Post Workout Snacks
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Best 10 Post-workout Snack Options for Every Athlete

Written by Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD on March 07, 2024


Your body is a pretty incredible machine. Think about all the things it can do for you every day. To keep it running at its best capacity, it’s important to prioritize the quality of your diet. When you go to the gym, it’s even more important to make sure you’re fueling your body well with optimal nutrition.

Not only is it essential to make sure you’re well-fueled before a workout, but what you eat afterward also matters. Post-exercise nutrition plays a crucial role in replenishing the fluid lost and energy expended during your workout. After all, the “4R’s framework of nutritional strategies for post-exercise recovery” is rehydration, refuel, repair, and rest, which include what you’re putting into your body. 

Whether you're engaged in endurance training, strength workouts, or any other form of exercise, consuming the right post-workout snack can help restore glycogen levels, repair muscle tissues, and prevent fatigue. 

What makes a good after-workout snack, anyway? Let’s explore the benefits of a well-planned snack for recovery, including essential components and some ideas to help get you started. 

Why are Post-Workout Snacks Essential?

Working out requires your body to put in a hard effort, using energy, pushing muscles, and demanding more oxygen. Different types of exercises use up different amounts of fuel, and replenishment is key after exertion. 

Post-workout snacks play a crucial role in refilling your body's energy stores and helping your muscles recover (and grow stronger) after exercise. When you work out, your body utilizes glycogen (stored glucose) for fuel. Your muscles undergo stress and damage that needs repair. 

In one study, 256 visitors to a university gym were presented with a choice between an apple or a chocolate brownie both before and following a workout. The researchers noticed that more of the participants were likely to either choose the brownie or nothing at all after they were done exercising. 

Not that brownies are bad, but they probably aren’t the most nutrient-dense choice following a workout, nor are they going to replenish your body as well as something healthier. The pull toward less healthy food after exercise suggests the importance of having a plan when it comes to snacks to eat after a workout. Consider how you can create nutritious and convenient snack options that incorporate a combination of foods you like to eat.

When and What to Eat After a Workout?

Think about the last time you worked out hard. Whether it was in a gym setting, a group fitness class, or an outdoor event, you pushed yourself. You probably found yourself getting hungry within 30-60 minutes afterward, and if you didn’t have something to eat then, you might have started to feel the effects of low blood sugar.

Give yourself a second to recover, but make it a habit to eat a post-workout snack within that first hour following exercise. This should include a balance of protein and carbohydrates and a little bit of healthy fats. Ideally, these macronutrients should come from whole or minimally processed foods rather than ultra-processed and packaged items.

Carbs help restore your glycogen levels, while high-quality proteins support muscle repair and growth. Including some healthy fats also helps to satisfy hunger, slow digestion, and stabilize your blood sugar. 

Eating a post-workout snack also helps to prevent muscle breakdown and fatigue and offers hydration for fluids that were lost during exercise. A nutrient-dense and balanced recovery snack can help improve your performance, reduce muscle soreness, and optimize your overall fitness. 

The Best Post-Workout Snack Options

Nutrition, balance, and variety are key when putting together your post-workout snacks. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the kitchen preparing snacks for the week, but they should be intentional and include things you enjoy. Here are 10 ideas to help get you started. 

post workout snacks infographic

1. Greek Yogurt with Fruit

Greek yogurt provides a rich source of protein, while fruits like berries offer antioxidants and carbohydrates, aiding muscle repair and replenishing glycogen stores for energy. You could also add some nuts or seeds, like chia, hemp, or flax, for additional protein and healthy fats. 

2. Whole Grain Toast with Nut Butter or Avocado

Whole grain toast provides complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. The added nut butter delivers protein and healthy fats, supporting muscle recovery and keeping you feeling full and satisfied post-workout. 

Not in the mood for almond, peanut, or cashew butter? Try mashed avocado instead, sprinkled with a little salt. Add other veggies as you see fit, like thinly sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, or sprouts for a heartier snack.

3. Chomps Meat Stick with Chocolate Milk

Chomps meat sticks, made from venison, turkey, or beef, provide 10-12 grams of protein and are the perfect size to carry in your workout bag. There are several gluten-free, sugar-free flavors to choose from like Taco Seasoned Beef or Salt & Pepper Venison. Pair one with a side of chocolate milk for an ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein, helping to restore glycogen and support muscle repair. 

4. Cottage Cheese with Pineapple

Cottage cheese is flavorful and high in protein. Pineapple provides natural sugars and bromelain, an enzyme that may help reduce inflammation and aid digestion, promoting muscle recovery and overall wellness. Alternatively, try some diced peaches, pears, or berries, and consider a side of pistachios for a little healthy fat. 

5. Protein Smoothie

A protein smoothie made with protein powder, soy milk, frozen fruit, and leafy greens like kale or spinach offers a convenient and customizable post-workout option. It provides a blend of carbohydrates, protein, and micronutrients, supporting muscle repair, hydration, and replenishment of essential nutrients lost during exercise. Toss in a couple of pitted dates for extra nutrition and natural sweetness. 

6. Turkey or Chicken Wrap

Turkey or chicken wraps provide lean protein and complex carbohydrates from whole grain wraps, supporting muscle repair and replenishing energy stores. Additionally, adding vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers boosts fiber and micronutrient intake, promoting overall health and recovery. For a plant-based alternative, replace the meat with hummus and optional cheese. 

7. Quinoa Salad

Quinoa may be tiny but don’t underestimate its benefits for post-workout recovery. Quinoa is a high-protein whole grain, packed with essential amino acids. For a simple recovery salad, add some chopped vegetables and a light vinaigrette to offer a good balance of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. This combination supports satiety as well as muscle repair. It also helps replenish glycogen stores and aids in post-workout recovery and overall wellness. 

8. Hard-boiled eggs with Avocado

Hard-boiled eggs are portable and offer high-quality protein, with 6-7 grams per egg. Slices of creamy avocado provide healthy fats and additional vitamins and minerals. This tasty combination supports muscle repair, satiety, and nutrient replenishment, making it a good post-workout snack option.

9. Trail Mix

Pre-made trail mixes are often high in added sugar and sodium. If you’re looking for something else, it’s easy to make your own in the bulk section of the grocery store. Put together a trail mix with nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and optional dark chocolate. These offer a balanced blend of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Homemade trail mix provides quick energy and sustained fuel for muscle recovery, making it an ideal on-the-go post-workout snack.

10. Tuna Salad on Whole Wheat Crackers

Tuna salad made with canned tuna, Greek yogurt (or mayo), and diced vegetables (like celery, carrots, or radishes) offers protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential nutrients. Pairing it with whole wheat crackers provides carbohydrates and fiber, supporting muscle repair, replenishment of glycogen stores, and overall post-workout recovery.

Refueling Your Body for More

Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to support your physical and mental well-being. It’s also an effective tool for reaching specific health and body composition goals you may have. 

You might spend some days lifting weights or in a group fitness class, other days going for a jog in your neighborhood or playing tennis with a friend, and stretching or doing yoga in between. Regardless of what your workout schedule looks like, it’s important to remember that physical activity and nutrition go hand-in-hand. Rather than relying on just one or the other, they go better together and you can reap the benefits. 

Without nutrient-dense, balanced post-workout snacks, your body can’t recover quite as well or as quickly. These don’t have to be fancy pairings or complicated meals, either. Spend some time each week planning a few good post-workout snack ideas to take with you to the gym or have readily available in the fridge. Trust us, it will help prevent hunger and low blood sugar while replenishing your fuel stores and improving overall fitness. 

Toss some Chomps meat sticks, homemade trail mix, and protein bars in your gym bag for easy snacking and get moving. 

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