Post Workout Meal Ideas

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
salmon with capers and lemon

Getting in the right post-workout nourishment is extremely important for proper recovery after grueling sweat sessions. The bottom line is you'll want to choose some vegetables, healthy protein foods, and nutritious starches when it's time to refuel post-workout.

1. Chicken, Asparagus, and Brown Rice

For a boost of post-workout recovery fuel after a strenuous workout, try 3 ounces of chicken, 1 to 2 cups of asparagus, and about 1 cup of brown rice. Doing so means you'll get the right balance of protein and starch needed to maximize muscle recovery and boost energy. This meal is also rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Try a one-pan chicken and asparagus recipe for a flavorful post-workout meal and pair it with cooked brown rice (or quinoa). Your actual portion size should vary based on your body size and how hard you've exercised. Your body will tell you when to keep eating and when it's been fueled adequately. If you're trying to shed pounds, go heavy on the chicken and asparagus and eat less rice.

2. Turkey Chili

Ground turkey is an excellent source of lean protein and makes a perfect addition to post-workout recovery meals. Beans in turkey chili provide you with the starch needed (along with protein) to maximize post-exercise muscle recovery. Try this ground turkey chili recipe or create your own turkey chili based on ingredient preferences. Add in extra turkey or beans if desired (especially after muscle-building workouts) and consume whole-grain dinner rolls with turkey chili for some extra carbs after long endurance workouts. Aim to eat 1 to 3 cups (or more) of chili for your post-workout fuel, depending on the number of calories you've burned, your hunger level, and your body size.

3. Salmon With Capers and Pasta

If you've worked out intensely, your body will probably crave starches, which is why carb-rich whole-grain pasta makes such an excellent post-workout dish. Adding in some protein means your muscles can recover more efficiently and replace muscle glycogen (stored carbs) quickly. Try a salmon and capers recipe served over a bed of cooked whole-grain pasta and add veggies to complete the dish. Aim for a serving size of 3 ounces of salmon, 1 to 2 cups of veggies, and about 1 cup of cooked pasta. Your actual portion size needs vary by workout and your body size.

4. Chicken Avocado Omelet

What better way to get in your daily dose of protein and healthy fats than by choosing a chicken avocado omelet as post-workout nourishment? This dish is low in carbs and rich in protein, which is perfect when you're trying to shed pounds without losing lean mass. Use this two-egg California chicken omelet recipe, but use uncured turkey bacon instead of regular bacon and omit the mayonnaise. Double the recipe if you're needing some extra fuel and pair your omelet with whole-grain toast, oatmeal, or cooked potato wedges if you need a boost of carbs after long endurance sweat sessions.

5. Tofu, Quinoa, and Veggies

If you're a vegetarian or vegan workout enthusiast, consider eating tofu and quinoa plus veggies to get in some healthy complex carbs, protein, and fiber that will satisfy you like no other post-workout. Try a sesame quinoa tofu broccoli recipe or make your own dish using tofu, quinoa, and your favorite veggies and seasonings. Aim for about 3 ounces of tofu, 1 to 2 cups of quinoa, and 1 to 2 cups of veggies to complete the dish. Your portion size needs may be higher or lower based on body's size, activity level, and specific workout you've completed. For weight and fat loss, eat more tofu and veggies and less quinoa. If you're an endurance athlete, such as a marathon runner, go heavy on the carbs (quinoa and starchy veggies).

Choosing Post-Workout Meals

The bottom line when it comes to choosing post-sweat session meals is to fill about half your plate with veggies, and the rest with healthy protein foods and fiber-rich complex carbs (like brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal and whole-grain pasta). Throw in some healthy fats like vegetable oils, olives, and avocadoes to boost satiety and energy while maximizing muscle recovery.

Post Workout Meal Ideas