Think you'll slim down faster if you skip eating after a workout? Think again. Snacking on the right post-workout foods can actually jump-start your metabolism and help you burn more calories than if you swear off postsweat sustenance. Just be sure to follow these rules.
- Eat it soon: The best time to grab a snack is even before that post-workout glow fades. Eating within 30 minutes of a moderate-to-intense workout will help your body use your food as fuel, refilling lost glycogen stores that your muscles used during your sweat session.
- Go for lots of carbs (and a little protein): Carbohydrates turn into the glycogen that your muscles need, so focus on getting 1 to 1.5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight; a 130-pound woman, for example, should aim for about 59 to 87 grams of carbs after a workout. Add 10 to 20 grams of lean protein in order to help muscles repair and recover (bonus: eating protein helps you feel less sore after a workout as well). Don't forget that each gram of carbohydrate and protein is four calories, so if you're trying to refuel and lose weight, eat half the amount of carbs within 30 minutes of your workout, and then make up the rest when you eat your next meal. Not sure what healthy options you should go for? Here's a list of low-calorie post-workout snacks that make the cut.
- Don't overdo it: If you're working out to lose or maintain weight, don't use your workout as an excuse to indulge in a post-workout feast. The American Council on Exercise recommends assessing your workout to see if it warrants the calories you want to consume. If you didn't break a sweat or experience labored breathing and an elevated heart rate during your workout, you probably don't need a snack to recover.