We can all agree that tough workouts are key to gaining bulk and building strength – but sore muscles have a habit of slowing us down.
If you find yourself suffering from muscle pain after a workout, you’re not alone. You need to allow your body a chance to recover and rebuild before putting it through the stress of exercise again.
Thankfully, there are foods you can eat, supplements you can take, and habits you can establish to speed up your recovery. What are the best foods for muscle recovery? What to eat after working out?
Read on for our list of the top 10 muscle recovery foods you can eat to boost recovery post-workout.
Why do muscles get sore?
Before we dive into the best foods for muscle recovery, you need to understand why muscles get sore in the first place. Simply put, exercise actually breaks down the muscle strands.
When you lift heavy, the weight of your reps creates minute tears throughout the muscle group you’re working.
To rebuild these gaps, you need to eat a healthy combo of protein, carbs, fatty acids, and electrolytes. These four nutrients work together to repair those muscle tears and fuel you for your next workout.
Protein is needed for the muscle to get bigger and stronger. Carbs refill your glycogen stores, which your body depends on for energy. Fatty acids help your body use protein more effectively and offer anti-inflammatory benefits, while electrolytes are necessary for your nerves to fire properly.
So, what are the best foods for muscle recovery? In the next section, we offer you the top ten foods that help sore muscles repair and rebuild.
10 Best Post-Workout Foods
For a triple-punch, consume several ounces of salmon shortly after your workout.
According to this study by the NIH, post-workout foods are most effective when consumed less than an hour and a half after your workout, assuming you didn’t eat directly before training.
Salmon is packed with protein – 17 grams per 3oz. It’s also a great source of potassium, which is one of the most important electrolytes to keep your heart (and other muscles) pumping.
Last, fish is a great source of fatty acids. Specifically, salmon offers you plenty of omega-3s, which are great at fending off inflammation and tightness in your muscles.
Consuming honey from a standard bear-shaped jar won’t cut it.
The mānuka bush is grown in New Zealand and produces a rarer form of monofloral honey – meaning the bees that produce it only take nectar from the mānuka bush.
In addition to being delicious, it’s one of the foods that help sore muscles by reducing inflammation.
To help things further, it’s a great source of carbohydrates that allows you to easily rebuild your glycogen stores.
As far as nutrient-filled foods are concerned, Spinach tops the list due to its long list of vitamins and minerals.
Magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium are among the micronutrients found in spinach. These four minerals are crucial to maintaining a proper balance of electrolytes.
Magnesium and potassium regulate blood pressure and protect your heart. Iron is crucial for the development of red blood cells – a deficiency can cause anemia, which leads to fatigue.
Calcium, among its many uses, is an important aspect of bone development. If you plan on lifting heavy and improving your skeletal muscle, you want your bones to be able to bear that weight.
There are two types of protein that are important in muscle repair: whey and casein.
Whey is a fast-acting protein, so it’s a common choice for muscle recovery supplements and protein shakes. However, casein is another type of protein that has benefits of its own.
Casein absorbs at a slower rate than whey, allowing your muscles to repair themselves throughout the day according to this article from the Journal of Applied Physiology.
As we’ll discuss shortly, optimizing rest is another key piece of the post-workout recovery puzzle. Adding in casein is just one way to give your muscles a helping hand.
Hydration is an important piece of the puzzle, and green tea is a good option. It’s a multipurpose beverage that can easily be sweetened and boosted by a dose of mānuka honey.
It’s with anti-inflammatory antioxidants to fight off soreness and prevent additional damage to muscle fibers.
Green tea is also a moderate source of caffeine, to help you power through the rest of your day.
Eggs are another excellent source of post-workout protein. This is one of the easiest muscle recovery foods to prepare, and they’re cheap, too.
You can eat them scrambled or grab a refrigerated hard-boiled egg for an easy snack. They offer a whopping 6 grams of protein per serving.
Considering that they’re essentially pure nutrition, you can easily eat a couple for a good dose of muscle-building amino acids.
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that packs a fighting punch.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a serious issue, but the antioxidant curcumin can stave off pain according to this research published by the NIH. Turmeric contains high levels of curcumin and is an easy addition to your diet.
Let’s say you don’t love any of the other best post-workout foods we have listed. You can take any other food – curry, soup, smoothies, roast vegetables – and add turmeric into the mix.
Suddenly your regular meals are transformed into antioxidant-powerhouse foods with a flavourful kick.
One of the best foods for muscle recovery is a banana. These fruits offer a powerful combination of carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, and several other nutrients.
You can easily grab a banana to eat while you’re on the go, and they’re an affordable option, too.
Eat one after you exercise to refill glycogen stores, balance your electrolytes, and provide your GI tract a helping hand.
Best of all, bananas are easily incorporated into plenty of healthy foods. Add one to your smoothie, yogurt, or peanut-buttered toast for an energizing combo.
The cacao beans used to make chocolate can also be consumed on their own to help you recover quickly from strenuous exercise.
They’re filled with flavonoids (an antioxidant) and promote low blood pressure by causing your arterial walls to relax and de-constrict after exertion.
They also offer a delicious way to balance your electrolytes and are easily incorporated into many other muscle recovery foods.
Nuts and Seeds
Of all the muscle recovery foods, nuts and seeds are perhaps the easiest possible options to take with you. They have a long shelf life and come in plenty of varieties and flavors to suit your tastes.
Their benefits extend far past ease, of course. Nuts and seeds offer an outstanding amount of protein and omega-3 fatty acids to reduce muscle inflammation.
You can make your own trail mix with cacao nibs, walnuts, and pecans. You can also add chia seeds and flaxseed to your smoothies if you want to maximize the benefits of a single meal.
Beyond Your Plate
It’s obviously critical to consume a proper diet that boosts your muscle growth and repair.
However, there are other steps you can (and should) take to achieve peak health and quick recovery times.
Rest and Sleep
Rest is one of the most underappreciated tools in an athlete’s life. Consuming the proper nutrients will help your muscles heal faster, but only if they’re not undergoing continuous stress.
Make sure to get an adequate amount of rest between workouts to allow your muscle fibers to grow back together.
In the same vein, sleep is crucial for reducing soreness and making progress. Your body is able to focus exclusively on repairing itself while you’re asleep.
Throughout the day your energy is expended on multiple tasks and continued movement. During sleep, your muscles receive the full power of your body and can restore themselves much more quickly.
Hydration and Supplementation
Hydration and supplementation are also guaranteed ways to shorten your post-workout recovery times.
Hydration is key to keeping your blood pumping – literally.
A balance between electrolytes and water in your body is responsible for the communication of every nerve in your body, including your heart. Inadequate hydration can impair every function of the human body, according to this study by the Nutrition Reviews journal.
Muscle recovery supplements are an easy way to improve your health and get back to exercising quicker. These offer a straightforward and hassle-free way to consume all of the electrolytes and vitamins you need to stabilize your body and heal. Our CrazyBulk D-Bal muscle recovery supplement is one option.
D-Bal is a non-steroidal supplement that mimics the effects of Dianabol.
It’s made with natural ingredients that are proven to increase muscle bulk and provide a valuable muscle-recovery boost. D-Bal is a great way to boost bone strength, heal tendons, and fight off inflammation caused by hyaluronic acid.
Heal Yourself for the Best Performance
In the end, we’re all aiming to achieve maximum levels of performance and fitness. Adding a variety of muscle recovery foods should be a key part of your overall plan for building muscle and increasing your strength.
Combine that with rest, water, and supplementation, and you’ll be unstoppable.