Throughout my entire childhood, I have been an athlete. I swam competitively for six years and have played water polo for the past five years. Today, I still play water polo and cross train with various boutique fitness classes and gym days. With the high-intensity workouts that have become a part of my lifestyle for as long as I can remember, comes a high-intensity hunger that will force me to consume the first food in sight. After practice, the first food in sight is typically Joe’s Pizza or Farook’s Halal Cart, right outside of NYU's Palladium Athletic Center. It's cheap and filling and therefore, my go-to. Upon coming home, I would eat chips or any snack I could get my hands on. Essentially, I would eat anything I could get my hands on. This ultimately left my body feeling weak and exhausted. My body was depleted of resources and nutrients it needed after such a strenuous workout.
What Happens To Your Body During A Workout?
During a workout, our body uses up glucose, the body’s sugars, and ATP or adenosine triphosphate, the body’s energy compounds. Although this is our body’s primary source of energy, there are very small amounts in reserve. Therefore, intense exercise results in the depletion of these resources. The body does attempt to recreate ATP using oxygen, but can never produce enough to keep up with this strenuous activity. At this point, the body shifts to lactic acid fermentation. This lactic acid fermentation is a process the body uses to create energy from our muscles without using acid. The lactic acid buildup in one’s muscles is how we end up with sore muscles after a workout.
After a workout, our body needs various resources in order to recover after this intense depletion of resources. Joe’s and Farook’s simply does not cut it. Therefore, it is essential to eat the right foods in order to ensure a healthy recovery and have you feeling great. It is essential to replenish the macronutrients. This includes proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The proteins will help in replenishing muscles and promoting muscle growth. The carbohydrates will help replenish the glycogen lost during a workout, and the fat will further promote muscle growth. Ideally, strive for a three to one carbs to protein ratio. Pro tip: It's essential to eat along these lines within an hour of your workout.
So What Should I Actually Eat?
Some good ingredients for post-workout snacks include sweet potatoes, chocolate milk, rice cakes, oatmeal, pasta, eggs, hummus, yogurt, meat, avocados, nuts, nut butters and trail mix. Given these ingredients, some potential snack options include homemade trail mix, nut butter(s) with bananas, nut butter(s) with rice cakes, hummus with veggies or pita, yogurt with berries, or boiled eggs. My personal favorites are Cava’s spicy hummus with baby carrots and rice cakes with Justin's almond butter topped with bananas. That way, I get the nutrients necessary after an intense workout. Ideally, these meal options will keep you feeling great, rather than drained after an intense workout.