You did the work. You pushed your limits. You crushed your training goal. You’re done digging deep and now you’re hungry for a post-workout meal. Now what to eat after a workout? You probably feel like you can eat anything—and you may want to eat everything in sight! But if you’re looking to maximize your muscle recovery and get the most from your food, high-quality protein should be your go-to post-workout meal or snack.
Protein consumption can be a controversial subject. Just poll the weight room at your gym and you’re likely to hear a range of conflicting opinions about what type of protein to eat, when, and why. Regardless of what they eat throughout the rest of the day, most athletes do adhere to the “magic window” rule, taking care to consume some type of protein within a 30-minute window immediately after exercise for optimal muscle repair and recovery (although some people view this window as 45 minutes; others allow it to stretch to 60 minutes).
It’s a fact that your muscles are more receptive to protein synthesis in the period directly following hard training; however, they remain receptive for several hours. Still, the peak time for protein consumption is within that immediate post-workout window. You’ll probably be hungry for a good post-workout meal anyway, and a serving of protein will not only help support your tired muscles, it will also keep you more satisfied—and less likely to reach for a fast-food fix later on.
BEST FOODS TO EAT AFTER A WORKOUT
OK—we all agree that protein after workouts is the way to go. So what should you eat? Here are some quick, delicious, high-quality protein options for your next post-workout meal or snack.
One of the easiest ways to pack protein in your gym bag—no refrigeration required—is with an insulated bottle like the BlenderBottle® Radian™ Stainless Steel shaker. You can prep your shake before you hit the gym, store it in your locker, and it will be right there and ready to drink the moment you finish working out. It will also still be refreshingly chilled—the Radian shaker keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours.
Nuts are an excellent source of protein, and they’re another portable option. You can keep a stash of nuts anywhere—in your gym bag, backpack, purse, car, or desk drawer—so they’re handy whenever hunger hits. For a quick post-workout snack, try a toasted bagel smeared with almond butter,
Love chickpeas? Great—because they’re packed with protein, as well as carbohydrate and fiber. Reach for hummus with whole-grain pita bread and chopped veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers for a perfect post-workout snack.
Scrambled, poached, boiled, or fried, eggs are one of the best foods to eat after a workout. A quick way to ensure you have eggs ready when you are is to hard boil a dozen every weekend. Then you can eat them in salads, in pita sandwiches, or on their own throughout the week. Breakfast burritos made from whole-wheat tortillas filled with scrambled eggs, avocado, and fresh salsa are another great way to eat get your post-workout protein—along with healthy fat, whole grains, and antioxidants.
Chicken is another excellent protein source that’s easy to cook in advance and add to salads, wraps, and sandwiches for a quick post-workout meal. If you’re cooking chicken for dinner one night, make a little extra with tomorrow’s training in mind.
Yummy Greek yogurt is rich, creamy, and full of protein. Eat it alone or add it to your protein shake. Stir nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit into yogurt to create a more filling breakfast or post-workout snack. Even dark chocolate chips make a delicious addition to Greek yogurt—and they provide valuable antioxidants, too!
As you can see, with just a little planning it’s easy to get a good post-workout meal or snack. And keep this in mind: more isn’t always better when it comes to protein. Muscle protein synthesis—or the amount of protein your muscles can actually put to good use—maxes out at around 20–30 grams, so consuming more than that at one time is pointless. It won’t hurt you to have more, but the excess protein will go to waste. You’re better off including 20-30 grams of protein in your post-workout meal, then spreading the rest of your protein intake throughout the day. That’s another smart reason to keep a BlenderBottle® shaker filled with your protein supplement of choice, or other portable protein snacks like nuts, close at hand.
What’s your go-to post-workout meal or snack? Share your ideas and recipes in the comments below.