Post-workout Snacks for Teens and Tweens
Post-workout snacks for teens are important to help them recover from their sport and provide the energy they need to keep going until the next meal.
Whether your adolescent plays soccer, runs track, or dances, they will benefit from having a snack after their activity. Teens who are focused on their fitness and health goals may be doing so because they are on a sports team or are training for something important so supporting them through food is key.
Why Have a Post-Workout Snack?
Having a snack soon after exercise will help promote muscle recovery and restore hydration levels. This might also help athletes feel their best and optimize their energy for the rest of their day, as well as their next practice, game, or event. A planned snack can also cut down on the “pantry grazing” that might otherwise occur.
When to Have Your Snack
In the past, research has suggested it’s ideal to eat within 30 to 45 minutes after a workout. However, more recent research suggests this window is longer. Still, it’s wise to eat a snack soon after practice so you don’t get over-hungry later.
An individual’s hunger level after a workout will depend on a variety of factors, including the intensity and duration of their exercise, what and when they ate before their activity, and their age and size.
What to Look for in a Post-Workout Snack?
The 3 key parts of a post-workout snack include:
- Fruit or veggie
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel and are extra important for athletes.
After a workout, carbs are needed to help replenish depleted glycogen in the muscles. Glycogen is the way our bodies store carbohydrates. It provides our muscles with the energy they need to move, so making sure that they are refueled and ready to go again is vital!
Here are some examples of foods that are rich in carbohydrates: bread, cereal, pasta, crackers, pretzels, granola bars, fruit, potatoes, corn, yogurt, milk, and legumes.
To maximize muscle recovery, choose a snack that provides protein. The protein will help repair and rebuild damaged muscle fibers, which is especially important after a hard workout. Moreover, growing adolescents need adequate protein available for overall body growth.
Some examples of foods that are rich in protein: dairy milk, soy milk, Greek or Skyr yogurt, kefir, cheese, fish, poultry, pork, beef, eggs, tofu, edamame, nut butter, seed butter, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and beans.
Hydration is important. In general, water will suffice. Studies suggest that electrolyte replacement drinks or “sports drinks” are only needed when the exercise is intense and lasts longer than 60 minutes.
Note that other foods, such as milk, smoothies, and “watery” foods such as watermelon and soup, will also count towards hydration goals.
Ideally, athletes should drink water not only after their workout but before and during their workout too.
FRUIT or VEGGIE
Add a fruit or veggie when possible. This will help provide vitamins that are needed for repair and recovery. Plus fruits and veggies tend to be filled with water and will help with hydration.
How Much Should I Eat?
Portion sizes are so individual. Rather than following a guideline, practice intuitive eating and listen to your body. Choose a snack that you enjoy and then eat until satisfied; trust your body to know when you have had enough. If you are interested in more personal advice, seek out a Registered Dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating and has expertise with sports nutrition.
Also, know that it’s ok if your snack doesn’t meet all the criteria listed in this article all the time. Eating should never have rules around it. Moreover, food choices are about more than nutrition. Other factors that come into play include what’s available, appealing, and convenient.
Ultimately, what your adolescent decides to eat (or even whether they eat) is up to them. But you can help out by keeping a variety of options available at home.
22 Post-Workout Snack Ideas
Here are 22 post-workout snack ideas. (Note that these would make excellent post-workout snacks for parents too!)
- Chocolate milk. A simple refueling classic. Chocolate milk is often recommended as a recovery drink because it contains a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein, considered to be ideal after a workout.
- Chocolate banana smoothie. Take the chocolate milk up a notch by combining milk, a frozen banana, and cocoa powder in a blender for this delicious combination.
- Turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread. Sandwiches aren’t just for lunchtime. They also make a great post-workout snack. Only a little hungry: make it half a sandwich.
- Peanut butter chocolate chip balls plus fruit or veggie.
- Cheese and crackers plus grapes.
- Egg sandwich with arugula or baby spinach.
- Trailmix plus fruit.
- Greek or Skyr yogurt plus granola and berries.
- A smoothie made with kefir or yogurt or a non-dairy smoothie made with soy milk plus frozen fruit. (If using low-protein milk like almond or oat, add a scoop of protein powder or a tablespoon of peanut butter).
- Overnight oats. (Prep ahead with berries or sliced banana on top.)
- Chia pudding with berries. (Prep ahead and grab and go.)
- Granola bar plus a glass of milk and a piece of fruit. Read about choosing granola/energy bars here.
- Banana bread plus peanut butter.
- Strawberry muffin plus a glass of milk.
- Whole-grain pretzels plus hummus and fruit.
- Baked potato with butter and smoked salmon.
- Pita chips and hummus and veggies.
- Hard-boiled eggs plus fruit and/or toast.
- Leftover pizza slice(s).
- Almond butter toast with berries.
- Donut apples with Greek/Skyr yogurt or nut/seed butter for protein.
- Protein bar plus a piece of fruit. (Yes, protein bars are good and especially convenient when on the go, but as you can see from this list, there are so many more creative options!)
These are just some suggestions. Use this list to think beyond the protein bar and help inspire your own list of ideas.
I should also note, that sometimes your activity will end just before a meal. In that case, by all means, refuel with breakfast, lunch, or dinner instead.
Sources and Resources:
- Essential Sports Nutrition by Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N (affiliate link*)
- Fueling Young Athletes by Heather R. Mangieri, RDN, CSSD, MS (affiliate link*)
- How Teen Athletes Can Build Muscle with Protein
- Timing Your Pre- and Post-workout Nutrition
Note that this post is meant to be used as a guide only. For more individualized guidance please consult a Registered Dietitian.
*These are Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.