Meals that are hard to digest, full of sugar, or loaded with saturated fat can do serious damage, right at the moment when your body needs to repair itself most.
With that in mind, we set out to uncover the worst foods to eat after a workout, and we asked the nation’s most trusted nutrition experts exactly which foods to avoid.
1. Meal-Replacement or Protein Shakes
“Many meal replacement drinks on the market are filled with junk that will actually hinder your post-workout success,” says Orbeck. “Avoid labels with chemical sugars like aspartame, artificial flavors, and colors. If real food can’t be an option, go for ones with basic ingredients.” The Eat This, Not That! team recently analyzed pounds of different protein powders to determine what’s alright and what’s on the no-fly list.
2. Fried Eggs
Eggs are a wonderful way to get your protein after a workout—as long as you eat them raw or hard-boiled. If you hit a diner or greasy spoon after your workout, don’t order your eggs over-easy or sunny-side-up. You’re guaranteed to get them drenched in saturated fats—something you want to keep out of your diet right after a big sweat session.
3. Sugary Drinks
Juices—especially fruit punch—should be avoided at all costs because it contains high levels of fructose. “It’s slow to digest,” says Natasha Forrest, a personal trainer at Crunch gyms. “And it reduces the fat burning effects of a high intensity or fat-burning workout as it adversely promotes fat storage.”
4. Black Beans
Stay away from black beans in any form—solo, in soups or stews, or even in burger form. “They have a high fiber count of 15 grams, which slows down the digestive process,” says Albers. But worst of all? “It’s likely that eating beans post-workout will just make you gassy.” No thanks!
A big no-no after working out is eating anything that will spike your energy and cause a crash. “This means you should be avoiding refined sugars found in candy,” say Karena Dawn and Katrina Hodgson of Tone It Up. “Candy lacks important nutrients that give your body the sustained energy you need in order to recover and still get through your day. Instead, it’s best to make a protein-packed smoothie post-workout! This will not only keep you satisfied until your next meal, it’ll also give you everything you need to repair your muscles and decrease recovery time.”
6. Raw Veggies
Skipping raw veggies after a workout may seem confusing since they usually are a great choice. But it’s not the nutritional value that is the problem. “The problem is how filling raw veggies can be when your body needs serious replenishment,” says Lawless. “After a tough workout, you need calories, high-quality carbohydrates, and protein. If you fill up on raw veggies that take a lot of volume in the stomach and make you feel full very quickly, you won’t be getting the amount nutrients or calories you need post workout.”
7. Energy Bars
Say what? Wouldn’t an energy bar make sense, thanks to the fact that they are supposed to give you, well, energy? Not so much. “These might have a lot of protein, which is seemingly great for repairing and building your muscles post-workout,” explains Annie Lawless, health/wellness expert and founder of Blawnde.com. “But in reality, most of the bars on the market are mostly sugar and no more nutritionally-sound than a candy bar. And I’m not talking about natural sugar, either; many bars contain refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, making them a nightmare for your blood sugar.” Get your protein from a whole food source like eggs and pass on the processed packaged bars.
8. Simple Carbs
Taylor Gainor and Justin Norris, co-founders of LIT Method sum up eating white bread or pastries in a simple word: “No.” Why not?
“All that fat slows down digestion, which will do the exact opposite of what you want to happen after working up a sweat,” they explain. “Consuming high amounts of sugars also will work against you if you are trying to lose weight because it slows down your metabolism.”
Sigh. Are we really going to tell you that you can’t have chocolate after all your hard work? Yep! At least not immediately after.
“Avoid chocolate bars if you’re trying to lean down,” explains Lola Berry, author of The Happy Cookbook. “Remember that training will have sped up your metabolism; use that to your advantage by keeping your diet super clean with whole foods.” But if you really can’t kick that craving, Berry says to melt two tablespoons of coconut oil with one teaspoon of raw cacao powder, a pinch of cinnamon, and a smidge of Stevia to make a sugar-free chocolate sauce that you can pour over a bowl of fresh berries!
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