The Do’s and Don’ts of Post Workout Nutrition
By: Ashley Wong (Coquitlam Personal Trainer)
Eat both simple and complex carbs.
Being simple in molecular structure, simple carbs are able to be broken down fast into energy which helps restore all the energy you lost from your workout in a quick amount of time. Because they’re so easily broken down, the energy supply doesn’t last long, so eating complex carbs, in addition, will provide lasting energy over a longer period of time as you recover.
Healthy examples of simple carbs: fruits, milk, yogurt.
Healthy examples of complex carbs: whole grain bread, quinoa, broccoli.
Tip: Try to replenish your glycogen stores quick with carbs because if you wait too long, your body will start undergoing gluconeogenesis which is the breaking down of protein into glucose to be used as energy and you don’t want to waste that protein because you’ll need it to repair your muscles!
Protein’s job is to help repair those muscle fibers that were microscopically torn when lifting weights. Once protein enters your body, it gets broken down into amino acids which then become accessible in the bloodstream for tissue repair.
Healthy examples of protein: skinless chicken breast, extra lean beef, falafel, egg.
Tip: Our human bodies don’t tend to absorb protein from plant sources as well, so if you are vegan or vegetarian, just make sure you eat more or use supplements to meet your protein needs.
Antioxidants are SO important post-workout (typically after intense or endurance training) to prevent oxidative tissue damage from exercise. In English, what happens during your workout is free radicals, which are tiny, unstable molecules, begin to build up in your body. Because they’re unstable, they cause harm to other healthy, stable cells in our body by damaging their cellular structure which disrupts bodily processes. The job of the antioxidants is to stabilize the free radicals so the FRs don’t harm your healthy cells instead. So super important to get these little guys in your post-workout snack!
Best sources of antioxidants: dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa content), açai berries, blueberries, strawberries, garlic.
Your body loses a lot of electrolytes through your sweat, so it’s important to restore these little guys because they’re critical for bodily functions such as muscle contractions and the transmission of nerve impulses. If you cramp up, chances are you’re low on electrolytes.
Healthy examples of electrolytes: bananas, yogurt, & of course the typical Gatorade is loaded with ’em.
Go for that caramel macchiato.
While flavoured coffee drinks, cookies, sodas, various bars, fruit juice, and convenient canned fruit cups may seem like a good idea for a quick boost of energy and/or reward for all your hard work, these are full of refined sugars that will defeat the purpose of all the hard work you just put into your workout! Plus, soda can make you bloated. Just saying. Not a pleasant feeling after working so hard on those abs. Working out is great and important, but a good chunk of being healthy is in your diet. They say abs are made in the kitchen! So get your sugars from healthy carbs as mentioned above and in my last blog, not refined sugar sources!
Give in to grabbing ready-to-go fast foods on your way to work.
Ever wanted to just stop by that McD’s that is conveniently on your way to work from the gym? (FYI I literally have a McDonalds, Burger King, and Tim Hortons right next door to mine…it takes an INSANE amount of willpower let me tell ya, folks). BUT, in the end, there are no regrets or guilty consciences buzzing because eating a home-cooked chicken breast with quinoa and cooked veggies taste (and feel) so much better than these trans-fat-filled guilty pleasures.
Tip: Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep! It’s so much easier to cook a bunch of chicken breasts and veggies at once ahead of time so you can just pull them out of the fridge when you’re too lazy to cook. REMEMBER: you’re most susceptible to eating junk when there’s nothing cooked, you’re pressed for time, or don’t feel like making anything. Plus you can bring these home-cooked meals to work! If you don’t have a microwave at work, prepare a salad with cold pieces of chicken and vinaigrette dressing. No caesars or ranches, okay? A caesar salad can be even more fattening than some fast foods believe it or not.
Forget to hydrate again.
Typically, if you’re working hard (which you should be;)), you sweat and lose a lot of fluid and electrolytes through it. So drink lots of water again, or even coconut water, to restore all the water you lost!
Get your protein from high saturated fat/cholesterol sources.
Steak, for example, is a good source of protein, but it’s high in saturated fat and cholesterol. On the other hand, a boneless chicken breast has more protein without the great amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol! Fish is another good protein not high in saturated fat or cholesterol.
While not limited to, an optimal meal to get all these nutrients in is…
Pasta with seasoned chicken breast, steamed green beans, tomato sauce, and a glass of water.
Pasta contains some water from being boiled to provide some hydration as well as it provides complex carbs.
Chicken provides protein.
Green beans provide electrolytes and complex carbs.
Tomato sauce provides antioxidants and simple carbs.
And last, but certainly not least, that good ol’ H20 for hydration!
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 tbsp flaxseed
- 5-8 walnuts
- 2-3 dates
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 banana
- ½ cup frozen blueberries
- 1 cup almond milk
- In a blender, blend all the dry ingredients (chia/hemp seeds, flaxseed, walnuts, dates, walnuts) until it creates a fine powder (you can store this in a jar for later use as well)
- Next, add the wet ingredients (banana, blueberries, spinach, almond milk)
- Blend until it is creamy
- Add water (if needed) to reduce thickness