Besides genetics, the ability to recover rapidly from workouts so that you can hit it hard again is what sets the successful trainees apart from those who are constantly looking for the solution to finally get the results they desire.
A lot of people make the mistake of just focusing on one aspect of recovery. They ignore the fact that multiple systems get beat down by training. The correct way to recover is to target the following mechanisms:
- Repair muscle and tissue.
- Remove waste products and reduce inflammation.
- Replenish energy stores and nutrients necessary for cellular activity.
- Restore the central nervous system (CNS), which, in simple terms, is repairing the connection between the brain and body
Fortunately, recovery doesn’t have to be complicated because you can use the same simple nutrition strategies to target multiple systems at the same time. For example, drinking caffeinated coffee can accelerate recovery by both reducing muscle soreness and restoring CNS function so you recuperate strength faster after an intense workout.
Here are five more foods to eat frequently to improve recovery for better performance and easier fat loss.
1: Berries and leafy greens
Dark-colored fruits such as blueberries and tart cherries are best known for being nutrient powerhouses that accelerate the elimination of waste products produced during training to reduce soreness and recover muscle strength faster.
Don’t stop with berries and cherries. All green vegetables provide compounds that improve metabolic processes. For instance, the cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) help the body safely eliminate the hormone estrogen. Rainbow chard and collards have been found to reduce the insulin response and they are abundant in nutrients that can help eradicate free radicals that slow healing.
Besides providing compounds that reduce inflammation, fruits and vegetables provide low-glycemic energy. Eating the right carbs at the right times can make all the difference in what you get out of your training. Here are a few ways low-sugar carbohydrates influence recovery:
They can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after training, which can improve body composition over time.
They support function of the thyroid, which is involved in metabolic rate, and they are used to produce neurotransmitters that elevate mood and restore will power.
Hydration levels. Carbs require the body to store a lot of water, which can be good if intake is optimized but bad (bloating) if carb intake goes wrong.
When to eat low-glycemic carbs is based on personal choice and goals. Because they are low in calories and high in nutrients, there’s no bad time. However, if your goal is to spike insulin and replenish glycogen, high-glycemic carbs are indicated. Read on…
2: Colourful High-glycemic plants
Though they might not be staple foods to eat at every meal if the goal is fat loss, higher glycemic fruits and vegetables also contain nutrients that can aid in tissue repair and recovery:
They increase insulin, which has a protective antioxidant effect on muscle because insulin helps suppress inflammatory products that you produce during training.
They are the “easiest” source of energy for the body to use and they replenish glycogen, which is the energy source of your muscles.
Which carbs to chose? High-glycemic plants aren’t your only choice but they have performed well in exercise and metabolic studies:
Watermelon was found to improve nitric oxide production, delivering nutrient-rich blood to damaged muscle tissue.
Potatoes contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need and along with other starches, such as squash and sweet potatoes, tend to be extremely satisfying.
Pineapple and kiwi will raise blood antioxidant status and provide compounds that improve metabolic process.
3: Whey protein
Whey protein is the best supplemental protein source because it stimulates protein synthesis more than all other sources and has performed best in long-term muscle and strength building studies.
This pays off. A review found that trainees who took protein after training had a 38 percent greater increase in muscle and a 33 percent greater increase in strength than those who did not.
Most people know that whey protein is your go-to recovery food because it is quickly digested by the body, raising blood amino acid levels rapidly. What’s often a surprise is that high-quality whey is also one of the easiest proteins for the body to digest if you have a healthy gut since it’s nearly lactose free.
This is key because you’ll benefit from the high glutamine, leucine, and other nutrients in the protein and you’ll avoid digestive troubles. In addition, whey improves insulin sensitivity over the long run and lowers inflammation for a faster recovery.
4: Cod and salmon
Dietary fat is an often overlooked component of recovery nutrition, but it plays a key role if you time your intake right. Fat reduces the insulin response to protein and carbs, so if you want to spike insulin post-workout to replenish glycogen muscle stores it should be avoided. But at other meals it’s a delicious and useful food that will give you a moderate insulin response that improves satisfaction.
The omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA, that come in fish are the darlings of the recovery world because they improve cellular signaling and have anti-inflammatory effects.
Researchers recommend fish oil for trainees who are under intense physical and environmental stress, such as competing at high altitudes or in extreme heat or cold because it fights oxidative stress and reduces waste production during intense eccentric exercise.
It’s beneficial for improving body composition as well. When volleyball athletes were on a calorie-restricted, high-protein diet to improve body composition, a diet high in omega-3s improved antioxidant status and body fat loss.
Both salmon and cod have performed well in studies aimed at reducing inflammation (a main goal when training to speed recovery) and improve body composition. For example, in a recent study found that consuming cod protein was better for promoting growth and regeneration of muscle after trauma partly because it led to less inflammation.
5: Almonds and avocados
Eating a variety of fats from whole sources like avocados and nuts has a protective effect on the body because it provides the correct ratios of the different forms of fat. For example, bone repair is improved when the omega-3 from fish and the omega-6 fats from nuts and seeds are balanced.
Almonds have performed especially well in aiding recuperation from intense exercise. A study that had trained cyclists eat almonds daily for 4 weeks found that they improved time trial performance by boosting energy use and antioxidant capacity.
In the short-term this means healthy fats make you faster, but in the long run it means you’ll have a faster recovery because the body will produce less oxidative stress during training.
Other fat-containing foods are just as important. Eating avocados is associated with leanness in general, whereas walnuts have been linked to lower inflammation in the brain in response to stress.