You’ve crushed your strength training sesh and your mind and body are feeling good. You feel strong, lean, and on track to reach your health and fitness goals. And thanks to those feel-good endorphins (and a bumpin’ playlist), you’re happier, more energized, and less stressed. That said, if you want to keep the momentum going and reap all the benefits from your hard work (whether it’s building muscle, losing weight, or toning up), don’t forget: what you do after your workout is just as important as what you do during your workout. We’re talking about post-workout nutrition! Of course, other post-workout activities like stretching and sleep are crucial. But how you fuel your muscles after a workout is key to building strong, lean muscles — especially after resistance training.
Before you head to the kitchen for your post-workout snack, keep in mind — recovery meals may look different depending on the types of exercise and your personal goals! And good news, we’ve got the best options for all your needs. Find out the best foods for strength training and how to adjust your meal and maximize your results based on your workout and fitness goals!
Why It’s Important to Snack After Strength Training
You’ve probably heard the saying “muscles are built in the kitchen,” and research suggests it’s true — when it comes to the importance of a post-workout meal, that is!
Every time you lift a weight or perform a bodyweight exercise during your FitOn strength workouts, you create small microtears in your muscles. Breaking down your muscle may sound a little counterintuitive when the goal is to get stronger — but, this is actually the first step to increasing muscle strength and size!
The next step? Replenishing your muscles with the proper foods for strength training to help repair and rebuild. Without these nutrients, your muscles won’t be able to properly repair the damage caused during exercise, potentially leading to further muscle breakdown rather than muscle repair. As you can see, nourishing the body with the best foods for strength training after a workout is important if you want to see the best results!
The Best Foods to Feed Your Muscles
When you nourish your muscles after a tough workout, don’t skimp on the carbs and protein! There’s no need to avoid these foods for fear of getting “bulky”. In fact, research suggests a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein (or 3 grams of carbohydrates for every 1 gram of protein) is the best way to build lean muscle mass, making these nutrients the best foods for strength training.
With Keto, Paleo, and all sorts of fasting diets, carbs have been given a bad rap. But the truth is, carbohydrates are one of the best foods for strength training. Carbs not only assist in the repair and recovery phase, but they help fuel the body during a workout — a win-win!
But, not so fast — we’re not saying you should go refuel with a bag of processed chips or candy! It’s important to enjoy clean carb sources. Here are some of the best carbohydrate-rich foods for strength training recovery:
- Bananas or other whole fruits
- Sweet potatoes or starchy veggies
- Brown or white rice
- Oats or quinoa
Unlike carbs, protein is idolized as a key nutrient in most diets. While it’s important to eat protein regularly throughout the day, it’s especially important to consume adequate protein after your workout.
Research suggests even a single session of resistance training causes the breakdown of muscle protein, so it’s essential to feed your muscles after every workout! Protein supplementation is one of the best foods for strength training as it provides your muscles with essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, giving your muscles the nutrients they need to repair and rebuild.
Here are some of the best protein-rich foods for strength training
- Protein powder or Collagen
- Lean poultry, meat, or fish
- Unsweetened Greek yogurt
- Lentils and beans
- Nut butter such as peanut butter or almond butter
How Snacks May Look Different Based on Intensity & Fitness Goals
We all have different bodies, different fitness goals, and different workout routines — so, how does that impact our post-workout needs?
Well, research suggests a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein is the best post-workout ratio of foods for strength training, regardless of your goals. Whether you want to lean your body or build muscle, these macronutrients will help prevent muscle breakdown and stimulate the growth of lean muscle mass — which is ideal for either fitness goal!
So, where’s the difference? If you want to tone muscle versus build muscle, the difference in what you should eat after a workout comes down to size! Of course, lifestyle factors and healthy eating habits play a large role, but in terms of post-workout nutrition, portion size is key.
If you’re looking to put on muscle mass, start by increasing the overall amount of post-workout foods for strength training while also increasing your daily calorie intake. If you’re looking to tone and shred, focus on a slow and steady caloric deficit. Remember: it’s important not to restrict calories too much — the goal should be to retain lean muscle mass while slowly shredding your physique!
When it comes to determining your post-workout portion sizes, workout intensity and duration is a factor, too! With that in mind, here are the best snacks to eat based on your workout.
The Best Foods For Strength Training at Maximum Effort
When you go all out during a workout and leave every last drop of sweat on the floor, your post-workout fuel should be much more substantial! Think of this as a satiating meal rather than a light snack. If you’re giving your workout everything you’ve got, your energy is going to be depleted, and your muscles are going to need more nutrients to refuel!
Here are some of the best foods for strength training when performing at your maximal effort:
- A nourishing oatmeal bowl with an added scoop of protein powder or nut butter and a handful of fresh fruit
- Large salad with 4 oz. salmon or chicken and roasted sweet potato
- Post-workout protein smoothie with berries, spinach, banana, and a protein add-in such as a serving of nut butter, Greek yogurt, or a scoop of protein powder
- 2 eggs and an egg white with sauteed veggies on 2 slices of Ezekial toast
- Tofu and vegetable stir-fry made with quinoa
- Greek yogurt parfait made with almond butter, granola, and berries
The Best Foods For Strength Training at Moderate Effort
Maybe you had an off day at the gym and didn’t put much effort into your workout, or maybe you just decided to take it easy with a moderate workout. Sometimes less is more! Whether it was a slow yoga flow or a 15-minute fast-paced walk, the best foods for strength training at moderate effort are foods that are nutritious but light. Rather than thinking of this as a meal, consider it a snack!
Here are healthy post-workout snacks to consider for a moderate-level workout!
- A single-serve Greek yogurt with a handful of berries
- One cup of chocolate milk
- Energy Balls or a protein bar
- 1 Rice cake with a tablespoon of almond butter or peanut butter
- An apple with 1 tablespoon of almond butter or peanut butter
- A portion of nuts and berries
- A light smoothie made with berries, almond milk, and protein powder
Recipes to Help You Refuel After Your Next Strength Workout
Rise & Shine Protein Smoothie
After a strenuous strength sesh, refueling with a protein smoothie is always a good idea. This FitOn PRO Rise & Shine Protein Smoothie is full of antioxidants, protein, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it one of the best (and tastiest) foods for strength training.
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 frozen banana
- ½ cup frozen blueberries
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- ½ tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 handful ice cubes
- shredded coconut, to serve
- honey, to drizzle
Step #1: Add all ingredients minus the shredded coconut to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
Step #2: Pour into a glass and top with desired toppings. Enjoy!
Greek Yogurt & Berry Rice Cakes
If your workout was on the lighter side, a lighter snack is in order — and we know just the thing: a sweet (but satisfying) take on rice cakes! Made with protein-rich Greek yogurt, crunchy rice cakes, and fiber-rich fruit, these healthy rice cake snacks will keep you satiated without feeling stuffed! They’re easy to make, and simple to customize!
- 4 rice cakes (brown rice or quinoa rice cakes)
- ½ cup unsweetened Greek yogurt (plain, low-fat or non-fat)
- 2-3 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional, for added sweetness)
- Pinch of cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup fresh fruit of choice (such as berries, sliced bananas, or thinly sliced apples)
- 2 tbsp chopped nuts or seeds (such as almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, or flaxseeds)
- Optional toppings: hemp seeds, shredded coconut, cacao nibs
Step #1: In a small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.
Step #2: Spread a dollop of yogurt on each rice cake, spreading evenly. Top each rice cake with ¼ cup fruit, 1 tbsp chopped nuts, and an optional drizzle of honey. Customize as desired with favorite toppings!
Overnight Protein-Packed Chia Pudding
If you smashed a sweaty workout sesh all before breakfast, we’ve got a quick-and-easy option that will keep you fueled and full all morning long. When you need something a little heartier, this tasty breakfast bowl is one of the best foods for strength training. Plus, it can be prepped in advance to save you time and stress on busy mornings!
- 3 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 cup oat milk
- 1 scoop protein powder
- ½ banana, mashed
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 handful mixed berries
- slivered almonds, to serve
Step #1: Place the chia seeds in a bowl and cover with the oat milk. Add the protein powder, banana, cinnamon, vanilla, and pure maple syrup. Stir well.
Step #2: Place in the fridge overnight.
Step #3: Top with fresh berries and slivered almond before enjoying
Nourishing Sweet Potato & Salmon Salad
When you’re in need of a full-on post-workout meal, this protein-packed kale salad will be your new go-to. Full of healthy carbs from sweet potato and loaded with protein and omega-3s thanks to salmon, this is another simple and satiating choice that’s jam-packed with nutrients. Not to mention, it will surely satisfy all your savory cravings!
- 6 oz canned salmon (we love this wild-caught brand)
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 4 cups kale, destemmed and roughly chopped
- ½ ripe avocado, cubed
- 1 seedless cucumber, chopped
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds (option to swap for 1 chopped apple)
- ¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
- sea salt & black pepper, to taste
Honey Balsamic Vinegar:
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ – 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp lemon juice, optional
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Step #1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the chopped sweet potato to a baking sheet then coat with olive oil. Roast until tender, about 20-25 minutes.
Step #2: Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic, olive oil, honey, dijon, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. In a separate large bowl, add the chopped and destemmed kale. Then, pour the dressing over. Massage the dressing into the kale until the kale begins to wilt and soften.
Step #3: Add the remaining ingredients to the massaged kale and toss until well combined. Once the sweet potatoes are roasted, add to the salad and toss again to mix. Serve and enjoy!
Loaded Avocado Toast
Served on Ezekial bread (which is full of complex carbs and plant-based protein) and topped with hard-boiled eggs, this mouth-watering post-workout meal is a guaranteed winner. It’s full of high-quality protein, and will help replenish glycogen stores! Enjoy as is, or add your favorite toppings, such as smoked salmon or nutritional yeast.
- 2 slices of Ezekiel bread (or any whole grain bread of your choice)
- ½ ripe avocado
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Optional toppings: smoked salmon, nutritional yeast sliced cherry tomatoes, sprouts, red onion, fresh herbs
Step #1: Toast the Ezekiel bread slices until they are golden and crispy.
Step #2: Meanwhile, prep the avocado and hard-boiled eggs. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash the avocado with a fork until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, or any spices of choice.
Step #3: Prep the hard-boiled eggs as desired. Then, peel the eggs and slice them lengthwise or into thin rounds.
Step #4: Once the bread is toasted, spread the mashed avocado evenly onto each slice. Top with the hard-boiled eggs, and any additional toppings of choice.
Refuel Those Tired Muscles With a Delicious Post-Workout Meal
No matter what your fitness goals, it’s important to refuel those tired muscles post-strength training. The good news is that there are plenty of nourishing and delicious ways to snack post-workout. After your next workout, try one of these foods to eat after strength training. They may give you that post-workout energy boost your body needs!
For more delicious recipes, join FitOn PRO for access to personalized meal plans and exclusive recipes to reach your fitness goals faster without counting calories and with foods you’ll love to eat.