It’s that time of year when athletes are getting on snow and ramping up their physical conditioning in order to be ready for the start of the competitive season. It’s very easy after a hard session in the gym to justify fueling your body with whatever you fancy, but there is a lot to gain from making the right choices. Tanya Alexander, chef for the U.S. Ski Team men’s technical team, shares her tips for what to eat for optimal performance and recovery. 

SRM: During a heavy training block it’s easy to justify eating whatever you want after a hard workout. Why is that a bad idea?

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TA: Recovery after workouts is an important time and you have a lot to gain by making a healthy choice. Most importantly, your body likes water, protein and some carbohydrates. It’s a great time to absorb important nutrients. I suggest taking a moment to be aware of your actual level of hunger versus emotional reasons for eating like ‘I deserve this,’ or ‘My friends are all going to eat this or that.’ Try to make choices that are right for you today and be curious about your personal hunger signals. Eating from an emotional place may cause you to overeat, undereat or eat things that won’t fuel you.

SRM: What are some of the best foods to choose for after a hard workout?

TA: The main goal after workout is to repair and build new muscle (protein) and recover glycogen stores (carbohydrates.) A 3:1 ratio works best. Here are some suggestions:

  • Chicken and vegetables
  • Egg, avocado and toast
  • Protein smoothie with banana
  • Cottage cheese and fruits
  • Toast or rice crackers and almond butter
  • Greek yogurt, granola, berries
  • Hummus and carrots
  • Salmon and sweet potato
  • Tuna and crackers

SRM: If you walk into a restaurant or coffee shop with friends after a workout what are some smart things to look for to eat?

TA: You could look for a healthy wrap, egg avocado toast, quiche or a granola yogurt parfait. If you want a sweet treat have a milk steamer for protein! Planning ahead can also help you eat the right amount that your body needs. Try staying in touch with the intensity of your workouts and your motivation for eating. Try discerning between emotionally comforting foods vs. nutritionally balanced foods. Ideally, you can find foods that are both nourishing and comforting!

SRM: Since protein smoothies are a good choice post workout, what kind of protein powder is good to buy? When looking at the labels of a protein powder what should you keep an eye out for?

TA: Labels and ingredients are important. Learning what they mean is a huge advantage. Be aware of things hard to pronounce or that you don’t recognize. Protein powders are generally plant based with soy or legume proteins or whey based. Look for added sugars or artificial sweeteners and try to steer clear of those.  

SRM: Ok, you’ve given us lots of options of healthy foods to look for and make. What should athletes really steer clear of?

TA: There’s little benefit to your body and all the hard work you’ve put in to eating sugar (sodas, sweet lattes, candy, pastries, cakes, cookies) and deep fried foods. Steer clear of those things.

Tanya’s Recovery Smoothies

Treat with your friends (serves 4)

4 cups liquid (soy unsweetened milk for an extra protein boost)
4 bananas
5 TB peanut or almond butter
2 scoops chocolate protein powder (Klean, muscle milk for whey or garden of life for plant based)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 TB cinnamon
1/2 cup ice

Big day simple smoothie

1 cup soy or almond milk or yogurt
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup frozen raspberry or strawberry
1 thin slice lemon(with rind)
Pinch salt