What do you eat after you workout? I love coconut water after a sweaty hot yoga session… or a banana protein shake after a killer hike. But to be honest, I didn’t really know how important after-exercise eats were until I met Jason Sani, a diet and nutrition guru here in the Valley who does it all: consulting, meal planning, speaking engagements, culinary nutrition lessons and specialty diets for everything from allergies to hormone issues. A top-notch nutritionist and super athlete, Jason knows firsthand what your body needs after a workout. Here are his top picks….
The Best Post-Exercise Eats by Jason Sani
Your PWO (Post workout) meal is probably the most crucial meal for anyone looking to enhance body composition and improve performance. Right after your workout is a critical time for repairing damaged muscle fibers and quickly replenishing muscle glycogen, the stored form of carbs that’s used as fuel during workouts. Plus, post-workout eats can reduce the stress-causing hormone cortisol and reduce inflammation, both of which can increase during exercise. Now, I know it’s easy to open a protein bar or unscrew the cap off a protein drink post-workout, but be aware of the processed garbage and highly acidic ingredients in common protein drinks and bars. These products can often do more harm than good. Stick to whole ingredients you can pronounce and understand. Our body will always do better with real food.
1) Dates – Dates are a high-glucose fruit that will restore muscle glycogen faster than your typical fruit. Yes, they’re high in sugar, but it’s good sugar, meaning that it immediately goes into your system to heal muscle and tissue broken down during exercise. Stick to a handful (about 4-6 dates). Great after high-intensity exercise: Cross-fit, circuit training, HIIT, Orangetheory Fitness, long runs, triathlon training.
2) Coconut water – Coconut water is a super hydrator that provides natural electrolytes like potassium to balance out the minerals lost during exercise. Think of it as nature’s Gatorade. Coconut milk, unsweetened coconut flakes and coconut oil also contain coconut fat, which is metabolized by your liver as an energy source instead of being stored as fat. Great after any workout that makes you sweat, from hot yoga to strength training.
3) Sweet potatoes – Provides good clean carbs while providing the body with anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals. Pre-bake or microwave for an easy post-exercise snack (add a sprinkle of cinnamon!); or add to smoothies or make sweet potato hash browns. Great after more than 45 minutes with an elevated heart rate: HIIT, Cross-fit, mud races, circuit training.
4) Leafy Greens – Alkaline-rich greens like spinach and kale are loaded with anti-inflammatory superpowers, as well as protein and enzymes for recovery. They’re also naturally detoxifying. Juice or add to a smoothie or protein shake. Great after yoga or a hike.
5) Lean Protein – Protein feeds our muscles; it’s the main building block for tissue and muscle repair. If fat-loss is your goal, protein over carbs post-workout is the way to go. My favorites: hard-boiled eggs, chicken breast, buffalo, grass-fed beef. Great after strength training and endurance: circuit training, Zumba, Cross-fit, marathon & triathlon training.
6) Protein powder – I believe in food over supplements, but a good-quality protein powder delivers fast-digesting protein and it’s super convenient. Pea protein is a great-tasting vegetarian- and vegan-friendly option that’s dairy- and gluten-free without artificial sweeteners (I like Pea Protein from Nutra Summa that’s available at Sprouts and local vitamin stores in the Valley. Add it to shakes, juices and protein pancakes.Great after strength training and endurance.
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