4 Post-Workout Snack Recipes and the Role of Recovery Nutrition
You work out to be stronger, more in shape, toned, lean, and to increase your overall health. But this process doesn’t end when you walk out of the gym, and without proper nutrition, you open the door to illness, dehydration, and decreased energy levels — essentially, a lower state of health. The Australian Sports Commission explains that exactly what a person will need to do to help their body recover after a workout will depend on how they trained, but there are basics you can keep in mind.
First, it is important to replace glycogen stores. While training, your body uses glycogen to fuel your activity and to ensure that your future sessions are as productive as the previous workout; you need to return the stores to where they started. This can be done with a carbohydrate-rich snack, and other snacks that will accomplish the refueling goal include high-protein foods. Protein is especially important for anyone who has worked out for a prolonged period of time or in a high-intensity manner. Vigorous activity causes muscles to break down, but during the “recovery” period, the breakdown process slows as the muscle-building process increases. Eating a high-protein food can enhance your muscle building after a workout, and research indicates that consuming a protein-rich food within an hour of finishing your workout will aid this process.
Carbohydrates help more than just your energy stores — carbs are important for your immune system, too. High-intensity training can temporarily suppress the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to illness. You can combat this with carbohydrates, while also getting all the other benefits of refueling after you’re done working out. But you don’t need to eat a full meal to get a dose of protein and a healthy helping of carbohydrates to help your body recover. The following four recipes are great for when you need a quick snack to take with you, and some can even be packed in your gym bag.
1. Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars
Given all the emphasis on protein, when it comes to snacks, the protein bar seems like a no-brainer. You’ll want to be careful though: Men’s Fitness describes many store-bought versions essentially as candy bars. Just as sweet as a candy bar but with ingredients you recognize are Silk’s baked protein bars, which, when cut into 16 servings, have 13 grams of protein and 141 calories per bar.
- ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1 cup oat flour
- 4 egg whites
- 2 scoops protein powder (vanilla or chocolate)
- ¼ cup Stevia (or other sweetener)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
- ⅓ cup natural peanut butter
- 4 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix almond milk, egg whites, applesauce, peanut butter, and yogurt together in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix flour, protein powder, Stevia, baking soda, salt, and cocoa together, and then combine with wet ingredients. Pour mixture into a greased 8-by-8-inch glass dish and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
2. Savory Muffins
Not all of your recovery snacks have to be sweet. Eating Well has a muffin that is savory and contains 9 grams of protein and 24 grams of carbohydrates. It will restore your fuel levels and contains only 217 calories per serving. Make a batch over the weekend, and you’ll have your savory post-workout snack sorted for the week.
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1⅓ cups buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 1 bunch)
- ¾ cup diced Canadian bacon (3 ounces)
- ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
- ½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray. Combine apricots and ¼ cup orange juice in a small bowl. Cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1 minute. (Alternatively, bring to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat.) Set aside to plump.
Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, ¾ cup wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in buttermilk, oil, orange zest, vanilla, and remaining ¼ cup orange juice. Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until moistened. Add the plumped apricots and juice, and mix just until blended. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon wheat germ.
Bake the muffins until lightly browned and the tops spring back when touched lightly, 15-25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges and turn the muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.
3. Power Granola
Granola, like protein bars, can get a bad rap when it comes to nutritional standards. To keep it healthy, you want a low-sugar option, and keep your portions small — like with this Cooking Light recipe. The serving size is about ½ cup, and it contains 196 calories, 4 grams of protein, and 32 grams of carbohydrates. Cut back on carbs by using a small portion, and increase the protein by pairing it with Greek yogurt.
- 2 cups regular oats
- ⅓ cup ground flaxseed
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup chopped, slivered almonds
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- ⅓ cup honey
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cooking spray
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine orange juice, honey, and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat just until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in oil and vanilla. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture, stirring to coat. Spread mixture in a thin layer onto a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes; stir well. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Spoon granola into a bowl; stir in dried cranberries. Cool completely.
4. Recovery Smoothie
Sweetened with honey, this smoothie from AllRecipes.com is loaded with ingredients that will aid in the recovery process. Peanut butter provides protein, while the potassium in bananas will help replace electrolytes lost during the workout – a key aspect of recovery highlighted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It has just over 10 grams of protein, 34 carbs, and 251 calories.
- 1 tablespoon flax seed meal or wheat germ
- 1 banana
- ½ cup frozen blueberries
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter (or almond butter)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 1 cup milk
Directions: Put ground flax seed meal or wheat germ into blender to grind and further break down. Place the banana, blueberries, peanut butter, honey, yogurt, and milk into the blender. Cover and puree until smooth. Pour into glasses to serve.