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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

What to Eat After a Workout? 10 Foods You Should Never Eat

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What to Eat After a Workout? 10 Foods You Should Never Eat

You’ve just hit the gym for an hour, or maybe you just came back from a long run. You need a post-workout snack because of all the nutrients you’ve lost, but you’re unsure what to eat. While you’re likely wondering what to eat after a workout, knowing which foods you should never eat after a workout is just as important!

Here is a comprehensive list of foods you should never eat after a workout, regardless of how much you might be craving them.

1. Raw Vegetables

Yes, you read that correctly. While raw vegetables are essential to a healthy and balanced diet, they don’t make for good post-workout foods. This is because you’ve just lost a great deal of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients while exercising, and raw veggies simply aren’t substantial enough to supplement them[1].

This is, perhaps, the only time where such low calorie foods actually work against you. You need extra grams of protein and fiber in order to replenish your stores and help to build muscle tissue.

So, by all means, have some raw vegetables post-workout—just make sure you balance it with something that offers protein or fiber. For example, you can have celery sticks a delicious yogurt-based dip or peanut butter, or carrots with hummus.

2. Pastries

As previously mentioned, the body needs fiber after a workout. It also needs high-quality carbs in order to replace the glycogen in your system. Despite the fact that pastries contain both of these things, they are not on the list of what to eat after a workout.

Pastries are full of unhealthy carbohydrates, as well as salt, sugar, fat, and calories. Instead, opt for wholegrain or multigrain toast or some raw nuts. These contain good carbs, and the nuts will supply good fats.

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3. Milk Chocolate

This may seem a bit obvious, but a great deal of people find that they crave chocolate or something else sweet after exercising. This is because they have lost sugars during their workout ,and their body is telling them that they need more.

Ignore this urge!

Milk chocolate is full of bad fats and glucose, both of which are terrible for your health. If you’re craving something sweet, have some fresh fruit. Or, if you really can’t control that chocolate craving, try a piece of dark chocolate instead, preferably 70% cocoa or higher.

Dark chocolate contains a great deal of of antioxidants that not only fight free radicals in your body, but also work as an anti-inflammatory, which is what you need after a workout.

One recent research review pointed out that “data from numerous studies suggest that cocoa and cocoa-derived flavanols can effectively modify the inflammatory process”[2]. This is great news for your body!

For more benefits of dark chocolate, check out this article.

4. Fast Food

This is another obvious one, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Similar to sugar, salt is something you can crave after a workout. Again, this is because it needs replenishing in your body. It can be tempting to grab something quick and easy, such a burger or fries, but they will be detrimental to your diet.

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You won’t be replacing the right kind of fats or salts in your body, and you’ll be adding a large dose of bad trans fats. In addition, you’ll be undoing all of the great work you did during your exercise.

As an alternative, try a potassium-rich banana or some avocado[3]. These both contain healthy fats and have enough calories to satisfy your hungry body.

5. Salty Snacks

These should be on your list of foods you should never eat after a workout for exactly the same reasons as fast food. Those potato chips may seem tempting, but what you really need is to replenish those potassium stores. Step away from the Doritos and hold tight to the aforementioned banana.

One study suggested that, due to sodium’s benefits in helping fluid absorption in the body, it can be beneficial to drink a sports drink that includes sodium, but only if you exercise for more than 4 hours. Most of us stick to workouts that only last an hour or two, so extra salt intake after a workout is generally unnecessary[4].

6. Sugary Snacks

If you’re wondering what to eat after a workout, you may start listening to your body, which is likely craving sugar after a workout. However, that doesn’t mean that you should be reaching for a bag of candy.

Besides the obvious high-calorie issue of sugar-filled snacks, there is another important reason to avoid them. Sugar isn’t only high in calories, it’s also known to damage your metabolism. One study explained that “the fructose component in sugar causes dysregulation of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism”[5].

In simple terms, this means that added sugars, like those found in fruit juices, gets in the way of your metabolism’s natural regulation.

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Do yourself a favor and reach for something high in protein instead of high in sugar.

7. Energy Bars

I know, I know, energy bars are known for aiding your workout! Although this is true, they’re only beneficial before exercise. This is due to their high sugar levels, among other things, which makes them great for a pre-workout snack because they increase your energy levels.

However, post-workout, they will slow down your metabolism and make it difficult for you to fall asleep. This is a huge problem if you’re a nighttime exerciser.

8. Soda

When making your list of what to eat after a workout, don’t include soda. In addition to all of the aforementioned damage that high-sugar foods and beverages can do, there is another reason to avoid soda after a workout: it makes you bloat. This may be due to the extra artificial sweeteners in soda.

After a workout, you need to hydrate, and the best way to do that is to drink water.

If you need some flavor in your water, learn how to replace soda with fruit water here!

9. High-Fat Cheeses

Highly processed and fat-filled cheeses, such as mozzarella or cheddar, are foods to avoid as a post-workout snack, regardless of how delicious they are.

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If you really need a cheese fix, cottage cheese is a great option as it has a high water content and many health benefits[6]. Throw in some pineapple or peach chunks to add in a burst of good sugars.

10. Fried Eggs

In general, eggs are a fantastic source of protein and choline (which is needed for a healthy heart) after you exercise. However, frying them up is a mistake. This is because they usually get fried in butter or oil, both of which are saturated fats.

In order to get the most out of your eggs without damaging your health, eat them hard-boiled or scrambled with a bit of olive oil. If you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, only eat the egg whites.

The Bottom Line

If you have given your time and energy to a great workout, it’s important to know what to eat after a workout so you don’t undo all the great work you’ve just put in. Avoid the foods on this list, and replace them with some of the alternatives I’ve suggested. You’ll keep yourself healthy and reap the benefits of your workout.

More on What to Eat After a Workout

Featured photo credit: Anastasiia Ostapovych via unsplash.com

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Tegan Jones

Tegan is a passionate journalist, writer and editor. She writes about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Published on August 24, 2021

What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts
  • Water

This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

What Is a Whole Food Diet?

By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

  • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
  • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Berries five times a week
  • Five or more servings of nuts a week
  • Olive oil five times a week
  • Whole grains five times a week
  • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
  • Legumes and pulses five times a week
  • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
  • Vitamin D supplement
  • Minimally processed foods
  • No more than one glass of wine a day
  • One or two coffee or tea a day max
  • Two liters of water a day

That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

Whole Foods and the Gut

Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

Whole Foods and the Brain

The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains

Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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1. Practice Batch Cooking

Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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