“An example of a great post-workout snack would be a Lavva yogurt (unrefined carbohydrates), your favorite berries (more unrefined carbohydrates), and your favorite nuts and seeds (for protein).” Learn more from Nutritionist Charlotte Press of @press.startnutrition about eating for your workouts below.
Protein around workout time is important for many reasons, but the beauty of it is that it’s somewhat flexible in when you get it and what form it comes in.
After a workout, protein is important to help your muscles recover. Exercise is naturally a catabolic process, which means that even though it can help you get stronger, it is a process that breaks down tissue. It causes tiny tears in your muscles which can rebuild and get stronger when given the right fuel. The rebuilding part is known as an anabolic process. So what is the right fuel? A mix of protein and unrefined carbohydrates are ideal to help your body rebuild those tiny tears built in the muscles after a workout. The unrefined carbohydrates will also replenish your glycogen (or energy stores) that were depleted during the workout. There is a common myth that you need this as soon as possible post-workout. However, I do think it’s ideal to get within a two-hour window of a strenuous workout.
What kind of protein and unrefined carbohydrates should you eat? This is the fun part because there are SO many options and it’s going to partially depend on your schedule and preferences. You can do an animal or plant-based protein, and carbohydrates can come from fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains and even some from nuts and seeds (like pili nuts!). Some of my favorite plant-based protein options are hemp seeds (these are one of the few that are considered a “complete” protein since they contain all nine essential amino acids), chia seeds, flax seeds, and all types of legumes or legume-based products like pea protein isolate. An example of a great post-workout snack would be a Lavva yogurt (has some unrefined carbohydrates), your favorite berries (more unrefined carbohydrates), and a bunch of your favorite nuts and seeds (for protein).
Before a workout, protein can also be helpful. Here, I think it’s great to pair protein with healthy fats and unrefined carbohydrates because the focus is on energy rather than rebuilding. Healthy fats, like those in pili nuts, will slow digestion, thus making the energy you get from the snack longer and more sustained. The protein will help keep you full during the workout and the carbohydrates will give you easily usable energy. Bonus: if you only have time for a pre-workout meal/snack and not a post-workout one, your body should be able to use some of that protein/carb combo you ate pre-workout to help with post-workout recovery, as long as you are eating enough overall.
So here is where the flexibility comes in. If you feel awful when you eat before a workout (I know I have many clients that do), don’t force it! Get that protein and unrefined carbs post-workout. But if you are one of those people who really feels like they need to eat a little something to power through a workout, and this is definitely me, then go for that protein, healthy fat, carbohydrate combo ahead of time. And finally, if you want to do both, that can work too!