We all know how important it is to eat healthier. Did you know that food choice can affect your health and longevity? Muscle recovery is also affected by what we eat. Food requirements vary depending on how much exercise you do. Which foods will help you recover faster?
The health benefits of eating a balanced diet can extend to muscle recovery.
Protein should be a major component of any muscle recovery diet. Protein is what makes up our muscles, so eating more of it before, during, and after exercise will help to grow and repair them. Studies have shown that a protein intake of 20-40g per day can increase muscle protein synthesis following exercise. But not all proteins are created equal. It's better to consume high-quality, plant-based protein.
Experts suggest eating fish, low-fat white meat, and minimal red or processed meat. This would mean that you can substitute additive-laden protein powders with Greek yogurt or lentils and grilled chicken or tuna if available.
It is also important to replenish your carbohydrate reserves after exercising. Glycogen stored in your muscles acts as fuel for movement. The bad reputation that carbs once had is gone. People now eat healthier forms of carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. After a workout, consuming protein and these carbs can help rebuild muscle tissues.
Best Foods for Muscle Recovery
1. Fatty Fish
Fish like salmon, trout, and sardines are excellent sources of nutrients for muscle recovery.
Primarily, fish is a bioavailable source of protein. This macronutrient aids in muscle repair.
Experts recommend you eat around 1.1 ounces (30gm) of protein after exercise to aid muscle recovery. For reference, 4 ounces (113gm) of cooked salmon contains 1 ounce (29.5g) of protein.
Fatty fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids that may help to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), fight inflammation, and increase muscle growth.
To ensure optimal muscle recovery, experts recommend you take 0.06-0.11 ounces (1.8-3gm) of omega-3 fatty acids after working out. This is so easy to achieve. Eat salmon or take an omega-3 supplement after hitting the gym.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and are highly favored by athletes. Consuming eggs after a workout can help stimulate muscle recovery.
While many people prefer to eat egg whites. However, research shows that whole eggs are a better option after exercise.
Ten men participated in a small study that included a choice of whole eggs or egg yolks. This was done immediately following resistance training. Although all meals were equal in protein, the whole-egg meals led to greater muscle growth.
Researchers believe this may be due to the nutrient-dense yolk that contains vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids such as vitamin A, selenium, and zinc.
3. Starchy Vegetables
When you exercise intensely, your muscles will lose glycogen, the stored form of glucose.
As athletes, you need to ensure that you have enough glycogen available for your muscles to perform at your best. It is, therefore, crucial to replenish these stores after exercise.
Eating carb-rich foods promotes muscle glycogen replenishment. After a workout, starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or potatoes are good options.
Combining starchy vegetables and a protein source such as eggs or chicken can be a tasty and effective way to replenish glycogen. It also provides your body with the necessary protein for muscle recovery.
Drinking the right amount of water can influence how quickly your muscles recover from exercise. It is crucial to rehydrate your muscles after exercise, especially in a hot and sweaty gym. This is important to make you and your muscles feel better after a workout because dehydration can cause muscle damage.
After you have rehydrated with water, you can now focus on drinks that aid muscle recovery.
Best Drinks for Muscle Recovery
It is not uncommon to use milk and dairy products such as yogurt or cottage cheese after an exercise, and it is for good reasons.
Although cow's milk is less popular due to the availability of vegan options, it is still one of the best post-workout drinks.
Milk is rich in protein and provides nutrients for your body to repair muscle cells. It might also reduce EIMD.
Carbohydrates are present in milk and dairy products. Carbohydrates, as well as protein, are good for muscle growth. They also help replenish glycogen in your muscles. The important ingredient in milk is sodium, which helps you keep hydrated.
Some studies have shown that cow's milk significantly affects exercise performance and muscle recovery.
A 2019 review of 12 studies revealed that chocolate milk may increase exercise performance and recovery after exercise. The researchers acknowledge that there is not enough high-quality evidence to support this claim, and future research is necessary.
You can also get calcium and other nutrients from milk, which, as you may have learned from your childhood experience with drinking milk, is good for bone health.
2. Whey Protein Powders
Research suggests that whey proteins can promote muscle recovery after exercise, both for athletes and non-athletes.
In a 5-day study, 92 obese men were given 0.4 mg per pound (0.9 g per kg) of whey proteins. The whey protein was divided into three daily doses before they took their physical fitness tests. The markers of muscle damage were significantly lower than the control group.
After resistance training, whey protein can also be used to improve muscle function.
However, not all research is consistent.
Further studies are required to know if supplementing with whey after exercising could help promote muscle recovery. Protein shakes may still be worthwhile, as they can help you meet your daily protein goals and maximize muscle growth.
3. Tart Cherry Juice
Both novice and experienced athletes and gym goers may find tart cherry juice beneficial. Research has shown that tart cherry juice and tart cherries juice extract may aid muscle recovery and reduce delayed-onset soreness (DOMS).
DOMS refers to a type of injury to the muscles caused by intense or unfamiliar exercise. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and restriction of movement.
Exercise can also increase oxidative stress, cell damage, and inflammation. These side effects can be reduced by antioxidant-rich beverages and foods, which may facilitate recovery.
Tart cherry juice contains high levels of plant compounds called anthocyanins. They are powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce soreness and exercise-induced muscular damage (EIMD).
However, tart cherry juice can be most effective if you start supplementing a few days before your exercise, and continue using it for at least 8-10 days.
Nutrition is vital for muscle recovery.
Even though your overall diet matters most, certain foods and drinks can speed up muscle recovery.
Aside from nutrition, don't forget about massages, foam rolling, or getting enough sleep to help you feel better.
Check Protec Recovery’s eBook for a complete guide on sports nutrition and other products that can help you perform at your best.