Proper recovery is just as important, if not more important, than exercise when it comes to getting stronger, faster and fitter. Diet, hydration, adequate sleep, as well as stretching and light movement, all play vital roles in the repair and growth of muscles post-workout. This discussion will focus primarily on diet and the role food and water play in enhancing recovery and athletic performance. Protein is typically top of mind for most people, but carbohydrates, hydration, vitamins and minerals are also crucial. Below we discuss how each of these will help you recover better and perform at your best.
#1 Bump Up Your Carbs
Carbohydrates are one of the essential macronutrients needed for recovery. Consuming carbs post-workout helps replenish glycogen, increase protein synthesis and enhance gains in muscular strength and endurance. Though there are conflicting opinions out there on consuming simple vs. complex carbs post-workout, we recommend sticking to healthier, whole food sources; try fruits like bananas, berries or apples with a scoop of your favorite nut butter. Drinkable carbs are a great alternative for those that find that their appetites are suppressed after a demanding workout – look for shakes that can provide a good source of carbs in combination with some protein.
#2 Pack Your Protein
The obsession with protein post-workout exists for a reason, but our view is that people spend too much time worrying about the amount of protein and not enough time concerned about the quality. From our perspective, high quality protein sources are organic, plant-based and possess a complete amino acid profile. Choosing high-quality protein after exercise helps to prevent protein breakdown and stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Research even shows combining carbohydrates and protein in a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio after workouts is helpful in ensuring optimal muscle recovery – a great strategy for better adaptation and performance. The easiest and most convenient way to hit that golden ratio is to opt for ready-to-drink recovery shakes like the ones made by Upwild. Other options include fruit with a handful of nuts or plant-based yogurt with berries. Target to have a serving size of around 10-20g of protein post-workout and follow the general daily guidelines of about 1-1.2g of protein per lb of body weight.
*If you are someone who usually enjoys a glass of chocolate milk after an intense workout due to its protein, try our Cold-Brew Cacao protein shake instead!
#3 Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Water plays a significant role in our health and weekly workouts. Muscles are actually 75% water, so proper hydration post-workout is critical. During workouts, muscle fibers break down so they can develop and strengthen, but in order to do this, they go through a process called protein synthesis, which requires water. Without proper hydration, protein synthesis slows, which can subsequently delay muscle recovery. Water doesn’t just aid with muscle recovery – it also helps the body digest vital nutrients post-recovery. If you aren’t properly hydrated, your post-workout meal may not be delivering its full range of benefits.
#4 Don’t Forget Your Micronutrients
Macronutrients play a critical role in muscle recovery, but so do micronutrients like Vitamin C and E, as well as superfoods like chia seeds and maca. Chia seeds are packed with Omega-3s, which can help reduce inflammation, while maca is a powerful adaptogen that can boost energy. Vitamin E can help repair muscle tissue and prevent damage to cells, while Vitamin C can reduce muscle soreness the day after your workout. Check out this full list of other vitamins and minerals that can aid in muscle recovery.
If you are familiar with adaptogens, you know how great they are for helping your body adapt to stress. Besides maca, some other popular adaptogens include ashwagandha, amla and ginseng, which can easily be added to any protein shake or taken in a supplement form.
#5 Find Those Inflammation Fighting Foods
The stress put on the body during exercise will inevitably cause some inflammation, which is a natural immune response to tissue damage. This inflammation results in muscle fatigue and soreness for 1-2 days following an intense workout. Loading up on anti-inflammatory foods may help the body recover from soreness faster and get you back in the gym sooner. Some great anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Fruits: Blueberries*, Strawberries*, Cherry and Pineapple
- Dark leafy greens - Spinach and Kale
- Root Vegetables: Beets, Ginger and Turmeric*
- Nuts - Almonds* and Walnuts
- Fish - Sardines, Salmon and Mackerel
- Olive Oil
*Ingredients found in Upwild Shakes
Be sure to follow us @drinkupwild and be on the lookout for our new flavors and recipes debuting later this year and don’t forget to tag us so we can see how you recover from your weekly workouts and fuel your best self.