Prime Post-workout Foods

February 10, 2020

Perhaps it’s because “Exercise More” tops New Year’s resolutions lists or maybe it’s the promise of warmer weather to come. Whatever the reason, fitness and the topic of post-workout foods has topped my media and speaking requests lately. Earlier this month, I was featured in the Health Magazine online article, “What to Eat After a Workout.” And even more recently, I gave a talk on fueling your fitness at Orange Theory Fitness this past Friday.

And, I love this topic. Here’s why…


What we eat before and after we work out matters. Especially if you want to maximize all of the hard work you just put into that workout. But there’s more to it than just eating a healthful meal after a workout. Yes, that’s important. But, we have the power to influence our workouts. The foods we choose–and when we choose to eat them–can help us minimize muscle breakdown AND maximize new muscle synthesis, reduce muscle fatigue and enhance recovery.

Timing of Post-Workout Foods

When we work out, we (ideally) break down glycogen or energy in the muscles. If your goal is to build muscle, experts recommend eating within the first 30-45 minutes after exercise. This helps properly refuel our muscles.

Best Food Choices for Post-workout Foods

While all of our meals and snacks should ideally contain a mix of high-fiber (“complex”) carbohydrates, lean protein and heart-healthy fat, this combination is especially important after exercising. When in doubt, think about the MyPlate method: Make 1/2 your bowl or plate vegetables and/or fruits, 1/4 whole grains or starchy vegetables and 1/4 lean protein w/ a little heart-healthy fat.

  • High-fiber carbohydrates — vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans/legumes help to replenish glycogen stores
  • Lean protein — seafood, poultry, eggs, lowfat dairy, soy, quinoa and lean red meat help increase muscle synthesis
  • Heart-healthy fat— nuts, seeds, fatty fish, avocados, olives and olive oil help to lower cortisol levels and reduce post-workout inflammation

Prime Post-Workout Foods

If your goal is building or maintaining strong muscles, try noshing on one of these post-workout meals or snacks.

  • Hummus + veggies or whole-grain pita
  • Smoothie made with berries + kefir + chia seeds
  • Plain yogurt + berries + nuts
  • Apple or banana with nut butter
  • Trail mix made with nuts and seeds + dried fruits + dark chocolate chips
  • Energy bites made with oats + nut butter
  • Half an energy bar + piece of fruit
  • Oven-roasted veggies + salmon + brown rice
  • Quinoa bowl with leafy greens + beans + avocado
  • Salad greens + grilled chicken skewers + fresh berries
  • Grilled veggies + shrimp + whole-grain pasta + olive oil-lemon drizzle

And, mix it up. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating a variety of foods to meet your recommended nutrient needs.

PLEASE SHARE: What are your favorite post-workout foods? Please share. I’d love to hear from you.