Eat These Foods for a Quick Workout Recovery

Eat These Foods for a Quick Workout Recovery

What you eat in the hour or two after you exercise may be more important than how you fuel before.

Eating after exercise helps you replenish your energy stores and repair damage caused by the workout. Giving your body the nutrients it needs to kick-start repair is essential.

“Ideally, you should fuel your body about 1 to 3 hours pre-workout, depending on how your body tolerates food. Experiment and see what time frame works best for your body,” writes Christopher R. Mohr, PhD, RD, for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If you’re a competitive athlete, this is something you need to explore during your training days and not during game day,” he adds.

Exactly what — and when — to eat is a topic of much debate. But what most people agree on, whether they eat paleo, vegan or somewhere in between, is that a combination of protein and carbs is best.

The Best Foods for Quick Workout Recovery

Whole carbs and protein. There’s a reason bodybuilders carry their Tupperware containers of perfectly proportioned grilled chicken, broccoli and sweet potatoes to the gym. This combination of starchy, whole-food carbohydrates (the potatoes), plus lean protein, is a tried and true method of refueling.

chicken and potatoe protein carbs vegetables food plate

Something high in omega-3 fatty acids. These prized healthy fats — found in fatty fish, such as salmons and sardines (which, as a bonus, may be one of the most environmentally friendly species of fish) — can help with recovery. Outside magazine reports that, “Researchers at the University of Aberdeen also found that athletes who consumed fish oil within three hours of completing a hard workout had better immune function.

Since extreme endurance exercise can make us more vulnerable to colds, adding a meal rich in fish oil, like sardines or salmon, may be one way to stave off post-race sniffles.”

Pair with a complex carb, and you have a solid post-workout meal.

Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Marni Sumbal, a South Carolina–based coach and board-certified sports dietitian, told Outside that cottage cheese (protein) and berries (carbs) makes a great meal. Men’s Fitness recommends Greek yogurt for the same reasons.

Whey protein. Protein shakes get a bad rap, but as long as you’re selecting one with high-quality ingredients and minimal sweeteners, powder makes an easy protein-rich meal in a snap. (WellandGood.com has a list of minimally processed suggestions.)

Pizza. We firmly maintain that, when done right, pizza can be a complete meal. Opt for a thin whole-wheat crust, plus all the veggies you can fit on top, while skipping the processed meats, and you have a fairly well-rounded — plus delicious — meal.

whole wheat pizza vegetables for workout recovery

Tart cherry juice. This beverage has become somewhat of a weekend warrior darling, thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help aid muscle recovery and reduce soreness. (Just make sure you’re going for the tart, not sweet, variety.)

A pre-workout bonus: Beets. Just as tart cherry juice has become fashionable for recovery, beets are all the rage for fuel. A 2013 paper found beet juice could help boost endurance. (Runner’s World has the scoop.)

TELL US: Do you have a go-to post meal for quick workout recovery?

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