You can’t beat protein when it comes to the best post-workout meal.
The right nutrition is crucial for recovery, building muscle and reaching your goals.
When you work out, it causes tiny tears in the muscles. These will mend but you can speed up the recovery process with smart nutrition.
It all starts with protein after a workout.
The amino acids in protein are one of the best ways to help your muscles to recover after workouts and support the growth of new muscle. This makes them one of the best choices for building post-workout meals or a post-workout snack.
If you’re not sure how to put together high protein meals and snacks for after your workouts, we’ve got you covered!
Food for recovery
Protein on its own is only half of the story though.
Aim to consume a mix of protein and carbs as soon as possible after you’ve been working out – ideally within a few hours.
Carbs will help with protein synthesis and deliver all-important glycogen to the muscles. Exercise burns through the body’s glycogen stores so you’ll definitely want to replace what’s been lost as soon as possible after a workout to support your recovery. Otherwise, it can prompt the body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which starts to use muscle tissue and convert it into glucose. Ultimately, it leads to a loss of muscle tissue. Replenishing your glycogen stores soon after a workout prevents this.
The amount of glycogen you can expect to lose depends on the type of workout that you’re doing. If you’re lifting weights, you’ll burn less glycogen compared to endurance activities such as running or swimming, for example. With endurance exercise, you’ll also do more damage to the muscle fibres and a lack of carbs can avoid the potential for more muscle protein to be broken down.
But not all carbs have the same impact. Ideally, this should be a high-GI carb that is easy for the body to digest and have the most potential to support protein delivery to the muscles.
Rice, pasta, potatoes and fruit are all examples of high-GI carbs that can get the nod after a workout.
If it’s not time for a full-blown meal, a high protein snack can boost your recovery and give your body the nutrients it needs after a workout.
Peanut butter, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, hummus, nuts, hemp and pumpkin seeds and almonds are high protein snack options.
The trick is to pair a good protein source with some of the high-GI carbs we mentioned earlier.
This could look like this:
- Rice cakes with nut butter
- Trail mix
- Boiled eggs and cottage cheese
- Banana slices with peanut butter
- Half a sweet potato with tuna, eggs or black beans and Greek yoghurt
- Homemade protein bar (made with oats, nut butter and protein powder)
- Houmous, red pepper, avocado and feta sandwich
Post-workout meal ideas
A few high protein post-workout meal ideas include:
- Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables and rice
- Vegan breakfast burrito with beans
- Salmon and quinoa
- Black bean, quinoa and avocado enchiladas
- Sweet potato stuffed with black beans or tuna, cheese and avocado
- Black bean and quinoa burgers with greens and avocado
- Turkey and sweet potato bowls
- Avocado salmon salad with greens and almonds
- Houmous crusted chicken or salmon and fresh or roasted vegetables
- Mexican quinoa with corn, black beans, tomatoes and avocado
- Salmon stir fry
- Sweet potato and black bean quinoa bowls with honey and Greek yoghurt sauce
Post-workout shake ideas
If you don’t have time to sit down for post-workout meals, a protein shake is a great alternative.
Because they’re in liquid form, protein shakes can make protein more readily available for the body to use.
For optimum recovery, make sure your post-workout shake has a balance of protein and carbs, with a dose of healthy fats.
Electrolytes (orange juice or coconut water), and antioxidants (blueberries are powerful for this) can boost your recovery too.
Carbs can come from fruit while protein powder can pack in a ton of protein quickly and easily. Whey protein can be a good choice since it’s quickly absorbed by the body.
For even more protein and an extra creamy texture, blend in a dollop of Greek yoghurt.