To get the most out of our workouts, we often think about the stuff we do before and during a workout: lacing up the very best shoes or perfecting our form. But getting the most out of exercise can also extend after—way after. If you're weight training or even just doing physical activity that might cause muscle soreness later, there are foods you can eat to help replenish your muscles and even help reduce soreness later.
“Following a workout, your muscles have utilized glycogen stores to fuel your exercise,” says Dylan Murphy, RD, LDN. Glycogen is how the body stores energy from carbohydrates. Not only are your muscles partially depleted of glycogen, proteins in your muscles have also broken down, Murphy explains. After a weight-training workout, you'll ideally need to both replenish glycogen stories as well as protein.
There are also foods you can eat post-workout that can reduce soreness (and by extension recovery time) in the coming days. The only hitch? You’ll want to eat these within one to two hours of your exercise. If you wake up sore the next day, there isn't going to be a magic smoothie. In those cases, your best best is stretching, says Murphy. Here are her favorite post-workout snacks for muscle recovery…
A Snack with Carbs and Protein
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If you want something a little bit more on the savory side but still with lots of good sugar, cottage cheese paired with fruit is a great option.
On the sweeter side, you can get an extra protein burst by getting a granola with seeds.
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Super easy; always delicious. You can try almond butter if you're allergic to peanuts and gluten-free toast if you have a gluten intolerance.
You can find protein smoothie recipes that get their protein punch from ingredients like Greek yogurt and nut butters, if you want to avoid powders.
Yup, just regular ol' chocolate milk. Your inner child is so excited.
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You don't have to eat them at the same time, but together they provide a one-two punch of protein and sugar.
"The juice from tart cherries helps improve recovery time, decrease muscle pain, and repair and prevent muscle damage," says Murphy. You can easily incorporate tart cherries into some of Murphy's favorite protein- and carb-rich snacks like:
A protein smoothie with cherry juice: Cherries go great with Greek yogurt, as well as almond butter or even chocolate milk.
Yogurt, fresh cherries, and granola: When in doubt, you can always keep cherries around as your fruit pairing with yogurt.
A small glass of cherry juice: Juice has way more sugar than a whole piece of fruit, so a small glass will give you all the glycogen-replenishing benefits you need while also helping with muscle recovery.
Turmeric is often used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, it's great for sore muscles. Murphy recommends sprinkling it in a smoothie or on oatmeal.