You go to the gym, pump iron, sweat buckets, but you don’t see any results. Why is that? The kicker that you’re forgetting is the diet.Now, why is post workout foods are so important? During exercising, our liver and muscle glycogen stores are used up along with tearing of the muscle micro filaments during strength training.
We need to compensate this loss externally through our diet. You need the raw materials to replace this loss. And where does it come from? Our diet. Carbohydrates are used to replace the glycogen stores, and proteins are used to rebuild newer, stronger muscle fibers.
What happens if you don’t eat post a tough workout? You lose muscle mass and fat stores, and become pretty much a walking skeleton, if you don’t notice things aren’t going the way they’re supposed to.
Why a post workout meal?
In short, what are the advantages of post-workout nutrition? There is decreased muscle soreness, increased muscle gain, increased immune system activity, increased bone mass and a better ability by your body to burn the fat stores.Another crucial factor is when you eat.
There’s something called the anabolic window. This is the time immediately after your workout where our muscles go from a catabolic (destruction) to an anabolic (construction) phase. This is the so-called “magical” window where our muscles are best adapted to stimulate repair, growth and strength. It lasts for roughly half an hour to two hours immediately post your exercise time. This is where your muscles are “primed” for the uptake of nutrition. It’s always better to eat immediately than later, and it’s always better to eat later than never. Eating within half an hour is better than eating within the hour which is better than eating within two hours. The more you delay eating, the less effective your workout is.
Coming to what you should eat, I’ve found that liquid meals are easily digestible and get absorbed faster into the bloodstream compared to solid whole foods. This ensure that they utilise the anabolic window much better than whole foods do. And the best part with liquid meals? You can choose how much of whatever macro-nutrient (carbs, proteins and fats) that you want. You can choose their ratios. More protein? Done! No fat? Done! You often cannot do this with whole solid foods.
Now, enough extraneous information. Let’s get down to the six post-workout foods that you can eat and is easy to prepare too.
Eggs and protein shake
Eggs are probably the most advertised protein rich food. We even had that brief stint when the Indian cricket team was advertising the consumption of eggs. Why? Because they contain all the necessary proteins that is responsible for the fluidic and smooth working of our bodies. Now coming to the shake part, you must be thinking that you should add raw egg whites to your protein shake. And I say WRONG! You can either get the pasteurized egg whites, available in your nearby supermarkets or Amazon, or you can pasteurize them yourself. There are whole videos dedicated to this and also a WikiHow page. So again, I repeat, do not put raw egg whites into your smoothie/shake.
Anyway, after pasteurizing the egg whites, you can either add a protein powder to make an ordinary shake, or you can make a homemade protein shake without the use of any powders.
A simple protein shake can be made with these:
- Almond milk – 1 cup
- Peanut butter – 1 tablespoon
- Dry fruits like dates, walnuts, cashews, raisins – a handful
- Bananas – 1 frozen
- Chocolate – about a 2×2 cm piece, preferably dark (55% cocoa)
- Protein powder – 1 scoop (as a replacement for peanut butter and dry fruits)
Blitz this up in a blender and pour it into a glass, and voila! Your healthy protein shake is ready. It’s very easy to make, and delicious as…. Whatever you find delicious!
Chicken breast and broccoli
Both these are excellent sources of proteins and also contain negligible fat, making it a perfect post-workout meal. 100 g of broccoli gives you 2.8 g of proteins, and 100 g of chicken breast gives you 31 g of proteins. All you have to do is dry fry them with spices and some salt, pepper and chilli powder and you have a filling meal ready! Or you can add some rice into the mix, giving you a wholesome meal with enough carbs and proteins. It can be a good main meal too, and not only a post-workout meal.
Different combinations of vegetables
This is for the vegans and vegetarians out there. Vegetables are always a good alternative for those who do not eat meat. But combine them together to get the best results. Yes, this will mean some extra work for you, but it’s all worth it in the end.
Carrot and beans
Now this is an excellent post-workout food, which can be combined with some roti/chapatti/breads/rice to make it a wholesome meal. Carrots are excellent sources of carbs and fiber, and fill your stomach up without making you feel bloated or gassy. They also contain a lot of water (88%), and so help in replacing some of the water lost during the workout. Let’s not forget that carrots are high in anti-oxidants and vitamin A, which is very good for the body. Beans are high in proteins, fiber and carbs. 100 g of beans gives you 47 g of carbs, 16 g of fiber and 21 g of proteins. It is also rich in electrolytes and helps in maintaining the body pH and acid-base balance.
Now, you can either cook it or juice them up in a cold press juicer. Either way is good. But just watch out for flatulence which might come as a side effect of the beans. Think of something else on the date nights.
Beetroot and spinach
Beetroot are great sources of fiber and proteins, which ensures that enough time is allotted in the stomach for the nutrition to be absorbed. It also releases nitric oxide, which helps in dilating the blood vessels so that enough blood reaches the muscles post a strenuous workout to reduce soreness.
Spinach gives you the necessary amount of carbs, fiber and proteins to ensure that your body is receiving all the essential nutrients. But in raw form, it prevents the uptake of iron and calcium. So heat it up, cook it down. It gives many essential minerals and vitamins in the cooked form, and also more palatable. So, a quick salad of beetroot and spinach, or maybe spinach and beetroot pasta. These are some alternatives to chucking them in the cold press juicer and drinking it straight from there.
Sweet potato is a very easy snack to fix. It is rich in carbs, fiber, vitamin C and other essential minerals. This ensures that the body glycogen stores are replenished. It also gives a feeling of fullness, which comes from the fiber, and this ensure that you don’t overeat.
You can chuck the sweet potato in the microwave for about 2 minutes, until it gets cooked thoroughly inside, and then just peel the skin off and eat it like that. Or you can boil the potatoes in a cooker and then just peel the skin off and eat it. I would recommend that you eat it with the peel. The peel contains most of the minerals, and they’re essential electrolytes that need to be replaced. Add a simple salad to go with it, and you can make it a wholesome meal.
Greek yogurt with rice cake
Now, you might be thinking why this fancy name. Just think of an idli, and you’re at the right spot. An idli is a rice cake. Idli is steamed, and not fried or baked, so it does not have a high fat content at all. It is rich in carbs, and it helps to restore whatever glycogen stores have been lost during the exercise/workout, and it has a low calorie count too, so it doesn’t make you go past your calorie requirement for the day.
And Greek yogurt is high in proteins without any of the fat content that is seen in regular yogurt. 100 g of Greek yogurt provides almost 31 g of proteins, which is essential for muscle regrowth and strength. It is a good wholesome meal that you can have post your workout without fear of consuming fats.
You might be thinking why avocado even on this list cause of its fat content, which is relatively high compared to the other foods. But the thing is that avocado is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K and vitamin E. Fats provide your body with lubrication, and they are also essential for endurance exercisers like marathon runners, as they provide more energy than carbs. The vitamins help in gaining muscle mass faster and the high concentration on potassium helps to keep your blood pressure in check.
There are a few ways to incorporate avocados into your diet. A quick avocado smoothie is the easiest. And you get the most benefits too. Another way is by making pancakes with them. Mash and add the avocados while making the pancake batter, and then fry the pancake mix normally. You can add blueberries or blackberries for some taste. You can also make guacamole, and make low-fat tacos. It’s a good snack and a good date idea too.
After all this, what it comes down to is if you are keeping yourself within your calorie requirements and not going past that. Also, post-workout nutrition is not as important if you are eating properly before your workouts. That being said, it is smart to eat proteins 2 hours before/after your workout. It will help you gain muscle mass and muscle strength. Don’t skip out on carbs either, because it raises your insulin levels and it helps in muscle repair and growth.
Basically, what it comes down to is eating right all the time. You can’t just follow your diet a few hours before and/or after your workout and then go back to eating all sorts of unhealthy food wherever you find it. Staying healthy is a constant effort and eating healthy is a major part of the process. So let’s get to it! It’s 2019 and this is going to be our year!