Replenish your energy after exercise with these delicious post-workout snack ideas from trainers and dietitians.
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The body is inflamed and filled with lactic acid after an intense workout, so the primary goal is recovery, says Tamal Dodge, E.R.Y.T., a yoga instructor in Venice, CA. Many people reach for protein after exercise, but since most protein is acidic, you're better off feeding your body something alkaline and anti-inflammatory, he says.
"I eat organic grapes or fruits that are alkaline, and I try to incorporate something that is really anti-inflammatory like turmeric," Dodge says. "I will make a smoothie with frozen bananas, berries, and a one-inch piece of turmeric with water and agave. About 20 or 30 minutes later, I will eat something high in protein, as my body is now ready to take in something acidic."
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Sunbutter and Dates
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"Dates are high in potassium, which is great to help revitalize post-workout and also helps to flush out any excess salt and water weight," says Laurel House, a certified personal trainer and author of QuickieChick's Cheat Sheet to Life, Love, Food, Fitness, Fashion, and Finance—on a Less-Than-Fabulous Budget. "You get the protein from the Sunbutter (which is made with sunflower seeds instead of nuts so it's perfect for people with allergies), and this post-workout snack is addictingly delicious!" (Related: The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Your Workout)
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Greek Yogurt with Berries
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"My favorite post-workout snack is honey-flavored Greek yogurt," says Amy Dixon, a celebrity trainer in Los Angeles and star of the Breathless Body DVD series. "It's nutrient-dense and has just the right amount of digestible protein to help restore and repair your muscles right after a workout." (Related: Is This the Next Greek Yogurt?)
"Your muscles are depleted of amino acids after a workout, so you need an adequate supply of protein to help build them up," explains Kristin Reisinger, M.S., R.D., a sports nutritionist and competitive figure athlete based in New Jersey. Low-fat yogurt can pack nearly 15 grams of protein; add some berries for carbohydrate-driven energy.
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Peanut Butter Banana Protein Smoothie
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"After a workout, you want ample protein combined with a carbohydrate," says Reisinger. A protein shake made from whey protein, water, and half a banana is a great choice, since your body quickly turns it into energy. If you want it to be even more filling, add some nut butter.
"My favorite post-workout snack is also my pre-workout snack: A banana and peanut butter smoothie with protein powder, almond milk, and a touch of cinnamon," says Andrea Rogers, a certified Pilates instructor and creator of Xtend Barre. "I drink half on my way to the studio to boost my energy and the other half after my workout to rejuvenate my taxed body. It provides long-lasting energy, and the cinnamon helps to control blood sugar so I don't crash after my workout," Rogers says. "I also add in a handful of kale or spinach to add some minerals."
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"My go-to post-workout snack is a small bag of low-fat or fat-free popcorn with one scoop of chocolate whey protein powder (sprinkle it in after it comes out of the microwave and shake a few times)," says Marta Montenegro, an exercise physiologist and fitness nutrition specialist. "Popcorn is one of the best whole-grain sources to replenish glycogen storage after working out, while the whey protein powder nourishes muscles and assists with recovery. This fits the bill for both an endurance and a resistance type of workout."
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Celebrity trainer Andrea Metcalf reaches for a snack with some protein and a little carbohydrates after her workout. One of her favorites? Nonfat chocolate milk! An 8-ounce glass is only 140 calories and packs in 8 1/2 grams of protein. "I love the flavor too," she says. (Related: Is Chocolate Milk the Best Post-Workout Drink on the Planet?)
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Apple with Almond or Peanut Butter
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"This post-workout snack delivers protein, which is something I try to include in all my meals and snacks," says Tamilee Webb fitness expert and star of the Classic Buns of Steel collection. "I like to bite into something crunchy, and combining it with a little sweetness and texture gives me a filling snack with plenty of nutrition that also restores my energy and muscles."
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With about 100 calories, 24 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein per medium spud, this is a great option to pair with a good source of lean protein like a piece of grilled chicken. "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," says Andrew Leonard, a certified trainer and expert for inerTRAIN, an online personal training service. (Related: 10 Scrumptious Sweet Potato Recipes )
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"This is what I eat after a quick afternoon workout," says Houston-based certified trainer Cari Shoemate. "I like them because I can keep them in my car and they don't melt; the protein helps muscle recovery too."
A 22-almond serving is the just-right size for a quick muscle boost.
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Geoff Bagshaw, group fitness manager for EQUINOX Fitness Clubs in Florida, enjoys a post-workout snack of water-packed, canned sardines on low-sodium Triscuits, topped with Louisiana hot sauce. "Sardines contain lots of heart-healthy omega-3 fats and are also loaded with calcium, along with B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese," Bagshaw says. "The crackers provide dietary fiber and the hot sauce contains capsaicin, which some studies indicate may help to increase your metabolic rate, along with other benefits."
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Peanut Butter and Banana on Rice Cakes
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Because bananas are so full of natural sugar, eating one after a workout is ideal. "This is one of the only times I recommend a high-glycemic carbohydrate source such as banana, because the uptake will be rapid," says Reisinger. Spread two brown rice cakes with a half tablespoon peanut butter each, then top each with a quarter of a sliced banana.
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Hummus and Pita
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Another great carb/protein combo, according to Reisinger: A quarter-cup of hummus and a whole-wheat pita. Hummus, a dip made from puréed chickpeas, gives you both carbs and protein. Coupled with the slow-release energy from the whole wheat pita, it makes for a snack that'll keep you fueled for hours.
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Tuna on Whole Wheat
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What could be more filling after a workout than half a sandwich? And when you choose its filling wisely, you'll be building muscle while you eat, too! "Research shows that carbs and protein together have a better response to post-workout recovery," says Reisinger. Tuna drizzled with a little lemon juice and olive oil spread over a slice of whole-wheat bread is an ideal protein/carb mini-meal.
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Turkey and Cheese with Apple Slices
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Not in the mood for a sandwich? Skip the bread and eat the fillings on their own! Spread a soft-cheese wedge over two or three slices of lean deli turkey, then roll it up for a quick, high-protein, eat-on-the-go snack. Add a sliced apple for some energy-boosting (and glycogen-replenishing) carbs, says Reisinger.
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