Combining the ketogenic diet with exercise requires some thought and planning. That's because most standard pre- and post-workout nutrition is focused on using carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the go-to macronutrient to help your body replenish its glycogen stores after a workout, but on the keto diet, your net carb intake should be strictly limited. So what to do?
The good news is that, in the absence of carbohydrates, your body can adapt and not only maintain energy levels, but optimize them. A low-carb, high-fat diet will force your body into a state of ketosis, where your body will burn ketones for fuel rather than glycogen. In the post-workout recovery stage, protein is king. Your body will actually convert the protein you eat to glycogen if it needs it. This process bypasses the need for carbs and allows protein to do the work of replenishing glycogen stores and helping build muscle mass.
Whether you're doing cardio or resistance training, how you fuel your post-workout recovery can make a huge difference in your overall physique in the long-term. You want to optimize your efforts by consuming the right foods before and after you hit the gym, and on the keto diet, those foods are high-protein and high-fat. We've compiled some of our favorite keto post-workout meals, drinks, and snacks from around the web to get your ideas flowing. Use this list as a guide for your low-carb diet meal plan.
Post-Workout (Morning or Evening) Options for Recovery
Getting keto right isn't just about your macros; it's about your micronutrients too. While macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein, calories) are super important to eat in the right ratios for keto dieters, it can be easy to forget about the micros. Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients) are also incredibly important for keeping all your systems functioning optimally.
If you're focused on meats and fats without regard for micronutrients, you risk developing deficiencies. Micronutrient deficiencies not only endanger your health and well-being, they also stall your progress in your quest to lose body fat. If your body is malnourished, it will hold on to every last morsel you eat, which is exactly the opposite of the goal for most keto dieters.
To that end, it's important that you include micronutrient-rich ingredients to all of your snacks and meals, and you might even consider supplementing certain nutrients in the event that you suspect you need more than your workout foods can provide. The meals we've compiled here keep the balancing act in mind. They provide:
- Healthy proteins from grass-fed, pastured, or wild animals (20 to 30 grams or three to four ounces)
- Healthy fats from plant and animal sources (25 to 30 grams)
- High-fiber, low-carbveggies (about 10 grams)
Morning: Best Keto Meals Post Workout
While these meals can be eaten at any time (and even eaten as snacks too!), this list features quite a few creative egg recipes. And since eggs are typically breakfast food, we’ve collected our favorites to fuel your morning workout recovery.
1. Avocado Omelette with Spinach and Cream
Depending on your appetite, size, and the intensity of your workout, this tasty breakfast recipe by Keto Kookin can last between two and three meals. A perfect recipe for the athlete on-the-go who wants to do some multi-day meal prep.
2. Keto Frittata
The frittata is among the most excellent meal prep breakfast foods around. You make a while pie dish’s worth of breakfast and simply warm it up one serving at a time throughout the week. This keto frittata by Keto Kitchen is no exception. It features all the essentials: eggs, bacon, veggies, cheese, and cream to hit your micro and macro goals.
3. Paleo & Keto Bacon Veggie Muffins
Another on-the-go egg concoction, these muffins by Cultivated Wellbeing satisfy all the cravings for your post-working nutrition. They’re also dairy-free for those who can’t tolerate all the cream and butter that the keto diet plan tends to call for.
4. Keto Lox and Egg Breakfast Pizza
Wow, this looks good. This creative veggie-based breakfast pizza by Carb Manager combines the joys of pizza, the flavors of breakfast, and the luxury of lox all into delicious breakfast slices. Zucchini provides some added nutrition and crust stability as well.
5. Keto Breakfast Sandwich
This hand-held breakfast by Hey Keto Mama uses keto-friendly breakfast sausage as the bread and stuffs it with egg, avocado, and cheddar cheese. Short on the micronutrients beyond what you get in the avocado, but a wonderful breakfast option if you’ve really worked at the gym.
6. Keto Fried Eggs with Kale and Pork
This hearty breakfast by Diet Doctor splits the protein and fat between the eggs and pork while adding in more goodness from the pecans, kale, and cranberries. Cranberries are great for the keto diet because they have such a tiny amount of sugar but pack a powerful nutritional punch.
7. Pancakes with Savory Cream Cheese Topping
Another great recipe from Diet Doctor, this version of pancakes brings a whole new flavor profile to the dish. The savory aspect allows room for a side of low-carb veggies to round it out.
8. Keto Eggs Benedict
While this recipe by All Day I Dream About Food requires a bit more time for prep, it makes eight servings, so you’ll be good to go for the whole week for your time and effort. Featuring homemade keto-friendly pie crust and hollandaise, this recipe is the perfect reward for a hard gym day.
Evening: Best Keto Meal Options Post-Workout
These eight recipes are also flexible as far as timing goes. We’ve chosen recipes that work for both lunch and dinner, depending on when you hit the gym, but of course they can also be eaten and any time. A good rule to consider too, if you’re doing meal prep, is that a snack is just a small meal, so anything on our meal list is also a great snack option in a smaller portion.
9. Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap
This homemade take on the popular PF Chang’s menu item by Downshiftology offers really tasty ingredients in perfect keto proportions for those looking to up their protein count post-workout. The recipe as-is does go a little high on the carbs because of the blackstrap molasses, but you can either reduce or eliminate that ingredient if the carb count is too high. If you’re opting for the Targeted Keto Diet or Cyclical Keto Diet approach to post-workout dining, then leave it in.
10. Cauliflower Fried Rice
This keto classic featuring riced cauliflower instead of white rice is the perfect vehicle for your healthy fats and proteins post-work out. Skinny Taste includes low-carb veggies (including the cauliflower itself!), egg, and a protein of your choice (chicken and shrimp both work great!). Add some avocado oil or ghee to the mix to up the fat count if needed.
11. Easy Keto Lasagna Stuffed Portobellos
Mushrooms are a pretty underrated food. We’d call them a vegetable, but technically, they’re not veggies. They’re fungus full of fiber and micronutrients that will leave you feeling full and satisfied, especially when they’re stuffed with ground beef, cheese, and sugar-free marinara as they are in this awesome recipe by I Breathe I’m Hungry.
12. BLT Chicken Salad-Stuffed Avocados
If these don’t look like little bites of heaven to you, you might need to check your vision. The perfect post-workout meal (or snack), these stuffed avocado halves from The Garlic Diaries bring all the goodness: a healthy dose of proteins and fats to speed your recovery time.
13. Shredded Chicken Chili
Perfect for meal prep and a night in post-workout, this meal in a bowl by Ketogasm packs in butter, chicken, cream cheese, and all kinds of spices to make your mouth water. Toss in fresh herbs for a micronutrient boost.
14. Beef and Broccoli with Sunshine Sauce
The Castaway Kitchen brings phytonutrient-rich broccoli and protein-rich beef together with all the goodness of seed or nut butter and additional coconut aminos. If you were worried about getting enough protein, this is your post-workout feast.
15. Cheesy Cauliflower Bread Sticks
Another creative way to use cauliflower, these breadsticks by Jo Cooks feature all the nutrients you get from your brassica veggies, plus the fat and protein from eggs and cheese. Top these yummies with fresh arugula to boost the vitamins and you have yourself a meal.
16. Keto Shrimp Scampi
Ketogasm uses zoodles (squash or zucchini noodles) to replace high-carb pasta in this delicious Italian-inspired dish. Not only are you getting lean protein from the shrimp and healthy fat from the butter, but this dish is packed with micronutrients from the squash too.
Best Keto Shakes, Drinks, and Snack Ideas After a Workout
If you’re looking for quick and easy post-workout snack ideas rather than worrying about a full meal, we’ve got you covered. You can drink your post-workout nutrition just as easily as you can eat it. Here are some of our favorite quick bite and sip ideas for your post-workout.
17. Bone Broth
Bone broth might not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to muscle-building nutrition, but it should be. Packed with a healthy array of amino acids, this tasty, warm drink will give you the nutrition you need without ruining your appetite for dinner.
18. Perfect Keto Collagen Powder
Perfect Keto offers the perfect base for your post-workout smoothie with 10k milligrams of collagen and 5k milligrams of MCT oil. MCT oil is the perfect fat for the keto diet because it promotes ketone production. Try this recipe featuring the vanilla flavored powder.
19. Onnit Keto Recovery Shake
This one, developed by “The Keto Kid” himself, Brendan Shaub, includes MCT oil, chia seeds, almond butter, and Onnit greens and protein powders. For an added boost, it also contains cold brew coffee to help keep your energy high and promote ketosis.
20. Mint Keto Smoothie
This green drink by MTHR Nutrition actually includes frozen cauliflower. Don’t worry, you can’t taste it at all. It’s a great low-carb substitute for fruits that would otherwise kick you out of ketosis, and it makes for a delicious treat post-workout.
21. Bulletproof Coconut Collagen Smoothie
Living Ashley created a keto workout recovery smoothie featuring Bulletproof Collagen Powder, MCT oil, tons of spinach, and sunflower butter to really boost your protein and micros. Avocado and full fat coconut milk round out the healthy fats for the perfect blend.
22. Everything Bagel and Lox Keto Fat Bombs
If you thought fat bombs were always sweet, think again. These delicious morsels by Health Starts in the Kitchen are just as packed full of nutrition as the sweeter varieties, but with a savory twist. This recipe features cultured cream cheese, which gives you some added probiotic benefit, green onions, wild-caught smoked salmon, and keto-friendly everything bagel seasoning.
23. Nut Butter
Nut butters like these from Superfat are perfect for keto pre-workout and post-workout snacks. They’re portable, full of healthy fats and proteins, and ready to go to help fuel your recovery.
24. Keto Tapas
Diet Doctor might label this dish for breakfast, but we think this amazing spread makes the perfect snack too. Featuring charcuterie and, cheese, and fresh veggies, this is the perfect no-fuss snack that you can customize to fit your needs.
Best Post-Workout Supplements on Keto
Supplements to support the keto diet can range from simple vitamins (to avoid deficiencies) to some of the powders and elixirs we’ve already mentioned in the previous section. But when it comes to post-workout nutrition, the best supplements are the ones that help speed your recovery time and boost your muscle growth most efficiently. Here are the top two.
Creatine Monohydrate Powder
Creatine is a well-known supplement for bodybuilders and athletes of many stripes. It’s an amino acid that can be used for pre- and post workout supplementation that’s been shown in clinical studies to improve performance and recovery. Most athletes use it to help boost muscle growth post-workout. Add creatine powder to your whey protein shake one to two hours after your workout and you’ll be adding muscle in no time.
While there’s some mixed information out there about whether or not exogenous ketones are beneficial for weight loss, they do help push you into ketosis more quickly by adding ketones into your system. Exercise pushes you into ketosis faster as well, so pairing exogenous ketones with exercise is a great idea to accelerate fat-burning. Exogenous ketones can also provide a bit of extra energy to burn during your workouts so you can go as hard and long as you want to during your gym session.
Timing Your Fuel
Timing your snacks and meals around your workouts can really help optimize your fat-burning capacity, your performance, and your overall weight loss over time. Pre-workout and post-workout fuel are both designed to give your muscles what they need to do their best work.
Ideally, your pre-workout snack or meal comes anywhere between half an hour and three hours before your trip to the gym. Your post-workout snack or meal is a bit more flexible on timing. In fact, as long as you're consuming adequate amounts of protein and fat throughout the day you're hitting the gym, the post-workout timing isn't really all that critical.
The one post-workout eating guideline is to wait at least one, if not two hours after your workout before eating your next protein-packed meal or snack. This will allow you to “ride the wave,” as the folks at Keto Mojo say, to maximize your fat burn during your cool down.
Why Eating Protein Is So Crucial for Exercise
Eating protein around your workouts is critical for a couple of reasons. First, your body needs amino acids to replenish, repair, and rebuild the muscle you use and tear when working out. That's right, every time you hit the gym, you're stressing your body, creating microtears in your muscle fibers. That's the normal course of action during any strenuous activity, especially strength training.
When your body is properly fueled, it uses the amino acids from the protein you've eaten to rebuild and grow your muscles over time. One of the most important amino acids involved in the process of growing muscle (protein synthesis) is leucine, so eating leucine-rich foods pre- and post-workout alongside your healthy fats is a great way to build muscle. More on that in the next section.
The second reason eating protein is important: appetite control. Eating more protein helps stave off post-workout cravings. By upping your protein intake after a workout, you're preventing yourself from overeating fat calories, which could stall your weight loss efforts. (Yes, even on keto, calories count. You have to be in a deficit to lose weight on keto.) So if your goal is fat loss, you want to take your protein up a notch after your workout to prevent overeating fat.
Your Post-Workout Nutrition
How you fuel your post-workout can make a big difference in your ability to grow and sustain muscle mass. Even if your goal is to tone and not “bulk,” the right nutrition can get you the results you want.
Including adequate protein in your post-workout meal a couple of hours after your routine is critical for maintaining your muscle, energy, stamina, and staving off cravings. The last thing you want to do is sabotage your efforts by overeating fat after all your hard work.
By fueling properly, you’ll make the most out of your keto diet and exercise. You’ll reap the health benefits of the keto diet and move closer to the physique and performance you’re striving for.
Author: Toni Sicola
|Toni is a wellness professional with a Master's in Integrative Health, is passionate about spreading health, happiness, and personal fulfillment to as many people as possible. She has a professional background in health and wellness, dietary supplements, and nutrition, and embarks every day to live a well, balanced, happy life.|
Hungry for more?
Try our Beginner's Guide to KetoWith lists of food to eat and foods to avoid, shopping lists, meal plans, recipes, tips to get started, and more, we've got your keto needs covered!
Try our SuperFat Nut ButtersWith chocolate, macadamia coconut, coffee flavors, and variety packs - you've got tasty options to fuel your day (all certified keto, vegan, paleo & sugar-free!