Does this sound familiar? You just finished an intense workout and are so hangry that you’ll eat whatever is put in front of you. Chips, candy, donuts? Sure, nothing is off-limits when it comes to satisfying a growling stomach.
But here’s the thing—during that post-workout window, your body needs the right balance of carbs and protein to refuel your muscles. In other words, stuffing your face with junk is the opposite of what your body needs. Luckily, there are some pretty great packaged foods that help satisfy your hanger and aid in the recovery process so that you can crush tomorrow’s workout too.
But first, it’s important to understand that your muscles need more than just protein after a sweat session. Replacing glycogen (a.k.a. the body’s stored carbs) should be one of your post-workout goals, especially between bouts of cardio. Of course, protein is also essential in the hour after a workout to help muscles recover and grow. Unsurprisingly, that means your post-workout food should be a mix of carbs and protein. These nine high-protein packaged foods will help when your hanger is so extreme that you can’t make it home without eating everything in sight.
You could probably down a whole block of cheese after a solid sweat session, but Sargento’s Balanced Breaks helps keep your portions in line. This segmented snack of cheese, dried fruit, and nuts is a great combo of protein, omega-3s, and carbs. With fewer than 200 calories and 7 grams of protein, it will satisfy your craving for cheese without overdoing it.($3.19; jet.com)
KIND has always been dedicated to making bars with ingredients you can see and pronounce, and its new line of “protein from real food” bars are no exception. Each bar has 12 grams of protein, as well as carbs and healthy fats from the nuts. In other words, this tasty bar is a whole bunch of post-workout goodness wrapped up in 250 calories. If you’re starving after an intense workout, the nuts in this bar will put your stomach at ease.($19.99; kindsnacks.com)
These aren’t your average New York bagels. We love a good carb-fest as much as the next guy, but we also adore a bagel that offers more nutrition. Dave’s Killer Bread makes bagels with 12 grams of protein for around 250 calories. Basically, that’s your carbs and protein all rolled into one delicious bite. Need we say more?($5.86; jet.com)
Let’s say you took it easy at the gym, but you still finished your workout with that ravenous feeling. Hello, avocado. The monounsaturated “good” fat found in avocado is extremely satiating. Rather than waiting for those avocados on your counter to ripen, try this pre-packaged Simply Avocado by Wholly Guacamole. True to its name, it’s just avocado and sea salt. For a complete snack, spread some on top of a piece of whole-wheat bread and top with a hard-boiled egg for protein, or just spoon it right out of the container. You do you.($8.95; mexgrocer.com)
After an intense strength-training session, your recovery should focus on protein. Bone broth has become a trendy drink among Paleo-goers, and Pacific makes a single serve variety with 9 grams of protein in a handy 8-ounce container. If your workout consisted of more cardio, use the bone broth to cook up some quinoa or brown rice, both of which have the carbs your muscles need to replace glycogen stores.($2.00; amazon.com)
Listen, sometimes we’re lazy. Obviously, we know that you can combine your own fruit and greens to make a smoothie, but that just sounds like so much work sometimes. Dole has made life easy with these smoothie kits. Just add some sort of protein, like yogurt or vegan protein powder, and a liquid and blend. It’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth and cold-food craving—and also feed your tired muscles.($4.99; freshdirect.com)
Chocolate milk isn’t just for kids anymore! It’s been well-established that eating a 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio after a workout is the best way to stimulate muscle synthesis. But not many foods fit that 3:1 bill all by themselves.That’s where chocolate milk comes in. Not only is it the perfect ratio of carbs to protein, but studies found that people who drank chocolate milk after a tough workout experienced less exercise-induced muscle damage than those who drank sports drinks. We’ll take it.($6.84; jet.com)
StarKist is taking canned fish up a notch. It now offers skinless, boneless, wild-caught salmon in extra virgin olive oil in a handy pouch. Here’s the best part. This little old packet has 190 calories, 14 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fat. That combo of protein and fat will help ease your hanger stat. If you did some heavy cardio, just make sure you pair it with some sort of carb—crackers, toast, or veggie sticks.($35.35; amazon.com)
If you’re thinking, “huh, dessert hummus?” you’re probably not alone. We admit that you could also eat regular old hummus here, but why would you when Delighted By offers hummus in a brownie batter flavor? Made with chickpeas and oil as the base, this snack not only tastes like a dessert, but it’s got all the nutrients your body needs after a workout. It’s a bit lower on the protein than the other items on the list (2 grams in a 1/4 cup), but it tastes like dessert and is way healthier than a cookie.($5.09; jet.com)