You’ve probably heard that eating before a workout is important to fuel your body and give you the energy you’ll need to crush your fitness routine, whether that includes a sweat-heavy cardio session, group fitness class, weight training, or other activity. Having enough energy to not only complete your workout, but to push yourself and build muscle, stamina, and endurance requires the right foods beforehand.
Alternatively, the foods you eat after your workout are just as important, but for different reasons. Eating just any food post-workout is not enough, either. You may have just spent hours in the gym and somewhere deep in your mind, you can justify reaching for processed snack foods, but after working hard on your physical fitness, the better choice would be healthy foods and high-protein recipes with quality ingredients. Choosing healthier foods will not only help your body recover from your strenuous workouts, but they will also help you look and feel better overall.
The Importance of Protein
The human body contains thousands of types of protein. It’s found in practically everything—your organs, muscles, tissues, bones, skin, and hair. Protein helps fuel your energy and carry oxygen throughout your body in your blood, helps make antibodies that fight infection and illness, and also helps create new cells. While not getting enough protein in your diet can lead to health issues like tissue deterioration and muscle loss, it’s also important to note that more protein isn’t always necessarily better. Protein does help build muscle, but too much protein can actually be stored as fat in your body.
Most people eat enough protein in their diet to prevent any kind of deficiency, but many people could benefit from a higher protein intake. Among the many reasons to eat more protein, it helps reduce appetite, builds muscle, boosts your metabolism, lowers your blood pressure, and helps your body stay fit as you age.
Protein is important for everyone, but as it relates to post-workout nutrition, there are other considerations. “Your muscles are depleted of amino acids after a workout, so you need an adequate supply of protein to help build them up,” explains Kristin Reisinger, M.S., R.D., a sports nutritionist and competitive figure athlete based in New Jersey.
Since a workout also can break down or damage muscle tissue, your body works to rebuild its energy stores and repair and regrow muscle proteins. Eating healthy foods post-workout that contain protein and other important nutrients helps your body recover.
Additional Post-Workout Nutrients to Include
While protein is probably the most discussed nutrient when it comes to working out or physical fitness, carbohydrates and hydration are also important factors in your body’s recovery. According to Master Fitness Trainer Darla Leal, “Consuming carbohydrates along with protein immediately after exercise has shown to be an excellent strategy to maximize rates of muscle glycogen synthesis (energy restored to muscle cells).”
Hydration (consuming enough water) also helps regulate your body temperature, lubricate your joints, and transport nutrients that give you energy and keep you healthy.
Health and nutrition experts agree that choosing healthy foods with a combination of protein and carbs for your post-workout snack or meal can benefit your body the most. Some of the most commonly recommended ingredients include sweet potatoes, whole grains, chocolate milk, eggs, lean meats like chicken or fish, beans, nuts, seeds, and Greek yogurt.
Continue reading for some high-protein snack ideas and recipes to incorporate more healthy foods into your diet and help maximize your post-workout recovery.
When you’re on a tight schedule, you might have limited time to fuel your body post-workout, but it’s still important to get the nutrients your body needs to recover. Times like these may call for more of a snack than a full meal, so here are some ideas for high-protein snacks:
- 4 ounces of albacore tuna on 1 slice of whole-grain toast
- Nonfat Greek yogurt with a half cup of berries or a banana
- Rice cake with 1 tablespoon almond or nut butter
- Cottage cheese on whole-grain toast topped with fruit or tomato
- Whole-grain crackers with hummus
- Protein shake with ½ banana and 2 scoops of N2G protein
Healthy foods are a crucial part of your fitness journey and go hand-in-hand with a regular workout schedule to achieve your goals. You’ve probably heard of bodybuilders eating nothing but grilled chicken and rice, drinking raw eggs, or religiously ingesting protein shakes, and those can and do help some people, but for others, simply varying your eating habits to include healthy foods in a balanced diet with a variety of nutrients can be exactly the recipe for fueling your body the right way.
Below are six great post-workout high-protein recipes you should try.
This super easy recipe will spice up your post-workout meal. And doesn’t buffalo sauce make everything better? Combined with pasta, vegetables, and greens, you’ll think twice about going back to plain grilled chicken.
Farro has the same amount of protein as quinoa and loads of fiber to aid in digestion. Paired with beans and mushrooms, this recipe is a great source of protein and vegetarian friendly, too!
This super-convenient recipe can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge for a quick high-protein snack or meal. Plus, it’s loaded with great, healthy ingredients like eggs, spinach, and bell peppers. You can also easily switch up the ingredients to avoid recipe burnout.
Loaded with grilled chicken, roasted chickpeas, quinoa, cucumber, tomatoes, and tzatziki, your body (and your tastebuds) will thank you.
Craving a burger but not all the fat? Try this healthier take on the classic burger for a wonderful iron and protein combination.
Sweet potatoes, ground beef, and vegetables combine in this hearty dish to nourish your post-workout body with protein and carbs.
Do you have a favorite post-workout high-protein recipe? Don’t be afraid to vary your menu of healthy foods and add some new recipes to your repertoire. Just like you vary your fitness routine to get results in the gym, variety in your menu can also make a huge difference.
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