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Health / Fitness

The best post-workout meals

Which foods should you eat to replenish your body after exercise? Here are four options to try

Eating the right combinations of food after your workout ensures your muscles get what they need to recover faster.

You have probably heard the term “post-workout window” – the critical time period after your workout when you need to eat in order to ensure a proper recovery. Although it was once thought that a meal was required immediately, it’s actually OK to eat a meal within a few hours of your workout. 

During a workout, the muscles deplete glycogen – the muscle’s primary energy source (they also use aminos) – the protein building blocks that make up muscle; along with important antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that drive metabolic processes during recovery.

Eating the right combinations of food after your workout ensures your muscles get what they need to recover faster and get you back in the gym sooner. Try these four delicious, quick meal combos to maximise your recovery and speed up your gains.

1. Avocado, spinach, sweet potato and chicken

Why? Avocado delivers the super recovery antioxidant glutathione, while sweet potato provides a source of energising carbs and Vitamin B6, which helps you metabolise the carbs you put into your body. Sweet potato also provides a rich source of the antioxidant Vitamin A. Spinach contains a compound called phytoecdysteroids, which has been shown in research to increase protein synthesis and increase strength. Chicken covers all your essential amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair.

Eat this: Combine at least 150g to 200 g of chicken breast with about the same weight in sweet potato for a balanced meal. Eat as much low-calorie leafy green spinach as you like. Even better, serve chopped chicken and sweet potato over a leafy green salad. Mix with light vinaigrette.

Eating the right combinations of food after your workout ensures your muscles get what they need to recover faster.

2. Beetroot, kale, turkey and quinoa

Why? Beetroot is a rich source of natural nitrates, which help feed the pathway of nitric oxide production, increasing vasodilation (the dilatation of blood vessels, which decreases blood pressure) and enhances nutrient uptake into the muscles. Kale is a rich source of antioxidants Vitamin A and C, as well as good source of magnesium, which is an important mineral in muscle function. It also delivers phyto-compounds, which improve hormone balance in the body by reducing the toxic load of estrogen. Quinoa is a grain that delivers 40g of carbs, 8g of protein and 5g of fibre in a one-cup serving, helping to increase post-workout energy levels. Along with 35g of protein per 200g serving – and very little fat – turkey will deliver all the essential muscle-building aminos.

Eat this: Chop roasted beetroot, turkey and kale, and serve with cooked quinoa for a hearty power bowl of ingredients. Add a bit of low fat citrus vinaigrette or mango salsa for a spicy flavour.

3. Oats, egg whites, blueberries, cinnamon

Why? Although whole eggs are a great source of protein, egg whites are devoid of the extra fat that can slow down digestion post-workout. Egg whites are considered one of the best sources of protein because they deliver all the essential amino acids. They’re also one of the most bio-available sources of protein, which means your body absorbs, digests and uses almost all of what you consume. Oats are a great source of energising carbs and are full of fibre.  Blueberries, or any berry for that matter, are high in the antioxidants that can aid in recovery. Cinnamon is a known insulin mimicker, meaning it can act like insulin in the body and help deliver aminos and sugars preferentially to the muscles over fat, which means you’ll get the most out of the nutrients you’re eating in this post-workout meal.

Eat this: Combine quick oats with egg whites and cinnamon, and cook in a non-stick pan for a twist on a quick protein pancake. Top with fresh blueberries and enjoy.

4. Whey protein, coconut water, pineapple and banana

Why? Don’t feel like cooking? Try a protein smoothie instead. Whey protein delivers a source of essential aminos, particularly branched chain amino acids that are important for driving protein synthesis. Instead of water, mix your protein with coconut water, which is rich in electrolyte minerals that are commonly lost during exercise. Pineapple delivers a source of energy, but is also rich in the antioxidant Vitamin C and energising Vitamin B6, and is a great source of magnesium. Banana will help thicken your shake, along with providing another source of electrolytes, particularly potassium.

Eat this: Blend one cup of coconut water, half a frozen banana, a quarter of a cup frozen or fresh pineapple, along with one scoop of vanilla protein powder. Add ice if desired. 

The writer is nutritional director of UAE macro-focused meal-prep company Fuel-Up by Kcal

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