The types of foods you eat after your workout is just as important as the food you eat beforehand, as it can aid in your recovery, minimise muscle soreness, improve energy and help you perform at your best.
Of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats), protein is most important after a workout. This is because protein helps to build and repair muscle tissue. But more protein isn’t always better as your body can only absorb a certain amount of protein at a time and any excess protein will be converted to fat!
So how much protein do you really need after a workout?
Your body can only process approximately 20-30 g of protein at a time and men and women have different protein needs based on their age and weight. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for women is around 0.75g/kg (so someone who weighs 60kg should have at least 45g protein) and for men it’s 0.84g/kg (so an 80kg man should have at least 67g of protein). If you are weight training, you should double this amount, at least. As a guide 100g of grilled chicken is about 25 g protein. It’s probably best to figure out how much protein your body needs throughout the day by using a food tracking app like My Fitness Pal, and then equally distributing your protein consumption throughout the day, leaving around 20 g for your post-workout snack. If you are consistently training, it’s also a good idea to have a palm-sized portion of protein at every main meal (around 100-150g). Consuming this protein 30-60 minutes after exercise is best to help repair your muscles.
What about protein shakes?
While these seem all the craze at the moment, these are a personal choice. They are quick and convenient so depending on when you are training, they may serve a purpose. For example, if you train in the morning and don’t have time to make a protein rich breakfast or lunch after your workout, a shake may be a good idea. But if you work out before breakfast, lunch or dinner and have the time to eat, then go for the meal instead of a shake. You don’t have to have a protein shake before lunch if you are about to have lunch! Personally, I prefer to get my protein sources from whole foods. So think about the timing of your workouts – if they are between meals, then consider a protein shake, but if they are just before a main meal, stick with whole foods!
Some good post workout snacks include:
- Banana smeared with peanut butter, or mix together in a smoothie with almond milk
- Baked sweet potato and eggs or an omelette
- Greek yoghurt with mixed berries and a sprinkle of flaked almonds and toasted coconut
- Cottage cheese with cucumber and mint, or sprinkle with cinnamon or vanilla for a sweet snack
- Quinoa salad
So think about what you may be eating after your workout and try to make some beneficial choices.