Sports Nutrition – Do You Really Need a Supplement?

Today’s contribution is by Alissa Palladino, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-CPT - Registered Dietitian with Good Measure Meals 

Whether you’re doing cardio or lifting weights, the nutrition you provide your body is key. Particularly after exercise, refueling within 30 minutes to one hour of your workout promotes optimal recovery.

While you may be tempted to grab a protein supplement post-workout, it’s preferable to get your nutrients from foods. Why? For one, the supplement industry is unregulated, meaning there’s no guarantee that what’s inside is what it claims to be. Two, supplements can be expensive. And three, with a little planning, there are plenty of protein-rich foods that you can grab quickly and easily within an hour of exercise.

The main benefit to supplements is convenience. You can grab a ready-made shake or add water to protein powder and down it on your way out of the gym. Whether they’re derived from whey, casein, soy or a combo of plant-based proteins such as pea, hemp and brown rice, most protein supplements provide 20-25 grams of protein per serving, which is the ideal amount to consume post-exercise for muscle repair and growth. If you choose a supplement, look for products labeled “USP-verified” or NSF-certified”, which means they are third party tested.

But instead of a supplement, and with a little planning, there are plenty of food sources that offer the same protein as a shake, plus a variety of other nutritional benefits.

Dairy, one of best absorbed proteins post-exercise, also provides calcium for bone health and potassium, which helps manage blood pressure. Greek yogurt contains probiotics- “good” bacteria that keep your GI system healthy. Eggs, one of the few natural food sources of Vitamin D, contain choline, an essential nutrient for a wide range of body processes. Tuna packs in a good dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Plant-based sources of protein like edamame, black beans and whole grains also contain dietary fiber, which promotes healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Finally, don’t forget about carbs! The ideal post-workout snack provides both protein for muscle growth and repair, and carbs to replenish energy stores. Here are some post-workout snack ideas:

  • Greek yogurt + berries
  • Cottage cheese + pineapple
  • Apple + string cheese
  • Whole grain crackers + turkey slices
  • Whole wheat pita + tuna
  • Fruit & yogurt smoothie