When you finish a workout, a few things run through your mind. You’re thinking about how great your workout was, and your mind probably goes to the next thing you have to do. At that moment, you feel a gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach, and you think, “Hm, I should probably eat something.”
Giving your body the fuel it needs is vital to promoting efficient muscle recovery. We tell our nutrition clients at EW Motion Therapy that food is fuel, and eating good things will help your body perform at an optimum level. Our ultimate goal is to help you make the best food choices as you work toward your personal fitness goals, even if you choose not to see us for your nutrition needs.
This article will discuss why food is essential for muscle recovery, some good things you could eat, and other ways to help your body recover. With this information, you can move forward with confidence and make the best choices for your body’s needs.
Why does food matter for muscle recovery?
As we said, it is crucial to give your body the fuel it needs to perform well. But it is equally important to help your body build back muscle tissue after it performs. When you exercise, you break down muscle tissue, and to rebuild that tissue even stronger, your body needs the proper nutrients. If you are not giving your body those nutrients, it does not have what it needs to continue to perform at the level you want, and you might not see the growth you desire in your fitness journey, especially if you’re going to build strength.
Not only does it matter what you eat, but when you eat it. If you wait too long after you work out to eat your recovery meal (generally more than two hours), you lose the chance to optimize that crucial time right after you finish working out when your body is ready to absorb nutrients more efficiently due to metabolism and the muscle rebuilding process.
What should I eat for muscle recovery?
So what is the best thing to refuel? First, protein is the building block of muscles. After you eat protein, your body breaks down the protein into its amino acid building blocks, which your body uses for muscle rebuilding and regulating immune function. With that in mind, to most efficiently rebuild muscle tissue, your recovery meal should include some lean protein, like chicken, fish, or eggs, that is dense with amino acids. If you eat a plant-based diet, there are many protein powders on the market that are vegetarian and vegan-friendly. Also, soy-based products, tofu, and edamame are other plant-based options. Whatever protein you choose to eat after your workout, you need to ensure that you give your body the recommended amount of 20-40 grams of protein.
Another essential part of refueling is eating some form of carbs. Some diets cut out carbs altogether, but your body does need them as an energy source, especially after a workout. During high intensity workouts, the body uses glycogen as fuel. Carbs help to replenish the glycogen that was used during the workout. Someone who is doing high endurance exercise, like running long distance or swimming, needs more carbohydrates than someone who is weightlifting or doing yoga, because the higher the intensity of the workout, the more glycogen your body uses and needs to replenish.
An example recovery meal for a morning workout might be some avocado toast with a fried egg on top. You get lean protein from the egg, carbs from the bread, and even some healthy fat from the avocado. You could even add Everything But the Bagel seasoning on top for some extra flavor! These nutrients will help your body recover well from your exertion and give you the energy to get everything else done in your day.
Proteins: cottage cheese, tuna, protein bar, Greek yogurt
Fats: nuts, seeds, trail mix, olive oil
How else should I recover?
Now you know more about the foods you need to eat for recovery. Giving your body ample recovery time is essential to accomplishing your fitness goals, because you allow for the proper rebuilding of muscle tissue. If you do not allow your tissue to rebuild, it will continue to wear down with excess activity, increasing your injury risk. For athletes, especially runners, the whole recovery process is vital to pursuing your goals.
When our trainers assign workout plans for EW Motion Therapy clients, they always incorporate rest days, so your body can recover and perform even better. If you are interested in training with us, fill out the Request an Appointment form on our website, and someone from our staff will contact you within 48 hours with your next steps.