When you’re coming home from a tough day, the last thing you want to do is plan, prep and cook dinner. Especially if you just made it through an intense HIIT, spin or yoga class. And your trainer feels the same way. They’ve been cheering you on, busting out push-ups right alongside you, and running from one class to the next. So what do they like to eat after a full day of workouts? Something healthy, of course, that’s also rich in complex carbohydrates for replenishing glycogen stores and lean protein for re-building muscles.
To help you eat like a pro, we turned to some top instructors to share their favorite weeknight dinner ideas. And if you’re too beat to cook, check out their tips for healthy take-out or using prepared foods from the supermarket. Yes, trainers coming straight from the gym do it, too.
8 Easy Dinner Ideas from Top Trainers
Trainer at Studio10 in West Hollywood, CA
Weeknight meal: Stir-fries
Stir-fries fit the bill for something with simple, nutritious and flavorful that’s ready in 20 minutes or less. “I toss ginger, basil, parsley, garlic, tamari soy sauce, oyster sauce, fresh lime and roasted silvered almonds with as many veggies as I can fit! I put it all over brown rice. It’s not only quick and easy, making it perfect for those busy days when I’m on the go, but it’s packed with nutrients from the veggies,” Kenealy says.
Daily Burn 365 trainer and instructor at Body Space Fitness in New York City
Weeknight meal: Grain bowls
Grain bowls are a great way to mix and match veggies, your favorite grain and the protein of your choice. “I’ll do brown rice bowls with broiled salmon and seaweed,” Sheremet says. “Or, I’ll have some avocado and veggies. I’ll take a look at what I have in the fridge and kind of just throw things together, but it’s always some version of a healthy bowl.” According to the USDA MyPlate recommendations, grain bowls are also helpful for practicing portion control and keeping your nutrition in check.
National director of talent development at Exhale and co-developer of the HIIT 30 class
Weeknight meal: Teriyaki chicken or salmon with sweet potatoes
Sometimes the best dinners are the ones that keep things simple. And Wheeler’s Sunday meal prep routine is as easy as can be: sweet potatoes and chicken. Step one: Broil sweet potatoes with salt and pepper. Step two: Marinate chicken or salmon with her favorite sesame teriyaki sauce from Whole Foods. “When I’m ready to have dinner on a weeknight, I serve these foods over a bed of arugula. The meal contains a nice mix of complex carbohydrates, protein and vegetables. For dessert, I like something sweet but nutrient-dense, so I grab dried fruit, dates, figs or mango,” Wheeler says.
4. Lacey Stone
Celebrity trainer on E!’s Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian
Weeknight meal: Sashimi
Don’t have time to whip something up in the kitchen? It’s OK to turn to takeout. But choose wisely. Stone opts for protein- and omega-3-rich salmon. “I go for sashimi because it’s an excellent source of protein, which helps build and repair my muscles to be the best they can be for everything I do in and outside the gym,” Stone says. “I order three sashimi salmon, three sashimi albacore tuna, one salmon avocado hand roll with brown rice, seaweed salad and miso soup. This sounds like a lot of food but it’s not! It’s super healthy, low-calorie, easy to digest and filling,” she says. “Though miso soup sometimes gets a bad rap for its salt content, I make sure to pair it with low-sodium foods to balance it out.”
5. Erin Oprea
Fitness trainer and author of The 4 x 4 Diet: A Hearty One-Pan Meal
Weeknight meal: Scrambled eggs and sautéed veggies
Who says you can’t enjoy breakfast for dinner? After all, there are six grams of protein in one egg. Go the Whole 30 route and do as Oprea does with a big plate of scrambled eggs. “I love scrambled eggs with sautéed veggies, crunchy oven-roasted spicy almonds and Sriracha. I use two egg whites for every whole egg in my scramble. I add in cherry or grape tomatoes, sautéed broccoli and mushrooms — sometimes avocado as well,” Oprea says. “This meal gives my body the protein it needs to recover post-exercise.”
Health and fitness expert and CEO of Step It Up with Steph
Weeknight meal: Veggies and meatballs
If you’re looking for another way to use up your ground turkey or chicken besides burgers and taco meat, consider meatballs. They not only make easy and healthy one-pot meals, they’re an excellent source of lean protein and blends well with a variety of spices. “I take two different types of veggies — I always have pre-cut veggies in my fridge, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bags of spinach, cubed butternut squash and beets — and then one protein. [That’s] usually four ounces of salmon, a medium-sized chicken breast, or a couple of pre-made turkey meatballs,” Mansour says.
And when she’s feeling unmotivated to cook? Mansour takes already cooked protein and a couple of veggies, and heat them together in the microwave for two minutes. “As a private weight loss coach for women, this is what I recommend for my private weight loss clients, too,” she says.
7. Harry Hanson
Owner of Hanson Fitness
Weeknight meal: Ground beef with brown rice
While beef is higher in saturated fat than salmon or chicken, lean cuts of meat are a good source of filling protein and iron — a nutrient many athletes lack. Hanson makes sure he meets his daily iron quota with ground beef and a side of leafy greens, which are also an excellent source of the nutrient. “After a busy day and workout, I cook up ground beef and mix it with either brown rice, or serve it alongside a green salad with one tablespoon of oil and as much vinegar as I’d like.”
Life Time trainer
Weeknight meal: Protein smoothie
For Anderson, pulling out her blender is better than reaching for the takeout menu. If she gets home late and wants to be in bed in an hour, she’ll make herself a protein-rich smoothie. “I’ll toss in some unsweetened vanilla almond milk, vanilla protein powder, strawberries, cottage cheese and ground flax seeds. This mix tastes like strawberry cheesecake! It’s easy for my body to digest, so it’s the perfect meal replacement right before bed or whenever I just don’t feel like cooking,” Anderson says.