The body works to build muscle and recover 24 hours a day, not just during that one-hour session at the gym. Luckily, smartly timed snacks can give the body the fuel it needs to gain muscle, burn fat, and recover as best it can. Pre-workout, that usually means grabbing a snack about 30-60 minutes in advance, depending on its size and contents, and how much that stomach’s actually grumbling. All ready to go? Check out these 25 options to start things right:
1. Protein Creamcicle: Put a twist on the classic kids’ treat by blending 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, 1 cup orange juice, and 1 cup ice. Trainer and fitness expert @JCDFitness does it!
2. Fruitsation shake: Blend 1 scoop of your favorite whey protein flavor with ½ cup ice, and 1 cup frozen berries for a sweet energy boost, suggests strength coach @Roglaw.
3. Cha-Cha coconut shake: Infuse 1 scoop chocolate whey protein with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin coconut oil. Girls Gone Strong co-founder @JenComasKeck loves this!
4. Star-buffs shake: Need a pre-workout pick-me-up? Greatist’s fitness editor suggests blending 1 cup iced coffee (keep the ice) with 1 scoop chocolate whey protein.
5. Dressed up oats: Load up on carbohydrates for a longer workout with ½ cup cooked steel-cut oats topped with 1 tablespoon dried fruit and 1 tablespoon shaved almonds.
6. Perfect yogurt parfait: Feeling fancy, huh? Top ¼ cup nonfat yogurt with ½ cup whole grain cereal and ½ cup fresh strawberries.
7. Yoberries a-go-go: For the perfect blend of carbs and protein, try 1 cup non-fat vanilla bean Greek yogurt — which often packs more protein and probiotics than regular plain yogurt — with ½ cup fresh blueberries.
8. Eggs n’ toast: Have a heartier appetite? Try 1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs with 1 slice of whole-wheat toast.
9. Fruit and Cottage: Top ½ cup cottage cheese — a low calorie and higher protein option — with ½ cup fresh pineapple, berries, or melon. And voila!
10. PB Apple: For a quick carb fuel-up, slice 1 medium apple and serve with 2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter.
11. Classic fruit cup: Prefer to keep it sweet but simple? Combine 1 cup berries, melon, banana, and oranges — oh my!
12. Dried fruit: For a quick pre-workout fix, try ¼ cup serving of dried berries, apricots, and pineapple, says Greatist Expert Jessica Redmond.
13. Fruit leather: Need something light that makes you feel like a kid again? Try 1 single serving of fruit leather. Have a little extra time? Roll some out in the kitchen.
14. Energy in a bar: With so many options in the aisle, try opting for a bar with the most natural ingredients. While protein count is key, also check the sugar content (it shouldn’t rival what’s found in the candy aisle!).
15. Chicken n’ sweets: For a fast bite, grab 2-4 ounces (or a palm-sized amount) of sliced chicken with an equal portion size of sweet potatoes, suggests Greatist Expert Dan Trink.
16. Oats n’ eggs: Not just for breakfast, try ½ cup cooked oatmeal and 2 whole eggs seasoned with salt and pepper.
17. PB & B toast: Fuel up with 1-2 tablespoons of all-natural peanut butter and half a sliced banana on whole-wheat toast, says Greatist Expert Lisa Moskovitz.
18. Turk-cado pasta: Add 2-4 ounces (or a palm-sized amount) of roasted turkey and 3-4 avocado slices to ½ cup cooked whole-wheat pasta for some enviable eats.
19. Wafflewich: Spruce up this classic by combining 1 frozen Kashi waffle with 2 teaspoons of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of jam.
20. Better than a PB Cup: A half-cup cooked oats with 1 teaspoon defatted peanut flour, a dash of stevia, and a sprinkling of cocoa powder on top — a concoction from the kitchen of Greatist contributor David Butler.
21. Veggie omelet: Add a little more color to your diet by combining 2 whole eggs shaken with 1 teaspoon of water cooked with 1 cup sautéed seasonal veggies.
22. Rice con leche: Got a long way to run? Fuel up with ½ cup cooked rice, covered with ½ cup milk, a scatter of raisins, and a dash of cinnamon on top.
23. Sports drink: An 8-ounce low sugar sports drink (keep it under 10 grams of sugar) will do the trick if you’re in a crunch. For a little more fuel, add a scoop of BCAA powder— branch chain amino acids that help maintain muscle and tissue health.
24. Hearty salad: Need some greens? Try 1 cup of salad greens with assorted veggies, 1 hardboiled egg, and a drizzle of EVOO and vinegar, or your favorite low-fat dressing.
25. Energy gel: Got a long way to go? Slurp down a energy gel (like Gu) prior to an endurance workout.
After a tough gym session, post-workout snacks are an imporant way to restore energy and rebuild muscle, too. Downed within two hours after exercise, protein-packed shakes and snacks are a great way to rebuild tissue that breaks down during exercise. Here are 25 ways to end that workout on a high note:
26. Protein pancakes: From the kitchen of Greatist contributor Laura Skladzinski, mix 4 egg whites, ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup low fat cottage cheese, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Cook on preheated griddle (medium low heat) until it bubbles, then flip and cook another 30-60 seconds. Top with fresh berries or sliced banana.
27. Sweet potato pie shake: This isn’t your grandma’s recipe. Combine 1 scoop of cinnamon bun whey protein, ¼ cup diced cooked sweet potato, 1 cup of ice, and 1 cup vanilla almond milk in the blender — a Kellie Davis original.
28. Chunky Monkey shake: Monkey around with 1 medium banana, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, and 1 cup low-fat chocolate milk blended with ice.
30. Double Trouble shake: To lengthen the delivery time of nutrients to your muscles, combine ½ scoop of whey protein blended with ½ scoop slower-digesting casein protein, plus a handful of your favorite fresh or frozen fruit.
31. Bananarama: One medium sliced banana with 1 cup low fat milk — it doesn’t get any easier than this!
32. Protein bar: For a quick, store-bought fix, feed those muscles with a protein bar. Just watch the sugar content. Look for bars with 10-30 grams of protein, less than 10 grams of sugar, and the fewest number of ingredients you can’t pronounce!
33. Beef and squash: Need something hearty? Try a handful of lean roast beef with an equal portion of butternut squash.
34. Tuna crackers: Mix up a batch of light tuna salad for a quick bite. Add two heaping spoonfuls to a handful of whole grain crackers, and chomp away.
35. Bagel with egg whites: Half a medium-sized whole grain bagel with 2 eggs whites makes a great post-workout sandwich.
36. Ants on a raft: The ants go marching… Spread a heap of natural peanut butter over a brown rice cake and top with raisins.
37. Milk and cereal: Any time is a good time for cereal. Add 1 cup of low-fat milk to 1 cup of whole-grain cereal. Nosh loudly.
38. Chocolate milk: One to two cups of low-fat chocolate milk seals the deal with extra carbs and protein.
39. Black bean omelet: Four eggs whites, 1 ounce low-fat cheese, and ¼ cup canned black beans — then spice it up with a savory salsa, if you dare.
40. Green Monster smoothie: Blend 4 cups spinach, ½ cup vanilla bean yogurt, 1 cup almond milk, 1 banana, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter with ice — a favorite of Greatist contributor Claudine Morgan via Iowa Girl Eats.
41. Cottage cheese crunch: One cup fat-free cottage cheese, 1 teaspoon honey, ½ cup whole-grain cereal, and a dash of cinnamon does a body good.
42. Eggy muffinwich: Ditch the fast-food and opt for 1 whole egg, fresh spinach, 1 slice low fat cheese, and 1 slice Canadian bacon served on an English muffin, suggests Greatist contributor Lisa LaValle Overmyer.
43. BCAA n’ cakes: When in doubt, just add cakes! Pair up two scoops of BCAA powder mixed in ice water with two rice cakes.
44. Recovery in a bottle: When time is of the essence, grab a store-bought recovery drink to sip on after training. Just check the label — sports recovery drinks will provide plenty of carbs refuel, or opt for aminos to really rebuild.
45. Apples and cheese: Tease your taste buds with 1 medium sliced apple and 1 stick of low-fat string cheese.
46. Pita and hummus: One 7-inch pita with two spoonfuls of hummus adds a little pep back to your step with quick digesting carbs.
47. Egg scramble: Veg out after a hard training session with 2-3 whole eggs scrambled with a handful of chopped onion, spinach, and bell peppers.
48. Choco-tropical trail mix: Go bananas for a blend of ½ a handful of each: macadamia nuts, dried coconut, dark chocolate chips, and banana chips.
49. AB & J Rice Cakes: Almond butter takes the cake. For this healthier twist on the classic PB & J, sandwich 1 tablespoon of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of strawberry jam between two rice cakes.
50. Chicken hash: After your workout grab 1 cup cooked diced chicken, ½ cup butternut squash and apples, roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Make a big batch and store it in the fridge!