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If you want to maximize your workout efforts, a key piece of the puzzle is ensuring that your body has the nutrients it needs to thrive. Making a conscious effort to fuel up with the right foods for workout recovery will help your muscles repair themselves and get stronger.
As a general rule, eating within two hours after your workout is ideal. And if you don’t already, it’s not a bad idea to schedule your snacks and meals ahead of time just as you do with exercise. Then you’ll be sure to stick to your plan and reap all the benefits of your workouts.
When it comes to fueling your muscles postworkout, it’s not just when you eat — some foods are better than others for replenishing nutrients and getting you stronger. After logging a hard workout, repair and re-energize your muscles with the following recovery foods.
Five Foods for Workout Recovery
1. Chocolate Milk
It’s not just for kids. Research published in Medicine and Sport Science concluded that chocolate milk’s 4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein ratio is ideal for an after-exercise treat for your body.
“Carbohydrates will allow your body to replenish glycogen stores and improve your next workout,” says Carol Fenwick, MHS, RDN, LD, American College of Sports Medicine–certified exercise physiologist. “Milk has protein, and carbs help that protein to be utilized for building and repairing muscle.”
2. Golden Milk
Originally from India, this hydrating cocktail of good-for-you ingredients has many reported benefits, from reducing inflammation to decreasing aches and pains. Keely Grand, MA, certified personal trainer and wellness specialist, recommends warming up a cup of oat or nut milk to start. Then add 1 teaspoon of fresh grated turmeric, a drop of honey, fresh grated nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of natural vanilla (optional). Finally, add 1 teaspoon of ashwagandha powder along with a dash of pepper. Sip and enjoy!
3. Peanut Butter and Jelly
Revisit your fave lunch from childhood with this postworkout oldie but goodie. Fenwick recommends a peanut butter and jelly or banana sandwich on whole-grain bread with a glass of milk because it provides the ideal after-exercise balance of nutrients. The combination of peanut butter for protein, bread for carbs, and jelly for carbs and antioxidants gives your body just what it needs. You also can swap out the peanut butter for a different nut butter, if you prefer.
4. Yogurt and Berries
Yogurt and fresh fruit have unique benefits that make for a killer post-workout meal. Berries are packed with antioxidants, prebiotic fiber and polyphenols, which keep your gut happy. Greek yogurt has lots of protein, making it a solid choice for after lifting weights. As far as the berries go, any berry is a good berry, so you can mix and match to beat boredom. It’s a versatile snack you can have fun with.
Smoothies are a classic postworkout snack for a reason. They’re hydrating, can be packed full of nutrients and the possibilities are virtually endless. Just be sure to use real foods, Fenwick says. They’re convenient, portable and economical, too, because most ingredients can be bought frozen or even in bulk.
Try different ingredients like banana for carbs, flaxseed for essential fatty acids, peanut butter for protein, spinach for antioxidants or strawberries for electrolytes, just to name a few. Grand says she makes a smoothie that includes wholesome and healthful ingredients of frozen berries, half a banana, a pitted date, 1 tablespoon of almond butter, 1 cup of chopped kale and nondairy milk, with freshly ground flaxseed sprinkled on top.