6 Tips for an Optimal Post-Workout Meal, According to a Performance Nutrition Coach
This article was produced in partnership with Healthy Choice.
So, you had an incredible workout, and now it’s time to follow up the effort with a meal to match. But finding the right balance among protein, carbs, fiber, and fats can have you wishing you were hitting the squat rack again instead. Thing is, eating right isn’t as complicated as it might seem. Enjoying a great post-workout meal really just comes down to planning. In fact, no-prep meals like Healthy Choice Max Bowls make it downright simple, not to mention tasty (more on this below).
Step one, according to Scott Tindal, a performance nutrition coach and co-founder and chief nutrition officer at Fuelin, a company that provides personalized, sport-specific nutrition guidance to athletes, suggests identifying the purpose of your workout. “Is it high performance, such as training for a sporting event, or is it focused on body composition? That’s going to dictate overall caloric intake and the way you’re going to feel on a day-to-day basis,” he says.
Before we get into the specifics of what makes a quality post-workout meal, it’s important to understand that your training and nutrition go hand in hand. “The training is only going to be as good as the nutrition that supports it,” Tindal says. “Don’t expect eating more protein to make you some sort of Adonis. You gotta put the work in.”
Here’s how to reach for meals that optimize your body and, as a result, your overall well-being.
1. Look for high-protein foods
While protein isn’t a magic muscle-maker, it is one of the keys to refueling after exercise. For muscle growth, around 1.6 or 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight is recommended. But to avoid undershooting, Tindal suggests going for somewhere around 2 to 2.5 grams per kilogram. When you eat protein, a higher percentage of those calories are used to metabolize what you’re eating (known as the thermic effect of food) than when you eat carbs or fat. Plus, high-protein meals tend to improve feelings of fullness and satiation. With 33 to 34 grams of protein per serving, Healthy Choice Max Bowls are an excellent option to help hit your ideal daily protein quota.
Keep in mind, Tindal says, this formula assumes there aren’t any underlying health conditions that might prevent you from taking in high amounts of protein. If you’re not sure, ask your doctor.
2. Fill up on fiber
Tindal notes that the average daily consumption of fruits and vegetables in the U.S. is low, around 2 or fewer servings per day when it should be between 5 to 9. He advises aiming for 6 servings, or “six fists,” if you need a visual. This will also help you get an optimal amount of fiber in your diet, ideally around 25 grams or more. With ingredients like black beans, roasted sweet corn, red bell peppers, edamame, leafy greens, and zucchini, Healthy Choice Max Bowls are an excellent source of fiber. Healthy Choice Max Tex Mex Chicken Bowl, for example, has 12 grams.
3. Top it off with good carbs
After protein, carb-rich foods are going to make up the rest of your caloric intake. Tindal advocates for a carb target that’s balanced with the amount of protein you’re eating—so if you’re aiming for 150 grams of protein, a similar amount of carbs is a good starting point. More importantly, you should focus on whole foods, with “a majority of those carbohydrate sources coming from vegetables and salads,” he says. After veggies, Tindal recommends eating root vegetables and fruit, as well as rice, grains, pulses (think beans, lentils, and peas), and pasta, particularly if you have more body mass and need to consume more carbs to hit your daily quota (2 to 5 grams per kilogram of body weight). Carbs will also prepare your body for tomorrow’s workout by replenishing glycogen stores.
4. Avoid high-fat foods
“Fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient,” Tindal says. Fats certainly aren’t bad, but they offer the least bang for your buck in terms of helping you feel full and delivering energy. Choose your fats wisely and opt for monounsaturated fats like olive oil, avocados, and almonds along with omega-3 fats found in small, oily fish. Aiming for somewhere around 0.8-to-0.9 grams per kilo of body weight is a good place to start. With just 4 to 7 grams of monounsaturated fat and 9 to 14 grams of fat per serving, Healthy Choice Max Bowls fit the bill.
5. Eat complex and complete meals
While improving your body composition and building muscle requires that you burn more calories than you consume, that doesn’t mean you have to be hungry or eat small meals. Oftentimes the opposite is true. “If you’re not eating, then you’re not going to feel good about your training,” Tindal says. This could lead to inconsistencies in your routine, low energy levels, reduced effort and, in turn, prevent you from achieving your workout goals altogether. Tindal says, “If your protein intake is high and you’re eating lots of fruits and vegetables, you will eat a lot of food, probably more food than you’re used to eating.”
6. Save time with the right pre-made meal
Between commuting, work, working out, and your other daily obligations, you likely don’t have time to cook every meal from raw ingredients. But that doesn’t mean you need to succumb to that temptation to order delivery. “You may have no way of quantifying the amount of food or calories you’re eating if you’re eating takeout,” Tindal says. So how do you make eating healthy less of an onerous task? Reach for frozen meals like Healthy Choice Max Bowls, which meet the rest of the above parameters for a healthy, active lifestyle, and are ready in the time it takes to place an order.
For more inspired post-workout meal ideas, visit Healthy Choice.com or shop now on Instacart.