You've just worked out. You're tired and hungry. At this point, anything will do, right? Wrong. It turns out, the food you eat after exercising may be the most important food you consume all day. Because if you don't refuel properly, you'll be left sore, exhausted and won't see the benefits you could be getting from the time you're putting into your fitness. Experts agree, within a 45-minute window from your workout, your body is the most responsive with absorbing needed carbohydrates and protein. Here are the best foods to rebuild those depleted muscles, without having to hit the health food store.
Ingrid Nelson, a Washington, DC-based personal trainer says that low-fat chocolate milk is the optimal recovery drink—way better than your standard sports drink. In fact, researchers found (PDF) that chocolate milk restores muscle glycogen and rehydrates the body just as well as Gatorade. Plus, it packs a gold mine of calcium, healthy fats and natural whey protein.
Crunched for time? If you're not headed home after working out, stash some trail mix in your gym bag or car. A handful or two of the nuts and dried fruit delivers a quick shot of protein and healthy carbs. Tailor the mix to your taste by making a big batch at home. Combine banana chips, dried pineapple, almonds, walnuts, raisins and for an added protein boost, mix in some soy nuts (a half cup contains a whopping 34 grams).
Some iced green tea isn't just a refreshing, thirst-quenching and caffeinated pick-me-up after a long run or sweat session. The antioxidants in the tea have been found to help metabolize fat and fight exercise-induced free radicals that can cause muscle soreness and inflammation. Make a large pitcher and add in natural flavor boosters like mint or ginger. Or go old-school and master the art of matcha.