7 Best (and Worst) Foods to Consume Post Workout
What should you be consuming post workout? In a word: protein. It’s been shown to speed up recovery time and increase strength when combined with regular resistance training (International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2010).
Quality, quantity and timing is crucial. Research suggests 20g of protein taken within two hours after exercise is the most effective amount for optimal recovery (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009). “And ideally you want that in a 1:2 ratio of protein to quality carbs to replenish energy, decrease protein breakdown and increase protein synthesis as your muscles start to break down,” says London-based GP Dr Nick Ambatzis, who specialises in sport and exercise medicine.
The most convenient way to hit your protein quota is to mix up a whey protein shake with milk to bump up the carb ratio (a 30g serving of our Whey Protein powder contains 21.4g of fast absorbing protein and 2.5g of carbs). But we recommend looking at your overall diet to make sure whole foods play a big part. The more varied your diet, the greater your body benefits from a broad range of minerals and vitamins that promote gut health, boost immunity and, above all, give your taste buds something new to look forward to.
Here we’ve cherry-picked the best foods you can consume post workout – plus ones to avoid – and matched them with our delicious whey protein recipes so you’ve got plenty to sink your teeth into after exercise. Bon appétit!
(Related: Whey Protein: 7 Brilliant Benefits of Whey Protein)
Ultra-versatile, speedy to mix up and quick to consume, you can’t beat a post-workout smoothie when looking to get nutrients on board soon after exercise. We’re yet to find a recipe that can’t be improved with a serving of our Whey Protein powder. The winning formula: milk or milk alternative + oats + fruit or veg + protein powder. Take your pick from three of our favourites below.
Recipe: Madeleine Shaw’s Scrumptious Protein-Packed Smoothies
Quinoa or Buckwheat
They’ve earned superfood status for a reason. These grains are complete sources of protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids our body relies on to rebuild muscle. Plus a variety of grains – rather than just rice – has been shown to improve gut health for improved digestion.
Recipe: Veggie Quinoa Fritters
Chicken, Turkey or Oily Fish
Red meat can be heavy on the stomach after exercise and slow to digest. Lean meats, especially turkey and chicken, are far easier to process, while oily fish packs plenty of quality protein plus heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats that help reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol.
Recipe: Mini Salmon & Creme Freche Savoury Pancakes
Not all carbs deserved to be demonised. Consumed at the right time – specifically post-intensive exercise – pasta can accelerate your recovery, replenish glycogen and provide a dose of protein too. Note: the protein in pasta is typically incomplete, meaning it’s missing some of the essential amino acids your body needs for muscle repair, so serve it with lean meat or a side of beans for the complete package.
Rice and Beans, Lentils or Chickpeas
Combined, these vegan-friendly ingredients add up to a perfect source of protein. Most beans, lentils and chickpeas are low in the amino acid methionine but high in lysine, while rice is low in lysine but high in methionine. Rice cakes also make for a superb snack option for your gym bag or desk drawer and serve as a versatile vehicle for a multitude of delicious toppings. Think: banana, nut butter and cacao nibs.Recipe: Roasted Chickpea and Tamari Savoury Oats
Recipe: Chickpea and Beetroot Hummus
Recipe: Extra Protein Baked Beans
Sweet Potato or Oats
The smart carb choice if you’re looking to lose weight or like to work out first thing? These complex carbs contain starch and fibre, meaning they release energy slowly and take longer to digest than simple carbs, such as white potatoes and pasta, so you won’t have sudden spikes and crashes in blood sugar that leave you reaching for the cookie jar.Recipe: Sweet Potato Hash Browns
Recipe: Cinnamon Swirl Oats
Eggs are another complete protein source and versatile ingredient that simply can’t be overlooked. They make for the ultimate recovery breakfast to enjoy the morning after a tough workout. Whether poached, scrambled, baked or blended into mouthwatering protein pancakes, the options are endless.Recipe: 5 Perfect Protein Pancake Recipes
Recipe: Veggie and Feta Egg Muffins
A Word on the Worst Foods to Consume Post Workout
Alcohol is a no-brainer. As soon as it passes your lips your body will abandon repairing your muscles and prioritise processing the booze.
Sports drinks and energy gels are similarly problematic. They’re typically rammed with refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup that will cause your blood sugar to spike violently and undoes the fat burning effects of a good workout.
Finally, fast food, even if you’re bulking for the winter, is never a good choice. First of all, you have no control over what’s in it or how it’s been cooked. Secondly, anything deep fried will be dripping in trans fats that increase the risk of heart disease and slow the digestion process, restricting the delivery of valuable nutrients to your muscles when they need it most.