We’ve all heard the saying abs are made in the kitchen, keying us into the importance of nutrition in terms of aesthetics and weight loss or weight maintenance, but proper nutrition is equally as important post-workout, for any and every fitness goal.
What you choose to eat before and after a workout is essential to performance and body composition. During shorter, intense bouts of exercise, our bodies utilize carbohydrate stores, also known as glycogen, as the first source of energy. Lower intensity, longer duration exercise utilizes fats as the primary source of energy as well as some carbohydrate stores as the secondary source. Because these stores are used to fuel a workout, it makes sense that they must be replaced afterward. 30-60 minutes post-workout is the ideal time to ingest your post-workout meal.
After a tough workout, you need to refuel your body with adequate amounts of protein and carbohydrates to aid in recovery and growth, as well as to boost your metabolism. It’s suggested that the average individual ingest around 15 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour of workout completed in their post-workout meal. For example, if your workout lasted 90 minutes, you’d aim for around 23 grams of protein and 45 grams of carbohydrates. If your goal is to gain weight, you will want these numbers to be higher and closer to double the aforementioned recommendation. Without proper nutrition, much of your hard work in the gym is going to waste.
Regardless of whether or not your workout is the first thing you do in the morning, the last thing you do at night, or somewhere in between – you’ve got to be prepared to get some nutrient-dense calories in no more than an hour after your workout. Below are some quick and easy post-workout meal ideas that will get the job done any time of day!
1. Protein shakes
An easy and convenient post-workout go-to! From ready to drink options to a slew of powders to choose from, protein shakes are a great post-workout meal option for those on the go or in between larger meals. Mix in some fruits and veggies for additional nutrients.
2. Protein pancakes
For those who prefer to workout first thing in the morning or love breakfast any time of the day, protein pancakes are a quick and flavorful option. The great thing about protein pancakes is that they are packed with a lot of protein and a lot of flavors, made with the type of protein powder that you prefer. When trying to consume the right amount of carbs and protein, don’t forget to account for each ingredient and topping!
3. Sautéed veggies and grilled chicken (or tofu)
This is a great option to use if you prepare your meals in advance (meal prep). Protein sources like meat and tofu can easily be cooked in bulk and split into portion sizes for a grab and go tasty meal option. Aim for 1-2 cups of vegetables and about 4 ounces of grilled chicken or prepared tofu. In calculating the macronutrients for this meal, account for any oils or sauces utilized during preparation.
4. Tuna and crackers
This low-fat, high protein combination is perfect for a snack or smaller meal post-workout. It’s a grab and goes favorite. Try to select crackers that are made of whole grains and contain minimal saturated fats.
5. Grilled chicken or salmon and sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are packed full of complex carbs and nutrients. Paired with a lean protein, it’s a nutrient-dense combination that tastes great and easy for those that like to meal prep, too. For an equally pleasing vegetarian swap, substitute with seitan or tofu.
6. Omelet and avocado toast
Omelets and avocado toast are the perfect pairing for early risers. Using egg whites in combination with whole eggs (yolk included) is a great way to add more protein without adding more fat content. To make this meal most nutrient-dense, throw some vegetables into your omelet!
7. Salad with balsamic vinaigrette or oil and vinegar dressing
Salads are a great option if you are quite hungry and seeking a lot of volume in a meal. Keep it leafy and green by adding veggies to your salad, and low fat by using a healthier dressing option, such as balsamic vinaigrette or oil and vinegar as mentioned previously.
Add 3-5 ounces of the main protein such as lean turkey breast, grilled chicken, or tempeh and supplement with other toppings. Some great options for healthy, supplemental, and non-meat proteins include sunflower seeds, chickpeas, hard-boiled eggs, and almonds.
8. Greek Yogurt and fruit, nuts/granola
Greek yogurt is high in protein, already prepared when bought, and tastes delicious! The bulk of the carbohydrates in this meal will come from the topping(s) of your choosing. Aim for one serving of nuts or granola and one serving of the fruit of your choice. Be mindful of the sugar content in the fruit you select as this will count towards your carbohydrate count. Blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries are our top three recommendations!