Squeezing some exercise into your day is incredibly important for a number of reasons, but what you eat after your workout can be just as important as the workout itself.
As a registered dietitian, I'm very aware of how eating the right foods at the right time can play a major role in overall health. That's why I eat the same thing after my workout every. single. day. You won't find any fancy, trendy, or overly pricey postworkout drinks or bars in my gym bag. Instead, you'll find half a peeled banana cut lengthwise with nut butter, raisins, and cinnamon in the middle. Sort of a banana, raisin, and nut butter sandwich, if you will.
While it may sound counterintuitive to eat calories after burning a ton off, in the long run, it's incredibly important. Why? After a workout, the body needs to refuel and rebuild. The food that you put into your body helps support that recovery. And if you skip your snack, you run the risk of feeling lightheaded, experiencing cramps, and not seeing the results you want.
The secret is to eat something that has a combination of protein, carbs, and electrolytes. Protein helps repair muscles that may have been damaged by weightlifting, running, or any other activity that engages your muscles. It also helps your body build more muscle tissue. Carbohydrates help to properly rebuild the energy stores that can become depleted during a workout. (Experts recommend eating carbs within 30 minutes of exercise.) And including some nutrients like potassium and sodium can help replenish electrolytes that may be lost when you sweat.
Tie it all up with a boost of hydration, and you have a winning snack that gives your body exactly what it needs. That's where my humble banana, raisin, and nut butter sandwich comes into play. I wash it down with a glass of water, and I'm good to go. This snack gives my body a perfect combo of protein, carbs, and electrolytes, and it's delicious and easy to make. Let's break down the ingredients.
The base of this snack — half a banana — gives my body just enough carbs for a workout that's only mildly intense. Plus, this fruit contains electrolytes like potassium that help keep my fluid balance in check.
The nut butter is packed with protein to help support my muscles and keep me full and satisfied. I alternate between walnut, peanut, and almond butter, depending on which is on sale, and I only choose options that are made from minimal ingredients (typically just ground nuts, salt, and occasionally some oil).
California raisins are my go-to to give my snack a little oomph in the flavor department. Bursting with natural sweetness, raisins are a no-sugar-added topping that really satisfies. And because one serving of raisins contains seven percent of the daily value of fiber and six percent of the daily value of potassium, adding these little powerhouses to my postworkout snack delivers so much more than flavor.
And the cinnamon? While studies show that eating this spice is linked to less muscle soreness and better heart function with aerobic training, my reasoning for adding it is pretty basic — cinnamon tastes awesome.
My postworkout snack is nothing fancy. It doesn't come in an Instagram-worthy package and isn't loaded with the hottest superfood on the internet. But it's inexpensive, portable, and totally satisfying. And because this combination of foods contains key nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, potassium, and more, I don't see myself veering from my snack routine anytime soon.