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How to tell whether you need that post workout snack and what to eat if you do

How to tell whether you need that post workout snack and what to eat if you do

Following on from this article, we’ve prepared a few ideas for ideal post-workout snacks, some of which might just surprise you. Make sure you don't use your workout as an excuse to gorge though - check you really need it by running through our checklist at the bottom.

The natural reflexive thing to do once you finish a session at the gym is to reach out for your prepared snack, glug your sugar-laden drink or even munch on something super fatty. It provides the instant gratification that you think your body needs but is this really the case? Sports scientists working in coordination with the American Dietetic Association believe it’s better to wait. They suggest that a moderate to high intensity workout of 90 minutes should mean you need a healthy snack within 30 minutes of completion.

In case you missed the previous article, the exact recommendation is up to 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogramme of body weight to fully replenish your body’s glycogen stores, and then a further portion of lean protein - up to 20g - to support the repair of muscle tissue.

Here are some recommended post-workout snacks which meet the above guidelines and should be eaten alongside up to 400ml of water.

Non-Fat Greek Yoghurt and Fruit

Non-fat yoghurt is great because it’s packed with the protein your body needs and is also low in sugar and fat. This means it can be an enjoyable snack at any time of the day and is especially great when topped with banana or berries for extra flavour and an added boost.

Banana and Peanut Butter

It may not sound particularly appetising but this snack is ideal for a quick boost. Bananas are high in fructose and are also a high-glycaemic carbohydrate which is great for quick energy conversion. Add just a tablespoon of peanut butter and you’ve got the proteins you need and a tiny bit of healthy fat. Keep this particular snack as a treat because of its fat content.

Protein Shake plus Banana

If you’re looking for the perfect recovery shake combine two scoops of whey protein with half a banana and it’s a great way of refuelling post-workout and remember you have 30 minute window so a quick shake is the perfect option.

Chocolate Milk

Chances are you’re reading this and thinking fat! It isn’t necessarily the case as you can get low fat chocolate milk and it’s a perfect combination of the right proteins and carbohydrates needed to restore your missing glycogen as well as repair your muscle tissue. This is the perfect recovery snack for endurance athletes, even mid-exercise, as it can support the level of performance you need.

Wholegrain Waffles with Greek Yoghurt and Peanut Butter

Combine the sweetness of a waffle, packed with wholegrain goodness, with the qualities we’ve already mentioned are great about yoghurt and peanut butter. If you really do love waffles then save them for your post-workout snack and you can get all the benefits they offer without the guilt.

Whole-wheat Muffin with Turkey Breast and Houmous

This snack may feel a bit more substantial than the others so if you’re having real hunger pangs this is the one to grab. Combine your Greek dip with the lean protein in turkey breast and a whole-wheat muffin for the carbs your body needs after pushing itself to its limits.

Do you really need it?

If it’s part of your routine to have a snack after your workout you probably eat or drink it before even thinking if you need it or not. These are unnecessary calories on the days where you simply don’t need the extra. After every workout ask yourself if it merits a snack and remember our initial point – 90 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise results in a bodily need for a snack, any less than this and your body probably doesn’t need it at all. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a snack at all but it may mean you pare it down a little and cut back on the calories. Below are our three top questions to ask yourself to determine whether you need a snack:

  1. Did you break a sweat? Whilst working out did you sweat profusely? If the answer is no then chances are your body will only need rehydrating with plain water rather than sugary foods and drinks.
  2. Was your heart rate increased? Low intensity exercise is better than none at all but in most instances it won’t merit a snack at the end. Increased heart rates and working at a higher level of intensity will deplete the glycogen stores in your body and tear up the muscle tissue which creates the need for your snack.
  3. Was your breathing affected? If your breathing becomes laboured throughout your workout then you’ve stepped into the moderate intensity level of your personal capabilities. A healthy post-workout snack can be acceptable in these circumstances too – even if you didn’t make it as far as 90 minutes.

There are many suitable foods for a post-workout snack as long as your body needs it. It may be part of your routine, even on those days where you don’t push quite as hard, and you need to have a proper think about how much you need it and whether those extra calories are worth the momentary gratification.