If you’re someone who trains, or would like to get into fitness, you probably already know that your diet plays a huge role in your performance and results. Especially if you’re into weight training, you must already be aware that you need to eat a LOT, as in stuffing your face with food all the time just like in the stories of legendary bodybuilders like “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson, or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Eating a lot is easy, but if you take your training seriously and want to maximize your “gains”, you’ll have to fine tune your diet to only include food that will specifically increase your performance and aid in muscle repair.
You may have already heard the saying “carbs before, protein after”. This is true, but don’t take it as an excuse to grab some Twinkies and stuff like that! This rule only means that your pre-workout meal should have a lot of carbs in it, but it should also have an ample amount of protein, and vitamins and minerals for better absorption. Same logic applies with the “protein after” part – ramp up the protein, but be sure to include a bit of carbs, and food rich in vitamins like Vitamin B-6, which aids in protein absorption, and Vitamin C & E to counteract free radicals.
What happens to our muscles when we work out?
We put muscles under stress when we work out, but this is considered beneficial stress. During the workout, our muscles use mainly glucose as fuel, as well as fatty acids and amino acids. When we lift, our muscles contract, and this repeated contractions form microscopic tears in the connective tissue of our muscles. These injured cells then release cytokines, which are inflammatory molecules that activate the immune system to repair the injury.
This is why we are sore right after a workout. Our muscles are essentially damaged, and only rest and proper nutrition will make them recover.
This cycle of injury and repair is what makes muscles grow and adapt to the increased demand put on them. This process is rarely fun, it hurts and is time consuming, so how can you get the most out of it?
The Best Muscle Recovery Foods
Let’s talk more about the “protein after” part. We need lots of protein of course! Basically when we consume protein, we break it down into amino acids, which are then formed into protein that builds muscles. As mentioned, you’ll need to eat some carbs and vitamin sources as well, so if you’re having trouble deciding what to eat after your workout, here are 5 good go-to choices:
Lean, grass-fed beef – is definitely a top choice since it has a lot of what you want in a protein source: high quality proteins, iron B-vitamins, zinc etc… and is damn tasty too!
Eggs – tasty, convenient, and very cheap. It’s got all 9 essential amino acids, including branched chain amino acids that reduce muscle damage. It’s also a good source of natural Vitamin D.
Protein shake – as you may have guessed, there are different kinds of proteins and our body doesn’t rely on a single one alone. Most protein shakes contain whey, casein, and soy, and these proteins get absorbed at different rates. By far the fastest and most convenient way to consume your protein.
Bananas – cheap, can be bought just about anywhere, easy to prepare, and can be made into just about any kind of tasty dessert. It’s loaded with the good kind of carbs and is a very good potassium source.
Broccoli – if you’re going to eat greens, make it the broccoli. It has practically everything you’d want in a vegetable: potassium, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6. Very versatile and goes with a lot of dishes!
There you have it! As with everything, diversity is key, you don’t want to be eating just these 5 day in and day out. Mix up your diet, go for some chicken, salmon, oatmeal, berries, nuts… the list can go on! And remember, don’t forget to hydrate!
About the Author:
Dr. Jason Reinarts runs his own chiropractic clinic in Franklin Tennessee where he advises some of his clients on proper nutrition and muscle recovery practices for maximum health benefits.