Simple post-workout snack ideas

This post about post-workout snack ideas is sponsored by Real California Milk. Thanks for supporting our sponsors.

Hi, friends! How was the weekend? Let’s talk food!

If I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me what to eat after a workout … 🙂 But quite honestly, I’m not a registered dietitian, so I can’t actually tell you what to eat. Not to mention, I don’t know your body, nor your unique system and lifestyle, so I can only tell you that post-workout nutrition is important and offer up some options that are generally good ideas — then it’s up to you to find what works for your personal make-up. Cool?

When I first started learning about nutritional needs and how they correlate with activity, I learned the popular idea that “you need to eat protein after a workout” — so I always tried to get some protein in the form of processed protein beverages shortly after my resistance sessions to refuel — (usually in the car on the way home from the gym or on the walk home from the gym when I lived in the City). Well, as I moved along and learned more and more, I was surprised to find out that what your body really needs after a big workout is carbs, with protein as well, so I had to change my ways. Yes, that’s carbs AND protein, with minimal fat, and of course, water — always lots of water to rehydrate your bod before, during and after a workout.

Post workout snacks - September 2018 - by A Lady Goes West

Why should you eat carbs after a workout?

Carbohydrates replenish your glycogen stores, which are depleted during exercise — to oversimplify it, we’ll call this your energy. Some research suggests aiming to eat those carbs within 30 minutes of your workout in order to replenish the stores and replenish your energy. And some research also suggests that the more that your endurance is challenged during your workout, the more carbs you will need to consume afterward.

The amount of carbs you need depends on your bodyweight and the activity that you did, and personally, because I don’t count macros, I don’t think it needs to be exact. As you guys know, I’m not into exact food tracking — but that doesn’t mean I don’t make sure to include carbs and protein in my post-workout nutrition, because I definitely do — and I usually go for 20-50 carbs, depending on my session.

Why should you eat protein after a workout?

When you do a resistance/weights workout, you are actually breaking down your muscles. Once again, to totally oversimplify it, that means you need to eat protein with essential amino acids to build back up your muscles.

The amount of protein you need depends on your bodyweight and the activity that you did. And you want to get in that protein around 30-45 minutes after your session, although some research says you can wait a while longer. I’ve always thought around 20 grams of protein is sufficient for the average female exerciser, and that’s what I do, but once again, it doesn’t need to be exact and can vary greatly.

So we’ve now established: Your post-workout meal should have carbs AND protein. (And don’t forget to drink water!)

If your workout is timed so that you can eat a regular balanced meal within an hour after completion, that’s ideal. But our workouts aren’t always timed that way (mine never seem to be), so that’s where snacks come in handy — to give your body some sustenance until your next chance to sit down and eat something larger. And as far as timing, eating something within 30 minutes is probably best, then you want to get your bigger meal in within 2 hours or so — but just do the best you can.

Simple post-workout snack ideas

Some of my favorite snack ideas feature Real California Milk products, because dairy is nutritious, full of carbs and protein and is easy to incorporate into your snacking rotation.

Speaking of Real California Milk, I had a chance to attend an event and meet a real California Dairy farmer over the summer, and ever since then I’ve been keeping my eyes out for the official California Dairy seal on products in my grocery store. Almost all (99 percent) of the dairies in California are family owned, and California is the #1 milk producer and the #2 cheese producer in the country. More details on Real California Dairy in this post I did a while back and you can also visit this store locator to find the products near you.

I know some of you may not eat dairy, though it works for me, and I have dairy quite a bit. What I really like about dairy is that it’s a non-fortified natural complete protein (meaning it has all of the essential amino acids, rather than an incomplete protein, which only has some) and it also has beneficial calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, multiple B vitamins and more in every serving — and any food with a bunch of essential nutrients is a friend of mine.

Now, let’s get to those snack ideas …

Yogurt and banana

When I was pregnant, I didn’t use a lot of protein powder, so without fail after a resistance workout, I would reach for a heaping of yogurt for my protein and carb needs. That’s the beauty of yogurt — it has both things! Depending on the kind of yogurt, you could get anywhere from say 10-20 grams of protein and 10-20 grams of carbs too in just one serving. And usually, you’ll be having more than one serving (ever tried to eat 8 ounces of something? It’s small haahha!). The banana adds many more nutritious and delicious carbs.

Yogurt and banana post workout snack - September 2018 - by A Lady Goes West

Chocolate milk

I still remember the day that I read an article touting chocolate milk as the perfect post-workout beverage, and I immediately reported it to Dave. Why? Because Dave has been using chocolate milk as his post-workout snack for years before it was cool. It has protein and carbs, and it’s simple. You can’t beat that.

Chocolate milk post workout snack - September 2018 - by A Lady Goes West

Cottage cheese and berries

I’ve professed my love for cottage cheese before. It’s just pleasing to the palate, and it goes with everything — both sweet and savory — and it’s chock full of protein and carbs. I often add nuts to my cottage cheese, but blueberries are a nutritional powerhouse, with lots of antioxidants and are carby too. Are you team large curd or small curd? Large curd all the way for me!

Cottage cheese and berries post workout snack - September 2018 - by A Lady Goes West

Apple, cheese and crackers

Snack plate dreams are made of apple slices, cheese slices and crackers too. You’re getting carbs, protein and a lot of taste when you mix all three of these together and it feels rather fancy, you know? 

Apple and cheese post workout snack - September 2018 - by A Lady Goes West

And a few others:

Trail mix

Hard-boiled eggs and apple slices

Protein powder mixed with milk (so much better than just water)

Chia seed pudding made with milk

Rice cakes topped with yogurt or cottage cheese

Milk, spinach and banana smoothie

Half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Smoked salmon and cream cheese on half of a whole wheat bagel

Coconut-covered dates and a glass of milk

And that about covers some simple and easy ideas.

Whatever you do, don’t forget the importance of refueling and rehydrating after your workout — because you’ve got to treat your body right and replenish and nourish it.

Find a small rotation of a few tasty snacks that you enjoy eating — all of which have carbs and protein and eat away.

Thanks for reading, my friends!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Real California Milk. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support A Lady Goes West!

Have an awesome start to your week!

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Questions of the day

What’s your go-to post workout snack?

What was your workout today?

How was your weekend?



  1. I love a bowl of full fat cottage cheese! In fact I have it everyday ?. Usually with an apple or ill slice a peach and warm it up and put the cottage cheese on top. I buy the single serve containers of cottage cheese to bring with me if I’m going somewhere after the gym.

    My workout was a full body weight circuit today (squats, chest press, and rows.). Boom, ??

    1. I seriously love cottage cheese too, Mo! I like the single serve ones too! And good job on your weights circuit today — thoseeee are the good moves! Have a good day, lady!

  2. Oh I love hearing new snack ideas!! So my after workout snack varies depending on what time I work out! I teach pilates tonight, so will likely drink water and then have dinner right when I get home! Most of the time I do a protein bar or fruit…I think I need to up my game and try that cheese/apple/cracker plate you shared 🙂

    1. It’s nice when your breakfast, lunch or dinner lines up with the workout — so that’s the perfect time to go straight to a big meal. And yesss you need the snack plate in your life hahah! Have fun teaching tonight, Marielle! 🙂

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