The ultimate list of the 10+ best post workout recovery foods and meals for vegetarian athletes. These foods have the right mixture of nutrients to help you recover faster and gain muscle.
Did you know that what you eat after a workout for recovery is just as important as what you eat before a workout for fuel? Believe it or not, eating the right types of recovery foods can actually help you grow stronger as an athlete.
Your post-run meal or snack replaces nutrients that were depleted during your workout and supplies your muscles with the necessary building blocks to recover and get stronger.
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Not to mention that the proper recovery foods helps you feel energized for tomorrow’s workout. Think of it as a feedback loop. You workout and feel tired, then you eat recovery foods, which help your body bounce back in time for tomorrow’s workout.
Nutrients for recovery
Carbohydrates and protein are the two essential nutrients for recovery. Ideally, you want to aim for a 3:1 carb to protein ratio when choosing what to put on your plate.
You use up all of your stored carbs, aka glycogen, during a workout. Eating carbs after a workout helps to replenish that glycogen, which aids in muscle growth.
Protein is necessary to repair the breakdown of muscle tissue that accompanies a workout. Pairing carbohydrates and protein together has been shown to help with overall recovery.
Besides the physiological components of recovery, it’s also important to think about hunger and appetite. If you don’t eat after a workout, you’ll probably feel very hungry later on in the day. This can cause you to overeat foods that aren’t all the nutritious and don’t help with recovery.
How soon after a workout should I eat?
The recovery window is within 1-2 hours after a workout, so try to eat something as soon as you can. That said, research has found that recovery continues for 24-hours, so it’s necessary to eat well after a hard workout.
Putting recovery foods into your system as soon as you can after a workout will satisfy your appetite and prevent you from going crazy on pizza and ice cream later on in the day.
One last thing to note—if you’re training for an intense event, like a marathon or triathlon, you may feel really hungry throughout the day. The best way to curb hunger levels is to incorporate some healthy fat into your post-workout recovery.
Luckily, many protein sources, like eggs or dairy, have healthy fats. If you don’t eat those foods, try avocados, nuts, or oils. Fats provide more calories than carbs and protein and keep hunger at bay.
Below are some foods that have the proper ratio of nutrients to maximize your recovery.
With 11 grams of muscle building protein in one-half cup (shelled), edamame is one item to keep on your recovery food list. Boil in the pod to snack on, keep shelled edamame in the freezer to add into stir-fries, or throw roasted soybeans into salads and homemade trail mix.
Or whip this Vegan Sushi Bowl to eat after a workout.
2. Chocolate milk
Let’s face it, sometimes your stomach can’t handle a meal after a hard workout. Chocolate milk is has the perfect 3:1 carb to protein ratio and is easy to drink when you’re not hungry. One single-serve 8-ounce container will provide you with 8 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbohydrates. Plus, it’s delicious!
With a nice balance of carbohydrates and protein, chickpeas are an ideal recovery food. In just ¼ cup you’ll get 30 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein. Sprinkle over a salad or rice bowl or roast in the oven with your favorite seasoning for a satisfying snack.
Not just for breakfast, oats are a recovery food to enjoy any time of the day. Each ½ cup serving will supply you with 27 grams of carbs and 5 grams of protein. Plus, you’ll get 4 grams of fiber, which will help keep you full until your next meal or snack. Top with fruit, nuts or chia seeds for extra staying power.
5. Eggs + Toast
Eggs are an easy and affordable high-quality protein-rich food. When paired with whole grain toast, this duo serves as optimal recovery fuel. Add in some veggies, such as spinach, mushrooms or tomatoes for an antioxidant boost.
Spice up your egg sandwich with tumeric and swiss chard.
The best part about smoothies is you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand. Stick to the basic formula of 2 parts fruit, for your carbs, and 1 part milk or yogurt, for protein. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these 20 Healthy Smoothies from Registered Dietitian.
If you’re dairy-free and opt for a plant-based milk, be aware that most varieties are pretty low in protein so try adding some pea protein powder to meet your protein needs.
7. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt packs more protein than traditional yogurt, with around 15-20 grams per 6 ounce serving. Pair your yogurt with fruit or whole grain cereal to replenish your carbohydrate stores.
8. Hummus on whole grain crackers
A serving of crackers typically packs about 20-30 grams of carbs, plus the protein power of chickpeas makes this a winning combo.
Opt for whole grain crackers, which include more fiber, vitamins and minerals than refined flour options. Make your own hummus from scratch.
9. Apple or banana with peanut butter
The carbs from the fruit and the healthy fat from the nut butter work well to refuel muscles and satisfy your post-run hunger.
Mix and match different fruits and nut butters or opt for whole nuts instead.
10. Cottage cheese and fruit
Another protein powerhouse – cottage cheese offers up 14g per ½ cup. Top with fresh fruit for just the right amount of sweetness and carbs.
11. Burrito Bowl
Use brown rice and your bean of choice as your base and you have all you need to replenish tired muscles. Pile on veggies, salsa and avocado for additional vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
Although eating tofu after a workout might not be the most appealing, it’s a good source of plant-based protein. Just 3-ounces has 9 grams of protein, and it’s one of the only complete vegan proteins (it contains all 9 essential amino acids). If you workout in the afternoon, recover with a tofu dinner. Here are some of my favorite tofu recipes: