By Patricia Berry

The post-workout meal is an important source of nourishment and replenishment for an athlete's body. And being in college doesn't have to mean missing out on this essential feast after you head back from the gym.

"There's an ideal window, anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes after you work out, where you should fuel up," says Mattea Jones, an Atlanta-based personal trainer and fitness coach. "That's the peak time your body will benefit most from eating a post-workout meal."

The importance of protein is no big secret.

"Protein is a basic building block for muscles, and it helps repair muscles after a tough workout," says Jones. "You need to make sure your body has fuel -- in this protein form -- to help repair the muscle that gets worked over and torn up during your gym time."

Carbohydrates are also crucial post-workout; they help facilitate the movement of nutrients to your muscles and aid the proteins in the rebuilding process. "Don't be afraid of eating carbs after a workout. Leaving them out of your meal after hitting the gym could leave your body even worse off than it was beforehand."

While several supplements, like whey protein, creatine, glutamine and other powders help maximize muscle gains immediately after pumping iron, Jones prefers the natural route: "Allowing organic sources of protein and carbohydrates to digest in your system may take longer compared to supplements, but I think it's the better bet."

So the question now becomes exactly what you're going to chow on, being a poor, always-on-the-go college student. Turns out your post-gym meal can pack a big punch without being too extravagant. Take a look at these nutritious recipes, all of which easily can be made back at your dorm or apartment.

Powder-free Protein Shake Recipe

This shake utilizes egg whites for a quick, nutritious mini-meal. Egg whites contain just 15 calories each and are both fat- and cholesterol-free, in addition to including 4 grams of protein. The addition of almond milk and peanut butter add even more protein, while the delicious banana/Nutella combination provides great flavor.

Ingredients:

4 egg whites

1 banana, mashed

1/2 cup chocolate almond milk

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon Nutella

Directions:

Using a blender (or a whisk), blend the almond milk and the egg whites until fully combined, then add the Nutella, peanut butter and banana until the mixture is smooth.

Power Sandwich Recipe

This delicious creation packs a nutrient-dense punch by hitting several food groups: healthful carbs, proteins and vegetables. You can mix it up however you want, using different types of meat and cheese or playing with the vegetable count.

Ingredients:

2 slices 100-percent whole-wheat bread

2 tablespoons hummus

1/8 pound turkey breast

2 pieces of bacon, cooked

1 slice cheddar cheese

1/2 avocado, sliced

1/2 tomato, sliced

1 handful arugula

1 handful sprouts

Directions:

Spread hummus onto bread, then layer on cheese, turkey and bacon. Top with arugula and sprouts, followed by slices of tomato and avocado. Pile together sandwich, then cut it in half.

Quick Tuna Fish Recipe

One can of water-packed tuna only contains about 100 fat-free calories and 25 grams of protein. Can't ask for anything better (or easier)! Eat this tasty concoction on whole-grain crackers, or scoop it onto a sandwich with whole-wheat bread, lettuce and tomato.

Ingredients:

1 can or pouch of tuna fish, drained

2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise

2 stalks celery, diced

2 green onion shoots, diced

Garlic salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Flake tuna in a bowl with a fork, add other ingredients, and stir lightly until mixed. You can also play around with the flavors, adding spicy mayo or sweet raisins to the mix.

Greek Yogurt Maple Parfait

I don't know which one is Greece's better gift to the world: the Olympics or their yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, and amazingly, it contains around 20 grams of natural protein per cup. It's a filling snack that will give you a nutritious boost throughout your day.

Ingredients:

8-ounce container Greek yogurt

1/4 cup diced strawberries

1/4 cup blueberries

1/2 banana, sliced

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/4 cup rolled oats or low-fat granola

Directions:

Spoon yogurt into bowl. Toss fruit into the yogurt. Pour maple syrup over mixture, and top with granola or oats.

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Recipes: "3 Perfect Post-workout Meals "

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