You killed that workout! But that workout killed your muscles. Whether you’re well-conditioned or just starting to workout, sore muscles can really put a damper on your performance. And while it might seem like there’s not much, you can do about it, that’s not entirely true. Sure, you might have heard that pre and post-workout stretching can help speed up your recovery. Still, the right nutrition also plays a massive role in helping your muscles recover. Here are some easy ways to use food to speed your post-workout muscle recovery.
Remember the Three R’s
Muscle recovery doesn’t happen instantly. But, If you’re want to give your muscles a hand, just remember the three R’s: refuel, rebuild, and rehydrate.
First, your muscles need the right fuel to get enough energy to start the recovery process. One easy way to do this is to provide nutrition right after a workout. Your muscles use glycogen to keep you moving during a workout. After you’re done with your sweat sesh, you’ve depleted those energy stores. To refill them, you’ll need to add in more fuel. Carbohydrates are a great way to refill your glycogen stores so that your muscles can start the recovery process. Or, if you’re living that keto lifestyle, other studies suggest that fats can also replenish glycogen when your body is in ketosis.
After you’ve replenished your energy stores, your muscles will then enter the rebuilding phase. While the entire recovery process needs the right amount of energy to do its thing, it also depends on getting the right proteins and amino acids. These little suckers are the building blocks of muscular development. Too little protein and missing amino acids can lead to a delayed recovery. In fact, if you periodically don’t get enough, your muscular development could come to a screeching halt.
Finally, you must rehydrate. Staying hydrated is essential for your health in so many ways. When it comes to muscle recovery, being dehydrated can kill the process. Trust us – we get it! There’s nothing like a little sweat therapy, but keep in mind that you should replenish that lost water post-workout. The easiest way to understand how much water you’ll need is to weigh yourself. Most dieticians recommend that you drink at least 16 to 24 ounces of water post-workout, but keep in mind that your individual needs may vary. Need a new water buddy? Staying hydrated can be easier when you find that favorite water bottle.
Mind Your Nutrients
A balanced diet doesn’t just help you perform better. It also helps you recover faster. When it comes to muscle recovery, there are specific types of nutrients that can help speed up the process. Here are the big ones you should be looking for:
- Protein – Do you know how much protein you need post-workout? Calculating this answer can be tricky. Some studies suggest that it only takes about 20 grams of protein to reboot the muscle-building process.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a critical player in keeping your musculoskeletal system in good shape. It helps build new protein for your skin and maintain cartilage. Unlike other nutrients, your body has no way of making vitamin C on its own. So you need to incorporate foods rich in vitamin C into your daily diet.
- Omega 3’s – This nutrient is commonly found in seafood (like salmon) and some nuts, including walnuts. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to help suppress inflammation, much like an OTC NSAID would. This can ease muscle soreness and speed recovery post-workout
Timing is Everything
There’s a window of opportunity when it comes to muscle recovery – so don’t let it close! The first 60 to 90 minutes post-workout are the most crucial in the recovery process. During this time, your body is at peak readiness to digest and utilize the nutrients immediately.
If you wait too long to refuel, your body might not recover as quickly. The longer you wait, the longer your muscles have to wait for the much-needed energy and recovery nutrients. For particularly intense workouts, like HIIT, replenishing nutrition is absolutely essential to making sure you can hit the ground running on your next workout.
The main thing to remember about post-workout nutrition is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all kinda thing. You should experiment to see what combination of foods and hydration work best to help you recover as quickly as possible.