Is your recovery after exercise missing? Try adding some of these superfoods
As huge as the business itself is, what you do after a sweat session is almost the same size.
All kinds of diets and fads will try to get you invested in various concoctions and plans, claiming to do wonders while you rest, and in preparing for your next workout. The bad news is that everyone is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all option. The good news is that there are simple things you can try with minimal fuss throughout your workout routine.
Related: Best protein powders
There has been a huge push in the past few years towards “superfoods” – ingredients that seem miraculous and seem to do so much, even in only small doses. You may have heard of them as one-ingredient wonders that can transform your recovery.
We’re here to tell you that like most things in life, there is no quick fix. While some specific foods can increase your recovery, a mix and balance of many different foods (and a generally appropriate recovery routine) can enhance your post-workout development.
We spoke with a few nutritionists and dieters to find out more about which foods are really worth their salt… and which ones are nothing but empty calories.
Strategies for superior recovery after exercise
Recovery science consultant Dr. Dan Pardey points out this summer’s favorite powerhouse, loaded with the amino acid l-citrulline, which affects both exercise and recovery.
Watermelon juice has been shown to reduce heart rate and reduce muscle pain. In your cells, nitric oxide is flipped quickly, and the half-life is only 1 to 2 milliseconds,” he says. So your body needs a reservoir of compounds to make nitric oxide to support this flow. As it turns out, dietary nitrate contributes about half of total oxide production Nitric.
Although the science isn’t definitive, Bardi says one hypothesis is that L-citrulline may facilitate the removal of ammonia. During high-intensity exercise, elevated starting levels of ammonia may cause blood lactate to build up faster. Since L-citrulline dilutes ammonia through the urea cycle (a complex biochemical reaction), it can enhance aerobic metabolism and delay lactate accumulation.
In support of this idea, a 2013 study showed that after just 24 hours, athletes given standard, fortified watermelon juice reported a reduction in muscle soreness and resting heart rate.
down some beets
Continuing the concept of nitrates, Bardi suggests beets and beet juice because they are rich in nitrates, health-promoting phytochemicals.
“Drinking nitrate-rich beet juice before a workout can improve oxygen delivery to your muscles and brain, improve endurance and reduce muscle soreness after your workout,” he says.
Beets have a wide range of health benefits, which may primarily slow down the aging process, which in turn may aid in recovery from exercise. A 2015 study found that beets increase blood flow in the brain, which not only slows cognitive aging, but generally helps with inflammation and muscle recovery, a 2017 study also found.
Combine protein and carbohydrates
“The best meal for post-workout recovery will include a mix of protein and carbohydrates,” says MegaFood Medical Director Erin Stokes, ND.
Stokes explains that during long workouts, the body uses carbohydrates stored in the muscles as glycogen and our bodies need to replenish these energy stores. (A 2018 study noted a host of pre- and post-workout benefits to consuming protein in almost any form.) Which is why many athletes tout chocolate milk as the perfect post-workout recovery drink (due to the ideal ratio of protein, carbs and electrolytes).
“I buy chocolate milk for our teenage athletic son from a local sustainable dairy,” she says. “As a naturopath and a mother alike, it’s important for me to know and trust the source of the milk he’s consuming.”
Danielle McAvoy, a registered dietitian with the Foods Zone, adds that a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is recommended for strength training and high-intensity training.
“A higher carbohydrate intake is recommended for exercise endurance as glycogen stores are more depleted,” she says.
Avoid inflammatory foods
A good workout takes a heavy toll on your body, raising inflammation and stress levels. Naturally, you don’t want to put food in your body that increases inflammation even more.
“Carbs are important for replenishing your muscle glycogen stores after a workout, but it’s best to avoid refined carbs that have been stripped of nutrients, such as white bread or pasta, fruit juice, and baked goods,” McAvoy says.
She explains that avoiding foods rich in refined sugars, processed oils, artificial flavors and preservatives is a good way to not introduce any inflammation or other triggers into the body. Also, avoid alcohol – it doesn’t do you any favors after your run.
Get your own polyphenols
“Polyphenols are a large family of naturally occurring plant-derived compounds that, when consumed, have impressive effects on our organ function,” says Bardi.
He cited a 2020 study that found that polyphenols in tart cherries and pomegranates may aid exercise recovery by relieving oxidative stress and inflammation. According to the study, these compounds should be consumed at least several days before exercise and continued for at least a week after exercise to maximize potential recovery benefits.
“Aim for a total phenol content of at least 1,000 mg/day,” he adds.
Supplement with turmeric
You have undoubtedly heard about the many benefits of turmeric around reducing inflammation.
“Turmeric has been eaten by people all over the world for thousands of years,” Stokes says. “Although I do include turmeric in cooking, I prefer the ease of use of the tablets in the end.”
When shopping for a turmeric supplement, look for a supplement that contains black pepper as this helps activate the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric. Make sure that any turmeric supplement you decide to use contains only natural ingredients and is free of any additives or additives. Turmeric comes in more forms than ever, so it’s easy to discover an app that works for you.
Pay attention to your body hydration
Hydration can be a powerful “super tool” on its own, especially when it comes to healing.
“When we exercise, especially during multi-hour workouts like a long run or bike ride, we lose salts and fluids, and it’s necessary to replenish them to both feel and perform better.
Hydration doesn’t just come through water – it can come through fruits (like watermelon) and vegetables and through hydrating recovery powders (although use caution and caution when looking for an option that works for you).
Replacing all those lost electrolytes, along with losing sodium and other minerals is essential to helping your body not only recover properly, but prepare for your next workout.
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