Here’s What To Eat After Your AM, Afternoon, Or PM Workout
In general, people want to get the biggest bang for their buck, and the same holds true with exercise. Smart nutrition helps maximize your workout efforts, but it’s not black and white. What you should be eating and when depends on a variety of factors including when you workout, what you’re eating throughout the day, personal preference, fitness goals, digestion, lifestyle etc. With that said, we’re breaking down how to refuel your body whether you workout morning, noon or night.
Nutrition plays a key role in keeping us healthy and vibrant. Adequate nutrients can support our workouts by providing energy to improve performance and stamina, aiding the recovery and repair process and the prevention of injuries. While it’s important to properly fuel your body surrounding exercise, your daily intake balancing macronutrients should be the primary focus. Nutrient timing is important, but what you eat overall matters most. Keep this in mind as you plan your meals and snacks for the day.
Post-workout fuel – what you need
Following a bout of physical activity, you’ll want to reach primarily for protein and carbohydrates plus a little fat to help absorb nutrients and of course, water. Protein is crucial for muscle repair and recovery. Exercise (specifically strength training) causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, help repair these tears. Providing adequate nutrients not only helps your muscles grow, but it helps your muscles heal. This is important not only for muscle tone, but to help prevent injury that can be caused by not supplying your body with the nutrients it needs.
Carbohydrates are also important to replenish, as they are the body’s primary source of energy. In our bodies, carbs break down into glucose, and can be stored in the liver, muscles, or adipose tissue. We rely on glucose stored in the muscle tissue (as glycogen) to power through our workouts. After we burn off these stores, we have a window of time where delivery to the muscle can replace reserves.
How you refuel from exercise partly depends on what you’ve had before your workout. If you’re up with the sun, the thought of stomaching food or waking up even earlier to digest a meal can be unappealing. As long as you’re not skimping on hydration, eating something small beforehand such as a piece of fruit (half a banana is my go-to) or simply going without is okay as long as you feel you have enough energy for your workout. This does, however, put more emphasis on your post-workout meal. If you’re not an early morning eater, then you’ll want to aim to get your post-workout meal in 30-60 minutes after your workout and make sure you have adequate protein to supply amino acids for repair and recovery.
Here’s what this looks like:
· Protein shake with your favorite protein powder
· Hard boiled eggs and some toast, with some sautéed spinach for an extra boost
· Scrambled egg wrap or omelet
· Nut butter on toast with some banana and cinnamon
· Yogurt with fresh fruit, spoonful of chia seeds and dash of honey
· Oatmeal with hemp seeds or nut butter
For an afternoon workout, it’s likely that you’ve already had a morning meal including protein. Your body can still utilize the amino acids from this meal for repair and recovery following your afternoon workout. It’s still recommended to follow up with some protein—but nutrition timing is not as urgent. Ideally, you’ll want to give your body some post-workout fuel to optimize recovery within that 30-minute window—such as a small snack. But if your next meal is planned within the next couple of hours, you’re okay to wait since you’ve not worked out in a fasted state.
Here’s what this look likes like:
If you’re not eating within a 2-hour window, reach for a small snack to have 20-30 minutes, such as:
· Homemade trail mix of nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate morsels
· Quality protein bar
· Simple protein shake
· Piece of fruit with nut butter
· Seed crackers and hummus
· Chocolate milk
· Energy bites
· Fuel for fire (available at the studio)
If you’ll be eating a meal within the next couple of hours, just make sure that you include a serving of protein and carbs.
· Tuna salad wrap
· Salmon, broccoli and brown rice or quinoa
· Salad with grilled chicken
· Roasted sweet potato with sautéed spinach and chickpeas
· Stir fry with veggies and tofu
· Basically any well-rounded meal!
For many, fitting in a workout means it has to fall in the schedule after work and before dinner. Usually this means it’s been several hours since your last meal, so considering a pre-workout snack is a good option. Depending on the time of your workout, you may want to have a small snack about 30 minutes prior and follow up with dinner after exercise. Or, if you’re working out later in the evening and don’t like to eat a big meal right before bed, you can have a larger sized snack/smaller meal at least an hour before your workout and then a smaller portion of a dinner meal following your workout. This is when it comes down to what works for you and your preferences. Be mindful that it takes the body longer to digest fat, so go lighter on the fat and fiber beforehand.
Here’s what this can look like:
Small snack prior to workout can include:
· small piece of fruit
· handful of nuts/dried fruit
· ½ of a protein bar
· hard boiled egg and some berries
Post-workout: your regular, well-balanced dinner.
Or if you want to have smaller meals surrounding your workout, you could consider:
· Prepping your meal to split up (eating ½ before and ½ after)
· Yogurt, nuts and fruit
· Protein shake
· Tuna salad and crackers
· Half of a sandwich or wrap
· Half-serving of a power bowl
Your goals dictate your needs, but for the average athlete the above structure should provide your body the nourishment it needs to complement your physical activity. The bottom line is this—make sure to have some protein and carbs soon after your workout with the larger emphasis placed on including lean proteins, whole grains, lots of veggies, some healthy fats, and plenty of fluids throughout the day.