Following a competition, it can be helpful for athletes to have ideas for the best post-game snack to support their recovery nutrition needs.
Let’s explore 15 post-game snacks that can help athletes refuel, rehydrate, and be prepared for the next competition.
What to Include in a Post-Game Snack for Athletes
When planning post-game snacks, it is important to keep the recovery nutrition needs of athletes in mind.
The three key areas of recovery nutrition that athletes should focus on following a game include:
- Rehydrate: Consume fluid and electrolytes to replace sweat losses
- Refuel: Consume carbohydrates to replace energy stores
- Repair: Consume protein to build and repair muscles
Thus, athletes should plan post-game snacks that provide fluid and electrolytes, a good source of carbohydrates, as well as lean protein.
Well-planned post-game snacks can support athletes with recovering and being prepared for the next exercise session.
Importance of Post-Game Snacks
It is important that athletes prioritize post-game snacks and nutrition when they have limited time to recover between games (1).
This may include situations such as:
- Between game snacks at a tournament
- Back-to-back games during the season
- Two-a-day workouts or practice sessions
Providing athletes with easily accessible snacks and drinks in the locker room can support them with meeting their recovery nutrition needs following a game (2).
Eating a snack following activity is especially important for athletes if it will be several hours until the post-game meal. For example, having post-game snacks on the bus can be of benefit to athletes with there is a long drive back to school following the game.
15 Post-Game Snack Ideas for Athletes
Now that you know the key nutrients to include in a post-game snack, let’s explore 15 snack ideas that athletes can enjoy after a competition.
#1 Chocolate Milk with Granola Bars
Chocolate milk is commonly recommended as an ideal recovery drink for athletes.
Thus, chocolate milk checks all three recovery nutrition boxes, supporting athletes with meeting their fluid, protein, and carbohydrate needs following a game.
Athletes can add granola bars along with the chocolate milk to further boost the carbohydrate-content of the post-game snack.
#2 Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait
An easy way to add protein to a post-game snack is with Greek yogurt. Athletes can purchase Greek yogurt in individual serving containers, which can easily be added to a cooler to be eaten following the game.
Topping the Greek yogurt with mixed berries is an excellent way to add vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to the post-game snack. In addition, berries provide a rich source of bioactive compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body (4).
Adding whole grain breakfast cereal or granola to the parfait will boost the carbohydrate content of the snack and provide an added crunch.
#3 Post-Game Smoothie
Following a game, some athletes do not have an appetite and find eating a snack to be challenging. For these athletes, drinking a healthy fruit smoothie may be a refreshing option that can support them with meeting their carbohydrate, protein, and hydration needs.
Athletes can add carbohydrates to their post-game smoothie by including a variety of frozen fruits, sliced bananas, milk, yogurt, honey, and even oats.
To boost the protein content of the fruit smoothie, athletes can add Greek yogurt, high-protein milk, nut butters, chia seeds, or tofu.
Visit my post-workout smoothie blog to download my recipe for a Cherry Berry Smoothie that athletes can enjoy following a competition.
#4 High-Protein Milk with Breakfast Bars
A cup of ultra-filtered milk provides ~13 grams of protein (5) compared to 8 grams in a cup of regular milk (6). In addition, for athletes that are lactose intolerant, ultra-filtered milk is a lactose-free option.
I would suggest athletes pair the high-protein milk with a carbohydrate-rich snack, such as breakfast bars or fig bars.
#5 Jerky, Pretzels, and Banana with Sports Drink: Easy Post-Game Snack
Beef or turkey jerky is an easy way to add lean protein to an athlete’s post-game snack. In addition, jerky does not require refrigeration and is mess free, making it ideal for a locker room.
Most brands of jerky are also high in sodium. Following activity, athletes need to replace the sodium lost in sweat. Adding foods, such as jerky, that contain sodium to the post-game snack can help with replacing these losses.
In addition, sodium stimulates thirst, which helps encourage athletes to rehydrate following activity. Sodium also helps the body better retain the fluid consumed after exercise (7).
Athletes should make sure to enjoy the jerky along with carbohydrate-rich foods such as a bag of pretzels and a banana. Drinking a sports drink with the snack can help athletes meet their post-game hydration needs.
Note: If an athlete has been advised to limit their sodium or fluid intake, the athlete should visit with their doctor or a sports dietitian nutritionist regarding their specific nutrition needs.
#6 Tart Cherry Juice with a Turkey and Cheese Wrap
Another recovery drink that athletes can enjoy with their post-game snack is tart cherry juice.
Drinking tart cherry juice along with a turkey and cheese wrap can help ensure athletes get protein and sodium, as well as additional carbohydrates in the snack.
I often tell athletes, a turkey and cheese wrap does not have to be complicated. Just grab a whole wheat tortilla or flatbread, add sliced turkey deli meat as well as a slice of cheese or cheese stick, and roll it up.
A turkey and cheese wrap can easily be meal-prepped in advance and brought with the athlete to the competition.
#7 Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich with Low-Fat Milk
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a great way to add carbohydrates, protein, and healthy unsaturated fats to an athlete’s post-game snack.
In general, a 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter provides ~7 grams of protein (10). Thus, to further boost the protein content of the snack, I would suggest drinking low-fat milk or low-fat chocolate milk along with it.
Athletes can change up the snack using different types of nut butter, such as almond or cashew butter. If an athlete has a nut allergy, I would suggest trying Sunbutter®, which is made with sunflower seeds and is allergen free.
#8 Cottage Cheese with Pineapple and 100% Fruit Juice
Cottage cheese is a protein-rich food that athletes can add to their post-game snack. A 1-cup serving of cottage cheese provides ~28 grams of protein (11). In addition, cottage cheese tends to be high in sodium, helping athletes with replacing sweat losses.
Topping the cottage cheese with fruit, such as pineapple is a nutritious way to add carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants to the snack.
Cottage cheese can be purchased in individual serving size cups, which are convenient for athletes to pack and take with them to the game.
Enjoying a glass of 100% fruit juice is an easy way to help athletes with rehydrating as well as adding carbohydrates and vitamins to the snack.
#9 Hard-Boiled Eggs and Bagel with Nut Butter
Hard-boiled eggs are a nutritious way to add protein to an athlete’s post-game snack. A large egg contains ~6 grams of protein (12).
In addition to protein, eggs contain choline, selenium, riboflavin, Vitamin K, and antioxidants (12). Thus, they are a nutrient-rich option following a game.
Athletes can purchase premade, hard-boiled eggs at the store, which come peeled and ready-to-eat making them an easy addition to the post-game snack.
Along with the hard-boiled eggs, I would suggest adding a high-carb snack such as a bagel topped with nut butter.
#10 High-Protein Muffins, Banana, Low-Fat Milk
High-protein muffins are another snack option that athletes can meal prep in advance to enjoy following a game. Kodiak Cakes® and Krusteaz® make a variety of protein baking mixes that are simple to prepare.
Along with the muffins consider adding a banana for added carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Athletes can enjoy the muffins along with low-fat milk, which will further boost the protein content of the snack and help athletes meet their hydration needs.
#11 String Cheese, Sliced Deli Meat, Crackers, and Grapes
Combining together string cheese, sliced deli meat, crackers, and fresh fruit, such as grapes, can be a simple post-game snack solution. The string cheese and deli meat will provide protein and sodium, while the crackers and fresh fruit will add carbohydrates to the snack.
When purchasing deli meat for the post-game snack, I recommend buying deli meat that is freshly sliced at the store.
In addition, athletes should choose lean deli meat options, such as turkey, chicken, ham, or roast beef. Italian deli meats, such as salami, pepperoni, and bologna, tend to be higher in saturated fat and less healthy choices.
String cheese or cheese sticks are a portable snack, providing ~6 grams of protein (13). I suggest athletes select a reduced-fat version, which will be lower in saturated fat, but contain a similar amount of protein.
Athletes can then pair the deli meat and cheese with their favorite snack crackers, fresh fruit, and a nutritious beverage for an easy post-game snack.
#12 Tuna Pita Pocket with Dried Fruit
Tuna is a great way for athletes to add both lean protein as well as healthy omega-3 fatty acids to their post-game snack.
A 3-oz serving of white tuna provides ~20 grams of protein (14), thus it a protein-rich option post-game. Many brands of tuna and salmon now come in convenient single-serving pouches; thus, athletes can throw them into their bag to have available when needed.
Adding the tuna to a pita pocket is a convenient way to add carbohydrates to the post-game snack. It also makes for a convenient hand-held sandwich that athletes can enjoy on-the-go.
Athletes can enjoy dried fruit, such as raisins, dried cranberries, pineapple, mango, or papaya, along with the tuna pita pocket. Dried fruit provides carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which have antioxidant effects in the body (15).
It is important athletes add a healthy beverage with the tuna pita pocket to support their post-game hydration needs.
#13 Hummus and Pita Chips with Soy Milk: Plant-Based, Post-GameSnack
Athletes following a vegetarian or vegan diet may enjoy having hummus with pita chips as a plant-based, post-game snack.
Hummus is made with chickpeas; thus, it contains carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Pita chips provide both carbohydrates and sodium.
Drinking soy milk with the hummus and pita chips will further boost the protein content of the post-game snack.
In general, plant-based milks (almond, coconut, oat) tend to be low in protein. However, soy milk is an exception, providing ~6 grams of soy protein per cup (16).
Thus, athletes following a plant-based diet may consider enjoying soy milk with their post-game snacks to help meet their protein needs.
#14 Post-Game Trail Mix
An easy post-game snack that athletes can meal prep in advance is trail mix. Athletes can simply mix together their favorite snack crackers, dry cereal, dried fruit, nuts, legumes, and seeds to make a wholesome mix.
Trail mix ingredient ideas include:
- Grains: Pretzels, pita chips, snack crackers, dry cereal
- Dried fruit: Raisins, cranberries, blueberries, pineapple, mango, papaya
- Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, macadamia nuts
- Legumes: Roasted chickpeas, peanuts, edamame
- Seeds: Pumpkin, sunflower kernels
Athletes should make sure to pair the snack with a nutritious beverage to help them with meeting their hydration needs post-game.
#15 Post-Game Snack: Protein Shakes, Sports Foods, and Supplements
Athletes can easily meet their recovery nutrition needs with real food following a game. However, sometimes protein shakes and other sports foods can be a convenient option.
For example, sports foods such as protein bars and ready-to-drink recovery beverages, may be a convenient choice when traveling or when athletes need a quick option post-game (2).
Supplements with Post-Game Snacks
If an athlete wants to use a protein powder or other sport supplement following a game, it is important they use caution when selecting the product.
Supplements could potentially contain banned substances that are harmful to an athlete’s health or that make the athlete ineligible for competition (17).
Athletes should seek guidance from a sports dietitian nutritionist on any supplements they plan to use. The sports dietitian can provide guidance on the safety and efficacy of the supplement as well as assist the athlete with developing a post-game nutrition plan.
15 Post-Game Snack Ideas for Athletes
You are now set with 15 post-game snack ideas athletes can enjoy to help meet their recovery nutrition needs. Athletes should follow-up their post-game snack with a well-balanced meal in the next couple of hours.
For additional sports nutrition tips, check out my blog with suggestions on easy team dinner ideas for athletic teams.
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About the Author
Mandy Tyler is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation.