Don’t erase your hard work by reaching for a 300-calorie protein bar after a 30-minute workout. Here, the best fitness foods for everyday exercisersBy: Hollis Templeton
If you're quick to replenish the calories you burn during exercise with a post-workout protein bar, smoothie, or sports drink, you could be undoing some of your hard work, especially if you keep your workouts short and refuel with foods that are high calories, fat, and sugar. (Video: Best Post-Workout Snacks) A snack is typically warranted after exercise that lasts 1 hour or longer and should include about 35 g of carbohydrates and 15 g of protein and should not exceed 200 calories, says Leslie Bonci, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and coauthor of The Active Calorie Diet. Here, 5 fitness foods that should be left to endurance athletes along with healthy alternatives for the everyday gym goer. (Related: 10 Ways to Boost Your Calorie Burn)
Tell us your favorite way to refuel after a workout on Facebook!
Energy bars are attractive options for quickly and conveniently refueling your body with a mix of protein and carbohydrates. However, many varieties are highly processed, contain too many calories, and are nutritionally no better than candy bars, according to Lyssie Lakatos, RD, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, the Nutrition Twins and authors of The Secret to Skinny: Drop a Size & Get Healthier. A noteworthy offender: the 220-calorie PowerBar Fruit Smoothie Energy bar. This sweet treat contains a whopping 43 g of carbs, but only 6 g of protein and less than 1 g of fiber. (Search: Why does my workout snack need fiber?) Plus, its number one ingredient is evaporated cane juice syrup, a type of sugar.
Avoid sneaky supermarket tricks with your free cheat sheet and free trial issue of Prevention!
To replenish energy stores and aid muscle recovery and repair, Lakatos and Shames recommend a blend of wholesome carbohydrates, like fruit or whole grains, protein, and a little bit of fat to promote fullness. Try these healthy protein bar alternatives that are approximately 150 calories per snack: 2 dried plums plus 30 pistachios; half of a whole grain English muffin with 2 tablespoons hummus; 6 ounces nonfat Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup berries; or low-fat string cheese and a piece of fruit. If you’re stuck on eating a bar, opt for a Lara Bar, KIND Bar, Clif Luna Bar, or half of a full-size Clif bar, suggests Bonci.
Free Guide: What to Eat to Beat Belly Fat
Your health club’s coolers are likely stocked with a selection of rainbow-colored elixers touted to help you rehydrate and recover in record time. But regular exercisers, those who are likely hitting the gym for a warmup jog on the treadmill followed by some strength training, don’t need anything fancier than water, as even 30 minutes of sweating doesn’t warrant electrolyte replacement, says Manuel Villacorta, RD, creator of the Eating Free program. So skip the Gatorade—a 32-ounce bottle of the original lemon-lime sports drink contains 200 calories and 56 g of sugar. “Often people drink Gatorade the entire time they’re working out and they drink more calories than they burn off,” say Lakatos and Shames. “You don’t need Gatorade unless you’re working out fairly intensely for over an hour.”
Print it! Download this free Sweat is Fat Crying poster as motivation to power through your next gym session
Water is the easiest way to rehydrate sans calories (or cash). If you need a flavor boost, Lakatos and Shames suggest squeezing orange, lemon, or lime juice into your water or opting for all-natural coconut water, like Vita Coco, which contains 45 calories and 515 mg potassium—that’s fewer calories and more electrolytes than there are in a banana.
12 More Ways to Make Your Water Less Boring
Your gym’s juice bar is a diet disaster waiting to happen. Many protein shakes contain more than 500 calories, 40 g of protein, and 60 g of carbs, which is like eating a bagel alongside a chicken breast, says Villacorta. During a gym workout, the average exerciser burns 200 to 300 calories in 30 to 40 minutes, so by snagging a smoothie or shake on your way to the car, you’ll put those calories right back—and add some more, he adds.
You'll wish your gym had these 15 swanky features!
Instead of gulping down your gym’s mysterious muscle-building mix, refuel with a homemade smoothie. Lakatos and Shames suggest this recipe: Blend 5 strawberries, 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt, and ice cubes until smooth. “For less than 100 calories you’ll get a delicious smoothie packed with muscle- and body-healing antioxidants, lean protein, and energy-revving carbs,” they say. For a sweeter treat, Bonci suggests combining 4 ounces vanilla Greek yogurt with 3 ounces chocolate soy milk, a shot of espresso, and a small banana in the blender until frothy.
Video: Organize a Healthy Kitchen
A ready-to-eat blend of dried fruit, nuts, and seeds isn’t a bad way to quickly fill up on nutrients. The problem is that trail mix is calorically dense, so if you don’t pay attention to portion sizes, a couple of handfuls can set you back several hundred calories, say Lakatos and Shames. For example, Planters Fruit & Nut Trail Mix contains 140 calories per ounce. A 1-ounce serving covers about three quarters of your palm.
Tasty 20-Second Snacks
To keep the calories in your go-to hiking snack under control, make your own snack mix and divide single portions into zipper bags, suggest Lakatos and Shames. Mix one serving of your favorite whole grain cereal, like Cheerios, Kashi Go Lean, or bran flakes, with 3 teaspoons slivered nuts or blend 1/2 cup cereal with 1 tablespoon slivered nuts and 1 tablespoon raisins.
The Best Belly-Flattening Cereals
Although some studies tout the fat-burning benefits of exercising on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, delaying your a.m. meal makes it easier to overeat after your workout, says Villacorta. The same thing applies when you head to the gym straight from work without grabbing a snack in between. You’ll likely be ravenous when you wrap up your workout and could end up overeating at dinner.
How to Become a Morning Exerciser
Enjoy a snack, like egg whites and a banana, before your morning workout, and when you are done, eat a moderately-sized breakfast, advises Villacorta. Evening exercisers should eat a snack 30 to 45 minutes prior to exercising and enjoy a moderately-sized post-workout dinner. Lakatos and Shames suggest syncing your workouts and meal times in order to boost your body’s fat-burning power: “The key is to plan your workout so that it finishes at a meal time or a snack time. This way, you can take advantage of the fact that your body is burning calories at a quicker rate.”
Next up: 20 Tips for a Smaller Waistline
Copyright© 2013 Rodale Inc. "Fitbie" is a registered trademark of Rodale, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction, transmission or display is permitted without the written permission of Rodale, Inc.