If you’re trying to build muscle and get fit, what you put in your body after you work out may be just as important as the moves you do at the gym. Munching on some carbs post-workout can help replenish your energy, while eating a protein-rich snack after an intense session is critical if you want to build muscle.
“When you work out, your muscles are primed to respond to protein,” Jeffrey Volek, Ph.D., R.D., tells Men’s Health, “and you have a window of opportunity to promote muscle growth.”
Skip the post-workout snack, on the other hand, and you could end up feeling sluggish and not seeing the muscle gains you hoped for. To make sure your workout really counts, try one of these snacks after you hit the gym.
1. Chocolate Milk
Drinking a glass of chocolate milk can help promote muscle recovery and growth after exercise, according to a study published in Medicine and Sport Science. This recipe from the Loveless Café makes a richer, grown-up version of this childhood classic that provides the carbs and protein your body needs after you work up a sweat.
- 1 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 cups milk, divided
Directions: Combine chocolate chips, sugar, and 1 cup milk in a saucepan. Turn heat to low, and whisk until fully combined.
Pour 3 cups of milk in a blender, then add the chocolate syrup. Blend to combine. Chill before serving.
2. Protein Pancakes
If you work out in the morning and are craving a filling breakfast afterwards, these protein pancakes could be just what your body needs. This dish contains a balance of protein and carbs, and you can get an extra dose of nutrients by topping the pancakes with some fresh blueberries, sliced banana, or other healthy fruit. Recipe from Muscle & Fitness.
- 4 egg whites
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- ⅛ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Fresh fruit (optional)
Directions: Mix the egg whites, oats, cottage cheese, baking powder, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Preheat a griddle (set heat to medium-low), then spoon batter onto surface. Cook until bubbles form, then flip and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Top with fresh fruit, and serve.
3. Avocado Tuna Salad
Many guys turn to canned tuna for a cheap and easy hit of protein post-workout. If that go-to snack seems a bit boring, try this recipe from The Healthy Maven, which dresses up dull fish with healthy avocado. The good-for-you fats in foods like avocado can aid your recovery, sports nutritionist Cynthia Sass says in a story originally from Details. Serve it on a slice of whole-grain toast, and you’ll also get some energy-boosting carbs in your mini-meal.
- 2 cans of flaked light tuna
- 1 ripe avocado
- ½ cup chopped celery
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- ½ red apple, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
- 1 tablespoon pickle juice or water
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Scoop the flesh from the avocado, then mash in a bowl. Add the tuna, celery, red onion, apple, and walnuts. Mix well to combine. Stir in pickle juice, dill, mustard, cumin, and salt and pepper. Serve by itself or on whole-grain bread. Leftovers will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
4. Tart Cherry Juice and Mango Smoothie
Many athletes mix up smoothies post-workout since they’re an easy and tasty way to quickly get that much-needed protein boost. Adding some cherry juice to your after-exercise beverage might make it even more beneficial. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who drank two 12-ounce servings of tart cherry juice experienced less muscle damage and soreness after exercise. This smoothie recipe from Cookin’ Canuck combines protein-rich Greek yogurt and cherry juice for a healthy post-workout snack.
- 1½ cups tart cherry juice
- 1½ cups frozen mango chunks
- ¾ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
Directions: Combine the cherry juice, frozen mango chunks, Greek yogurt, and agave nectar or honey in a blender. Blend until smooth. Makes 2 servings.
5. Paleo Turkey Sweet Potato Meatballs
“I like sweet potatoes as a post-workout snack because they are packed with vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins B6, C, D, iron, magnesium, and potassium,” Andrew Leonard, a certified trainer and expert for inerTRAIN, an online personal training service, tells Shape. This easy recipe from The Lean Green Bean combines the vitamin-rich veggie with lean turkey (a great source of protein) for a delicious, treat-yourself snack after working out. Simply make a batch of these in advance, and then pop a couple in the microwave when you get back from your run.
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 to 2 jalapeños, minced
- ½ cup almond meal or breadcrumbs
- ½ cup onion, diced
- 2 strips bacon, diced
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl, and mix well. Shape meat and potato mixture into balls (this recipe should yield about 16 meatballs).
Place meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven, let cool, then store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
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