I’ve been going to the gym lately, about three times a week. I spend about two hours each visit. After stretching, I do strength training and then Zumba class. When I’m done, I feel great but am exhausted and famished. It’s very tempting for me to just grab anything for lunch, but that would undo all the hard work I just did. However, I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way after a hard workout.

Most people know that a healthy diet and exercise go hand in hand. But a protein shake or salad doesn’t always sound enticing when your body is screaming for a cheeseburger or something else unhealthy. Don’t fret! Here are some tips that will help prevent you from derailing your progress and stay on the health track.

Timing can be Crucial

Some people believe that when to eat is just as important as what to eat. Ideally you’re supposed to eat about 30 minutes after a workout, one hour at the most. Why? Because after you exercise, your muscles are somewhat damaged and will start self-repairing. It’s the perfect time to replace the nutrients that you lost from working out. This 30-minute gap is referred to as the “anabolic window”. Although some follow this rule stringently, some studies suggest that eating during the anabolic window is necessary only if you didn’t eat for several hours prior to your workout and thus need immediate nutrition replenishment.

If you do choose to follow the anabolic window, then consider bringing along a protein shake to the gym as a quick snack once you’ve finished your workout. In my case, since I shower before leaving the gym, and driving home, it can take me almost an hour before I can finally eat something. But since I eat breakfast about two to three hours prior to working out, I think I’m ok.

Carbs and Protein are Your Friends (after a workout)

Although carbohydrates have been vilified for many years, they are just what you need after strenuous exercise.  When you work out, your muscles use a large amount of carbs for energy while protein is depleted. Therefore, your body will need to replenish them once it goes into repair mode. However, what it doesn’t need is fat so try to avoid foods high in fat. And of course, don’t forget a tall glass of water.

Some Healthy Post-Workout Meals and Snacks

Peanut Butter Sandwich

A simple peanut butter sandwich on whole grain toast is a healthy and delicious light lunch or snack. Skip the sugary jelly and instead add some sliced bananas!

Salmon Fillet

Salmon is one of my favorite kinds of fish not only because it’s yummy, but it’s also very healthy. Packed with omega 3s and other vitamins, salmon is a terrific source of protein. Pair it with a baked potato or sweet potato, and you have a delicious, muscle-building lunch.

Veggie Omelet

I like veggie omelets because they’re really fast to make, which is great when you’re starving. Dice the veggies the day before and put them in containers, then when you’re ready just take everything out.

Grilled Chicken

This is a classic, standby healthy meal. Pair the grilled chicken breast with a veggie salad, baked potato, or sweet potato salad as in the above photo.

Avocado Toast with Egg

Here we are again with avocado toast! I like mine very simple, with just slices of avocado and hard-boiled egg on toasted whole grain bread, with a bit of salt and pepper. It’s surprisingly filling.

Cheese and Crackers

Cheese and crackers is a simple, fast snack. Stick to low-fat cheeses and whole grain crackers. Consider topping with a small slice of turkey or ham as added protein.

What are some of your favorite, go-to post workout meals and snacks? Feel free to share some of your recipes and ideas in the comments

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