Breakfast is often touted as the most important meal of the day, but if you manage to squeeze in regular gym time, what you eat post-workout is just as important. You see, the correct edibles can aid in recovery by restoring energy stores and rebuilding muscle so you can achieve peak fitness. But if you’re far away from your kitchen, you’ll want to make sure your gym bag is stuffed with the necessary physique-friendly snacks to tie you over until you can get a full meal into your belly. Not sure what the ideal post-workout snacks should be? Here are some solid grab-and-go options full of the nutrients you need for after your next sweat session.
Not just for Bloody Mary’s, tomato juice can help your muscles recover better. In a study published in Nutrition Journal, researchers found that tomato juice consumption can help reduce oxidative damage associated with high-intensity exercise. This could go a long way in quelling muscular inflammation and improving recovery. The study authors surmise that the antioxidants, including tomato’s signature antioxidant lycopene, found in the veggie drink are behind this benefit.
You can chug back store-bought versions, but making your own power-packed tomato juice is surprising easily.
Simply blend together:
- 1 cup water
- 1 pound quartered tomatoes (about 3 medium-sized)
- 1 chopped celery stalk
- 1 chopped medium sized carrot
- 1 chopped green bell pepper
- 2 sliced scallions
- 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley
- 1 chopped garlic clove
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Chill and transport in a reusable water bottle. Shake well before using.
The New Primal Jerky
Once only something you picked up at the gas station and ate on road trips, jerky is experiencing a serious renaissance – gracias, Paleo diet. So stash a package in your gym bag to take advantage of its stellar amounts of protein after a workout to kick-start muscle recovery. But with more brands on the market than ever, you need not settle for the chemical-laden parched meat. We recommend chewing on The New Primal, which only uses grass-fed beef (read: more nutrients in each bite) and eschews the refined sugars and sketchy additives like MSG.
PB&J Rice Cake Sandwich
Instead of bread, slather some peanut or other nut butter and jelly on a brown rice cake and top with another rice cake for a great post-gym crunch. The rice cake and fruit spread offers up carbohydrates to help replenish spent energy stores, while peanut butter provides a shot of protein. But make this combo even more of a muscle-friendly snack by spreading on some high-protein P2B nut butter, which blends peanuts or almonds with whey protein. If you want a healthier fruit spread than the sugar-laden versions at the supermarket, try making this simple chia-infused version. As a bonus, you’ll reap the rewards of the recovery-accelerating antioxidant bounty present in blueberries.
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 tablespoon honey, maple syrup or agave syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds
- Place blueberries, sweetener, and cinnamon in a blender container and puree.
- Place mixture in a container and stir in chia seeds.
- Put in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving.
Yogurt with Tart Cherries and Walnuts
Yogurt is a near-perfect post-training nosh. Not only is it rich in high-quality protein to drive muscle repair and building, but research suggests the friendly critters known as probiotics in the cultured dairy can help bolster your immune system during periods of intense training. You can up the protein ante by selecting deliciously thick Greek yogurt. Stir in a handful of dried tart cherries and walnuts and you’ll recover even faster. Studies have shown that the payload of antioxidants in this dynamic duo can help fitness fanatics reduce muscle damage from a tough workout.
Tuna Packets and Crackers
Located alongside canned fish, those packets of tuna offer up a convenient source of superb protein for when you need a quick fix after pumping iron. You can’t do better than single-serve pouches from Wild Planet, which only pack in low-contaminant and sustainably sourced tuna. In fact, they were voted by Greenpeace as the top tuna brand in terms of sustainability. You’ll also benefit from the boatload of omega-3 fats, which have been found to rev up post-exercise production of infection-fighting cells, which can help protect you against the sniffles and other infections when your body is beaten down by spirited workouts. Pair your post-workout catch with crackers for a protein-carbohydrate one-two punch.
Chickpeas can supply both carbs and plant protein when you need them most. But hummus isn’t the only way to enjoy them after your workouts. These crunchy legumes may just become your new snacking addiction.
- 1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Pat the chickpeas dry with a clean kitchen towel. Remove any loose skins.
- Place in a bowl and toss with oil.
- Add curry powder, thyme and salt; toss to coat chickpeas with spice mixture.
- Spread chickpeas out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden, about 40 minutes, stirring at least twice for even toasting.
- Let cool to room temperature (they will crisp up further) and store in an airtight container for up to three days.
Clif Kit’s Organic Fruit & Nut Bars
These delicious whole-food bars have an ingredient list that even your great grandma would recognize. The anticipation of flavors like Dark Chocolate Chili Almond and Berry Almond are all the motivation you’ll need to hit the gym.
Banana Recovery Muffins
Who says you can’t combine post-workout nutrition and dessert. These flavor-packed muffins almost taste too good to be recovery fuel.
- 4 very ripe bananas
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar or other sugar of choice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup unflavored protein powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger power
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- Peel bananas and place them in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Cover with paper towel and microwave five minutes, or until they have released their liquid.
- Place bananas and liquid in a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
- Transfer strained banana liquid to a saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup.
- Stir together reduced banana liquid with bananas and mash until mostly smooth. Whisk in eggs, yogurt, coconut oil, sugar and vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, stir together flour, protein powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger powder and salt.
- Add wet ingredients to dry and stir together gently.
- Fold in walnuts.
- Divide mixture among 12 standard-size greased or paper-lined muffin cups.
- Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out mostly clean. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.
TruMoo Chocolate Milk
The drink you loved as a kid can improve your fitness gains. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that athletes who drank low-fat chocolate milk after exercise experienced reduced muscle breakdown and improved muscle synthesis. Credit the pairing of protein and carbs in dark moo juice for bolstering recovery. Twist the top on a bottle of TruMoo chocolate milk and you’ll guzzle back milk sourced from cattle that weren’t beefed up on growth hormones.
Don’t want to think about your post-workout nosh? Head over to thefeed.com and you can subscribe to their monthly Strength & Conditioning box where various muscle-friendly goodies such as chia bars and Paleo-worthy jerky are handpicked by sport nutrition experts and delivered to your doorstep. Plenty of products are available for special dietary needs from gluten-free to caveman eating.