- Working out puts your body under tremendous strain, so how you treat your body post-workout determines how well you will bounce back.
- What you consume can have a huge impact on your post-workout recovery.
- Protein, anti-inflammatory foods, and healthy fats are all fantastic options for your post-workout diet.
If you want to improve your power, endurance, or a combination of both, you may think focusing all of your attention on training and making performance tweaks is the best route to take.
While these are certainly a great place to start, if that’s all you’re doing, you’re doing your body a huge disservice. And possibly making things worse.
Proper recovery should be just as important as training, and certain foods may play a huge role in your post-workout recovery.
To start, you should understand why all of this is worth your attention in the first place.
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Here’s Why Recovery Should Be the Main Focus
Whether you exercise for long periods of time or in short bursts, you’re putting your body and muscles under tension, which is a form of physical stress.
When this happens, tiny microtears form in your muscle fibers and must be repaired before being used again.
And if you’re not properly recovering, you’re simply compounding these stresses and making matters worse. Do this long enough and you’ll start to notice a shift in your form, or a difference in how your workout feels, as your body works around unhealed injuries — even small ones that haven’t yet surfaced.
After a while, these can eventually balloon into full-blown injuries with the potential to sideline you.
Does that mean all you have to do is stretch more? Unfortunately, that’s only half the equation. If you’re only focused on stretching your muscles, you could be tearing them further without repairing them.
That’s why a better strategy is to combine your stretches and ice baths with high-quality sources of recovery fuel, such as those listed next. These will help you repair and recover from any tough workout.
3 Foods to Speed Up Post-Workout Recovery
A high carbohydrate to protein mix is a common go-to refueling formula for many people following exercise. The problem is not everyone can handle this amount of carbs post-workout. These carbs leave some feeling tired and exhausted instead of energized. This is due to the insulin spike that results from digesting carbs.
People following a low carb/high fat (LCHF) diet such as keto may also experience this situation as well.
Luckily, the following low-carb foods can help with recovery whether you’re following a keto diet or don’t tolerate carbs well. These foods are even beneficial if you don’t fall into either of those categories since they’re also awesome recovery foods in general.
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#1 – Protein
Consuming a high-quality protein source post-workout gives your body the replenishment it needs to fill in those microtear gaps, helping you not only recover but also regain your strength.
But, let’s face it:
After a long gym session, you may not be ready to pull on your chef’s hat and whip up a high-protein meal.
That’s why protein powders can be a huge lifesaver.
With these, you can easily and conveniently sneak in your protein in the form of a shake or smoothie post-workout, which is the perfect window of time for refueling your muscles.
Many people turn to whey protein, a dairy-based source made from milk, but because of the dairy content, it can be hard to digest.
If you’ve experienced digestive upsets with dairy proteins, a collagen-based protein powder may be a better option.
Collagen is helpful for repairing your gut lining and maintaining a natural bacteria balance in your gut while it takes care of your muscles. Soy and pea-based proteins are also options, especially for vegetarians and vegans, but they too can be hard to digest for some people. For readers who don’t eat meat, a hemp option may be your ticket to success.
Each of these protein sources is worth experimenting with.
And anyone can benefit from adding in more of these next healthy foods:
#2 – Anti-Inflammatory Foods
On top of refueling with protein right after exercising, you should also get into the habit of adding these anti-inflammatory foods to your meals:
- Nuts such as walnuts
- Flaxseeds (ground)
- Pumpkin seeds (see this post about pumpkins and the keto diet)
- Leafy green vegetables
- Berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries)
This keto food list is loaded with antioxidants, flavonols, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can all help reduce inflammation and promote recovery after long, strenuous workouts.
The last category of food choices on today’s list also shares these same benefits.
#3 – Healthy Fats
Healthy fats like the foods listed below also have the power to combat inflammation:
- Egg yolks from pasture-raised chickens
- Coconut or avocado oil
- Coconut butter
- MCT oil or powder
- Grass-fed butter or ghee
- Nuts such as almonds or macadamia
- Seafood such as shellfish, salmon, and sardines
- Grass-fed beef, bison, lamb and organ meat
On top of delivering anti-inflammatory benefits, healthy fats also won’t give you an insulin spike so you may score sustained energy post-workout instead of feeling like you need a nap afterward.
Whipping up a batch of fat bombs can help you do just that too.
If you’re short on time, pop a fat bomb in your mouth right after your workout and you’ll have an anti-inflammatory source of fuel to keep you feeling energized hours later.
Keep in mind, it’s important not to go overboard with protein or fat here.
Do this and you’ll negate some of the positive benefits of exercise, such as weight loss and maintaining your weight.
Now that you have a better understanding of why recovery is so important, and how it goes beyond just stretching, there are no excuses for ignoring it anymore.
If you want to improve your strength and endurance and prevent injuries from slowing you down, concentrate on adding these three recovery foods to your weekly meal plans. You should feel and see a difference in no time!
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Sarah Peterson is the Content Director at Perfect Keto, with a mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being. Also, be sure to connect with them on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/perfectketones/ and check out their Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/perfectketocommunity.