Post-Workout Meal Ideas

Bodybuilding Nutritionist Shares 6 Best Muscle Building Meals

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: January 27, 2021

You’ve just completed your workout. The hard part is done. But what you do next could make or break your results.

Skip the post-workout meal and your hard work in the gym could result in losing muscle. Or, if you eat the wrong thing, you could end up gaining excess fat!

However, if you give your body the right nutrients after a workout, you will gain more muscle and lose more fat.

Post Workout Meal

Post-Workout Meal Defined

The term post-workout may seem self-explanatory. But the exact timing could use some explanation.

Usually, a post-workout meal is consumed within 45 minutes after completing a resistance training workout.

Also, don’t be misled by the fact that it’s called a meal. These nutrients can come in the form of a simple shake or smoothie.

Why Is The Post-Workout Meal Important?

What makes the post-workout meal so important is its effect on your metabolic state. Specifically, whether you’re catabolic (breaking down) or anabolic (building up).

After a workout, your body is in a catabolic state. Meaning you’re physically stressed and your body starts breaking things down, including muscle.

But being catabolic isn’t all bad because it primes you to enter an anabolic state. This is where you recover and rebuild.

Post Workout Meal Importance

The post-workout meal helps initiate this anabolic recovery process in a couple of ways. To understand how it helps to look at the individual macronutrients involved.


Carbohydrates are a key part of a post-workout meal. One reason is that carbs refill your body’s energy stores that were depleted during your workout. This stored energy is called glycogen.

Another reason carbs are important is that glucose releases a hormone called insulin. And when insulin rises, catabolic hormones decrease.

In this way, carbs flip the metabolic switch from catabolic to anabolic. So you can begin recovery and growth.


Along with carbs, your post-workout meal should contain protein. In order to build muscle, your body must create more protein than it breaks down. That’s called a positive protein balance.

Studies show that consuming protein and carbohydrates post-workout significantly increases protein synthesis1. As a result, your protein balance is positive. Which allows your muscles to get bigger and stronger.

Post Workout Meal Protein Synthesis

Effect of Post-Workout Meal on Protein Dynamics: Consuming carbs and protein immediately following a workout results in a positive net protein balance. (adapted from Levenhagen et al.)


Dietary fat has its place in a healthy diet plan, but it’s not in the post-workout meal!

In fact, you should keep your fat intake to a minimum any time your carb intake is high. The reason is that dietary fat is more likely to be stored as body fat when insulin is high.

So aim to get less than 5% of your post-workout calories from fat.

Best Post-Workout Meal Ideas

  1. Quick Anabolic Shake
  2. Fruit Juice Protein Shake
  3. Honey Berry Smoothie
  4. Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie
  5. Tropical Cottage Cheese
  6. Chicken & Rice

You’ll notice the first two ideas are shakes, the second two are smoothies, and the last two are actual meals. This gives you multiple options so you can find the right post-workout meal whether you’re on the go or at home.

Now let’s look at each of the meals in more detail.

Post-Workout Shakes

As illustrated in the previous section, the most critical time to get key nutrients is right after a workout. This is where post-workout shakes come in handy.

A shake is something you can grab on your way out the door and keep in your gym bag. So you get those nutrients immediately after your workout and they digest quickly

Quick Anabolic Shake

The most important ingredients in a post-workout shake are protein and carbs. And the key is to use fast-digesting protein along with high glycemic carbs.

So for this recipe, you combine whey isolate protein with a carb powder such as maltodextrin or dextrose.

Fruit Juice Protein Shake

As an alternative, you can forgo the carb powder in favor of fruit juice. The natural fructose and glucose in fruits work great as a high glycemic carb.

All you need to do is add a scoop of your favorite protein powder and shake it up. While protein powder and fruit juice may not sound appetizing, I assure you, it’s pretty good. Or at least good enough to gulp down in the name of gains.

Tip: Try using unflavored protein powder. It mixes well with fruit juice or smoothies and it costs less than flavored varieties.

Post-Workout Smoothies

If you’re heading straight home after the gym, you don’t have to be as concerned about a “to-go” style post-workout shake. In this case, a smoothie is an excellent post-workout meal.

Honey Berry Smoothie

For this smoothie recipe, all you need is 3 ingredients; honey, frozen berries, and protein powder. Add the ingredients to your blender with 6-8 ounces of water and whip it up.

To take your recovery up a notch, I recommend adding creatine and glutamine.

Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie

Have a sweet tooth? Then try this dessert flavored post-workout meal.

Simply add frozen strawberries, strawberry Greek yogurt, and protein powder to your blender. Add just a splash of water and mix it up.

Garnish with crushed graham cracker crust on top, and enjoy!

Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie Post Workout Meal

Post-Workout Meals

If you don’t have the ingredients or blender for smoothies, you can prepare a sit-down style post-workout meal instead. Better yet, prep a few meals in advance so all you have to do is heat it up.

This approach takes more planning upfront. But it makes it easier to stick to your plan for several days. That is if you don’t mind leftovers.

Tropical Cottage Cheese

This recipe is about as simple as it gets for a post-workout meal with whole foods. Simply put some cottage cheese in a large bowl. Then top with your favorite diced fruits.

For a tropical twist, try pineapple, papaya, and mango.

Chicken & Rice

Last on the list of post-workout meals is basic chicken and rice. With just two simple ingredients, it’s not hard to make. Just sautee or grill a chicken breast, then cut it up and mix it in with the rice.

You can spice it up with a bit of hot sauce. Or try cooking your rice in bone broth to add flavor and collagen protein.

bodybuilding meal plan

Custom Meal Plan & Recipes

Get easy recipes for every meal with a custom fat loss or muscle gain meal plan. Each recipe is adjusted to fit your personalized macros & calories – so there is no counting required.

All this for just $17.99/mo! Click here to choose your plan.


With these post-workout meal ideas, you’ll maximize the return on your workout investment. And you’ll be well on your way to achieving your fitness goals.

But it’s also important to dial in the rest of your daily meals, from breakfast to pre-workout. So check out my related articles below.

Share with your community and get the conversation started!

By |January 27, 2021|Nutrition|Comments Off on 6 Best Post-Workout Meal Ideas
Go to Top