We’ve all been there—you step off the treadmill or power through a particularly tough training session and you feel invincible!
Perhaps you even feel like you deserve a prize for all that hard work: An edible one. With extra cheese. We’re looking at you, pizza.
But not so fast! You need food post-workout to restore your energy, build muscle, and boost your metabolism, but the wrong kind can undo the hard work you just put in. Meals that are hard to digest, full of sugar, or loaded with saturated fat can do serious damage, right at the moment when your body needs to repair itself most.
With that in mind, we set out to uncover the worst foods to eat after a workout, and we asked the nation’s most trusted nutrition experts exactly which foods to avoid. And no matter what time of day it is, be sure you’re always staying away from any of the 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet!
Spicy foods—anything with salsa, sriracha or hot sauce—are hard to digest, and you’ll want to stay away from these choices. “Your body just accomplished a major effort and is a state of repair,” says Michelle Neverusky, Fitness Manager of Carillon Miami Beach. “It needs things that are easy to digest, a little protein, a little sugar to bring your sugar levels back to an even keel, and mostly carbohydrates to replenish your energy levels.”
Smoothies From Pre-Made Mixes
They made be wildly convenient—especially if you are low on time and are whipping something up after an at-home workout—but they usually contain a lot of added sugars. “Your body burns through complex carbs and then fat. Drinking sugary drinks or snacks stops the fat burning process,” explains Susan Albers, Psy.D of the Cleveland Clinic. “Make your own smoothies from scratch with a protein base. Drink slowly and mindfully!”
Maybe you want the caffeine, maybe you want the bubbles, or maybe you just find it refreshing but repeat after us: Never ever drink soda after a workout. “Your body needs to hydrate, and soda won’t do that for you,” says Stephanie Mansour, a weight-loss and lifestyle coach for women. “Plus, soda may make you bloated!”
Skip the oils, seeds, anything fried, and even nuts after your workout. “Fat acts to slow the digestion process in the gut and will, therefore, delay the delivery of much-needed nutrients into the muscles,” explains Paul Roller, coach at CrossFit Outbreak.
Sigh. Are we really going to tell you that you can’t have chocolate after all your hard work? Yep! At least not immediately after.
“Avoid chocolate bars if you’re trying to lean down,” explains Lola Berry, author of The Happy Cookbook. “Remember that training will have sped up your metabolism; use that to your advantage by keeping your diet super clean with whole foods.” But if you really can’t kick that craving, Berry says to melt two tablespoons of coconut oil with one teaspoon of raw cacao powder, a pinch of cinnamon, and a smidge of Stevia to make a sugar-free chocolate sauce that you can pour over a bowl of fresh berries!
Maybe there’s a Burger King next to your gym that taunts you and your craving every time you pass by it—but do whatever you can to stay away! “While you may crave salt after working out, fast food options won’t be good at replenishing your body,” explains Mansour, “You’ll be consuming trans fats and basically undoing your workout.”
Say what? Wouldn’t an energy bar make sense, thanks to the fact that they are supposed to give you, well, energy? Not so much. “These might have a lot of protein, which is seemingly great for repairing and building your muscles post-workout,” explains Annie Lawless, health/wellness expert and founder of Blawnde.com. “But in reality, most of the bars on the market are mostly sugar and no more nutritionally-sound than a candy bar. And I’m not talking about natural sugar, either; many bars contain refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, making them a nightmare for your blood sugar.” Get your protein from a whole food source like eggs and pass on the processed packaged bars.
These are classically marketed as the perfect hydration replenishment post-workout because of their electrolytes—so what could be so bad? “The high sugar content in sports drinks make them unnecessary post-workout when your body doesn’t need the extra glucose running through your bloodstream,” explains Lawless. “If you feel drained and in need of glucose replacement, reach for coconut water or a healthy smoothie. A syrupy sports drink will just cause your blood sugar to spike violently when you don’t need it.”