Keeping your body in shape involves more than regular exercise, however hard you push yourself. It’s no secret that a nutritious and balanced diet is just as important. Your body needs the right nutrients to replace lost glycogen stores and muscle proteins. But be careful, because some foods can hamper this process. So before we go any further, let’s start with an express guide to how the body works – and the effect training has on it.
Understanding your body
Your body stores excess energy is stored in the form or proteins and glycogen (a type of glucose). When you work out, you burn fuel from the food you’ve eaten beforehand. Then afterwards, you start to break down your stored levels of glycogen. So lean physique depends the right balance of good cardio and weight training, plus the right kind of foods both before and after your sessions.
Before and after
A few hours before you start, you want to take in a mixture of protein and carbs. The closer to your training, the smaller the meal. A few hours after working out, your muscles will then start to use your stored protein to rebuild. That means the ideal time to take in more protein and carbohydrates is 45 minutes after exercising. Why? Because your blood is circulating at an optimal level.
Different goals, different approaches
You can alter your post-workout meal depending on your fitness goals.
- Want to build muscle? Eat protein and carbs 15 minutes after your workout.
- Want to lose weight or just keep fit? Eat around 45 to 60 minutes after your workout.
Obviously it’s not just a matter of when you eat, but of what. Eating the wrong kind of foods can undermine all your hard work in the gym or studio, so watch out out for these 7 foods you want to avoid after working out.
Food to avoid 1. Energy bars
Once you’ve finished your training it’s easy to reach for an energy bar. After all, they sound made for the job, right? Well put it back. Energy bars contain sugar – and you won’t need telling that sugar encourages fat production and slows down your metabolism. So while they’re good to give you a boost before you start training, they’re not so good once you stop.
Food to avoid 2. Fatty and oily temptations
Err, yes. Next.
But hold on a sec.
Sure, it’s a pretty obvious suggestion. But these types of foods deserve a place on the list because they do much more damage than simply hampering your exercise program. Other undesirable effects include:
- Increasing your cholesterol, which then raises the risk of heart disease.
- Restricting your body’s ability to produce glycogen – a glucose which serves as a form of energy storage.
- Making it mission impossible to reduce your fat levels as you’re taking in more fat.
So try not to fall into the temptation of rewarding yourself with large cod and chips after a workout. At least, not too often…
Food to avoid 3. Processed salty snacks
After a workout, it’s normal for your body to crave something salty. That’s because when you sweat your body loses a lot of water, as well as nutrients like potassium. So avoid salty snacks, processed meats, the usual suspects. Bananas make one healthy alternative to quickly replenish your potassium levels.
Food to avoid 4. Raw vegetables
What? Surely raw veg is incredibly healthy? Well yes, just not after exercise. Your post-workout pit stop needs to support muscle development, as well as replace all those vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Raw vegetables won’t help a great deal. Instead, focus on high protein foods like Greek yoghurt, which contains double the protein of regular yoghurt. As a bonus, it also contains carbohydrates. And if your muscles are sore, add some fresh berries which contain micronutrients to help recovery.
Food to avoid 5. Pastries
After working out, your body craves carbohydrates. But while pastries are full of them, unfortunately they’re the wrong kind – low in quality and low in nutrients. So stop gazing at those donuts and dig into dried fruits, wholewheat toast, brown rice or pasta instead. Even if they don’t go so well with your flat white.
Food to avoid 6. Sugary drinks
Gulping down a soda is one of the worst things you can do after a workout. Sugar slows your metabolism – the last thing you need when you’re trying to stay slim. You might not even be aware of how much sugar your favourite drink contains. Glucose? Fructose? Maltose? Corn syrup? All sugars. In fact, there are 56 names for sugar – so watch out. Your best bet? Good old-fashioned water. Natural, unsweetened fruit juice. Even unsweetened ice tea.
Food to avoid 7. Chocolate
Good news. And bad news.
Let’s start with the bad: don’t eat milk chocolate after exercise.
And the good? You can eat it before exercising…in moderation. Because if you love chocolate, if you simply have to have it, a workout provides the perfect opportunity to burn off those extra calories.
Two sides to the story
We all know there’s no fast track to getting fit and staying that way. Planning post-workout meals that refuel your body’s muscles and replace lost nutrients in the right way will play a crucial role. Well, E² can’t help with your diet. But it can help you take care of the other half of the equation with access to premium gyms and studios on demand. Not joined yet? It’s free to download.