We’re all familiar with the phrase “you are what you eat” and it’s fairly obvious that if you eat too much fat, too much sugar and in fact too much of anything, your body will inevitably display the tell-tale signs of your food consumption. Eating a balance of all the right food groups, in the right proportions will not only result in a healthier looking body, but also one that functions better. And a body that functions better, is one that will train better, harder and for longer.
Trying to plan what and when to eat around your fitness regime is a tricky task; what is the best food to eat before a workout?, how long should I leave it after eating before exercising?, what are the best foods to aid recovery?, which foods will help weightloss/build muscle/rehydrate?, are questions that we hear on a daily basis from people all seeking to do the best they can for the health of their body.
The time immediately after a workout, whether it be an intense cardio HIIT session, running, swimming, cycling etc., is when the body is at its most vulnerable. In order to aid full recovery after training, it is essential you refuel your body with the correct nutrients to help avoid injury, to rebuild muscle and to ensure you have enough energy to get you through the rest of the day.
So, what should we be eating after a workout?
Protein is absolutely essential for muscle growth and repair, and carbohydrates are central to refuelling and giving those energy levels a boost, but it’s just as important to include naturally occurring sugars and salts in your post workout snacks, as you lose a lot of these when you sweat. One of the traps that people often fall into is the belief that because they’ve exercised for an hour they’ve earnt food; usually junk food such as a chocolate bar, a piece of cake in the afternoon or a takeaway for dinner. We shouldn’t be exercising to bank food points, it should be about wanting to stay fit and healthy, to tone up, or in some cases to aid weight loss, which really isn’t going to happen if you’re scoffing a packet of crisps immediately after an exercise class. Ideally we should be aiming to eat between 200-300 calories for every hour of exercise, this way there is no risk of consuming more calories than those just worked off.
Experts recommend that you should eat within 30 to 60 minutes after a workout to gain optimum recovery, but this isn’t always so easy if you factor in showering, getting home, being distracted by the mountain of things still left on your to do list etc. The best solution is to pack a nutritious snack into your gym bag so that you can scoff some decent food and kickstart the recovery process ASAP. To help get you started we’ve put together 10 of the best post-workout snacks that tick all of the nutritional requirements and are also small enough to fit into your gym bag.
10 Post Workout Snack Ideas
Energy balls are big business and these days you can pretty much go in any shop and you’ll find them on the shelves, but they’re actually really easy to make yourself at home. As long as you get the right ratio of dry to wet ingredients, you can make an energy ball from anything you choose. Typical wet ingredients, or binding ingredients, include: coconut oil, honey, egg white, cacao butter and nut butter. Dry ingredients might include: desiccated coconut, dried apricots, nuts, cacao powder, porridge oats, dates etc. Simply chop the dry ingredients into small pieces, mix with the wet ingredient of your choice, roll into a ball and then pop in the fridge or freezer to set. Et voila, the perfect post workout treat that are so tiny they’ll even fit in your pocket!
Nuts are a great source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins and antioxidants, which makes them a great addition to your post workout snack. Choose your favourite nuts (we love pecans and almonds the best) and mix with lots of other healthy bits and bobs to create a yummy trail mix.
- Banana Chips.
- Cacao Nibs.
- Granola Bites.
- Goji Berries.
- Dried Coconut.
Just be careful not to fill your bag with too much, 1 or 2 handfuls is plenty, but other than that you can go pick and mix crazy!
Ants on a Raft
This rather unappealing sounding snack isn’t something concocted by Bear Grylls, I mean don’t get us wrong insects are packed to the brim with protein but we won’t inflict that on you just yet! Comprising of a rice cake (make it brown for maximum health points), covered with nut butter of your choice and then topped with raisins, the only direction those raisin ants are marching are straight into your belly. To avoid any sticky mess getting on your gym clothes, we suggest topping your raft with another rice cake and wrapping it in foil.
Popcorn needn’t just be saved for the cinema, in fact in the past couple of years so-called gourmet popcorn has taken the snack world by storm. It’s the perfect low calorie food, that still feels like you’re eating a treat, and mix it up with the right things and you’ve got a great post-workout snack. You can buy popcorn kernels from most shops and it’s incredibly easy to make – just make sure you keep a lid on the saucepan and give it a shake every now and again to prevent it from burning on the bottom. Once the corn stops popping you know it’s ready, so whilst it’s still warm sprinkle over your favourite seasoning. Why not try: protein powder, cacao powder, honey, lucuma powder or some coconut sugar. Popcorn is a great source of glycogen, which is perfect for levelling out blood sugar levels and re-energising the body.
Unfortunately, we’re not about to tell you that a toy filled chocolate egg is a fantastic nutritional post workout snack (oh to live in that dream world!) but that doesn’t mean your eggs can’t have an element of surprise. Hard boil some eggs; they take approximately 10-12 minutes, and leave to cool down completely before removing the shells. Cut the eggs in half lengthways and remove the yolk. You will be left with a cavity that can be filled with the filling of your choice.
- Homemade hummus.
- Nut butter (almond is our personal fave).
- Yolk yogurt (crush the yolk with natural yogurt and stir in some smoked paprika).
- Cottage Cheese.
- Salmon and chives.
Hard boiled eggs contain a whopping 9g of protein and if you eat the yolk as well you’ll be getting some essential muscle repairing amino acids in the mix too. Cooked eggs will keep in the fridge for up to a week so you can be super organised and plan for the week ahead, just remember that not all of the fillings will last that long so you are best off making those as and when you need them. Keep the surprise eggs wrapped in foil in the fridge until you’re ready to pack them into your workout bag.
You only have to go on Instagram to see all the foodie bloggers posting pics of the current snack trend; sweet potato toast, but it’s hardly the most practical thing to bung in your gym bag. A medium sweet potato is approximately 100 calories and is an excellent source of carbohydrates, which as we all know is the key to optimum recharge. So, how can we incorporate sweet potato into a handy pocket sized gym snack? There are a few different things you can do, but here are our favourites:
- Sweet potato fritters – grate and mix with an egg and some cooked chicken then lightly fry in some coconut oil.
- Sweet potato waffles – cook and mash into waffle mixture.
- Savoury energy balls.
- Sweet potato gazpacho shots – the savoury version of a smoothie shot.
Did you know sweet potato has more potassium than a banana and is jam packed full of vitamin A, which is great for cell renewal and a healthy immune system.
We love flapjacks, like literally LOVE them!
They’re comforting, sweet, filling and well, just so satisfying, and if you make them from scratch at home they can be really healthy too. Porridge oats provide slow releasing energy, which is fab post workout as, rather than give you a short, sharp hit it guarantees to see you through the whole afternoon. Instead of using sugar laden and highly calorific golden syrup, try experimenting with honey, maple syrup or even coconut jam.
We’ve got a great recipe for Coconut, Goji and Date Flapjacks, but be warned…they’re so good you’ll have to have total willpower to stop yourself from eating the lot!
Nut butter is a fitness fanatics best friend and if you aren’t eating it, then what on earth are you playing at?! It’s a protein powerhouse and best of all it’s so versatile. If there’s one staple ingredient you should have in your store cupboard it’s nut butter. Whether it’s peanut, almond, cashew, macadamia, you name a nut there’ll be a butter. Just remember to read the label to make sure there are no added nasties, oh and don’t go completely overboard with the portion size! Smear it on dates, banana, apples in fact any fruit you like, and to make it gym bag friendly pre-dip and freeze so it’s all ready for after your workout.
Bit of Everything Balls
Yep, we’re talking balls again! If we’re doing sports we might as well eat something that’s running with a sporty theme, right? And what perfect pocket sized snack can there be than a handy power ball. Similar to the sweet energy balls mentioned above, these are the savoury versions, the first course if you like. Pack them with protein; chicken, salmon, eggs etc., card load them; spinach, sweet potato, quinoa etc., roll into a ball and there you have it. This is perfect for using up any leftovers and great for those of you who don’t have a sweet tooth.
Smoothies are a fantastic choice after a gruelling workout; they fill you up, they rehydrate, are packed full of vitamins and minerals and if you pop some protein powder into the mix as well you’ve literally got the ideal snack. However, if you’re already lugging a big bottle of water around with you (essential for sipping on during your workout) you might not want the extra weight of another big liquid container. We’ve got the perfect solution – smoothie shots! They’re basically concentrated versions of a regular smoothie, but have the convenience factor of being able to fit into a small pot (baby food pots are ideal). Simply Health have got some fab smoothies recipes on their site that include lots of healthy superfoods and one that includes a cheeky bit of chocolate. Our top tip is to freeze your smoothie shots in an ice cube tray, then you can pop a couple out into a pot and they’ll have defrosted, but still be lovely and cold, by the end of your exercise session. If you fancy something slightly different, why not try adding some gelatine to your smoothie to make the ultimate super smoothie jelly shot!
So now you’ve got no excuses for eating well after your workout. It’s simple; feed your body the food it needs, when it needs it and in return you can expect to be stronger, healthier and full of bounteous energy.