Think fitness trainers only eat grilled chicken and steamed broccoli? The truth might surprise you. Fit pros subscribe to lots of different healthy eating philosophies, so your paleo weight coach might not agree with your plant-loving yogi. Some are susceptible to trends. Others geek out on the science. And a registered dietitian would likely tell you to take their advice with a grain of salt. But above all, trainers are focused on results—most are ready to swear by what works for themselves and their clients.
The one thing they all agree on? When it comes to weight loss and muscle gain, working out is only part of the equation. If you want to shape up, you need to step in the kitchen. Straight from the gym, studio, and blacktop, here’s what five top trainers like to eat after a tough sweat session.
A former Master Fitness Trainer in the army, Richardson discovered his passion for strength training in the field, during three tours in Iraq. When it comes to food, he tells clients, “Don’t just count the calories. Make the calories count. Give your body quality fuel, to support your activities today, and get you closer to your long-term goals.” Richardson is old school—immediately after an intense workout, he mixes up a protein shake. The only update is that he prefers plant protein over whey. “Americans eat too many animal products, and not enough plants.”
Post-workout snack: A protein shake. At home, he blends banana, berries, coconut water, and protein powder. At the gym or “out in the wild,” he’ll throw protein powder in water, shake, and go!
Born and raised in Hawaii, Rouse has a laid-back attitude when it comes to healthy eating. “I believe your health is a product of what you do most of the time,” she says. “If you eat clean at home, and cook most of your meals, you don’t have to stress about a couple tacos and margaritas!” She’s obsessed with colorful veggies, plant protein, and healthy fats from nuts and seeds. And even though she isn’t intolerant, she chooses to avoid gluten and dairy.
Post-workout snack: A green smoothie packed with pineapple, spinach, ginger, flax seeds, and plant protein powder. Try to drink that slowly!
A Brooklyn icon, spin goddess Eve Kessner rocks a podium bike just as well as she wears mom jeans. She takes her coffee with coconut milk and feeds her kids organic clementines. Her healthy eating philosophy is clean and simple. “Trust yourself! If you treat your body well, it’ll tell you what it needs. Listen to your cravings. Don’t indulge them, but there’s definitely a healthy version of whatever you want and need.” After a grueling spin class, she’s often busy chatting with her riders. But in a perfect world, she’d reach for real fruit and nuts.
Post-workout snack: A banana with maple-almond butter. Peel and party on.
Jonathan Jordan, Equinox personal trainer, nutrition coach
“JJ” wins hottest trainer awards while whipping San Francisco’s tech elite into shape. But as a self-labeled “former fat kid,” he’s all about taking the shame out of food. “Add what’s missing before you worry about taking something away,” Jordan eases his clients in. “Start with water, to keep your cells healthy and happy, and try to eat a sandwich bag full of veggies every day.” He’s currently crushing two cardio and four lifting sessions every week, so after an epic sweat session, he needs more protein than your average gym goer—a whopping 20 to 40 grams. But he serves it up with a super cute throwback recipe.
Post-workout snack: Two slices of leftover turkey meatloaf. Yep, that’s his mom’s recipe.
Amy Opielowski, CorePower Yoga instructor
Opielowski developed the meal planning recommendations for the CorePower boot camp program, and gets hit with nutrition questions all the time. Her yogi wisdom? Try a little thankfulness. “I believe that if you approach meals with an attitude of gratitude, you will literally absorb the healing qualities that food has to offer,” says Opielowski. “I focus on whole foods that serve my body.” After unleashing her inner warrior on the mat, here’s how she says nom(aste).
Post-workout snack: A mason jar salad with quinoa, beans, lettuce, carrots, and celery, drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. Stick a fork in it, you’re done.
Talking to all of these trainers, there were some common themes: After a tough workout, try to eat within a half hour or hour. Grab a combo of carbs and protein. Those should be quick and easy to digest. But within those guidelines, there are lots of options! Still, if you’re not working out as hard as a fitness trainer, you might not need a big snack—sometimes it’s smarter to roll straight into your next meal. Here’s what a sports dietitian would recommend if you want to maximize your workout recovery.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.