Refueling before and after a workout is definitely crucial — and though it's certainly tempting to reach for an energy drink and a sugary protein bar after a grueling sweat session... well, that's probably not the most healthy choice.
To help you make the most of your workouts, we spoke to some expert nutritionists and dieticians about all food choices and beverages you should (and shouldn't) consume after a workout. From protein shakes to sweet potatoes, here are some of the foods they recommend keeping on your radar.
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Eat plenty of protein
"Protein may help our brains recognize the hormone leptin, which helps us feel fuller longer and provides energy for our bodies," says registered dietitian Rima Kleiner, MS, RD. If you are working out to lose weight, she recommends eating low fat, high protein foods such as salmon in order to give you the strength you need to power through that workout.
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Always shoot for a balanced meal
"Shoot for a balanced meal that includes a full serving of protein within 30 to 60 minutes of your workout for proper muscle recovery and growth," says nutritionist Rachel Fiske, NC, CPT-NASM, who serves on the advisory board for Family Living Today. This might be a high-quality protein shake with some fresh berries and a handful of greens, she suggests, or a balanced meal of salmon, veggies, and a sweet potato with avocado.
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Eat some sweet potatoes
"I always recommend eating sweet potatoes," says clinical nutritionist Christina Towle. Sweet potatoes are the perfect carbohydrate source for post-workout/glycogen recovery, she explains.
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Make sure you incorporate carbs
"Although carbohydrates are often hit with criticism, the argument for good carb intake comes from the fact that we need energy to fuel our workouts and to recuperate and grow," says Dr. Luiza Petre, weight loss and management specialist and board-certified cardiologist. However, this does not mean you need to eat abnormal amounts of sugar and pasta, she suggests. Instead, she suggesting eating non-starchy carbs, which are higher in fiber such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.