The best post workout snack should contain a combination of protein, carbohydrates, fluid, and antioxidants while low in fat. A combination of these nutrients will promote muscle recovery while fighting inflammation to leave you feeling great after a workout!
Nutrition After Exercise
First a little science 🙂 There are 4 things to consider when it comes to nutrition after exercise: protein, carbohydrate, fluids, and antioxidants. Keep reading to dive further into each!
There is an “anabolic window” after exercise, which is simply a period of time when our muscles are very sensitive to nutrients like protein and carbohydrates. This window lasts ~60-90 minutes after exercise so it’s important to consume a meal or snack within that time frame.
If you are going to eat a meal within that 60-90 minute time frame, there is typically no need to consume a post-workout snack AND the meal (depending on your nutrition/body composition goals). Simply consuming that meal is plenty! Just be sure to include a protein and carbohydrate, and keep fat content fairly low (fat inhibits protein and carbohydrate absorption – more on this below).
Protein is a big part of nutrition after exercise and would be included in the best post workout snack. To learn more about protein basics, check out this post!
As we exercise, muscles naturally break down. Consuming protein after exercise can help to rebuild our muscles and optimize recovery. Combining carbohydrates and protein together as part of your post-workout meal or snack can increase absorption of both macronutrients even more! Keep reading to learn more about carbohydrates post-exercise.
Carbohydrates are the easiest macronutrient for our bodies to convert into energy. Check out this post on all things carbohydrates to learn more!
Similar to pre-workout nutrition needs, we want carbs post-workout. Carbohydrates provide energy to rebuild muscle glycogen, which is stored carbohydrate. Our muscles are sensitive to carbohydrate after exercise. This occurs for a few reasons:
- Blood flow to working muscles is increased post-exercise.
- Individual muscle cells are more likely to absorb glucose.
- These muscle cells are more senstive to the hormone insulin, which increases glycogen formation.
We absorb and utilize carbohydrates more efficiently after exercise. Therefore, it’s important to consume carbohydrates, in addition to protein, after a workout.
Sweating during a workout is a loss of fluid. We need to hydrate before, during, and after a workout to mitigate these losses. Including some sort of fluid as part of your post workout snack will assist in replenishing any fluids lost from sweat.
If you want to get specific in terms of how much fluid you need, I recommend weighing yourself before and after a workout and multiplying the difference in weight by 20. That is the amount of fluid ounces you need to rehydrate!
Example: if someone weights 150lbs before a workout and 148lbs after, that’s a loss of 2lbs. Multiplying 2×20 equals 40, which means this person would need 40oz of fluid before the next workout (in addition to their daily fluid needs) to properly rehydrate.
Good Foods for Muscle Recovery
To create the best post workout snack, you want to focus on good foods for muscle recovery. Exercise causes inflammation in our muscles, which is totally normal. In order to fight that inflammation (some of this inflammation is good; it means we’re adapting to the training and getting stronger!), we want to include antioxidant-rich foods. These are some great options:
- Mixed berries
- Tart cherries
- Specific juices – tart cherry, watermelon, beet
- Spinach, kale
- Sweet potatoes
- Flaxseeds, chia seeds
Including these foods in your post workout meal or snack will promote muscle recovery by providing antioxidants to fight inflammation.
Consuming fat as part of a post workout snack will blunt the absorption of carbohydrates and protein. Therefore, it’s best to consume foods lower in fat after a workout, so you can optimize your carb and protein absorption! I have a post all about fat right here!
High fat foods that are often included in a post workout snack include peanut butter, almond butter, trailmix, avocado, high-fat cheese. These are definitely okay to include after a workout, you just want to keep the portion size minimal!
Best Post Workout Snacks
Using all of the information above about protein, carbs, fluid, and muscle recovery foods, I wanted to list out some examples of the best post workout snacks to give you some ideas (with a few recipe links)!
- Greek yogurt parfait with mixed berries and cereal (like Honey Nut Cheerios or Honey Bunches of Oats)
- Greek yogurt pumpkin dip with sliced apples or graham crackers
- Avocado toast on whole grain bread with poached or scrambled eggs (just watch the portion of avocado!)
- Chocolate milk
- Mixed berry smoothie with Greek yogurt, frozen berries, chia seeds, a dash of turmeric, and tart cherry juice
- Green smoothie with Greek yogurt, kale, banana, ground flaxseed, a dash of turmeric, and 100% orange juice
- Egg casserole with spinach, tomatoes, and low-fat cheese
- Energy bites (like these Healthy Buckeyes or Chocolate Peppermint Bites) with a glass of cow’s or soy milk
- Oatmeal made with cow’s or soy milk with blueberries and walnuts (or these Pumpkin Spice Latte Baked Oats or Coconut Cream Overnight Oats)
- Seared salmon with roasted broccoli and butternut squash
- Espresso chocolate chip protein muffins with a glass of cow’s or soy milk
- Homemade healthy ranch dip with homemade tortilla chips and fresh veggies
After Workout Snacks
I hope you enjoyed this article on the best post workout snacks. Please write a review below and ask any questions and/or give any comments! And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest for more nutrition tips and easy recipes 🙂
And if you’re interested in what to eat BEFORE a workout, check out this post here!