After finishing a hard workout, one of your first priorities is probably to refuel your body. If you are pressed for the time, the impulse may be to reach for a bar or shake, but as convenient as they can be, they are often highly processed—and they can get pretty boring after awhile.
Jennifer Day, a sports dietitian with the U.S. Speedskating Team and Cheribundi spokesperson, recommends post-workout snacks that have a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes, with a preference for plant-based foods. Generally speaking, she says to aiming for a three-to-one carbohydrate-to-protein ratio, with at least 10-15 grams of protein.
“As you work out, our muscles require fuel; that fuel is going to be in the smallest form of carbohydrates in the body, which is glucose,” Day said. “You do need some protein, but not in as high amounts as most people think. Carbs are the most important thing.”
Day recommends going for simple, easy-to-digest carbohydrates—and avoiding too much fat and fiber, as that can slow your digestion. The post-workout snacks she recommends are all quick and easy, with an emphasis on portability:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They travel well, don’t need refrigeration, have a good ratio of carbohydrates to protein, and are plant-based.
- Chocolate milk. A shelf-stable milk can be stored in your workout bag, and a 12-ounce serving contains about 13 grams of protein. For added carbohydrates, Day recommends either a flavored milk or plain milk with a banana.
- Tart cherry juice. Tart cherry juice has been shown to reduce inflammation and promote muscle recovery, which is why a lot of the speed skaters Day works with incorporate it into their post-workout snack.
- Yogurt, fruit, and honey. If you do have access to a refrigerator, yogurt, fruit, and honey provides a good combination of protein and carbohydrates. You can make a homemade fruit-on-the-bottom-style yogurt by adding a bottom layer of fruit and honey to a Mason jar and filling the remainder with yogurt.
- Whole grain crackers with fruit and cheese. Again, if you have access to a refrigerator, the combination of crackers, fruit, and cheese is a quick snack that combines carbs and protein. If you are pressed for time or energy, you can also buy pre-assembled snack packs.
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