You just had one hell of a workout, but that was only half of the battle.
What you eat (or don’t eat) post-workout can have a drastic impact on your body, your recovery, and your training progress. But nourishing your deserving body after you workout shouldn’t require a second degree. So, we got experts to weigh in on the most common post-workout nutrition mistakes, plus how to fix them.
Common Post-Workout Nutrition Mistakes
You feel as though you’ve just lost your body weight in sweat. Still, even if you’ve tackled a 20-mile training run, that doesn’t mean you should be downing a week’s worth of calories in one sitting.
“Many people overestimate how much energy they’ve expended during their workout, and think they’ve earned a free-for-all meal,” certified holistic nutritionist Melissa Boufounos says.
So what does a right-sized post-workout meal look like? Heap half of your plate with veggies and add a lean protein, a good-quality carb, and a healthy fat (olive oil, avocado — you know the drill).
“You may have more carbs in this post-workout meal than your others,” Boufounos says. “But it shouldn’t look drastically different from how you regularly eat.”
3. Waiting too Long to Eat
No matter what other stuff is beating down your back, it can wait until after you’ve refueled. (Hear that, dubiously-urgent email from the sales team?) If you’re the kind of person who experiences what Philadelphia-based sports dietitian Kelly Jones refers to as “post-exercise appetite suppression,” you have options.
“Have something within an hour of exercise, such as milk or yogurt (or soy versions) to provide carbs to replenish your muscle stores and protein to repair and rebuild muscle cells,” she says. “Then, eat a full meal within three hours of the snack.”
3. Not Including Water
Most of us are diligent about hydrating during a workout, or we’d never make it through. We’re often total delinquents about rehydrating afterward, though.
“It’s important to replenish what you sweat out during exertion,” K.C. Craichy, nutrition expert and founder of Living Fuel, says. “You’ll get the blood flowing, which will deliver nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.”
But how much should you drink? Start by drinking eight ounces within 30 minutes of your session — and more if you’re inclined.
4. Skipping Carbs
Most athletes assume that they need post-workout protein, which we know to be essential to muscle repair. And while that’s true, ultimately your post-workout meal serves two purposes: refueling what you just burnt off and preparing you for your next workout.
“Carbohydrates are the primary fuel that keeps your muscles working, so limiting your carb intake can be detrimental to your performance,” Dr. Dana Ryan, Ph.D., M.A., and director of sports performance and education for Herbalife Nutrition, says.
Aim for a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein, and you’re golden.
5. Eating Too Much Fat
“Fat is metabolized slower than protein and carbs in the digestive tract, and slows down the overall digestion of food,” nutrition expert and health coach Deidre Helton says. “When you get too much, you counteract the increase in metabolism that happens naturally from exercise.”
Adults should aim to get 20 -30% of their total calories from fat, which is 44-77 grams of fat daily if you eat 2,000 calories a day, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Since you’re training, you may be consuming a lot more, and can inch up accordingly. But if you want to keep your digestive system humming as efficiently as you do (and, of course, you do), take it easy.