Nutrition

8 Best Foods for Recovery After a Workout

When you’ve finished up an intense gym session, run or any kind of exercise, your body needs to heal and recover. And, that involves more than just resting up and a good night’s sleep. To get the best results from your workout and to ensure your body heals in the most efficient and rewarding way, you need to eat right. And that means knowing the best foods for recovery after a workout. 

Post workout foods for recovery can make such a difference to how quickly and how well you heal, but also on the overall progress of your fitness journey. By fuelling your body with the right nutrients, you can really excel. 

We’re talking about muscle building, re-energising, reducing inflammation and faster healing too. So, as you might guess, if you’re looking to boost your performance, it’s always a good idea to find out what the best foods for recovery are. 

Let’s find out more about what you should be eating.

1. Leafy greens

leafy greens for recovery after a workout

We all know we should be eating our greens, but they also play an important roll in promoting recovery after a workout. 

Your Leafy greens, like salad leaves etc., are high in essential vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, magnesium and many more, which help to promote your immune system [1]. 

So they’re good for you but what about post workout recovery?. Well a study has linked them to reducing the inflammation due to their high levels of polyphenols [2]. This is essential as that muscle pain you feel after a workout is in part due to inflammation of the muscles, so it may help to reduce the pain you feel. 

2. Poultry – Chicken or Turkey

Lean meats like poultry are high in protein, which is absolutely key to supporting muscle growth and healing, making this food group a super important food for recovery after a workout. 

The American Society for Advanced Recovery have even weighed in on the importance of protein in recovery, saying it’s essential for faster recovery after wound or surgery [3]. You may be thinking, what’s surgery got to do with my post workout routine? Well, when you work out you’re damaging muscles so they grow back stronger, ready to face the next workout. Recovering from this damage follows the same principles of recovering from surgery – you’re healing those broken tissues. 

The amino acids that make up protein are very rich in this food group and research shows it has been linked to improved wound healing, even after surgery [4].

3. Eggs 

foods for recovery after workout

This is another high protein food that you can use to ensure you’re hitting a healthy protein target to enhance recovery rates. On top of that, eggs are packed with health-boosting vitamins that have been shown to improve your immune system and even promote wound healing [5]

To get the best out of them, don’t miss out on the yolk and go for the whole egg. That’s where you’ll find plenty of those health-boosting vitamins and minerals. 

4. Salmon

Salmon in high in protein and also packed with nutrients that all point towards improved recovery [6]. 

You may have heard a lot about omega 3, but what you might not know is it has been linked to improved rate of healing, as well as reducing inflammation making it a great foods for recovery after a workout [7]. It also contains plenty of selenium (around 70% of your daily intake in a single serving!) which has also been linked to reducing inflammation [8]. 

5. Fruits – Berries

Berries foods for recovery after a workout

If you’re living a healthy lifestyle, it’s likely you’re trying to hit your five-a-day when it comes to fruit and veg. But if you’re looking for the best foods for recovery after a workout, then you might consider adding a few berries to your diet too. 

Not only do they contain plenty of immune-boosting vitamin C [9], many colorful berries (your blueberries, strawberries and raspberries etc.) have been linked to reducing inflammation [10].

Discover the best low carb fruit and vegetables right here. 

6. Veggies 

We’ve had leafy greens and berries, so it makes complete sense that we add your classic vegetables to the list. In particular, cruciferous vegetables. Think broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale and cauliflower. 

They’re absolutely jam packed with those all important anti-oxidants which can have a really positive impact on your ability to recover after a workout. Add them to your post workout recovery foods and you may find they help to flush out toxins and therefore reduce that pesky inflammation [11]. 

7. Nuts

These are more than just a handy and delicious snack. Nuts are brimming with plant-based proteins and healthy fats that are a great way to refuel and re-energize post workout. 

What’s more, they’re also high in vitamin E which is a natural anti-oxidant that could help to protect cells against damage, promoting a faster recovery [12]. 

8. Sweet Potatoes

Foods for recovery after a workout

Need to re-energize and refuel? Then consider adding sweet potatoes to your list of foods for recovery after a workout. They’re a healthy source of carbohydrates, which give your cells the energy they need to heal [13]. 

If that wasn’t sweet enough, sweet potatoes are also a source of vitamin c and minerals like manganese, which can promote immune system and reduce inflammation [14]. 

Find out how much carbohydrates, protein and fats your should be eating a day with this guide to calculating your macros. 

When should I eat my post workout foods for recovery? 

There’s a lot of different reading out there on the best time to eat, with some people claiming that you only have a short window to eat enough protein to heal most effectively after a workout. This is called the ‘anabolic window’. However, there’s a lot of studies and discussion surrounding whether this ‘window’ really exists. 

A 2017 study claims that there was little difference in muscle adaptation between pre- and post-workout protein intake. Which means, it didn’t really make a difference whether you ate straight after or ate the same protein before. 

In 2013, a full meta-analysis (which reviewed 43 separate studies) also failed to find a significant link between consuming protein straight after a workout and muscle adaptation.   

With that in mind, there is very little scientific evidence out there to support this so called window.

Instead, the best foods for recovery should be enjoyed throughout the day, every day so your body is always topped up on these essential ingredients. 

So whether it’s your next meal when you leave the gym, or it’s every meal throughout the day, try to eat as many of these foods for recovery as you can, and you’ll find that you’ll lead a healthier lifestyle, where you’ll recovery more quickly from your workouts. 

Found out more about eating around your workouts with this article.

How else can I promote recovery after a workout?

We’re glad you asked! While finding the best foods for recovery after a workout is important, it’s not the only thing you should be thinking about. If you’re serious about improving your over ability to heal, recover and hit the gym more regularly, also think about the following:

Sleep

Your body needs sleep to recover from the day, and it definitely helps with recovering from workouts too. In fact, research has linked lack of sleep to heightened inflammation [15] which could delay the speed at which you recover. 

Hydration

We all know we need water to survive and that without it you can become seriously ill or worse [16]. So, with that in mind it makes complete sense that you should regularly drink water throughout the day, especially if you’re exercising regularly. Your body needs topping up with water, alongside essential foods for recovery afte a workout to stay healthy and to function correctly so it can recover well. 

Avoid Alcohol

Many of us enjoy a glass or two every now and then, but did you know it can dehydrate you, lead to inflammation of the muscles and even suppress your immune system [17]? All of this is a big no-no for a strong and efficient recovery. 

Avoid cigarettes

Research has shown that smoking cigarette can have a negative affect on wound healing, which could also mean your ability to recovery post workout could be compromised too [18]. If you haven’t already, skip the smokes. 

Best foods for recovery after a workout – the final word

If you follow all of these simple rules aiding healing, and include these foods for recovery after a workout in your daily routine, you should have everything you need to support a fast and efficient recovery. Fortunately, it’s not rocket science! The research and studies we’ve highlighted show everything we already knew deep down – that to get fitter and stronger faster, we simply need to enjoy a varied and healthy diet. 

So, why not give it a go? Start to included these foods for recovery after a workout in your diet and see if you notice a difference. It might not be straight away, but we’re sure you’ll start to feel it pretty soon! 

gymgirlfit

gymgirlfit was created by health and fitness enthusiasts, with backgrounds in powerlifting and writing. We've written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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