Post-Workout Nutrition: What To Eat After Workout To Gain Muscle?

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You have just hit the gym hard, and after getting all freshened up you want to grab a light snack or meal to help your body begin recovery and build muscle, but what do you grab? It is essential to make sure you are eating the right foods, especially if you are looking to build muscle. These foods should include carbs and protein, all of which are vital to the entire recuperation and building process.

In this article, we will look at why carbs and proteins play such a crucial part in building muscles, as well as give you a few quick and easy ideas for meals. These meals will be great for the person trying to fit everything into a schedule that is already jam-packed with errands and work. So, let’s talk about what to eat after workout to gain muscle.

Is Eating After a Workout Really Important?

The short answer is yes! During your workout, your body will be using up your energy stores, and this will leave your muscles depleted of the source of that energy, glycogen. This will cause your muscles to break down and even be damaged (but not always in a bad way). That is why having a good after workout snack is so important.

By choosing the right foods, you will be replenishing those muscles and giving them food that they can use to repair themselves and do so in a timely manner. By taking a few minutes to stuff some healthy food in your face, you will be helping lessen protein breakdown, helping muscle growth, restoring your energy, and helping your body recover.

How Protein & Carbs Play a Role

Understanding the mechanics of how your body uses the food you put in your mouth can help you develop a process and schedule that will enhance the growth of muscle mass more efficiently. This includes understanding the roles of protein and carbohydrates, so let’s look at each individually. Starting with perhaps the more important of the two…protein.

Protein and Building Muscle

A vital part of growth throughout the cells of your body, protein helps develop and nurture muscle, skin, and bones. The truth is that those cells all contain a whole heaping amount of protein within their little microscopic bodies. This just goes to show you how vital this nutrient is. In fact, the folks that crafted the DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes) feel that to maintain your needs, you will want to eat roughly .8g of protein for each kilo of weight.

Now if you are looking to bulk up, that number, of course, will be much higher. Upping your intake of protein will send your body into anabolism. This is another term for growth and with the additional protein, your body will signal that you have more reserves that can be used for energy and muscle building.

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

You will want to look for foods that are super high in protein; that way you can send your body more energy and muscle building materials which will help increase your overall muscle mass. Many researchers have studied this, and most have concluded that intaking .25g of protein per kilo is enough to incite muscle growth. You can round up, but those researchers stress the importance of eating the right amount of protein. This means sticking with the equation. Going beyond can be as bad as too little protein in your diet.

The same researchers tried this out and saw a decreased capacity for muscle growth when far exceeding what your body needs. So, remember just stick with the equation below and watch your muscles get larger and larger:

  • 0.25g for every kilo of weight

(Note the amount of protein can vary with other factors like age and intensity of the workout.)

Carbs and Building Muscle

Your goal is to get your body in that anabolic state that we mentioned above, and that means you need to take in more than you expend. That is where those lovely carbs come in to play. To increase your calorie count, adding healthy carbs to your after-workout snack is a great idea. Carbs naturally help increase energy so that your muscles will be ready for another day at the gym, and that will allow your muscles the chance to work on being built.

Protein & Carbs – The Winning Team

This means that the perfect one-two punch when it comes to after workout meals is this combination. The protein will help feed your muscles, and those carbs will help give you extra energy to keep you on the right track, plus both will help you gain healthy weight you can then turn quickly into muscle.

One word of note, though, is that many feel that you don’t necessarily have to add carbs to build muscle, as you can do it with protein alone. However, adding carbs helps with energy and weight gain, so if you are trying to build muscle, it is a wise choice to just stick with this combination.

Easy Post Workout Meal Ideas

Using the equation above and the knowledge you now have, choosing the right thing to eat after a workout should be a bit easier. You will want to focus on doing it the healthiest way possible, so sticking with whole foods and using some nutritional supplements where needed could be the way to go. If you want to stick with more organic/whole foods idea, check out these easy suggestions that we have compiled to help you out:

AB&J Sandwich

Never heard of it!? Well, it is just a simple almond butter and jam sandwich. The tradition PB&J would be just fine as peanut butter does have a lot of great protein. But if you want to amp up that protein intake, almond butter is the better choice. Pair this combo with nice whole grain bread, and you have yourself one of the best after-workout snacks you can imagine. And it tastes good, too!

Pita & Hummus

Take a little trip to the Middle East with our next quick protein-rich snack. Pita and hummus are an excellent healthy way to get your protein fill in. You can even use a whole wheat pita if you want to be a little healthier. As for the hummus itself, you will want to stick with the traditional version which is made with chickpeas as that is the source of the protein itself.


We all think of meat when we think of protein, and while it is a source of this nutrient, you can find just as much protein in vegetables as meat. Take our green tree-looking friend, broccoli. It is not only stuffed full of great vitamins but a good quantity of protein as well. Eating it raw dipped in hummus is an excellent way to round out your gym day. If you do want to steam it, try to steam it for the least amount of time possible as the more you cook it, the fewer nutrients will be left.

Cottage Cheese

Not everyone will be down with this option as many people just can’t stand cottage cheese. But if you are one of the few that dig this curdled cheese delicacy, then chowing down on a cup of it after your workout is a great way to get that protein in. In fact, one cup contains over 20g of protein and loads of vitamins as well.


This entry doesn’t necessarily have protein in it, but it does help with breaking it down. This tropical fruit contains a substance called papain which is specifically designed to help our bodies break down protein for use. Try adding it with the cottage cheese mentioned above for a little extra zing.

Apples & Cheese

This old after school snack can make a comeback in your life, especially if it is after a hard workout. By cutting up an apple and pairing it with your favorite cheese, you are getting a vitamin-rich protein bomb that will help your body begin its recovery process. Apples are filled with vitamins and fiber, and that will help with the digestion of the protein you will be getting from the cheese.

Tuna Salad & Crackers

You can mix up a batch of your own personalized tuna salad, or head to your grocery store and pick up pre-made packets to chow down on with your favorite crackers. No matter which route you choose, tuna fish is a great protein source, and you can keep it fresh by choosing or making new batches with different combinations of ingredients. The crackers should be your favorite whole wheat crackers to keep this snack as healthy as possible.


You will want to choose a cereal that is high in fiber and uses natural whole wheat components, and no to low sugar when selecting this as your after workout meal. If you can find them with dried berries or almonds, so much the better. This will make the nutritional value higher and offer you more vitamins and nutrients that will help the entire process. You can use regular milk or any of the many kinds of nut milk available. Make sure to drink the milk in the bowl after you finish the cereal so you get all the good stuff you need.

B&PB Sandwich

No, we are not saying Elvis had it all right but partially right. Skipping the grilling in bacon grease quotient of the famous sandwich, you get quite the perfect post-workout meal. By combining bananas and peanut butter between two slices of bread, you will find yourself feeling refueled and ready to go for another round. Bananas are a great source for many different vitamins, and peanut butter is a high protein choice. Slap it between two pieces of whole wheat bread which have been toasted and enjoy. If you want to substitute almond butter for peanut butter, so much the better.


Everyone loves a good smoothie, right? These delicious and sometimes dessert-like beverages contain a lot of good stuff if made properly. You will always want to make sure bananas are one of the ingredients, but then the combinations are endless. Using raw or even frozen veggies and fruits mixed with some sort of nut milk and yogurt can add so many vitamins and protein to your diet that you will be building muscle in no time. If you really want to up the protein level, try using peanut butter powder in the smoothie.

Protein Bar

There are so many protein bars out there on the market and for a good reason. They are a quick, no-fuss way to get your protein in. However, you will need to pay attention to the ingredients label, as many have a lot of hidden sugars and things that serve no business being in your body. You will want to make sure that the bars you go with have at least 10g of protein and less than 10g of sugar so that you are getting the optimal healthy option for your protein snack after the gym.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how your body works and what you need to put in it is just part of the healthy lifestyle you are cultivating. Through understanding the process of how we use protein and why it is so essential when looking to build muscle, you can easily see why making sure the food you intake after a hard workout is rich in it.

Hopefully, with the information above, you now realize how important the right snack is, and with the delicious options we have laid out, you were able to find a snack that has jumped out at you. So, don’t forget after you have gotten your sweat on: rejuvenate your body with the right mix of carbs and protein, and you will definitely see those muscles building in no time. Now you know what to eat after workout to gain muscle, so what are you waiting for?