Post-workout nutrition is a crucial part of enhancing recovery after your workout. When you workout, your body uses the glycogen stores in your muscles as fuel, which reduces the amount of glycogen in your muscles (Healthline). This also breaks down and damages some of the proteins in your muscles. After your workout, your body must repair these glycogen stores and muscle proteins. By getting enough nutrients and eating the proper foods and drinks, you can help speed up this process and encourage new muscle growth.
Proper Post-Workout Nutrition helps your body:
This food contains both whey and casein, which provides your body with two types of protein. Whey protein is commonly used to help quickly replenish your muscles post-workout. Casein, on the other hand, acts much slower and can aid in recovery for hours after consumption, even while you are sleeping. Because of this, cottage cheese makes an ideal pre-workout snack as well. Additionally, cottage cheese is full of live cultures, or good bacteria, that breaks down and absorbs nutrients that can help with recovery and muscle growth.
This well-known superfood can make it easier to recover post-workout because it is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals in the body that can cause serious diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. Spinach is full of magnesium, which keeps your muscles and nerves functioning properly, and even regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Overall, spinach promotes a healthy body and can strengthen the muscles.
Green tea can aid in fat oxidation during aerobic exercise and post-workout recovery, which is where fat is turned into smaller molecules that can be stored and used for energy. Plus, green tea is rich in antioxidants that can reduce muscle soreness and support muscle growth. It also helps keep you hydrated and has anti-inflammatory properties that are necessary for optimal training and recovery.
This starchy vegetable is packed with beta carotene and vitamin C that help keep your body healthy and strong. Sweet potatoes are known for replenishing your body's glycogen stores that are lost during your workouts, making them the perfect post-workout food.
This food is high in lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Lean protein is necessary for both restoring and building muscle. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and support a healthy heart, which helps with your overall health and aids in proper recovery.
Turmeric is a spice that is packed with the antioxidant curcumin. This antioxidant has been proven to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, fight inflammation, and support faster muscle repair, all of which have been shown to improve athletic performance. Plus, it even has the ability to relieve pain and swelling by limiting the effect of chemical pain messengers and enzymes that cause inflammation.
Coconut water has numerous health benefits that can help your body recover post-workout. Similar to Gatorade and other sports drinks, coconut water has high levels of nutrients, antioxidants, and electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium (Healthline), that help replenish your body after your workouts and helps keep you hydrated. However, this drink contains less sodium than most sports drinks, which makes it a perfect post-workout drink.
Similar to salmon, nuts provide omega-3 fatty acids and protein. These two nutrients allow nuts to decrease inflammation and support muscle repair and growth. Additionally, this food contains electrolytes that hydrate your body and zinc that promotes a healthy immune system.
The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and more published a study in Antioxidants in Sports Nutrition that found tart cherries have the ability to reduce fatigue, increase performance, and limit post-workout recovery time. (Men's Journal). The study suggests that drinking tart cherry juice or eating dried tart cherries after your workouts can drastically decrease inflammation, pain, and muscle breakdown. However, be sure to keep an eye out for too many added sugars in fruit juice and dried fruit because they often contain high amounts of sugar.
Cacao is high in the antioxidant flavanol, which boosts the production of nitrous oxide throughout your body and causes your blood vessel walls to relax and open. This helps lower blood pressure and improves overall health. Plus, cacao has magnesium and B-vitamins that increase energy levels, maintain a healthy amount of electrolytes, and limit exercise-related stress on your body.
Adding even one or two of these foods after your workout and prioritizing a high protein, high carb meal to replenish your muscles can help your body recover properly and take your post-workout to the next level. Try a couple of these out and see the difference it can make in your recovery, performance, and overall health!