Post-workout is all about refueling and recovery. Think of recovery as having 3 R’s: Replenish, Rebuild, Rehydrate. Replenish means you need carbohydrate to replace what was burned off in exercise. Rebuild means you need protein. Exercise causes breakdown and thus demands protein to help rebuild and repair muscle fibers. Rehydrate means drink up! Workouts cause sweating where athletes lose lots of fluid and electrolytes. Ideally you want simple carbohydrate immediately post-workout because it breaks down quickly. Many adults and parents get nervous that post-workout drinks and shakes have sugar in them, but that is the point. The quicker the digestion, the quicker recovery begins. Whey protein is the ideal protein choice after a workout as it is also quick digesting and contains the highest content of leucine, an amino acid that independently has been shown to stimulate muscle resynthesis after a workout. If you or a family member is allergic to milk protein, not lactose intolerant, then you can use soy, egg white, pea proteins, etc. If you are lactose intolerant, just be sure to make your shakes and smoothies with whey protein isolate as it has less than 1% lactose.
The goal is to eat as quick as you can post-workout, but ideally within 45 minutes. If you can do it faster, then great! Because many athletes are not hungry, shakes and smoothies can be a nutrient-rich option to start recovery. In addition, it can count towards their rehydration. Get a quick snack within the 0 – 45 minutes after a workout then follow it up with a meal of complex carbohydrate, lean protein, veggies and fluid.
Here are 5 quick, nutrient and protein-rich snack options for post-workout at any age:
- Low-fat chocolate milk: Whey protein is a milk protein and milk has one gram of protein an ounce! Chocolate adds a little sugar which is helpful for post-workout replenishing. In addition, low-fat chocolate milk is affordable, convenient and everywhere! It is even in your child’s school cafeteria after morning athletic class. You can also find it at a convenient store or fast food restaurant after a tournament or when traveling. It is a great nutrient bang for your buck!
- Fruit Smoothie: Making a smoothie can be a blast of nutrients post-workout. Mix whey protein or low-fat Greek yogurt with milk, fruit and honey to help refuel. Fruit like bananas and strawberries provide carbohydrate as well as potassium, which is an electrolyte lost in sweat and essential to replace.
- Ready-to-Drink Shake: Ready-to-drink shakes can be an easy on-the-go choice. Most provide 200-300 calories and 10-20 grams of protein which is great for an active child, adolescent or adult. Most are also lactose-free so they won’t bother those with lactose intolerance.
- Yogurt Parfait: If you are hungry after a workout, make a yogurt parfait with low-fat Greek yogurt, fruit, honey and cereal/granola. Because Greek yogurt is in the dairy family, it too contains whey protein.
- Protein Bar: If you don’t prefer milk or shakes, try a protein bar. Ideally look for a protein bar with 30-45 grams carbohydrate, 10-20 grams protein and lower in fat. After a hard workout, you can also pair a bar with a sports drink that provides fluid and electrolytes to round out the recovery process. If you have kids carpooling after practice, this can also be a great way to get them a quick recovery snack that’s convenient!