The Best Recovery Foods You Already Own

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By: Hayley Harris

By: Hayley Harris

Registered Dietitian, Health and Fitness Instructor, and Recipe Developer

If you think that getting the right nutrients for adequate recovery is hard, you aren’t alone. Many people think they need to spend a lot of money on fancy supplements, or rely on pre-packaged mixes or formulas in order for their body to get the nutrients they need for a speedy recovery. What supplement companies don’t want you to know, is some of the best foods for recovering are found right in your pantry at home! Certain foods have different benefits, and are categorized below. Each category plays an important role in insuring that you recover in ample time to get to your next workout, game, or training program. 

Antioxidants:

As we live, breathe, and move we are constantly building up what are considered “toxins” in the body. These toxins are referred to as “free-radicals” and can wreak havoc on your organs, tissues, even DNA if they get out of control. Exercising can actually increase their production, but do not fear! Your body has intrinsic processes to help fight these free radicals and exercise is beneficial for firing up your body’s own defenses. Additionally, diets high in antioxidants can help your body neutralize these free radicals as well. Aim to eat more colorful fruits and vegetables, namely; blueberries, dark leafy greens, beets, red cabbage, cranberries, broccoli but also other richly colored plants such as kidney beans, black beans, pecans, and yes, dark chocolate! 

Inflammation:

Due to the high-stress, low-sleep, pollution-ridden world we live in, your immune system is constantly releasing pro-inflammatory chemicals that can contribute to a variety of heath conditions and disease. Loading your muscles, overuse injuries, and training to exhaustion, worsen the problem. Certain foods promote a healthier balance of inflammation in the body and are great to consume if you are constantly exercising. One of the best ways to mitigate inflammation is to consume Omega 3 fatty acids. These special fats are found in fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, eggs and mackerel. Vegetarians do not fear, you can also get omega 3 fatty acids from walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and to a lesser extent, leafy green vegetables. 

Protein:

It’s no secret that protein is necessary for muscles to recover after exercise. The amino acids found in protein act as building blocks that rebuild muscle to be stronger and more powerful after being worked. You might think that a quickly absorbed protein powder is the best thing to consume following a workout, however, studies have shown that your body absorbs and utilizes protein the same, if not better, when found in a meal containing a slow digesting carbohydrate and source of fat as well (1,2). High quality protein can be derived from poultry, red meat, fish, egg whites, and dairy products (Greek yogurt and cottage cheese contain the most protein per serving). Protein is also found in legumes, nuts, seeds and some whole grains like quinoa. 

Smart Carbohydrates:

Your body uses up stored carbohydrates known as “glycogen” when you exercise. Reach for nutritious foods that contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and of course, the carbohydrate you need to help you rebound and feel energized after working out. The best way to replenish your body’s stores is to eat fiber-rich carbohydrates such as fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, or whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, or whole wheat for example (3).

I’m sure you’re seeing a pattern already, the best way to adequately replenish after a workout is to eat a varied, nutrient-dense meal. The best recovery dish contains something from each of these categories for example; top a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, walnuts, and cottage cheese after your morning workout. Try a salmon fillet with a side of sweet potatoes and spinach. You can also try a black bean and quinoa burrito bowl topped with fresh romaine, salsa, and Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. The possibilities are endless. Eating for your best recovery doesn’t have to be difficult, just eat balanced meals using the ingredients you already have on hand!  

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