Getting in weekly exercise is vital to a healthy lifestyle, but fuelling up with the wrong food and drinks afterward can hinder the benefits of that workout. Many of us are told that we need to eat right after a workout, but the kind of food you consume is equally important. Contrary to popular belief, a protein shake isn’t necessarily the best post-exercise diet choice. After you’re done with your sweat sesh, do your best to avoid these harmful foods that you may not have known about.
1. Protein smoothie
Not all protein smoothies are made alike — some pre-made protein powders are filled with sugar, artificial sweeteners, chemicals, fillers, and bulking agents. Make sure to check the nutrition labels and ingredient content, avoiding these formulas whenever possible. The same goes for energy bars — some are extremely processed with long ingredients lists, and you should steer clear of those as well.
2. Low-carb foods
Protein gets all the credit when it comes it post-workout nutrition, but carbs are just as vital — they can restore our glycogen, and carbs don’t have to mean refined flour and white bread! Instead, we recommend reasonable servings of beans, veggies, and fruits, as well as whole grains.
3. Sports drinks
Gatorade and other electrolyte filled sports drinks can feel like a refreshing savior after whatever activity you’ve just completed, but in fact, unless you’re running marathons or happen to be a professional athlete, drinking these sugary and chemical-filled beverages after a workout can be even unhealthier than a milkshake or soda. Instead, go for raw coconut water.
4. Salty food
Why do you crave potato chips after exercising? Because you lose water and potassium when you sweat. But a better alternative is to go with snacks like bananas, which can up those potassium levels. If you must go the chips route, try to find kettled-cooked ones, or chips cooked with avocado oil, and only eat a tiny portion as a side to a more wholesome meal.
Some people opt for coffee or tea right before a workout, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it can enhance performance and give a much-needed energy boost, especially in the morning. However, after a workout, it’s detrimental. It dehydrates our body, which craves water after a workout and also boosts the stress hormone, otherwise known as cortisol.
6. Spicy foods
Maybe save that curry for a meal later on rather than your recovery meal. Spicy foods like salsa and sriracha are tough to digest, and after exercising, your body needs to relax and repair itself, consuming easy-to-digest foods with balanced carbs and nutrients to bring those sugar levels back to a healthy level.
7. Heavy proteins
Eating a grilled salmon after getting your sweat on is a fantastic idea, but going for a roasted duck or heavy steak? Not so much. Even if you’re bulking up, hearty portions of rice and tuna are more effective for your body to utilize. Especially if you’re trying to lean out.
8. Fried food
As much as you might want to treat yourself after the gym, eating excessive oily and fried foods delay the delivery of important nutrients in your muscles. Fat slows down the overall digestion process and erases all that good work you just did. Of course, everyone should have a cheat day, but if you’re regularly noshing on deep-fried foods after exercise, that’s not ideal.
9. Simple carbs
It might seem like a simple turkey or tuna sandwich on white bread is the best meal, but after a workout, complex carbs like whole wheat and multigrain bread are much better for you in the long run. All that white bread is just slowing down your metabolism.
10. High fiber foods
While kale and flax seeds are most definitely not bad for you, they can hinder your post-workout experience because they can cause bloating and cramping. Maybe consider these foods on recovery days instead — at least when it comes to large quantities.
Candy will spike your energy, and a sugar crash is made even worse when your body is exhausted from working out. It won’t give your body the proper tools to repair your muscles, and will only prolong your recovery time.
After a workout, it’s normal to be thirsty. Especially on a hot day. But while it sounds satisfying to chug that sweet and fizzy Cola or Sprite, it will bloat you and dehydrate you further, even though it feels refreshing at the moment. Opt for flavored sparkling water instead, if you’re craving some bubbles.