Healthy Snacks to Eat After Your Workout

by Erica Sanderson Editor

Working out is great for you. But to keep your body healthy, you must refuel properly. Refueling your body after exercise is just as important as eating before your workout, because it ensures that you are putting the right nutrients back into your body. HealthCentral has complied some expert tips on the best foods (and liquid) to eat after you sweat it out.



After an intense workout, eating protein and complex carbohydrates is a must. The amino acids of protein help with muscle repair and aid in building new muscle tissue, says HealthCentral medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, health coach and brand ambassador, Amy Hendel. She suggests a handful of edamame — one of the only beans that is a complete protein — and some fruit after exercise.

Pita with hummus.

Pita with hummus

It’s important to remember that you sweat out sodium and potassium during a robust routine, Hendel says. Try whole grain pita with hummus to get all the post-exercise nutrient necessities: sodium, potassium, carbs, and protein.

Banana with peanut butter.

Banana with peanut butter

Cindy Haines, M.D., HealthCentral’s fitness expert, advises people to have a snack with protein and carbohydrates about 30 minutes after vigorous exercise, and then a complete meal within two hours. She says a snack shortly after exercise is important “so your body has ready access to carbs to replace glycogen stores, while getting a protein boost that is important for muscle repair and optimization.” The protein in the peanut butter and the carbs in the banana are a great combination.

Crackers with cheese.

Cheese with whole grain crackers

While both protein and carbs are important, Dr. Haines says carbs provide the fastest fuel for the body. She recommends avoiding energy bars or shakes in favor of real foods. Low fat cheese coupled with whole grain crackers is a great post-workout snack option.

Man hydrating during a workout.


Don’t forget to stay hydrated! OK, so this isn’t a food, but drinking plenty of liquids is crucial to avoid dehydration. And water is a better choice than sports drinks, as it doesn’t have added sugar. Remember to drink water throughout your exercise session, even if you’re not thirsty, especially on a hot day.

Watermelon juice.

Watermelon juice

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that watermelon juice helped athletes’ muscle recovery. The amino acid L-citrulline, naturally found in watermelon, increased levels of arginine and ornithine, which contribute to muscle growth. The study also concluded that L-citrulline aids in muscle relaxation and soreness.

Woman making a yogurt parfait.

Yogurt parfait

Muscle fiber is damaged during vigorous daily exercise, says Jeanine Barone, Sports Medicine and Nutrition Editor of the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter. Free radicals can also form during exercise, so Barone recommends consuming foods with antioxidant phytochemicals, along with protein and carbs. One of Barone’s favorite post-exercise snacks is a yogurt parfait topped with honey and nuts. Using Greek yogurt gives you an additional protein boost.

Omelet with spinach.

Egg omelet with vegetables

Combining the complete protein in eggs with the complex carbohydrates in fresh vegetables make this a great post-workout breakfast. Mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, and spinach are just a few of the vegetables that you can add to your omelet. It’s also a great way to get in a few extra servings of vegetables into your day!

Chicken salad on whole wheat bread.

Chicken salad on whole-grain bread

If you are working out on your lunch hour, you need to refuel once you’re back at your desk. Making your own chicken salad at home with low fat mayonnaise is a great high protein sandwich filling. The whole-grain bread provides the essential complex carbohydrates that you need after your midday workout. Tired of chicken? Any protein will do. Try shrimp, turkey, or tuna for some flavor variety.

Chocolate milk.

Chocolate milk

Surprisingly, low fat chocolate milk can be even better than sports drinks because it has the right combination of carbohydrate and protein for recovery. It also contains electrolytes, calcium, and a small amount of sugar to help refuel your muscles after a workout. Researchers at Indiana University found that chocolate milk is an effective recovery aid after exercise.

Man eating a banana after playing basketball.

The bottom line

Refueling your body after a workout is necessary to ensure that your body is burning stored body fat instead of breaking down muscle for energy. It’s important to make smart choices after you exercise. You worked hard to burn those calories, so make sure you are putting quality nutrition back into your body.

Erica Sanderson
Meet Our Writer
Erica Sanderson

Erica Sanderson is a former content producer and editor for HealthCentral. Living with a chronic disorder that affects the lungs and instestine, Erica focused on covering digestive health and respiratory health. Topics included COPD, asthma, acid reflux, managing symptoms and medication.