Pack a sandwich to maximize your workout

May 30, 2013

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

Sandwiches are a perfect post-workout meal. They are not only easy to consume, they come really close to providing the perfect ratio of carbohydrate to protein many researchers have discovered boosts natural growth hormone release after a workout, as well as increase stored muscle glycogen. The optimal ratio of carbohydrates to protein is anywhere from 2:1 to 3:1, that is why all of my sandwiches combine healthy proteins and much-needed carbohydrates, often from multiple sources.

I think whole-grain sources should always be used when choosing any type of bread for the sandwich. These types of breads provide healthy fiber and also provide a more balanced level of glucose into the body, without causing the blood sugar crash from more refined carbohydrates.

1. Peanut butter, banana, and honey on toasted whole-wheat bread

  • 2 Tbs all-natural peanut butter
  • 1 medium banana, sliced
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread, lightly toasted
    • This is a great post-workout sandwich, mainly because it is simple and very quick to make. This sandwich has healthy mono-unsaturated fats from the peanut butter that can aid in reduced inflammation in the joints after a hard workout. The protein in the peanut butter added to the mixture of simple and complex carbohydrates in the honey, banana, and whole-wheat bread provide a great carbohydrate-to-protein ratio that ensures quick recovery and maximum results. Additionally, the potassium in the banana can help replace much-needed electrolytes.

2. Albacore tuna salad in whole-wheat pita pocket

  • 1 can albacore tuna packed in water, drained
  • 3 Tbs low-fat mayonnaise
  • ½ medium apple, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs sweet pickle relish
  • ½ tsp fresh pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbs red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 whole-wheat pita pocket (both halves)
    • I like using pita pockets for sandwiches because they are easy to stuff full of sandwich ingredients without making a mess! This sandwich is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fats. This low-fat protein helps feed the muscles after an intense workout, while the apple and pita pocket help provide carbohydrates to replace fuel burned up while exercising. The red pepper flakes not only provide a little kick, but research has shown that a little spice added to your meals may actually increase your metabolism.

3. Roasted red pepper hummus on toasted whole-grain pita (open-faced sandwich)

  • 3 Tbs roasted red pepper hummus
  • ¼ cucumber, sliced
  • 1 toasted whole-grain pita
    • This sandwich packs in large amounts of muscle-building protein from the hummus while also providing healthy inflammation-reducing monounsaturated fats from the olive oil. Energy-providing carbohydrates come from both the hummus and the pita, helping provide enough fuel to meet the days needs. The roasted red peppers provide a healthy dose of vitamin C to boost that immune system after a hard workout. The cucumbers not only provide some crunch, but their high-water content help to replace lost fluids from excess sweating.

4. Turkey and cranberry sauce wrap

  • 3 oz. low-fat, reduced-sodium turkey breast deli meat
  • 3 Tbs cranberry sauce (chunky style)
  • Romaine lettuce
  • 2 Tbs honey-mustard
  • 1 large whole-wheat wrap or tortilla
    • Wrap sandwiches are easy to handle after an intense workout and can easily be made ahead of time and tossed in a cooler to consume right after training. Choosing low-sodium turkey is a great choice for muscle-building protein without adding unwanted sodium that may lead to water retention. Simple sugars in both the cranberry sauce and the honey mustard help to elevate insulin levels, thus enhancing amino acid absorption from the protein in the turkey.

5. Egg whites on whole-grain English muffin

  • 3 scrambled egg whites
  • 1 slice Canadian bacon (or low-fat deli ham)
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese
  • 1 lightly toasted whole-grain English muffin
    • Egg whites are the ultimate source of pure protein. They provide an excellent source of quick protein while not adding any saturated fat. This sandwich is packed with multiple protein sources (egg, meat, and diary); ensuring that muscle-building amino acids have a slow but constant entry into the body. The lower-glycemic whole-grain English muffin will help give sustained energy after the workout and into the day.

Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., CISSN, is a weight loss and fitness expert and doctor of nutrition. He owns eatrightfitness ®, an evidence-based counseling practice focused on weight loss, disease prevention, and sports nutrition.


Originally published May 30, 2013 10:00:06 AM.