You’ve learned the importance of a warm-up and stretching before our workouts, but how much attention are you giving to your post-workout routine? How often do you leave the gym and head right back to work, neglecting that recovery is actually a part of your workout too?
Recovery means more than stretching and a cool-down—it means re-fueling your body in the hour after a workout.
Muscle soreness is a common culprit of ruining the post-workout high and it can keep you from getting back out there the next day too. Food is fuel for healing and rebuilding, but it doesn’t have to be foods you’ve never heard of, or don’t know how to prepare.
Here are 5 foods that aid in reducing sore muscles and improving your recovery. Bonus, they are foods you’ll actually enjoy!
Tart ones to be precise. Tart cherries or juice are a good source of antioxidants that are known to have anti-inflammatory capabilities. Cherry juice specifically made with tart cherries may intervene and change the body response that produces muscle soreness.
This food is said to specifically improve exercise performance, lowering systolic blood pressure 90 minutes after exercise. It doesn’t just help your muscles recover, but helps your blood vessels and heart too.
2. Chocolate Milk
There’s a reason you see this beverage at the finish line of many road races and that’s because it has a 4:1 carb to protein ratio that makes it perfect for recovery.
Researchers have found that chocolate milk performs equal to, or better than other sports drinks. Not to mention, it’s delicious and lower in sugar than many sports recovery drinks.
By now, it’s no secret that omega-3 fatty acids are good for you and tout many health benefits. When it comes to how they benefit your sweat session, they particularly help by delaying the onset of muscle soreness after resistance workouts.
The verdict is still out on this one, but it has been shown in some studies that omega-3 fatty acids can work their way into your muscles, where they target the source and help reduce inflammation caused by your workout.
Spinach is a low-calorie, good for you green that packs 5 grams of protein per cup. That’s not all it packs--it’s also filled with nutrients including vitamins B, C and A that have anti-inflammatory properties. It’s easy to make spinach part of any post-workout meal—a salmon salad for lunch or dinner, or throw a cup of greens into your morning smoothie.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Carbs can be your friend, and not just before a workout. The carbs you eat after training are more likely to be used as energy than stored as fat. After a workout, your body’s glycogen levels drop and the complex carbs in sweet potatoes help to restore levels. Sweet potatoes have the lowest glycemic index rating for root vegetables, allowing them to be digested slowly and leaving you to feel satisfied longer. As another benefit, carb-rich foods like potatoes and grains can help lessen the drop in your immune system that can occur after a long run or a particularly intense workout session.
So, stock up on chocolate milk or cherry juice for the ideal post-workout drink, and treat yourself to some easy-to-make sweet potato fries this week. Your muscles and your taste buds will both thank you!