Eating quality food post-workout is crucial…you know, if you expect to make gains and stuff. The science on recovery is a little War-and-Peace-y in its complexity but you can boil it down to a few nutritional musts: To optimize your results, you need to replace the amino acids and glycogen lost during your workout.
Starting the muscle-building process by increasing protein synthesis and nitrogen retention requires a quick dose of the right protein and carbohydrates. But we can’t (and shouldn’t) always rely on plain protein shakes, chicken, and rice. It’s boring and an absolute affront to your flavor-deprived palate. Besides, your body prefers a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods. Try these six post-workout muscle-building meals that taste great and get results.
How to: Mix four egg whites, ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup cottage cheese, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Cook on a preheated griddle on medium-to-low heat, until it bubbles, then flip and cool another 30-60 seconds. Top with fresh berries or banana slices.
The perks: These pancakes pack a mean protein punch without a ton of carbs, perfect for those looking to retain muscle tissue when trying to lean up. The medium- and slow-digesting proteins help keep a steady stream of amino acids to stay more anabolic.
Calories: 421 | Protein: 51g | Fat: 6g | Carbs: 39g
How to: For those looking to satisfy that deep, aching post-workout hunger, this one is for you. Cook up 8oz of lean grass-fed beef with salt and pepper to taste. Cook one whole butternut squash for 30-45 minutes until soft. Mix them together in the pan when done and add 4oz of your favorite marinara sauce.
The perks: If you are training hard and with more volume than usual, chances are your appetite is up as well. The creatine replenishes your explosive energy stores and extra fat from the beef helps keep you satisfied and full of calories. The starchiness of the squash digests slowly and helps keep hunger at bay.
Calories: 628 | Protein: 70g | Fat: 18g | Carbs: 38g
Meal 3: Tuna and Crackers
How to: Take a can of yellow fin tuna and add a handful (1/2 cup) of crushed-up whole grain crackers. For flavor, add pepper, a dab of extra-virgin olive oil, mustard, and chopped-up pickles.
The perks: This one is perfect to utilize on-the-go for those working out on their lunch break at work, or those who have to endure an epic commute home from the gym. It is also simple and cost effective. The crackers add some needed carbs, helping to spike your insulin levels to drive nutrients into your muscles.
Calories: 379 | Protein: 41g | Fat: 13g | Carbs: 24g
How to: Add ½ cup of rolled oats, 1-2 scoops of your favorite whey protein powder (we suggest vanilla), ½ cup of frozen or dried fruit, and slivered almonds. Add ½ cup of water or skim milk, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Add cinnamon or stevia to add more flavors.
The perks: Another great convenience food, this dish is best for morning trainers. Oats and whey have been a bodybuilding staple forever, but often times are bland and burnt out. By adding some fruit, natural sweetener, and almonds, you gain a whole new appreciation for oatmeal. The balance of carbs and protein make it great for those looking to build mass and those watching the leanness scale.
Calories: 422 | Protein: 31g | Fat: 12.5g | Carbs: 48g
How to: Scramble four whole eggs with two added egg whites. Add one cup of chopped mixed veggies. Spinach, onions, mushrooms, and red bell peppers are good additions. For more protein, add ¼ cup of diced lean ham or bacon. If you need (or want) more carbs, add a piece of fresh fruit on the side.
The perks: Breakfast for dinner? Uhhh…yes. Plain egg whites just get too boring, forcing you to ditch your high-protein meal for a Krispy Kreme when you are burned out on traditional bodybuilding foods. Keep the yolks for the extra omega-3 fats, vitamins, and minerals. Make them taste good with some bacon (turkey bacon is a great, lower-fat option) and increase nutrient density and texture with the veggies. Nothing says post-workout breakfast like eggs. This post-workout is perfect for those on low calories and carbs, but need the protein to retain muscle and fat to decrease hunger.
Calories: 520 | Protein: 37g | Fat: 23g | Carbs: 29g
How to: Grab a large chicken breast (about 8oz) that is already cooked and dice it up and throw it in a pan with olive oil. Add ½ cup of diced sweet potato, 1/2 cup of diced apples and add cinnamon, salt, and pepper to taste. You can make an even bigger batch to store in the fridge to use throughout the week.
The perks: Chicken and sweet potatoes, gourmet recovery style. Sweet potatoes are the perfect bodybuilder carb that slowly digests to keep your energy levels high and insulin spike just enough to feed the muscles but not the fat stores.
Calories: 300 | Protein: 51g | Fat: 5g | Carbs: 30g
BY JUSTIN GRINNELL, CSCS