You just finished a great workout. Now what? Should you have water or a sports drink after working out? A snack or a meal—or nothing? There’s lots of conflicting information out there about post-workout nutrition, but here’s the science: When we exercise, our bodies use up stored muscle energy (called glycogen). To help your body recover, you need water, protein, and (good) carbs, according the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
So to break this down, we’ve got five simple tips for what you should consume after working out:
1. First, hydrate.
And skip the sports drinks. Despite promises to keep you hydrated and energized with vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, sports drinks really only deliver added sugar, carbs and calories, says Harvard Health. Drink an eight-ounce glass of water before you exercise, after and then continue to hydrate throughout the day. If you’re exercising for longer than 30 minutes, drink small amounts of water every 15 to 30 minutes. There’s no need to guzzle a gallon of water because you can actually over-hydrate. Drink until you’re thirst is quenched and you’ve had enough.
2. You need to choose the right foods to help repair and rebuild tired muscles.
If you’re headed home to have dinner after working out, you don’t need a snack. If you’re right in the middle of your day, grab a smart and satisfying option. A protein shake, Greek yogurt, banana and spinach all provide powerful nutrients to help repair our bodies after a strenuous workout. According to Eat Right, timing your nutritional intake after a workout is vital to repair and rebuild tired muscles. One of those people who don’t seem to have much of an appetite after a workout? Try something smaller like a hard-boiled egg, a glass of milk (which also helps you rehydrate) or some nuts.
3. Don’t run on empty.
Meaning: Don’t skip breakfast, eat a light lunch, and then go to the gym after work. According to Eat Right, you won’t have the energy to exercise properly, and you’re likely to binge when you get home. Also, be careful about rewarding yourself for exercising by eating a giant plate of mac and cheese or having a second or third glass of wine. You work hard at the gym; don’t let it be for naught. If you live an on-the-go lifestyle, and time cuts into ensuring you are eating properly throughout the day, try meal prepping with our tips.
4. Be wary of some advertised “healthy” snacks.
As is the case with sports drinks, many “protein” or “health” bars can be loaded with added calories and fat. Be careful of falling victim to believing extremely convincing words indicating these bars are nutritious, even if the label blatantly indicates exactly that. In the end, calories can add up if you don’t know what you’re consuming.
5. Try an after-workout shake.
If you’re looking for a boost of protein after your workout, why not try a delicious protein shake? They are easy to make and provide you with protein and vitamins. Invest in a shaker bottle so you shake and go!