Best Foods for Workout Recovery
A lot of thought goes into meal planning to prepare for your workouts, but what about afterward? How do you start restoring the nutrients you’ve just used?
Workouts deplete the glycogen stored in your body. Your muscles used much of what you had as fuel and now they need more to begin repairing the damage they sustained.
So, be smart about workout recovery and encourage clients to do the same. Help your bodies rebuild and recovery efficiently so you can be in tip-top shape for your next workout session. Read on for some of our favorite workout recovery foods and start boosting your performance.
You’ll want to focus on protein and carbohydrates. These macronutrients are particularly beneficial in helping your body restore glycogen stores, decrease muscle protein breakdown, and increase muscle growth.
Protein is what delivers the necessary amino acids your body needs to rebuild muscle protein. General recommendations suggest consuming 0.14-.23 gram per pound of body weight post-workout.1
Carbs will help you restore those glycogen stores. On average, aim for 0.5-0.7 grams per pound of body weight shortly after your workout.1
Keep in mind that a tough workout will require more replenishment and recovery than an easier day, so adjust your protein and carb consumption as necessary.
Top Post-Workout Recovery Foods
So, after taking all of that into consideration, what are some specific foods you can suggest to your clients to have on-hand? Here are nine of our favorite foods to consume post-workout.
Dehydration and sweating can deplete your potassium levels. Low levels of potassium can trigger muscle cramps. We know you had your clients sweating during those tough workouts, so be sure they keep their potassium stocked with snacks like bananas. Add a bit of peanut butter to get a nice ratio of carbs and protein.
2. Sweet potatoes
These are the carbohydrates you want your clients to consume—complex and packed with extra nutrients. You can cut some of the sweetness by adding a variety of spices: salt and pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, garlic powder, or paprika.
Drink it in a tea or add some to a vanilla protein powder for a protein shake that can help reduce inflammation and help repair your muscles. Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin, which has been shown to reduce muscle soreness and promote muscle repair.2
And a variety of other nuts and seeds. They supply essential omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and protein to boost muscle repair and growth. They’re also a great plant-based protein option. Plus, they’re easy to take anywhere, so your clients have no excuse to skip a snack after their workout.
5. Cottage cheese
For a snack that packs a protein punch, bring along some cottage cheese. With 28 grams of protein per cup, depending on the level of milk fat, cottage cheese knows how to deliver. Its also contains a good variety of other nutrients to benefit your overall wellness, such as B vitamins, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
6. Tart cherries
Or tart cherry juice. Cherries themselves aren’t always in season, but you can almost always find tart cherry juice somewhere on a grocery store shelf. Sipping some before and after a workout can help with inflammation and muscle soreness.3
This is another option for omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Salmon is easy to cook for a fresh meal and it makes great leftover as a salad topping. Add some cold, chopped salmon to a bed of spinach with kalamata olives, red bell peppers, mushrooms, and a vinaigrette for an easy, healthy salad.
Whether you’re bringing along hard-boiled eggs for a snack or going home to cook an omelet, eggs are a great option to boost recovery. Eggs deliver loads of protein in a compact package.
7. Whole-grain bread
Bread doesn’t have to be the enemy if you take the time to find options using whole grains with plenty of fiber and limited artificial preservatives. Whole-grain bread will give you the carbs needed to boost those glycogen levels. Add almond butter to toast for a nice ratio of protein and carbohydrates to maximize your recovery nutrition.
We probably don’t have to list this one because we know you know the importance of hydration, but another reminder can’t hurt. Drink more water. Pre-workout. During your workout. And post-workout. Hydration is important for optimal performance in and out of the gym.
As a personal trainer, you know that what you eat is just as important as your workout. So, for a well-rounded approach to health and fitness, don’t forget to supply the necessary nutrient to your body. Help your clients build a healthy kitchen and support their goals even when they’re not at the gym.
Not sure you have all the nutrition know-how to help yourself or your clients beyond the gym? Sign up for the ISSA’s course on fitness nutrition. You’ll learn about the science behind nutrition and how you can motivate clients to make changes for a healthier life.
Click HERE to download this handout and share with your client!