Getting through your workout is a huge accomplishment, but the commitment to fitness doesn’t stop there. What you eat after that tough training session plays a big role in reaching your health, body composition and performance goals.
Regardless of the type of training you’re doing, physical activity takes a toll on your body’s energy and muscular systems, and you need to replenish those systems afterward. Your body is most able to efficiently take in nutrients in the 45 minutes after your workout finishes; it wants to start the replenishing and repairing process ASAP. Consuming a snack rich in protein is a key way to optimize your workout by repairing and rebuilding damaged muscle fibers, enabling you to come back stronger and leaner for future workouts.
While many athletes feel pressured to buy trendy or expensive protein powders, research has determined certain whole foods can not only provide the protein effective in post-exercise muscle synthesis, but they also could improve your overall dietary intake. This fact is especially beneficial for athletes looking to reduce food/supplement costs and avoid supplements potentially tainted with banned substances or additives.
Luckily, what you eat post-workout doesn’t have to be a complicated decision. Most of us have a powerful post-workout food sitting in our refrigerators right this moment: eggs! Eggs offer an inexpensive, high-quality protein that can be consumed quickly and in a variety of ways to boost your post-workout gains.
THE SCIENCE ON EGGS
While egg whites were once a popular source of protein amongst athletes, it is actually more beneficial to consume the whole egg, yolk and all. Recent research reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared post-workout consumption of whole eggs against consuming only the whites, and it shows a significant advantage for including the yolk. Ten young men were provided either egg white or whole eggs after a single session of strength training. Those who consumed the entire egg saw greater muscle synthesis than those who consumed egg whites alone, providing insight that nutrients in the yolk help optimize the body’s ability to utilize the proteins provided in the whites.
A study conducted on male strength-training athletes found consuming whole eggs after training boosted muscle tissue synthesis. This is likely due to the high-quality nature of this food, with eggs receiving the highest combined scores of protein quality based on efficacy, net utilization, biological value and digestibility. In plain English, eggs give you the biggest protein bang for your buck.
Eggs, like all animal proteins, are known as a complete source of protein, meaning each whole egg contains all of the essential amino acids one must obtain through dietary sources. These amino acids are vital to rebuild muscle tissue after a workout, especially leucine, which is being studied for its role in improving lean tissue mass and decreasing muscle damage.
Other research has confirmed that adding some fat to protein post-workout will not hinder the protein’s effectiveness. For athletes and those with general fitness goals, getting the scientific green light for whole eggs is a true win. Including eggs in your post-workout routine can help save time, money and reduce food stress and diet culture.
INCORPORATING EGGS INTO YOUR ROUTINE
Of course, any new habit takes a little effort to implement. If you are traveling to a workout, bring a small cooler with a couple of hard-boiled eggs for a quick post-sweat bite. If your workout requires carbohydrate intake along with protein, stash a few whole-grain crackers or a piece of fruit to consume alongside those eggs.
For workouts that need a bigger recovery boost, try egg sandwiches. These can be made in bulk, wrapped individually and frozen for a quick reheat after any workout. If you are unsure of how to best include eggs into your performance-fueling strategy, reach out to a board-certified sports dietitian for advice.