Having been a highly competitive athlete throughout high school, I had my fair share of nutrition lessons, eating guides, and food restrictions to help my team and me reach full potential. Working out is important for college students for our physical fitness and mental health. Many might wonder, what should I eat for a post-workout snack to fully recover and benefit from the fitness? There are a couple of basic guidelines when it comes to recovery, in addition to certain snacks that are perfect to eat post-workout. I have compiled a guide of what to eat, and ideas for you to reap all the rewards of fitness while enjoying food after all that work.

Essential Food Groups for Post Recovery:

Protein: Getting protein into your body is the most important thing after exercising muscles since protein is what builds the muscles. Your body intakes all of your daily exercise at night while you sleep, and, in doing so, it uses the protein that you consumed during the day to restore and build the muscles. By not getting enough protein, your muscles will have to work hard to restore themselves, thus making you sorer the next day. Foods such as meats, nuts, and beans are great sources of protein that can help your muscles recover and grow strong from the exercise you give them.     

Carbohydrates:  Carbs get a bad rap: they tend to be associated with weight gain and are overall seen as unhealthy. However, when it comes down to it, your body needs them for energy. Sugar (a carb that is considered the "ultimate danger") is actually what gives you the short bursts of energy that get you through the day. Sugar is also what your body loses the most of while exercising. This is a good thing because too much sugar is toxic to your body, but in draining sugar, you lose an important source of energy. Ever wonder why you may feel drained after working out? It's because your body is scheming for energy. Sugar can be absorbed quickly, so it is important that you get a small amount of it to help you recover fast. Stay away from artificial sugars as they are the worst for your health. A little bit of chocolate is great for a small dose of sugar since it is natural and has a tiny bit of caffeine, so it will give you an extra little kick.  

Fat: This is another nutrient that has a negative reputation, but is essential for everyone, especially athletes. While working out, our bodies burn fat which allows for a lower body fat index (yeah!), but if we don't replenish our fat or don't eat any of it, our bodies will start burning away protein and muscle (no!) which will diminish the effectiveness of a workout. Plus, like carbs, fat is an energy source that our bodies need to become stronger. One thing that you have to be careful with is to not eat too much saturated fat since it can be harmful to your heart. Saturated fat comes from animals, while healthier fats come from plants and plant-based oils. It is fine every once and awhile, but know that the negative fats are animal fats. To get fats, eat nuts, avocados, and milk products (saturated fats are fine in limited qualities).

So What? 

When it comes to post-workout snacks, try to have a good balance of these nutrient groups. Protein should be your priority, and try to balance out fats and carbs to not exceed a healthy amount of them. Your snack should not be a whole meal (unless it is a meal time), and you should keep it under 400 calories, depending on how much you burned while working out. Try to also strive for natural and organic foods since you want to avoid artificial toxins as much as possible.  

My Personal Favorite Post Workout Snacks

- 2 % Low Fat Chocolate Milk: Chocolate milk is the ultimate post-workout snack since it has a good amount protein with a solid dose of sugar and fat. It also tastes amazing and is extremely refreshing to eat post-workout. Horizon Organic makes great single serving size "milk boxes" that are perfect for a snack. Not only is it organic, but the fun box will take you back to your childhood lunchbox days.  

coffee, milk, tea, espresso, chocolate, Chocolate milk, dairy, beverage
Caroline Ingalls

- Epic Protein Meat Bars: I absolutely love these bars for any snack, but especially as a post-workout snack. The concept is strange, but they taste amazing and provide a lot of great nutrients, in addition to energy. Epic bars are protein bars made with different kinds of meat, fruit, spices, and nuts. The meat is ethnically raised with no additives, and the bar is 100% natural. They provide a great source of protein to recover and give you energy. My favorites include buffalo with cherries and bacon, lamb with currents and mint, and turkey with almonds and cranberries.  

Addie Christianson

-Hummus with Carrots: Tasty hummus provides both protein and fat sourced from vegetables and beans making it a great choice for vegetarians and vegans. Extremely healthy and delicious, hummus will leave you feeling extremely satisfied and full.  

dairy product, cream, sweet, milk
Kendra Valkema

-Bark Thins (Dark chocolate covered nut bark): This sweet treat doubles as a great post-workout snack because of the nuts added to it. Dark chocolate is about as healthy as chocolate can get with less sugar and more nutrients. Take advantage of this and indulgence in some chocolaty goodness after your workout. You deserve it!