The 12 Best Muscle Recovery Foods and Drinks
You spend so much time and energy on getting to the gym and exercising, but if you want the best results, make sure you’re also eating the right muscle recovery foods. Your body gets depleted when you train and needs the building blocks derived from the right foods and drinks to recover. As the saying goes, you can’t out-train a bad diet, so make sure you’re on point with these muscle recovery foods.
What is Muscle Recovery?
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, recovery is multi-faceted. In addition to rest, recovery time encompasses building muscle, reducing inflammation, and allowing time for the muscle soreness to dissipate. The recovery process is also aided by proper nutrition.
This period of recovery allows your body to rebuild and repair the “damage” done by tough workouts. It’s also when your body builds muscle tissue (not while you’re in the gym). Recovery allows your body to get back to homeostasis, which means getting your temperature, hydration, and stress levels back to normal while prepping your system for your next hardcore training session.
Best Muscle Recovery Foods Help?
Many foods contain nutrients that can help you recover after a tough resistance training workout. Not only can they help reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), but they can also help your muscle tissue repair itself and get you ready for your next tough workout. The right nutrition will also help you build muscle, gain strength, and even lose body fat.
These muscle recovery foods will help restore your energy supplies, and muscle recovery drinks will help rehydrate your system. Refueling with both shortly after (and even before) your workouts will have the biggest effect on your recovery, but continued good nutrition throughout the day and on an ongoing basis is also essential.
1. Whey Protein
This is probably the most important on the list of muscle recovery foods. You can consume it both before and after your resistance training workouts. Whey protein helps reduce the amount of damage to your muscles while also increasing muscle synthesis. Consuming whey protein in small amounts all day long, in addition to moderate to heavy resistance training, can help you build healthy new muscle mass.
2. Greek Yogurt
This low-sugar protein option is a valuable muscle recovery food. This protein-packed dairy product is very portable and mixes well with other foods. In addition to being high in protein and easy to eat, Greek yogurt also supplies calcium, which helps keep your bones strong. Yogurt also helps you feel full longer and works over several hours to help your muscles rebuild and replenish.
This power-packed food is exactly what your muscles crave post-workout. Coupled with a serving of high-quality protein, the slow-burning carbohydrates in oatmeal can replenish your depleted energy and boost your muscle-building ability. Plus, oatmeal will provide you with sustained energy over a long period. For a tasty, portable way to take your protein with you, make up some delicious oatmeal cakes, which make a perfect post-workout meal.
Not only do bananas give you a nice burst of energy, but they’re also chockful of potassium, which may help you avoid (or at least limit) muscle cramps. Try eating bananas alone or add them to other foods like baked goods or smoothies for an extra punch and less muscle soreness as well.
This deliciously decadent fruit can help you rehydrate after losing water during exercise. It also contains vitamins A and C, along with potassium and magnesium, all of which may help you avoid muscle cramps and soreness while replenishing lost fluids.
6. Whole Eggs
This natural protein source is a fantastic, easy post-workout snack. While egg whites alone are also a great source of protein, studies show that adding the yolk increases the muscle recovery power of this amazing food. And there’s more: eggs have also been shown to boost your ability to build new muscle mass.
Best Muscle Recovery Drinks
Don’t forget to hydrate, too, as part of a well-rounded muscle recovery plan. You probably lost a good amount of water if you sweat during your workout, and you may even be dehydrated. These drinks boast a host of nutrients that can help increase your muscle recovery and enhance your workout performance.
7. Drinks with Electrolytes
When you sweat, your body gets depleted of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride are the main electrolytes, and magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonates are the secondary ones). Your body needs to keep these in balance for optimal functioning, fluid regulation, clotting properties, muscle contractions, and more. Just make sure you opt for drinks without added sugars, chemicals, and excess calories. You can add flavored electrolyte drops to your beverages or try all-natural coconut water, which is a delicious, potentially rehydrating drink.
8. Green Tea
This popular drink is a great way to rehydrate after a workout, is rich in antioxidants, and may help reduce inflammation and even muscle soreness. It also contains caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which may aid in calorie burn and metabolism support, so you can technically drink it before and after a workout. Lastly, green tea is a soothing way to help wind your body down and slow your heart rate after exercise as it contains L-theanine, which may help promote relaxation.
9. Tart Cherry Juice
Drinking this pre- and post-workout (for several days) may help you avoid that muscle soreness that can come when you push yourself during your training. And, along with reduced delayed-onset muscle soreness may help support healthy levels of inflammation. Tart cherry juice contains what are called “anthocyanins,” which have antioxidant properties and may also help support healthy inflammation.
10. Beetroot Juice
This surprisingly beneficial drink has nitric oxide, which may help improve your cardiovascular fitness, blood flow, and endurance. You may notice improved muscle contractions and better lung function as well. Studies show this is a potent partner when it comes to muscle recovery and overall athletic performance.
An amino acid found in beef, chicken, pork, and other meats and seafood as well as produced by the body; however, it’s often found in as a powdered supplement that can be mixed into water or juice. Creatine has been shown to help increase muscle strength and power as well as support healthy aging as it may counteract natural reductions of muscle and bone density as we age.
Another nutrient that may aid exercise recovery is HMB, which is produced in the body as it breaks down the amino acid leucine. It’s most typically found in supplement form (in powders, tablets, and capsules) and has been found to help improve exercise performance, reduce the breakdown of muscle, and promote muscle synthesis.
Remember, if you don’t feed your body what it needs, yet you keep pushing yourself in the gym, at some point, your body will rebel—whether that manifests as injury, burnout, fatigue, or otherwise. All those are easily avoidable if you just make sure to get in some good muscle recovery foods and drinks.