7 Eating Mistakes You Make After Your Work Out
The sports nutrition industry is certainly booming. So it’s no surprise that television commercials and magazine ads—and websites, too (guilty!)—are loaded with ads for foods and drinks that help you “refuel” and “be healthy” after a workout. But what are some eating mistakes you make after your workout?
While there is a time and place for these products, not every workout demands an immediate snack or meal, especially if you’ve only engaged in light exercise, says Rob Danoff, D.O., a Philadelphia-based physician with a subspecialty in sports medicine.
“If you exercised first thing in the morning before breakfast, then, of course, you need to eat something,” he explains. “But if you’ve eaten a meal during the last four to six hours, you can control your post-workout cravings and you really don’t need food right after a light or moderate workout.”
And when it comes to those calorie-dense sports drinks and bars, especially after a light exercise you are not helping your body get rid of belly fat, rather you’re more likely sabotaging your workout gains than aiding them. “They can be helpful if you’ve done an hour or more of vigorous exercise,” Dr. Danoff says. What other post-workout eating mistakes are you making? Keep reading.
6 Post-Workout Eating Mistakes
1) You Go Nuts On Protein
There’s a persistent myth that exercisers need to pound a lot of protein after a workout in order to maximize their gains. But as long as your daily diet includes adequate protein intake—we recommend 30 grams per meal—there’s no need to scarf your day’s worth of protein right after a workout, concludes a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
2) You Drink Alcohol
Knocking back a few glasses of wine after a workout may mess with your muscles’ ability to effectively recover and rebuild, shows a study in PLOS One. The good news: A single glass of wine or beer probably won’t cause issues, the study team says.
3) You Overindulge
Many of us tell ourselves that, because we exercised, we can eat whatever we want. This mindset can even bleed into our non-workout days, says Jenna Braddock, R.D.N.
“I ran five miles two days ago, so it’s okay to go all out tonight at dinner,” she says, giving an example of the kind of unhelpful mindset she’s been guilty of herself. But most research shows what you eat matters a lot more than how much you exercise when it comes to your waistline. It’s fine to indulge a bit from time to time, but don’t let the fact that you got in a workout steer you toward a massive or unhealthy meal, Braddock says.
There are ways to combat your post-workout cravings and mindset of eating whatever we want to reward ourselves after a workout. These methods can include filling up on fiber, drinking water, eating an alternative healthier snack, or even having a meal plan so you are already set and know what to eat and how much to eat for one meal!
4) You Skip Carbs
Really, you need carbohydrates, especially after an hour or more of high-intensity exercise—think running or swimming—your muscles require lots of glycogen to bounce back and grow stronger, says Nancy Cohen, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Healthy carbs—stuff like fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains—are the best dietary sources of glycogen. Cohen says you’ll want to consume roughly 1 gram of healthy carbs per kilogram of body weight within 60 minutes of finishing your workout. A fruit-rich smoothie will get you there.
5) You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
Here is a shocker. You are likely dehydrated – yes, that’s right and you are likely underestimated your dehydration levels and how harmful dehydration is for your body. For example, according to research from the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism runners underestimate the amount of water they sweat away by fully 50 percent. Even a light workout—one where you don’t feel like you were sweating hard—can lead to mild dehydration. Weigh yourself before and after your workout, Cohen advises. For every pound of body weight you lose, you want to drink roughly that amount of water. (One pound equals 16 ounces.)
6) You Don’t Plan Ahead
If you’ve busted your butt during your workout, you’re going to feel some serious hunger cravings that you need to control. This is the worst time to decide what to eat. Our brains are wired to crave high-calorie, energy-rich foods when we’re hungry, suggests research from Cornell University. Those calorie cravings drive us to select unhealthy foods. Hungry shoppers bought 46 percent more high-calorie items (and fewer healthy foods) than their less-famished counterparts, the Cornell team found. You’re better off planning your post-workout snack or meal before you hit the gym.