Hear the words “workout nutrition” and most people think of creatine, protein powder, or Gatorade. Sure, workout supplements can be a godsend when you’re on the go or need to recover extra fast due to a second workout later in the day, but the fact is that some of the best workout nutrition options are actually whole foods.
Most people don’t even realize that they have the power to reduce muscle soreness, improve recovery of strength, and replenish energy stores with food from the refrigerator. Therefore, this article will give you the top ten post-workout nutrition foods that can help you recover faster from your workouts.
#1: Salmon, Sardines & Mackerel
Cold-water fish are high in amino acids to trigger protein synthesis for better muscle repair. They also contain the omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA, that are the darlings of the recovery world because they improve cellular signaling and have anti-inflammatory effects.
Eggs are a perfect protein source, and they have the second highest concentration of leucine after milk, which is the most important amino acid for building muscle.
Eggs are also jam-packed with antioxidants such as selenium, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are able to counter inflammation in the body.
#3: Blueberries & Tart Cherries
Dark-colored fruits like blueberries and tart cherries can accelerate recovery after you thrash your muscles, whether from lifting massive loads of doing repeated sprints. These delicious fruits contain antioxidants that accelerate the removal of waste products, allowing for less soreness and faster recovery of strength after muscle damaging workouts.
#4: Leafy Greens & Cruciferous Vegetables
Leafy greens and the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage provide phytonutrients that help the body metabolize excess estrogen. They also provide vitamin C and other antioxidants that allow the body to offset inflammation produced during killer workouts.
#5: White Meat Chicken & Turkey
People often think “beef” when it comes to recovery proteins, but you might find that you get better results from favoring light cuts of white meat such as chicken and turkey over red meat after training because these foods are thought to be more calming and can set you up for the ultimate recovery: sleep. White meat contains the amino acid tryptophan, which will increase levels of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin, which allows for better rest.
#6: Almonds & Other Nuts
Nuts are packed with antioxidants and provide healthy fats for better hormone balance and tissue repair. Almonds in particular have been shown to aid recovery from intense training: A study that had trained cyclists eat almonds daily for 4 weeks found that they improved time trial performance by boosting energy use and antioxidant capacity.
#7: Sweet Potatoes
One of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, sweet potatoes are a delicious choice when you need to replenish glycogen, which is the fuel source that is stored in muscle. Like all starchy foods, sweet potatoes are high in carbs and increase insulin, which has a protective antioxidant effect on muscle by suppressing inflammatory products that you produce during training.
#8: Probiotic Yogurt & Kefir
The gut is the gatekeeper for all the nutrients you need for tissue repair, but it also is your body’s garbage can, allowing for the metabolism of waste byproducts produced during intense training. Eating a high indigestible fiber diet and plenty of probiotic foods can enable a gut that works like clockwork.
Only certain strains of bacteria have been shown to improve GI health, so look for the probiotic strain listed on the label, preferably with a guarantee that the product contains a certain amount of live bacteria.
#9: Pineapple, Kiwi & Watermelon
Pineapple, watermelon, and kiwi and other higher glycemic fruits are excellent foods to eat post-workout if your goal is to rehydrate and replenish muscle glycogen. For example, pineapple and kiwi will raise blood antioxidant status and they provide compounds that help fight pain and inflammation. Watermelon improves delivery of nutrient-rich blood to muscle tissue for greater endurance capacity.
#10: Turmeric & Ginger
Best known as spices, turmeric and ginger are actually both root plants that have pretty powerful anti-inflammatory properties that have been found to accelerate recovery and reduce DOMS muscle soreness. Cook with the root, add the spice powder to dishes, or blend the root into protein shakes or smoothies.