After an intense workout of lifting weights and doing cardio, you need to refuel your body, but stuffing yourself with the wrong foods may just cancel out your exercise efforts. What you eat immediately after working out may be more important than any other meal, especially if you want to build muscle or lose weight.
During your workout, your body first uses up energy from what you have eaten recently. Once that energy has been depleted, your body breaks down glycogen stores. Studies suggest that this primes your body to absorb carbohydrates and protein within the first 45 minutes after your workout. If you want to build muscle, you should eat 30 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs within the 15 minutes immediately after your workout. If you want to lose weight or just stay in good shape, you can take your time eat within about an hour after your workout.
Eating the right foods can help to enhance recovery, stave off muscle breakdown, and support muscle protein synthesis. Let’s take a look at some of the best post-workout meals for losing weight or gaining muscle.
High Glycemic Foods
Certain foods are easier for your body to break down into glucose, which is the main sugar used for energy in your body. Foods that are higher on the glycemic index will increase your blood sugar faster, while low glycemic foods are slower to digest, offering a steadier flow of energy into your system.
While high glycemic foods might normally seem like something you should avoid, they are great for recharging your energy stores after a workout. They can give you the immediate energy you need after your workout, preventing a sudden post-workout dip and giving your muscles, joints, and tendons the initial energy they need to begin the recovery process. Some easy examples include white rice, potatoes, bread or a bagel with cream cheese. Try to couple these with a quality source of protein, like chunks of chicken breast, an egg or slices of turkey, to provide the right amino acids for muscle development.
Eggs are one of the most versatile foods in your muscle-building pantry. They can be prepared just about any way and are considered the most bioavailable source of protein, meaning that your body efficiently metabolizes, absorbs and uses the proteins in eggs. Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids, digest within two hours and are completely absorbed by your body. Contrary to the various vacillating opinions in the 1990’s, the yolks are good for you and contain omega-3 fatty acids along with a handy helping of various vitamins and minerals.
Whisk together four whole eggs with two egg whites. Scramble them in a pan, and add a cup of onions, mushrooms, spinach, peppers and any other mixed veggies you like. If you want more protein, add a quarter cup of lean ham or turkey chunks. This post-workout meal is particularly good if you want something high in protein but low in carbs and calories.
Chicken and Sweet Potato Hash
Chicken is often the foundation of many meals for bodybuilders. It offers an excellent source of lean, high-quality protein along with a handful of B vitamins. Best of all, it’s versatile, offering a wide range of preparation options.
Sweet potatoes are packed with complex carbohydrates that can replenish your energy stores while offering slower digestion for consistent fuel. Sweet potatoes are also high in fiber and a variety of vitamins and nutrients. In fact, one medium sweet potato has an entire day’s vitamin A requirement. Vitamin A supports various bodily functions and help to regulate bodily functions, but it also directly aids in the repair and growth of body tissues. Included in a post-workout meal, vitamin A can help with recovery and promote muscle growth.
Far too many people assume that healthy chicken recipes have to be tasteless and bland, but this chicken and sweet potato hash is here to prove them wrong. Cook a large chicken breast (about 8 ounces) and dice it into smaller chunks. Place it in a pan with olive oil, a half cup of diced sweet potatoes and a half cup of diced apples. Add salt, pepper and cinnamon to taste. This meal packs high protein, complex carbs, and vitamin A.
Tuna Salad Sandwich
Tuna is one of the most protein-rich foods available. A typical five-ounce can of tuna contains about 43 grams of lean protein, which is equivalent to the amount of protein in a five-ounce piece of chicken and much more than a five-ounce steak. It is also a rich source of various vitamins and nutrients, particularly phosphorous and several B vitamins.
Tuna out of the can alone can be bland and unappetizing, but a simple tuna salad sandwich can elevate its flavors and nutritional value. Drain and rinse one can of low-sodium chunk white tuna. Mix with a tablespoon of honey mustard and a tablespoon of vinegar along with two tablespoons of raisins or dried cranberries, some chopped apple and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Sandwich between two slices of whole wheat bread and enjoy. The whole wheat bread adds extra complex carbohydrates for energy to accompany the tuna and drive nutrients to your muscles.
Water and Supplements
On top of your post-workout meal, make sure you drink plenty of water. Your body loses water and electrolytes during workouts through sweat. Drinking water and staying hydrated helps your body maintain an optimal internal environment to promote recovery and performance.
Many bodybuilders also benefit from workout supplements to aid in recovery, like mTOR PRO™ from MYOKEM™. mTOR PRO™ features a unique formula to increase performance, hydration and recovery. mTOR PRO™ is the only supplement on the market to use ActiveTR™, a time-released form of leucine for dynamic post-workout recovery. Each serving of this supplement offers 10.5 grams of essential amino acids.
There’s no secret to post-workout meals. As long as you eat lean proteins and carbohydrates after workouts and avoid greasy junk food, you should see results.