Looking for an after workout food but just not sure what you should eat to adequately refuel your body? Well look no further. You’ve probably invested a significant amount of time and energy into completing a workout, and now you want to replenish your energy levels with the correct nourishment. Not only that, you possibly have been tracking your progress and calories burned on a smart watch and could be considering treating yourself as a reward for a well-earned workout.

Male sweating post workout

However, what you eat after a workout is salient, especially if your workout involved applying significant amounts of stress to the body (we’re talking more than just a stroll in the park).  Today we uncover some of the best post-workout foods to restore your glycogen levels and ensure optimal recovery.

In the previous article, we discussed what protein is and how important protein is to the body. Following a session of exercie where the body is put under stress, muscle catabolism (muscle breakdown) takes place. In order to aid recovery, post-workout nutrition is a fundamental parameter required to assist in optimal recovery. Identifying some of the best lean protein foods to aid in in the swiftly returning your body to a state of muscle anabolism (muscle growth) will support you in making the correct nutritional decisions. But first, let’s have a look at the difference sources of protein and decipher which ones may be best suited to you.

Sources of Protein

Protein can be obtained from a variety of sources; there are 3 primary sources: animal, vegetable and derivative protein.

Animal sources are considered a complete source, i.e. they contain all the essential amino acids. In the previous article (Good pre-workout foods: protein), we discussed how protein is composed of 20 amino acids, 9 of which are called essential amino acids. These 9 amino acids need to be obtained from food sources, of which animal sources are an example. Consequently, this provides animal proteins with the upper hand from this perspective. However, the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol present in animal sources, such as red meat, presents a negative aspect which plant sources avoid.

Additionally, the advent of processed meats can instills adverse effects on consumers, particularly if it forms a regular part of a meal plan. Research has depicted evidence of increased rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease and even premature death!

“Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood. Examples of processed meat include hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and biltong or beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.” – World Health Organisation

Don’t, however, let this be a complete deterrent to using animal sources for protein. There are amples examples of meats that are unprocessed and can complement a healthy diet, minus the adverse effects identified above!

Plant sources, on the other hand, lack 1 + essential amino acids, meaning that they need to be obtained elsewhere in the diet to achieve a complementary supply of amino acids. Consequently, people who utilise plant sources would need to either complement vegetable sources with animal sources or consume a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes to prevent deficiency of essential amino acids.

Derivative protein sources such as whey, soy and hemp alternatives are becoming incrementally popular due to mounting knowledge on the effects of animal sources of protein and an increasing move towards non-animal protein sources. The liquid which remains following coagulation and removal of curds from cheese consists of whey and casein. This liquid is further formulated to form whey and casein protein powder.

Hemp protein is growing in popularity as it offers a vegan protein source while providing all 9 essential amino acids. It also packs in antioxidants, minerals and nutrients while being low in saturated fat. Hemp protein health benefits include energy production due to the presence of omega 3 and omega 6. Hemp protein is also a source of phytosterols which aids in the cholesterol reduction battle.

Soy protein is isolated from the soybean and is available in 3 forms: soy flour, concentrates, and isolates. Some studies have associated adverse effects of phytoestrogens with reduced male fertility. Some studies have suggested that estrogen can be lowered. However, despite concerns that soy can disrupt horomone balance, limited research is available to substantiate this; additionally most studies associate soy with increased health benefits.

With the above derivative protein sources, it’s worth noting the diverse protein content of each. Whey protein has a protein content of up to 99%, which trumps both soy protein (up to 99%) and hemp protein (50%). This means you’ll either have to consume larger quantities to achieve your protein target or obtain the outstanding protein elsewhere.

Below we provide a list of some of the best proteins suitable for post workout foods.

Animal Protein Food List

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • White fish
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Lean steak
  • Cottage cheese
  • Kefir

Lean protein fish muscle

Vegetable Protein Food List

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Peanut butter toast protein

Derivative Protein Food List


  • Protein is an excellent way to nourish your body post-workout.
  • By eating animal sources of protein, you’re increasing the likelihood of consuming all the 9 essential amino acids.
  • However, adopting a mix of the above 3 protein sources can offer a balanced diet which should promote optimal muscle recovery.
  • Recognising the protein content of the above foods is important if you are tracking macronutrients.
  • This particularly applies before and after a workout.
  • That being said, while pre and post workout nutrition is important, the primary concern is adopting a healthy diet as a whole to ensure adequate levels of macronutrients and calories are consumed throughout the day.


Andrews, R. (2020). All About Post-Workout Nutrition | Precision Nutrition. [online] Precision Nutrition. Available at: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/about-post-workout-nutrition [Accessed 23 Feb. 2020].

Hoffman, J. R., & Falvo, M. J. (2004). Protein – Which is Best?. Journal of sports science & medicine, 3(3), 118–130.

International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2018. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, No. 114. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507971/

Mohr, C. (2019). Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition. [online] Eatright.org. Available at: https://www.eatright.org/fitness/exercise/exercise-nutrition/timing-your-pre-and-post-workout-nutrition [Accessed 23 Feb. 2020].

Petre, A. (2016). The 17 Best Protein Sources For Vegans and Vegetarians. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-for-vegans-vegetarians#section12 [Accessed 23 Feb. 2020].

Quinn, E. (2019). 10 Tips to Speed Recovery After Exercise. [online] Verywell Fit. Available at: https://www.verywellfit.com/ways-to-speed-recovery-after-exercise-3120085 [Accessed 23 Feb. 2020].

Villines, Z. (2018). Anti-estrogen diet for men: What to eat and avoid. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323224.php#can-men-reduce-their-estrogen-levels [Accessed 23 Feb. 2020].

Categories: Blogs


Hilde · 20/03/2020 at 9:07 PM

Wow! You really did a good work writing this post about Protein! I learned a lot of new stuff here. I really liked your lists and how you structure your post here. It is so easy to read. Personally I eat a lot of fish and lentils. I consume most of my protein from fresh food and I do not use any Protein powders. I might be a bit sceptical to powders in general. What would you say are the benefits of Powders over fresh food? I will definitely come back to your site to be inspired.

    Sharon · 21/03/2020 at 12:18 PM

    Thank you Hilde!

    Glad the post was of benefit to you! Protein powders are more convenient to consume, e.g. if you’re out and about, it’s easy to chug a protein shake. It also offers an alternative to eating the regular meat/fish sources, which can be a little tiring if you have to eat them 3-4 times a day. Protein powder is also a very lean and dense source of protein, in comparison to other foods which could contain protein but also fat, e.g. red meat.

    Hope this answers your query.

    Stay tuned for more articles!

Manuela · 20/03/2020 at 11:17 PM

Thanks for the excellent post on different sources of protein. I would be interested in hearing more about soy protein as there are so many different opinions on it. I have stayed away from soy for the most part, sometimes I will eat some tofu. It was always marketed as so healthy until it wasn’t. I would love to read a post about soy.

    Sharon · 21/03/2020 at 12:19 PM

    Thanks Manuela,

    Stay tuned, I’ll add it to my list of blogs to post!

    Thanks for your feedback.


Lisa · 21/03/2020 at 7:07 PM

Hi Sharon,

Thanks for the valuable list of protein sources. I often switch back and forth between animal and vegetable protein sources and as such I’m a bit concern that I am getting all the necessary amino acids.

When I am eating only vegetable protein sources, is there a mix of sources that I should be eating to make sure that I’m getting all essential amino acids?

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Kind Regards,

    Sharon · 21/03/2020 at 7:32 PM

    Hi Lisa,

    It’s good to have a bit of variety in terms of sources, it’s prevents you from getting bored of the same foods.

    There are some excellent vegetables that are considered complete sources: quinoa, tofu, buckwheat, spirulina and chia seeds are all vegetarian complete sources of protein. There’s also the derivative sources, e.g. hemp protein to consider. From the sounds of it, you alternate between animal and plant sources, so your risk of lacking in essential amino acids is probably low in comparison to someone who solely eats plant-based protein.

    Hope this answers your query!

Louise · 22/03/2020 at 4:10 PM

Hi Sharon
I am really grateful to have found this article – with everything that is happening in the world right now, I am very tempted to go vegan. It’s not only about Corona (though that is a big enough reason!) it’s about how people treat animals, I just can’t support industries and people involved.
Thank you, thank you.
Stay safe & blessings

    Sharon · 22/03/2020 at 4:57 PM

    Hi Louise,

    Yes, it leaves a lot of uncertainty in the world. Fortunately the food supply chain hasn’t been affected in my area, I hope the same is for you. At least you now know there are plant-based foods that can support your protein needs.

    Best wishes,

Paul Thomas · 22/03/2020 at 7:56 PM

Great in depth post a lot of valuable information

    Sharon · 23/03/2020 at 4:34 PM

    Thanks Paul,

    If you enjoyed this article, I’d suggest having a look some of the other posts!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *