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The Top 20 Best Post Workout Foods for Muscle Recovery

You plan your workouts carefully to achieve your goals when you’re an athlete. You work out at the right times of day and do the right activities to build the power and strength you need. But do you put as much thought into your post-workout meals and snacks?

You probably know that the foods you eat before a workout are important. But did you know that the foods you eat after a workout are just as vital?

There are certain foods and snacks that are muscle recovery foods. You must know about the best post-workout foods to optimize your exercise routine. This blog will discuss the 20 best foods for muscle recovery you must consider adding to your daily food routine after a workout session.

Why are Muscle Recovery Foods Important?

muscle recovery

When you exercise, your muscles deplete the glycogen, the body’s preferred fuel source, particularly during high-intensity workouts. As a result, your muscles’ glycogen stores are depleted. Some of your muscles’ proteins can also be broken down and damaged.

When you do a high-intensity workout, your body needs many nutrients to heal and rebuild muscle. That’s where food comes in. Eating the right foods after a workout can give your body what it needs and decrease your recovery time.

Muscle Recovery Nutrients


During workouts, proteins in your muscles are broken down and damaged. This is essential to the process, allowing your body to build new, stronger muscle fibers.

However, your body needs lots of protein to perform these tasks. Eating protein will also help to decrease muscle protein breakdown, which will lessen feelings of soreness the next day. This will markedly decrease your recovery time.

Studies have shown that you can maximize your body’s recovery abilities by eating around 20-40 grams of protein after a workout. The exact amount will depend on your size, gender, and other factors.

These muscle recovery superfoods are especially important if you’re vegetarian. It can be more difficult to eat enough protein when you’re vegetarian, so make sure you’re aware of the best vegetarian food for muscle recovery and include it in your diet.


When you work out, your muscles burn large amounts of glycogen. This is a stored form of carbohydrate known as glycose that gives quick energy to your muscles. This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, the glycogen burn is essential for giving you energy. But when your workout is over, your body will need to replenish its glycogen stores.


Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, which means that they help to control and reduce inflammation. This is important when you do a hard workout, as the strain and the muscle tearing will cause inflammation and soreness. Omega-23 is even more important when you’re injured or strained your muscles, as this causes even more inflammation.


Zinc helps speed up healing, which is why zinc deficiencies slow your recovery after a workout. However, try to avoid supplements and get your zinc from food. It’s very easy to consume too much zinc with supplements, leading to additional health problems.


Calcium helps keep your bones and muscles strong, which obviously benefits your workout recovery. However, it also helps with muscle contraction and nerve messaging, so it’s essential for overall performance.

Calcium is also one of the most common deficiencies in the world at the moment, particularly among women. Around 73% of women and 51% of men don’t get enough calcium through their diet. This will badly affect your strength during workouts and your recovery.

Also, to boost your calcium absorption, you should ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin D. You can do this by going out in the sun for short periods in the morning or late afternoon.

Vitamin C

Some of the best foods that help recover sore muscles contain vitamin C. Vitamin C is an anti-inflammatory food that will decrease and prevent inflammation. This means it will reduce soreness and improve your range of motion after a hard workout.

Vitamin C also produces collagen, which is essential for maintaining bones, tendons, and muscles.


When you work out, you sweat and lose electrolytes. That’s why it’s so essential that you hydrate after a high-intensity workout. However, when you sweat, you lose more than water. You also lose electrolytes.

Electrolytes are substances in your body that help conduct nerve impulses and make your muscles contract. They also perform many other essential functions, and you will experience various symptoms and problems when they’re unbalanced.

Some of the most important electrolytes for post-workout recovery are:

  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Bicarbonate
  • Chloride
  • Phosphate

The Best Foods for Muscle Recovery

Now that you know what nutrients you need to eat, here are the muscle recovery foods that contain them:

1. Nuts and Seeds

nuts (1)

Nuts and seeds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and proteins, which makes them the ideal fast snack after a workout. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have anti-inflammatory roles, increase muscle protein synthesis, and improve bone and joint health.

This is important when you do a hard workout, as the strain and the muscle tearing will cause inflammation and soreness.

Similarly, the essential proteins found in nuts and seeds help with muscle repair and recovery.

Every edible nut and seed is good for you, but some are better than others. If you have a choice, try snacking on:

  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds

2. Spinach


Spinach is a nutrient-dense food jam-packed with proteins, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins like C, A, and B. Moreover, it is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, leading to quick muscle recovery.

Incorporate spinach in your post-workout routine to reap those essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that promote muscle recovery. You can either blend it to make a smoothie or scramble it with some eggs, just the way you like.

3. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese has always been a top food for muscle recovery. According to Harvard Health Publishing, one cup of cottage cheese contains 28 grams of protein.

It contains two types of protein, whey and casein protein, which will help with muscle recovery. A study found that athletes who consumed a serving of casein protein 30 minutes before bedtime experienced an increase in muscle protein synthesis during the night.

So, it is an excellent post-workout snack to boost muscle recovery and growth during sleep.

4. Citrus Fruits

kiwi fruit sport recovery

Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C. Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties that will decrease soreness, improve your range of motion after a hard workout and ensure a speedy recovery. It is also essential for maintaining bones, tendons, and muscles. Some of the best citrus fruits to eat after your workout are:

  • Kiwi
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges

5. Fish

Fish is considered the best food for muscle recovery as it is an excellent source of nutrition. It contains high levels of Omega-3s, which reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, boost muscle growth, and are good for inflammation. Consuming 1.8-3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids is enough to promote optimal muscle recovery. For the best effects, try fatty fish like sardines, salmon, or tuna.

6. Eggs

eggs and protein for recovery

Eggs are a post-workout superfood. They contain lots of protein, minerals, and some vitamins, which will help with muscle repair and recovery. Both egg white and egg yolk are the best food after a workout.

During workouts, proteins in your muscles are broken down and damaged. This is essential to the process, allowing your body to build new, stronger muscle fibers. However, your body needs lots of protein to perform these tasks.

Eating this versatile and easy-to-cook protein-rich food markedly decreases inflammation, breakdown of muscle protein, and recovery time.

7. Bananas

Bananas have long been known as a superfood in muscle recovery. They contain carbohydrates, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber, and magnesium. Carbs help replenish glycogen levels which in turn help restore energy levels. Similarly, the potassium found in bananas balances your electrolyte level, which reduces due to sweating during workouts. Potassium also reduces exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness.

So, keep your muscles energized by adding bananas to your daily post-workout food regimen.

8. Sweet Potatoes

During the workout, your muscles burn large amounts of glycogen. It is a stored form of carbohydrate known as glycose that gives quick energy to your muscles. This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, the glycogen burn is essential for providing you energy. But when your workout is over, your body will need to replenish its glycogen stores. Eating sweet potatoes is a great way to replenish depleted energy levels, keep muscle fiber flexible, and aid muscle recovery. They are rich in carbohydrates, potassium, copper, and vitamin C.

Pair them with a healthy protein source for the ultimate healthy post-workout meal.

9. Watermelon

Watermelon is an amazing food choice when your muscles are sore post-workout. When you work out, if you’re doing it right, you sweat, which is why you need to rehydrate later. Watermelon is 92% water, so it’s great for hydration. It also contains Vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium, which help with inflammation and relieve soreness, and muscle cramps.

10. Whole Grains

Whole grains contain carbohydrates for energy, fiber for a healthy gut and weight loss, and other essential nutrients. This makes them both nutritious and filling. The best whole grains to eat for muscle recovery are:

  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice

11. Red Meat

red meat recovery

Red meats contain lots of protein that can help with boosting post-workout muscle repair. When you consume a sufficient amount of protein after working out, it encourages muscle growth.

Studies have shown that you can maximize your body’s recovery abilities by eating around 20-40 grams of protein after a workout. The exact amount will depend on your size, gender, and other factors. Make sure you choose lean, organic cuts where possible, and don’t overeat. You only need a very small portion of red meat a couple of times a week to get the benefits.

12. Yoghurt

Yoghurt, particularly Greek yogurt, is one of the best muscle recovery foods because it contains protein and calcium. Your body’s calcium levels directly affect your strength during workouts and recovery. Studies suggested that Greek yogurt contains 20% of the RDI of calcium. So, you must add a bowl of yogurt to your diet.

It is easy to grab and go when you’re on the run. You can pair it with fruits to make it a powerful post-workout snack. This combination provides proteins, carbs, calcium, vitamin C, and minerals.

13. Oils

It’s a myth that you should cut down on oils for health and weight loss. In fact, it all depends on the type of oils that you eat. Oils contain healthy, monosaturated fats that are essential for your body, muscle recovery, and other nutrients. Here are some of the best oils for recovery:

  • Olive oil, which contains omega-3s
  • Mustard oil
  • Fish oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Flaxseed oil

14. Turmeric

This isn’t exactly a food, but it’s still a great choice after a workout. Turmeric is a yellow spice that has amazingly powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help you with muscle recovery. You can add it to smoothie bowls, soups, milk or curries, which makes food taste great.

15. Tart cherries or juice

Tart cherries are certainly the best food for recovery after a workout, as it is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. A study concluded that tart juice help athletes recover from exercise-induced muscle damage. Similarly, one review showed that starting cherry juice or cherry supplements facilitates muscle recovery and improves delayed onset muscle soreness.

So remember to add a glass of tart cherry juice to your pre- and post-intense workout sessions. For effective results, it is better to supplement for 8 to 10 days.

16. Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk is a delightful and simple recovery snack. Milk is a complete protein, including all nine important amino acids, while chocolate delivers fast glucose to replenish depleted energy levels.

Most low-fat chocolate milk has a carbs-to-protein ratio of 4:1, which is comparable to many other recovery drinks. According to a 2019 research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, chocolate milk provides the same, if not superior, effects compared to water and other sports beverages on post-exercise recovery.

17. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a wonderful protein source that help muscle regeneration and rehabilitation. These small seeds blend well into a smoothie and include omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in reducing inflammation and enhancing muscle building.

18. Beets

This tasty root vegetable is a rock star for enhancing your workouts. Beets have been investigated for their potential to improve cardiorespiratory function and support endurance training.

Beets are a good source of natural sugars and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients as a post-workout carb. Beets have been shown in studies to speed up muscle recovery and lessen pain after strenuous exercise like sprinting.

19. Rice

Rice is a well-liked grain for a reason. It provides carbohydrates, fibers, and essential nutrients such as iron, thiamin, and manganese. White rice has a high glycemic index of 70, while brown rice has more fiber and nutrients and has a glycemic index that is only slightly lower at 68.

Magnesium, an essential nutrient for maintaining healthy muscles, nerves, and bones, is present in both white and brown rice. Magnesium promotes muscle relaxation post-exercise and is an electrolyte lost through sweat during intense or prolonged exercise, making its replenishment post-exercise essential.

20. Millet


Although millet is a grain that isn’t as popular as rice, it should still be included in your post-workout meal. Its appeal as a post-workout food is increased because it is a high GI gluten-free grain with a fair amount of protein.

It has magnesium and manganese, just like rice, and millet goes well with seafood, in salads, and as the foundation for grain bowls.

When to Eat After a Workout

Once you’ve decided which muscle recovery foods to eat, you need to choose when to eat them.

Immediately after a workout, your body goes into overdrive to repair the damaged muscles and replenish glycogen levels. So it would be best to eat as soon as possible after exercising to ensure that the nutrients are there when your body needs them.

There’s a fair bit of variability in the amount of time you have to optimize your recovery by eating the right foods. However, eating within 45 minutes of your workout is usually best. If you can’t manage that timing, you should still eat, as there is evidence that this post-exercise window may last for several hours in some people.

Things to Avoid After Workout


Alcohol hurts how your body stores glycogen and how quickly your muscles rebuild and repair.

Alcohol consumption has been shown in studies to reduce rates of muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which impairs post-workout recovery.

Booze is also a diuretic (it makes you pee), so it can dehydrate you and make you prone to muscle cramps, fatigue, and brain fog.

Not Eating Anything

Not eating anything after a workout is the ultimate post-workout sin. While some foods may be considered unhealthy, under-fueling can result in fatigue, muscle loss, intestinal issues, and poor sleep.

Non-Edible Methods to Accelerate Muscle Recovery

Enough Sleep

While you sleep, your body releases human growth hormone (HGH), a crucial hormone for muscle growth. HGH improves muscle tissue regeneration after exercise. Stage 3 of NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement), regarded as deep sleep, is when HGH is secreted. Your muscles will develop and heal more as you remain in this stage longer.

Your brain receives more blood when you sleep. Increased blood flow transports nutrients and oxygen to clear away waste fluid accumulating in the brain during the day.

Compression Therapy

According to research, compression therapy is a common technique to target sore places while traveling or at home. It seems useful in preventing DOMS (delayed onset muscular soreness), which is caused by little micro rips in the muscle fibers after a workout.

Athletes use compression treatment on their legs before or after a workout. It improves blood flow which hastens muscle healing, removes toxic wastes from the body, and lessens discomfort. Check out our compression recovery boots, they increase blood circulation and deliver fresh nutrients for faster muscle recovery. You can either use it pre-workout for warmup or post-workout for healing muscles.


Maintaining and improving your health when you’re an athlete can be challenging. You need to balance the demands of your workouts with the condition of your body.

Getting the balance wrong can mean days, weeks, or even months of injury recovery. It can also mean slow recovery from workouts, impairing your everyday life and subsequent workouts.

Eating more of the best foods after a workout can give your body what it needs to function at its best. And this will help you do your best when it matters the most.


Looking for further assistance for the body’s natural recovery to enhance movement of fluid and waste out of the limbs? Check out our compression recovery boots.

Author: Michael Lyons

With Three Decades of tech and Meditech experience, 10,000 hours of endurance sports coaching and competing at the NZ national team level, Michael’s passion is biohacking recovery and wellness for athletes, for those with short term and long term medical conditions and healthy aging. Michael consults and partners with leading medical practitioners to provide therapy solutions for short and long term illnesses, including diabetes, DVT, Lymphedema, pre and postnatal, post-surgery, autism (ASD), PTSD, and sleep apnoea.

Michael also consults and partners with High-performance sports organisations, Three Olympic Gold medallists, two current world champions, the Rugby World cup, NZ Rugby, the Singapore Olympic team, the NZ Olympic team, Clubs and coaches.  He also teaches the recovery modules for the fitness industries personal training courses.

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