Cool, Healthy Recovery Meals and Snacks for Hot Days
When it's too hot to cook, opt for refreshing salads, noodle bowls, and smoothies
Turning on the stove to make a healthy snack is probably the last thing on your mind after a blistering midsummer workout. When you’re trapped in a heat wave, opt for a recovery meal that helps you cool off. Below, a few pros share their favorites. These recipes are still rich in muscle-building protein and glycogen-store-replenishing carbohydrates, but they’re crisp, cold, and refreshing.
Thai Quinoa Salad
When Shalane Flanagan traveled to Bend, Oregon, to kick off recipe testing for Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow, her second book with Elyse Kopecky, this was the first recipe to come out of the kitchen. “It was love at first bite,” says Kopecky. “We continued to tweak the recipe, not because it needed much work, but because we secretly wanted an excuse to make it time and again.” Prepare this salad on a Sunday night and enjoy it for work lunches all week long, or serve it as a side dish with a protein like steak or salmon.
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups (about two large) grated carrots
- 2 cups thinly sliced purple cabbage
- 3 sliced green onions, both the whites and greens
- 1 cup packed mint leaves, chopped (cilantro works, too)
- 1 cup packed basil leaves, chopped
- 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeds removed, minced (optional)
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (two to three limes)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring one and a half cups water and the quinoa to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Transfer to a large salad bowl, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: put all of the ingredients in a glass jar or bowl, and stir to combine. Once the quinoa is cool, add the carrots, cabbage, green onions, mint, basil, and pepper to the bowl, and toss to combine. Add the dressing and toss again. Add more fish sauce and soy sauce to taste. Top with the peanuts. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour or until ready to serve. This salad will stay fresh in airtight glass containers in the fridge for up to five days.
Hearty Tuna Salad
At age 25, Rally UHC Cycling’s Nigel Ellsay might be one of the youngest riders on the team, but he’s one of its top chefs. “My recovery salad hits all the marks,” he says. “It’s full of the vitamins and protein my body needs, plus it’s nice and cold.” Ellsay makes this salad after easier endurance rides. After high-intensity efforts, he’ll add a smoothie featuring tart cherry juice for a faster hit of carbohydrates and protein.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- Black pepper
- Fresh greens of choice
- Grated carrot
- Canned tuna
- Sliced tomato
- Thawed frozen corn
- Sliced green onions
- Chopped cooked beets
- Nutritional yeast
Blend dressing ingredients. Build salad. Enjoy in the shade—at least, that’s how Ellsay does it.
Smoked Tofu and Soba Noodle Bowl
Professional mountain biker Sonya Looney specializes in long stage races, so she needs a hefty way to refuel fast after rough days on the bike. The vegan cyclist’s favorite postworkout meal can be prepared the night before a big ride to save on cooking time. And during the summer, it’s best served cold.
- Buckwheat soba noodles
- Smoked tofu
- Olive oil
- Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup edamame
- Bean sprouts
- Shredded carrots
- 1/2 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
- Black sesame seeds
Peanut Sauce Ingredients
- 4 tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
The night before: Cook your soba noodles according to the package’s directions, then refrigerate overnight. Blend ingredients (in a blender or by hand) for peanut sauce; Looney recommends making three to four times the recipe amount and storing it in the refrigerator to use with other meals.
Postworkout: Slice and fry the smoked tofu in a pan with a small amount of olive oil. Sauté mushrooms in water. Layer noodles, tofu, edamame, bean sprouts, carrots, and bell peppers into a bowl. Top with peanut sauce. Garnish with black sesame seeds.
Simple Sardine Sandwich
Professional triathlete Lesley Paterson’s favorite quick snack is a simple cracker sandwich with salty sardines. They’re ideal when you need a little boost, offering protein, carbs, and healthy fats, and they make an easy on-the-go meal whether you’re snacking at the office post lunch run or at the campsite after a long hike. If sardines aren’t your thing, try canned wild salmon or trout.
- Tinned sardines
- Sliced avocado
- Organic rice crackers
- Whole-grain mustard
- Salt and pepper
Layer spinach, sardines, and avocado onto crackers. Top with drizzle of mustard. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cured Salmon and Beet Salad
Olympic runner Alexi Pappas doesn’t have a lot of free time to cook, so she often relies on ingredients she can prep ahead of time, like Instant Pot–cured salmon and roasted beets. When she finishes a workout around mealtime, she’ll toss together a salad from the fridge and wash it down with a glass of matcha tea boosted with collagen.
- 1 or 2 servings of wild salmon (about two to three ounces)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Fresh beets
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- 1 handful fresh dill
- 1 handful fresh mint
- Greens and microgreens (choose your favorites)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Sliced avocado
- Tzatziki sauce
- Sourdough bread
- Tajin seasoning
The night before: Cure the salmon in an Instant Pot on steam mode for 15 minutes with soy sauce, sugar, and a bit of water. (You can opt to cure salmon without heat if you prefer.) Cube beets, toss them in olive oil, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until tender. Toss beets with more olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and chopped dill and mint leaves. Refrigerate.
Postworkout: Create a base of greens and tomatoes, then top with salmon and beet salad (use the dressing on the beets to dress the entire salad). Pappas typically adds avocado chunks and tzatziki sauce on top and eats the salad with a chunk of sourdough bread to refill her glycogen stores. For a simple, hydrating side dish, she adds watermelon sprinkled with Tajin seasoning, which is a blend of chili powder, lime, and salt.
After a long day in the mountains, professional rock climber and guide Leslie Timms blends up this smoothie, packed with healthy fats, muscle-rebuilding proteins, and creatine. Timms points out that, as a Canadian, she’s obligated to include maple syrup—but you can flavor the smoothie with your sweetener of choice.
- 3/4 cup almond milk
- 10 ice cubes
- 1/4 to 1/2 avocado
- 1 scoop protein powder of choice
- 5 grams creatine powder
- Maple syrup to taste
Blend until smooth.
If you spent your workout craving a piña colada, mix up professional cyclocross rider Ellen Noble’s refreshing tropical smoothie. Creamy, satisfying coconut milk and fresh cilantro and mint make for a zestier drink than the standard berries-and-whey-protein blend.
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup frozen mango chunks
- 1 handful cilantro, chopped
- 1 handful mint, chopped
- Squirt of lime
- 1 handful frozen spinach
- 6 ice cubes or a frozen banana, sliced
- Protein powder
Blend until smooth.