Whether you’ve just taken a gentle walk or pushed through a tough workout, you need nutrition to heal your body and fuel your next adventure. But which foods are best for recovery? If you’re wondering how to balance getting enough nutrition to heal your body and still eat foods that taste great, then read on. BeMicro’s got you covered.
Why use post workout foods?
We all know that eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet is good for our bodies. But everything becomes more complicated when you factor in routine exercise. Exercising consistently results in several changes to our bodies that have an effect on our nutritional needs.
So, what happens to your body when you workout?
- You burn calories, and therefore fat. One pound of fat is equivalent to about 3,500 calories in energy, so if you do a calorie-blasting stair climbing workout, you’ll need to replenish some of those calories to keep your energy levels high.
- You sweat. Sweating results in loss of water as well as many minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and chloride.
- You deplete glycogen stores. Glycogen (pronounced ‘gly-koh-jen’) is what we use for fuel when we exercise, and when you’re glycogen-depleted you can’t recover as quickly.
- Your fat to muscle ratio changes. When you lose fat and gain muscle, your body functions differently and your nutrition requirements change. When you work your muscles, you’re actually putting little tears in them. Your muscles grow when you rebuild these tears.
- When you workout consistently, your metabolism changes. Your metabolism is all the chemical reactions that happen in your body that keep you alive. When you exercise consistently, your muscles are able to burn through more fuel (more fat) than if you don’t exercise often.
Because exercise has such a profound effect on how the body functions, it is important to think about how to maximize nutrition after a workout.
For example, it’s easy to overeat after vigorous exercise. Research shows that exercise that’s labeled as ‘fat-burning’ results in people eating more afterwards. It’s smart to have a plan so that you don’t wind up wasting your workout.
Post workout foods for recovery
When planning your post-workout recovery meals, think realistically about what kind of exercise you do and what your body loses in calories and fluids. Don’t know how many calories you lose when you exercise? Read on.
The list below shows how many calories are burned in half an hour for some common activities. Want even more? Check out this comprehensive list from Harvard Health:
- Hatha yoga: 149
- Stationary bicycling: 260
- Golf: 130
- Tai Chi: 149
- Walking slowly: 149
- Hiking: 223
- Swimming: 233
- Rock climbing: 409
- Running fast: 539
- Mowing: 167
- Shoveling snow: 223
Now that you have an idea of how many calories you burn regularly, it’s important to start thinking about what your body needs after a workout.
If you’re a bodybuilder that does Olympic weight lifting and high-intensity cardio for cutting fat, you’ll probably need a large, high fat, nutrient dense meal after your workout to help your body rebuild itself.
If you take a casual jog around your block on a hot day, your body will need some fluids and carbs to replenish your glycogen stores and rehydrate.
But what are some specific examples of great workout foods?
Good post workout foods list
Now that you have an idea of which food groups to choose from for your next post workout recovery, here’s an easy-to-use list so that you can mix and match your favorite foods and make your own healthy post-workout meal.
So, which health foods are good to eat after workouts?
- Tea: white, black, green, herbal
- Low-sugar chocolate milk (this also counts for carbs and fat!)
- Water, water, water
- Tart cherry or other all-natural juice
- Rice and rice crackers
- Potatoes - sweet potatoes have more nutrients than white
- Pasta - but make sure to mind your serving size
- Fruits - especially juicy fruits that will hydrate as well
- Full-fat, plain greek yogurt (try with a little raw honey to liven it up)
- Clean protein powder - try adding our organic Broccoli Booster to your protein shake for an extra antioxidant and sulforaphane boost
- Oily fish like salmon, anchovies, and sardines
- Lean steak
- Skinless chicken breast
- Green veggies - leafy greens pack an antioxidant boost
- Hummus - chickpeas are an easy and protein-packed option
- Root vegetables - especially colorful ones, like carrots and beets
What are the best post workout foods?
It must be healthy–in other words, it must contain lots of micronutrients and minerals, have no preservatives or artificial flavors, be minimally processed, and consist mostly of whole foods.
To recover after working out, it’s helpful to think about the three main goals:
- repair muscle with protein,
- recover glycogen stores with carbohydrates
- decrease inflammation with antioxidants.
That means that you’ll need a meal or snack that includes carbs, veggies, and protein with some healthy fats.
As mentioned above, when you exercise you deplete your body’s stores of glycogen. However, we need glycogen to function in everyday life, not just when exercising. That’s why it’s important to eat some carbs for glycogen recovery.
Make sure to plan ahead and have some healthy carbs at hand after your workout when you’re really hungry. Try sweet potatoes, oatmeal, fruit, rice cakes, and even low-sugar chocolate milk!
For optimal muscle recovery, the best time to eat carbs is right after a workout. Research shows that even two hours after a workout can reduce glycogen synthesis by half! When you eat a healthy meal after a workout, your body recovers faster, and that leaves you in a healthier position for your next race, game or gym session.
Dark, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like spinach, kale, mustard greens, and broccoli have powerful phytochemicals that boost your body’s antioxidant processes. Antioxidants are important because if you don’t exercise often, doing a hard workout can lead to inflammation in your body (just one more reason to exercise consistently!). Even if you workout a lot, a very hard exercise regimen can cause inflammation in your muscle and connective tissues risking strains and tears.
Alleviating inflammation with healthy vegetables and powerful herbs like turmeric is a smart idea to keep the body in tune. Drinking a post-workout recovery drink like Microtea Recovery not only gives you the benefits of broccoli microgreens for antioxidant support, it also contains a healthy dose of turmeric, which is known to decrease systemic inflammation.
Additionally, Microtea contains the powerful compound sulforaphane, nature’s most potent activator of the Nrf2 pathway. Activating the Nrf2 pathway is important for athletes to counteract reactive oxygen species (oxidative stress) after strenuous exercise.
Remember that building muscle means tearing muscle. To repair these tears and build bigger muscles, you need to eat protein.That’s why it’s good to add some lean protein to your post-workout meal in order to rebuild muscles that you damaged during exercise.
Even though there has been a lot of press about eating a high-protein diet, you might be surprised to find out that most Americans actually do get enough protein in their regular diet. But if you’re a bodybuilder or you do strenuous muscle-focused exercise like rock climbing or steep hiking, then you might consider adding more protein to your post-workout diet.
Protein often includes fat, and that’s not a bad thing. Good fats from things like avocados, plain, full-fat Greek yogurt, raw or unsalted roasted nuts, and oily fish like salmon or anchovies are great for your heart and for your recovery.
Last but not least, it’s important to consider which post workout beverages can help the body recover. While lots of people still think that sports drinks are the best thing to drink after a sweaty workout, the truth is that much electrolytes and minerals lost in a workout can be recovered through water combined with a healthy post workout meal, especially if you’re boosting your nutrient intake.
Still, there are some great options for post workout beverages. A small amount of tart cherry juice has been shown to reduce oxidative stress after exercise, and even something as simple as a small glass of real orange juice can help to recover nutrients, sugar and water.
Believe it or not, more and more people are switching to tea to replenish their bodies after exercise. High quality tea is an excellent choice for a post workout drink since it’s naturally sugar free, contains powerful plant antioxidants, can be drunk hot or iced depending on your activity and preferences, can contain caffeine or not, and is made with water. Try icing some Microtea Focus for an Nrf2 boosting pick-me-up after your next workout.
Why try Microtea?
At Beyond Microgreens, we’re all about filling in the nutritional gaps in your diet through nutrient dense, whole foods. Whether you’re a professional athlete or a casual exerciser, you’ll need the right foods to help you recover, perform your best, and live your healthiest life.
Check out the Beyond Microgreens Blog to learn more about how microgreens can help you maximize your nutrition!
Carly Anderson Stewart MSc.