Within 30 minutes of engaging in a strenuous exercise session, you need to feed your body in order for it to recover. Your glycogen levels are depleted and your muscles need repair, especially if you lifted weights or did a lot of running. A cold, tall glass of a sugary drink full of empty calories may quench your thirst, but it does nothing to help your body recuperate after a heavy workout.
A healthy post-workout snack should replenish your body’s glycogen levels. A high-glycemic carbohydrate snack (like a banana smoothie) would do the job splendidly – and deliciously. This type of carbohydrate is easily absorbed by the body and will restore glycogen to optimum levels fairly quickly after intense exercise. Just remember to skip the sugar.
The only time that consuming a high-glycemic carbohydrate snack is recommended is typically after a heavy workout of at least 90 minutes. High-complex carbohydrates (like oatmeal or brown rice) take the body a longer time to digest, keeping you feeling full longer. For that reason, these types of carbohydrates are more often suggested for regular diets. But after working out, your body needs to be restored quickly and foods with a high-glycemic index (bagels and baked potatoes and watermelons, oh my!) fit the bill.
To rebuild your muscles after a prolonged workout, your body also needs protein. Running, interval training, and heavy weightlifting can all break down muscle tissue. A healthy post-workout snack that is high in protein can repair muscle damage and prevent soreness after intense exercise. Peanut butter on rice cakes (for extra fiber) or low-fat Greek yogurt are good choices. Believe it or not, nonfat chocolate milk is another excellent protein source and great for muscle repair after a heavy workout session.
Muscles are depleted of amino acids after intense exercise. Since protein contains amino acids, foods high in protein are ideal choices for muscle repair after working out. So even if you don’t have time to prepare a healthy post-workout snack, grab a handful of nuts, like almonds and peanuts, and munch away. With every crunch, your muscles are on their way to recovery.
After a heavy workout, you don’t want to burden your body with fatty foods or sugar-laden treats. Pass on the ice cream and enjoy a nutritious peanut butter-banana smoothie instead. It’s a healthy post-workout snack that replenishes the glycogen levels in your body, rebuilds muscle, and tastes great! What’s not to love?