Learn how to refuel after a tough workout with these vegan post-workout meal ideas.

Colourful bowl of rice, tofu, edamame, cabbage and grated carrot.

Post-Workout Nutrition

It’s important to have a solid post-workout nutrition plan in order to replenish glycogen and nutrient stores lost during exercise and begin the recovery process so you can train again soon!

zThe goal of post-workout nutrition is to:

  • Replenish glycogen ie. energy stores
  • Decrease protein breakdown ie. repair muscle damage caused by exercise
  • Increase protein synthesis ie. increase muscle size and quality

Consuming and benefiting from the right amount and ratio of foods after a workout is referred to as the “window of opportunity”. During this time our muscles are primed to accept nutrients that can stimulate muscle repair, muscle growth, and muscle strength. The window opens immediately after training and stays open for about 30-60 minutes. Feeding your body properly during this time is key to recovery and growth.

I have two steps in my post-workout nutrition plan.

Step 1. Drink a protein shake immediately after finishing my workout. 

Drinking a post-workout protein shake immediately after training is a quick and easy way to kick start the recovery process. Protein shakes are easily digestible, meaning you can get protein and amino acids to your muscles at top speed. They’re also quick and convenient to slam back after training and can hold you over until you have time to eat whole foods.

Quick Post-Workout Meals

  • protein shake with banana and chocolate almond milk
  • protein shake and a few medjool dates
  • protein shake made with fruit juice

I keep a shaker cup with protein in my gym bag then just fill it with water and slam it back immediately after finishing my WOD. If it was a particularly hard training session or lasted longer than 60 minutes, I’ll also eat a banana, or a few medjool dates and make my protein shake with chocolate almond milk. You can also include creatine, BCAA and/or glutamine at this time.

Step 2. Eat a whole food meal within 60-90 minutes of finishing my workout. 

Once I have time to sit down and eat something, it’s time to get some carbohydrates and essential fats in too. It’s important to eat a well-balanced meal to help the body recover and ready to train again tomorrow, or maybe even later the same day! Time to eat those carbs! Eating carbohydrates after training helps to replenish energy stores and other nutrients lost during exercise.

A 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is considered to be ideal for a post-workout meal. I wouldn’t worry too much about being exact but try to include a good amount of carbs, some protein, and a little bit of essential fats. I would recommend including some greens in your meal as well as plenty of liquids and something to replace lost electrolytes if you sweat a lot!

Post-Workout Meal Ideas

1. Black Bean and Baked Yam Bowls

I love the combo of black beans and baked yams and together they provide the ideal macronutrients to re-fuel after a workout. Try them on top a big bowl of spinach with a spoonful of hemp seeds, fresh red pepper and a simple fat-free herb dressing.

CrossFit Post-Workout Nutrition - Meal Ideas

2. Chickepea “Egg” Salad

This is so easy to make: mash chickpeas and mix with lemon, vegan mayonnaise or avocado, diced red onion, diced celery, hot sauce (optional), salt and pepper.

I love to prep a batch of chickpea “egg” salad on the weekend so it’s ready for quick meals during the week. I eat it on it’s own, stuff it into a pita or make a sandwich piled high with spinach. Beans are an idea post-workout food because they have the perfect ratio of carbohydrates to protein and are also low in fat.

CrossFit Post-Workout Nutrition - Meal Ideas

3. Quinoa and Edamame Bowls

These two ingredients make a great combo of carbohydrate and protein. Mix in some steamed broccoli, chopped carrot and drizzle with tahini to cover all your bases!

Tahini is also a great ingredient for vegans and vegetarians due to it’s high iron content. I like to add plenty of vegetables to my post-workout meals in order to load up on vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants, all of which contribute to recovery.

CrossFit Post-Workout Nutrition - Meal Ideas

4. Oats with Chia Seeds, Protein and Cherries

If you train early in the morning like me, your post-workout meal will most likely be breakfast. I eat chia seed oats with protein and fruit almost every morning and it’s one of my favourite breakfasts. Simply mix together 30 g of chia seeds, 30 g of oats, 1 scoop of vegan protein powder and 1.5 cups of almond milk and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, add your favourite toppings and dig in! Cherries are great choice post-workout due to their anti-inflammatory benefits.

Some other great sources of carbohydrates after training are potatoes, rice, brown rice pasta or grains such as amaranth, barley or kamut, plantains, butternut squash or some sprouted grain bread, some other sources or protein include tofu, tempeh, lentils or any other beans and healthy fats could include things like almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower or sesame seeds or peanut butter.

Keep It Simple

Just think plenty of carbohydrates, some protein and a little fat and you’ll get the hang of creating fun, delicious and healthy post-workout meals!

Keep in mind, recovery doesn’t stop with your post-workout meal; you’ll want to eat again a few hours later, this time focusing more on quality protein.  And there’s more you can do that doesn’t involve food — stretching, self-massage, contrast showers, sleep, rest and foam rolling all play a part.

Developing a post-workout nutrition and recovery plan is so important because the faster you recover the faster you can get back in there and hit it again! And if you’re a fellow CrossFitter like me, you know you just can’t wait to hit that next WOD and get those gains!

Train hard, eat well, recover well, repeat.

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