Eating certain foods after a workout can help you beat fatigue and soreness and improve recovery. Yet, sometimes your mind might shout, "cupcakes!" instead — which is fine, but also not the best food to help you avoid being sore after a workout. Here are the better foods to eat after working out, as they'll keep you feeling mobile and strong.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on getting their sweat on and repairing sore, tight muscles. If you're not careful during recovery time, it could lead to potentially serious injuries, so it's important to rest your muscles and incorporate some foods that will help to repair them into your diet. Certain types of foods will not only help you replenish lost electrolytes, proteins, and hydration, but they'll even help muscle repair themselves, and give you more energy you might have lost during the workout.
But, which foods are best for post-workout recovery. Don't worry, I got you. Here, experts weigh in on the 11 best foods and drinks to have after you're done working out. You'll feel much better (instantly and long-term). Plus, there will be nothing stopping you from making your next workout class really count.
Over email with Bustle, Steve Hertzler, PhD, RD, and chief scientific officer for Abbott's EAS Sports Nutrition says that a banana, whether raw with some nut butter, or blended into a smoothie, can boost recovery. It's a great source of potassium, to replenish lost electrolyte stores from sweat.
2. Nut Butter
Hertzler says that the healthy fats and protein found in nut butter, such as peanut or almond, can really help repair damaged and sore muscles. Your body needs that protein right after working out, and nut butter is filling and nutritious, making it the perfect snack.
3. Chocolate Milk
Low fat chocolate milk is great post workout fuel, as it has "a healthy dose of protein, carbs, calcium and other vitamins and minerals," says Hertzler. Plus, it's delicious. As if you needed an excuse to drink chocolate milk during the day, right? Drink with a bit of food for extra nourishment, and you'll feel hydrated and satiated.
Pretzels are great after a workout, says Hertzler. They have a touch of sodium, which can help restore electrolytes lost through sweat and get your body back to a state of equilibrium and hormonal balance. You can pair with Greek yogurt, says Hertzler, which has a terrific amount of protein.
"The most important foods to consume after a workout are a protein and a fast digesting carbohydrate; think something like a chicken and brown rice bowl," says Chris Almazan, trainer and chef, to Bustle. "Top with salsa and you'll basically feel like you're having a burrito. Getting a full serving of protein after a workout helps to replenish muscle proteins broken down during strength training and cardio exercises," Almazan adds.
6. Regular Milk
"Contrary to what people assume, milk is a great source of protein, water and important nutrients, like sodium, that help repair your muscles after a workout," says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT to Bustle. "I've found that a lot of people think dairy is an inflammatory food. However, that is not the case for all people," Shaw adds.
7. Cherry Juice
According to Kacie Vavrek, a registered dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, over email with Bustle, "cherries are known for their high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory properties." Vavrek says, "The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in tart cherries essentially act as natural NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin), reducing exercise-induced muscle damage. Concentrated tart cherry juice can help speed the recovery process by increasing total antioxidative capacity which reduces inflammation and aids in the recovery of muscle function."
"Some research supports the use of caffeine in reducing DOMS after exercise. It is thought that caffeine can block adenosine receptor and essentially deactivate the central nervous system," says Vavrek. "It is suggested that 5mg per kg of body weight of caffeine consumed before and after exercise would reduce DOMS after exercise. On average, one cup of coffee has around 95mg of caffeine but this can vary greatly," Vavrek advises.
There's a reason a weekend workout before hitting up brunch exists. Eggs can be a great workout recovery fuel. "BCAAs — some research has suggested that increasing circulating levels of BCAAs may be effective at minimizing or delaying the symptoms associated with muscle damage," says Vavrek. "BCAAs can be consumed through whey protein or protein containing foods like dairy, eggs and lean meat," Vavrek adds.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods, especially with healthy fats can help reduce soreness, says Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, Reebok Athlete & 7-time CrossFit Games Athlete to Bustle. Leblanc-Bazinet suggests taking fish oil supplements, or adding turmeric to a post-workout smoothie (as it's also an anti-inflammatory).
They are high in antioxidants and taste great, says Leblanc-Bazinet. Try adding them to smoothies, along with other anti-inflammatory staples, such as spinach. Antioxidants can help repair muscles and get rid of soreness.
Try consuming these foods and drinks after a tough workout and see if you start to feel less sore. If you're feeling awesome, stick with the new staples and keep kicking butt.