Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Refueling After a Workout: Why and How

How many of us get done with a workout and either don't refuel at all or refuel with something that isn't helping our bodies?  There are a lot of reasons for both of these things: we don't have an appetite after we run, there's nothing that is convenient to grab quickly, we are too concerned about gaining weight... I'm sure there are thousands of reasons out there. But besides all the excuses, it is really important to refuel, especially after a hard workout. (Please remember that I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist, or anything except for someone with experience. If you're having bigger issues or if you're looking for more than experienced advice, please contact your doctor or nutritionist.)



Let me share a small experience I've been having with this. I used to be a nighttime runner all the time. It's just when I had time to do it. I was in a really good routine of getting my workout done, coming home for a really quick refuel snack and then cleaning up and getting ready for bed. In the last year or so, I decided to switch my workouts to morning workouts and I'd have plenty of time and options to refuel after those. Well, when I started training for this half marathon I switched 2 of my morning workouts to evening runs so that Trevon would still have a time to workout on his days too (we switch off who gets to do a morning workout). With three kids and getting home around bedtime after the evening runs, I got out of the refueling routine and I forget about it by the time the kids are in bed and I'm ready to shower.  I neglected that part of my workout routine every evening run.

I started to notice that the nights I had been running I was waking up feeling weak, sweaty, and not being able to fall back to sleep because I was just all around uncomfortable. Panic attacks came a little more frequently (although not as strong as they were before, thank heaven!) and I spent a lot of time a night going through my calming tactics instead of sleeping. I honestly believe that all of this could have been avoided by just one thing ---> fueling.

Why does fueling make such a difference? Well, when we workout we are depleting our storage of carbohydrates which is what your muscles use for energy. Carbs help your body give off big amounts of insulin which helps our bodies repair protein (you guys wouldn't believe how many years it actually took me to understand all of that haha), and protein is what our bodies use to build muscle.  Without these post-workout snacks or meals, our bodies won't have the energy we need to repair our muscles in order to be ready for the next one. You also won't have the energy to do just about anything else for the rest of the day because your body is using every ounce of energy it can find to repair those muscles. This is especially true after a really hard workout.

Now that we've talked about the why let's spend some time talking about some ideas for quick and easy refueling. I have a lot of things that I love to eat right after working out. Food just somehow tastes better after a workout. But what I decide to eat usually depends on a few things like what time of day I'm working out, how much time I have after, and what type of workout I did.

For my morning strength training workouts, I look for something with lots of protein, some good fats, and carbs. A lot of times this will include something like Kodiak Cakes, a breakfast burrito or some eggs with toast and fruit, and almost always a protein drink to go with it. I use THIS protien drink (added to some chocolate milk) and THIS blender bottle to mix it.



Granola is a great post workout snack for just about any time. I eat this after a morning run or strength training workout. I eat it with a lot of yogurt and then pile on the fruit. It gives me a good mix of protein, carbs, and nutrients from the fruit.


When it's an evening run, I look for something a little smaller and quicker. I don't want to have a huge meal before bedtime, I feel like I sleep better when I'm not overly full and I try not to eat much after 7:00 at night in the first place. So for these runs, I reach more for fruit.  I don't think that anything tastes better than a cut up fresh orange after a run. Especially when it's hot outside. Seriously, if we could grow orange trees in Utah I'd plant one today.


If you're in a situation where you're working out on a lunch break, you could refuel with a good lunch afterward. Granola works great again here. Or make yourself a salad with lots of toppings like eggs, cheese, nuts, raisins, ham or chicken.  Even a sandwich with protein (from nut butters or from meat).

If you're someone who doesn't have an appetite after a hard workout, focus on refueling with liquids. A protein shake or chocolate milk will help your body absorb the protein quickly and start rebuilding just as quickly.  And if nothing else, PLEASE, PLEASE remember to hydrate with water until you're ready to eat! Water is so important for your body to function.


What is your favorite way to refuel?

Do you prefer to eat or drink after a workout?

11 comments:

  1. These are great options - thanks so much for sharing! I normally crave nothing but carbs after a long run or hard workout, but over the last year I make sure that I I have a good protein to carb ration for when I re-fuel.

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    1. I never want anything but fruit...sometimes chocolate milk. So it’s hard for me to make sure to get good stuff in!

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  2. I am usually a breakfast with eggs person and some sort of whole grain or toast. I always want carbs but I try to balance them out with protein

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    1. Awesome. I do this a lot for the days I do strength training!

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  3. I usually don't crave food (or even feel hungry for a few hours after a workout)...and I do a lot of my workouts in a "fasted" state. My go-to in the mornings, though, is a chai latte'---it has the carbs and protein to give me a little something until I have my oatmeal at work later.

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    1. That’s how I am a lot of times too. I think that’s one reason people have a hard time knowing what to refuel with! Nothing sounds good to them. Have a great day Kimberly!

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  4. I do struggle with refueling after runs and workouts. It's sometimes so hot that the mere concept of ingesting anything is nauseating. I like chocolate milk, peanut butter, granola with yogurt and fruit or eggs. I should be better about it, but there's always room for improvement,right?

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    1. Right! I’m the same way. Sometimes it’s hard for me to eat right after. That’s why protein shakes come in handy :)

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  5. I usually crave any and all carbs post workout. I know that its not the right thing to refuel with, but some days depending on what's been going on I sometimes cave to the temptation.

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  6. As I've gotten older, my need for protein seems to have increased. I run fasted pretty often, so breakfast after is usually a smoothie with protein powder. I eat eggs for lunch fairly often too.

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  7. I am all for protein when it comes to refueling after a workout! Chocolate milk is one of my favorites!

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