Exercise is great for your muscles, as regular activity will help build bone and muscle mass as well as strengthen and define those muscles. However, that’s only if you make sure to leave enough time for a solid recovery plan once you finish your workout. If you don’t, all that effort will just go to waste, as your muscles won’t have the resources to properly build back up after being taxed and depleted of its energy stores.
As you workout, you’re taking nutrients away from your muscles so you have enough endurance and stamina to power through until the end, and if you’re sweating profusely, you’re also losing valuable electrolytes, like sodium, magnesium and potassium.
After working out you must stretch and get fuel back to your muscles ASAP to repair muscle damage, build them back up and allow them to get stronger (that’s where you see progress!), and replenish nutrients that were lost through sweat.
Getting in enough protein and some complex carbohydrates is essential, as well as electrolytes to keep your body balanced and to avoid muscle cramps and dehydration.
While you can drink sports drinks or have electrolyte gels, the best way to get electrolytes is through food, as they will provide more nutritional benefits and some sports gels and drinks can be high in sugar. Here are the best foods to try to get that electrolyte dose after a sweaty workout.
Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, which is an essential electrolyte that is lost through exercise and sweat. Plus, it has some fast-acting carbs to help you recover as well as fiber for longer lasting fullness too. To make it balanced as a post-workout snack, include nut butter, like almond or peanut butter, and sprinkle crushed nuts on top.
Go with salted for after a workout, since you need the sodium too! You can always keep both unsalted and salted varieties at home and have unsalted for times when you didn’t just finish a workout.
Or throw it into a smoothie with unsweetened protein powder for something that’s high in protein and easy to take on the go for that immediate fuel post-workout. You can also slice it and add to chia seed puddings, a yogurt or oatmeal with the dollop of nut butter and nuts on top.
Spinach and Kale
Leafy greens are a superfood all around—however, they happen to be high in magnesium, which is especially great for post-workout recovery. Spinach and kale are great leafy greens in particular and they have a great dose of magnesium to ease muscle soreness and help muscles recover.
Throw either (or both!) into that smoothie, or whip up a salad with spinach or kale as a base before adding some healthy fat and protein. Olive oil will provide the good fats, so drizzle it with lemon zest and a little bit of salt. And bonus? Olives are also high in electrolytes, so feel free to add whole olives to the salad in addition to the use of olive oil.
As for toppings, tofu, beans or lentils would be great sources of protein, or you can even try meat, egg and fish alternatives, such as Good Catch’s Fish Free Tuna or Just Egg’s Sous Vide Bites or Folded option.
Tofu and Soy Products
Here’s more reason to add tofu or edamame to that salad. Tofu and soy products, like edamame or soymilk, are also electrolyte sources. You can snack on edamame as is, use soymilk in your post-workout smoothie, or make a tofu scramble where it’s a substitute for eggs, then throw it over a bed of leafy greens and beans. Plus, beans also contain electrolytes as well as more fiber and protein to fill you up and to help meet the protein requirement post-workout.
Pickle juice is known as a great beverage to sip post-workout for its ability to stop muscle cramps and speed recovery. And it’s legit—pickles and pickle juice are salty and can fend off and stop muscle cramps, which may happen if you’re dehydrated after working out. Munch on them or sip—whatever you prefer!
Peanuts and Almonds
These two nuts are high in magnesium and potassium, and if salted they’ll have that bit of sodium too. Plus the filling fats and protein will also help strengthen your muscles. Beyond eating them on a banana, use either nut in shakes, on salads, as a crust for baked tofu, in a stir-fry or even just a basic trail mix that you can eat quickly and by the handful.
The mighty green fruit is a favorite for a reason—its nutrition profile and flavor. And it is high in potassium and magnesium in particular, so enjoy it after working out to refuel and repair muscles. It works well as a dip with veggie, in a smoothie, on a salad, and in a wrap or taco, and its fat content will also increase satiety for longer.