Depending on when you exercise, it may be necessary to have a small snack after your workout to tide you over until the next meal. It is important to choose a healthy, nutritious snack that replenishes your body without adding too many extra calories.
If you exercise straight before a meal, you may not need to snack, however, if there is going to be a couple of hours until you eat a larger meal, a small snack is appropriate. By choosing a balanced snack with both carbohydrates and proteins, you are less likely to be starving later on and reach for high sugar or fat foods to give an instant energy boost.
Why we need to refuel after working out
After a tough workout, we need to replenish our bodies’ stores of energy. For this reason, we need to include some carbohydrate in a post work out snack. Intense exercise or weight training can also lead to muscle break down, so some protein is also required to provide the essential amino acids necessary to do this.
Refuelling is especially important if you exercise daily as you body will need to re-energise before the next session in order to get the most out of your training.
Types of snacks to choose
Ideally, post workout snacks should be made up of a mixture of protein and carbohydrates, should be relatively low calorie, and provide nutrition. Whilst a chocolate bar may provide you with the necessary protein and carbohydrates, it also provides a large quantity of unhealthy saturated fats and calories and very few nutrients. If you are going to snack, make it worthwhile and provide some nutritional benefit to the body as well as feeding your hunger.
The size of your snack will be different from person to person depending on energy requirements that are based on body weight, sex, and level of physical activity, as well as how the individual eats throughout the day. However, in general it is wise to keep portion sizes small to minimize calories.
Ten Healthy Post Workout Snack Ideas
With carbohydrates from fruit and both protein and carbohydrates from milk, a fruit smoothie makes an excellent post work out recovery snack. Use low fat milk for lower fat and calories and vary the fruits to get a good variety of vitamins. A little natural yogurt can be used to thicken the smoothie and add extra protein.
Beware of commercial smoothies, whilst some may be a good post workout snack on the run, others may contain as many calories as a meal due to their large size and the use of ice cream and high sugar fruit purees rather than fresh fruit.
Fruit and yogurt with a sprinkle of natural muesli
Fruit and muesli provide carbs, whilst yogurt adds a bit of protein to the mix. As well as vitamins and minerals, this snack provides plenty of soluble fibre, thought to keep the heart healthy. Always choose a low fat, unsweetened yogurt where possible and add a little honey to taste if necessary.
Almonds and a small glass of 100% fruit juice
Almonds and other nuts are extremely nutrient rich as well as being high in protein and healthy unsaturated fats. However, due to this high fat content they are also high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.
Juice is also high in calories due to its concentrated form, and some juices may even contain as much sugar as cola drinks, although much higher in vitamins. Eight to ten almonds with a small (about 200ml) glass of fruit juice should provide plenty of protein and carbs without adding too many calories.
Choose unsalted, raw almonds for the healthiest option (see also: best nuts and seeds for weight loss).
Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread
PB provides protein, whilst banana and wholegrain bread provides the carbs and fibre. Low GI carbohydrates such as bananas and whole grains replenish the bodies’ carbohydrates stores and keep blood sugar levels constant for longer, meaning you are more likely to make it to the next meal without hunger.
An unsalted mix of nuts and dried fruits provides both carbs and protein, but is also high in calories so keep serve sizes small. This makes an excellent snack on the go as it travels well and requires no preparation, refrigeration or implements to eat.
Whole grain crackers or rice cakes with low fat cheese
With low GI carbs and protein from cheese, this makes a quick tasty post workout snack. For fewer calories and less fat use a reduced fat cheese or a type of cheese that is naturally lower in fat such as cottage. Alternatively, use a high protein spread such as peanut or almond butter.
Baked beans on toast
Canned baked beans may not seem exactly like a health food, however they are high in fibre and other nutrients meaning that when combined with whole grain bread they provide all of the essential amino acids required by the body.
Cereal bar with a low fat flavoured milk
This snack option is higher in calories and is more appropriate for those not trying to lose weight or undertaking very intensive training regimes, such as athletes. Cereal bars, whilst providing valuable carbohydrates and fibre are often high in sugar and therefore calories. To reduce the calories try combining half a cereal bar with a small serve of low fat flavoured milk.
Cereal with low fat milk
Not only for breakfast, a small bowl of cereal with milk provides all the nutrition you need after a workout. Choose a high fibre, low fat and sugar cereal for the most health benefits. For an even more substantial snack add low fat yogurt and fruit.
Egg on toast
There is often some confusion regarding how healthy eggs actually are, however there is no doubt that they are highly nutritious in terms of nutrients and protein. A scrambled, boiled, poached or fried (in a little healthy oil) egg on toast makes a perfect post workout snack, which can be done in different ways for variety.
If you have concerns regarding cholesterol or fat in the egg yolk, limit this snack to a couple of times a week, although there is building evidence that cholesterol in food does not affect blood cholesterol in the same way as saturated fat does.
References used in this article