Pre-workout meals keep your energy and focus up and high during training – but failing to fuel up after a bout of physical activity can literally shatter all your gym work to bits. Post-workout snacks serve several purposes: In the anabolic stage, adequate body fuel promotes muscle glycogen replenishment, enhances overall recovery, reduces muscle protein breakdown, keeps cortisol levels in check, and prevents muscle soreness. For optimal gym results, fitness expert Alan Aragon recommends that the post-workout snack be taken 30-60 minutes after training, and it should pack 0.25 grams of protein per pound of target body weight and 0.25-0.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of target body weight. Sounds complicated? Here are some delicious post-training snacks that will help you build muscle fast and stay healthy and energetic after even the toughest of gym drills.
1. Turkey, Cheese and Fruit
Cheddar, cottage or American cheese go nicely with lean deli turkey, and the combo also packs sufficient protein to top up your muscles after training. For a dose of fast-absorbing energy, follow up on the protein mix with a high-carb fruit such as an apple, pear, or banana. For maximum enjoyment, try apple slices or grapes. A post-workout snack consisting of four ounces of deli turkey slices, one wedge of soft cheese and a sliced apple packs 240 calories – enough to keep your motors humming and your muscles happy.
2. Banana-Streaked Protein Shake
After a particularly tough workout, your appetite can suffer a sudden plunge, and liquid snacks are a better option than solid food in such cases. Make yourself a refreshing post-training smoothie or shake with two spoonfuls of protein powder, water, milk or fat-free yogurt, and half of a ripe banana. This quick and mouth-watering snack should be taken within 30 minutes after your training to reap full muscle and health benefits. The banana-flavored snack contains around 250 calories — and tons of yummy.
3. Rice Cakes, Banana, and Peanut or Almond Butter
A carbohydrate go-to in the fruit crowd, banana pairs well with almond and peanut butter, and this nutritious blend of fructose, protein, and healthy fats will help refuel after a strenuous workout. Use butters in moderation, though: Spread a tablespoon of almond or peanut butter over a pair of rice cakes to keep your calorie count (and fiber intake) in check. For a 215-calorie combo, combine half of a banana, two brown rice cakes, and one tablespoon of peanut butter.
4. Whole Wheat Bread and Tuna
For a wholesome post-workout sandwich, drizzle four ounces of water-laden tuna with a few drops of olive oil and lemon juice and throw it onto a slice of whole-wheat bread. This mini-meal is an excellent low-calorie option for weight watchers: It packs as few as 220 calories, but it also contains all the vital micronutrients your body needs to recover after training.
5. Yogurt and Fruit or Granola
Greek yogurt is rich in protein and tastes delicious when paired with high-carb fruit or granola. For a nutritious post-exercise bite, pamper yourself with an eight-ounce pack of low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt and a banana or half a cup of berries: This yummy 180-calorie combo will go easy on your digestive system and replenish your energy fast. Or, combine a cup of plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup of granola. If you prefer homemade granola to commercial one, soak oats, buckwheat, or barley in organic juice or water, add nuts and dried fruit, and bake in the oven until golden brown.
Post-workout nutrition can make or break your muscle-building success. Watch your protein and carb intake, count your post-training calories, and rest well before returning to the gym. With these simple recipes, bliss for the palate, more lean muscle, and optimal recovery are yours for the munching!
Samantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogospere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Twitter or in a tea shop. She blogs over at Ripped.me.