Sneaky mistake? Yikes! Don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging. We’ll also teach you how to fix it. But first off, a bit of congratulations are in order: You’re crushing it at the gym (or working out with your boo) and your 2016 is poised to be your brightest, happiest and healthiest year yet. Blast the Taylor Swift and rejoice. And when it comes to rewarding ourselves for a good sweat sesh (okay, or a 10-minute workout)? Post-workout shake, here we come! Not so fast. As it turns out, this seemingly good-for-you habit can be sabotaging your stay-fit plans. Read on to see why, and how to fix things without even trying.
“While post-workout shakes can be a big (and tasty) win after an intense training session for replacing muscle glycogen and rebuilding muscles, it may not be working for you on your lighter days,” offers Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities. What’s more, many shakes tend to be loaded with calorie bombs, artificial ingredients (flavored whey protein powder, we’re looking at you!), excess sugar or artificial sweeteners.
“People tend to overestimate the amount of physical activity they get, and when we talk about weight loss, we talk about calories in versus calories out. If you consume more than you burn in a day, you will gain weight. So when choosing your post-workout food, you must realistically evaluate the rest of your day, your hunger levels and the intensity of the workout you put in. If today was a just a leisurely walk on the treadmill, or less than 30 minutes on the elliptical, your body may not be in that rapid absorption state, known as the anabolic window. Post-workout nutrition has ruined many fat-loss programs simply because of the excess total caloric intake, explains Hayim. Simply put: Unless you really killed it in that bootcamp or weight lifted for an extended period of time, that common habit of indulging in a shake to reward yourself might be undoing your workout efforts. If you’re still craving that shake after your quick aerobic workout, follow Hayim’s smart strategies to emerge healthier than ever.
Healthy Alternatives to Workout Shakes
1. Enjoy a whole piece of fruit. “If your workout is mostly cardiovascular (treadmill, elliptical, etc), your body isn’t as starved for protein compared to if you were strength training. A good way to keep your blood sugar steady is to grab a whole piece of fruit, like an apple,” Hayim recommends.
2. Reach for one-ingredient sources of energy. “Keep it simple and eat foods with one ingredient, like oats, carrots or a banana,” suggests Hayim. No, we won’t tell if you sprinkle a little cinnamon on your oats, but you get the idea.
3. Focus on hydration first. “After a workout, even a lighter one, quench your thirst before loading up on a shake or food. You may discover that your feelings of hunger were actually feelings of thirst. Outsmarting your body by first reaching for a sports drink that is low in sugar, but contains electrolytes, is best.” Coconut water, you never tasted so good.
4. Lighten it up. “Many of the delicious post-workout shakes on the market are more meal replacements than post-workout snacks. They can contain calorically-dense foods like peanut butter, agave and, often times, high-fat nut milk. When selecting something like a ‘Protein Slam Dunk Peanut Butter Chocolate Delight,’ ask for small changes, like no peanut butter,” says Hayim. This will help slash calories and make it a more appropriate choice.
5. Substitute water for juice or milk. “Let water replace other liquids in your post-workout smoothie. Substituting water for milk, nut milks or even juices lessens the calories and the amount of sugars/added sugars, and serves as an excellent way to rehydrate,” suggests Hayim.
6. Follow the three or less rule. “There’s no reason for your smoothie to be more than one fruit, a green and one source of protein,” offers Hayim. Add some ice cubes and water and finito! “Sometimes the addition of spirulina or other superfoods can be a great way to slip in even more nutrition, but anything more gets excessive and unnecessary.” If you’re not making your own at home, see if the store will let you build your own. “Scan the menu for all the ingredients they have, and opt for a green (such as spinach or spirulina), a fruit (such as a banana, which has a nice consistency) and a protein.” This way, you can avoid unwanted sweeteners, artificial ingredients and calorie overload.
7. If you’re not making your own shake, don’t be shy about asking questions. “Sure, you may know açaí is a hot superfood on the market. But what we don’t know? How it’s made. While some stores choose to buy unsweetened açaí packets, many opt for the regular ones, which contain added sugars. Even ‘original’ acaí may contain added sugars that come from cane juice,” comments Hayim. So feel free to ask what exactly goes into any ingredient on their menu. And if you can, it’s almost always better (and cheaper!) to make your own. Not sure where to start? Check out these 13 healthy smoothies to get you back on track after the holidays.
What so-called “healthy habit” are you concerned might not be that good for you after all? Tweet us @BritandCo for a chance to have it featured in an upcoming installment of the series!
(Photo via Ken Hawkings/Flickr)