The Best Post-Workout Meals and Snacks

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Burn it off, build it up.

The process of exercising, in addition to building muscle and stamina, burns off large quantities of your body’s nutritional reserves. That’s normal, of course, but that fact should also impress upon you how important it is to refuel properly after a long workout. After you tear up those muscles, your body needs to start building everything back up bigger and better, but it needs building materials.

First and foremost, protein. Protein is, after all, what your muscles are made of. When you’re all achy and breaky after a long workout, your body utilizes protein reserves to begin repairing and rebuilding your muscular structure. Your best source of protein is, of course, meat, but the ideal kind of protein you want to get here is lean protein. Fattier meats like beef or pork do have protein, but also contain a lot of calories and saturated fat. Lean proteins come from chicken and fish; they’ll get you the protein you need without piling on too much extra. Protein shakes are another attractive option, packing large quantities of protein into a tasty treat, but you need to read the labels on those things very carefully. Low-grade protein shakes are crammed with mildly absurd amounts of sugar, which definitely won’t do you any favors.

Of course, your body can’t get to protein repair without proper fuel. You need clean-burning carbohydrates, and the best places to get those are whole grains like quinoa. Quinoa is gluten free and easily digestible, so it’ll give your body the carbs it needs without bogging it down with other stuff. Some avocado wouldn’t go amiss, especially if you’re on a low-carb diet. Avocado has healthy fats that your body can burn in lieu of traditional carbs. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of produce, get some dark leafy greens in there for some well-rounded vitamin content.

Before you actually eat your post-workout meal, though, wait until your body cools down. Don’t wanna be in high tension mode when you’re just trying to eat, right? Experts say 10-20 minutes is a good waiting period, so go take a shower and a deep breath, then you can enjoy your food.