Who says you need to run marathons or lift weights to be healthy? For most of us, a round of brisk walking will keep us active and in shape. Walking is the simplest and the easiest way to burn calories, given that you eat right afterward.
Sure, after a brisk walk, you might feel hungry enough to eat everything in sight. But, by eating more than what your body requires, you end up “undoing” the calories you just burned. Remember, even light walking will help maintain a healthy weight. Walking for a few minutes also improves mood, strengthens bones, and reduces the risk for chronic disease.1 With the right foods, you can stop the calories from creeping back. Here’s how you can make it happen.
What To Include In Your Post-Walk Diet
1. Protein To Build Muscle Mass
Protein is broken down during exercise. A long, intense sweat session will break down more protein than a shorter one. This explains why super-active people need a higher protein intake.2
Protein is vital for building muscle. This macronutrient is needed by every cell and tissue, making it crucial for post-workout recovery. To regain protein after your walking session, include nuts and leafy vegetables in your diet.3
2. Carbohydrates To Regain Energy
Carbs are often considered to be bad for the body, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Carbohydrates are the body’s first source of energy. Even your brain needs carbohydrates to function. If your diet lacks carbs, you’re bound to feel hangry all the time!4
A high-energy walking or running session depletes the carbohydrate content in your body. Hence, you need to refuel throughout the day, especially after intense exercise. Plus, combining protein and carbs after working out is proven to enhance muscle recovery. Eat a whole grain bread sandwich, or drink some milk to regain energy without gaining calories! 5
3. Antioxidants To Prevent Oxidative Stress
Often, post-workout meals revolve around protein and carbs but ignore antioxidants. Your body reacts to a round of brisk walking by increasing oxidative stress. At high levels, it can damage cell membranes.6
To limit oxidative stress, include antioxidants in your recovery meal. Vegetables like kale are full of them. Fresh fruits (such as berries and pomegranates) are also rich sources of antioxidants.7
Diet Based On The Intensity Of Your Walk
Your post-workout meal depends on how intense your walking session is.
1. A 30-Minute Stroll
A casual 30-minute walk burns about 120 to 178 calories. This calls for a light and easy snack like a chicken sandwich. You can also add a lemon or orange wedge to your water for extra antioxidants.8.
2. A 30-Minute Brisk Walk
Did you push things even further? A “power walk” burns more calories, about 150 to 222 in 30 minutes. To regain energy, you need to take enough protein and carbs. Eat a chicken wrap with some hummus and drink at least 10 ounces of water.9
3. A 30-Minute Fast-Paced Walk
An intense walking session can burn at least 180 to 266 calories. For a post-workout meal, eat carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Go for a leafy green turkey sandwich and a glass of milk along with a handful of almonds. After the workout, don’t forget to rehydrate – drink about 14-ounces water with a lemon or orange wedge.10
Have some time to kill? Consider topping off your workout with 30 minutes of focused-attention meditation. According to a 2016 study in Translational Psychiatry, this improves brain activity, increases the benefits of your exercise, and lowers your risk of depression.11
|↑1||Physical Activity and Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Fielding, Roger A., and Jascha Parkington. “What are the dietary protein requirements of physically active individuals? New evidence on the effects of exercise on protein utilization during post‐exercise recovery.” Nutrition in Clinical Care 5, no. 4 (2002): 191-196.|
|↑3||Protein. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑4||D’Anci, Kristen E., Kara L. Watts, Robin B. Kanarek, and Holly A. Taylor. “Low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets. Effects on cognition and mood.” Appetite 52, no. 1 (2009): 96-103.|
|↑5||Stearns, Rebecca L., Holly Emmanuel, Jeff S. Volek, and Douglas J. Casa. “Effects of ingesting protein in combination with carbohydrate during exercise on endurance performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24, no. 8 (2010): 2192-2202.|
|↑6||Selsby, Joshua T., and Stephen L. Dodd. “Heat treatment reduces oxidative stress and protects muscle mass during immobilization.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 289, no. 1 (2005): R134-R139.|
|↑7||Carlsen, Monica H., Bente L. Halvorsen, Kari Holte, Siv K. Bøhn, Steinar Dragland, Laura Sampson, Carol Willey et al. “The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide.” Nutrition journal 9, no. 1 (2010): 3.|
|↑8||Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School.|
|↑9, ↑10||Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School.|
|↑11||Alderman, B. L., R. L. Olson, C. J. Brush, and T. J. Shors. “MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity.” Translational psychiatry 6, no. 2 (2016): e726.|