News flash: You don't have to drink a protein shake.
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Tough HIIT workouts take it out of you, but they don't require an intense refueling plan. "When it comes to HIIT, the work rate is really short, so you won't need an extra fueling strategy like an endurance athlete," says registered dietitian Tiffany Chag. "The two big things you should focus on are to rehydrate after a workout and to make sure you're getting doses of protein throughout the day." She recommends aiming to eat a portion of protein the size of one or both or your palms, every four hours during the day. Chag's no-fail post-HIIT option is simple: a salad topped with chicken, salmon, or bison. Protein shakes and powders aren't necessary, she says, but if you want to build or maintain lean muscle mass and need a grab-and-go option, they'll do the trick. (On that note, here's why one nutritionist says the added-protein trend has gotten out of control.)
While you won't have to change your diet drastically on HIIT days, it still pays to be more nuanced about which protein and carbs you opt for replenishment. Here are four more recs from nutrition professor Melissa Murphy, Ph.D., of Bastyr University in California.
Got milk? Getting enough calcium is important no matter how you train, since it helps maintain proper muscle function and may help to prevent serious illnesses. Activities like plyometrics and sprints cause your bones to release calcium. You can help them rebuild stronger by eating calcium-rich foods like yogurt and cheese.
Fish is rich in selenium, which helps support your body's natural antioxidant abilities—important since a hard workout ups the potential for cell-damaging free radicals to get into your system. Fish is also a good source of energy-booster vitamin B12.
Nuts and Beans
Your body uses up stores of B vitamins in order to produce the energy you need for workouts. Refill your tank with almonds, which have B2, or chickpeas, which have B6. Vegans and vegetarians should show nuts and beans some extra love, since they're top non-animal protein sources.
Get in tons of antioxidants like vitamin C to counterbalance the temporary dip in immunity of workout stress. (Try these delicious pink smoothie recipes packed with antioxidants.)