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Body needs food after workout; what works?

By Darlene Dunn, Staff writer
Published On: May 23 2011 03:21:49 PM MDT

You may hit the gym to lose weight, but after a strenuous workout, your body craves a good snack.

Paige Waehner, a certified personal trainer, says having something to eat is a way to refuel the body."

Your body needs fuel to repair muscle tissue and help the body to recover," she says.

However, people should not lose sight of their weight goals when snacking."

Monitoring what you're eating and what you're burning with exercise will help you find a balance of how many calories you need to stay fueled and reach your goals," she says.

In fact, Waehner suggests to her clients to have a protein shake with fresh or frozen fruit, yogurt mixed with fruit and sprinkled with low-fat granola or cereal, whole grain crackers or bread with tuna, low-fat cheese or an apple with peanut butter.

Eating too much fat or fiber before a workout is not a good idea either.

"Too much fat can make you feel bloated and tired and, of course, may end up undoing all the hard work you just did in your workout with too many calories," Waehner says.

Snack Based On Time Of Day

Fitness Magazine's Nutrition Editor Sara Wells says in her writing that the time of day should play a role in the type of snack you grab to refuel."

If it's after a morning workout, try a fruit smoothie with some skim milk and flaxseed, or a bowl of whole-grain cereal with skim milk and a banana," Wells said. "Just got back from a trip to the gym over your lunch hour? Try a PB-and-honey sandwich on whole wheat or a whole-grain wrap with lean sliced turkey, mustard and vegetables. Afternoon workout? Have a glass of low-fat chocolate milk, some hummus with a whole-grain pita, fat-free Greek yogurt with berries or slices of deli turkey with a slice of cheese and apple wedges."

Wells says while people may try to stay away from snacks altogether, there is definitely a place for them as long as a healthy diet is being followed."

The key is moderation -- keeping your snack to 250 calories or less -- and not undoing the benefits of your hard workout by eating a huge dinner later on," Wells says.

What About Energy Bars?

She also suggests that people pay attention to the ingredients in energy bars."

They can be great snacks, but make sure to check the ingredient list -- many are really just vitamin-and protein-fortified candy bars," Wells says. "You want a bar that has at least 7 to 8 grams of protein, 2 or more grams of fiber and 180 calories or less."

She adds that protein shakes -- not energy drinks -- are good for recovery."

If you’re not making it yourself, double check the calories and ingredient list to make sure it’s not full of sugar or too high in calories," Wells says.

Consider The 'Puke-Factor'

Tara Gidus, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, says that pre-workout snacks are also important because they provide the energy needed for the workout.

She says these snacks should be carbohydrates, such as a banana, apple or toast with a little bit of peanut butter. These types of snacks will provide the necessary fuel and energy."

It's important to have something before a workout -- about an hour before -- not something high in sugar because that is not lasting energy," Gidus says.

She says it is necessary to keep in mind not to eat something that may not feel good on the stomach."

Anything that doesn't make you feel good, I call it the puke factor," Gidus says.

Additionally, people working out err when believing that they can eat whatever they want after a tough workout."

The biggest mistake a person can make is say, 'I ran 10 miles or spent an hour on the elliptical trainer, so I can eat what I want,'" she says. "It doesn't really work that way."