Love your uber active lifestyle? If you’re something of a gym bunny, you should know that post-workout nutrition is just as important as the exercise that you do. After you’ve finished a session at the gym, the first thing you need to do is head home and eat something that will satisfy your cravings. Particularly if you’re exercising in the morning, you should ensure you don’t skip breakfast – however tempting it may be to!
However, reaching for the nearest sugary snack is not the smartest way to go. Instead, you should be mindful and pick the best post-workout meal. If you need some guidance, keep reading to discover the most optimal foods to eat after a workout, and the best ones to make for yourself.
- 1. Why Do You Need a Post-Workout Meal?
- 2. Which Are the Best Foods to Eat After a Workout?
- 3. What Powerful Superfoods Should You Include?
- 4. 5 Post-Workout Breakfast Recipes to Feast On
- 5. 3 Healthy, Thirst-Quenching Smoothies to Make For Yourself
- 6. Tips for Making a Good Post-Workout Meal
- 7. Conclusion
- 8. References
Why Do You Need a Post-Workout Meal?
First of all, let’s talk about why you need to eat after you have had a workout. Leading a healthy and balanced life is all about understanding what your body needs to perform well. When you finish a session at the gym, you need to fuel up. Here are some of the reasons why eating a nutrition-packed meal is the only way to go.
1. You should fast before a short-blast workout
Looking for a way in which you can burn more fat when you work out? You might just have found it. Fasting before you exercise could have some remarkable weight loss results. When you have not ingested food or calories, your body turns to your reserved fat.
Research from the American Physiological Society (APS) suggests that this is because they are used to fuel your metabolism when exercising. The takeaway is that working out on an empty stomach could mean that you ultimately lose more weight than you otherwise would.
On the other hand, research suggests that eating before your workout can help to bolster prolonged aerobic exercise. So, when it comes to getting the energy you need to keep going for a long period, eating before your exercise might be key. In that case, you may find that loading up on carbs, which can be turned into energy, is the way to go.
It’s important to make sure that you are mindful of when to exercise in a fasted or non-fasted state. For example, if you’re about to undertake an endurance exercise, you will need to fuel up before you start moving. For short and sweet blasts of exercise, such as HIIT, you can rely on your fat reserves instead. As always, it’s worth seeking out professional advice on the topic should you have any qualms.
2. Working out burns calories
You don’t need to be a physician to understand that working out burns calories. Any form of physical exercise (or movement) does. You’re burning calories right now! Replenishing your supplies after you’ve been particularly active is important to your health. After a workout, you will find that you suddenly feel quite hungry. That’s because your body has burned a whole load of energy and calories, so be sure to give it some healthy food afterwards.
3. Your body needs fuel to recover
Your body needs exercise to stay fit and healthy. However, that’s not to say that working out is easy on your physique. It’s not. In the time immediately after a workout, you will find that your body needs to recover. It can’t do this without the right fuel, i.e the right food. The likelihood is that you will feel extra hungry when you’ve just exercised. Listen to your body and ensure that you have the best post-workout meal.
Which Are the Best Foods to Eat After a Workout?
When you’ve had a long and strenuous workout, you’re bound to be hungry for some nutrition. Not sure what foods to eat after a workout? It’s essential that you give your body the right nutrients. So, where should you start? Well, if you’re making a breakfast after a morning workout, it’s worth considering the following elements that should be included in any post-workout meal.
Recovery is the aim of the game when it comes to planning out which foods to eat after a workout. Research from the Queensland University of Technology suggests that eating carbs after your workout could be the way to go. The study found that eating carbohydrates during or immediately after exercise could help to reduce exercise-induced immune disturbances.
Of course, it’s important that you choose the “right” type of carbohydrates to support your body. Refined carbohydrates, such as pastries, white bread, and sweetened drinks, have previously been linked to health conditions such as diabetes. Instead, you might want to snack on whole carbs, such as brown bread, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
During exercise, you put an excessive amount of stress and strain on your muscles. In some cases, it can even tear them. That’s all part of the process. However, you need to give your muscles the fuel they need to repair themselves after your workout. Protein helps to promote growth, repair damaged cells, and help tissue to recover.
Choosing to include protein in your post-workout meal recipes means that you can boost your recovery time and help your body start to repair itself sooner rather than later. Experts suggest getting this protein through a regular, balanced diet. Healthy sources of protein include beans, legumes, nuts, lean meat, and leafy greens.
Think all fat is bad? Think again. Your body needs fats but it’s about making sure that you consume healthy options. In some cases, choosing a post-workout meal that’s rich in good fats could be the answer. For instance, one study found that drinking full-fat milk, rather than a skimmed alternative, could help to promote muscle growth. Surprising, but true.
Needless to say, you don’t want to overdo it on the fats front. When you’re creating your ideal post-workout food plan, you need to consider what your body needs the most. Including a little fat in the recipe is not a bad idea. However, it should by no means be the main ingredient of the meal. Good fat sources include things like avocados, whole eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and even yogurt.
While we’re on the topic of foods to eat after a workout, there’s one thing that you must never overlook. Hydration is absolutely crucial. Pouring yourself a tall glass of water or having a post-workout fruit smoothie is a smart and healthy move.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that fluid replacement is key after your exercise. The reason is simple. Drinking water once you have exerted energy stops you from becoming excessively dehydrated right afterward.
Dehydration may not sound too serious, but it could be. Signs of this problem include dizziness, light-headedness, tiredness, dryness of the mouth, lips, and eyes, and more. When you start to experience these things, it’s important that you can do all you can to make sure that you hydrate again. The most effective way to do that is to drink some water, but you can also replace your fluids with other beverages too.
What Powerful Superfoods Should You Include?
Now that you know the basics about how to make the best post-workout meal for your lifestyle, let’s talk ingredients. Do you know which foods you should be eating after you’ve hit the treadmill? Here are some of the key superfoods you should be using in your meals.
Packed with protein and omega-3 fats, eggs are one of the handiest ingredients to add to your post-workout meal. While you can, of course, fry these things, you might also want to try boiling them or even poaching them. These two methods of cooking are healthier than frying and produce similarly tasty results.
- Protein Powders
Have you tried natural protein powders yet? As we’ve already talked about, when your body is recovering from a bout of exercise, protein is a must. That means that you need to get as much of the stuff as you possibly can. Adding just a sprinkle of protein powder to your post-workout food or post-workout smoothie is a quick and easy fix.
- Leafy greens
Spinach, kale, asparagus – these are just a few examples of deliciously healthful leafy greens. Not only are these vegetables packed with the vitamins and nutrients you need the most, but they could also be effective in helping you recover after a workout. Research from Edinburgh Napier University suggests that eating these ingredients could help prevent some of the damage caused by a workout.
Wondering where you get your healthy fats from? Well, there’s a plant-based solution that might be the answer: avocados. They’re rich, creamy, and just so happen to give your body many of the major nutrients that it needs. For example, this ingredient is packed with potassium, which helps to promote muscle recovery after a workout.
5 Post-Workout Breakfast Recipes to Feast On
When the final bead of sweat has dropped and you’re done working out, there’s likely to be one thing on your mind: “What’s for breakfast?” Rather than hitting the nearest cafe for a greasy and unhealthy option, you ought to head home and make yourself something from scratch. Here are five recipes that are as satisfyingly flavorsome as they are good for you.
1. Egg White Frittata
Fancy a frittata? If you’re hoping to shed some pounds and get into shape, this next recipe is the best post-workout meal for weight loss.
One of the biggest dieting mistakes you can make is failing to eat after you’ve worked out. Instead, you simply need to make sure that you’re feeding yourself the right low-calorie dishes. Check out this easy recipe!
Cook time: 5-10 minutes | Serves: 1 | Calories per serving: 175 kcal
Equipment: Large bowl, whisk (or fork), large skillet, spatula and oven
- 4 egg whites
- 30g chopped tomatoes
- 20g chopped scallions
- 30g chopped peppers
- 30g chopped spinach
- 2 tbsp spirulina powder
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and remove the yolks. Whisk the mixture thoroughly until it’s light and fluffy. If you don’t have a whisk, use a fork instead.
- Add the sea salt, spirulina powder, scallions, olive oil (1 tbsp), and spinach to the mixture. Stir well so that the ingredients are covered by the egg whites.
- Drizzle the remaining olive oil into a large skillet and put on a medium heat. Add the tomatoes and peppers to the pan and cook for a few minutes, or until soft.
- Pour the egg white mixture into the pan. Gently mix together and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer to oven and broil for 4-6 minutes on medium heat. Then, serve hot.
Pro Tip: Having trouble separating the egg yolks from the white? You’re not alone. Luckily, there’s a simple culinary hack you can employ here. Crack an egg into a bowl and then take an empty plastic bottle. Hold the bottle directly above the egg yolk and squeeze it. The suction from the air should move the yolk right up and out of the white. Nice!
Customize your meal!
One of the major advantages of this good post-workout meal is that it’s super low-calorie. However, if you want something a little more substantial, there’s one thing you can do. Toast a couple of slices of wholemeal bread and serve the frittata on top of it. That way, you will get a decent dose of healthy carbs as well as the protein and vitamins from the main part of the meal.
2. Satisfying Overnight Oats
Starting the day with some satisfying overnight oats is a recipe for success. The rolled oats are packed with slow-release energy, which will see you through the morning. What’s more, the full-fat milk and natural yogurt give you a healthy dose of the good fats that your body needs to recover. Add in some honey for energy and you’ve got a daringly delicious breakfast snack that also doubles as quite possibly the best post-workout meal out there.
Intrigued? Here’s how to make it for yourself. Note: As the name suggests, it’s best to make this meal the night before your workout. It will keep for a day or two, so you could even double the ingredients and make a couple of portions.
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cool time: 6 hours (or over night) | Serves: 1
Calories per serving: 230 kcal
Equipment: Jar (or other sealable container) and spoon
- ½ cup full-fat milk
- 1 tsp goji berries
- ½ cup natural yogurt
- ⅓ cup rolled oats
- 1 tsp honey
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Pour the oats, honey, yogurt, cinnamon, and milk into a large sealable jar. Mix well so that the oats combine with the milk and yogurt.
- Sprinkle the goji berries on top of the mixture. Seal the jar (and make sure that it’s air-tight!)
- Put the jar in the fridge and leave for around six hours or overnight. When you’re done with your workout, open the fridge and enjoy.
Customize your oats!
Once you’ve mastered the basics of this recipe, you can take things to a whole new level. Why not experiment with different flavors? For example, you can swap the goji berries for other healthful ingredients like chia seeds, maca powder, homemade jam, or blueberries. Trying out a range of different tastes will help you find the one for you.
3. Superfood Omelet
When you’re choosing what foods to eat after a workout, you don’t always have to think outside the box. There are few dishes as wholesome and classic as the humble breakfast omelet. Believe it or not, it is one of the best post-workout foods to eat as well.
It packs a whole load of protein, thanks to the eggs and leafy greens, as well as satisfying your hunger pangs. When you’ve come in from your morning exercise, whipping this up should take you no time at all.
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cool time: 5-10 minutes | Serves: 1 | Calories per serving: 233 kcal
Equipment: Whisk, large bowl, large skillet spatula
- 3 organic eggs
- ½ cup chopped and washed spinach
- ½ cup chopped peppers
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp salt
- Olive oil
- In a large bowl, crack the organic eggs. Take the whisk and beat them well until smooth.
- Add the salt and garlic powder to the mixture. Stir well.
- Put a little olive oil into the large skillet and put the pan on medium heat. Put the chopped peppers into the pan and cook for a few minutes.
- When the peppers are soft, add the egg mixture into the pan and place the spinach on top.
- Cook for a couple of minutes on one side. Then fold the omelet and flip it. Cook for a further two minutes on the other side.
- When the omelet is cooked all the way through, serve it!
Customize your meal!
The great thing about this post-workout meal is that it gives you protein, fats, and vitamins. However, you might want to tweak it to suit your taste. You could swap the spinach for kale, for example, or switch the peppers for red onions. Should you want something a little spicier, you might want to add some cayenne powder to the egg mixture. Give it a go!
4. Banana Muffins
You might think that eating a muffin for breakfast is a sin, but it doesn’t have to be. The truth of the matter is that these banana muffins make for a seriously good post-workout meal idea. Rather than being rammed full of sugar, they have a wealth of super healthy ingredients. The whole wheat flour is also an excellent source of good carbs. You can make a whole batch of these and eat them each morning after you’ve exercised.
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes | Serves: 12 | Calories per serving: 161 kcal
Equipment: Muffin tin (12 cups), 2 large bowls, whisk, fork
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 ripe bananas
- ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Olive oil (or butter)
- Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Grease the cups of the muffin tray using a little olive oil or butter.
- Peel the bananas and use a fork to mash them up. They should be as smooth as possible before you add them into the mix.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs up and then add the honey. Add the mashed banana, milk, and vanilla extract to the mix. Stir well.
- In the other bowl, pour the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix the ingredients until they appear as even as possible.
- Add the egg mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir to combine. You should ensure that the mixture is as smooth and even as possible.
- Throw in the chopped hazelnuts and fold them into the mixture.
- Equally distribute the muffin mixture into the 12 separate cups of the tin. Put the tin into the oven and cook for around 20 minutes (or until golden!).
- Take the tin out of the oven. The muffins should have risen and look ready to eat! Leave the tin to cook for at least five minutes before attempting to remove the muffins.
Pro Tip: Choosing the right bananas for this recipe is more important than you might imagine. The riper the fruit you use, the better the result will be. Should you have some bananas that are just about to go bad, you might just find that they are ideal for this specific recipe.
Customize your muffins!
Of course, it should go without saying that if there’s any ingredient you dislike, you can swap it for something else. For example, if you’re not a huge fan of hazelnuts, you could swap them for any other nut out there. Equally, you could add some extras such as berries to the mix to give it even more flavor and vitamins!
5. Crushed Avocado on Brown Toast
Avo on toast isn’t just the latest health trend, it’s also a pretty healthy meal. Not only is avocado full of healthy fats but, research shows that it can also increase your antioxidant intake. Having this fruit (yes, it’s actually a fruit!) on some wholemeal toast could be the ideal way to refuel after you’ve hit the gym. Plus, as an added bonus, this post-workout meal takes just around 10 minutes to complete. Here are the details.
Cook time: 10 minutes | Serves: 1 | Calories per serving: 323 kcal
Equipment: Knife, chopping board, large bowl, fork, toaster
- 1 large ripe avocado
- 2 slices wholemeal bread
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp chili flakes
- 30g chopped cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Slice the avocado. Get rid of the peel and the stone in the middle.
- Put the avocado in a bowl. Drizzle the olive oil onto it. Use a fork to mash the avocado until it’s smooth (or leave it as chunky as you like!).
- Toast the bread. Pile on the crushed avocado and then top with chopped tomatoes.
- Sprinkle on the sesame seeds, chili flakes, and sea salt to taste.
Customize your meal!
Of course, you can use this avocado on toast as the base of your meal. For example, you may want to add some healthy fish to it like salmon slices. Failing that, you could also include some more vegetables in the dish, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, or red peppers. Time to get your thinking cap on!
3 Healthy, Thirst-Quenching Smoothies to Make For Yourself
There are two things you need to do after you’ve completed a workout – refuel and rehydrate. Guzzling down a breakfast smoothie ticks both of those boxes. What’s more, when you’re ultra-busy and on the go, drinking one of these protein-packed beverages will save you a whole load of time. Here are three recipes to blast up for yourself.
1. Leafy Green Goodness
Here’s a quick way to eat your greens while getting a whole load of goodness too. When you consider the different foods to eat after a workout, it may all seem a little overwhelming. Blending up some vitamin-packed ingredients means that you can be certain that you’re getting all you need. Let’s take a look at a recipe that will give you protein, energy, and a massive burst of flavor too.
Prep time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1 | Calories per serving: 275 kcal
Equipment: Blender, chopping board, knife, glass
- 1 banana
- ½ cup spinach
- ½ cup kale
- 50g cucumber
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- Ice (optional)
- Wash the spinach and kale. Peel the banana. Chop up the spinach, kale, banana, and cucumber. The pieces should be as small as possible.
- Add the chopped ingredients along with the milk and teaspoon of matcha powder to a blender. Blast until smooth and liquid-like. Add some water to thin it out, if needed.
- Serve in a tall glass over some ice and enjoy.
2. Coconut Bliss
Do you like your smoothies fruity? Well, we might have just the thing for you. When you consider what food to eat after a workout, don’t be afraid to use sweet but healthy ingredients. This tropical-inspired post-workout smoothie is full of fresh and juicy ingredients. Bonus: By adding chia seeds into the mix, you get a little extra protein too. Here’s how you can make this recipe for yourself in five minutes or less.
Prep time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1 | Calories per serving: 472 kcal
Equipment: Blender, chopping board, knife, glass
- 1 cup natural yogurt
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 50g pear
- 50g apple
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- Ice (optional)
- Cork and slice the apple. Slice the pears. Note: You can leave the skin on both of these fruits. Doing so will add extra fiber and you won’t notice the difference!
- Add the natural yogurt, coconut milk, pear, apple, and chia seeds to a blender. Blast until smooth (add some water to thin it out, if needed). Serve in a tall glass over some ice and enjoy.
3. The Oaty Smoothie
Somewhere between an overnight oat pot and a traditional breakfast smoothie, you will find this little gem. This oaty drink will satisfy your hunger cravings while also giving you a massive hit of superfoods. You can make the smoothie before you start your workout. Then, when you’re done, it will be ready and waiting for you!
Prep time: 5 minutes | Cool time: 1 hour | Serves: 1 | Calories per serving: 538 kcal
Equipment: Blender, chopping board, knife, glass
- ½ cup natural yogurt
- 1 banana
- ¼ cup of rolled oats
- ½ cup full-fat milk
- 1 tbsp agave syrup
- 1 tbsp flaxseed
- Peel and chop the banana.
- Put the natural yogurt, full-fat milk, banana, agave syrup into a blender. Blast until smooth. (Add some water, if needed.)
- Pour the mixture into a glass and add the oats. Stir well. Cover the glass and put it into the fridge for an hour before drinking.
Tips for Making a Good Post-Workout Meal
- Plan ahead and get what you need. After a workout, you’re likely to feel completely drained of energy. That’s why it’s important to think ahead. Making or planning your meal before you hit the gym means that you won’t need to worry about doing it when you get home. It’s a no-brainer.
- Add some small but mighty ingredients. Adding seeds and powders, such as maca powder, matcha powder, and spirulina, to your meals or smoothies could make a serious difference. Stock up on these things and experiment with them. You could add a little to each new recipe you learn.
- Write down your favorite recipes. Now that you’ve discovered some of the best post-workout foods and recipes, it’s time to start stock-piling them. Get yourself a plain notebook and do the honors. Try out various flavors and ingredients to see what you enjoy the most. By keeping track of these meals, you will always have a personalized recipe book. The next time you fancy a bite, just take a flick through it.
- Swap ingredients for healthy alternatives. If you’ve read the above recipes and don’t like a certain ingredient, don’t let that hold you back. You can always swap it for something else. For example, if you’re not the world’s biggest fan of bananas, you could swap the ingredient for apples or oranges. Easy!
- Get into a good eating routine. We already know that eating after a workout is essential, but sometimes, we can fall into poor habits. When you’re in a rush, it’s natural that you may reach for something a little unhealthy simply because it’s quick and easy to do so. Instead, make a plan for when and what you’re going to eat. Once you get into a routine, it will be easy.
Is it time to start planning your next post-workout meal? With any luck, we’ve given you the tools that you need to make a remarkably effective post-workout food plan for each and every morning. Using these tips, tricks, and recipes, you can improve your fitness nutrition and get the best out of the meals and breakfasts that you eat. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be difficult. When it comes to cooking, practice really does make perfect!
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Charlotte is a seasoned content writer, journalist, and fitness enthusiast. Thanks to this passion, in her professional work, she focuses on the health niche and her work has been seen in major publications around the globe.
Since embarking on a lifelong journey toward better wellness, she has become completely fascinated by modern diet trends. She has now researched both Keto and Paleo eating plans in-depth in a bid to better understand their possible benefits and how they work.