You don’t have to be professional athlete to know that what you eat before and after a workout can either boost your training or hinder it. Downing a big order of French fries and a tall glass of chocolate milk right before a long run probably isn’t going to feel great, for example. Ask any registered dietitian who works with athletes what to eat pre- or post-workout and they’ll tell you that the nutrient content matters a whole lot.
Jennifer Rodriguez, RD, often works with clients to help them figure out their nutrient needs, particularly after they exercise. “For the general person hitting up a weekly workout, some carbohydrates and protein is ideal pre-workout. Post-workout, a protein-rich meal or snack is especially important,” she says. When it comes to protein, Rodriguez says needs vary based on someone’s age, health status, and activity level. “For a healthy person, in general, minimum protein needs are 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight,” Rodriguez says. This typically translates to 50 grams if you’re not very active, 75 grams if you’re moderately active, and 100 or more to put on muscle.
All of this goes for everyone, no matter what type of eating plan they follow. But following a vegan diet requires paying special attention to protein sources since meat, fish, eggs, and whey (often found in protein powders or bars) are all off the table. Rodriguez says this mindfulness is particularly important after exercising. “Timing is key to help with muscle gain,” she says. “A general rule is to eat a balanced meal or snack with adequate protein within 60 minutes of your workout.”
What does this look like for vegans? Here, Rodriguez shares post-workout meals for vegans that are full of protein and also have a serving of carbs too—just in case you didn’t get that in pre-workout.
Post-workout meals for vegans:
1. Whole grain spaghetti and plant-based meatballs
Rodriguez loves spaghetti and vegan “meatballs” as one of her go-to post-workout meals for vegans. Why? Because the whole grain pasta has carbs and fiber, while the plant-based meatballs are typically made with either nuts or soy, both of which are full of protein.
Watch the video below to see how to make vegan meatballs:
2. Burrito bowl
Burrito bowls are another post-workout meal for vegans Rodriguez recommends. The rice delivers on the carb front while beans cover the protein base. “You can also use soy chorizo as the protein in your burrito bowl,” Rodriguez says.
3. Quinoa, tofu, and veggies
Similar to rice, quinoa works as a versatile base for vegan post-workout meals, but it brings even more protein to the dish—a major reason why Rodriguez is into it. Use it to make a quick stir-fry with veggies and the vegan protein of your choice (tofu, seitan, and edamame all work well here), and you have yourself a balanced recovery meal.
4. Vegan yogurt with nuts or seeds
If you’re not quite ready to sit down to a full meal yet but still want a snack that will help with your workout recovery, Rodriguez says reaching for a protein-rich vegan yogurt is a great option. Add nuts, seeds, or nut butter on top for even more protein and berries for sweetness.
Watch the video below to see what vegan yogurts are the most nutrient-rich:
5. PB & banana on whole-grain bread
A classic peanut butter and banana sandwich is a vegan post-workout meal you can make in about 60 seconds flat. Similar to whole grain pasta, Rodriguez says whole grain bread is full of beneficial carbs. The banana is also a good source of carbs as well as potassium, which help with muscle recovery. As for the peanut butter, it’s loaded with protein.
As you can see, meeting your post-workout recovery needs doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. The main rule to keep in mind is creating a meal that’s full of protein, and if you didn’t eat a serving of carbs before your workout, include it here to make sure you get your body what it needs. Oh, and don’t forget to rehydrate, as it’s just as important.
Not only will these food tips help your body recover, they will keep you satiated, too. Your body just carried you through an entire workout. Consider your recovery meal a way to show it some love in return—a delicious way at that.
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