There’s no shortage of information about what you should eat or drink post workout to refuel and repair muscle tissue and damage. But what about what you shouldn’t consume? While it’s tempting to reward yourself with a treat after exercising, this window of time is when you want to feed your muscles and replenish your body with the right nutrients to recover properly. Save the splurge for later, and reap the biggest benefits by staying away from these results-killers after hitting the gym.
Grease, fat, carbs and tons of sodium are not ideal post-workout nutrition. Sure, fast food is convenient, but eating even just one of these meals can ruin all your hard work and progress. Besides causing digestive distress from excess fat, fast food doesn’t provide the quality protein and healthy carbs your body requires. If it’s the only option, choose a side salad and top it with your own chicken or tuna.
Just seeing the grease pooling on top of a cheesy pizza (especially if it's topped with processed meat) should convince you to close the box. Not only will eating a slice counter the physical benefits of your workout, you'll feel badly mentally for the rest of the day. If pizza is what you’re craving, make your own with an English muffin, sliced fresh tomatoes and low-fat cheese.
If you've been sweating a lot, your potassium and electrolyte levels may be low. Eating a salty snack like pretzels or chips could lower levels even more. Instead, reach for a banana along with some protein peanut butter or almond butter.
Have you ever scrolled past a picture of someone downing a dozen donuts after a workout on social media? Funny, maybe. But don’t try this at home! Your body needs healthy carbohydrates after a workout, not sugary complex carbs like those found in cookies, pastries or candy. Choose carbs your body can use, such as a half of a bagel with natural peanut butter and jelly (which provides antioxidants) or a bowl of oatmeal with berries.
Typically, the first thing most people reach for after a workout is a drink. Don’t make it a soda or fruit juice. These beverages consist of empty calories and excess sugar. Besides a plain bottle of water, you might sip on some coconut water, which will replenish electrolytes while giving you the protein/carb boost your body needs.
After a calorie-burning workout, you might think eating light will continue the fat-burning process. Not overdoing it is a good idea, but don’t think raw carrot and celery sticks are enough. Pair healthy veggies with a protein such as hummus, Greek yogurt or natural nut butter for best nutrition.
Have a post-workout meal prepped and ready to go--this will help keep you from grabbing whatever’s in sight to refuel. Shakes are easy to make and ensure you’re getting complete nutrition. Choose a ready-to-drink shake, or make your own with protein powder, fruit, oatmeal, chia/hemp/flax seeds or even a little yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese.