Setting fitness goals is not just about lifting weights and working out but also involves eating the right food. A strenuous workout session can take a toll on the body if it is not accompanied by the right nutrition. Meals after a workout thus play a key role in muscle recovery. When we consume carbohydrates, our body breaks them into simple units called glucose which is absorbed into the bloodstream. Excess glucose is converted into glycogen which is stored in our muscles and liver. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Mr. Aman Puri, Founder, Steadfast Nutrition, to know about the food and nutrition to recover muscles after a heavy workout.
Our muscles utilise the glycogen reserves, especially during high-intensity workouts, which can lead to our muscles being partially exhausted of glycogen, causing muscle protein breakdown. After a workout session, our body works on rebuilding the depleted glycogen stores and revives the damaged muscle proteins. Including the right nutrients during this time helps the body to accelerate the speed of recovery. Read further to know about muscle recovery.
Nutrients and foods for muscle recovery
It is extremely important to eat complex carbohydrates along with a good protein source after exercising. It can help reduce muscle protein breakdown, speed up muscle protein synthesis, and replenish glycogen stores. Here are the nutrients you need for muscle recovery:
A good protein intake is essential for maintaining and building lean muscle mass. During workouts our muscles undergo a lot of wear and tear. Hence, including a good amount of protein can help overcome this damage. You can incorporate foods such as eggs, poultry, fish, soy products, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds, quinoa, broccoli, mushrooms, and pea in your diet. Adding a protein supplement like whey protein concentrate or isolate can also greatly support your increased nutritional needs.
These are the body’s preferred energy source after a workout as they allow a quick release of energy into the bloodstream. After an exercise session, eat complex carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains, oatmeal, oats and its four, legumes, quinoa, millets, beans, fruits, and, vegetables.
Fitness enthusiasts and athletes are scared of including fats in their diet, but a complete fat cut-off from the diet can hinder their athletic performance. Good fats help in muscle recovery by regulating oxygen, restoring hormones, and maintaining good cardiovascular health. Fat is one of the macronutrients that provide fuel to the body.
However, you should be careful in choosing the type of fat to be included in the diet. Restrict the consumption of saturated and trans fats found as these can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure levels. Focus more on healthy fats found in fatty fishes such as salmon, tuna, herringbone, flaxseed and its oil, avocado and its oil, walnuts and others.
While exercising, we tend to lose a lot of water through sweat. Consuming enough water (about 8-10 glasses a day) helps the body function properly, prevents dehydration, and reduces the chances of muscle cramps or soreness. It also aids in faster recovery and improves workout performance.
Foods for muscle recovery after heavy workout
A good meal after a workout not only plays a crucial role in fast muscle recovery but also lowers muscle soreness the next day. One can include the following four easily available foods in their daily diet to meet their increased energy and protein needs after workout:
Eggs have a high biological value when it comes to the quality of proteins. You can include eggs in any preferred form such as boiled eggs after a workout, or make them a part of your breakfast can help you feel full for longer. Eggs are also rich in vitamins A, D, E, B12, B6, and K.
2. Nuts and seeds
Nuts like walnuts, almonds, cashews, raisins, pistachios, and others are packed with essential nutrients. Consuming just a handful of nuts after your workout can deliver a good amount of protein, dietary fibre, healthy fats, and various other vitamins and minerals. You can also add seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, flax, chia, sunflower, watermelon, and hemp to your nuts mixture.
Banana contains a good amount of potassium, magnesium, and fibre which can help suppress hunger. It is also convenient to carry in your gym bag to be consumed after the workout. It provides instant energy and helps prevent muscle cramps. You can also add bananas to your protein shake or smoothie.
Quinoa is one of the best sources of plant-based proteins. It is a great option for diabetics, people with high cholesterol and blood pressure levels, physically active people who want a combination of complex carbohydrates with good protein content, and people who want to lose weight, as it has a low-glycemic index, high fibre content, and is naturally gluten-free.
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