From protein shakes to chicken and rice, the question of what post-workout foods are good for you is an important one. If the maxim that bodies are made in the kitchen, not the gym, holds true, then arguably, your post-workout food is just as vital as the workout itself.
Naturally, scientists have long debated everything from the ideal post-workout chow to the best time to eat it. What all of this tends to miss is that if you’re to stand any chance of maintaining a healthy diet, your sustenance has to be at least somewhat appealing to the palette.
So, with apologies to white fish and veggies, this is our ranking of the best post-workout foods. From the less imaginative (but nutritionally sound) options to a bit more adventurous, we chart your recovery meal from nutritious to delicious.
“A Mediterranean chickpea salad provides about 15g of protein, aiding in muscle repair and growth post-workout,” says Serena Poon, nutritionist and founder of brands Just Add Water & Culinary Alchemy. “Avocado contributes healthy monounsaturated fats, essential for nutrient absorption and reducing inflammation,” she continues. You also get a range of vitamins plus fiber from the veggies. Eat up.
Excitement factor: 3/10
Nutrition factor: 9/10
“After a five-hour session of surfing or a three-hour bike ride, I’m ready to eat,” says Laird Hamilton—possibly the best surfer in the history of the sport and founder of Laird Superfood. “High-quality protein like buffalo or elk with a ton of veggies and healthy fats such as avocado and unfiltered olive oil. If I can help it, I will load my mid or late-lunch meal with proteins and healthy fats.”
Excitement factor: Depends on your thoughts re: eating Bambi
Nutrition factor: 8/10
“Consuming carbohydrates and protein after your workout allows your muscles to repair, rebuild, and recover properly,” says Ashleigh Kidd, dietitian at F45 Training. “You should aim to have a balanced meal with a focus on protein and fiber within an hour of ending your workout.” Breakfast tacos with black beans, scrambled eggs, and possibly extra egg whites are a winner.
Excitement factor: 8/10
Nutrition factor: 8/10
“Recently, I’ve been particularly drawn to canned mackerel,” says Arina Kuzmina, an integrative health coach and nutritionist who tries not to eat anything until 45-60 minutes post-workout. “I know for some it doesn’t sound that delicious, but mackerel is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that have been studied for their impact on metabolic rate, digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular health, and blood sugar levels. I like to make salads with it by mixing it with seasonal vegetables, some green leaves, and gluten-free bread.”
Excitement factor: 4/10
Nutrition factor: 7.5/10
A favorite of students and middle-aged bachelors everywhere, the stir-fry is not without its nutrition credentials. “You get protein from the prawns, carbohydrates from noodles, and vitamins and minerals from the vegetables,” says Jess Hillard, nutritionist at sports nutrition brand Warrior. Take that, mom.