The foods we consume following a workout play a critical role in our athletic success. This helps to explain why professional athletes use a wide range of dietary strategies to help maximize their exercise performance. In most cases, this includes consuming carbohydrates and protein following their workout and placing a strong emphasis on hydration and, most importantly, they don’t skip post-work meals.
According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, inadequate carbohydrate, protein, and fluid intake can lead to poor physical performance. For example, consuming carbohydrates and protein after a workout can improve muscle glycogen synthesis. That said, these strategies are not only intended for professional athletes as they can benefit everyday people who want to maximize their gym performance and improve their overall health. In this article, we will take a closer look at post-workout nutrition and the role it plays in recovery and building strong, lean muscle.
What Happens When You Skip Your Post Workout Meals?
Not surprisingly, strenuous workouts can deplete your muscles of glycogen stores and protein. Skipping post-workout meals can exacerbate this imbalance. Also, depriving your body of much-needed nutrients impedes its ability to repair and build new muscle tissue. Ideally, you should aim to keep your body in a constant anabolic state, which can be accomplished by consuming ample amounts of macronutrients before and, most importantly, after your workouts.
Budget Friendly Post Workout Snacks
Contrary to popular belief, post-workout meals don’t have to be overly complicated, and they don’t have to consist of expensive shakes or meal replacements supplements. Of course, this is not an attempt to discredit the health benefits that come with protein powders and protein bars as they do have their place and can be effective; however, from a financial standpoint, it is much easier and far more cost-effective to prepare your meals at home. Some popular post-workout food choices include
- Fresh fruit
- Lean protein meats and tortillas
- Leafy green vegetables
- Low-fat milk
- Sunflowers seeds
Of course, this list is not all-encompassing as there are a variety of nutrient-dense foods that can help you fuel your body following a hard workout. However, these foods are some of the most common among professional athletes.
Popular Post-Workout Meals
Before going over some of the most popular post-workout meals, let’s take a moment to address the elephant in the room. Are protein bars good for you? Well, it depends on the protein bar in question. Generally speaking, protein bars are a convenient, healthy snack that can quell hunger and refuel your body in-between meals; however, some bars contain a high percentage of sugar, which makes them a less compelling option for those who are serious about meeting their fitness goals. That said, let’s take a look at some healthy and delicious post-workout meals:
Egg scrambles – If you’re pressed for time, egg scrambles are an easy one-skillet meal that can be made it minutes. All you need is one whole egg, egg whites, potatoes, and leafy green vegetables. This light-calorie breakfast is a great way to start the day and provides you with enough energy to get you through a morning workout, provided you’re a fan of early morning gym sessions.
Wraps – One of the quickest and most delicious meals you can make has to be a whole grain wraps filled with lean meat, beans, low-fat cheese, and avocado. They’re also portable, meaning you pack them in your gym bag and enjoy them immediately after your workout.
Fruit smoothies – Like wraps, fruit smoothies are a quick and easy way to fuel your body after a long workout. Add your favorite fruits, plain yogurt, almond milk, ice, and some water and enjoy. Also, you can add some nut butter, which contains healthy fats, to make your smoothie even more nutritious.
Brown rice and chicken breast – Although it sounds like a cliché bodybuilding meal, brown rice and chicken breast can be a great post-workout meal. To add some additional flavor, consider adding some salsa to this dish and pinch of your favorite spices as it can make an otherwise bland meal something to rave about.