There are some workout myths that are just plain wrong. One of the biggest ones is that you shouldn't eat right after a workout; otherwise, you'll just erase the benefits of all that work and sweat. As I wrote in my previous piece on workout myths, this couldn't be further from the truth, as long as you snack wisely after your workout.
After a good workout, your body's levels of glycogen, electrolytes, and fluids have been depleted. Restoring them helps your muscles recover and rebuild, which then boosts your metabolism. Eating a nutrient-dense snack also reinvigorates your energy levels, which helps you move through your day, keeping your mind sharp and your body active.
The best post-workout snacks are high in protein (at least 10 grams per serving or more if you've been weight training), complex carbs (30 to 40 grams), and electrolytes. Adding in a healthy form of fat (e.g., avocado, nuts) will also help keep you satisfied for longer.
I generally recommend trying to stay in the range of 150 calories per serving. And, of course, be sure to drink lots of water!
Below are some of my favorite post-workout snacks that combine a few of the elements above.
1. Peanut Butter Banana
This tops my list not only because it contains bananas, which are high in electrolytes, and peanut butter, high in protein and healthy fat, but also because it's so convenient to throw into my workout bag and grab right after.
I also love just eating a plain banana after a workout, but those can get a bit messy and squishy if you're not careful.
2. Greek yogurt with seeds and berries
This is a good one if you're sensitive to nuts. You can use pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, or sunflower seeds. The yogurt and seeds provide protein and healthy fat while the berries provide carbs without being too high in sugar.
I like this one for if you want to stay full a little longer or know you are going to be active again soon.
3. Quinoa with tofu
This one is another one to have if you want it to hold you over for a little while. Both the quinoa and tofu contain protein, and the quinoa is one of my favorite gluten-free grains that provides those complex carbs, fiber, and lots of minerals. With the tofu, you can have it raw with some hummus, or you could stir fry it with an easy combination of soy sauce (use gluten-free tamari if you're gluten-free) and sriracha.
You can also use other light proteins like beans or fish instead of tofu—they'll be just enough to satisfy you but not so heavy that it will put you in a food coma or destroy your appetite for your next meal.
4. Boiled eggs with hummus
This is another super-easy snack. You can boil a bunch of eggs ahead of time, then after your workout just dip the eggs in the hummus for a tasty protein-filled snack.
Usually two eggs like this is the perfect amount for me.
5. Whole-grain toast with nut butter
Make sure to use a bread that lists whole grains in the first few ingredients to make sure you get those complex carbs and not just another form of refined carbohydrates. A widely available gluten-free option that I like is Canyon Bakehouse's 7-Grain Bread.
Then top with your favorite nut butter to add protein and healthy fat, something like an all-natural almond butter or sunflower seed butter.
6. Trail mix or simple energy bar
I've lumped these two together because your energy bar shouldn't have a lot of fillers or ingredients in addition to what would be in a good hearty trail mix.
I like trail mixes that combine nuts with seeds and a few dried fruits, but avoid high-sugar ingredients like chocolate chips or yogurt chips. You can make your own trail mix or buy one that's got a bit of flavor and kick to it like this Spicy Mango Sprouted Trail, or if you want something similar in a bar form, I love these paleo energy bars by Yawp.
7. Tuna salad with crackers
If you’ve got some leftover tuna from lunch, this is the perfect opportunity to use it up! Kind of like chips and dip, except with a high protein low-fat version and whole grain nutritious baked crackers instead fried potato chips.
Add some extra spice to your tuna salad with some cumin or curry powder and you’ve got yourself a delicious satisfying alternative!
A very simple but high-protein snack that's also easy to pack in a bag and take with you. According to some studies, soy protein can help ensure that any weight you lose is from fat rather than muscle.
And rather than drinking an energy drink or shake that contains a highly processed form of soy (i.e., soy protein isolate), you can get it in its natural form from these beans!
9. Acai bowl with peanut butter
Acai bowls have the potential to be high in sugar, so I eat these sparingly and only after a really good workout and only from a place that I know doesn't add a lot of sugar to their mix. Load it up with low-sugar toppings like coconut flakes, seeds, berries, and nut butter to get your mix of phytonutrients and keep the calorie count down.
What do think? What are your favorite post-workout snacks?
Jennifer Wang is the founder and CEO of The Tasteful Pantry, a healthy lifestyle company and blog that provides advice, product reviews, and resources for healthy and mindful living, with a special emphasis on "free form" living. She holds a B.S. in finance from the University of Pennsylvania. Jennifer has also been a spinning instructor for over 10 years and has been doing Pilates for over five years.
In her free time, she enjoys long runs on the beach and teaching meditation in Los Angeles.