25 Best Post-Workout Foods

Jordan Zobrist
Racing expert
Jordan Zobrist
More from this author
Jordan Zobrist
More from this author

You’ve just killed it in the gym – congratulations. But… now what? In truth, it’s at this point that all that hard work actually starts to do something. The reality is that your body does not get leaner or faster or stronger during your workouts. These changes happen at this point, after your workout, in response to the stress you just put it through. In order to make these adaptations, though, your body needs the right raw materials. Your post workout meal, then, can be key in making sure that your recovery is fast, complete and effective. So, to help you with that, here is a list (in no particular order) of the 25 best post-workout foods. To make things easier, let’s separate our post-workout hits into carbs and protein sources. In order to ensure a speedy recovery, you’ll want to combine protein and carb sources.

Carbs – As a general rule, post-workout carbs should be fast-acting to restore your glycogen stores and cause a spike of insulin. This hormone, which is key for transporting and storing nutrients will help the protein (which we’ll discuss later) get where it needs to go.

  1. Quinoa – This ancient and long-forgotten grain is nutritionally incredible stuff for many different reasons. When it comes to post-workout recovery, though, quinoa is particularly interesting because it not only contains a healthy dose of fast-acting carbs to restore your glycogen stores, the grain is also a complete protein.
  2. Rice – White or brown, rice is a perfect way to get your fuel stores back where they should be.
  3. Pasta – Another carby side that is easy to pair with just about anything, giving you plenty of options.
  4. Whole-wheat bread – Absorbing at a slightly slower rate than the white varieties, whole-wheat bread generally contains a little bit of protein.
  5. Bananas – Not only are bananas a convenient way to get the carbs you need, they are rich in potassium. Along with it’s many roles in the body, this mineral is key in nerve conduction and can help reduce the stiffness that sometimes sets in after a solid workout.
  6. White potatoes – An easy to prepare starch, potatoes also work well with just about any other food. The root vegetable is also rich in potassium.
  7. Sweet potatoes – Tastier than the above option, sweet potatoes contain significantly more micronutrients that help your body recover in a variety of ways.
  8. Apples – Yet another easy-to-carry, easy-to-eat fruit that is stuffed with all the carbs and micros that your body needs to recover. Apples also work well with several protein sources – although you might have to get creative. Or just eat the fruit and protein separate. Whatever works.
  9. Beans – Just about any variety of bean can work as both a protein and carb source, especially since they pair so naturally with rice. This is probably a good idea not just because it’s delicious but because beans are not – strictly speaking – rich in carbohydrates.
  10. Rice cakes – Think of all the benefits of rice, ready to travel. Depending your diet, you might also find it convenient to use rice cakes to make a sort of sandwich with your protein source.

Proteins – Keep your proteins complete (supplying all the necessary amino acids) and lean (low in fat) to make sure you get everything you need while minimizing digestive upset.

  1. Whey – This fast acting protein powder is a favorite option for most exercisers. It’s convenient and immediately gives you everything you need. Select a clean whey –  like Gnarly Whey that goes through as little processing as possible with as few additives as possible.
  2. Casein – Whey’s slower brother, casein does take longer to work but it keeps you fed for several hours. For this reason, if you’ll be going to bed soon or if it will be a while before you can eat again, you might prefer casein to whey.
  3. Cheese – You’ve got options here, but try to pick something low-fat. Depending on your cheese of choice, this could be an easy pairing with those apples.
  4. Peanut butter – Another easy to carry recovery snack, protein is a fantastic source of protein that can pair well with several carb sources like bananas, apples and rice cakes.
  5. Powdered peanut butter – This trendy new food deserves mention for it’s convenience and nutritional superiority. The process that powders peanut butter also leaves it much lower in fat and calories, making it even better for that post-workout snack.
  6. Chicken breast – Not all that convenient, chicken does provide plenty of protein and very little fat.
  7. Turkey – Pretty much the same as chicken. And don’t be afraid of the tryptophan making you tired – that’s a myth. In reality, the amino acid could help you mentally recover from your workout.
  8. Tuna – A can of tuna may not be all that appetizing but you can combine this lean protein with plenty of things to make a well-rounded recovery meal.
  9. Greek yogurt – With a higher protein content than the traditional American variety, Greek yogurt can be paired with fruit for a perfect recovery snack.
  10. BCAAs – Available in powdered form similar to protein, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are three specific aminos that play key roles in muscle building and recovery.
  11. Nuts – Extremely convenient and easy-to-carry, nuts are a perfect way to get in some protein. Be careful, though, nuts are surprisingly high in fat and total calories.
  12. Protein bars – Although many of them are essentially just candy bars, we need to mention this handy option. The trick is to be choosey and pick a bar that is truly high in protein and low in added sugars.
  13. Eggs – Scrambled, hard-boiled or however you like them, eggs are a great source of complete protein. If you’re trying to avoid fat, you can drop the yolk without losing any protein.
  14. Meal replacements – Of course, you can grab a complete meal replacement shake like Gnarly Feast that contains both the protein and carbs you need in one handy little package.
  15. Vegan meal replacements – Doesn’t #14 sound great? Imagine a vegan option! Check out Gnarly Vegan Feast for the same level of nutrition, totally free from animal products.
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