So you've put some solid time in at the gym, and now it's time to replenish those depleted muscles with some quality nutrients. What you decide to eat after your workout is perhaps the most important meal choice you make all day, because there's a delicate window of time in which your body will make the best use of the food you consume after a grueling sweat session. If you get too far outside of that window without having given your body the fuel it needs, it will be a lot less responsive in terms of proper protein and carbohydrate absorption. If you're wondering what to eat after a workout to maximize your results, keep the following foods in mind in order to properly reload and refuel.
1. Grilled Chicken with Sauteed VegetablesThe number-one nutrient your body needs after an intense workout is protein, and slices of lean grilled chicken breast will definitely fit the bill for that purpose. The good thing about grilled chicken is that it has a way of satiating your stomach without making you feel bloated. Combine this with some vegetables (e.g., zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, red peppers, mushrooms) sauteed in olive oil, and you've got yourself a great combination of quality carbs and lean protein that are perfect for a post-workout refueling dish.
2. Greek YogurtGreek yogurt gives you an excellent combination of protein and carbohydrates, both of which are needed for optimal post-workout replenishment. Another benefit of Greek yogurt is that it has twice the amount of protein that regular yogurt contains. You can add some cereal or granola to your yogurt, and topping it with superfood fruits such as raspberries and blueberries are a great way to add important antioxidant-rich micronutrients that can actually help to relieve muscle soreness.
3. Vegetable Omelet with AvocadoEggs are the quintessential muscle recovery food because they contain high-quality protein, and they also provide an important nutrient known as lutein, which helps maintain eye and skin health. An omelet packed with veggies such as broccoli, spinach, mushrooms and red peppers will add a healthy dose of antioxidants, which help to fight the free radical damage that muscles can sustain after a hard workout. Top with avocado slices for some extra fiber and healthy monosaturated fat. If you want to add an extra dose of nutrition power, get Omega-3 enriched eggs, which promote the health of your most important muscle--your heart.
4. Whole Grain Sandwich WrapsIf you want to refuel with some wholesome, high-quality carbohydrates, try preparing a whole grain sandwich wrap using turkey, chicken, lettuce, tomato and cheese. The lean meat and cheese will provide muscle-nourishing protein, and the veggies and whole grain wrap are loaded with high-quality carbohydrates that will furnish you with excellent fuel for muscle recovery.
5. Salmon and Sweet PotatoNot enough can be said about the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acid, and salmon is packed to the gills (no pun intended) with this nutrient. Not only that, but salmon is also an excellent source of protein, and it provides important nutrients known as bioactive peptides, which help to reduce inflammation and support joint health. Sweet potatoes are a perfect complement to salmon, as they are loaded with high-quality complex carbohydrates as well as an abundance of Vitamin A.
6. Tuna Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bread
Tuna is another outstanding source of protein as well as heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. One of the great things about tuna is that it has a high protein and carb content, but is a relatively low-calorie food. If you're concerned about the fat content of mayonnaise (a typical sandwich staple), you can always substitute hummus instead. Combine canned tuna along with some antioxidant-rich spinach leaves on whole wheat bread, and you'll have a powerhouse post-workout sandwich.
As you may have noticed, the common denominator among all the foods listed above is protein and carbohydrates. These are the two key nutrients that your body needs right after working out, as they provide your muscles with the nutrients they need to recover properly and minimize damage. For best results, you should consume your meals within 30 to 45 minutes after working out, because that's when your blood circulation is at its best, which will help carry those vital nutrients to every cell of your body.