You picked out a killer playlist, stretched thoroughly and then gave 150 percent in your workout. So now you’re done, right? Not so fast. “The food you eat within the first few minutes after a workout is one of the most important and underrated parts of training,” says personal trainer Lisa Reed.
In order to help your body recover faster, as well as repair and build new muscle tissue, you’ll want to refuel soon after working out with a small amount of carbohydrates and protein. How soon? Research has shown that consuming a post-exercise meal immediately after working out (i.e., within 15 minutes) is better than eating an hour afterward, Reed tells us. So with that in mind, here are the best post-workout foods and snacks to pack in your gym bag.
Or cottage cheese, if you’re into that kind of thing. “Both offer an excellent source of protein post-workout,” says sports dietitian Angie Asche. For an extra antioxidant and carbohydrate boost, she recommends adding fresh berries or diced vegetables. Extra bonus? “Calcium and vitamin D-rich foods help strengthen bones and prevent fractures.”
2. Hummus and Whole Grain Crackers
“After a workout, your body likes carbohydrate-containing foods because it's burned through all its energy stores,” nutritionist Lindsey Joe explains. To replenish these stores (aka glycogen), top a couple of whole grain crackers with protein-rich (and totally delicious) hummus.
And not just the whites. “Egg yolks contain several vital nutrients for brain and bone health,” says Asche. She suggests packing a few hard-boiled eggs into your gym bag for a quick and easy source of protein, teamed with a slice of whole wheat toast for additional carbs post-workout.
4. Protein Shakes
“Liquid nutrition is a great choice for a post-workout meal because it absorbs easier and can therefore be used faster by your body,” says Reed. Her favorite recipe? A smoothie made with ½ cup of almond milk, one scoop of protein powder and ½ cup strawberries. Delicious.
5. Smoked Salmon
Fatty fish are known for their inflammation busting abilities, and research published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that omega-3 fatty acids can also help ease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after exercise. Try spreading a whole grain wrap with a thin layer of cream cheese and topping with smoked salmon for a delicious and portable snack.
6. Low-Fat Chocolate Milk
For those who find it hard to eat right after exercising, the American Council on Exercise suggests trying liquid foods instead of solids. And chocolate milk is a great choice, thanks to its tasty mix of carbs, protein and water. (Just go easy on the sugar.)