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Eating for Recovery: 10 Foods You Need to Know About

Katie Breazeale, MS, RD, LD

Post-fueling is a must when it comes to proper recovery.  Protein is one of the most talked about foods for recovery and muscle growth.  But are there other foods that could enhance recovery and alleviate muscle soreness?

Top 10 Foods for Recovery

  1. Whey Protein. Whey protein is ideal for muscle recovery and building.  Compared with BCAA’s this protein is elite. Ready to drinks are a great way to have a high protein drink accessible and you can take it on the go.  They offer hydration, protein, and carbs!

  1. Watermelon/Watermelon Juice. This fruit has carbs, antioxidants, amino acids, and is hydrating.  Watermelon contains L-citrulline which is known to increase Nitric Oxide in the body.  Nitric Oxide is known for enhancing blood circulation to the muscles and improving cellular energy.  

  2. Tart Cherry. This little fruit is rich in antioxidants and has high anti-inflammatory properties. Tart cherries are different from regular cherries as they contain about 20 times more vitamin A and 5 times more antioxidants.  There have been multiple studies done on the benefits of tart cherries. The studies have shown consumption of tart cherries enhances muscle recovery, lowers markers of inflammation, and reduces DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

  3. Beet Juice. Beets contain high amounts of nitrates, which is great for providing energy to the cells, reducing muscle soreness, and reducing inflammation. Research has shown that beetroot supplementation has the potential to accelerate recovery of functional measures and muscle soreness.

  4. Eggs. Best known for their high-quality protein is a great way to start muscle recovery.  Eggs contain all 9 essential amino acids making it a complete protein.  Did you know eggs contain antioxidants?  The yolk contains zeaxanthin and lutein which protects vision and eye health. 

  5. Dairy. Milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese are frequent post fueling snacks due to their high protein and ease.  The protein aids in muscle recovery and carbs replenish energy levels. Chocolate milk is an excellent post-fueling snack and it’s not just for kids.  Chocolate milk will offer you carbs, protein, potassium, phosphorus, and hydration!

  6. Pomegranate Juice. Pomegranate juice contains high levels of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties particularly quercetin. Quercetin is a pigment in fruits and vegetables offering protection from free radicals. Pomegranate juice can decrease DOMS, reduce inflammatory markers, and accelerate muscle recovery. 

  7. Fatty Fish. Salmon, sardines, tuna, chia seeds, walnuts, and trout are high in omega 3’s. Omega 3’s help reduce inflammation plus salmon and other fatty fish are an excellent source of protein to aid in muscle protein synthesis.  

  8. Coffee. Coffee, best known for its caffeine, can reduce muscle soreness.  Are you surprised that your cup of coffee can help with muscle soreness?  Caffeine blocks Adenosine, a chemical in your body released after injury. Muscle soreness involves repair the way an injury would. Studies show that you can drink before or after an intense workout and have the benefits of reduced muscle soreness.

  9. Pistachios. This nut is unique in the fact that it contains all 9 essential amino acids.  Pistachios can help supply protein to your muscles giving them the nutrients needed for recovery.  They’re also an easy grab and go item you can store with you and take on the go. 

If you’re still experiencing extreme muscle soreness or muscle soreness that lasts for days, look at your overall daily intake of protein.  Muscles take 24-48 hours to recover which means only eating one great recovery meal after training or competition is not going to cut it.  Still unsure of what you need, contact us today to work with a sports dietitian.

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