Seven Foods that can Help Improve your Workout and Recovery
The benefits of exercise can be greatly improved by consuming appropriate nutrients with optimal timing before and/or after the event. While macronutrients such as protein and carbohydrates are commonly associated with optimized post-workout recovery, recommendations related to specific food choices vary across the board and are subject to opinion.
Below is a list of 7 foods that could potentially improve training adaptations as well as recovery when consumed before or after an exercise session:
- Oatmeal: Not all oatmeal is created equal, especially when highly-sweetened varieties are compared to slow-cooking, steel cut oats. The latter will provide greater quantities of healthful, complex carbohydrates. It is also digested in a relatively slow manner, which will reduce increases in fat storage-promoting insulin. It can be exceptionally useful when consumed 3-5 hours prior to exercise to help top off available glycogen.
- Low-fat Ricotta cheese with honey: Ricotta cheese is made from whey protein remaining after the production of other cheeses; making it an excellent post-workout protein option. Adding a dollop of honey will add quickly-digesting carbohydrates; making it an ideal snack for giving exerted muscles the amino acids and glycogen they need to recover.
- Coffee: Research has demonstrated a plethora of benefits associated with consuming caffeine about one hour prior to working out. Specifically, caffeine has been shown to improve performance during endurance training (+60 minutes) as well as maximal-intensity work that lasts ~5 minutes (such as a 1500-meter run). Taking between 1 mg/kg of BW to 9 mg/kg of BW has all been shown to be effective depending on body size and sensitivity.
- Oysters: Oysters supply a healthy dose of iron, which functions to transport oxygen in circulation in conjunction with myoglobin. Low iron storage essentially leads to premature fatigue. With high-volume and/or high-intensity exercise the dietary requirements for iron increase; making these mollusks an ideal choice for maintaining adequate iron stores.
- Ginger: Incorporating ginger into a complete diet has been shown to relive post-exercise muscle soreness (via anti-inflammatory properties) as well reduce joint stiffness. An easy way to incorporate ginger into your diet is to use it as an ingredient in soups or tea.
- Salmon: Salmon has a variety of benefits for the active individual. It is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Vitamin D specifically is essential to improving force output, as low levels of vitamin D have been associated with decreased muscle strength.
- Tomato juice: If you are looking for variety when it comes to hydration, try tomato juice. Tomato juice is excellent for replacing electrolytes such as potassium and sodium which are lost in sweat. For example, 8oz of tomato juice contains 556mg potassium; compared to ~50mg found in a common 12oz sports drink. On the other hand, excess consumption is not recommended due to the relatively high salt content.