Power Up Post-Sweat
Here’s how it works: As you exercise, your body depletes its stores of glycogen (your main source of energy). If you don’t replenish those levels by consuming carbs, you’ll feel exhausted. And we all know that being sleepy leads to bad decisions (we see you, mint choco ice cream).
It also helps you build that lean muscle. "As you work out, your muscles develop micro-tears," says Sharon Richter, New York City-based dietitian. "Eating protein shortly afterwards fills in those abrasions," says Richter. "That’s how you build muscle and become stronger." Besides sculpting 'gram-worthy arms, toning up improves your posture, which makes you look thinner without losing a freaking pound.
And since a post-exercise protein fix boosts lean body mass, it fires up your metabolism. Part of that is thanks to the after burn effect, which is when your body continues incinerating calories long after your workout ends. "Consuming adequate protein also ensures weight loss is coming from fat, not muscle tissue," says Biden.
What to Eat
With that in mind, aim to eat a 100 to 150 calorie snack containing at least 10 grams of carbs and 10 grams of lean protein, says Amanda Figge, a dietitian at the Springfield Clinic in Illinois. That combo preps your muscles to act like a sponge so they absorb glucose and amino acids, which help prevent muscle loss, says Figge.
Snack 15 to 45 minutes after exercising, which is when your body is able to use the nutrients most efficiently. Oh, and don’t worry about modifying your next meal to compensate for those cals or carbs. 150 calories worth of food is just a bonus to energize you and build lean muscle, says Richter.
Last, but not least, remember to guzzle at least eight ounces of H20 while chowing down. "Our muscles are composed of 80 percent water, and if you don’t hydrate them they won’t strengthen," says Richter.
Grab one of these quick, tasty options that can actually boost your results:
- 150 calories worth of chocolate milk (opt for a brand with low sugar that doesn’t contain additives), plus a few nuts on the side
- Apple slices or a small banana with two tablespoons of peanut butter
- A single-serving container of hummus with carrots
- Plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with granola and fresh berries
- A quarter cup of nuts and dried fruit (divide it ahead of time into baggies)
- A slice of whole grain bread topped with a half-cup of cottage cheese and tomato