7 Best “Junk Foods” to Eat After a Workout

With so much known about the benefits of vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats, it makes sense to gravitate in that direction for the majority of your meals and snacks. But let’s face it—trying to stick to an ultra-virtuous diet is tough, especially if it prompts feelings of deprivation.

And honestly, there’s no need to give up your favorite junk foods completely. Many nutritionists have noted that allowing yourself the occasional indulgence is actually good for you, because it can keep you on a healthy eating track.

Timing matters, though. Rather than having an entire “cheat day” of binge eating, a better strategy is to grab your junky favorites just after a HARD workout (Such as this 16 Minute Tabata Challenge) Not only will you burn up carbs faster right after high-intensity exercise, but some of the ingredients could also be helpful for muscle recovery. That’s right, there’s a window of time where a trashy food favorite could actually be a post-workout treasure! Consider these options:

#7. Bagel with PB&J

If you’re not devoted to a low-carb lifestyle—or you are, but you want to treat yourself to some occasionally—having a bagel after a workout can be beneficial for your muscles, since they rebuild using those carbs. Pairing them with peanut butter and jelly adds protein, sugar, and fats to keep you satiated and give you an energy surge.

#6. Chocolate Milk

There’s a reason that many runners grab some chocolate milk after a long run or a race. The carbs help with recovery, and the protein makes it a slower-digesting option. Milk, in general, is easier to digest after a workout anyway rather than beforehand.

#5. Sugary Cereal

Those flashy bright colored cereal boxes placed at eye-level on the shelf for kids! Yes, they’re a terrible option when it comes to breakfast because the high sugar content and processed carbs means you’ll crash and get hangry well before lunch. But after a workout? Grab a spoon. That sugar will help your muscles to replenish glycogen.

#4. Burger and Fries

If it’s been a long time since you had a fast-food fix, grabbing some after a workout occasionally is good timing for satisfying that craving. According to a study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, fast food replenished glycogen just as well as special supplements designed for post-workout recovery. Just don’t make it a pre-bedtime routine habit 🙂

#3. Waffles

This delicious food also tends be on the no-fly list for many who are trying to eat better, since it rarely gets served solo (we all love that whipped cream and syrup, maybe some chocolate chips?). Not only are waffles packed with quickly digested carbs, but add some maple syrup and this dish becomes one quickly digested pile of calories. However, after a long workout, those are good things, to restore lost glycogen.

#2. Pork Rinds

Yes, this road trip staple can actually be good for you, in the right situation. Although they’re deep fried, pork rinds pack a ton of protein—one cup usually has about 20 grams of it—and that’s helpful for post-workout recovery.

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#1. Jell-O

Although it can be a little too packed with sugar to enjoy as an anytime snack, gelatin makes a great post-workout choice because it can help reduce joint pain and stiffness after a fitness session.

No matter how you choose to indulge, it’s good to remember that it’s just that: a treat. Making sure that you eat mindfully and keep portions reasonable will satisfy cravings and give you post-workout benefits, without the negative effects of a regular junk food habit.