After a workout is the time to recharge. You’ve literally worked your butt off (well, not literally, but it feels like it). Your energy is gone, and your body is caput. You need nutrients to help you get back to where you started, so that you’re feeling your best by the time your next workout rolls around.
The nutrients you need will vary depending on the type of workout you did. After cardio, you want a lot of carbs and a bit of protein. After strength training, just the opposite will do the trick. Registered dietitians know all about post-workout nutritional needs, and they have the best snacks. Seriously these eight ideas all fit the bill for different workouts, and are so tasty you’ll definitely want to steal them for yourself.
1. Chocolate KIND granola clusters and yogurt
“Right after an hour-long elliptical workout (in my condo’s fitness center, lucky me!), I often pair KIND Dark Chocolate Whole Grain Clusters with Maple Hill Creamery 100 percent grass-fed plain Greek yogurt. It’s a great post-workout snack because the granola-style clusters have a good mix of carbs and protein for refueling post-workout (10g of protein and 30g of carbs per half cup serving), and the Greek yogurt provides a high-quality protein boost—not to mention beneficial probiotics. It’s super tasty, too!”
—Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook
2. Fruit and kefir
“As a runner, my workouts consist of lots of cardio and endurance training. My highest priority post-workout is replacing fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat. I find that fruit is a great snack option because of its naturally high water content. Plus, fruits contain minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium which also support recovery. My go-to post workout snack is fruit, kefir, raw nuts, and seeds. This basic formula tastes refreshing without being overly sweet, and it carbs, protein, and unsaturated fat. In the summer I love using raw berries, cherries, or stone fruits like peaches or plums. In the fall I start using more apples and pears.”
—Cara Harbstreet, M.S., R.D., L.D., of Street Smart Nutrition
3. Peanut butter and banana “sushi”
“To properly refuel after an intense workout, I like to eat peanut butter and banana “sushi.” I spread peanut butter on a whole grain tortilla, add a banana, roll it up, and then slice it into “sushi” pieces. It’s full of potassium—which soothes muscles—”good” carbs, protein, and heart-healthy fats.”
—Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutrition Starring You
4. A handful of nuts
“Usually I run, row, or do some kind of circuit training. After these workouts, I like to enjoy a snack for around 150 calories, which provides me with the nutrients I need, without too many calories defeating the purpose of my workout. I love a handful of nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, or peanuts—they offer fiber, protein, healthy fats, and slow-burning carbs which is the perfect post-workout formula.”
—Sharon Palmer, R.D.N., The Plant-Powered Dietitian, author of Plant-Powered for Life
“After yoga, pilates, or bar, I like to eat beets—I add them to salads, sandwiches, or even put them on top of avocado toast. Beets are a great source of natural electrolytes, which can help to replete those that I’ve lost through sweating. The nitrates in beets also work to widen blood vessels and improve blood flow to your muscles, which may help to prevent soreness and fatigue.”
—Ilana Muhlstein, R.D.
6. Chocolate milk
“One thing that people don’t realize when they take protein supplements, is that your body can only use about 20 to 30 grams of protein at a time. Any extra protein will be broken down to use as energy or stored as fat. That’s why I love chocolate milk post-workout. Milk has 8 grams of protein per cup and 22 grams of carbohydrates, which is everything I need after a challenging HIIT class. It’s portable so it’s great on the go, and way cheaper and so much tastier than a protein drink. (I do like to emphasize that although there is added sugar here—about 8 to 10 grams—it’s got a purpose. If you’re refueling after a grueling workout, that sugar will help your body function.)”
—Rebecca Clyde, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.
“Smoothies made with Greek yogurt or milk and fruit are a great option post-workout, because they contain that combination of protein and carbohydrates. Dairy-based options are particularly advantageous because they are rich in a protein called leucine, which appears to kick-off the muscle-building process after a workout. I tend to refuel with smoothies after tougher workouts when there’s more fuel to replace. High intensity exercise is a natural appetite suppressant, and consuming solid food after a workout can be challenging for many, so smoothies are an easy way to kick-start the recovery process when solids are unappealing or can’t be tolerated.”
—Edwina Clark, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., and head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly
8. Sabra’s single-serve hummus
“I do a lot of Pilates, and some of these classes are pretty cardio-heavy. I love Sabra’s single-serve hummus because the 2-ounce pack is so portable. I’ll have one of these with a small whole-wheat pita after my workout. The protein from the hummus and carbs from the pita help my muscles recover, and the fiber helps keep me fueled post-workout.”
—Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition