Perhaps the best part about working out is the insatiable appetite we develop as a result. Burning off a ton of calories during a workout means eating a lot of those back afterwards, not only to satisfy your hunger but also your muscles. During a workout your body depletes glycogen – the muscle’s primary energy source, aminos – those compounds that make muscle, along with important antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that drive metabolic processes including recovery. Eating the right combinations of food after your workout helps ensure your muscles get what they need to recover faster and get you back in the gym sooner.
Try these 4 delicious and quick meal combos to maximize recovery and speed up your gains.
COMBO #1: Avocado, Spinach, Sweet Potato and Chicken
Avocado delivers a rich source of the super antioxidant glutathionine, while sweet potato provides a source of energizing carbs and vitamin B-6, which helps you get the most out of the carbs you put in your body. Sweet potato also provides a rich source of the antioxidant Vitamin A. Spinach contains a compound called phytoecydysteroids, which has been shown in research to increase protein synthesis and increase strength. Chicken covers all your essential amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair.
EAT THIS: Eat at least 150 to 200 g of chicken along with about the same weight in sweet potato for a balanced meal of carbs and protein. As for the Spinach, eat as much of this low-calorie leafy green as you like. Even better serve chopped pre-cooked and cooled chicken and sweet potato over a leafy green salad. Mix with a light vinaigrette.
COMBO #2: Beet Root, Kale, Turkey and Bulgur
Beet Root is a rich source of natural nitrates. Nitrates help feed the pathway of nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide increases vasodilation, which enhances nutrient–aminos and glucose up-take after your workout to your deprived muscles, while also helping reduce muscle fatigue. Kale is a rich source of antioxidants Vitamin A and C as well as good source of magnesium. It also delivers the phytonutrient indole, which helps improve hormone balance in the body by reducing the toxic load of estrogen. Bulgur, a grain that delivers 34 g of carbs, 6 g of protein and 8 g of fiber per 100g serving, will help increase your post-workout energy levels. Along with 35g of protein per 200 g serving – and very little fat – turkey will deliver all your essential aminos.
EAT THIS: Chop the cooked beet root, turkey and kale and serve with cooked bulgur for a hearty power bowl of ingredients. Add a bit of low fat citrus vinaigrette or salsa for a spicy flavor.
COMBO #3: Quinoa, Egg Whites, Blueberries, Cinnamon
Although whole eggs are a great source of protein, egg whites are devoid of the extra fat that can slow down digestion post-workout. Egg whites are considered one of the best sources of protein and they deliver all the essential amino acids. They are also one of the most bio-available sources of protein, which means your body absorbs, digests and utilizes almost all of what you consume. Quinoa is a great source of energizing carbs, is high in protein and is one of the only grains that delivers all the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle. Blueberries deliver a source of energy and are high in the antioxidant vitamin C. Cinnamon is a known insulin mimicker, meaning it can act like insulin in the body and help deliver aminos and sugars preferentially to the muscles over fat, which means you’ll get the most out of the nutrients you’re putting into your body.
EAT THIS: Combine cooked quinoa with egg whites and cinnamon and cook in a non-stick pan for a twist on a protein pancake. Top with fresh blueberries and enjoy.
COMBO #4: Whey Protein, Coconut Water, Pineapple and Banana
Don’t feel like cooking? We don’t blame you. Have a protein smoothie instead. Whey protein delivers a source of essential aminos, particularly branched chain amino acids that are important for driving protein synthesis. Instead of water, mix your protein with coconut water – which is rich in electrolyte minerals that are commonly lost during exercise. Natural coconut water can improve post-workout rehydration more effectively and efficiently than both plain water and a processed carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage. Pineapple delivers a source of energy, but is also rich in the antioxidant Vitamin C, energizing Vitamin B6 and is a great source of magnesium – which plays an important role in muscle function. Banana will help thicken up your shake, along with providing another source of electrolytes, particularly potassium.
Gorelick-Feldman J, MacLean D, Ilic N, et al. Phytoecdysteroids Increase Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle Cells. J Agric Food Chem. 2008. 56 (10): 3532–3537.
Saat M, et al. Rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002. 21(2): 93-104.