Your post-workout recovery snack can be much more than a reward for a hard effort; choose the right foods for that highly anticipated treat to aid recovery and build strength and fitness.
Post-Workout Nutrition Goals
After a hard workout, it is essential to refuel your body with the right foods to help you recover.
Your post-workout nutrition goals should focus on the 3 R’s: replenish, repair, and rehydrate. Here is a breakdown of what each of these entails and why they are so critically important:
Replenishing Glycogen Stores
As you work out, your body uses muscle glycogen to power through each exercise. Once your workout is complete, your glycogen stores end up depleted and in need of replenishment.
Glycogen comes from carbohydrates, which – once eaten – are converted into a sugar known as glucose. When eating carbs, your body reserves some of this glucose in its glycogen stores to use later for intense exercise. After working out, these glycogen stores must be replenished by eating more carbohydrates.
One study from the International Society of Sports Nutrition Symposium suggests that the ideal amount of carbohydrates to eat post-workout is around 1.2 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight (or roughly 3 to 4 grams per pound of body weight) (1).
Repairing Damaged Muscle
When you work out, your muscle fibers are subject to minor damage known as micro-tears. These micro-tears help you to build more muscle mass over time – but they require the right post-workout care.
The solution for helping micro-tears to repair properly? Protein!
Eating protein provides your body with amino acids that help to repair your damaged muscles and rebuild your muscle fibers. Forbes Health reports that the ideal amount of protein to consume post-workout is between 10 to 20 grams (2).
Sweating is a natural part of working out, aiding your body in keeping cool throughout each exercise.
However, this also results in a loss of fluids, making it ever-so-important to rehydrate after a workout to make sure your body has its fluids properly restored. Drinking adequate fluids both before and after a workout is crucial for keeping your body functioning properly.
The rehydrating process begins during the workout itself. You should aim to drink 8 ounces of water or other healthy fluids (sports drinks, enhanced waters, etc.) every 15 minutes, according to WebMD (3).
Muscle Recovery Post-Workout Foods
Keeping the above nutritional goals in mind, here are 7 awesome muscle recovery foods to eat after working out:
1. Eggs + Toast
Eggs and toast are an excellent source of both protein and carbohydrates – not to mention this snack is super easy to make.
Prepare your eggs how you like them and pair them with 1 to 2 pieces of toast. I recommend whole-grain toast, as it contains more protein and dietary fiber along with your much-needed carbohydrates. You can also add some veggies and fruits on the side to up the nutritional value of this snack!
One egg generally contains roughly 6 grams of protein, while a slice of whole-grain toast can contain anywhere from 2 to 6 grams of protein on average depending on the brand of bread.
2. Greek Yogurt + Granola
You can’t go wrong with Greek yogurt after a workout.
Most Greek yogurt brands contain between 10 to 20 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. Additionally, 1 cup of Greek yogurt also provides you with an average of 1 to 4 grams of carbohydrates.
One of the best companions for Greek yogurt is a healthy granola mix containing core ingredients such as oats, nuts, and seeds. Like Greek yogurt, granola can range in the quantity of carbohydrates it provides but generally contains between 15 to 20 grams of carbs per serving.
When choosing a granola brand, make sure to look for a product that has little to no added sugar and whole grains to get the most nutritional value.
3. Cottage Cheese + Fruit
Cottage cheese is packed with nutritional value, offering you around 20 to 25 grams of protein per serving, as well as 5 to 10 grams of carbohydrates. It doesn’t stop there though, as cottage cheese is also a fantastic source of calcium and vitamin B12.
Adding fresh or dried fruits to your cottage cheese is a great way to increase the total carbohydrates in this snack. Plus, fruits contain dietary fiber that helps keep your digestive tract healthy and working properly.
All sorts of fruits go well with cottage cheese including berries, peaches, plums, and pineapple!
4. Tuna + Crackers
If you want a low-calorie, high-protein snack, look no further than your nearest can or pouch of tuna fish.
Tuna contains an average of 20 to 25 grams of protein per serving, but as low-calorie as it is, you can easily eat multiple servings in one sitting. In addition to a hefty dose of protein, tuna also offers essential nutrients such as vitamin D, iron, and potassium.
To add some carbs to this snack, pair your tuna with a serving of whole-grain crackers.
5. Peanut Butter + Apple
When you are in the mood for a snack with more richness and sweetness, slice up your favorite variety of apples and scoop out a serving of peanut butter.
One serving of peanut butter contains approximately 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbohydrates. On the other hand, apples offer you around 20 to 25 grams of carbohydrates and 4 to 5 grams of dietary fiber.
Apples are a great choice for a snack in general, as they not only have tremendous nutritional value but are also made up of an estimated 86% water. This makes apples an excellent snack for rehydrating your body as you eat.
Keep in mind that peanut butter is incredibly calorically-dense, so be mindful of your serving size.
6. Protein Shake or Fruit Smoothie
Get your post-workout protein, carbs, and fluids all wrapped up in one tasty drink with a protein shake or fruit smoothie!
To craft your shake or smoothie, first you need to select a protein powder to add to your blender. The ideal protein powder should contain between 20 grams of protein per scoop.
Alternatively, you can use Greek yogurt or another high-protein dairy product to get your post-workout serving of protein. Then, add your selection of fruits and fluids. For a creamier texture, add more milk or yogurt to your mix.
You want to aim for either a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates in your shake or smoothie.
7. Veggie Omelet
As we have covered, eggs are a great source of protein and carbohydrates – and omelets are an incredibly easy way to prepare them!
Dress your omelet up with vegetables like spinach, broccoli, or mushrooms. Adding veggies to an omelet increases your intake of dietary fiber, as well as helps you to reach your daily recommended serving of vegetables.
The CDC recommends eating between 2 to 3 cups of veggies per day, so add as many as your heart desires!
Refueling your body after working out is an essential step for building muscle mass and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Try out one, a few, or even all of the above snack ideas after working out – and most importantly – remember your 3 R’s:
Replenish, repair, and rehydrate.
Vickie is the Social Media & Brand Manager at Organic Traditions - a leading brand of functional superfood products on a mission to make it easier for people to incorporate super food nutrition into everyday life.