After you finish your workout on the treadmill, complete your last rep with the dumbbells, roll up your yoga mat, or unclip your feet from the spin bike, it’s important to refuel your body. The post-workout snack or meal you consume plays a crucial role in faster recovery, replenishing energy stores, and maximizing the muscle-building and heart-healthy benefits of your exercise routine.
The ideal post-workout meal:
- Hydrates your body to replenish the fluids you’ve lost through sweat. This can help speed the other nutrients you’re eating where they’re needed in your body.
- Replaces electrolytes lost when you sweat. These include sodium and potassium.
- Includes some protein to help your body repair and build muscle. To maximize muscle growth, scientists recommend eating 20 to 40 grams of protein in the hours after a workout.
- Refills your body’s carbohydrate stores. Your body uses energy that’s stored in your muscles and liver—called glycogen—to fuel your workout. To refill that tank, you need some carbs: The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends taking in some carbs and protein within 30 minutes after your workout.
But who has time to chop, measure and mix ingredients after a workout? You’re tired, sweaty … and hungry! And you need to get back to your life, pronto.
That’s where these good post-workout snacks come in. After you’ve wrapped up a spin class, jog around the block or sweat session at the gym, they’re options that you can grab and go from your locker, the fridge or even your car’s glove box. Preparation is minimal, so you can refuel fast with a snack that’s packed with the right nutrients for recovery.
Grab a bottle of water and pair it with one of these winners to make your workout even more impactful—and to prepare your body for the next challenge.
1. Whey Protein Shake
After your workout, it is crucial to provide your body with the necessary protein it needs. Whey protein is an excellent choice as it is quickly digested, allowing your body to start utilizing it immediately. One convenient way to consume whey protein is by having a shake!
Building muscle relies on finding the right balance between two processes: muscle protein breakdown (MPB) and muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPB involves the breakdown of protein in your muscles, which provides amino acids for various bodily functions. On the other hand, MPS is the chemical process that signals your body to build muscle. Both of these processes are activated when you exercise, but muscle growth occurs when MPS surpasses MPB.
To ensure optimal muscle growth, your body requires protein to stimulate MPS at a higher rate than MPB. Whey protein, like the kind found in Nutrisystem Shakes, is rapidly absorbed and begins working within just 20 minutes of consumption. The amino acids present in whey protein act as the building blocks for protein, triggering MPS and initiating the muscle-building process.
2. Low-Fat Chocolate Milk
It tastes like a treat, but chocolate milk has all the ingredients for a great workout recovery snack. Carbohydrates, protein, water and electrolytes like sodium.
Oh, and it’s got one other feature: It’s delicious! And it really works: When scientists reviewed 12 studies on chocolate milk as a recovery aid, they found that it worked just as well as more expensive (and less tasty) fancy “recovery” drinks at helping athletes recover from their workouts. No wonder chocolate milk has become a popular post-training beverage for endurance athletes, rock climbers and more!
Buy it premade or mix up your own. On Nutrisystem, eight fluid ounces of low-fat or skim milk is a PowerFuel, and one tablespoon of sugar-free chocolate syrup is an extra.
3. Overnight Oats
Overnight oatmeal recipes take some prep, but not right when you’re hankering for a snack. When you have some get up and go, go to the kitchen, grab a handful of jars, and whip up a fridge full of filling goodness that’s ready to snag and spoon as soon as your workout is complete.
To make overnight oats, simply add water, oats and other tasty, nutritious ingredients—like bananas, nuts, berries, protein powder and spices—to a jar. Shake the jar, seal it up and let the oats soak up all the flavors.
Whether you choose banana nut oats, berry cheesecake overnight oats, or an overnight Carrot Cake Parfait, your fridge has ready-made meals the next day that are perfect for breakfast or a good post-workout snack. It’s got protein, carbs and filling fiber all in one convenient, ready-to-grab package.
4. Nutrisystem Snack Bars
It doesn’t get much more grabbable than a Nutrisystem snack bar: They’ve got all the things you love about a candy bar—like chocolate, peanuts, pretzels, caramel and crispies—and everything you need to refuel from your workout, including a healthy mix of protein and carbs.
And no matter your favorite flavors, there’s a bar for you. For chocolate lovers, there’s the Chocolate Caramel Bar. Those who like a chewy candy bar will love the bite of the Chewy Peanut Bar, and crunch lovers will be stoked to snap into the walnuts, almonds and peanuts of the Dark Chocolaty Sea Salt Nut Square.
They all fit perfectly in your gym bag—and into your weight loss plan.
5. Nut Butter on Whole Grain Toast—with a Tropical Twist
Slathering nut butter on whole grain toast is not exactly groundbreaking. This classic combo of carbs and protein has been enjoyed by fitness enthusiasts for years. But why not give it a tropical twist?
Add a tablespoon of shredded, unsweetened coconut on top of the nut butter for an extra filling and flavorful boost. Not only does coconut add a delicious taste, but it also contains potassium, an electrolyte that your body needs after a workout; the same stuff you’ll find in coconut water! Wash your toast down with a can of it for an extra boost of electrolytes. On Nutrisystem, one tablespoon of unsweetened coconut is one Extra.
6. Roasted Chickpeas
If your snack style is more salty and savory than sweet, it can be a challenge to find a crunchy, poppable snack to satisfy your cravings and your body’s need for protein after a workout. Roasted chickpeas are the answer to your snack time prayers.
A half-cup serving of chickpeas, which counts as one SmartCarb on Nutrisystem, has 10 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbs (including three grams of filling fiber), and the vitamins your body needs.
They come in lots of flavors, too. Barbecue, wasabi, ranch and sea salt are among the tasty options. Grab a bag to keep in your locker and you’re ready for some delicious post-workout refueling!
7. Greek Yogurt with Fruit
With double the protein of traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt is a muscle-building, post-workout powerhouse. On Nutrisystem, two-thirds of a cup or about six ounces is one PowerFuel.
Instead of getting yogurt with the fruit on the bottom—which can come loaded with extra sugar—mix in some of your own fresh or frozen fruit for extra flavor and bonus carbs that can help replace your body’s glycogen stores.
Mixing in blueberries, raspberries or strawberries also means your after-exercise snack has multiple types of carbs—lactose from the yogurt, and fructose from the fruit—which can give your body more sources of carbohydrate to refuel. A cup of fresh or frozen berries counts as one SmartCarb on Nutrisystem.
8. String Cheese and Apple
This dynamic duo is a classic for a reason: It’s got protein, it’s got carbs, it’s got fiber and it’s got flavor. And it doesn’t get much more grab and go!
Just pop this pair into your gym bag, locker or glove box, and you’re ready for a good post-workout snack that will help you refuel and feel satisfied. On Nutrisystem, a medium apple counts as a SmartCarb, and a string cheese counts as a PowerFuel.
9. A Fruity Protein Smoothie
For some people, protein powder mixed with water isn’t a snack—it’s just sad. If that sounds like you, and you can get to a blender and fridge after your workout, then a post-exercise protein smoothie is just the ticket.
You’ll get the benefits of Nutrisystem Shake Mix, as well as fruity flavors that will make your snack satisfying. Think Chocolate Cherry, Strawberry Yogurt, Creamy Blueberry, Pineapple and even Pumpkin Pie! There are tons of amazing smoothie recipes on The Leaf and all of them are perfect for a post-workout cooldown.
10. Other Treats Made with Protein Powder
Whey protein powder-based recipes are a fantastic post-workout snack option. From protein bars to brownies and even cookie dough, the possibilities are endless!
Try our recipe for Double Chocolate Cookie Dough Protein Balls. Packed with protein from the Chocolate Nutrisystem Shake Mix and carbs from oat flour, it’s the perfect after-exercise snack. Fuel your body right and satisfy your taste buds with this nutritious treat!