Tired muscles need nourishment. Just like our brains and bellies, our muscles don’t function properly if we don’t give them what they need to get stronger. The most critical time to feed sore or tired muscles is right after a workout; ideally, you’ll have a balanced meal with all your macronutrients (i.e. carbs, fats, and proteins) within 20 minutes after your muscle or weight-training workout. Some studies show that this muscle recovery window is so short that even consuming a meal one hour after a workout doesn’t do the kind of repair work that an earlier meal would. So, if you abide by the 20-minute rule of muscle replenishment after strength training, the next step is deciding what you should eat during this important refuel. Muscles that have been depleted need a mix of protein and carbs, and maybe a small amount of healthy fat. Here are 7 foods that help to treat sore muscles.
Step aside, cereal! Most of you are processed and full of sugars, anyway. A far superior choice for muscle repair is quinoa, which is technically a seed but is often thought of as a grain. Quinoa is only of the only plants that is a complete protein, which means it offers all essential amino acids. Have quinoa with lactose-free milk, and serve it warm or cold. You can also sprinkle on some cinnamon to add flavor. Quinoa has 8g of protein per serving, approximately 180 calories, and packs lots of fiber.
You can go with egg whites instead of eggs if you are really looking to cut fats out of your diet, but you should note that removing the yolk from an egg also removes a lot of the positive nutritional qualities that they offer. Eggs are a complete source of protein, plus they have vitamins and minerals, including calcium, zinc, and Vitamin B. Just don’t compromise the nutrients in a good egg dish by cooking the eggs with unhealthy oils.
3. Brown rice
Easy to make in batches and store for the week, brown rice provides fiber, protein, carbs, and has many of the vitamins and minerals found in plant-based foods. Brown rice is especially rich in manganese, which stimulates fatty acid creation. Sprouted and germinated brown rice are even more healthful options.
Often called the “poor man’s fish”, tuna is actually rich in protein, low in calories, and moderate in fat and carb content. It’s also easy to carry with you. The downside of tuna is the high mercury level, so it may be wise to limit your consumption to once a week. In addition, spring for the nicer (and healthier) versions that are wild-caught or lower in sodium.
Because many people have at least a degree of sensitivity to gluten (if not a full-on allergy), we recommend gluten-free rolled oats. Oats are cheap, quick to prepare, and start your day (or end it…breakfast for dinner, anyone!?) with fiber. A serving also provides roughly 8g of protein, carbs, and no sugar. Oh, and on that last note, one important thing to remember is to buy oats that don’t have added sugar and “fruit” flavor—none of that is real! And oatmeal is so versatile on its own that if you want to add nuts for texture or slices of fruit for sweetness, go for it!
6. Whole-wheat toast or English muffin
We know, we said you should try to avoid gluten. But whole-wheat toast packs a ton of nutritional benefits, so many exercise fanatics rely on it for muscle recovery. It fulfills your carb and protein needs, and if you want to add a small amount of healthy fats (like avocado or ghee), then go right ahead. Almond butter or peanut butter are also popular—and nutritional—spreads, but it’s also easy to go overboard on them. Eat these in moderation, and actually look at your portions.
You probably already know that chicken is a great source of protein. It’s also low in calories, and it’s actually considered a complete protein, along with eggs. Lean poultry is a quick and surefire way to deliver protein to your muscles after a workout, and chicken is easy to mix with other more flavorful foods. Add pico de gallo to your chicken for some spice, or dip it in some hummus for a creamier option.