Fruits, vegetables and fish are not the usual foods you think of after your tough workout. We often hear about processed protein shakes or bars. These shakes and bars promise better workouts, recovery and even weight loss.
But, nature actually made all the ingredients our bodies need to repair and rebuild, without the empty promises.
Here are six post-workout strategies to help you optimize recovery and get the natural fuel your body craves.
1. There is a window. In the 15 to 60 minutes immediately following a workout, your muscles are looking for fuel to start the repair process. Eat or drink your recovery meal right away, within the first half hour after your workout.
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2. Make the food easy to digest. Your muscles need blood to deliver nutrients to them. The more of that blood that's tied up in digesting a hot dog, pizza or other solid foods, the less blood gets to your muscles. Meats and dairy will slow this process. An exception is yogurt—the active cultures within help you digest food.
3. Carbohydrates are important. Carbohydrates should include high-glycemic index carbs, like dates, pineapple, or banana and some slower-release, even fibrous, carbohydrates like whole grains. And, don't forget the fat—include about half as many grams of healthy fat as you do protein. Nuts, avocados and coconut oil are great sources.
4. Save your bones and neutralize the acid. Intense exercise creates an acidic environment in your body. Certain leafy green vegetables and fruit help your body avoid using the calcium from your bones and nitrogen from your muscle tissue to neutralize it. Greens, sprouted vegetables and certain fruits like lemons and limes—alkaline fruits—have a neutralizing effect on your body. Avoid acid-forming foods like milk and heavily-processed protein powders.
5. Rehydrate with plenty of water. To find out how much water you need on a daily basis, divide your weight in half and drink that number of ounces of water. For example, someone who is 150 lbs, should drink 75 ounces of water in one day. Increase your water intake on workout days.
6. Replace lost electrolytes. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes. Electrolytes found in the body are sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and calcium. Some good sources of electrolytes are dried apricots, bananas, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, almonds and a few pinches of sea salt.
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