Studies show that eating the right foods within 30 minutes of a workout can reduce inflammation, replace glycogen stores for future workouts, and repair muscle damage. While many people turn to processed recovery drinks to refuel,the best recovery foods come in the form of whole foods. Here are five of my favorites.
1) Eggs: Protein is critical when bouncing back from a workout, and eggs are a perfect source. In fact the quality of egg protein is the highest of any whole food product. They contain, with varying amounts, 13 essential vitamins and minerals. Eggs are one of the only foods that naturally contain Vitamin D, which is critical for bone health and immune function.
2) Cherries: Exercise naturally involves muscle damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress that often results in aches and pains. Tart cherries, which contain concentrated amounts of anthocyanins, seem to help with all three issues. Findings suggest that tart cherry juice has the ability to reduce muscle pain and weakness after intense strength training, as well as after long-distance running.
3) Ginger: Ginger has been used for centuries as a painkiller. It is a rich source of powerful antioxidants that include gingerols, shogaols and zingerones. It has also been shown to help decrease inflammation. In fact, a study in the Journal of Pain shows that ginger may aid in reducing muscle soreness. Athletes who ate ginger were found to experience less delayed-onset muscle soreness compared to those who did not.
4) Grains: You have probably have heard about the importance of eating carbohydrates before a workout, but consuming them after is equally important. Carbohydrates replenish your depleted glycogen levels, giving you energy and helping your body fight fatigue. Quinoa, oats, brown rice and other whole grains are top options.
5) Salmon: Research suggests that the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon may help reduce post-exercise muscle inflammation. Specifically, it appears that they lower the amount of prostaglandin, a naturally produced compound in the body that can trigger inflammation. Additionally, salmon is packed with lean protein, which is essential in cell generation and promotes muscle repair. Looking for vegetarian sources of omega-3s? Walnuts, chia, and flax seeds are all good sources of these fatty acids.
Most people don’t realize the importance of refueling their bodies after a vigorous training session. My clients often tell me that they don’t feel like eating after working out. A subscription meal service like Sun Basket makes it easy to get a healthy meal on the table fast. Experiment by including some of the above ingredients in your post-workout meal. . . Your body will thank you when it's time for the next training session.
Kaley Todd is Sun Basket’s registered dietitian and the culinary nutritionist. Her goal is to inspire consumers to adopt healthy eating patterns that are easy, attainable, fun and enjoyable. She provides the tools and guidance to make healthy eating convenient, affordable and delicious.