You’re done with your run, bike or swim or maybe your CrossFit WOD, and you’re so glad to chillax for the rest of the day.
But wait. Your workout isn’t really over until you address the three Rs of recovery: Rehydrate, Refuel and Rebuild.
More: The Role of Protein in Exercise Recovery
Drinking fluids to replace what you lost during your workout in sweat (rehydrating) is as essential as eating carbs to replace muscle glycogen stores that you torched (refueling).
But while many athletes guzzle sports drinks to recover, or eat a carbohydrate-rich snack, they often forget about the protein necessary to rebuild broken down muscle fibers. Without adequate protein, your muscles will take longer to recover, and some studies suggest you’ll be more likely to suffer from burnout and symptoms of overtraining.
More: Recovery Foods That East Muscle Soreness
While strength athletes generally consume enough protein, endurance athletes, ball players and many others forget that protein is as important as carbs and fluids for recovery.
Rebuilding: How Much Protein is Enough?
A good rule of thumb for protein requirements: consume 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. In addition, experts recommend 15 to 25 grams of high-quality protein within the first few hours after working out.
To help, here are five top protein-rich foods for optimal recovery. These foods focus on the type of high-quality protein that has been linked to strength gains.
More: Get Enough Protein After Your Workout
Nonfat or Lowfat Greek Yogurt (8 oz): 22 to 24 grams protein. Greek yogurt is a must-have in most athletes’ diets because it provides more protein per calorie than most other foods.
In addition, it provides a combination of casein and whey protein, and because most of the lactose in yogurt is removed, it’s still a viable option for most people who are lactose intolerant.
Flavored varieties of Greek yogurt contain more carbs per serving (from added sugars), so stick with plain or vanilla, and add berries or other fruit to get more antioxidant-rich, lower-calorie carbohydrate sources.
More: Are You Eating Enough Carbs?