No Whey!! ‘Powder-Free’, Convenient Post Workout Fuel Options


There seems to have been a ‘bit’ of resistance to my recent post about the use of protein powders and liquid nutrition.  If you missed that whole show let me give you a quick recap.  Amy said: “Real food is always the best option and protein powders aren’t necessary.”  This kind of ‘crazy talk’ brought out every shaker bottle owner, supplement junkie and powder pusher in cyber world.  As Robb so eloquently put it – I “kicked their puppies”.  Now, I’m going to warn you right off – this post is not going to tell you that I changed my mind on the subject – nope, no endorsements here

One of the MAJOR hang-ups that many readers had was; “real food isn’t convenient”.  Okay, I agree it takes a little more thought to put together a ‘real food’ post workout meal; but I assure you it isn’t going to take HOURS, it’s definitely not rocket science and you can do it!  I have clients that travel, have kids, work full time, are constantly on the go and guess what?  They are 100% powder free!!  I kid you not – and you know what else?  They are seeing results, recovering awesomely, and they aren’t complaining about the lack of convenience either.  I’m telling you – it can be done!!  Yes, you may have to turn the TV off 10-15 minutes earlier than usual and pick up a few extra things at the grocery store, but ultimately your body is going to thank you.  Now, I’m not telling you that you HAVE to ditch your shaker bottle – I mean if you are REALLY that attached to it – have at it.  Your ‘relationships’ are your choice and I’m not going to judge you.  However, if you aren’t getting the results you think you should – don’t complain until you’ve ended your affair with the scoop and powder.

Okay, back to the task at hand.  I’m going to help you all out and make this ‘transition’ a little less bumpy.  Now this is not a post telling you what your post workout meal should look like.  Remember, the composition (carbs, protein, fat) will depend on YOUR goals, needs, activity, and health.  There is no ‘one size fits all’.  This is a post to give you some CONVENIENT, throw in your gym bag or in a container in the fridge, ideas for quick post workout meals that don’t require a shaker bottle.

Protein Options:

  • Packets or easy-open cans of water-packed tuna, salmon and/or sardines
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Pre-cooked steak or chicken sliced into easy to eat strips
  • Mini paleo meatloaves (make your meatloaf in muffin pans)
  • Jerky (get the good stuff – Slim Jim’s are NOT the ‘good stuff’)
  • Pre-cooked frozen shrimp (just run them under water to thaw and they’re ready to eat!)

Carbohydrate Options: (consider your goals here!!!!)

  • Pre-cooked sweet potatoes (baked, roasted, etc) – these are even good cold!!
  • Packets of baby food sweet potatoes and/or squash blends (there are lots of them out there!!!)
  • Cans of sweet potatoes, squash and/or pumpkin (unsweetened)
  • Fresh fruit (this is not the best choice – but can work in a pinch!)

Fat Options: (again, consider your goals!!!!)

  • Unsweetened Coconut chips/flakes
  • Raw coconut meat
  • Medium Chain Triglyceride oil (MCT oil)
  • Nuts and/or olives (not the best choices – but can work in a pinch)

There are some quick, convenient options for you to play with.  Will it require a little prep and thought?  Yeah, a little – but once you start ‘chewing it’ you won’t look back and during the transition we’ll all be here to support you.  You can ‘chew’ it!!!

Are you ready to ‘break-up’ with your shaker bottle?

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  1. Reid
    May 31, 2012 at 3:31 am

    Thank you for touching on this! I actually just posted about this subject because I really detest protein powder yet I am trying to gain more muscle and reduce bone loss. This is a great guideline for someone like me who may be a bit uncertain about how to structure a post-workout meal for recovery and recharge.

  2. Chris
    May 31, 2012 at 4:14 am

    I think whole milk should be mentioned here as it is by FAR the cheapest, easiest, and most beneficial whole-food recovery option available.

    I realise dairy is one of those grey-area foods, but to folk who don’t have issues with dairy (most, in my experience, especially younger people) it’s an absolute no-brainer – even versus steak-and-potatoes.

    • Amy Kubal
      May 31, 2012 at 4:51 am

      We’re going to avoid confusion. If it works for you – great!

  3. katieDid
    May 31, 2012 at 5:44 am

    +1 to cold, pre baked sweet potatoes. Sometimes throw a little almond butter in between, pack it in a tupperware and bring it to go. No fork even necessary and I never feel toooo strange noshing on one after a workout like I would opening a can of sardines.

    • Brenden
      June 16, 2012 at 7:48 am

      Wow KatieDid That sounds like one heck of a hand held meal, Sweet Potato and nut butter! I may have to try that for a breakfast item.

      • Fi
        July 9, 2012 at 1:06 am

        Yes – sweet potatoes taste great with almond butter! Also try tahini – ground sesame seeds – for a nice omega 3 and fat kick. Yum :)

  4. ChrisG
    May 31, 2012 at 6:36 am

    I will occasionally eat canned fish directly from the can, but it’s pretty common to get one thats “off” just enough to give me tuna-tin reflux all day. Just a little cooking solves this. I recommend making canned fish/egg patties and frying up a bunch. Tastes a lot better too.

    Milk for me is far too sweet to go near. Liquid cheesecake.

  5. Rachael
    May 31, 2012 at 6:50 am

    I saw this while eating my post workout grass-fed ground beef, coconut oil sauteed veggies and sweet potato. You have to plan ahead, but if your really eating paleo- you should be used to that by now! Prepare a bunch on one day, portion and freeze. Pull a packet out of the freezer each night before bed, fuel ready to go!

    You’d never kick a puppy, Amy! Well, not unless it deserved it.

    • Amy Kubal
      May 31, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Great tip Rachael!! And I have yet to actually ‘kick a puppy’… ;)

  6. Jason
    May 31, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Quick question: why is fresh fruit not the best option for carbs?

    • Amy Kubal
      May 31, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Due to the sugar type. Fruit is primarily fructose. Some is okay – but it shouldn’t be your first and only option.

  7. grayson
    May 31, 2012 at 7:03 am


    I switched after the last post. It has been great. If I can I cook up a quick burger in a skillet, but usually I’ve been doing canned tuna. I have been eating a banana still but am going to investigate me some pureed sweet potatoes.

    I have a question though if you’ll indulge me: i’ve done a cursory search around here, but are there any resources to help with how much canned tuna is too much? thinking mercury, etc. I have been eating highest quality I can find, packed in EVOO (supposedly), and “deep water caught” (again, supposedly). Is the heavy metal content regulated at all, to your knowledge?

    Thanks for all the rad, free advice!

    • Amy Kubal
      May 31, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Opt for the tuna packed in water as the quality of the oils used is often questionable as far as the upper limit – I would not rely on it day in and day out or on several occasions throughout the day – but 3-5 cans per week is likely safe. Variety is important too though!

      • Paula
        July 21, 2014 at 12:30 am

        Careful…that much tuna may not be safe for many people, especially those who may have or have had mercury overload issues in the past.

    • manny
      June 1, 2012 at 4:50 am

      on the mercury and packed fish deal, chris kresser does a nice job of addressing this, one of his podcasts, short take home high selenium content of a lot of the fish binds the mercury and it isn’t as bioavailable and the fear mongers would have us believe. we could self insure a bit more by increasing our own free selenium intake as well to clean up any collateral damage but i’ve been chomping down on sardines post workout, lots and lots, for years and no ill effects, i’m much beeter(feel and heatlh wise) for it actually, at least for my own n=1.

  8. Jay O
    May 31, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Would you mind clearing up why fresh fruit is not an ideal option? Even Loren Cordain recommends a banana or handful of raisins post workout to replace glycogen stores.

    I personally feel as if a banana is much better than a jar of over-processed baby goo… or am I missing something?

    • Amy Kubal
      May 31, 2012 at 9:43 am

      A banana can work – but in higher in fructose which must be processed by the liver before it can be used by the muscles. Sweet potatoes, yams, etc are more readily absorbed by the muscles and are a rich source of vitamins, and minerals – nutritional powerhouses!!!

      • Jay O
        May 31, 2012 at 9:58 am

        Amy, Thank you for the clarification!

  9. Andrew
    May 31, 2012 at 8:56 am


    I’ve generally been told that PWO meal should be based on protein/carbs and to keep fat low. I noticed you had MCT oil listed, is there something special about MCT that makes it beneficial PWO? Or is it just pure convenience?

    I know MCTs are processed differently than other fats so was curious if there was a mechanism at play here that makes it idea for PWO. I’m certainly hoping so, b/c I absolutely love coconut oil but have been avoiding it when cooking sweet potatoes PWO and opting to bake instead (just plain).


    • Amy Kubal
      May 31, 2012 at 9:40 am

      Andrew, MCT’s are metabolized similarly to carbohydrates in that they can be directly absorbed into the portal circulation and rapidly transported to the liver and used by the body for energy. There have been several studies demonstrating ergogenic effects of MCT’s in athletic performance. Again, consider your goals when constructing your post workout fueling plan!

      • Andrew
        May 31, 2012 at 10:12 am

        Thanks for responding Amy. I guess what I’m trying to achieve here is replenishing the glycogen in my muscles after a hard workout. It was my understanding that fat could inhibit this a bit (due to blunting the insulin response?). I was curious if MCT perhaps did not (or not as much) or perhaps

        WRT to goals .. is there any specific situation where MCT would be beneficial? detrimental?

        Trying not to drill you for too much info :) .. realize you do consult on this stuff as well :)

        • Amy Kubal
          May 31, 2012 at 10:31 am

          I’ll do a post on this soon!

          • Andrew
            May 31, 2012 at 11:22 am

            Excellent, you’re the best! Thanks

  10. Les
    May 31, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Being an endurance cyclist, I still rely on powdered supplements to provide during-workout nutrition. Are there any non-powdered homemade alternatives to this kind of nutrition? My main concerns are keeping my carbohydrate input to around 300g per hour along with some protein and fat. The brand I use does not use gluten or fructose-based supplements.

    • Amy Kubal
      May 31, 2012 at 10:34 am

      There are some cases where the powders may be used – endurance athletics is one of the exception – there are alternatives, but if you opt for a purchased product choose the cleanest one you find.

  11. Les
    May 31, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Sorry, correction for my post – should read 300 calories per hour not grams.

  12. Paula
    May 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Fried eggs, leftover grilled chicken, cheese, and/or bacon inside the skin of a potato (my version of an anti-grain sandwich) are my post workout go-to’s. Powder drink makes my reactive hypoglycemia go into overdrive, can’t even consider it…

  13. Wade
    May 31, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks! this was super helpful, pretty pumped about trying some baby food haha

  14. Luke C.
    May 31, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I’m new to this site but not to the whole Paleo philosophy. I was doing it 20 years ago without really knowing that’s what I was doing. I was in this exact same situation in the early 90’s. I wanted to stay as “natural” as possible in my diet without taking all the health store potions and powders for muscle gain. I thought the best and fastest solution would be canned tuna in spring water. It was fast and at 5 cans for $1.00, what could be better? To maintain my size, I had to eat lots of tuna.

    BEWARE!TUNA IS NOT A SOLUTION! It is extremely high in mercury and is essentially poisonous because of our polluted waters. I saw a physician for over a year to remove it from my system because of all my years of tuna consumption. Mercury is so toxic that the body sequesters it into the deeper tissues of the body to get it immediately out of the bloodstream. As such, it remains hidden and the body can’t detoxify it properly with the safe assistance of a physician. I haven’t eaten tuna in six years and will never again. PLEASE DO NOT ADVISE YOUR MEMBERS TO USE TUNA AS A PROTEIN SUBSTITUTE IN HIGH QUANTITIES…IF ANY, AT ALL.

    • Amy Kubal
      June 1, 2012 at 5:04 am

      Tuna is not the solution – but it is something that can be used from time to time. One can at a time it’s not completely awful!

  15. PaulL
    May 31, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I’m psyched you did this follow-up. I’ve been doing the PWO cold sweet potato thing for over a year now, but always with a protein shake. I’m not a fan of the latter, just gave into the convenience of it (was as clean as I could find, from Stronger/Faster/Healthier).

    But the idea here, hard-boiled eggs, meatloaf-muffins, canned fish, etc. sound MUCH better, and, if I made up a bunch ahead of time simpler. My only concern with things like eggs and the mini-meatload muffins would be the amount of fat. I’m currently getting about 56g of protein in my shake, that would require ~8 eggs, which would contain a TON of fat. And about 8oz worth of meatloafs, also containing a ton of fat comparatively speaking.

    So, I guess my question is two-fold: is that too much fat, and, exactly how much of each macro-nutrient should you be getting PWO ? I’m not even sure the current 56g I’m getting is “right”.

    Thanks! I’m sold, just need to figure out what numbers to use now :)

    • Amy Kubal
      June 1, 2012 at 4:59 am

      There’s no specific ‘target number’ If it works for you and you’re getting the results you want you’re fine. I would recommend varying your post workout protein source and meal composition from time to time to see what happens.

      • PaulL
        June 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm

        Thanks for the reply Amy! I’ll try mixing it up some. Beef jerky is always a favorite, and deli meat is still cheaper than protein powder! Now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I’m realizing how many options there really are!

        Thanks again!

  16. Martin
    June 1, 2012 at 12:08 am

    I’m a bit confused why you add “(consider your goals here!!!!)” to the carbs and fats sections but not to proteins.

    You certainly can overconsume proteins, can’t you? Even after a heavy workout your body will utilize only a limited amount of proteins you consume. The rest will be made into glucose ultimately leading to an insulin surge (cf. e.g. Phinnley and Volek or Rosedale).

    This is also why carbs are really optional, your body will make it if needed.

    By the way, I pursue goals along the whole range of spectrum, from ultra running, through MTB to high intensity bouldering. My conclusion is: carbs are unnecessary, proteins can be easily overconsumed, fats cannot be easily overconsumed.

    • Adrien
      November 12, 2013 at 4:33 am

      Don’t’ carbs promote necessary glycogen synthesis for muscle recovery?

  17. George Super BootCamps
    June 1, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Cold omelette gets my vote, especially as you can hugely vary what ingredients you put in it and you can also vary the style or flavouring. Chinese flavoured is my favourite…

    I also find it much easier to keep to a rough calorie goal when eating food as opposed to slurping protein shakes post exercise. I just find myself getting too damn hungry with the synthesised mix of ingredients when compared to some real food. If I was wanting to gain weight, then this might be different, but I’d still want to maximise my real food intake during this phase and find that I put on too much fat if I down too much powder…

    My 2 pennies worth
    George Super Boot Camps

    • charles grashow
      June 1, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Doesn’t cooking omelettes oxidize the cholesterol? I would think poached or hard boiled would be a better cooking option.

  18. manny
    June 1, 2012 at 4:53 am


    i 2nd the baby food option, as a packaged processed deal, it seems to be one of the few/last things the food manufacturers leave alone in terms of not sticking too much junk that shouldn’t be in there, maybe they’re super scared of being sued by droves of new mommies. that’s power right there.
    i use the meat baby food ALL THE TIME, it doens’t taste bad, and you usually have just meat and maybe 1-3 grams of corn starch depending on the brand. not a bad deal, and in terms of convenience, digestability, easy to down post workout when you’re not super hungry sometimes ore even as just a quick protein and fatty snack, it’s one of my main non supplement supplement staples.

  19. Liz
    June 1, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Thanks for this great post! The link to Robb’s July 2009 post was also very helpful. Looking at your food lists, I had a combo idea for those of us who need low-carb post-workout meals with protein and some fat: take cubed pre-cooked chicken and drizzle a little coconut milk over it then season with onion powder and/or garlic powder. Mix it all together and it tastes surprisingly similar to chicken salad. You could do this with tuna too. It’s easy to transport in a small tupperware container and eat with a fork (or use a piece of celery as a scoop).

  20. I can’t agree more with “real food” as a first choice. Not big on the fruit as a post work out option as I think protein is the best bet… but easily assimilated is always the best yet. Haven’t done protein powder in years but recently I have been using “Warrior Whey” It’s organic, from grass fed cows and it’s from concentrate not isolate. You don’t get better than that and for muscle building better than a long digesting meal. As well it is a better option for us Paleo people trying to cut back on our flesh consumption for ethical reasons. Even though dairy farms are a big culprit on that front… this is from grass fed cows so it speaks volumes for our plight. Thanks for hearing me out.

  21. John m
    June 1, 2012 at 6:42 am

    I switched from high quality whey and a peice of fruit to whole foods post w/o around 2 months ago. Initially it was difficult to get away from a convenient shake but now I wouldn’t go back! Def worth a try folks that are considering it! In the meantime I have 2.5kg of whey left over lol

  22. Dave
    June 1, 2012 at 10:37 am

    It took me over 8 months of resisting this idea to try going away from whey. It’s easy. I just eat some meat and fruit or potatoes. Today, I had home dried mango with a banana mixed with almond butter. A little later I had a sausage.
    Having dairy issues with lactose and casein, I have worked to eliminate all dairy except butter and heavy cream. So I don’t need whey. I’m not a professional athlete.

  23. Glenn
    June 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    You sass Slim Jims one more time and I’m poking you in the eye.

  24. Jeff Ventura
    June 1, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I know I’m going to kick your puppies with this (don’t mean to, I’m sure they’re nice and all), but what about powdered egg protein instead of whey?

    Are we trying to avoid whey, or powder outright?

    • Amy Kubal
      June 2, 2012 at 4:54 am

      All powders in general – Just Chew It! Real Food!!! :)

  25. Lori
    June 2, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I get that powders, even high quality ones are processed and not as healthy as whole food. But, I don’t understand that processed, packaged, canned baby food, pumpkin, etc. is better than fresh raw fruit? Also, why are nuts/olives not a healthy option compared to coconut oil, which although a healthy fat, has been processed? Not considering post workout nutrition, just health in general.

  26. dogfood
    June 3, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Having a job in the airline industry and being required to travel, I find it difficult to forage for healthy fare. I try to bring what I can (salmon packs, etc.), but would love a resource for what other foods I can bring with me that aren’t going to need refrigeration (especially protein sources). For instance, do the precooked sweet potatoes need it? Sometimes wandering through the modern aviary, you just want to scream at the caloric options. Thank goodness for the Cobb Salad.

    • Barrett
      January 11, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      This is when I go to the powders or you are left with the crap food on the plane and what you can get out on the layovers… plus bid reserve and try not to work lol – i shoot for a 50/50 whey casein mix to slow digestion , carry some walnuts,pecans, sweeten with nu-stevia packs – you can drop a dash of instant coffee in the shaker found in many hotel rooms. I’ve been contemplating on bringing a bit of MCT oil too. Also on solid food I have been taking sardines fro m costco packed in olive oil too. It’s really tough especially if you are doing 6 to 12 day trips internationally. No problem on the carbs except if you are avoiding wheat as there is always dumb dinner rolls on plane or pasta dishes , but then if you aren’t training hard on the road or at all is a good time to drop the carbs anyway. PS I typically buy all my powders plain by the pound at Protein Factory find on google

  27. Groks great great great great great grandson
    June 4, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Question. My 1st goal is to get LEAN. I was reading the PWO article from Rob and it seemed to me that if I were to use the whey/coconut milk option this would be ok and help me with my goals. Thoughts??

  28. Brendan
    June 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I’m a triathlete, and having read the Paleo Diet for Athletes, my usual PWO shake is the homebrew recipe Dr Cordain describes (without the glucose).
    Depending on the duration of the session, I’ll then follow up with a solid meal, with a 4-1 ratio of carbs to protein – paleo of course.

    I don’t really enjoy the powder, but I figure I need to restock the glycogen stores quickly, and I assume a shake will digest quicker rather than solid food. Am I right? … need to think about the next session either later that day, or the day after!

    PS – On Sunday, I roast a huge batch of root veg … sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, beets, carrots … with some herbs and olive oil. Stick in the fridge and munch when needed with a few boiled eggs. Now that’s fast food!

    • Amy Kubal
      June 5, 2012 at 4:50 am

      Liquids do digest more quickly than solid foods – I would suggest trying both methods and seeing how you recover and perform. I have quite a few athletes that are doing better with real food than they did with the powders and shakes.

  29. Wesley
    June 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Hi Amy and Robb,

    First of all, I loved both of your articles on PWO nutrition. I first read the article from Robb about high vs. low carb and then after that I read both of your posts o the subject.

    Now I got some questions that hopefully you guys can help me with. I’m a 21 year old who just started doing Starting Strength after doing CrossFit for over 1 year and a half. As a 6’2, 200lbs weighing guy with about 15% BF my goals are to get down to %10 BF or less and at the same time get my strength up a little.

    After readings Robb’s article I was thinking of adding a PWO shake of coconut milk and some whey protein after each of my three training sessions. Having read your articles now Amy I’m definetly going for real food.

    My question is, what should my breakdown look like? Should it be some protein source (chicken, steak or deli meat, aiming for ~50gr) with some fat source (coconut oil, almond butter, nuts, aiming for ~15gr? Or should I skip the fat source and just go for the protein? No carbs right?

    I know it’s a long question but I’m a bit confused to what is the best thing to do. I’m convinced it’s real food but how much and what to avoid regarding my goals. Any help would be much appreciated!

    Thanks already,


    • Amy Kubal
      June 10, 2012 at 6:18 am

      Wesley – play with it and find what feels best in your situation. If you’d like some help putting a plan together or would like to talk let me know. I would suggest starting with a palm sized serving of protein post workout monitor your recovery, performance and overall progression to your body comp goal and tinker from there. Let me know if I can help –

  30. Ryan
    June 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Amy – thanks for the post, I’ve stopped shakes for the time being and have put away the blender. I’ve been rolling w/ lean meats and sweet potatoes w/ some veggies as my PWO/dinner. I have a question for you in regards to the quantity of carbs for daily consumption when dealing w/ cortisol issues.

    I’m working with a naturopath and saliva testing indicated my cortisol is low in the morning, average the rest of the way out. My goal at the moment is to get lean. I’d guess I’m anywhere between 15-20% body fat. I read Rob’s post about PWO nutrition but I’m afraid I’m putting a bigger stress on my system by going too low carb or too skinny on the calories…thus not helping my cortisol/adrenal issues.

    For the time being, while I’m working to get my cortisol/sleep in order, should I be pushing a big PWO meal on work out days. I’m following Rob’s protocol (Training at age 39) and sticking with complex low-rep strength work and mixing in some things I like to do as “fun.” Should my PWO meal include carbs? Should I be trying to eat maintenance calories even as I try to get lean? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Amy Kubal
      June 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      Ryan! To give you the best advice I’d need to know more about your diet, training, sleep, stress levels and overall health. It’s tough to say, but if getting lean is your goal I’d probably stay on the low side for post workout carbs but with your adrenal issues you might try spiking it for a while and seeing what happens. I would suggest not prioritizing leaning out right now – but focus on normalizing your cortisol and adrenal status – leaning out may ‘just happen’ once all that is in line. Let me know if you’d like some help getting things dialed in – I’d be happy to help you!

      • Ryan
        June 13, 2012 at 7:09 am

        Amy – thanks for such a prompt response. I’ve never posted but was impressed when I saw your message this morning. What is the best way to contact you with additional questions regarding your private intruction?

  31. Hector
    June 14, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Hi, im doing my first Whole30 and in there they recommend a pre-workout meal made out of easily digestible protein and some good fat source like the ones you have mentioned at the end of the post.

    But this is were im confused, their advice for a POST-workout meal is protein and some sort of carbohydrate like sweet potatoes or beets, but they advice against fat for a post-workout meal. It says something to the sort of “little or no fat at all” for a post-workout meal.

    I know you guys agree with most of what they publish in the Whole9 website and the Whole30 approach and even wrote a good review for their new book, im just wondering what advice is right and if so why. Thank you.

    • Amy Kubal
      June 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm


      Play with it – find what works best for you and consider your goals!

  32. AK
    June 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I ususally eat half with my sweet potatos and grass fed meatloaf

  33. Jimmy
    June 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Hey Amy quick questions here. I am a hardgainer and I’m wanting to put on a bit of muscle is it doable without supplements. I need about 2800 calories a day. I’m 20 yes old 140lbs. I want to start next week. My workouts are fairly understandable. Just my diet is wheree the confusion lies. Also what is your thoughts on hemp protein? I’ve heard good things about it. Thanks.

    • Amy Kubal
      June 26, 2012 at 4:35 am

      Jimmy, you can definitely put on the mass without supplements. And hemp protein is not going to be a great choice. If you’d like some help dialing in your nutrition let me know. I’d love to help you out

  34. Alan K
    July 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    MCT oil seems to upset my stomach even in small amounts 1tbsp or less

    Before trying MCT oil I would usaully eat half an avocado right after training
    with no ill effects.
    Then about 30mins later I eat my sweet potatos and meatloaf.

    Can I use coconut milk?
    Can stick with the avocado halves?

    Im going to try the unsweetend flakes tomorrow.

  35. steve
    July 10, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Does anybody have any alternatives to sweet potatoes? i can’t stomach them too much, im not a huge fan of the taste and i feel like sweet potatoes are the “go-to’ for most people, but i’d rather not be forcing a food that i don’t like the taste of… otherwise thanks!

    • Amy Kubal
      July 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

      Steve! Have you tried different varieties of sweet potatoes? That’s one option. Also, other roots and tubers – taro, rutabaga, cassava, etc. and if you have no reason to avoid nightshades even white potatoes with the peel removed can work! Pumpkin and winter squash such as butternut and acorn can also work, although the carb content is lower than that of the more starchy roots and tubers.

  36. GiGi Eats Celebrities
    July 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    THANK YOU! NO WHEY – the “whey” it should be! Ha Ha. I love all the protein options you listed, but I have to say you forgot SCALLOPS – yum! :) Well then that also means you missed mussels, but I will stop while I am ahead. GREAT post.

    PS: love eggs and butternut squash!

  37. Tom Coffey
    July 31, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Awesome post Amy. Love your blog!

    As always great post about how to keep your diet as real-food esque as possible. I’m going to try to the canned sweet potatoes route tomorrow, just to mix it up. I personally have good experience with cold chicken breast, half of a sweet potato, and mustard for taste (or Franks Red Hot) as a PWO meal.

    • Amy Kubal
      July 31, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Thanks Tom! And AWESOME work on the ‘real food’ PWO meal! Just Chew It!! ;)

  38. Janice
    August 22, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Hi there. I am a 40+ year old women. I have always been a lean slim person until I had a child and then had cancer scare for 7 years following. Since January 2012 i have lost 52 pounds but have another 50 to lose. I would like to lose the rest as well as gain muscle and strength. What would be the best PWO meal for me?

    • Amy Kubal
      August 22, 2012 at 11:44 am

      It depends on your workouts! Definitely stick with real food – since leaning out/weight loss is your goal a lower carb approach is likely going to be the best. If you’d like some help figuring it out let me know!

      • Janice
        August 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm

        i do a weight training for 20 minutes followed by a HIT interval cardio workout 5 times a week. I alternate between lower and upper body for the weight training. Low carbs means no fruits. Correct?

        • Amy Kubal
          August 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm

          Yep, stick with protein, easy on the fruit.

  39. Janice
    August 22, 2012 at 11:20 am

    The best PWO meal to help my weight loss as well as build muscles and get fit.

  40. Matt
    August 24, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Hi Amy,

    In the links you posted, Robb recommends taking a shake with IsoFlex. In a pinch, would you say that is ok, since it seems to not have many of the issues stated in your previous article.

    • Amy Kubal
      August 24, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Matt, Robb’s article is from the archives – go with real food!!

  41. Lynn
    September 1, 2012 at 8:57 am

    I know you have said “no powders,” “chew your food,” but how about if you fail to plan and are ready to drop? I use a sprouted, raw food protein drink and it works for me. Granted, real food tastes much better.
    I bought a good food dehydrator and have made jerky and dried veggies and love them PWO.

    • Amy Kubal
      September 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

      I believe Benjamin Franklin said: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” He was a smart man. Ultimately it’s your choice. I didn’t say you can’t have the powders – You can have anything you would like, if what you choose is optimal or not is up to you.

  42. Ray
    September 25, 2012 at 11:11 am


    I was religious in having either eggs or left over meat(chicken,fish,steak…) and a sweet potato for breakfast after my workout and then I notice I was feeling sleepy during the day, so I researched a little and it seems that sweet potato could cause this. I cut out the sweet potato in the morning and replaced it with some other veggies, mostly broccoli slaw with EVOO and my sleepiness during day went away. I just this morning had a left over sweet potato after also having one for dinner and my sleepiness is back. Any thoughts?

  43. Shiy
    October 4, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I currently use a protein powder, but it is not whey based. It is a hemp protein powder with E3 live and maca. Is it really that bad? And do you think there are alternatives that I can make? I use it as part of a breakfast smoothie, and would really like to keep my protein high in my smoothie (I’m not interested in raw eggs, lol).

  44. Michelle
    October 5, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I too use Hemp protein powder with a banana, strawberries, coconut milk and cacao nips for after a work out where I cant get to food right away. I guess I could carry food in my cooler but ofter after right after a workout I don’t want to eat. But What is your opinion on hemp protein powder?

    • Amy Kubal
      October 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      It’s not a great option.

  45. Wil
    October 12, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Hello Amy,
    I am just getting into this Paleo diet, by accident really, as i cut out all dairy, soy, wheat, gluten and alchool. I’ve always been off processed foods and straight milk, but i’m taking it a big step further now. I just wanted to know, in all the veggies i’m now eating with protein, how can i possibly get enough carbs for energy? I can only eat so many sweet potatoes! And rice and lentils is becoming a staple in my transition away from bread, pizza and the like. Is it possible to get enough carbs from veggies?
    I should also mention, that unless i eat like a monster, i can easily loose weight, even at 27 i still have the metabolism of a 5 year old.
    Love all the great information here and i’ll be looking back often! THanks for the great work!

    • Amy Kubal
      October 12, 2012 at 8:49 am

      Adding fat will definitely help! Coconut oil, coconut milk, some grassfed butter. For starchy carbs sweet potatoes are great, but also consider cassava, taro, rutabaga, and if you have no autoimmune issues – white potatoes with the peel removed. Fruit is another good source of carbohydrate and for you some white rice a few times a week would likely be fine! Let me know if you’d like some help figuring it all out and don’t give up!!

  46. Crossfiter
    November 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    What are you thoughts on grassfed raw milk as a post-work/ pre bed time food?

    • Amy Kubal
      November 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      It depends on your goals, health and dairy tolerance – A prime case for n=1!

  47. Erin
    November 13, 2012 at 5:57 am

    What about the soy in cans of tuna?
    Also, I want to loose some weight so should I eat a recovery snack and a small meal for dinner? I WOD at 5. Thanks!

    • Amy Kubal
      November 13, 2012 at 9:23 am

      Choose brands of tuna that don’t contain soy! They are out there – just check your labels. As for your snack/dinner question – it all depends when you eat dinner. If you eat right after your workout dinner can serve as your recovery meal.

  48. Kelly
    December 3, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I’ve been lazily following a semi-Paleo diet –no grains/legumes, workout once a week– and have seen improvements. But now I’m wanting to get more serious and wonder what I should eat post work-out (20-30 weight lifting).

    If I’m not very muscular and I’m trying to lose fat, should my recovery meal contain carbs?

    • Amy Kubal
      December 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      Try going protein only and see how you recover and respond.

  49. Michael
    January 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I was wondering about coffee. What do you think of the coconut milk creamers and agave syrup? Just trying to follow the diet to the best of my ability but drinking my morning cup of joe black makes me cringe.

    • Amy Kubal
      January 10, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      My best advice – if you can’t drink it black, don’t drink it.

  50. Jesson
    April 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    excellent article. Natural should always be preferred unfortunately this is not possible for professional athletes, the high intensity workouts and the high demands of certain nutrients to increase performance makes almost every athlete go into the path of protein supplements.

  51. Ethan
    May 3, 2013 at 10:55 am

    So let me ask you a question. What about performance plant based proteins such as Pure Green Protein by Green Vibrance and Sun Warrior? They help alkaline your body and easily digestible. I usually throw a sweet-potato in there with some Raw Organic Himalayan honey for recovery.Any thoughts on that?

    • Christopher
      May 4, 2013 at 9:58 am

      I don’t really see the use in them unless someone is a vegan. If you need a dairy free protein supplement, BCAA’s would probably be your best bet.

  52. joe
    June 16, 2013 at 10:07 am

    i down 2 raw organic eggs.Works great and when kids wake up about an hour later i have at least 5 more eggs sunny side up cooked low temp with lid on pan to just get whites solid.(im sure the salmonella thing will turn people off but ive never had a problem and think raw eggs greatly increase testosterone

    • Angela
      September 23, 2013 at 8:20 am

      I’m not really sure that raw eggs is exactly the way to go. Many sources say that protein absorption rate of raw eggs is much lower than that of cooked eggs (%91 vs 50%). Also, there also almost no difference between organic, or cage-free eggs and normal eggs you get at any grocery store.
      Lastly, while consuming raw eggs, you are constantly subjecting yourself to the risk of getting salmonella.
      I would not just take my word for it, but I would definitely suggest doing your research.
      I wish you the best.

      • Jay
        January 22, 2015 at 6:46 pm

        From a quick googling it looks like if raw eggs = 50% protein absorption you’d need about 6-8 to equal 1 30g serve of whey protein?

        I’ve been putting raw eggs (2-3 a day) in my shakes for 5+ years and never once had any food poisoning of any kind. Have also bought the same brand here in Australia for that same length of time, and they’re quality free range, so I guess my chances of getting it are very low.

        Kinda think a good option for a post workout shake then is coconut or almond milk + 3-4 raw eggs, a carb source like fruit or sweet potato and maybe flax/cocoa, that sort of thing. Then your usual evening meal an hour after. Seem alright?

        Was reading on someone elses blog about how huge an insulin spike you get from whey protein, something like 5-10x that of white bread, have you heard similar? If that’s the case I’ve been spiking my insulin every morning with yogurt for most of my life!


  53. steve
    July 23, 2013 at 8:24 am

    I don’t agree with the starchy carbs post workout. My post workout meal is can of sardines in spring water, chia and hemp seeds, coconut oil, almond butter, avacado, liquid chlorophyl, seaweed. This gives me adaquate protein, healthy fats, trace minerals and chlorophyl. It is also anti-inflammatory. Maybe not strict “paleo”but it works. There are sufficient carbs in this mix to replenish any glycogen deficit which is highly unlikely unless you just ran a marathon or two.

    • Robb Wolf
      July 23, 2013 at 8:41 am

      I’ve tried that approach with brasilian jiu-jitsu…It just does not cut it.

  54. Rachel
    September 2, 2013 at 7:24 am

    I know REAL foods are always the best choice and I cook 95% of my meals at home from scratch…big commitment. But sometimes I simply don’t have time, or I just don’t want to.

    I’m wondering if non-denatured grass fed whey (such as True Whey/Source Naturals) paired with 4 oz grass fed whole milk or water could work on occasion as a PWO protein source. Will this still cause a zero-60 blood glucose spike?..perhaps the milk could…what about with water? As far as protein powders go it is pretty much just that without a whole lot of extra ingredients and fake carbs and chemicals.

    **a side note, I stay between 30-50g carbs/daily mostly from vegetable sources. In addition, because of the high insulin response, virtually the only time I consume grass fed milk is PWO paired with whey 1-2 times a week…because I thought it would be helpful for protein synthesis and recovery.**

    My lifestyle definitely considers health to be my priority, and my sexy physique to be a satisfying bonus…so will this type of whey still have the same negative impact on my overall health as other protein powder supplements?

    Help me be lazy sometimes! Occasionally okay? or Never?

    • Amy Kubal
      September 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      If your body comp is where you want it you’re fine. But real food is always the best choice.

  55. Kristen
    October 10, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I am feeling a little lost on post work out nutrition. I do Crossfit 3xweek fasted (lunch at 12:30, WOD at 5pm). I am done at 6pm- (this is where I get lost) and have dinner with my son at 7:00. Do I need to eat in between Crossfit and dinner? I am working on loosing 60lbs, and am afraid to eat ‘too much’. Help!!!

    Thank you!

    • Squatchy
      October 10, 2013 at 11:34 am

      How are you recovering, how do you feel, etc?
      If you’re doing well with it, then I don’t see a problem with that. You’re basically just eating an hour after your workout, correct?

  56. Esteban
    October 14, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    I wanted to get your thoughts. I’ll give you the fast version.

    2009 – I’m 34, 180lbs on a SAD, no exercise and diagnosed with MS. 2010 – Keep taking MS therapy injections, no changes made to diet and exercise, although neuro suggested I do tai-chi. MRI this year shows disease progression.

    2010 – Seeing a new neuro as I dont like meds I’m NOT comfortable with being pushed on me. MRI this year shows disease progression. Neuro brings up talk of Tysabri (not down with this). I tell him to give me 6 months to improve my situation by myself. He agrees.

    Nov. 14, 2010 – I started with a vegetarian diet, and a month later, I moved to paleo-ish (80/20 paleo/gluten free). 7 months later, I was down 50lbs without exercising.

    2011 – No MRI’s this year. All routine checkups with neuro are positive.

    2012 – ON MY OWN decision I took myself OFF the medication, and focused on paleo/exercise/vitamins (vitaminD, fish oil, multi, etc.)

    July 7, 2013 – MRI shows NO disease progression and what was there before is now ‘less prominent’.

    As of a few months ago, I began doing IF. I was doing this BEFORE I knew what it was. I really like this as it fits my life pretty good. I even tried a couple times doing the warrior diet. I really try not to fast for too long. As of the last 2 weeks I’m breaking my fast around the 20th hour. My typical day looks like this:

    Wake up around 7-7:30am. Make my bulletproof coffee around 11am and drink it throughout the day. I would say its between 400-600 cals. Sometimes I may have a scoop of almond butter, sometimes nothing. Break my fast around 6-10pm with a meal of grilled chicken and or beef, and veggies (cabbage, broccoli, carrots). That meal is about 600-700 cals. If I’m hungry around 11, I have 1-2 scoops almond butter, or coconut butter. Usually go to sleep around 1am.

    IF works for me, because I’m the type of person that feels better with less sleep, and less food. I feel more alert, physically and cognitively. If you’re still reading, you’re either really bored, or really interested. I havent worked out in a while and am wanting to start it up again. As of today I’m down to 198, although I dont care about the number. I feel great but am a bit flabby.

    My goals now are to take BCAA’s while working out in a fasted state, most likely kettle bells, then break my fast with a PWM. I’m glad I read these, because I was going nuts trying to find a paleo powder. As of now, I STILL want to lean out so, what are your thoughts on what I’m doing, and what should my PWM be if I’m still trying to lean out (get rid of love handles, flabby tummy) as far as the breakdown of what I should eat in ratio to : protein, fat, carb. Should I just eat proteins and fats post workout?

  57. Danica
    November 17, 2013 at 3:13 am

    What kind of paleo shake could we do? I have done a green smoothie with coconut milk and kale with banana and it was pretty good. Would something like that be ok for after workouts?

  58. Annalisa
    April 11, 2014 at 3:19 am

    Could you give a post workout suggestions for someone that is relatively athletic (I work out 1-2 hours a day) and is interested in lowering my body fat % and building muscle. I am a 135lb female. I usually have 1 scoop of protein after each workout, and don’t really know what the proper balance between protein, carbs, and fat I should be aiming for.

  59. Annalisa
    April 11, 2014 at 3:22 am

    I should have added that I usually do 1 hour of cardio in the morning, and crossfit in the afternoon. Thank you so much! This is a very informative article.

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