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What Fitness Instructors Eat to Refuel After a Workout

What post-workout snacks should you eat to refuel after exercise? Here, health experts share their favourite go-to recovery meals.

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refuel after exercise | oatmeal with bananas

Superfood oatmeal

Kelsey Patel, owner and instructor at Pure Barre Beverly Hills, says she’s a big believer in eating different types of food during various times of the day. “After my morning workout, I love Purely Elizabeth oatmeal and load it up with fresh fruit, honey, bee pollen, goji berries, and whatever else I have in the cupboard. My newest obsession is chocolate hazelnut butter, and I add about a tablespoon to the oatmeal.”

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refuel after exercise | green smoothie

Green smoothie

“After teaching a class, I love to enjoy a homemade green smoothie,” says Mary Caroline Craig, board-certified integrative nutrition health coach and cycling coach at Live Alive Fit in Seattle. Her recipe includes phytonutrient and iron-rich spinach, avocado for healthy fat, lime juice, easily digestible plant-based (rice and pea) protein, maca powder to boost muscle recovery, high-fibre psyllium husk, chia seeds, and antioxidant-rich, frozen organic blueberries. (Plus, check out these other healthy add-ins to elevate your smoothie.)

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refuel after exercise | homemade protein bar

Homemade protein bar

How does Andrew Ash, barre3 corporate master trainer, refuel and recover after class? A barre3 bar recipe—packed with dates, almond butter, goji berries, and flax. “I’m not big on cooking or baking if it involves a lengthy process, so when this recipe came out I was so relieved that I could finally make a healthy snack that didn’t take an entire Sunday to prepare. All you do is take all the ingredients, put them in a food processor, spread the mixture in a dish, and put it in the fridge.”

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refuel after exercise | pancakes with blueberries

Protein pancakes

Celebrity fitness trainer Erin Oprea powers up with protein pancakes—a good combination of protein and healthy carbs. Her recipe: coconut flour, flaxseed, USANA plain whey protein powder, three egg whites, and almond milk, topped with cinnamon and blueberries.

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refuel after exercise | apple and peanut butter

Apple with almond butter

Lisa Schale Drake, barre3 master trainer and director of training, keeps it simple. “An apple with almond butter gives me the protein and fibre my body needs, and it’s an easy post-workout snack.”

Another one of Drake’s go-to snacks? Raw carrot-cake energy bites. The combination of rolled oats, pecans, shredded carrots, and raisins make a great energy-stabilizing snack. (For more suggestions, check out these other post-workout snack ideas.)

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refuel after exercise | banana-muffins

Banana nut muffin and blueberry smoothie

“I tend to go for healthy carbs such as a banana nut muffin and a smoothie with blueberries, protein powder, bananas, and almond milk,” says Steph Petruccio, SLT suburb instructor development manager in Westchester, New York.

After a cardio workout, Petruccio’s go-to is normally a salad with chicken, avocados, chickpeas, roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumbers, and a light dressing. Avocado has heart-healthy fats, while chickpeas are packed with fibre, and chicken provides lean protein.

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refuel after exercise | quinoa and grain bowl

Quinoa bowl

“I’ve been on a huge warm grain bowl kick lately,” says Lindsay Bucci, lead instructor at Recycle Studio in Boston. She opts for quinoa bowls with kale, spinach, sweet potato, broccoli, grilled chicken, avocado, and beets. Her advice: Make the meal pop with colour, protein, and carbs to help your body recover and replenish after a grueling workout. (Here are some other easy and healthy quinoa recipes.)

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refuel after exercise | kind-bars

Kind bar and coconut water

“My go-to post-class snack—especially in between classes or training sessions—are Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt Kind bars and coconut water,” says Allison Tibbs, certified personal trainer and healthy lifestyle coach in San Francisco. “The Kind bar delivers a good dose of protein and a touch of sweetness, which is great for keeping my energy up and my blood sugar from tanking, while, the coconut water is a perfect hydrating beverage that isn’t packed with sugar.”

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refuel after exercise | protein-shake

Protein shake

“I know the importance of eating immediately post exercise—ideally within half an hour—to build lean muscle tissue,” says Ramona Braganza, global fitness expert and celebrity trainer, who has shaped the bods of Halle Berry, Jessica Alba, and Dakota Johnson. Immediately after working out, she drinks a shake with Vega vanilla protein powder, antioxidant-rich berries, and unsweetened almond milk.

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refuel after exercise | yogurt with fruit in spoon

Full-fat Greek yogurt with fruit and cacao

“I love Siggi’s Yogurt. I usually choose plain, but their flavoured yogurts are much lower in sugar than other brands’. I top with raspberries, blueberries, apples, or kiwi on top depending on the season,” says Thumbtack personal trainer, Kaitlyn Noble. She calls it the perfect snack because it’s portable and packed with protein (17 grams per container). “I always go with four percent fat because it’s crucial for satiation and your body needs the fat to utilize micronutrients like calcium.” The fruit delivers a carbohydrate and fibre boost, while the raw cacao adds a rich chocolate flavour, antioxidants, and micronutrients like magnesium to help fight stress, she says.

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refuel after exercise | scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs, toast, and avocado

After exercising, it’s important to eat a balanced meal with protein to fuel the body and rebuild the muscle that was broken down during a tough workout. “In the morning, my favourite post-workout meal is scrambled eggs, (whole wheat or gluten-free) toast, and avocado,” says Ashley Guarrasi, founding trainer at Rumble.

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refuel after exercise

Tuna and whole wheat crackers

“I like a combination of protein and healthy carbs after teaching, since I typically try to abstain from eating just before class. (Sluggishness doesn’t bode well for trying to be a peppy, energetic Spin instructor),” says Amanda Dale, a certified personal trainer and spin instructor. For a protein punch, she turns to a water-packed tuna, mixed with hummus (a tasty and healthy sub for mayonnaise), and a few whole wheat crackers.

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refuel after exercise

Rice cakes with peanut butter and sliced banana

After a workout, you need to replenish blood sugar and glycogen levels, and refuel with protein and carbs, according to Erika Hammond, founding trainer at Rumble. “My go-to snack after a great workout is half a banana and two rice cakes with peanut butter.”

Next, check out these post-workout mistakes that could ruin your progress.