Article by Rebecca Ireland, Personal Trainer and Tutor/Assessor for Study Active
Introduction to Food for Muscle Recovery
At Study Active we often get asked about the best foods for muscle recovery and muscle growth. This is certainly a popular nutrition topic and one that is relevant to anyone who takes part in gym-based training, especially resistance-based exercises. To find out more about food for muscle recovery we caught up with Personal Trainer and Study Active Assessor Rebecca Ireland to talk us through her views on the best foods for muscle recovery and muscle growth. Over to you Rebecca for some Q&A Rebecca!
Please note, the information in this article are the views and opinions of the author and should not be taken as nutritional advice. If you are after nutritional advice then you are advised to consult with a relevant nutrition professional.
Why is it important to consider what foods should you eat after a workout?
In my opinion it is important to have some sort of knowledge on the best workout recovery foods and what to eat after a strenuous workout to help our bodies recover. During strenuous workouts our muscles go through a process called muscle damage, which leads to soreness and inflammation. Having an understanding of what foods are good for muscle recovery and choosing the right post-workout recovery foods can play a crucial role in reducing these effects and aiding in a speedy recovery.
In general, what food will help with recovery after a workout?
In my experience firstly, including protein-rich food is the best food for recovery after a workout and is essential to have in your post-workout meal. Protein-rich food is the best food for muscle recovery because during exercise, our muscles undergo small tears and breakdown of proteins. Consuming adequate amounts of protein in your recovery food after a workout can help repair and rebuild these muscle tissues. Protein is also one of the best foods to eat for muscle recovery as it reduces soreness. Foods good for muscle recovery that have good sources of protein include lean meats like chicken, turkey, or fish. Other foods to aid muscle recovery, are plant-based options such as beans or lentils. Tofu is also a food good for muscle recovery.
In addition to protein, carbohydrate rich foods are best food for recovery after a workout, and incorporating carbohydrates in your post-workout meal is also crucial. Carbohydrate- rich meals are the best food for muscle recovery and growth because they provide the necessary energy to replenish glycogen stores. Carbohydrates are essential to have as part of your workout recovery foods as the glycogen stores get depleted during exercise. Eating carbs as recovery food after a workout helps restore energy levels and prevents fatigue. Opting for complex carbohydrates as part of your workout recovery food like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are the best foods to eat for recovery after a workout because as they provide a steady release of energy, and they are the best food for muscle recovery because they contain essential nutrients.
Foods good for muscle recovery would be foods that include healthy fats. By incorporating muscle recovery foods after workout that consist of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines these can help reduce inflammation. Other foods good for muscle recovery that include good fats are flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts as they can also help reduce inflammation and promote muscle recovery. Including these healthy fats in your post workout meal is the best food for recovery after a workout as healthy fats can contribute to overall muscle health and reduce muscle soreness.
I believe it is important to know what to eat for recovery after workout, but it’s also important to know what to drink and what type of fluids should be included as part of your workout recovery foods. Aside from incorporating the specific nutrients mentioned in your foods for muscle recovery, it also important to stay hydrated post-workout. Food to aid muscle recovery, along with proper hydration supports the delivery of nutrients to your muscles. Staying hydrated and including adequate fluids in your post workout recovery food aids in the removal of waste products. Replenishing electrolytes is essential through food for muscle recovery or through fluids like coconut water or sports drinks. Having these types of drinks alongside food to aid muscle recovery can also be beneficial for restoring mineral balance and muscle function.
In my opinion the importance of choosing the correct post-workout food for muscle recovery cannot be overstated. The best food for recovery after workout are protein-rich foods. Protein is essential in our foods to aid muscle recovery by repairing muscle damage. Sources of carbohydrates are the best food for muscle recovery and growth because they replenish energy stores. The other best foods to eat for muscle recovery are antioxidant-rich foods as they reduce inflammation. Incorporating healthy fats in your post workout meal is great for overall muscle health. Including foods good for muscle recovery can significantly help reduce muscle soreness and inflammation. It is also important to include fluids as well as workout recovery foods to hydrate adequately to support your body's recovery process and optimize your workout results.
Do workout recovery foods differ for different clients?
As we now know carbohydrates are crucial for energy supply, and the best food for recovery after workout. The UK government guidelines recommend that we should consume 4-5grams of carbohydrates per kilo of body weight per day, before any physical activity. The intake of carbohydrates will differ based on the individuals’ goals and level of physical activity both on training days and during rest days. Carbohydrates are not only one of the best post workout recovery foods on training days but are also important on rest days. On rest days the body continues to require the energy needed for recovery and maintenance. Therefore, the consumption of carbohydrates as part of your workout recovery foods should be modified to match each individual's level of activity.
The intake of protein will also differ from client to client, again dependent on the client’s goals and physical activity. The UK government guidelines recommends that 0.8 -1.5grams of protein per kilo of body weight should be consumed per day, before any physical activity. If the client is doing a high volume of physical activity, they will require both more carbohydrates and protein as part of their workout recovery foods to help replenish and repair. Adequate sources of both carbs and protein are needed in food to aid muscle recovery. However, if the client does a small amount of physical activity, they will require less protein in their workout recovery food to aid muscle recovery.
Specifically, what is the best food for muscle recovery?
I believe that eggs are the one of best food for muscle recovery. Eggs are great to consume as part of your workout recovery foods. They are good foods for muscle recovery due to their high protein content and nutritious value. As a result of their high protein content and nutritious value they are also an excellent source of food to aid muscle recovery and muscle growth. As far as post-workout food goes eggs, are one the best food for recovery after a workout because they provide necessary nutrients that help replenish the body after intense physical exertion.
In my opinion, salmon in addition to eggs are also foods good for muscle recovery. Beyond its protein content, salmon also offers omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are important to include as a part of your workout recovery foods, because Omega-3s are good fats known for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Consuming Omega 3’s products are one of the best foods to eat for muscle recovery, especially when you engage in a rigorous workout, because tiny damages can occur within your muscles leading to inflammation and muscle soreness. Having omega-3 fatty acids in your workout recovery foods can assist with inflammation, helping to alleviate pain. Having salmon, rich with omega 3’s in your muscle recovery foods after workout will promote quicker recovery. Food rich in Omega-3s like salmon, and other fatty fish are foods good for muscle recovery because they also play an essential role in increasing muscle protein synthesis (the process by which the body creates new proteins to restore muscle fibres).
How long after a workout should I eat food to aid muscle recovery?
I often get asked the questions “how long after a workout should I eat food to aid muscle recovery?” or “What would you suggest to eat for recovery after a workout?”. In my opinion, best food for recovery after a workout are foods rich in protein combined with simple carbohydrates or sugars which should be consumed as part of your immediate post workout snack or recovery food after a workout. Consuming protein and simple carbohydrates/sugars immediately post workout will have more of an effective contribution to muscle recovery. These immediate workout recovery foods should be consumed within 30-minutes. This 30-minute window, often referred to as the 'anabolic window', is known as the perfect time to provide your body with the necessary nutrients, so it is important to consume your food for muscle recovery within this time. These are the best foods to eat for muscle recovery as the aim is to replenish energy stores that have been depleted during the physical activity. They are foods good for muscle recovery because they assist in rebuilding the muscle tissues that have been broken down during the exercise. An example of food to consume within this time frame, plus being a great snacky food to have for muscle recovery is a protein shake with a teaspoon of honey, or a banana. They are combined with protein and natural good sugars to kick start the recovery process.
However, if the 30-minute window is missed, the effectiveness of the protein and carbohydrate intake for muscle recovery might be reduced, but it should not be completely ruled out. Ultimately, what to eat for recovery after workout and when is crucial because food to aid muscle recovery holds significant importance for the purpose of muscle recovery.
What are the best foods for muscle growth?
As mentioned previously a combination of protein and carbohydrate rich food, along with healthy fats are the best food for muscle recovery and growth. Good sources of protein found in meats like chicken, turkey, fish, or plant-based options such as beans, lentils, or tofu are the best food for muscle recovery and growth as protein helps repair and rebuild muscle tissues. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are the best food for muscle recovery and growth because they provide a steady release of energy and contain essential nutrients. Finally, healthy fats that consists of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines, or other good fats such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are the best food for muscle recovery and growth as they reduce inflammation and contribute to overall muscle health and reduce muscle soreness.
Summary of best foods for muscle recovery
Thank you Rebecca for guiding us through your views on the best foods for muscle recovery. The themes discussed are certainly very relevant for Personal Trainers to be aware of when providing generic nutritional advice to clients. It has been interesting to hear the views of a qualified Personal Trainer such as Rebecca, so we can understand this important nutrition topic from a Personal Trainer perspective. This blog has look at not only the best foods for muscle recovery but also the best times to consume them. It has also looked at why post-workout nutrition is important with regards to muscle recovery and muscle growth. We hope that this blog has provided some useful nutritional information that enhances the understanding of the best foods to eat for muscle recovery. Thanks again Rebecca – real food for thought here!
Did you find this article useful? If so you may wish to read our blog on What is the Best Pre Workout Meal
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