Foods to Refuel: What to Eat After a Workout

Dec 12, 2014 //

When you exercise vigorously, your body uses its energy stores (fats, carbs and protein) for fuel. Later, these energy stores help your body recover from the stress of the workout. How quickly you recover will be affected by what you eat in the meal following your workout.

A few years ago, nutrient timing and post-workout nutrition were very hot topics. There was an influx of research studies that suggested the time and macronutrient composition of a meal had a dramatic effect on exercise recovery. But after further research, it became clear that many of these studies were less relevant to the average exerciser than originally thought. Unless you’re an elite athlete, “nutrient timing” isn’t as important or complex as it was once thought.

Instead, a simple post-workout meal or snack should provide the nutrition you need to see results and recover from your workout.

Certified Sports Nutritionist Brian St. Pierre recommends following these simple guidelines when planning your post-workout meal:

  • One to two hours after your workout, eat a meal that includes a serving of protein-rich food, a serving of vegetables, a serving of healthy carbs like whole grains, and some healthy fat like olive oil or nuts.
  • Base your serving sizes on your weight and activity level.
  • If you don’t feel like eating after exercise, drink a smoothie instead of eating a meal.

These are our favorite post-workout eats to help refuel your body.

Sweet-Potato and Spinach Omelet

Eggs are an amazing protein source – their protein is easily absorbed by the body. Nutrition experts used to warn that eating whole eggs could drive up cholesterol and even lead to heart disease. But recent medical research has consistently proven that concerns related to eggs and blood cholesterol are unfounded. Make this omelet after a morning workout.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small pat of butter
  • 1 cup of raw spinach
  • 1 roasted sweet potato, diced


  1. In a small greased pan on medium heat, reheat the sweet potato.
  2. Add the spinach and cook until wilted (about two to three minutes). Remove the pan from heat.
  3. Heat another small frying pan on low heat. Add a small pat of butter.
  4. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and beat well.
  5. Once the butter bubbles, pour the eggs into the pan and spread them out evenly.
  6. When the omelet begins to firm up — but is still slightly raw on top — add the spinach and sweet potato mixture.
  7. Use a spatula to lift an edge of the omelet and fold it in half.
  8. When the bottom starts to turn golden brown, slide the omelet onto a plate.

Power Salad

This salad makes for an ideal post-workout lunch or dinner. Unlike other starchy carbs, quinoa contains essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. If you want to boost your protein intake even more, add some canned tuna or a hard-boiled egg.

Salad Ingredients:

  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup blanched and finely chopped broccoli
  • ¼ of a medium avocado diced
  • 1 tomato diced

Dressing Ingredients:

  • ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tbsp. red wine vinegar


  1. Mix the dressing ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Toss all the salad ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Coat salad with dressing.

Super Smoothie

The ideal refueling smoothie should include:

  • a scoop or two of protein powder: whey or vegan powder will work.
  • a serving of veggies: canned pumpkin, frozen spinach, and carrots are good choices.
  • a serving of fruit: berries, bananas, and dates blend well into smoothies.
  • a healthy fat: a tablespoon of nut butter, flax seeds, nuts or avocado.
  • a low-calorie beverage: water, cold green tea, unsweetened almond milk or cow’s milk.

You can switch up ingredients to create many different kinds of smoothies. It’s next to impossible to get bored! One of our favorite super drinks is this pumpkin pie smoothie:


  • ½ cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein powder
  • 2 to 4 pitted dates
  • 1 tbsp. almond butter
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice blend
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk



  1. Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. That’s it!


Erika Volk

Erika is a certified personal trainer, Nutrition Coach, and fitness writer. She holds certifications from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), TRX Suspension Training Systems, Precision Nutrition. She specializes in creating gym-free workouts.

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