Updated: Jan 28
Your post-workout meal is arguably the most important meal of the day. Exercise stress forces the body to adapt and become fitter and stronger. In order for the body to adapt quickly, quality nutrients are required alongside adequate rest. Therefore, the meal you eat immediately after your workout needs to provide you with the nutrients you need to recover. Below are our 5 top foods you should add to your post-workout meal. These foods provide specific nutrients and nutritive qualities which the body requires in greater amounts after workouts.
WILD CAUGHT SOLE
Fresh, wild-caught sole may increase the speed and quality of recovery from exercise because animal protein is rich in bioavailable amino acids which have been shown to have positive effects on muscle growth, repair and energy levels (1)(2).
Wild-caught fish contains plenty of leucine and glutamine, two amino acids which, in particular, seem to produce fantastic results with regard to post-workout recovery (3). Cooking fresh fish from scratch can have a hugely positive impact on overall health which includes recovery from exercise. In addition, opting for fresh fish over fish oil and amino acid supplements is recommended as fresh fish would provide the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids, dietary protein and nutrients which a supplement would not contain.
Tips - Marinade the fish overnight in extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, organic white wine, sea salt, chopped fresh dill and ground black pepper. Place skin side up on a baking tray and bake in an oven for 15-20 mins at around 175 degrees celsius. Aim for 1-2 fillets per portion.
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Kefir is a fantastic source of protein, calcium and probiotics to aid in recovery and digestion.
Kefir is similar to yoghurt in it being a fermented dairy product, but the similarities end there. Full fat kefir contains probiotics - much more than cultured yoghurts - and other nutrients which are essential for good health such as calcium, magnesium and essential amino acids. For those who are lactose intolerant, kefir may be a safe choice as kefir lacks the high lactose content found in normal milk which often causes digestive stress (4). The gut, part of the digestive system, plays a huge role in overall health (5). Kefir provides nutrition to support the digestive system and create a harmonious relationship between the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) and the immune system (Agerholm‐Larsen et al. 2000). This leads to a more balanced organism in which bodily functions such as regulating hormone levels, digesting food, muscular contractions and the response of the nervous system to training become more efficient.
As a result, it is a fantastic post-workout food; nutrient-dense, hydrating, delicious, cheap and pairs well with other post-workout foods such as dark chocolate and molasses.
Tips - 100ml of full-fat kefir typically contains 58kcal, 3g of fat, 4.4g of carbohydrates and 3g of protein. Aim for 100-300ml per portion.
Chocolate is great as a post-workout snack as it contains high levels of antioxidants which protect against the oxidative stress of exercise and other beneficial compounds such as theobromine.
Oxidative stress is disastrous for anyone trying to recover from training as it can result in fatigue, poor performance, illness and injury. When stress levels are not reduced, chronic stress forces the body into a state of inflammation. If this inflammation becomes chronic, the body rapidly begins to break down. This breakdown leads to poor muscle and tissue recovery and quality, a suppressed immune system, an impaired digestive system and a weak mental state among many other things. Thankfully cacao contains antioxidants which may prevent oxidative stress from exercise. (6) Chocolate also contains high levels of theobromine which, aside from being heart-protective, also acts as a vasodilator widening blood vessels and increasing blood flow, an important part of exercise recovery (7). Tips - Combining chocolate and milk is a popular recovery drink. Cheap, tasty and if consumed immediately post-workout and a second time 2 hours post-workout, can reduce muscle damage (8). If you would rather eat good quality chocolate, aim for 5-10 small squares of organic, fair-trade dark (75%+) chocolate.
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Molasses is a great source of simple sugars which in some cases can be beneficial - after a glycogen depleting workout, for example. Compared to other simple sugar sources, blackstrap molasses contains far more minerals and antioxidants which also aid in exercise recovery (9).
When the sugar stored in muscle cells is used to fuel exercise, the body becomes more sensitive to the presence of sugar in the blood. This can result in sugar consumption post-workout improving health and speeding up recovery (10). The demands of the workout can force sugar into the muscles, which can boost future performance and prevent sugar circulating in the bloodstream (11).
Molasses also contains good amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, manganese and magnesium. Tips - Aim for 1-2 tbsp organic blackstrap molasses per portion.
Sea salt added to water can help to rehydrate you after an intense workout quickly.
Hydration is perhaps the most important element of recovery. Electrolyte levels typically drop throughout the day especially during exercise or when hot so it is important to rehydrate immediately after a workout (12). Adding salt to your water can improve hydration faster than water alone. If quick recovery is your goal, sodium, potassium and magnesium are the three main electrolytes to focus on.
Tips - Special rehydration sachets containing all the above minerals are available in most health shops. For a simple solution, stick to a teaspoon of sea salt with a glass of water before, during and after rigorous training.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding, of course, going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.
John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way.’ A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.