9 Best Post Workout Snacks for Recovery
One of the best parts of working out is being able to replenish afterward with some food. And if you’re trying to get results, it’s important to be mindful of what you’re putting into your body.
When it comes to post-workout snacking, you want something that can replenish the energy, blood sugar, and glycogen stores you lost while training, as well as something that will help your muscles recharge and reset so you can get back into it the next day. Here are some of our favorite post-workout snacks to refuel for recovery.
1. Greek Yogurt and Berries
Protein is one of the most essential macronutrients you should give your body after a workout. Proteins are chemical “building blocks” made up of amino acids. These build and repair muscle tissue while also strengthening your bones. They’re also an energy source, but not as much as fats and carbs.
Getting enough protein throughout your day is essential. If you’re training hard and trying to put on muscle mass, you should aim for around 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Greek yogurt tends to be high in protein, with around 15-20g per serving. This makes it an amazing post-workout snack to help your muscles rebuild. Greek yogurt is also low-fat compared to regular yogurt. However, remember that the type of fat in most yogurts is not inherently bad for your health.
Topping it with some fresh fruit amplifies this snack and helps provide you with other important nutrients. Berries are anti-inflammatory foods, which can help reduce the risk of soreness or joint pain the following day after a grueling session. Plus, they add fiber, which is great for digestion. You can also add some granola for carbs.
2. Banana and Peanut Butter
You can eat bananas before or after an intense workout. They are rich in nutrients, particularly carbohydrates, so they’re great for replenishing any energy you lost during your training session. Carbs provide the body with glucose, which is converted into energy. Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source, so it’s important to make sure that 45-65% of your daily caloric intake is composed of carbs.
Pairing your banana with peanut butter makes the snack higher in protein and fats. Nut butter is high in monounsaturated fat, which helps increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Peanut butter, almond butter, and cashew butter are also great protein sources for muscle recovery.
Note that you don’t necessarily need to eat protein after a workout for it to support muscle synthesis. The anabolic window is a theory that states that after a workout, the body is more receptive to protein absorption and is, therefore, able to use it more effectively when consumed after a workout. However, it’s been found that the timing of protein consumption doesn’t matter – it’s all about how much protein you eat in a given day.
3. Protein Smoothie
Smoothies are a great way to get a ton of calories into your system without getting too full. If you’re lifting heavy and trying to bulk up, you know how important it is to get your calories in some way, shape, or form. And a fruit smoothie with added protein is a great way to do it.
Choose your favorite frozen fruits, add your favorite milk, and then add a scoop of protein powder. Many dieticians recommend whey protein because it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. With that said, there are plenty of plant protein powders that are complete proteins, too – just be sure to read the label.
You can also use the protein powder combined with water or milk to make a protein shake. These are lower calorie and less filling, but act as a quick post-workout snack that can help your muscles recover quickly. If you’re looking for a pro tip, use chocolate milk with your chocolate protein powder to make a healthy milkshake alternative.
4. Pita Chips and Hummus
If you’re looking for a light post-workout snack that still tastes delicious and is satiating enough to hold you over until your next meal, you want to have some pita and hummus on hand. Pita chips are excellent sources of carbohydrates, and since they are usually baked rather than fried, they tend to be lower in calories and unhealthy fats compared to traditional chips.
Hummus is also a fantastic addition to those chips because it’s loaded with healthy fats from the chickpeas. Plus, garbanzo beans are a good source of protein that will make you feel full for longer.
Hummus is also high in fiber and other micronutrients. You can amp up the health factor of this snack by swapping out the pita chips for carrots or celery. Keep in mind that this might not feel as satiating, but it will dramatically reduce the calorie count and allow you to eat more food.
5. Hard Boiled Eggs
Eggs are loaded with nutrients like vitamin D, zinc, calcium, and all of the B vitamins. Not to mention, they are high in protein and are super satiating. Almost all of an egg's nutrients come from the yolk, so be sure to eat the whole thing rather than just eating the whites.
You can eat your eggs however you like after your workout, but hard-boiled eggs are the easiest to grab from the fridge and toss into your mouth. You can add them on top of toast or salad, and since you don’t need any oil to cook them up, they are a lower-calorie option that is the perfect post-workout recovery snack if you’re trying to accomplish some weight loss.
6. Toast and Jam
Toast and jelly or jam is a classic breakfast combo, but it’s also a great post-workout snack because it’s loaded with carbs to help restore energy lost during your training session. But be mindful of the type of bread you choose.
White bread is known as a refined grain. These are sometimes called empty calories because these offer virtually no nutritional benefit besides carbohydrates. White rice and plain pasta are also considered refined carbs.
When choosing your grains, try to go with whole wheat or whole grain options. These are high in carbs but also contain higher levels of fiber, protein, and other nutrients. This makes them better for your body overall in comparison.
The fruit jam also contains sugars that your body can use for energy. Just be careful not to select options too high in added sugar, as these may contribute to stomach pain later on.
You can also swap out the toast for something a bit lighter, like rice cakes. These often come in different flavors and contain similar amounts of fiber as whole-grain bread. Typically, they are a bit lower in calories than bread, so these are good if you’re trying to cut.
7. Brown Rice and Chicken
While chicken and rice is not much of a snack, it is a fantastic post-workout meal. One of the main reasons this is such a popular meal for those trying to get healthy is because it is low calorie while still being super friendly in the macronutrient department. This is loaded with protein and carbohydrates.
You can also customize this however you please. Add veggies, taco seasoning, and sour cream to make a high-protein burrito bowl. Or, add some pita bread and hummus to make a Mediterranean wrap. Want another pro tip? Greek yogurt makes an excellent high-protein alternative to sour cream (trust us, you’d never know the difference).
8. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is just regular fruit that’s been dehydrated, giving it a chewier texture. It has the same great taste, but it completely changes the nutritional benefits. Dried fruit has more natural sugar in it than fresh or frozen fruit, which makes it a great option if you’re trying to quickly replenish the glucose stores that you lost during an intense training session.
Dried fruits are also great because you can take them on the go. These are also perfect for eating before a workout because they can give you a quick burst of energy to help you move faster, lift heavier, and last longer in the gym.
9. Protein Bar
If you work out in the morning before work or during your lunch break, you might not have time to make eggs, a yogurt bowl, or a chicken and rice bowl. If you’re on the move, there aren’t many better post-workout snacks for recovery besides a protein bar.
Protein bars are packed with protein, usually around 20g per bar. They often taste really good, and they’re satiating. This allows you to feel full for longer without needing to snack yet again. You can make your protein bar even more effective by pairing it with fruit for carbs and fiber.
Keep in mind that many protein bars are already high in fiber. For that reason, these are best eaten after your workout. Eating high-fiber snacks before a workout can mess with your digestion and make you feel sluggish while training.
Replenishing your body with nutritious foods after a workout is one of the most important ways to ensure that your muscles are ready to go for the next training session tomorrow. In general, you want to ensure your post-workout snacks are high in carbs and proteins to restore energy and build muscle.
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Protein | Better Health Channel
Berries: Anti-inflammatory Effects in Humans | Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Carbohydrates | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? | PMC