Whether you’re looking to bulk up or lose weight, when it comes to maximizing your fitness results, it’s important to load your plate with the right foods. But what exactly should we be piling on to help speed up recovery, boost metabolism, and replenish our nutritional stores? We turned to nutritionist Stacy Goldberg of Savorfull and asked her to break down exactly what we should be adding to our grocery list.
Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality, complete protein. One egg contains about 6 grams of muscle-repairing protein. Egg yolks also contain a significant number of important nutrients, such as vitamins B-12, B-6 and A, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and copper. All of these vitamins and mineral contribute to optimal body function: Magnesium and iron play a large role in promoting recovery and building blood cells. For a sufficient dose of protein without all of the fat, try scrambling 1-2 full eggs with another 1-2 egg whites and serve with sprouted grain toast, avocado and salsa for a quick post workout snack.
Chia seeds are one of the most nutrient dense foods, calorie for calorie, with very high levels of fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and antioxidants per ounce. The micronutrients in chia seeds are particularly beneficial to bone health, with more calcium in a single serving than some dairy products. While chia is known for its ability to provide sustained energy for endurance athletes, it is also an excellent choice for a recovery food. Chia is one of the best sources of plant-based protein (it is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids), with 4 grams of protein for a 1 ounce serving. Consuming chia both before and after athletic activity may improve performance and speed recovery! For a quick post-workout meal with plenty of protein and carbs, mix 2 tablespoons of chia into a bowl of oatmeal and fresh fruit, or soak chia seeds in almond milk for a delicious pudding.
Nut butters such as almond, cashew, and peanut butter are a good source of plant-based protein, making them an excellent post-workout snack for vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike. Cashews contain high levels of magnesium and iron, which are essential nutrients for energy production, healthy blood cells and muscle repair. Although nuts provide plenty of nutritional boost, they do contain high levels of fat, which slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and protein by slowing digestion. Stick to about 2 tablespoons of nut butter paired with a banana or apple.
Lean meat, such as chicken and turkey, is one of the most efficient sources of muscle-repairing proteins. Not only does the protein found in lean meat sources repair damaged muscle tissue, but it also stimulates the development of new tissue. Four ounces of chicken contains an adequate amount of protein including essential amino acids. Try wrapping grilled chicken breast in lettuce with sliced veggies or on a sandwich with sprouted whole grain bread for a balanced protein and carb rich snack.
Even though its the most well known, protein isn’t the only important macronutrient to consume after a tough workout: Carbohydrates found in starchy foods like oats refuel muscle glycogen, which is the main source of fuel for your muscles. Carbs get a bad rap but they help the body to recover and stay full and satisfied. The quicker that your stores are refueled, the faster and more efficiently your body can recover. ½ cup of oats contains roughly 12-13 grams of carbohydrates, making it a great post workout snack, especially when mixed with grass-fed whey or plant-based protein powder.
Greek and Icelandic Yogurt
Greek and Icelandic yogurt contain more protein than regular yogurt, with 17-20 grams in one 6-7 ounce serving. One serving of greek yogurt has enough protein to properly recover from an intense training session and enable muscle repair. It is best to choose plain greek yogurt and avoid flavors that contain high levels of sugar. No need to skimp on flavor, though — you can easily add a handful of berries, nuts and a drizzle of honey for a quick and flavorful post workout snack! Beware that many yogurts are advertised as “healthy,” but are loaded with sugar (sometimes more than your favorite candy bar).
Tart cherries contain powerful antioxidants known for their anti-inflammatory properties. After a long, hard workout, the inflammatory reducing agents found in tart cherries will help your body restore and repair muscle and potentially reduce joint pain and swelling. One study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that participants who consumed tart cherry juice after intense workouts experienced significantly less pain and muscle damage than the placebo group. Try incorporating 1 cup of frozen tart cherries in your next smoothie, or drink an 8 ounce glass of tart cherry juice.
Trail mix is a great snack due to a wide variety of muscle repairing nutrients from different nuts, seeds and fruits. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for example, offer about 13 grams of protein for ¼ cup (a considerable source of plant protein) and plenty of magnesium, which improves muscle function and reduces muscular fatigue. Dried fruit contains plenty of quick absorbing carbohydrates for immediate muscle replenishment. However, make sure to watch for dried fruit with added sugar- unsweetened fruit packs just as much flavor! Additionally, look for trail mix with dark chocolate for an extra boost of carbohydrates, muscle-repairing magnesium and delicious taste.
Salmon is an excellent source of high quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids promote healing by reducing inflammation, thus aiding muscle recovery after a tough workout. The protein and amino acid content in salmon also provide extra support for joint cartilage. Always choose wild-caught salmon over farmed salmon when possible, as it has the lowest risk for potential contaminants. Serve salmon with quinoa for a balanced, protein-rich post-workout meal.
Quinoa is a recovery powerhouse, as it is a complete protein with complex carbohydrates and a number of essential vitamins and minerals that help promote muscle repair. Whole grain foods such as quinoa are useful as recovery foods for athletes, as they provide very high quality macronutrients and maintain high energy levels throughout the day (just what you need after a tough morning workout!). Choose quinoa over brown rice for a more balanced, protein-rich, nutrient-dense carbohydrate. Try switching things up with quinoa porridge and berries, or for a meal, add in chicken, tomatoes, cucumber and feta for a meal that will make your muscles happy.