What to Eat After Exercise | Meal Ideas with Recipes
What is the ideal low carb meal for when you return from your run or after finishing a yoga session? Can you have a sweet treat as reward for being active? And how much protein should you get? Let’s take a look at a few meal ideas and recipes to answer these questions.
What happens after exercise?
When you are active, your muscles use fuel that’s stored in your body to keep you moving. Usually, you burn a mix of glycogen, a complex sugar stored in the muscle, and body fat for energy. The muscle tissue also gets damaged in this process, some of its proteins break down and need to be repaired. This means you have to give your body two things to deal with this. Energy in a form of carbs or fats and building materials in a form of protein.
Get enough protein
It’s important to have some protein after exercise as well as before it to make sure your body has enough material to recover well. Studies have shown that getting 20 – 40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body’s ability to recover after exercise (1). If you want to see what 20 g of protein looks like check out our previous blog post on pre-workout nutrition.
Refill your energy stores
Eating carbs after exercise is the fastest way to replenish the energy stores you burn while exercising. That’s why professional athletes like marathon runners or Tour de France cyclists rely on carbs for their hard training. But the thing is, most of us exercise just to stay healthy or look good. This means that we don’t need to replenish sugar super-fast.
If you enjoy low to medium intensity activities like hiking, yoga, jogging, or casual cycling you probably burn mostly fat and your muscle glycogen energy reserves remain relatively untouched. Also, if you follow a low carb diet then your body is already good at burning fat for energy instead of carbs. Research shows that meals containing fat as the main source of energy can restore your energy reserves just fine (2). Let’s stick to low carb meals and enjoy all the benefits that a low carb lifestyle can bring.
Don’t worry about timing of your meals
It’s commonly advised to eat within 45 minutes after exercise to best rebuild energy reserves (3). But as we now know, this is not a big priority for most of us. Doing sports for fun and general fitness doesn’t require much nutrient timing. If you plan a protein rich meal anywhere between 1-3 hours after exercise your body will do just fine. Let’s take a look at a few examples of such meals and also a few low carb sweet treats you can plan after your exercise is done.
High protein meals after exercise
You don’t have to use protein powders or eat a lot of meat to get enough protein for your active lifestyle. There are plenty of tasty options to be discovered. We wrote about ways to include extra plant protein in a diet in our previous post. We believe that pizza and pasta should be something you can enjoy when you’re trying to eat well. Here are two examples of meals that give you all the energy and protein you need to recover after exercise.
Protein pizza with broccoli and bell peppers
Thanks to the flaxseed-based high protein Lizza pizza bases you can enjoy a crunchy post-workout dish that tastes amazingly. One pizza with this recipe offers north of 48 g of protein!
Protein pasta with pumpkin pesto
Our high protein low carb Lizza pasta with pumpkin pesto is the ideal meal for when you just finished working out. It won’t make you tired and sleepy like a wheat-based pasta dish often would. And it has an amazing 27 g of protein.
Sweet snacks after exercise
When your next meal is still far away when you stop exercising it’s time for a snack. Why not make it a sweet snack after all that hard work. If you choose your ingredients right you can enjoy a tasty treat with a boost of protein. Here are two tasty recipes for you to try. Also, check out our blog post on healthy low carb snacks if you are looking for more inspiration.
Carrot banana protein muffins
These carrot-banana muffins with our coconut-based Lizza baking mix will give you the protein you need without sacrificing the irresistible flavour. Just two muffins carry 9 g of protein. It will be the sweetest protein dose you ever had.
High protein baked apples
You can enjoy high protein pasta in a sweet way with this stunning looking recipe. Each serving has 10 g of protein to kick start your recovery.
Keep your hydration going
It is important to drink enough fluids before and after exercise. During exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat and you need to replenish those to recover well and stay healthy. If you exercise in a hot climate and tend to sweat a lot, make sure to eat something salty along with your glass of water to replenish sodium, the most abundant electrolyte in sweat.