The sports nutrition industry is certainly booming. So it’s no surprise that television commercials and magazine ads—and websites, too (guilty!)—are loaded with ads for foods and drinks that help you “refuel” and “recharge” after a workout.
While there’s a time and place for these products—more on them in a minute—not every workout demands an immediate snack or meal, says Rob Danoff, DO, a Philadelphia-based physician with a subspecialty in sports medicine.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Do I have to refuel after exercise?’ ” Danoff says. “The answer I usually give them is no.” Especially if you’ve only engaged in a light workout—say, a gentle yoga class, or a short run—your body doesn’t need to replace much, Danoff says.
“If you exercised first thing in the morning before breakfast, then of course you need to eat something,” he says. “But if you’ve eaten a meal during the last four to six hours, you really don’t need food right after a light or moderate workout.”
And when it comes to those calorie-dense sports drinks and bars, you’re more likely sabotaging your workout gains than aiding them. “They can be helpful if you’ve done an hour or more of vigorous exercise,” Danoff says. But for most of us, a few celery sticks or a banana and some water will get the job done, he says.
What other post-exercise eating mistakes are you making? Keep reading.
You go nuts on protein.
There’s a persistent myth that exercisers need to pound a lot of protein after a workout in order to maximize their strength gains. Not true. As long as your daily diet includes adequate protein intake—that’s 46g for adult women, according to the National Academy of Medicine—there’s no need to eat a lot of protein right after a workout (here’s the perfect daily amount), concludes a study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
You drink alcohol.
Knocking back a few glasses of wine after a workout may mess with your muscles’ ability to effectively recover and rebuild, shows a study in PLOS One. The good news: A single glass of wine or beer probably won’t cause issues, the study team says.
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