Athletes are some of the most amazing people I know because of their incredible self control. If there is one area that I am completely lacking in, it is self-control. As I watched the Olympics, I just sat and tried to comprehend how each of the athletes got to where they are and how much training, calorie-counting, and living right they must have done. Which leads me to my tip of the day: how to keep your burn going post-workout.
The key is eating and eating right. I found that once I learned how to actually use the food I put in my body to my advantage, I didn’t have to think about self-control so much. All I had to do was think about what the food I was eating was going to do for my body. Just ask yourself the question, “Is this going to hinder or help the workout I just finished?” Once you understand how the calories you intake work to repair muscles and give you the energy you need to burn fat, you won’t feel guilty eating, and you’ll be able to eat just what you need.
So here’s the breakdown of what I learned:
- After you workout, your body needs calories to refuel energy. This means, don’t starve yourself because you don’t want to “un-do” the workout you just finished. On the flip side, don’t go gorge yourself either because you just burned 500 calories. Eat just enough – a small snack or meal. Usually if you pay attention to your body, you’ll feel when you’ve had enough to be satisfied.
- It is best to eat carbohydrates in order to recharge your muscles’ glycogen stores. Contrary to popular belief in the diet world, your body needs carbs in order to keep your muscles building and pumping. These carbohydrates will help your muscles get ready for tomorrow’s workout.
- Get a little protein so your body can use it to build new muscle instead of breaking down the ones that you have. Protein is essential in keeping your muscles toned and strong. If you don’t get adequate amounts of protein, your body will enter starvation mode and start breaking down your existing muscles to rebuild the ones your worked out.
- Only about 25 percent of your post-workout snack should be protein. I guess I say this only because I used to think that the perfect post-workout snack is always a protein bar. I would choke them down just because I thought they were doing me the most good. The real key is getting the right balance of carbs and protein. Protein bars aren’t always a bad thing, they just aren’t the only good thing for you. See my suggestions below.
- The best time to eat is within the first hour after your workout. I always wanted to just go without food after a workout and would often wait until the next meal to eat again. If you eat during this crucial hour window, you boost your metabolism and your body is able to directly take the carbs you ingest into the blood stream and to the muscles that need the fuel.
If you are like me, even after I heard all of this information, I couldn’t figure out what exactly would be good to help me after a workout. Here are a few suggestions, and you are more than welcome to put your own spin on them*:
- a fruit smoothie with yogurt or protein powder
- a boiled egg and a piece of toast
- a slice of bread or rice cake with peanut butter
- an apple with peanut butter
- crackers and cheese
- cottage cheese and an apple
*Just think simple carbohydrates and easily digestible protein. Easily digestible protein would be things like eggs and milk versus steak or ham.