The Best Foods For Exercise Recovery

Posted on 06 October 2015

Written by Jaime Rose Chambers APD (B.Nutr&Diet) Eat Fit Food’s Dietitian & Nutritionist

What we eat after exercising can really make or break the results we get. It ultimately comes down to how often we exercise, for how long, the intensity of the exercise and what we’re trying to achieve. But regardless of if you’re an intense athlete, body builder or you’re just generally trying to trim up a little, there are a number of things we need to keep in mind when we choose food for exercise recovery.

Firstly, the body uses a varying amount of muscle and liver fuel (glycogen) during exercise and if this is not replenished within about an hour after exercise, it can affect exercise performance later on, not to mention hunger pangs. Fluids and electrolyte losses are dependent on the temperate and how intense and for how long you exercise. Muscle fibres are damaged during some exercise, particularly strength and resistance training so they must be remade, and finally intense exercise puts strain on the immune system and may need extra support.

Keep in mind that these foods don’t need to be in addition to your usual diet, but they should be planned to be part of what you eat after your exercise session. Here are my top 5 foods for exercise recovery:

  1. Skim milk – natures protein shake, it naturally contains the components of nutrients required for exercise recovery: complex carbohydrates in the form of lactose and the highly bioavailable and absorbable form of protein and in studies have been shown to support muscle mass maintenance and gains. It of course is one of the richest natural sources of calcium essential for a strong skeleton.

When to have it? After a resistance, strength or conditioning training session, particularly as a snack if you need to wait for a meal.

Eat Fit Food’s recommended meal: Natural muesli with biodynamic yoghurt

  1. Blueberries – Moderate carbohydrate but packed full of antioxidants and other phytochemicals, these little nutrient powerhouses have been shown to help muscle recovery time plus they’re rich in vitamin C, important for supporting the immune system. For the lighter exercisers, berries are a low calorie, but filling addition to a meal so they’re great as part of a weight loss meal plan.

When to have them? As part of a breakfast smoothie or with fruit & muesli after any type of exercise.

Eat Fit Food’s recommended meal: Apple & berry quinoa breakfast crumble

  1. Salmon – not only an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, salmon also contains around 30g of protein per 150g fillet making it an excellent exercise recovery food. Eating the salmon within an hour of exercise provides the muscles with amino acids from the protein will help promote muscle rebuilding. The omega 3 fatty acids are a natural anti-inflammatory and will help to support the cardiovascular system

When to have it? Enjoy as part of a main meal at any time of the day after a high intensity interval session.

Eat Fit Food’s recommended meal: Preserved lemon salmon with brown rice, kale & almonds

  1. Wholegrain bread – high intensity exercise can be stressful on the body and suppress the immune system. Research has shown that one of the best nutrients to support this exercise stress is in fact complex carbohydrates and the reason why is that it reduces the stress hormone response to exercise and therefore the disruption to the immune system.

When to have it? After a long run as part of a meal coupled with some protein like eggs, nut spread or legumes.

Eat Fit Food’s recommended meal: Kale & macadamia pesto scrambled free range eggs with soy linseed toast

  1. Lamb – lamb being a red meat is one of the richest natural sources of highly absorbable iron. Iron transports oxygen around the body and to the muscles but it is also necessary for blood cell production, which is stimulated during exercise, therefore high intensity exercises have a higher requirement for it. It’s also particularly important for women who in addition to this lose menstrual blood and if iron levels drop too low, it can make you feel very lethargic, tired and make training a real challenge.

When to have it? Enjoy for dinner after a post-work exercise session.

Eat Fit Food’s recommended meal: Chermoula lamb with roast pumpkin mash & green beans

Now it's time to train and follow your training with some delicious food!

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