5 Nutritionist-Recommended Ways to Refuel After a Workout

It's over. You crushed your workout, giving it 110 percent and you have the sweaty shirt to prove it. Now, you're starving. But what does your body need?

After a workout session, it's important to refuel with the right foods to keep muscles strong and healthy. Finding the right foods, though, can be a challenge when you feel like you could inhale everything in the pantry. What your body really wants is a snack that provides a four-to-one ratio of carbohydrates to protein. During your workout, the body uses stored energy, also known as glycogen, in the muscles to fuel your workout.

Within 15 to 20 minutes of an intense workout, it’s important to replenish those stores and take in carbs and protein. The muscles need to replenish the glycogen stores from carbs while your muscles need to repair and rebuild using the amino acids found in protein. It’s also important to replenish the fluids lost. There are many options when it comes to post-workout snacks. Here are 6 favorites from sports dietitians throughout the country.

1. Chocolate Milk

The Snack: 10 to 20 fluid ounces low-fat chocolate milk

"Low-fat chocolate milk has one gram of high-quality protein per ounce, making it an ideal choice post workout. It contains the amino acid leucine which is known to be the "light switch" for turning on muscle re-synthesis after a workout, plus milk itself is loaded with eight other essential nutrients other than protein."
Amy Goodson, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D., a Dallas-based sports dietitian and nutrition consultant

2. Sweet Potato and Eggs

The Snack: Two scrambled eggs with avocado and roasted sweet potato

"For a long run (more than an hour of cardio), I usually have something with a mix of carbs, protein and healthy fats. I love that eggs are easy to cook up, have protein and are packed with vitamins and minerals. Not to mention that the avocado is loaded with healthy fats and fiber to keep me full after a long workout and the sweet potatoes replace carbs I used up during my sweat session."
Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. of Nutrition à la Natalie

3. Smoothie

The Snack: Smoothie with milk or Greek yogurt, protein powder, a banana, and spinach

"After an intense workout, I usually don't have much of an appetite, so I'll make myself a smoothie. [With a smoothie], I know I'm getting the protein and carbohydrates I need to recover and refuel, but I'm also getting antioxidants to alleviate muscle damage, plus fluid to combat dehydration."
Jim White R.D.N., ACSM-certified health fitness instructor, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios <pagebreak>

4. Lentils

The Snack: Lentil and veggie soup

"Lentils, a member of the pulse family, provide a unique combo of plant protein, vitamin, minerals, and fiber-rich carbs, and antioxidants, so they're a perfect fit for recovering from the wear and tear a workout puts on the body. Soup is also hydrating, warms me up on a chilly day and feels hearty without leaving me feeling heavy."   
Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D., C.S.S.D., board-certified specialist in sports dietetics and author of "Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches With Pulses—The New Superfood"

5. Greek Yogurt

The Snack: Single-serve Greek yogurt

"Greek yogurt is a win-win as a post-workout snack, both for its nutritional package and its convenience. It naturally contains both carbohydrate and protein, two nutrients needed to replenish fuel stores and repair muscle tissue. [It is also] a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus—nutrients that work together to promote bone health. All that nutrition wrapped up into one small container that you can take with you on the go."
Heather Mangieri, R.D.N. author of "Fueling Young Athletes"

When you start thinking about food as fuel, rather than a treat to reward good behavior or ease the pain of a bad day, your body will start to prefer those foods that offer the best nutritional bang for your buck. After your next HIIT workout or tough run, keep these snacks in mind and give your body what it really, really wants.