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Post-Workout Treats: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Posted on 3rd Aug, 2011 by Susan Lacke
Watermelon, tangerine and grapefruit sangria made with white wine

You work out. You follow your training plan diligently, breaking a sweat every single day. You run, you lift weights, you do everything you need to do to burn calories and gain muscle.

So why are you gaining weight, not losing it?

The answer might not be in what you’re doing during the workout, but after. Long after. Have you ever uttered any of these phrases?

-“I swam an extra 30 minutes today. I can have a second serving!”
-“The only reason I work out is so I can eat what I want.”
-“I deserve this cupcake after the run I just had!”

Go ahead, eat that cupcake. You’ve earned it…if you’ve run for at least an hour and a half that day.

Eat Less Or Exercise More

To lose weight, it’s simple math: Burn more calories than you take in. For many, that means either eat less or move more. Ideally, it’d be a combination of both. I won’t lie: The main reason I’ve stayed with long-distance running and triathlon for so long is because I’m not willing to give up food. I like eating…a LOT. If I want to keep enjoying my relationship with food, I need to do something to balance that out.

Many people, especially those new to working out, tend to overestimate the calories they’ve burned in a workout, then over-reward themselves post-workout. A cupcake from the bakery can pack over 600 calories! For a 150-pound woman jogging a 10:30 min/mile pace, that’s about an hour and a half of running just to burn the amount of calories in that one cupcake!

It’s not just the obvious culprits, like cupcakes, which pack calories. A trip to the juice bar for a chocolate peanut-butter smoothie, an appetizer before dinner, or a couple glasses of wine are also “rewards” which may do more harm than good calorie-wise.

Here’s a few treats that may serve as healthier rewards without compromising your diet goals:

Sangria (46 calories/serving)
Strawberry-Kiwi-Tini (25 calories/serving)
Snicker Salad (178 calories/serving)
Orange Dream Cake (205 calories/serving)

Small Servings

If healthier versions just don’t cut it, and you want to go to town on a cupcake, by all means, go for it – just keep the portion sizes down, indulge sparingly, and make sure your post-workout reward really reflects the workout you completed that day.

Trust me — the rewards taste even better when you know you’ve really earned it.


Susan Lacke is not a nutritionist, nor does she play one on TV. The only thing she’s an expert on is eating. She is really, really good at that. Sometimes, she also manages to turn in a non-embarrassing performance in running and triathlon. If that interests you, check out her columns in Competitor Magazine, Competitor.com, and No Meat Athlete, and follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

Food, we love you.

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