You know the feeling. You leave the gym pumped up after a hard workout and ready to take on the day. Yet three hours later, you can barely keep your eyes open.
To maintain peak energy levels throughout the day, you need to refuel with the right food immediately after you train. That means eating snacks containing carbohydrates to replenish lost glycogen stores and protein to aid in muscle repair and recovery. Shoot for around 200-300 calories for every hour of exercise, and a 2-to-1 ration of carbs to protein. Any snack should also be easily digestible since blood flow will still be focused around muscles, not digestion. Try these winners.
TURKEY, CHEESE, AND APPLE SLICES
Grab some sliced deli turkey plus cheddar or American cheese and partner it with a high-carb fruit, like an apple, grapes, pear, or banana. "Fruit without some kind of protein isn't a great choice for keeping energy high," says Christine Gerbstadt, a Florida-based M.D. and R.D. But if fruit is all you have, yogurt or cottage cheese will pair well with it.
JUICE AND TOASTED SOY NUTS
You may not think to snack on them, but 2 ounces of dried soybeans (about 1/2 cup) contain 34 grams of protein and less fat than other nuts. Pair them with a small amount of apple, grape, or cranberry juice—but stay away from sweetened "juice drinks" and blends. Look for labels that say "100% juice," "low-sugar," or "all-natural."
A SANDWICH ON WHOLE-GRAIN BREAD
For a savory afternoon snack, try a lean turkey sandwich or wholewheat pita bread with 2 ounces of water-packed tuna or light tuna salad. If you're tired of traditional sandwiches, try spreading 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on a slice of whole-grain bread or a multigrain English muffin and topping it off with a few slices of ripe banana.
LOW-FAT YOGURT AND GRANOLA
Grab a cup of your favorite yogurt and pair it with a 1/2 cup of granola. Just be sure to check the ingredients. Oats and other grains like barley or buckwheat—not sugar—should be listed first, says Gerbstadt. To make your own granola, douse oats with a bit of OJ, toss in nuts and dried fruit, and bake until lightly browned.
Surprise! A small slice of last night's delivery can actually be a good post-workout energizer. Just keep it small and lose some of the less-good toppings like sausage or pepperoni. (Pairing it with milk or a piece of fresh fruit will offset all those carbs.) "Just remember to think of it as 'a little something' and not as a complete meal," Gerbstadt cautions.