Let’s say you’ve just finished a tough workout. Hey, good job. But you’re not done yet. Now, you need to eat.
Refueling after exercising — especially an intense cardio or lifting session — is essential for rebuilding muscles and replenishing glycogen stores. For elite competitors like powerlifters and triathletes, what they eat after training is vital to performing at the highest level for their next training session and often includes fine-tuned macronutrient breakdowns.
But for most of us, a simple snack or meal that contains protein and carbohydrates will give the body what it needs and allow your muscles to properly recover before your next workout. Because there are plenty of options out there besides just protein bars and supplements, we asked five registered dietitians what they eat after working out.
Below you’ll find five nutritious snacks that you can easily adopt as part of your own post-workout routine. Your muscles will appreciate it.
“I don’t like anything sweet after a workout; I like something comforting and also one-stop shopping items with protein, produce, carbs and fat that are easy to assemble or can be done ahead of time. A baked potato topped with cottage cheese, spinach and pesto helps the body replenish and also has the added value of addressing some of the shortfall nutrients, especially fiber and potassium.”
—Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, and owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie
“I opt for plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt with blueberries and roasted almonds or pecans. The combination of protein (from the Greek yogurt and nuts) and carbs (from the Greek yogurt and blueberries) is the perfect way to refuel. Another great option is a hard-boiled egg and a piece of whole-grain toast. Post-workout snacks or meals are important to replenish glycogen stores, refuel muscles and restore electrolytes lost in the form of sweat. If the idea of a full meal just after an intense workout is difficult to stomach, have a snack within 30 minutes of your workout, then work in a meal several hours later.
“Rehydrating after a workout is also vital. Drink plenty of water, and skip the sugar-loaded ‘energy’ or ‘sport’ drinks. If you need extra electrolytes, choose unsweetened organic coconut water for a little sodium and potassium boost.
—Sydney Fry, MS, RD, writer and recipe developer
“I like eating half of a turkey sandwich if I’m in a meal mood. Otherwise I will eat some nuts and fruit. I don’t work out hard enough to really need to replenish my carbs or protein, so a standard snack or mini meal works for me.”
—Louise Chen, Dallas-based registered dietitian
“My favorite is a smoothie with protein powder, matcha powder, spinach and frozen berries. It’s refreshing, and it’s a good combination of carbohydrates for refueling and protein for rebuilding muscle.”
—Trinh Le, MPH, RDN, and blogger at FearlessfoodRD
“Breakfast is my post-workout meal, but for clients who aren’t eating a meal right after, I recommend low-fat chocolate milk, a protein bar with 10–20 grams of protein or a smoothie with yogurt, milk and fruit. Post-workout carbs and protein are essential for refueling.”
—Amy Goodson, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant based in Dallas
READ MORE WHAT DIETITIANS EAT