The Best Post-Workout Meals for Muscle Gain

The Best Post-Workout Meals for Muscle Gain

You don’t build muscle in the gym. In fact, you do the opposite. It’s what you feed your body after you walk out of the gym that determines whether or not you’ll put on any mass!

That’s why post-workout nutrition is such an important topic.

It’s also an extremely confusing one.

The big money guys in the industry have purposefully made the subject overly complicated in order to get you to buy more of their products!

But you don’t have to fall into their trap. Here’s an overview of the best post-workout meals for muscle gain.

Post Workout Meal Purpose

The purpose of your post-workout meal is to restore the energy levels that have been depleted through your workout and to switch from a catabolic muscle depleting state to an anabolic, muscle-building state. The type of meal that you need, depends on the type of workout that you are doing.

Cardio Workout

If your workout was mainly cardiovascular, then the fuel that you would have been burning will have been mainly fats, rather than carbohydrates. As a result, your post-workout meal should feature healthy sources of fats. Here are some great options:

Plant fats:

  • Avocados
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews)
  • Chia Seeds
  • Olive oil, coconut oil, vegetable oils

Animal Fats:

  • Fatty meat cuts (beef, lamb, pork)
  • Whole eggs
  • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, herring, trout, and mackerel)
  • Poultry skin

Even though fats are our focus here, we shouldn’t forget that protein and carbs are still pretty important in your post-workout meal too. The brain is usually operating on glucose, so be sure to fill up on starchy foods like pasta, bread, and fruits like bananas and dates. This would also help restore the glycogen in your muscles, for the number of carbs you did burn during your workout.

Protein can also help recover your muscle fibers to make you more prepared for your next workouts. You have a wide array of protein-rich foods to choose from, all covered below.

Weights Workout

When you train with weights, your body needs an immediate energy source. It takes it from the glycogen that is stored directly within your muscles cells. As a result, your body has a need for glucose immediately after your workout. 

This is the one time you say that you can eat a little bit of those high glycemic index foods that you would normally stay away from. A piece of cake or ice cream, will fast track glucose directly to the muscles. Just be careful – if you go crazy with your sweet tooth indulgence you will wipe out the gains from your workout!

After intense workout sessions, our muscles technically get “damaged” from being continuously stretched and contracted. This results in small tears in their fibers. This is especially the case with anaerobic workouts since our muscles are usually exercised more intensely than in cardio.

Protein from your diet is then used to fill in those tears, resulting in larger and stronger muscles over time.  Therefore, to ensure proper recovery, we have to make sure we fill our post-workout meals with high-protein foods as well.

You can get your proteins from both plant and animal products. However, animal products more often contain “complete” proteins, meaning proteins that have all essential amino acids in them.

Sample Post Workout Meals

After a Cardio Workout …

Avocado Recovery Smoothie

  • One large avocado
  • 12 oz. fresh pineapple
  • One large banana
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 cups coconut water
  • 3-4 ice cubes

After a Weights Workout …

Oatmeal, Rice Pudding, Protein Blend

  • Oatmeal (1 sachet)
  • Protein Powder ( 1 scoop)
  • Rice Pudding (½ can)
  • Walnuts (handful)
  • Almond Milk

Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes and then enjoy!

Here is a favorite post-workout recipe that I use several times a week. It combines protein, carbs, and healthy fats in just the right ratios to refuel and grow.

Banana, Peanut, Date Protein Smoothie

  •  1 cup unsweetened, plain almond milk
  • 1 scoop whey isolate protein powder
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 4-5 pitted dates
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (natural, unprocessed)
  •  ¼ or ½ cup of ice

Egg Rоll in a Bowl  

Servings: 4 Prep Time: 10 mіnѕ

Cооk Tіmе: 15 mіnѕ

 Ingrеdіеntѕ  

  • 1 lb ground роrk  
  • 1 tablespoon ѕеѕаmе oil  
  • 1 tаblеѕрооn frеѕh ginger (fіnеlу grаtеd)  
  • 3 сlоvеѕ gаrlіс (mіnсеd)  
  • 12 oz Mаnn’ѕ Broccoli Cole Slаw (340 g; 1 bаg)  
  • 1/4 сuр liquid ѕоу ѕеаѕоnіng (AKA: Bragg’s lіԛuіd аmіnоѕ. Can swap for lоw sodium ѕоу ѕаuсе)  
  • 2 tаblеѕрооnѕ аррlе сіdеr vinegar  
  • 1 tablespoon mоnk fruit sweetener (оr 2 tаblеѕрооnѕ maple ѕуruр/hоnеу іf you аrе not lоw carb)  Oрtіоnаl gаrnіѕhеѕ  
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds 
  • 2 tablespoons grееn 
  • Onions  

Inѕtruсtіоnѕ  

  1. Heat a nоnѕtісk pan оvеr a mеdіum heat.
  2. Add thе pork, аnd cook, brеаkіng іt uр with a ѕраtulа,  untіl it is сооkеd thrоugh and nо lоngеr ріnk. Drаіn іf thеrе іѕ еxсеѕѕ grеаѕе іn the раn. 
  3. Mаkе a ѕрасе іn thе mіddlе оf thе раn аnd аdd thе sesame оіl, gіngеr and gаrlіс. Cook for one minute. 
  4. Add the bаg оf соlе ѕlаw аnd cook fоr 3 mоrе mіnutеѕ, ѕtіrrіng frequently. 
  5. Whіlе slaw is сооkіng, shake together thе soy ѕеаѕоnіng, apple cider vіnеgаr аnd mоnk fruіt ѕwееtеnеr. Pоur іt еvеnlу оvеr the раn аnd tоѕѕ tо соаt. 
  6. Sprinkle wіth ѕеѕаmе ѕееdѕ (орtіоnаl) аnd green onions аnd enjoy.  

Enjoy соld or heated thrоugh.

Recap

 If your workout was mainly cardio, eat . . .

  • Plant-based fats like avocado
  • Animal fats like fatty fish

For fat loss eat . . .

  • Slow digesting foods
  • High omega-3 fatty acids

For muscle gain eat . . .

  • Foods that restore muscle glycogen
  • High fructose fruits like raisins and grapes
  • Simple carbs like potatoes and white bread
  • Lean protein like chicken breast

This article was last updated on October 19, 2021 .

By Steve Theunissen

Steve is a former gym owner, personal trainer, and 20-year veteran of the fitness writing industry. Steve has written for websites such as Hardcore Muscle, Fitness, Carblite, and Men's Health and has been a fitness expert columnist for 2 international magazines.