Fueling your body well before a workout is important, but just as critical is how you’re fueling your body post workout. The right foods will assist the repair process, reduce soreness, replenish glycogen stores and more. Grab your grocery list and a pen:
Make a habit of having a post-workout shake that contains whey protein. The byproduct of cheese-making, whey is a complete protein that is chockful of the nine essential amino acids—these amino acids help your body rebuild lean tissue. Other benefits of incorporating a whey-based shake into your routine include faster recovery and a decrease in post-workout strength loss. Easily digestible, whey has also been linked to lowered blood pressure, reduced inflammation and increased glutathione (an important antioxidant created by the body). Not all whey powders are created equal, though. Select a powder that has no trace hormones, pesticides or grain feed byproducts.
Blueberries & Tart Cherries
And all other dark berries! Filled with antioxidants, berries are the perfect post-workout snack—the darker and brighter the fruit, the higher the concentration of antioxidants. A critical part of the body’s defense against damage from daily toxins, antioxidants also help to rid the body of waste following a workout. Research indicates that blueberries can increase muscular energy, speed up the recovery process and improve performance. Other research points to tart cherries (or tart cherry juice) as a great tool for reducing post-workout soreness. Go ahead and throw some berries into your whey protein shake!
On list after list, fermented foods are definitely the current IT health food. Touted for their incredible benefits to your gut ecosystem (yes, your belly has an ecosystem of sorts!), foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir support the growth of healthy bacteria (probiotics). This increase in your good bacteria has a whole heap of benefits for your body—improved nutrient absorption, metabolism and immune system function. Fermented foods also create lactic acid and contrary to its bad rap, lactic acid is a key energy source for your muscles. Other studies have shown that lactate (put simply, a form of lactic acid produced by the body) fuels the brain during exercise. Pretty neat, huh?
Popeye was right! (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves with that one.) Serious contender for superfood of the century, leafy greens like spinach, watercress and kale are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Spinach is also a good non-heme (plant-based) source of iron, as well. There’s a bit of confusion when it comes to plant-based iron. Heme iron, found in meat and fish, is well absorbed by the body, while non-heme iron, found in animal tissue and plants, isn’t as well absorbed. Sounds a bit confusing, but if you’re consuming both heme and non-heme sources of iron and eating foods rich in vitamin C (these aid iron absorption), you’re doing it right!