Hitting the gym without giving a second thought to your post-workout diet is like nailing the interview for your dream job without ever following it up. Unfortunately, that can be the undoing of all your hard work—especially if you want to drop a few pounds or add muscle mass.
Post-workout snacks help restore energy in your muscles and repair any muscle damage, and you should eat them between 30 and 45 minutes after your workout for optimal recovery.
We understand that you’ve got a busy life with barely enough time to work out, let alone properly plan your post-workout snack. But did you know that personal trainers have the same problem? Trainers often have to fit their workouts and meals between their client sessions, and they rarely (if ever) have access to a kitchen during that time.
So how do the fitness experts refuel their bodies for optimal recovery and results without a ton of resources or free time?
We did some internet sleuthing and found these 16 fast and easy trainer-approved snacks that will give your body what it needs for proper recovery–just like the fitness experts!
Low Fat Chocolate Milk
“A to-go box of 1% chocolate milk is ideal for post-workout recovery. It provides just the right ratio of protein to carbohydrates to replenish energy stores and facilitate muscle tissue repair. The convenience factor is also a plus because refueling within 30 minutes of a challenging workout is necessary to reap optimal benefits.” — Cedric Bryant Ph.D., FACSM Chief Science Officer, The American Council on Exercise
Peanut Butter Cookie Lärabar
“After working out, eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates helps repair muscle tissue and restock depleted energy stores. When I need something quick that I can eat on the go, I often reach for a Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar. The only ingredients are protein-filled peanuts, dates (which provide carbs) and salt, which helps replace some of the electrolytes lost through sweat.” — Kit Rich, celebrity trainer and co-owner of SHIFT by Dana Perri
“Green grapes make a great on-the-go post-workout snack. They’re a good source of electrolytes, which help maintain fluid balance and muscle function. Freeze a handful of grapes in a Zip-Lock bag, and pop them after a workout for a quick, refreshing frozen treat.” — Jay Cardiello, the fitness and nutrition expert behind 50 Cent and J.Lo’s killer physiques
Ezekiel Bread with Preserves + Protein Shake
“After a sweat session, it’s important to consume carbs and at least 20 grams of protein to replenish depleted energy stores and amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. To hit the nutritional mark, I’ll have two slices of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread (a source of complete protein) topped with natural fruit preserves (a fast-digesting simple carb) and a shake made with whey or egg protein and water.” — Victoria Viola, PN Certified Nutrition Coach, NSCA CPT, Co-Founder, Excelerate Wellness, LLC
Quest Bar + Piece of Fruit
“If I don’t have much time to refuel after a workout, I’ll have a Quest Bar and a piece of fruit to hold me over until I can have a full meal. This snack provides muscle-building protein and energy-boosting carbs on the go.” — Kelvin Gary, Owner and Head Coach,
Body Space Fitness
Tuna Taco Roll-Ups
“When I have time to prep food ahead of time, I’ll take a small can of tuna and mix it with four ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper, and put the mixture into a Tupperware container. I’ll pack that along with a low-carb tortilla and assemble the roll-up right before I want to eat it. This snack provides fast-digesting carbs and a full serving of protein, so it’s perfect for a post-workout meal. Most importantly, I enjoy it!” — Victoria Viola, PN Certified Nutrition Coach, NSCA CPT, Co-Founder, Excelerate Wellness, LLC
Banana + Almond Butter
“After a long, hard workout I enjoy a delicious banana with almond butter. Bananas are low in calories but still offer a good deal of potassium, an electrolyte lost during exercise, and enough carbs to replenish energy stores. The almond butter provides about 10 grams of protein to help muscle recovery, some salt for electrolyte balance and healthy fats for brain health. This snack is also easy to take with you anywhere!” — Dr. Sean M. Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS Owner and PT, Naples Personal Training
Quinoa + Chicken
“After a long run or cycle, I like to combine 5 ounces of organic canned chicken with a half-cup of quinoa. (Look for chicken canned in salt-free water.) This combination provides about 22 grams of protein, 50 grams of carbs and a substantial serving of fiber, B vitamins and iron. This snack is also a great way to replace carbohydrates and recover your muscles after a challenging workout.” — Dr. Sean M. Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS Owner and PT, Naples Personal Training, LLC
Acai Bowl with Blueberries + Fruit
“After long runs (90 + minutes), I like to recover with a bowl of Acai and blueberries. I used to live in Brazil, and everyone would eat this after training and I got into it in a big way. The acai berry tastes amazing and is full of antioxidants and amino acids that aid recovery and both fruits provide carbs and help replenish glycogen stores.” — Dan Roberts, author of the fashion model workout, Methodology X
Peanut Power Smoothie
“If I have to run to work after my workout, I’ll whip up my go-to Peanut Power Smoothie. Made with one cup of skim milk, half a banana, a scoop of protein powder and two tablespoons of natural peanut butter, this drink provides a great ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and electrolytes to replenish my depleted energy stores and tired muscles. Plus, the nut butter is filled with essential fats that speed recovery time and reduce post-workout inflammation and soreness.” — Jim White RD, ACSM HFS, Owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios
Strawberry Banana Protein Shake
“After working out, eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates helps repair muscle tissue and restocks lost glycogen (energy) stores. When I’m in the mood for a protein shake, I’ll combine two scoops of protein with banana and strawberry slices and either milk or water, depending on the length of my workout. Long, intense gym sessions require the extra calories and protein milk provides.” — Kit Rich, celebrity trainer and co-owner of SHIFT by Dana Perri
Greek Yogurt + Fruit
“After a workout, I often combine a handful of mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are some of my favorites) with six to eight ounces of plain nonfat Greek yogurt. Each serving of this yummy snack has about 150 calories, 20 grams of carbs, 7 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein. The combination of protein and carbs helps fuel recovery, replenishes energy stores and repairs muscle.” — Justin Thomas Sanchez, Celebrity Trainer, Reebok Sponsored Athlete and trainer at Drill Fitness
Organic Beef Jerky + Chocolate Almond Milk
“After a long, high-intensity workout, snacking on some organic beef jerky and chocolate almond milk is ideal. The protein in the jerky aids muscle repair and provides a good deal of salt, an electrolyte lost through sweat that reduces soreness and speeds recovery. The calcium, sodium, protein and carbohydrates in the chocolate almond milk help replenish lost nutrients from an intense workout. It’s also a good source of magnesium, which is needed for optimal muscle function.” — Joshua Buchbinder, M.S. is Fitness Manager, 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport in Aurora, Colorado
“Eating watermelon after a workout is an effective way to rehydrate, replenish electrolytes lost through sweat and refill depleted glucose stores. I recommend snacking on about four cups of melon because it provides about 50 grams of carbohydrates, which is the recommended intake to replace lost energy stores fully.” — Lori-Ann Marchese, fitness celebrity and owner of Body Construct LLC
Hummus + Whole Wheat Pita
“Hummus with a toasted whole-wheat pita makes a quick and effective post-workout snack. It keeps me energized for the rest of the day and is filled with carbs and protein, two nutrients needed after a workout to aid recovery.” — Jay Cardiello, the fitness and nutrition expert behind 50 Cent and J.Lo’s killer physiques
Turkey + Cheese Roll-Ups
“When I’m cutting carbs, I’ll take a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick, cut it in half lengthwise and roll a slice of roasted turkey breast around each half. The two roll-ups provide approximately 150 calories, 3.5 grams of carbs and 17 grams of protein to aid muscle repair.” — Justin Thomas Sanchez, Celebrity Trainer, Reebok Sponsored Athlete and trainer at Drill Fitness.
Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but did reference numerous scientific journals and articles when writing this post. Please use your best judgement to fuel your body, and consult a doctor/personal trainer/nutritionist if you have specific questions regarding your health and dietary needs.