nutrition

10 Best Foods For Muscle Recovery & Repair

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10 Best Foods For Muscle Recovery & Repair
Muscle Recovery Foods

Hands up if you’ve ever turned up the intensity of your workouts or experienced the discomfort and stiffness of  delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)? Yep, us too.

Those post-workout aches are a common part of any fitness journey, and a sign you should make muscle recovery a top priority. And while foam rolling, active recovery and staying hydrated can all help promote muscle recovery and repair, good nutrition can go a long way, too.

Fuel your training with the best foods for muscle recovery

If you're eating to support muscle recovery, you should prioritise high-protein foods as well as nourishing carbohydrates. Recovery nutrition is all about focusing on refuelling and rehydrating to repair and grow.

Whether you follow a vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, keto or flexitarian diet there are so many nutritious and tasty foods you can eat to help your muscles repair and recover.

Along with drinking plenty of water and eating a good source of protein at every meal, these are some of the best foods to include in your diet to help you get back to the gym faster, reduce muscle soreness when you're not at the gym and help your muscles go from strength to strength.

Cottage cheese or yoghurt

If you can eat dairy, cottage cheese and yoghurt are both excellent sources of whey protein (known for its role in replenishing muscles quickly post-workout) and casein protein (a slow-acting protein that allows your muscles to continue recovering even as you sleep).

They also contain carbohydrates, making them a great snack to have before or after your workout! Ricotta is delicious on wholegrain toast or with fresh fruit, and yoghurt paired with fruit or muesli is a match made in heaven.

Foods For Muscle Recovery

Sweet potato and squash

Exercise can deplete your body’s glycogen stores, so although it might be easier to focus on protein after a workout, it’s just as important to eat carbs afterwards to rebuild and re-energise your body!

Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin are perfect as they are high in complex carbohydrates and contain a range of other important nutrients, including vitamin A and potassium.

Whether you prefer them roasted, baked, mashed or even sliced to make toast, sweet potatoes are easy to prepare and delicious in every form.

Watermelon

Watermelon is a refreshing addition to your diet when your muscles are feeling sore and depleted.

This fruit is made up mostly of water (about 92%), so it’s fantastic for hydration and contains vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and magnesium, which are essential for muscle function and helping to relieve soreness, tension and cramps.

Thanks to its vitamin C and antioxidant content, watermelon can also help reduce muscle inflammation and support blood circulation and energy levels.

Salmon

Aside from its naturally high protein content which is great for promoting muscle recovery and growth, salmon packs a powerful punch with its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B, potassium and selenium.

A 2019 systematic review found omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with lower inflammatory biomarkers. As an added bonus, the potassium found in salmon can help replace electrolytes lost during your workout.

Eggs

Eggs are rich in protein, fatty acids and a range of nutrients such as zinc, selenium and vitamin A, making them a great food for muscle recovery. The amount of protein in eggs generally is about six or seven grams (per egg), which is similar to the amount of protein in a cup of yoghurt.

Consuming protein after working out gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. 

The yolks also offer significant nutritional value, and research has even found eating whole eggs after resistance training leads to better muscle protein responses in the body than egg whites alone.

Whether you have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack — eggs are versatile and easy to cook.

Spinach For Muscle Recovery

Spinach

When it comes to nutrient-dense foods, spinach is hard to beat! Containing vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K1, iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium, spinach ticks a lot of boxes.

When you exercise and sweat a lot, it’s important to replenish the electrolytes you’ve lost. Spinach, which is rich in key electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, is a great food to help your body recover.

Spinach is great in savoury breakfast dishes (such as omelettes, breakfast wraps or scrambled eggs), as well as many lunch and dinner meals (think salads, pasta, bakes, casseroles, soups, stir-fries and risottos), or you can easily blend it into a smoothie, too! It’s an easy source of nutrients to include in your meal plan, no matter when you like to work out or what meals you enjoy!

Bananas

Bananas are a fantastic source of carbohydrates, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium and fibre.

They’re a great choice if you're working out regularly because they provide a quick source of energy as well as some essential vitamins and minerals. 

It’s also thought that eating bananas can help reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness, due to their high potassium content. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, potassium helps muscles to contract, and cramps or muscle weakness can be a sign you’re not getting enough.

Bananas make a great snack on their own or can be turned into something more hearty. Think smoothies, on porridge or toast, baked into bread or muffins, or topped with some nut butter - yum! 

Nuts and seeds

Loads of nut and seed varieties are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which work to fight inflammation and improve bone and joint health. They’re also a good source of protein which makes them a great food for muscle recovery!

The star players? Walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, pecans and hazelnuts.

Enjoy them as a snack when you’re on the go, add a handful to your smoothie or salad, or whip up some muesli bars to get your dose in.

Turmeric

This isn’t exactly going to do much in the way of post-workout fuel, but with its incredible anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, we thought turmeric still deserved a place on this list of the best foods for muscle recovery (or rather, something you can add to your food!).

Recipes with turmeric range from curries, soups and rice dishes to juices, breakfasts and smoothie bowls - you can even use it to make golden milk!

Green Tea For Muscle Recovery

Muscle recovery nutrition: Foods to avoid

While some foods are optimal for supporting muscle repair, others that won’t provide as many of the nutrients you need post-workout to feel your best.

Where possible, be mindful of your intake of the following:

Salty or fried foods

If you’re feeling low on energy and dehydrated after a workout, you might find you’re craving something salty! This is totally normal, as you lose electrolytes and nutrients like potassium when you sweat, but salty foods can actually dehydrate you further and there are much more nutritious ways to top up your body’s stores. Fried foods are also generally low in nutrients and can upset your digestion. 

Try replenishing your potassium and carbohydrate levels by adding a banana to your smoothie. Milk, nuts, seeds or protein powder will also help repair your fatigued muscles.

Packaged snack bars and sweets

When you’re running low on time (and energy!), packaged snack bars or a sweet treat can be an easy grab-and-go option, but they don’t always leave you feeling your best or fill your nutritional cup.

Many snack bars contain added sugar, artificial sweeteners and protein powder which can make them difficult to digest or cause inflammation, as well as being low in fibre, vitamins and minerals. If you love a snack bar, try making your own or look for a bar where you know what the ingredients are. 

Sugary drinks and alcohol 

Most sodas, sports drinks and even bottled smoothies have lots of added sugar or artificial sweeteners, so plain water, coconut water or homemade smoothies make better options for hydration and recovery. Drinking alcohol also dehydrates your body, which can limit or worsen your recovery.

Try to stay hydrated each day to ensure you recover well and stay energised.

Food is recovery fuel

Food isn’t just for energy - paying attention to the nutrient value of your diet can lead to better workout performance and muscle recovery, too! Try incorporating these foods into your pre-workout meals, post-workout snacks or at other times of day — with so many tasty and nutritious options, eating foods for muscle recovery doesn’t have to be hard!

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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