Did you know that both what you eat and when you eat post-exercise matters just as much as your actual workout?
Whether you are doing cardio, strength training, or some other kind of intense workout, proper post-exercise nutrition is key in helping you achieve your fitness goals.
There are some key factors to keep in mind when choosing the most optimal, nutrient-dense post-workout foods. It has to do with muscle recovery, as well as replenishing glycogen stores (energy from glucose in your body), electrolytes, and muscle tissue. Choosing the right foods after a workout, therefore, becomes hugely important.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to put together the most nutritious post-workout snacks, especially if you’re eating plant-based. Just look at vegan athletes like triathlete Brendan Brazier and bodybuilder Brian Turner who have perfected the science of plant-based nutrition, whether it be pre-workout, post-workout, or any time of day.
Here you will find some of our favorite plant-based post-workout snacks to help you properly repair, replenish, and refuel so you can maximize the benefits of your workout. Incidentally, our nuggets make for an ideal post-workout snack.
The Basics of Post-Workout Nutrition
When you work out, you’re actually breaking down your muscles. In order to get the benefits of a workout, refueling, muscle recovery, and replenishing glycogen stores are essential.
To keep things super simple, there are three guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to post-workout nutrition:
- Hydrate by replenishing electrolytes and sodium.
- Focus on choosing the right balance of macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
- Know when to eat.
You may have heard the word “electrolytes” and assumed it was yet another nutrition buzzword. And you’re right — it is. But it’s an important one because electrolytes are made up of minerals like sodium, potassium, and calcium. Your body needs all of those in order to function.
Without getting into too much detail, electrolytes, which are found in your blood, sweat, and urine, are responsible for many functions in your body, including balancing your body’s pH, nervous system function, and muscle function. When you’re low on electrolytes, you can experience cramping and dehydration. A good post-workout snack will help replenish these important minerals.
Carbs, Proteins, and Fats, Oh My!
The role of carbohydrates in post-exercise nutrition is to replenish glycogen stores. In order to maximize this replenishment, it appears that consuming fat alongside carbs plays a big role. That’s because fats seem to prevent the body from using carbohydrates for energy, so they can be stored as glycogen instead. Yay for teamwork!
The role of protein in post-exercise nutrition is to repair the broken down muscles and rebuild that muscle tissue. You may have heard that low-fat chocolate milk is an ideal post-workout snack. That’s because of its balance of carbohydrates and protein, as well as its electrolytes.
But if you’re not into chocolate milk or dairy, fear not: There are plenty of protein options to refuel with.
Choosing the right kind of protein is a game-changer when it comes to refueling after a workout. That’s because all proteins are not created equal. There are nine essential amino acids that our bodies do not produce, and they play a vital role in repairing muscle tissue. Luckily, protein is made up of amino acids, but not all protein sources have the same ones.
All animal foods are considered complete proteins, meaning they have all nine essential amino acids. But plant-based diets can combine different protein-rich foods to get a full set of amino acids. Or, you can enjoy a healthy serving of quinoa, one of the only plant-based complete proteins. Keep that in mind when choosing the perfect post-workout snack.
Timing Matters: When to Eat After a Workout
Now you know you need proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and electrolytes after your workout. But when you consume these nutrients is also important.
Most experts agree that you want to consume carbohydrates no more than 30 minutes post-exercise and protein within one hour post-exercise. Consuming carbohydrates and protein within 30 to 60 minutes post-exercise has been shown to help speed up recovery, reduce muscle damage and soreness, and aid in muscle growth.
5 Ideal Plant-Based Post-Workout Snacks
Now that you know what to eat and when to eat it, it’s time to talk about our favorite post-workout snacks! Specifically, plant-based snacks that combine protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates for a restorative and energizing experience. There are a plethora of snack ideas: plant-based protein shakes, veggies and hummus, trail mix, granola and yogurt, rice cakes and almond butter (or any nut butter, for that matter), quinoa, and more.
Here are our top five faves:
1. Nowadays Nuggets
Convenience is key in a post-workout snack idea. Since you want to eat 30-60 minutes post-workout, you don’t want to spend too much time preparing food. That’s why our nuggets are so ideal! All you have to do is pop them in the oven or air fryer, bake to perfection, and enjoy them on their own, dipped in your favorite sauce, or on top of a quick salad.
Each serving of nuggets contains a whopping 13 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fat (but no saturated fat), along with an impressive electrolyte profile, including 250 mg of sodium, 456 mg of potassium, and 62 mg of calcium!
2. Protein Shake
There is a reason why there are so many protein powders on the market today. It’s because making a protein shake is one of the easiest ways to quickly get a high amount of protein post-exercise. All you need is plant-based milk or water, a scoop of your favorite plant-based protein powder, and a shaker cup, and you’re good to go!
Or, you can turn things up a notch by pulling out your blender and making a smoothie. Add in some nut butter, leafy greens, and a banana for a potassium boost. We love this chocolate peanut butter protein smoothie that uses Brendan Brazier’s Vega protein powder.
3. Quinoa Porridge
As a complete protein, quinoa makes for an ideal post-workout snack. Cooking up a batch of quinoa and keeping it on hand in the fridge is a great idea for quick, nutritious snacks.
Try a sweet treat by using quinoa instead of oats to make porridge. Add trail mix or your favorite vegan granola, along with some plant-based milk, cinnamon, and other spices. Or mix in dried fruit and swirl in some peanut butter or coconut cream! The possibilities are endless — and delicious.
4. High-Protein Plant-Based Yogurt With Granola
Greek yogurt is often recommended as a great high-protein post-workout snack. But you don’t need dairy to get your protein. Instead, consider a high-protein plant-based yogurt made from almonds or cashews. Top it off with your favorite granola (we love this one from Keto Hana) and a dollop of peanut butter for an amazing post-workout snack!
5. Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seeds are high in protein and a good source of fiber, making for an amazing post-workout snack. You can add them to smoothies or sprinkle them on top of your yogurt or porridge. You can also make them into a pudding! We love this high-protein chia seed pudding that adds a scoop of protein powder to take it up a notch.
As a bonus, you can make this ahead of time and keep it on hand in the fridge to enjoy throughout the week! You’ll even love this as a pre-workout breakfast or a satisfying dessert. Add your favorite nut butter for added protein and fat, or some sliced banana or berries for added carbs.
Ready, Set, Refuel!
Refueling after a workout is easy when you know what elements are involved. A complete macronutrient profile of protein, carbohydrates, and fat coupled with the replenishment of electrolytes — all done in the right timing — can make or break your workout. Don’t let that intimidate you, though!
There are plenty of deliciously nutritious plant-based options, so take our list, expand upon it, and create your own personal recipe box of ideal post-workout snacks. Your body — and your muscles — will thank you.
Offering plenty of electrolytes and protein per serving, our vegan, plant-based nuggets are a great post-workout snack. Order yours today.