Here is a great summary of some of the best muscle recovery foods when you’re feeling rundown following a tough workout. You could recover more quickly after tough workouts, with improved post-workout nutrition. Taking advantage of the best muscle recovery foods and timing around your workouts can go a long way when it comes to keeping your performance high. Here are the best ways to fuel yourself after your next tough workout.
Post Workout Smoothie
This is a tried and true for a reason. Smoothies are refreshing and a great way to pack in easily absorbed carbohydrates to top up your muscle glycogen stores. You can also add easily absorbable protein by blending with milk, yogurt, or adding in whey protein. When fall weather hits, my favorite post workout smoothie offers a twist on pumpkin pie by combining frozen sweet potato or pumpkin pie filling with a banana and milk of your choice. Throw in a scoop of whey protein to really aid in muscle recovery. Get this in as soon after your workout as possible to really maximize the absorption.
Muscle Recovery Meal – Sushi
Heading out for sushi after a tough race or event is a great way to recharge. While white rice gets a bad rap, as an athlete, you’ll get what you need from this easily absorbed carbohydrate. Starchy foods such as rice and baked potatoes are actually easier than other forms of carbohydrates for your body to convert into fuel for your next workout. Throw in a seaweed salad to top off your electrolytes. Stick to nigiri or simple rolls rather than the fat laden specialty items. Lower fat food is easier to absorb, which will give you a quicker recovery.
Post Workout Dinner – Supper Club
Ready to head out and celebrate your 5K PR? In Wisconsin, we love supper clubs. Surprisingly, you can get an awesome recovery meal while you celebrate. Load up on the salad bar. From pickled beets to frozen peas, salad bar veggies are packed with micronutrients that will reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and speed your recovery. Stick to a reasonable amount of oil and vinegar to aid in absorbing all those vitamins. When you hit the main course, think about your macros. Athletes need protein and carbs in reasonable proportions to repair and refuel. Grilled tenderloin, fish, or chicken with a baked potato are easy to find on any menu and will give you what you need. Ask for butter, oil, or dressings on the side so that you can control your fat content and calorie count. Oh, and about those cocktails…take it easy. Big surprise. Alcohol makes it harder for your body to recover. Your liver will prioritize metabolizing the alcohol, so restoring your muscle glycogen takes a back seat. If you must indulge, hit your recovery meal first to give it a head start.
Healthy Dessert – Frozen Yogurt
When August heat makes your summer workouts tougher than usual, a frozen treat makes post workout nutrition easier. As an athlete recovering from a tough workout, you’re also a likely to be a little run-down during your recovery period. Frozen yogurt is a great recovery food to meet your needs. It has a healthy ratio of carbs and protein, along with probiotics to keep your digestion and immune system healthy. Because it’s lower fat than ice cream, frozen yogurt is easier to absorb and has a better recovery ratio of macronutrients. If you’re heading out for your froyo, load up on the berries for an extra boost of healing anti-oxidants. You can also make your own ice-cream alternatives at home and stash them for recovery after your next work.
Workout Recovery Grab and Go Meal Prep
If you use your lunch hour to squeeze in a tough workout, timing is everything. Even a trip through a drive through is likely to make you late for your 1:00, especially after you shower and change. Meal prepping takes less time than you think and offers the best solution. Build your prepped meal around lean protein (even plant based proteins). You can stick to cold fruits and veggies or build a microwavable Mexican bowl with a reasonable amount of rice, beans, and salsa. Try to work in some of the best recovery foods. Just throw extra protein on the grill early in the week to set yourself up with a week’s worth of power lunches. And while you’re at it, pack one for the kids as well.
Tips for Success Post Workout Success
It’s easy to overdo it when it comes to recovery meals. Your best recovery meal simply supports the recovery of your body. Try to avoid a reward mentality as you fit your recovery meals to the intensity and calorie demand of your workouts. 5K’s and other short events don’t create an enormous calorie demand, although they do increase your body’s need for the right foods. As an athlete, protein and antioxidants are important to support your muscle recovery. While carbs are necessary to fuel your workouts, your tolerance for them will depend on your activity level and personal metabolism. Experiment by including carbs in your post-workout window and increasing the amount over time if your performance or energy levels seem low. Finally, be careful with fat around your workouts. A lower fat meal is generally easier for your body to absorb quickly, which is key to a good recovery. Try to find a balance between a meal that is too low fat, leaving you hungry too soon, and one that is heavy, preventing you from digesting quickly during your valuable recovery window.
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.