With workouts, we try our best to gain muscles, get a good physique and build strength!!!
Beginners are often found to be more focused on what they consume pre-workout. But, it is essential to understand the importance of post-workout meals.
Getting the right nutrients both before and after your exercise is very important.
Need for Right Nutrition post workout
Before, we begin discussing about best food sources; it becomes important to understand the process your body goes through after workout.
As we workout, our body looks to burn the stored up glucose for fuel or energy. This leads to the depletion of the glycogen stores in the muscles. The process also induces muscle protein breakdown and muscle damage.
When the body cools down after workout, it starts to rebuild the glycogen stores, repair and build muscles. (1) The nutrients you eat after workout, helps to boost the process. Therefore, the meals that you eat should be filled with good carbs and proteins, to keep the supply of the nutrients.
It becomes important that you include all the essential macronutrient in your meals-
Proteins are an essential nutrient for the body. It provides us with amino acids, which is essential for muscle repair and rebuilding the muscle proteins (increase muscle mass). (2) Therefore, it becomes important that you consume adequate amount of proteins, after workout.
Research shows that consuming around 25gm of protein after exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis and enhances the recovery process. (3)
Carbohydrates help our body to gain energy to exercise or workout. The glycogen stored up in the body is burned for fuel during exercise. Thus, consuming good amount of carbs post workout helps you to restore the glycogens. (4)
Preparing a meal with good carbs and adequate amount of proteins is considered beneficial. Studies suggest glycogen synthesis can be increased by consuming carbs and proteins simultaneously (in a carb to protein ratio of 4:1). (5)
Eating fats after workout is found to slow down digestion. It is also believed by people to prevent the absorption of nutrients. But, do understand, though fats slow down absorption of nutrients from post-workout meal, it does not reduce the benefits.
Thus, although you reduce the amount of fats consumed in a post workout meal, it is recommended to have some fats after exercise. This shall help in the post workout recovery process.
Here are the 10 Best Post-workout foods for Faster Recovery
The main concern with post workout meal, is to ensure the body gets all the essential nutrients for faster recovery.
1. Protein Shakes
Protein shakes both pre-workout and post-workout are considered ideal. (6) It is especially recommended for individuals doing heavy workout exercises.
After workout, our body needs some quick amount of proteins to initiate proper recovery and get the benefits from the exercise. Having a good protein shake becomes a quick and convenient option to restore your energy. It also provides the essential proteins needed for muscle repair and growth.
It is recommended to prepare a shake consisting of adequate amount of proteins and carbohydrates. As mentioned, you must maintain a carb to protein ratio of 4:1. Therefore, either you can look for shakes that have the ratio of carbs to protein or you can prepare it on your own.
Protein shakes are rich in essential single-chain and branched-chain amino acids, which the body needs after workout. Looking for a protein rich in leucine, valine, isoleucine are considered very important.
Fruits provide you with valuable fiber, several vitamins, essential micronutrients and antioxidants.
As we work out our body burns up the glycogen, to convert glucose into energy. When the glycogen levels fall, our brain signals the body to start breaking muscle protein. Eating fruits help you to rebuild the glycogen levels in the body and prevent muscle protein break down.
Fruits contain fructose, highly insoluble sugar, which people fear might lead to weight gain. But as you are in the anabolic state, the sugar, thus consumed shall work to restore the glycogen levels, instead of accumulating fats. This shall help you to get constant energy throughout the day, enhancing the muscle recovery process.
There are different fruits that you can use to prepare a post-workout snack. Our personal recommendation is Tart Cherries. Studies show that tart cherry juice reduces post-workout soreness and promote muscle recovery in athletes.(7) It also showed potential to increase the performance and reduce the post recovery time for weight lifters.
Tart cherries can also be consumed as dry fruits, post workout. It reduces muscle protein breakdown, pain and inflammation in the body.
3. Whole Grain Cereal
According to a study, whole grain cereals are considered a better post-workout meal as compared to several sports drink. (8) Whole grain cereals with milk were found to increase the glycogen synthesis and the phosphorylation process in the muscles. This helps in controlling the protein synthesis in muscles.
Whole brown bread can be a good addition to your post-workout meal. It helps you to get a lot of high quality carbs that refuel your muscles.
Oatmeal too, can be great addition to your post-workout meal. It is considered as a great source of slowly digested carbs. This can help you to rebuild the glycogen levels and also prevent muscle break down after workouts. Additionally, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that enhance muscle recovery. It is also found that oatmeal offers a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Thus, you can add it with milk or dry fruits to increase the carbs content and to make it an ideal post-workout meal (containing 4:1 carbs to protein ratio).
Salmon is very rich in lean protein. It consists of omega-3 fatty acids that contain anti-inflammatory properties, which reduces muscle soreness. (9) The omega-3 fatty acids further help the body to recover from the exercise induced damage, by reducing the painful inflammation.
Consuming lean protein is rightfully the best ingredient for muscle repair and growth. As, we know the importance of protein for muscle building, lean protein becomes very essential.
It is recommended to consume protein within 45 minutes of your workout, to ensure proper recovery and growth of the muscles.
You can add Salmon to your lunch or dinner, depending on your preference.
5. Whole eggs
Eggs are one of the healthiest foods that can be added to the post-workout meals.
Whole egg contains around 6gms of high quality protein. It also consists of several vitamins including Vitamin A, E, K and multiple B Vitamins such as B12, riboflavin and folic acid.
Additionally, eggs contain 8 important amino acids that help in enhancing the muscle recovery process. The calcium, zinc and iron content in the eggs make it a great food for muscle building.
It is found that 3 whole eggs contain same number of protein as 6 egg whites i.e. 18gms of proteins. Research shows that eating whole eggs post-workout, showed better muscle protein synthesis than egg whites even though they had the same protein content.(10) This is because the egg yolk contains additional nutrients as mentioned before. It also includes minerals like phosphorous and iron, which assist in better performance of muscle protein synthesis.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Carbs play a very important role in post-workout recovery phase. It is found that carb-rich foods like sweet potatoes, fruits or grains, help to maintain the levels of immune system, which occurred after heavy workouts. Thus, eating sweet potatoes post-workout can help you to deal with sore muscles.
Sweet potatoes help to rebuild the glycogen stores, which get used up during intense workout sessions. Even though it contains high amount of carbs, when consumed post workout, the carbs are used as energy and not stored as fats.
Additionally, they are a great source of beta carotene and Vitamin C, which helps the body to stay strong and healthy.
7. Cottage Cheese
Dairy protein is one of the best protein sources that you must add to your post-workout diet for optimum muscle recovery. It consists of both slow and fast digesting proteins that enhance muscle protein synthesis.
Likewise, Cottage cheese consists of both the type of proteins, whey (fast protein) and casein (slow protein). Research shows, Whey protein helps the body to quickly start rebuilding muscles after workout, Casein is slowly digested and absorbed to maintain the energy levels. (11)
Cottage cheese is an ideal food to consume post workout or before going to bed, as it allows the muscles to grow even while we are asleep. Additionally, cottage cheese also has live (good) bacteria that benefit the body. It helps in the breakdown and absorption of nutrients to get bigger muscles and get stronger.
Avocados are considered as the most preferred food, when it comes to complete the daily fat intake. It consists of monounsaturated fats that help in muscle repairs and Vitamin B that helps to increase metabolism.
After workout, our body goes through various physiological processes that include muscle damage. Having adequate amount of good fats becomes important in your post-workout meal, as it helps for healing muscles and joints.
Avocados, along with being high in healthy fats that help in absorption of Vitamin A and E, also contain a lot of Vitamin B. It helps the body to break down proteins and carbohydrates that we have been eating, by increasing metabolism.
Casein is a dairy protein that is often advised to be consumed before going to bed.(12) It is a slow digesting protein, thus provides the body with the needed amino acids throughout the sleep. It further helped to sustain the anabolic activities while sleeping.
Casein can be combined with whey protein to form the perfect post-workout drink, as discussed earlier. Casein has properties that enhance muscle hypertrophy and increase strength after heavy workout sessions. (13)
However, it becomes important to keep the timing of the protein consumption to get the benefits from it. Additionally, casein makes you feel less satiated as compared to whey protein. Thus, it becomes a better option for post workout protein snack.
Nuts provide you with essential omega-3 fatty acids that prevent inflammation in the body. It helps to increase protein synthesis, enhance muscle building process and induce muscle growth. It also provides electrolytes for proper hydration and minerals like zinc to improve immunity.
Eating nuts like almond, cashew, etc. right after workout, helps to rebuild glycogen stores, depleted during workout. This helps your body to have the energy for various muscle building processes after intense exercise.
Nuts are rich in proteins and fibers and thus recommended for vegetarians looking for good protein source. It also becomes the best plant-based protein source for non-vegetarians.
Timing of your Post workout meal is very essential
After exercise, our body’s ability to rebuild glycogen stores and protein increases. Thus, it is recommended to consume a post-workout meal within 45mins of workout. It should contain a combination of carbohydrates and proteins, so that you get all the essential nutrients to recover quickly.
You can also look to add a pre-workout meal, as it is found that the benefits you get from the meal continues to help you even after training.
Delayed consumption of carbohydrates or proteins can lead to reduced glycogen and protein synthesis. This can further lead to muscle break down or reduce muscle mass. However, if you consume the right food, it shall stimulate muscle protein synthesis, improve recovery and increase performance. Rehydration, post workout too becomes essential to maximize the benefits from the workout.