When you finish a workout, you fall into one of two camps: You’re ravenous for food, or you shy away from it. But those in the latter group may need to rethink their fueling strategy, as it could be sabotaging your weight loss or fitness-related goals. (If you’re in the former camp, though, here’s how to handle post-workout cravings.)
There are various reasons for skipping food right after a workout. Some think doing so will ruin the work they just put in, while others simply don’t think they have the appetite for it, says Heidi Skolnik, owner of Nutrition Conditioning. And that makes sense: Research shows that exercise—especially long or intense bouts of it—lowers the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, and it can take up to three hours for your appetite to return to normal.
But if you don’t eat ASAP, your appetite may knock you over the head as soon as it returns, says Skolnik. Plus, delaying when you eat slows down your recovery process, which could make it tough to give it your all the next time you hit the gym.
Thankfully, all you really need to do is down a small recovery snack, ideally within an hour of wrapping your workout. Skolnik says that’s when your body is most receptive to muscle repair and glycogen replenishment (the carb stores your body pulls from for quick energy).
It doesn’t have to be a specially-formulated 600-calorie smoothie, either—something as simple as yogurt and a banana, an apple and a stick of cheese, or even eight ounces of chocolate milk can be enough to take the edge off, she adds. As long as it includes energy-restoring carbs and protein you need to kickstart the recovery process, you’re good. (Here are 6 smart snacks to eat after a workout.)
So, next time you’re hemming and hawing about post-recovery fuel, make the caloric investment, says Skolnik. It’ll maximize your sweat time, netting a greater payoff in the long run.