Nancy, should I eat different recovery foods after I lift weights at the gym, as compared to after I do an hour of cardio?
Answer: After a gym workout, both lifting and cardio require similar recovery foods: carbohydrates to refuel depleted muscle glycogen and protein to build and repair muscles. The easiest way to recover properly is to eat a balanced meal after you workout (not just a snack) within an hour or so after you exercise. For example, if you workout at the gym the morning, soon afterwards, eat breakfast. You can always put a protein shake blended with fruit into a travel mug to drink on your commute to the office. If you exercise at the gym after work, eat dinner afterwards (fish + sweet potato + broccoli). You can always get a takeout meal at a grocery store or restaurant, if you are not inclined to cook.
People who lift weights do not need large amounts of recovery protein. The body uses only about 20 to 30 g protein (max, 40 grams) at one time to build muscle. That’s less than the average hungry athlete eats.
Some examples of popular recovery meals after a gym workout with adequate protein along with a nice foundation of carbs include:
Oatmeal cooked in milk (instead of water) + raisins + peanut butter
Bagel, egg and cheese + Orange juice
Turkey + cheese on hearty bread + banana
Pasta + tomato sauce + lean ground beef + cheese
Chocolate milk + bagel + nut butter
The trick to recovering after gym workouts is to plan ahead so you can easily have several options on hand that taste great, offer carbs and protein, curb the appetite, and keep the cookie monster at a distance.