You鈥檝e heard time and time again: A healthy lifestyle requires diet and exercise. But striking that perfect balance is tricky. Even if you鈥檙e doing an awesome job of nailing those whole-body workouts, you might still be wondering where all those hard-earned muscles could be hiding. To help you out, we鈥檝e enlisted the expertise of nutritionist Cynthia Sass, who has served as a sports nutrition consultant to competitive athletes and four professional teams, including the New York Yankees.

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Cynthia鈥檚 main secret? Quality over quantity. She believes that anyone can eat like a pro athlete or Olympian, as long as you鈥檙e sensible about what you鈥檙e putting in your body. 鈥淥ne common mistake is thinking that since you鈥檙e burning more calories with training, you can eat whatever you want,鈥 says Cynthia. 鈥淲hile exercising does allow you to eat more, the quality of what you eat is still vital in order to get the most from your training.鈥

Think about the type of exercise you鈥檙e doing too. Building strength? You need protein. Going the distance with endurance training? That鈥檚 where carbs come in. 鈥淓ven weekend warriors or recreational athletes can fuel themselves with nutrient-rich, whole foods, including lean protein, good fats and plenty of plant-based foods,鈥 she says.

As an example, Cynthia has put together a delicious, nutritious meal plan that鈥檚 designed specifically for women who are trying to build muscle or doing lots of strength-training activities like Pilates. Most of the recipes come from her new book, Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches With Real Food, Real Fast. These will help you stay energized, replenish nutrients and support recovery during your training. Let鈥檚 go!

Cynthia Sass鈥檚 Nutritious聽Meal Plan

Cynthia Sass Almond Oatmeal

1. Breakfast: Almond Oatmeal

Ingredients:

鈥 1/4 cup vanilla flavored pea protein powder

鈥 pinch of ground cinnamon

鈥 1/4 cup dry, old-fashioned rolled oats

鈥 1/2 cup fresh sliced strawberries

鈥 2 Tablespoons sliced almonds

鈥 1/2 cup 100% green juice

Makes 1 serving

Directions:

Stir pea protein powder and cinnamon into oats. Pour hot water into oats and stir (Note: do not add cold water and heat in the microwave), starting with 1/4 cup, then adding one Tablespoon at a time until oatmeal is your desired consistency. Add berries, top with almonds and serve the green juice on the side.

Cynthia Sass Salmon Avocado 鈥淭acos鈥

2. Lunch: Salmon Avocado 鈥淭acos鈥

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

鈥 1/2 cup quartered grape tomatoes (about 16)

鈥 1/4 cup minced yellow bell pepper

鈥 1/4 cup minced white onion

鈥 1 teaspoon minced garlic

鈥 pinch of cayenne pepper

鈥 1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

鈥 1 teaspoon minced fresh jalape帽o

鈥 2 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

鈥 3 large outer romaine leaves

鈥 1/2 cup cooked quinoa

鈥 3 ounces cooked or canned wild salmon, cut into 3 pieces

鈥 1/4 ripe avocado, diced

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, cayenne, cilantro, jalape帽o and lime juice. Toss together and marinate in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Fill romaine leaves with quinoa, top with salmon and vegetable mixture, and garnish with avocado.

Cynthia Sass Superfoods Smoothie 1

3. Post-Workout Snack: Sassy Superfoods Smoothie

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

鈥 1 cup vanilla almond milk

鈥 2 Tablespoon almond flour

鈥 2 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

鈥 1/2 Tablespoon chia seeds

鈥 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

鈥 1 scoop unsweetened pea protein powder

鈥 1 cup (loose) chopped kale

鈥 3/4 cup frozen cherries

鈥 handful of ice cubes

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Cynthia Sass Black Bean Almond Ginger Satay

4. Dinner: Black Bean Almond Ginger Satay

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

鈥 1/4 cup minced yellow onion

鈥 1/4 cup organic low sodium vegetable broth

鈥 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

鈥 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper

鈥 1/4 cup shredded purple cabbage

鈥 1/4 cup minced white button mushrooms

鈥 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

鈥 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

鈥 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

鈥 2 Tablespoons almond butter

鈥 1 cup black beans

鈥 1 Tablespoon sliced almonds

Directions:

In a medium pan over low heat, saut茅 onions in broth until translucent. Add garlic, bell pepper, cabbage and mushrooms, and saut茅 for two to three more minutes.

Add ginger, turmeric, crushed red pepper and almond butter, and stir until sauce is uniform. Add beans to heat through. Top with sliced almonds and serve.

What exercises are you doing to build up muscle? Share your workout with us @BritandCo, plus tell us which of Cynthia鈥檚 recipes you like the sound of most!

(Photos via Cynthia Sass)