10 Post-Workout Foods for Muscle Gain

10 Post-Workout Foods for Muscle Gain

Experts in the nutrition sector suggest that consuming the appropriate food after a workout is nearly as crucial as exercising itself if you want to gain muscle and reach your fitness goals.

Marni Sumbal, M.S., R.D., a sports dietitian and Ironman competitor, says, "Nailing your post-workout nutrition promotes faster recovery, lowers muscle pain, grows muscle, enhances immune system functioning, and restores glycogen — all critical building blocks in preparing you for future sessions."

True, new research reveals that you don't have to eat the nutrients you need right after a workout to get muscle-building and strength-building advantages. However, most individuals find that eating a protein bar or drinking a protein shake before (or even during) a workout can cause digestive problems, including a case of the trots mid-exercise.

It's also true that you shouldn't rely just on protein bars or shakes to aid your body's recovery after a strenuous workout. You should aim for a range of foods, just as you do for healthy overall nutrition because each one has its own set of beneficial nutrients.

So, if you think about your post-exercise nutrition a bit more, your time at the gym (or on the road, or in the water, or wherever you workout) could yield even better benefits.

So, how do you know what to go for? The science-backed solutions below can help you heal faster and stronger so you can get back to the gym sooner. Plus, none of them taste like your typical gritty protein drink.

10 Post-Workout Foods for Muscle Gain 

1. Tart cherry juice

10 Post-Workout Foods for Muscle Gain

Tart cherry juice is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances, and it has been demonstrated to aid in the recovery of athletes after intensive training.

Many studies have shown that tart cherry juice can aid recovery after an intense workout, but it's not just for weightlifters: a recent study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that tart cherry juice improved various aspects of cyclists' exercise performance.

In addition, when compared to the placebo, tart cherry juice reduced their systolic blood pressure 90 minutes after activity. And there's even evidence that it may aid with sleep.

Montmorency tart cherries are available in a variety of forms, including dried, juice, canned, concentrate, and frozen.

2. Whole eggs

10 Post-Workout Foods for Muscle Gain

Eating whole eggs can help you get ripped.

After exercise, researchers at the University of Illinois advised men who frequently lifted to eat three whole eggs or a mixture of egg whites containing 18 grams of protein. Then they measured their protein synthesis rates, which is the engine that propels muscle growth.

Even while they had the same amount of protein, entire eggs produced a 40 percent larger muscle-building response than egg whites alone.

The authors of the study believe that the nutrients in the yolk, like as healthful fats, vitamins, and minerals like phosphorus and iron, allow your tired muscles to better utilize the high-quality protein in the whites.

Mash a few hard-boiled eggs with 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder and a couple pinches salt. Spread on rye crackers.

3. Ricotta

As little as 9 grams of dairy may be enough to kick-start the muscle-building process, according to research in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. For the study, men chugged either a milk-based drink with 9 grams of protein or a carbohydrate-only beverage equal in calories after a lower body strength training session. While the carb-only placebo did little to bolster the muscle-building process post-workout, the 9 grams of dairy protein sufficiently ramped things up. “In response to loading muscles with training stress, the mTOR protein in our muscles is activated, which is a key to stimulating protein synthesis,” says Sumbal. “And mTOR is highly sensitive to the amino acids found in dairy.”

A 1/2-cup serving of ricotta has around 14 grams of milk protein. It's also a rich source of whey protein, which is abundant in the crucial amino acid leucine, which, according to Sumbal, is highly effective in signaling mTOR to stimulate new muscle growth.

In addition, British researchers discovered that combining whey protein with carbs after an exercise can help strengthen your bones.

In a mixing dish, combine 1/2 cup park-skim ricotta cheese and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence. 1/3 cup granola and 1/2 cup berries go on top.

4. Smoked salmon

10 Post-Workout Foods for Muscle Gain

Higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids present in certain fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel, have been linked to decreased levels of delayed onset muscle soreness following resistance exercise, according to research.

Omega-3s may find their way into your muscle cells, where they aid in reducing the exercise-induced damage that leads to severe inflammation. Another reason to go fishing for post-workout sustenance: Omega-3 fats can activate pathways in your body that enhance muscle protein synthesis, according to research from Washington University School of Medicine.

On a small whole-grain wrap, spread 2 tablespoons cream cheese and top with 3 ounces sliced smoked salmon, 1/4 cup sliced pickled beets, and a handful of arugula.

5. Cottage cheese

Greek yogurt has gotten all the attention in recent years, whereas cottage cheese has fallen by the wayside.

While both are delicious, cottage cheese offers more protein per gram, as well as slightly less than 3 grams of leucine per cup. This amount has been found to aid in muscle growth and/or maintenance.

Make it easy — Good Culture single-serving Cottage Cheese (plain or flavored, available at Target) is a convenient alternative for on-the-go snacking.

6. Sweet potatoes

Keto devotees, I apologize. Carbs are your friend when it comes to post-workout recovery.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, eating carb-rich foods like potatoes, cereals, and fruit can help prevent the immune system from deteriorating after intensive exercise.

But don't worry, your six-pack won't be harmed too much. According to Sumbal, carbs consumed after a workout are more likely to be utilized as energy rather than stored as fat.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 1 medium peeled and cubed sweet potato and 1 tablespoon water. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in it. Microwave for 6 minutes on high, or until potatoes are extremely soft. Remove the plastic wrap and mash the potato with 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder and 1/3 cup applesauce. Dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds can be sprinkled on top.

7. Herbal tea

10 Post-Workout Foods for Muscle Gain

Men who drank yerba mate tea (200 mL three times a day) recovered from eccentric activity far faster than those who drank simply water, according to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

It could be phenol antioxidants, which are naturally contained in the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis shrub, from which mate is derived. Because yerba mate contains naturally occurring stimulants, ingesting it before an exercise can also help you feel more energized.

Bring a liter of water to a low boil. Combine 4 yerba mate tea bags or 1 tablespoon loose leaf mate in a jug. Allow soaking for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator before adding 1 lemon juice. After working out in the gym, have a cup of coffee.

8. Whole-grain bread

Bread has a poor reputation these days, yet carbohydrates assist in nourishing active muscles (not to mention your brain). Carbohydrates of high quality, such as those found in whole-grain bread, go a great way in replenishing your muscles.

Don't give it too much thought. A simple sandwich can be very filling. Use Dave's Killer Bread ($26 for two loaves; buy it here) to make an egg salad sandwich. It's packed with whole grains, fiber, and protein, plus it's free of artificial additives, preservatives, and fillers.

9. Quinoa

This versatile little grain is a terrific addition to any diet, but it's especially good for gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarians trying to boost their protein and fiber consumption, as it's high in both.

Bob's Red Mill Quinoa ($39.16 for a pack of four, available here) is a good option. As a side dish or as part of your main course, this dish is delicious.

10. Jerky

Jerky, whether it's made of beef, bison, turkey, or salmon, is dehydrated protein. Unless the jerky maker chooses to coat their product in a sugary glaze, it's usually a high-protein, low-carb snack.

Choose a brand with low or no added sugar. Epic Bars are a favorite of ours.

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