I’m a total night owl, so hitting the gym at the crack of dawn has never worked for me. I typically get a big burst of energy in the evening, and usually work out well after the sun goes down. Many of my clients also enjoy late-night workouts, but they always have one burning question for me: "What should I eat afterward, if anything?"
My standard advice: Don't starve yourself post-workout. You need to eat something to replenish nutrients, and help your body recover from physical wear and tear. Forgoing fuel can leave you weaker, vulnerable to injuries, and prone to sleep problems.
But that said, if you know you're going to bed soon, it's not a good idea to chow down on a massive meal. Instead, here are six fast and simple options rich in nutrients, lean protein, and healthy fat—to support (not undo) your hard work at the gym.
Hummus with raw veggies
Reach for traditional hummus or mix things up with a version made from black beans, lentils, or white beans. Whichever variety you choose, scoop it up with sliced bell pepper, cucumber, grape tomatoes, or another in-season vegetable you like.
Salmon and veggie salad
Mix just an ounce or two of canned wild salmon with a small handful of baby spinach and a tablespoon of olive tapenade. Spoon it into an outer romaine leaf, or eat the tasty mixture on its own.
Toss a handful of chickpeas with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. (It's fine to use canned chickpeas; drained, rinsed, and patted dry.) Bake on foil in the oven or toaster oven until golden brown.
Chop a few organic hard boiled eggs, and toss with chopped veggies (like minced kale or shredded zucchini) and a small dollop of tahini or pesto.
Chilled shrimp with guacamole
Nuts or seeds
A perfect post-workout serving of nuts or seeds is a quarter cup, about the size of a golf ball. (If they're in the shell, use a half cup.) My favorites are almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Another option: a few level tablespoons of nut or seed butter, scooped up with celery.
Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her newest book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.