A common misconception is that upon completing a workout, you have a free ticket to eat whatever you want because you “earned” it. Although you are at liberty to choose what to have for your post-workout meal, it is important to choose wisely if you are hoping to optimize results from the work you just put into exercising. During workouts, your body burns glycogen and amino acids, both of which must be replenished in order promote muscle repair and recovery. As a rule of thumb, it is important to eat within an hour after completing your workout. Additionally, meals should be high in protein, include complex carbohydrates (fruits or vegetables) and be low in fat. Here are 6 post-workout meals that are full of flavor and will help promote muscle repair and replenish key nutrients.
1. Meat and Veggies
A solid post-workout meal is a choice of lean protein (i.e., grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon, tilapia, etc.) along with a side of steamed brown rice and a side of steamed vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, squash, peppers, etc.). This choice may sound basic, but you can constantly mix things up. There are numerous meats and vegetables to choose from, so you can always change the pairings. Better yet, you can get creative and use different flavors such as balsamic, pesto, citrus, garlic, salt, pepper and much more! This gives you plenty of choices within this meal option.
2. Plant-based Protein Salad
This is an excellent choice for those who are vegetarian or not the biggest fans of meat and/or seafood. Combine beans, grains and low-fat cheese into different salad variations for a post-exercise meal. Beans are a great source of protein and complex carbohydrates. The grains provide you with fiber and the cheese is a source of calcium for keeping your bones nice and strong. As with the previous meal, you can experiment with different beans (garbanzo, chickpeas, lentils, etc.), grains (quinoa, bulgar, couscous, wild rice, etc.) and cheeses (feta, blue cheese, goat cheese, etc.) You can even add vegetables to boost the nutritional value of the meal!
3. Protein-Rich Smoothies
For those of you who always find yourselves crunched for time, smoothies are a fast and easy option to refuel after exercising. This is yet another meal choice that you can constantly change up to indulge your taste buds with different flavor combinations. In general, smoothies should include non-or low-fat Greek yogurt and whey protein. You can also make tropical versions with various frozen fruits and yogurt flavors. On the other hand, you can use frozen bananas, chocolate whey protein, chocolate almond milk and peanut butter for a more “dessert-like” smoothie.
4. Protein-Packed Salad
Salads are another quick and simple post-workout meal to whip up. There are plenty of ways to get variety with this meal option as well! Load up a salad with vegetables, beans, grains, meats and greens. When preparing your salads, do keep in mind that you should select low-fat, oil or vinegar-based dressings, such as Italian or balsamic vinaigrette. These are good choices to avoid extra calories. Additionally, if you choose to include cheese, do not go overboard on the portion size.
5. Protein-Filled Sandwiches or Wraps
This is another on-the-go post-workout option. You can get creative with which ingredients you include in your sandwich or wrap. In general, you should use whole grain or wheat bread and include meat and vegetables of your choice. You can choose from hot or cold recipes also, so you have plenty of options! As with the salads, if you choose to use a sauce, do not choose one that is quite high in fat and calories.
6. High-Protein Soups
Soups with meat and vegetables are another awesome meal to have after hitting the gym, especially when it is cold outside and you are in need of some warmth! Similar to the above options, this is a meal with which you have the flexibility to combine different sources of meat and vegetables as well as spices. You can even have a side of cheese or a slice of bread (wheat or whole grain) along with it. Have fun getting creative with different recipes!