggs also contain zinc, which aids in metabolism and immunity, and vitamin B12, which supports cell production. Cheese and fresh veggies can round out the meal to restore tired muscles and recharge your energy stores.
6 of 8Photo: Jennifer Causey
Salmon is an ideal source of protein (not to mention heart-healthy omega-3 fats). Serve with steamed veggies and brown rice to complete the meal with healthy carbohydrates and energy-producing B vitamins. Protein-rich salmon, along with fiber from vegetables and brown rice, will keep you satisfied to help avoid late-night munching. Leftovers can be served atop a salad for tomorrow’s lunch.
7 of 8Photo: Squire Fox
Beans are an amazing source of plant-based protein and carbohydrates. Whole-grain grains can be loaded with hunger-fighting fiber. Make a large batch of a light and refreshing grain and bean salad in the beginning of the week and you’ll have a great post-workout meal that’s ready when you are.
8 of 8Photo: Levi Brown
Peanut Butter Power
Peanut butter can be your post-workout secret weapon―it’s affordable, versatile, and satisfying. Don’t shy away from this nutrient powerhouse because of its fat content―just use measured portions. One tablespoon of peanut butter contains about 100 calories and 7 grams of healthy unsaturated fat. Add chicken and vegetables in a flour tortilla or pita for an easy high-protein meal.