Why what you eat matters
If you’ve taken the time, effort and energy to exercise and move your body don’t reward yourself with the biggest, unhealthiest take-away you can find – trust me I know it’s tempting and have fallen into this trap myself many times! But you’re not doing yourself or your body any favours and all your hard work is null and voided by that cheeseburger!
Granted it’s not entirely our own fault if we indulge in unhealthy junk food post-workout; after exercising the brain sends a signal to the body in order to replenish its energy and nutrient levels. Our body immediately goes into repair mode after exercising, so what we eat at this time is very important for determining how efficiently we recover. If we don’t have all the nutrients that we need then our body breaks down glycogen in our muscle tissue instead. So, try to eat within 30 minutes of exercising as this is the peak time for your body to absorb and use the nutrients it needs.
Unfortunately, usually the quickest and easiest way to get some food into you is by reaching for some convenient junk food that is packed full of all the wrong stuff. Below I’ve listed 6 foods you should avoid after working out and what you can eat as a substitute instead.
1) Raw vegetables
Vegetables are great! We all love them – we may not all be fans of Brussel sprouts but we can usually find ones that we do like. Vegetables are packed with nutrients and fibre and are extremely good for our health so you may be wondering why I’ve listed them as a post-workout no-no. Well, when we’ve just completed a physically challenging workout we need hearty substantial foods to help us to bounce back and, unfortunately, the low-calorie count of raw vegetables just doesn’t cut it. On their own, raw vegetables just aren’t fulfilling enough to help restore our energy levels and maintain a healthy metabolic rate.
What to do instead: If you’re a crazy vegetable lover like me why not try to make them more filling by bulking them up with dips like nut butters, hummus or yoghurt? My favourite nut butter has to be Meridian’s Cocoa and Hazelnut spread which is available with our friends over at Jan de Vries! Its sweet taste satisfies my cravings whilst also helping to nourish my hard-worked muscles.
Snacks high in salt can lower your levels of potassium which plays an important role in your recovery process. We lose important electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium through our sweat as we exercise so replacing these minerals post-workout is absolutely vital!
What to do instead: Swap snacks with high levels of salt for potassium-packed alternatives such as bananas. Bananas are simply loaded with potassium and are easy for us to digest making them a perfect post-workout snack. Why not try having banana on wholemeal toast with a nutritious nut butter?
3) Oily food
Oily foods contain fats – some of these are healthy fats sources like the ones found in oily fish and coconut oil, others that can be found in fries and other junk food are not so healthy. Regardless of the source though, eating oily foods good or bad, doesn’t help us much after exercising. This is because fats slow down the rapid digestion your body experiences as a result of exercise.
What to do instead: For the most part eating healthy fats is extremely good for us, however eating them after exercising just isn’t one of those times so hold off on eating them for the time being. By any means possible avoid fries and junk food! These don’t contain anything that is of nutritional value and definitely won’t help us out in terms of recovery.
When it comes to our much-beloved coffee after exercising it’s another no-go. Caffeine present in drinks like coffee and tea are diuretic meaning that they can cause dehydration as a result of increased urination. You’re already dehydrated after exercising so adding in something that will cause further dehydration just isn’t a good idea!
What to do instead: Post-workout hydration is also super important to help you to replace fluids you lost through sweat. I’d recommend also taking an electrolyte drink such as our Balance Mineral Drink to help you replace those all-important minerals too! Balance contains a hearty balance of magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc as well as vitamin D – all of which play an important role in looking after your muscles and helping them to recover.
5) Milk chocolate
We all love a treat – particularly after a hard-hitting workout when we feel we need a little reward. You might be feeling exhausted and in desperate need of an energy boost post-workout but, unfortunately milk chocolate won’t satisfy you entirely. Not only is chocolate high in calories voiding those that you have just burned during exercise, but it won’t help you to repair those tired muscles or boost your metabolism.
What to do instead: Now I love chocolate as much as the next person, and I definitely won’t tell you to stop eating it altogether! However, rather than reaching for milk chocolate opt for dark instead! Now when I say dark, I’m talking about at least 70% cacao (chocolate’s raw form). Cacao is rich in magnesium which helps to support our muscle health and prevent muscle cramps. Dark chocolate also contains a healthy amount of antioxidants which help to prevent free radical damage, oxidative stress and excessive inflammation which aids post-workout recovery.
6) High fat, high sugar, highly processed – the three big no-no’s
We’d rarely recommend that you consume foods that are high in fat, sugar or heavily processed and post-work out is no exception! While you may feel like you deserve to indulge in a pizza or doughnut, or just have an easy microwavable meal, you’re actually doing your body more harm than good! You’ll easily make back (and then some) all the calories that you’ve just spend hard work and energy burning and these kinds of foods won’t do you any favours in terms of recovery! They’ll also leave you feeling bloated and lacking in energy – not the sort of post-exercise nutrition we have in mind!
What to do instead: Preparation is key here! Particularly if you’re one of those people who fall prey to the quick and easy lure of takeaways and microwavable meals! If you know you have a workout scheduled into your week take a little time to plan what you are going to eat before and afterwards. This preparation may seem unnecessary at first but it can actually make us feel better pre- and post-workout and can even improve our performance!