Best & Worst Foods to Eat After a Workout

The dos and donts of post-workout!

7-Day Meal Plan to Reduce Belly Bloat

After a rigorous workout, you’re going to want a meal that replenishes energy without hampering your progress. There are two key components you should be looking for in a post-workout meal. First is a high protein content. Your body will need protein to repair and strengthen muscle. The sooner you consume protein, the sooner your body can start recovery. The second thing you want to look for is carbs. After a workout, your body will breakdown carbs for quick energy and use them to re-energize your muscles. This prevents any further muscle breakdown.

Although carbs and protein are nutrients you can get in almost any meal, certain foods deliver better post-workout results. Check out our breakdown of the five best and worst post-workout foods!

Worst: Fast Food

Even if your fast food meal includes protein from the burger and carbs from the bun, it’s still not a great post-workout meal because of its high fat content. Fast food is made with cheap oils that are high in trans-fats, free-radicals, and carcinogens. This oil is hard to digest, slowing down your metabolism and delaying recovery. Additionally, the high-calorie content means you will likely undo all your hard work.

Best: Lean Chicken Breast

Instead of fast food, whip up a quick chicken breast and pair it with a carb-packed side. A serving of skinless, low-fat chicken breast has about 25 grams of protein. This means a single serving provides all the post-workout protein you need! Great options for sides include boiled potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain pasta.

We Recommend: Balsamic Chicken Fillets over Whole Grain Pasta

Worst: Bacon

Similar to fast food, bacon is a terrible post-workout food because it has a high fat content. Fat slows down your metabolism, meaning protein won’t be readily available. This delays muscle recovery.

Best: Eggs on Toast

If you’re craving breakfast food after your morning workout, try eggs over toast! If you’re looking to lose weight, opt for egg whites instead of whole eggs. Eliminating the yolk cuts down on fats and calories. Additionally, egg whites are a great source of protein, with 25 grams per cup! Serve your eggs over toast for some healthy carbs.

We Recommend: Salmon and Eggs on Toast

Worst: Chips

Salty snacks, such as chips, will dehydrate you. This is the opposite of what you want after a workout! Additionally, sodium depletes your potassium stores, which might already be low after a long bout of cardio.

Best: Protein or Granola Bar

If you need a quick on-the-go snack, leave the chips at home and have a protein bar instead. Many sports brands offer protein bars with over 20 grams of protein. Granola bars are a good alternative because they provide carbs to stop muscle breakdown.

We Recommend: Peanut Butter and Honey Oat Bars

Worst: Candy

Event though you need carbs after a workout, candy is not the best source. The processed sugar in candy is not considered as helpful in re-energizing sore muscles. Additionally, calories are so concentrated that it’s easy to eat too much. The surplus of sugar and calories mean you might end up losing all your progress.

Best: Bananas

If you’re looking for a sweet treat, reach for a banana instead. Bananas are high in natural sugars, with only 100 calories. Furthermore, if your potassium levels are low post-workout, a banana will help replenish your stores. Additionally, try having your banana with nut butters to add a little bit of protein.

We Recommend: Almond Butter and Banana Sandwiches

Worst: Ice Cream

Sure, ice cream has carbs, but these are mostly from refined sugars. In addition, the high fat, but low protein content makes ice cream a poor post-workout snack. Most of all, the heavy cream will leave you feeling sluggish all day long.

Best: Cottage Cheese or Greek Yogurt

Cottage cheese and Greek yogurt both come in fat-free varieties, making them an ideal post-workout snack. You can turn them into a sweet and creamy snack with a handful of berries and a dash of honey or stevia.

We Recommend: Yogurt & Blueberry Jam Popsicles

What’s your favorite way to replenish your body after a workout? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Sofia Lopez

Sofia received her BA from Cornell University and her MFA from San Francisco State University. She creates workouts and fitness challenges. Her hobbies include running, hiking, and listening to audiobooks from the exercise bike.

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