Feeling ravenous after your morning workout? Good. Fueling up with good-for-you snacks or meals is a way to help repair muscles and restore electrolytes lost from sweat.
"The best foods for recovery include a mix of carbohydrates and protein along with plenty of fluid to replace sweat losses," registered dietician Alissa Rumsey, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said in an email. Carbs will replenish muscles and stimulate the release of insulin, which helps your body better utilize protein after a workout. Protein, meanwhile, will repair damaged muscle tissue and encourage the development of new muscle, Rumsey noted.
When to eat: Try to eat a snack or meal within two hours after your workout, Rumsey said.
How much to eat: Rumsey recommended 10 to 30 grams of protein, depending on your body size. Smaller people should consume 10 to 15 grams while taller and more muscular folks should consume 20 to 30 grams.
Make sure you're getting enough carbs, too, Rumsey said. Most exercisers need roughly 40 to 120 grams of carbohydrates after a workout, depending on the workout intensity. (The longer and more intense your workout, the more carbs you should consume.)
What to drink: Just because it feels like you sweat out the equivalent of three cocktails during a spin class does not mean you should double down on Bloody Marys at your post-workout brunch. One drink is OK, but too much alcohol can influence the body's ability to synthesize protein (important for building muscle) and ability to store glycogen, which would make you feel more fatigued during your next workout, Rumsey said.
Your best bet is to hydrate with plenty of H2O. The amount you need depends on your sex, age, weight, workout duration and intensity and how much you tend to sweat. Online hydration calculators, like this one from CamelBak, can help you get a sense for how much water you need.
3 best foods to order at post-workout brunch
When you're out at brunch, Rumsey recommended avoiding foods high in fat and sugar after a sweat sesh. They'll pile on calories and negate the effects of the workout. Instead, order an entree like these for a healthy recovery meal:
• Egg omelet with veggies, side of fruit and one slice of whole wheat toast
• Yogurt parfait with fruit and granola
• Frittata with veggies and lean meat
3 quick breakfast ideas for home cooks
Whipping up a post-workout breakfast at home? Try these ideas from Rumsey:
• Oatmeal (1/2 cup oats, 1 cup milk) topped with fresh fruit, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 2 tablespoons nuts
• Plain Greek yogurt (6 ounces) topped with 1 tablespoon chia seeds, berries, 2 tablespoons nuts, 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
• Scrambled eggs (2 eggs) with 1 cup of veggies and 2 tablespoons shredded cheese; 1 to 2 slices whole wheat toast
5 best foods to eat post-workout
Craving a more in-depth explanation of why these foods are good for you? Read on for why these five delicious post-workout foods can help the body recover, with tips on how to turn them into a nutritious meal or snack.
Why: They're a fantastic source of complete protein (aka they have all the amino acids), and they've got vitamin B12, choline and riboflavin, Live Science reported in May 2015. One egg has 71 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat, according to Live Science, which cited the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Eat this: Scramble them, hard-boil them, fry them in a little butter, poach them — prepare eggs any which way and they'll be a nutritious recovery meal.
2. Greek yogurt
Why: A good source of protein, yogurt is rich in strength-building amino acids that can help muscle fibers recover after a tough gym session.
Eat this: Put Greek yogurt in your smoothie or eat it with some fresh fruit.
Why: The yellow fruit is high-glycemic, meaning it will digest quickly and deliver good-for-you carbs to your hungry muscles. The potassium in bananas can also help prevent muscle cramps, so they work well as a pre-workout snack too.
Eat this: Slather 2 tablespoons peanut butter (good source of healthy fats) on your 'naner for a filling snack. This scrumptious combo delivers 38 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein, Rumsey said.
Why: Cherries may help your muscles recover faster, and one cup of cherry juice packs as much potassium as a small banana, Men's Fitness noted. One study found that drinking cherry juice helped runners experience less muscle pain, the magazine reported.
Eat this: Pop some fresh cherries after a workout or add some cherry juice to a smoothie like this cherry limeade recipe.
5. Chocolate milk
Why: It's no myth: Chocolate milk's ratio of carbs to protein is about 4:1, which Runner's World reported in 2013 can help refuel tired muscles.
Eat this: Pour yourself a tall, 12-ounce glass of low-fat chocolate milk; it delivers 47 grams of carbs and 12 grams of protein, Runner's World reported, citing the Department of Agriculture Nutrient Analysis Library.