Contrary to what that Little Debbie devil on your shoulder is telling you, popping a cupcake in your mouth post-workout isn't the best move--but, surprisingly for some, neither is chowing down on a heaping portion of pasta.
"It's necessary for health, as well as ongoing training, to recover from a long run with the proper balance of foods and calories," says Sunny Blende, a sports nutritionist and columnist for UltraRunning magazine.
"If not fully recovered, and an athlete goes out training again, he or she can actually lose fitness."What you eat post-workout is called "fuel" for a reason: The right mix of nutrients will help your body repair muscle tissue and replenish glycogen levels, which can be used up after a particularly tough sweat session.
"Contrary to popular myth, you do not need two pastries from Starbucks or a huge pasta entree," Blende says, explaining that an average of 200 to 250 calories is enough to resupply the depleted energy stores in your muscles.
The best ratio to aim for? One part protein to three or four parts carbohydrate.
"Think of the protein as the nails and lumber to rebuild your house, and the carbohydrates are the working crew that show up to rebuild," Blende says.
Sports-nutrition bars are usually just about 200-240 calories, with the ideal ratio of protein and carbs, but there's no need to rely solely on these products.
Instead, Blend suggests trying the following:
* A protein shake with a banana
* A piece of fruit along with a handful of nuts and a few slices of turkey jerky, or apple slices with some turkey and cheese
* A nut butter and fruit spread sandwich on whole-grain bread
* Yogurt with granola or nuts or berries on top
"The important thing to do is to eat something for your recovery and try to do it within 30 minutes of finishing exercise," Says Blende.
"If that coincides with a meal, all the better."