One size most certainly doesn't fit all when it comes to post-workout fuel. Whether you've been saluting the sun or sprinting on the treadmill, we're here to offer some dietary know-how.
You may think a green juice is sufficient to tide you over post-yoga but if you've been saluting the sun for 90 minutes, you need to think about refuelling seriously. Protein is essential for helping muscles rebuild and repair, important when you've been holding a lot of isometric moves such as the plank. And don't forget to rehydrate. Whether you've been to hot yoga or simple Hatha, rehydrate with a combination of water and foods with a high water content – think salads, steamed veggies and whole fruit.
If you've been…swimming
There's no doubt swimming can cause a hike in appetite. One theory attributes this to water temperature: a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found swimmers who exercised in cold water ate 44% more calories post-swim than those who swam in warmer water.
You want to ensure, therefore, that you're refuelling to aid your recovery without overeating...enter fibre. Meals and snacks that contain fibre (think fresh fruit, whole grains, beans) will help to provide you with plenty of nutrients while also helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer (so you'll be less inclined to raid the vending machine). Don't overlook protein either – this will help to repair muscles and aid recovery and will help increase satiety too.
If you've been…lifting weights
Whatever your weight lifting goal (strength, greater muscle definition…you name it) consume protein and carbohydrates after you've been lifting. Research shows that carbs and protein together have a bigger and better impact on post-workout recovery. Good food combinations for maximising and maintaining muscle mass include an omelette with avocado, a protein shake and a banana or a tuna sarnie. If you're on the go, on a budget or simply have a sweet tooth you'll be pleased to hear that chocolate milk is an option too! Research has found its carbohydrate-to-protein ratio is perfect for replenishing glycogen levels well.
If you've been…running
Timing is key when it comes to post-run fuel. Taking advantage of that 30-45 minute window after your run is not only important for recovery, it can help to manage your post-run appetite too. Replenishing energy stores and fuelling muscles and generally aiding recovery with a combination of carbs and protein should give you the best chance of feeling tip-top even after a tough run. Scrambled eggs on toast and Greek yoghurt and fruit are good examples and, if you're on the go, an apple with peanut butter is a good tide-me-over. If you find you struggle to eat much after a run, liquidise it! A smoothie containing protein-rich, fat-free Greek yoghurt with some fruit and complex carbs such as oats might prove more palatable
According to the American Council on Exercise, when it comes to replacing energy stores and preparing your body for your next high intensity workout, research has found that a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein within 30 minutes of completing your HIIT workout works best. Whole grain cereal with yoghurt or some whole grain toast with peanut butter, or even a speedy chicken or beef stir fry with brown rice should work well, as will a snack of a handful of fruit and almonds. All are good post-HIIT foods and don't forget the smoothie if time or lack of appetite's an issue: a protein smoothie will also help to top up fluids, killing two birds with one stone.
If you've been…cycling
Don't forget the protein if you've been clocking up a lot of miles. Not just a concern for those hitting the weights room, an adequate intake of protein is essential for supporting your immune system and enhancing your recovery, particularly if you've had a long and/or tough ride. Eggs are a great, versatile and inexpensive choice - they contain all your essential amino acids making them the perfect go-to post-ride protein fix. Because cycling is a non-weight bearing activity, consider too adding plenty of calcium to your diet to help maintain good bone density. Dark leafy greens and dairy should help – cheese and crackers are a good, convenient post-ride snack. (And, when it comes to your bones, don't forget to add weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercise to your routine…).
If you've been …walking
You may not think nutrition requires a second thought after a walk but a long or fast walk will mean energy stores do require some attention. Walking's a great workout, due to its lower intensity nature, for enjoying non-starchy, post-workout carb options. These can be lower in calories but higher in certain vitamins, mineral and fibre: win-win. Lower fat dairy such as skimmed milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese all contain a decent amount of carbs as well as a good level of calcium while vegetables such as broccoli, mushrooms and asparagus will still help to top up energy reserves minus the bigger calorie impact of other post-workout carbs (yes, we're looking at you, oversized sarnie/plate of pasta).