We all begin an exercise routine with the intention of sticking to it. More often than not, we don’t. When asked what their biggest obstacle was in maintaining an exercise schedule, most respondents claimed that it was the lack of results which made them give up mid-way. After all, exercise is hard work and it’s natural to want to see weight loss or muscle gain or more energy or whatever the starting goal was to keep the motivation strong and to keep you sweating it out day after day. A closer look at the overall lifestyle of these very respondents proved that their lack of results had little to do with the non-efficiency of the exercise but was rather the fault of their eating habits, especially with the foods they were eating post their workouts.
Foods to Avoid Post-workout
It is widely assumed that you can eat whatever you want for the few hours after exercise because your metabolism is at an all-time high and will just burn it all away. This is a pretty skewed idea, one that is akin to the concept that you can starve all week and then binge on the weekend. It’s dangerous, bad for health and not viable in the long run. The misconception is a manipulated version of the fact that you do indeed need to eat post-workout to give your muscles fuel to recover from the stress as well as to keep the fires of your metabolism which is, yes, much higher at that point, going strong. Eat the wrong foods though, and you could very well be undoing all your sweat and tears.
Could you be sabotaging your fitness goals through ignorance of what constitutes a good post-workout food? If you see your post-workout snack on the list below, then the answer is a resounding YES!
What?! Fruit juice is no good post a workout?! But how can it be bad when it’s made of fruit and full of nutrition?
Most packaged juices are made of fruit concentrate – a processed, high-sugar syrup derived from real fruit. During and post-workout, your muscles are doing a lot of calorie-burning. If you haven’t filled up on high-sugar foods before your workout and don’t make that mistake post your routine, your body will access the sugars from your fat cells which is how you get rid of that extra flab. But if you drink sugar calories, your body will go straight to burning that up and all your straining and sweating will be for nought.
Fruit juice or, in fact, ay other drink which is high in sugar also slows down your heightened metabolism post-workout. This means that you are culling the very efficiency that you exercise is promoting. Sounds pretty self-defeating, doesn’t it?
This includes pizzas, burgers, French fries, packaged chips, doughnuts, pastries, macaroni and cheese or anything else that you’d categorise as comfort food. Now, you may have been told that you need to eat carbohydrates post your workout and you may argue that many of these foods contain carbohydrates so why not indulge? The problems is that the carbohydrates in all junk food is not the good complex kind but the bad refined kind. This means that the minute it hits your system, it just turns into sugars. And we’ve already seen how sugars sabotage your hard-earned post-workout metabolism.
You may feel a craving for the sweet stuff when you’re done with your exercise for the day. And you may think that post your workout is the best time to indulge in your chocolate addiction. However, it does nothing for your body and just adds zero-nutrition high calories to your body. But there’s good news if you are a dark chocolate fan. A square or two of dark chocolate with a cacao content of at least 70%, preferably more, is actually quite a pick-me-up for your body post a strenuous workout. Plus, the antioxidants in the cacao help with muscle inflammation or swelling. Just make sure that you moderate your intake and don’t go scarfing down the whole bar.
No fruit juice and now no vegetables either? You can’t possibly be serious?
Actually, we are.
It’s natural to think that anything that’s good for you overall is good for you post your workout. The truth is that your muscles and cells have special needs after exercise if you hope to see optimal results. By feeding your body raw vegetables that are very low in calories, you are doing the same damage to your heightened metabolism as any of the other foods on this list. Instead of amping it up to burn more calories, your metabolism gets the signal that it doesn’t really need to be all that high and it promptly plummets. What’s more, raw vegetables simply don’t have the energy content to help your muscles recover post a workout. So keep those celery sticks and carrots for your lunch salad and tuck into something more filling.
So what Should I Eat Post Workout?
The simple answer is a combination of carbs and protein. So the options would vary greatly depending on individual food preferences. A good idea is to sit down and make a list of things you always have in your pantry and look up their nutritional content. This way, you not only learn more about food (which will help you achieve and maintain your long-term fitness goals) you’ll be able to put together your very own post-workout meals which are perfect for you.
If you can’t be bothered, see a nutritionist who will work out an eating plan for you without you having to lift a finger. Either way, the only one to benefit will be you.