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Whether you work up a sweat in the morning or evening, chances are you grab a little bite before you hit the gym. A snack before you work out helps give you energy and stamina to go the distance. But did you know that eating a snack after you work out is even more important? "You want to make sure you feed your body to help repair muscle tissues and replenish glycogen stores [which are depleted after a strenuous workout]," says Kristin Reisinger, MS, RD, a sports nutritionist and competitive figure athlete based in New Jersey. Here, six top snacks to fuel your body post workout (Reisinger recommends chasing each of these snacks with 8-12 ounces of water).Protein Shake with Banana
"After a workout, you want ample protein combined with a carbohydrate," says Reisinger. A protein shake made from whey protein, water, and half a banana is a great choice, since your body quickly turns it into energy.
Recommended Serving Size: 2 scoops of whey protein powder combined with water and 1/2 banana, 250 caloriesPeanut Butter & Banana on Rice Cakes
If you're craving something more substantial after a workout, a healthy peanut butter and banana sandwich will fit the bill. Instead of bread, smooth your peanut butter onto two brown rice cakes for extra fiber (without empty carbs). And while you may usually avoid bananas because they're too full of sugar, eating one after a workout is just fine. "This is one of the only times I recommend a high-glycemic carbohydrate source such as banana, because the uptake will be rapid," says Reisinger. Translation: It'll replenish your energy quickly.
Recommended Serving Size: 1/2 banana, 1 tbsp. peanut butter, and 2 brown rice cakes, 215 caloriesHummus and Pita
Another great carb/protein combo: Hummus and whole wheat pita. Hummus, a dip made from pureed chickpeas, gives you both carbs and protein. Coupled with the slow-release energy from the whole wheat pita, it makes for a snack that'll keep you fueled for hours.
Recommended Serving Size: 1/4 cup hummus with 1 whole wheat pita, 275 caloriesYogurt and Fresh Berries
Protein makes sense after a workout, since it contains amino acids that help build muscle. "Your muscles are depleted of amino acids after a workout, so you need an adequate supply of protein to help build them up," says Reisinger. Low-fat yogurt can pack nearly 15 grams of protein; add some berries for carbohydrate-driven energy.
Recommended Serving Size: 1 8-ounce container of plain, low-fat yogurt with 1/2 cup berries, 180 caloriesTuna on Whole Wheat
What could be more filling after a workout than half a sandwich? And when you choose its filling wisely, you'll be building muscle while you eat, too! "Research shows that carbs and protein together have a better response to post-workout recovery," says Reisinger. Tuna drizzled with a little lemon juice and olive oil spread over a slice of whole wheat bread is an ideal protein/carb mini-meal.
Recommended Serving Size: 4 ounces water-packed tuna and 1 slice whole wheat bread, 220 caloriesTurkey and Cheese with Apple Slices
If you're not in the mood for a sandwich, skip the bread and eat the fillings on their own! Spread a soft-cheese wedge over two or three slices of lean deli turkey, then roll up for a quick, high-protein, eat-on-the-go snack. Add a sliced apple for some energy-boosting (and glycogen-replenishing) carbs.
Recommended Serving Size: 4 ounces deli turkey, 1 soft cheese wedge, and 1 apple, 240 calories
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, February 2006.