Are you wondering what the best post-workout snack is to maximize gains after hitting the gym? In this article, we’ll be covering the need for effective post-workout nutrition, as well as giving you some ideas for healthy post-workout snacks.
If you’re interested in using protein powder for your post-workout snack for muscle gain, check out 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate Powder from Transparent Labs. For some protein bar options, consider Natural High-Protein Bars by Legion or Pure Protein Bars.
The best post-workout snack will contain a blend of protein, carbs, and fluids. While a snack immediately after your workout isn’t necessary, it can help with recovery, refueling, and rehydration. Post-workout nutrition needs will vary depending on the intensity, duration, and type of exercise.
How Important Is Post-workout Nutrition?
First, it’s important to note that after-workout snack needs may vary between individuals. While the general nutritional guidelines are typically the same for most athletes, how important it is to eat directly after your workout depends.
First, if you’re an average gym-goer your nutritional needs will be much different when compared to a pro athlete. Average gym-goers are usually responsible for their own meal plans and have more flexibility with what and when to eat. Pro athletes will commonly have stricter diets and will seek to optimize their nutrition for performance. As a result, pro athletes are more likely to have specific post-workout meals.
However, post-workout meals do largely depend on what was eaten before the workout. If you had a big meal several hours before hitting the gym, you may not be hungry directly post-workout. In this case, there’s nothing wrong with waiting for a while before having your post-workout meal. However, it’s still best to refuel immediately after working out.
Of course, if you had an extremely tough workout, you may also be starving after getting home from the gym. In this case, you should probably have your post-workout snack as soon as possible.
Finally, you need to consider whether you’re working out twice a day. In this scenario, your first post-workout snack is effectively a pre-workout meal as well, which will change its importance and composition.
Before deciding what makes up an effective post-workout snack, determine how important this meal is for you. Remember that nutrient timing is typically not as important as the total daily intake of calories and protein, so decide whether a direct post-workout snack is even necessary for you.
What Should the Best Post-workout Snack Contain?
First, the most important nutrient for building muscle is protein. For building muscle, you should seek to get about 0.5-0.8g of protein per pound of body weight per day. On a diet, your protein intake should probably be on the higher end of this range to maintain muscle.
While your post-gym snacks don’t need to make up the majority of your daily protein intake, they will still ideally have a solid amount of protein to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Something around 0.12-0.15g/lb of bodyweight should be sufficient.
Finally, it’s important to incorporate fluids into your post-workout meal as well to replenish the water lost through sweat during your workout. While general hydration is important for recovery, it’s especially important if you’ve been working out for longer than 2 hours in hot conditions.
While you can incorporate fluids directly into your snack as we’ll cover below, you can also just drink some water alongside your snack. If you’re an endurance athlete, consider using an electrolyte supplement as well!
Best Post-workout Snack Ideas
While you can pretty much have anything after a workout as long as it aligns with your goals and dietary needs, we have a few recommendations for complete, high-quality snacks to eat after a workout. We chose these healthy post-workout snacks for their nutritional value, as well as the fact that they’re easily customizable to fit anyone’s dietary needs.
If you’re on a bulk, simply increase the portion size, adding more high-calorie ingredients. If you’re on a cut, decrease the portion size, and omit higher-calorie ingredients.
1. High-Calorie Protein Shake With Milk, Fruit and Nut Butter
This will be the go-to post-workout snack for most, especially those on a bulk. Mix your favorite protein powder with milk, fruit, and nut butter for a high-calorie, high-protein meal.
What’s great about this option is that it’s easily customizable to make it suit your nutritional needs. You can add 2 scoops of protein for a higher-protein shake, more nut butter for more calories, and more fruits/veggies for higher carbs and a better micronutrient profile.
Also, consider experimenting with different ingredients to see what works for you! Different fruits and veggies will add unique flavor to the shake, as will different protein flavors.
2. Greek Yogurt With Fruits and Nuts
Our next snack idea covers the need for protein and carbs by combining Greek yogurt with fruits and nuts for a solid complete meal. For additional carbs, consider adding honey to your post-workout snack as well as upping the fruit content.
The nuts will add some protein, as well as boost the calorie content if you’re on a bulk. To make this a great post-workout snack for weight loss, consider omitting the nuts entirely for a low-calorie, high-protein snack.
3. Protein Powder-Based Pudding and Whole Grain Bread With Peanut Butter and Berries for Dessert
Finally, this last meal is like a combination of the previous 2 options! Consider making yourself “protein pudding” by combining protein with a yogurt of your choice! With all the different flavors of protein available, you can get creative with different combinations.
While this will take care of your protein for the meal, adding whole grain bread with nut butter as well as berries for dessert will take care of the carbs and micros for your snack as well. For a more high-calorie option, just add another slice of bread, or some nuts/granola to your pudding!
Can I Eat a Banana After a Workout?
Bananas are an excellent source of carbohydrates as well as being rich in potassium. The potassium here may be especially beneficial if you consume a lot of sodium.
However, on their own, bananas probably aren’t the best option for a post-workout snack. This is because they lack the key macronutrient for building muscle - protein. With this being said, bananas can easily be incorporated into any of the meals listed above for an added boost of carbs!
Is It Ok to Eat Anything After the Gym?
Overall, we don’t recommend eating just anything after getting back from the gym. As mentioned, your post-workout meal should be rich in carbs and protein, as well as be accompanied by some fluid intake.
If you’re not eating enough protein while trying to build muscle, any extra calories you’re eating will likely be used for fat storage instead. On the other hand, if you’re not eating enough protein while dieting, you’ll lose muscle along with body fat. So, we recommend prioritizing protein intake for your post-workout snack, regardless of your goals.
As you probably noticed, several of the meals we recommend above use protein powder as their key source of protein. If you don’t already have a favorite protein brand, consider checking out Transparent Labs Whey Isolate.
This is an isolate, which has a higher protein concentration when compared to a concentrate. This makes it ideal for both bulking and cutting, as it’s primarily protein. For each 120-calorie serving, there’s 28g of protein and only 1g of carbs.
Photo by @transparentlabs
There are also a solid 12 different flavors making this supplement ideal for use in different recipes. It’s also made from grass-fed whey, as well as containing no additional artificial ingredients, making it ideal for people after all-natural supplements.
Each serving will cost you about ~$2.00, which is fairly affordable for such a high-quality supplement.
Now, while the post-workout snacks we outlined above are great, maybe you don’t have the time to go home and make yourself a full meal. In this case, Legion’s Natural High-Protein bars are a great choice for easy protein snacks after workouts.
Each bar has 250 calories, broken down between 24g of protein, 24g of carbs, and 12g of fat. While these aren’t an especially low-calorie option, they’re a great balanced bar for those looking for an easy recovery snack.
Photo by @legion
They’re also made from high-quality natural ingredients, with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives whatsoever. They come in 3 different flavors, which is a fairly limited flavor variety. As these are a high-quality product, they also aren’t especially cheap. Each bar will cost you ~$3.33, with the bars only being available in boxes of 12.
You can take BCAA during or after a workout, while you can take beta-alanine any time during the day. Beta-alanine works through consistency since it has an accumulative effect.
Photo by @welldone_jo
It’s worth noting that unlike Legion, Pure Protein’s bars are made with artificial sweetener, namely sucralose. So, if you’re after an all-natural option, Legion may be a better option despite the additional calories! However, these are also slightly cheaper than Legion’s bars. While prices vary between flavors and sellers, they can be bought for ~$2.83 per bar.
Can I Eat a Snack Immediately After a Workout?
Yes, while eating directly post-workout isn’t as important as eating enough protein and calories throughout the day, it’s still a good idea to have a snack directly after hitting the gym. Just make sure you’re getting enough carbs, protein, and fluids in to help you recover effectively!
What Should I Eat for Recovery After a Workout?
The best healthy after-workout snacks should have a solid balance of carbs, protein, and fluids to promote effective recovery. While this can come from any number of foods, some meals we recommend include a high-calorie protein shake or Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts!
What Not to Eat After the Gym?
Especially if you’re on a diet, we don’t recommend eating ultra-processed foods, especially those high in calories and low in nutritional value. These foods will make it more difficult to stay within a caloric deficit while hitting your protein goals.
While you have a little more leeway on a bulk, we recommend primarily eating meals consisting of high-quality whole foods to promote moderate weight gain and more effective recovery.
We hope these post-workout snack ideas can help! While eating directly after your workout isn’t always as important as eating the proper amount of calories and protein throughout the day, it is almost always beneficial and even necessary in certain circumstances. Whatever you want to eat for a post-workout meal, make sure you’re consuming adequate protein, carbs, and fluids for your specific goals.
To help make post-workout nutrition easier, there are a few products we recommend. For a great protein powder, we recommend 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate Powder by Transparent Labs. For high-quality protein bars, consider Natural High-Protein Bars by Legion or Pure Protein Bars.
What’s your go-to post-workout snack? Any tips for getting extra protein in after a workout? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
- Sarah Katz, “Fact or Fiction: The Anabolic Window,” Lewis College, https://lewis.gsu.edu/2021/10/13/fact-or-fiction-the-anabolic-window/ (Accessed October 16, 2023)
- Dana Cataldo, & Matthew Blair, “Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance,” American College of Sports Medicine, https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/protein-intake-for-optimal-muscle-maintenance.pdf (Accessed October 16, 2023)
- Tanner Stokes, et. al, “Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training,” Nutrients. 2018 Feb; 10(2): 180
- The Nutrition Source, “Bananas,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/bananas/ (Accessed October 16, 2023)
- Sophia Burnett, “Protein Powder: The What, Why, & How to Choose,” University of Georgia, University Health Center, https://healthcenter.uga.edu/protein-powder-the-what-why-how-to-choose/ (Accessed October 16, 2023)
- Brad Heins, “Grass-Fed Cows Produce Healthier Milk”, University of Minnesota, https://extension.umn.edu/pasture-based-dairy/grass-fed-cows-produce-healthier-milk (Accessed October 16, 2023)
Why Trust Us?
Author: Jacek Szymanowski
S&C movement specialist
Experience: 20 years
With my 30 years fighting experience, specialization in nutrition coaching for athletes, expertise in metabolic health and dietary strategies, I bring a comprehensive approach to optimizing your performance and well-being. Backed by a master's of science degree in biotechnology, I stay at the forefront of scientific advancements, ensuring that my coaching is always evidence-based and up-to-date.
If you have any questions/suggestions/any other inquiry, you can reach out to us via email - email@example.com
This article was written by our qualified author and proofread by an expert with proven experience. When writing the article we've used our expertise and data from authoritative, scientific, and evidence-based sources. The list of references is provided at the end of the article.
Our team of authors and experts includes professional athletes (Olympians, winners of European and World titles), PhDs in Sports Science, certified coaches, sports nutritionists, CSCSs, physiotherapists, and others. Read more about the team here, and more about how we test here.