If you’re someone who works out often, you may be looking for a good post-workout snack that you can easily take to the gym. You need something that replenishes your muscle glycogen stores and contains protein to help you rebuild the muscles you just tore down during your workout.
You might have heard that chocolate milk is the perfect combination of carbohydrates and protein for a post-workout recovery drink, but this message is nothing more than excellent marketing from the U.S. Dairy Council. Chocolate milk is very high in refined sugar, saturated fat, and casein — a dairy protein that has demonstrated a correlation with cancer growth. Honestly, you’d be much better off drinking water and eating a banana with nut butter.
After a hard workout, the number one goal is to replace fluids lost by sweating so your body can return to its normal fluid balance. Your best option here is water, despite what the sports drink ads tell you. The only people who might need a drink with electrolytes are people running marathons or football players who are practicing a few hours in the mid-summer heat. The typical American diet contains so much sodium, a deficiency is quite rare except in extreme situations when a LOT of sweating occurs. Again, don’t give in to the marketing — power drinks contain refined sugar and dyes that your body just doesn’t need.
Your second dietary priority should be to replenish lost glycogen (muscle energy), especially if you plan on working out again in the next 4-6 hours. As soon as tolerable after your workout, you should consume a carbohydrate-rich food that contains some protein. This snack takes advantage of the 45-minute post-exercise window of opportunity to repair, nourish, and rebuild muscles, and is beneficial in two ways:
- Carbohydrates stimulate the release of insulin, a hormone which transports glucose (energy) into the muscles to replenish depleted glycogen stores as well as rebuild muscles.
- Carbohydrates combined with a little protein (10-20 grams) improves the muscle rebuilding response. It also reduces cortisol — a hormone that breaks down muscle — and reduces soreness.
To help all of you athletes out there, I decided to come up with a calorie and nutrient-dense post-workout snack that can be easily transported to the gym. I like to keep these in my fridge so I can throw two into a bag and take them with me. I’ll also eat a couple of them for breakfast when I’m in a hurry and need something I can eat in the car. Because these are so dense, they fill you up quickly and keep you satisfied. They are a great blend of carbs from honey and oats (and chocolate chips, if you add them), protein from almond butter and chia seeds, as well as a good serving of healthful fats.
Note: These snack bites are nutritious, but not low-calorie. If you are not exercising regularly but need to lose weight, these are not the best snack for you.
I made two versions of these recovery bites, but I’m sure you could come up with more! I made one with mini chocolate chips and one with cocoa. If you’re not a chocolate person, you could leave both out and eat them plain, or you could try adding cinnamon — it’s really whatever you prefer.
Post-Workout Recovery Bites
- 1 cup almond butter (peanut butter is too oily)
- 3-4 T. honey or agave
- 1 T. milled chia seeds
- 2 T. nondairy milk
- 1 t. vanilla
- Pinch sea salt
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- Optional: 2 T. vegan mini chocolate chips
- Optional: 4 t. cocoa powder + 1 t. honey (to balance out the bitterness of the cocoa)
- Stir together the almond butter, honey, and chia seeds in a bowl or measuring cup.
- In a small bowl or cup, combine the milk and vanilla. Add it to the mixture and stir to combine.
- Add the salt, oats, and cocoa or chocolate chips, stirring as well as you can. Put bowl in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to harden the dough a bit.
- Roll dough into about 15 balls and return to the fridge in an air-tight container for storage until needed (although they can last all day at room temperature — no need to take a cooler to the gym!).
Serving size: 2 recovery bites
These post-workout recovery bites also make a great snack for growing kids!
Additionally, they’re a good dessert replacement if you’re trying to limit your refined sugar intake (but stick to a version without the chocolate chips!) and just want to eat one during a period of intense sugar cravings.
Either way, these little snacks are great to have on hand!