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What Top Fitness Instructors Really Eat to Refuel Post Workout

Fitness experts reveal how they refuel and recover after exercise with these go-to snacks, meals, and drinks.

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What to eat after a workout

You got through your whole workout, but after breaking a sweat, your body needs to recover. What you do during your recovery period, or post workout, will help repair your sore muscles from exercise. This includes hydrating and feeding the body to help restore energy.

So, what post-workout snacks should you eat? We spoke with several health experts who share their favorite go-to recovery meals for optimal energy.

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Superfood oatmeal

Kelsey Patel, owner and instructor at Pure Barre Beverly Hills, says she’s a big believer in eating different types of food during various times of the day. “After my morning workout, I love Purely Elizabeth oatmeal and load it up with fresh fruit, honey, bee pollen, goji berries, and whatever else I have in the cupboard. My newest obsession is JEM chocolate hazelnut butter, and I add about a tablespoon to the oatmeal.” (For more ideas, try these 10 foods to maximize your workout results.)

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Green smoothie

“After teaching a class, I love to enjoy a homemade green smoothie,” says Mary Caroline Craig, board-certified integrative nutrition health coach and cycling coach at Live Alive Fit in Seattle. Her recipe includes phytonutrient and iron-rich spinach, avocado for healthy fat, lime juice, easily digestible plant-based (rice and pea) protein, maca powder to boost muscle recovery, high fiber psyllium husk, chia seeds, and antioxidant-rich, frozen organic blueberries.

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Homemade protein bar

How does Andrew Ash, barre3 corporate master trainer, refuel and recover after class? A barre3 bar recipe—packed with dates, almond butter, goji berries, and flax. “I’m not big on cooking or baking if it involves a lengthy process, so when this recipe came out I was so relieved that I could finally make a healthy snack that didn’t take an entire Sunday to prepare. All you do is take all the ingredients, put them in a food processor, spread the mixture in a dish, and put it in the fridge—DONE!”

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Protein pancakes

Celebrity fitness trainer Erin Oprea powers up with protein pancakes—a good combination of protein and healthy carbs. Her recipe: coconut flour, flaxseed, USANA plain whey protein powder, three egg whites, and almond milk, topped with cinnamon and blueberries.

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Apple with almond butter

Lisa Schale Drake, barre3 master trainer and director of training, keeps it simple. “An apple with almond butter gives me the protein and fiber my body needs, and it’s an easy post-workout snack.” Need more suggestions? Check out these other post-workout snack ideas.

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Banana nut muffin and blueberry smoothie

“I tend to go for healthy carbs such as a banana nut muffin and a smoothie with blueberries, protein powder, bananas, and almond milk,” says Steph Petruccio, SLT suburb instructor development manager in Westchester, New York. Here’s a nutritionist-recommended healthy banana muffin recipe you should try.

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Raw carrot-cake energy bites

Another one of Drake’s go-to snacks? Raw carrot-cake energy bites. The combination rolled oats, pecans, shredded carrots, and raisins make a great energy-stabilizing snack.

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Quinoa bowl

“I’ve been on a huge warm grain bowl kick lately,” says Lindsay Bucci, lead instructor at Recycle Studio in Boston. She opts for quinoa bowls with kale, spinach, sweet potato, broccoli, grilled chicken, avocado, and beets. Her advice: Make the meal pop with color, protein, and carbs to help your body recover and replenish after a grueling workout.

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Kind bar and coconut water

“My go-to post-class snack—especially in between classes or training sessions—are Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt Kind bars and Harmless Harvest Coconut Water,” says Allison Tibbs, certified personal trainer and healthy lifestyle coach in San Francisco. “The Kind bar delivers a good dose of protein and a touch of sweetness, which is great for keeping my energy up and my blood sugar from tanking, while, the coconut water is a perfect hydrating beverage that isn’t packed with sugar.”

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Protein shake

“I know the importance of eating immediately post exercise—ideally within half an hour—to build lean muscle tissue,” says Ramona Braganza, global fitness expert and celebrity trainer, who has shaped the bods of Halle Berry, Jessica Alba, and Dakota Johnson. Immediately after working out, she drinks a shake with Vega vanilla protein powder, antioxidant-rich berries, and unsweetened almond milk. “I add banana to thicken it up, almond butter for good fat, and chia seeds a loaded with nutrients for body and brain.” Sadie Kurzban, founder of 305 Fitness, is also a fan of post-workout smoothies. “If I’m on the go, I make myself a quick protein shake (with whey or pea protein) with unsweetened almond milk.”

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Full-fat Greek yogurt with fruit and cacao

“I love Siggi’s Yogurt. I usually choose plain, but their flavored yogurts are much lower in sugar than other brands’. I top with raspberries, blueberries, apples, or kiwi on top depending on the season,” says Thumbtack personal trainer, Kaitlyn Noble. She calls it the perfect snack because it’s portable and packed with protein (17 grams per container). “I always go with 4 percent fat because it’s crucial for satiation and your body needs the fat to utilize micronutrients like calcium.” The fruit delivers a carbohydrate and fiber boost, while the raw cacao adds a rich chocolate flavor, antioxidants, and micronutrients like magnesium to help fight stress, she says.

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Salad with chicken

“If it’s cardio, my go-to is normally a salad with chicken, avocados, chickpeas, roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, and cucumbers with a light dressing,” says Petruccio. Avocado has heart-healthy fats, while chickpeas are packed with fiber, and chicken provides lean protein.

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Scrambled eggs, toast, and avocado

After exercising, it’s important to eat a balanced meal with protein to fuel the body and rebuild the muscle that was broken down during a tough workout. “In the morning, my favorite post-workout meal is scrambled eggs, (whole wheat or gluten-free) toast, and avocado,” says Ashley Guarrasi, founding trainer at Rumble.

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Tuna and whole wheat crackers

“I like a combination of protein and healthy carbs after teaching, since I typically try to abstain from eating just before class. (Sluggishness doesn’t bode well for trying to be a peppy, energetic Spin instructor),” says Amanda Dale, a certified personal trainer and spin instructor. For a protein punch, she turns to a water-packed tuna, mixed with hummus (a tasty and healthy sub for mayonnaise), and a few whole wheat crackers.

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Rice cakes with peanut butter and sliced banana

After a workout, you need to replenish blood sugar and glycogen levels, and refuel with protein and carbs, according to Erika Hammond, founding trainer at Rumble. “My go-to snack after a great workout is half a banana and two rice cakes with peanut butter.”

Next up, be sure to try these tricks to motivate yourself to exercise.

Sources

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay Cohn has a B.A. in Creative Writing & Communications from the University of Miami. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Brides, Fodor's, Travel + Leisure, PureWow, USA Today, and more.