Muscle recovery is crucial for all, whether you are a sprint runner, spend most of the time with your dumbbells and exercise machines, or prefer to hit the yoga mat.
High-intensity workouts can leave you with sore and painful muscles. Our muscles can get damaged without adequate recovery and rest, making daily activities difficult.
A well-balanced diet paired with proper rest means swift recovery, better muscle growth, reduced soreness, and replenished glycogen stores.
Why is Muscle Recovery Important?
During exercise or training like bodybuilding, running, cycling, or powerlifting, our body gets exposed to stress. It needs time to adapt to these stresses, thus making the recovery stage significant.
A good recovery supports improved blood circulation, which facilitates the removal of byproducts or toxins of muscle breakdown and a fresh supply of nutrients for new muscle growth and repair.
Intense activities result in a lactic acid build-up in the muscles, which has been shown to reduce the energy generation for effective muscle contraction. Proper recovery is required to clear this metabolic waste to train again with maximum energy levels.
Similarly, sleep is also regarded as an essential component of the recovery stage as it reduces cortisol-stress hormone levels and helps restore homeostasis or a balance between various processes occurring inside the body.
Without sufficient recovery, one may feel exhausted throughout the day. It may result in increased food cravings, hormonal upset, anxiety, and weak immune health.
There are several strategies that one may employ to maximize athletic performance, but in this review, we will specifically talk about the best foods and drinks to boost muscle recovery and help maintain workout consistency.
What are the Muscle Recovery Foods and Drinks?
Recovery nutrition is about prioritizing refuelling, rehydrating, repair, and growth. Carbohydrates and proteins should form the primary component of recovery foods with some healthy fats.
Studies support that combining protein and carbs is ideal for recovery as it helps restore glycogen stores, repair damaged muscles and stimulate muscle protein synthesis 1). It exerts a positive effect on body composition and a long-lasting anabolic impact.
Amino acids in proteins serve as building blocks of the body. Protein intake post-exercise provides necessary amino acids for muscle building and repair.
Just a scoop of our favourite protein shake after gym, and we are good to go. Isn’t it?
No, we might be missing another critical nutrient – carb. Carbohydrates are equally crucial, like proteins. Glycogen serves as energy fuel during intense activities, and carbs help replenish lost glycogen stores as quickly as possible.
Fully replenished glycogen pulls water into muscle cells, thus increasing muscle cell volume and muscle fibre fullness.
Top 10 Muscle Recovery Foods and Drinks
Let’s explore scientifically proven foods that can maximize your muscle recovery.
1. Sweet Potato
This starchy vegetable is a super healthy option for post-workout muscle recovery. Sweet potatoes are a superb source of complex carbs and micronutrients like vitamin A and potassium. They promote muscle glycogen replenishment and provide essential nutrients to reduce soreness and cramps.
You can enjoy it in baked, boiled, or grilled form. Combining it with any protein-rich source can give you a perfect nutrition-packed meal.
Eggs are the most loved protein-dense food by fitness lovers due to their excellent amino acid profile. To reap the maximum, always have whole eggs, as egg yolks also contain essential nutrients like selenium, vitamin A, zinc, folate, and fatty acids needed for muscle protein synthesis.
Bananas are loaded with muscle-friendly nutrients like carbohydrates, magnesium, vitamin B6, dietary fibre, and potassium.
Studies support that eating bananas before and during a workout is an effective strategy to maintain energy levels and prevent muscle cramps during prolonged exercise 2.
This ancient spice is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Turmeric is one of the best recovery foods to minimize muscle damage, decrease pain and inflammation, and diminish oxidative stress markers.
One can either opt for turmeric or curcumin supplements. Else, add a pinch of pure turmeric powder to a warm glass of milk and relish your turmeric latte.
5. Pomegranate Juice
Pomegranate and its juice contain polyphenols that possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A high level of polyphenols is linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and oxidative stress.
A study was conducted on some trained athletes who were given 250 ml of pomegranate juice twice daily for 15 days. An improvement was observed in arm strength with a reduction in post-exercise muscle soreness within 48-72 hours 3.
6. Beetroot Juice
Beetroot juice naturally improves nitric oxide activity in the body resulting in an improved blood flow and better nutrient supply to the muscles.
Dietary nitrates and betalains in beetroot decrease inflammation and prevent free radical damage. Beetroot juice has also been shown to delay DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and magnify the recovery rate 4.
7. Dairy foods
Dairy foods like milk, curd, yoghurt, and cottage cheese are suitable for muscle recovery due to their high protein content. They contain calcium, magnesium, other vital electrolytes, and all nine essential amino acids.
To boost muscle recovery, you can combine them with carb-rich food, like a cottage cheese sandwich, fruit yoghurt, and shakes.
Coffee is a popular pre-workout drink. It contains a stimulant called caffeine that increases focus, concentration, and mental alertness. It boosts metabolism and amplifies energy levels to prepare us for those intense workout sessions.
But did you know caffeine also significantly affects post-workout muscle recovery?
Caffeine helps delay DOMS, and when combined with carbohydrates, it increases muscle glycogen replenishment by 66% 5.
9. Watermelon Juice
Watermelon and watermelon juice are naturally rich in an amino acid – citrulline. Besides acting as a muscle-building block, citrulline increases the production of nitric oxide in the body resulting in better blood circulation and energy levels.
Drink a glass of watermelon juice or bowl this fruit to ease muscle soreness and cramps and diminish muscle breakdown.
10. Protein Shakes
Protein intake after resistance exercise is essential to accelerate muscle protein synthesis and net protein balance and support muscle hypertrophy with training.
20-25 g of leucine-rich protein supplementation post-workout can enhance anabolism and training-induced lean muscle growth 6.
Foods / Food Types to Avoid
On the one hand, the foods listed above can help accelerate muscle recovery; some can also hinder it.
This section will discuss food types one must avoid or limit intake to prevent negative repercussions.
One must be mindful of alcohol consumption as it may interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients, reduce liver functioning and impair new muscle synthesis.
2. Too Sweet or Salty Foods / Beverages
Excess intake of sweet or salty foods like fries, sugary squashes, and chips is unhealthy for muscle recovery.
One might crave salty or sugary food post-exercise due to loss of electrolytes and low energy levels. Still, it is better to go for a homemade fruit smoothie, roasted sweet potato, or a peanut butter sandwich to satisfy your cravings.
3. Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed foods like pizza, burgers, cakes, and pastries are high in unhealthy trans fats and low in nutrients. They may sound like a treat, but they can badly affect your blood cholesterol and glucose levels in the long run.
Processed foods are also designed to stimulate our brain’s “feel-good” hormone, making us crave more of them in the future. Intake of such foods means hampering your muscle recovery pace.
Remember, proper muscle recovery not only enhances performance but can also help prevent injuries and support overall well-being. So, let’s fuel our bodies with the right foods and drinks, prioritize rest and sleep, and allow our muscles to recover, repair, and grow stronger than ever before.
With a well-balanced approach, one can achieve our fitness aspirations and lead a healthier, more active life. Cheers to muscle recovery and embracing the transformative power of nutritious foods and drinks!
What food helps repair muscle?
One can take foods like eggs, watermelon, fish, pomegranate, beetroot, milk, yoghurt, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
What drink is good for muscle recovery?
Fresh watermelon juice
What helps muscles recover faster?
One must consume foods high in good-quality protein and carbohydrates to support muscle recovery.
What is the best natural recovery drink after a workout?
One can have plain water, tender coconut water, fresh fruit, and vegetable juice to support recovery naturally.
What is the best food I can eat post-workout?
Eggs with toast
Oatmeal with fruit and yoghurt
Rice crackers and peanut butter
Cottage cheese sandwich
Rice bowl with beans or chicken
Protein shake with fruits
What are the best things to drink during and after a workout?
Tart Cherry Juice
What is the best food to eat before and after the gym?
Peanut Butter Toast
Oatmeal with fruits and nuts
Paneer or chicken sandwich
What are some best pre and post-workout Indian food?
Banana and Peanut Butter Toast
Chapati or Rice with Dal
Paneer Bhurji with Chapati
Besan and Vegetable Cheela
Curd with Fruits
Sweet Potato with Egg
- Campbell, B., Kreider, R. B., Ziegenfuss, T., La Bounty, P., Roberts, M., Burke, D., Landis, J., Lopez, H., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(1
- Nieman, D. C., Gillitt, N. D., Henson, D. A., Sha, W., Shanely, R. A., Knab, A. M., Cialdella-Kam, L., & Jin, F. (2012). Bananas as an Energy Source during Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach. PLoS ONE, 7(5), e37479
- Ammar, A., Turki, M., Chtourou, H., Hammouda, O., Trabelsi, K., Kallel, C., Abdelkarim, O., Hoekelmann, A., Bouaziz, M., Ayadi, F., Driss, T., & Souissi, N. (2016). Pomegranate Supplementation Accelerates Recovery of Muscle Damage and Soreness and Inflammatory Markers after a Weightlifting Training Session. PLOS ONE, 11(10), e0160305
- Clifford, T., Berntzen, B., Davison, G., West, D., Howatson, G., & Stevenson, E. (2016). Effects of Beetroot Juice on Recovery of Muscle Function and Performance between Bouts of Repeated Sprint Exercise. Nutrients, 8(8), 506
- Loureiro, L. M. R., dos Santos Neto, E., Molina, G. E., Amato, A. A., Arruda, S. F., Reis, C. E. G., & da Costa, T. H. M. (2021). Coffee Increases Post-Exercise Muscle Glycogen Recovery in Endurance Athletes: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 13(10), 3335
- West, D., Abou Sawan, S., Mazzulla, M., Williamson, E., & Moore, D. (2017). Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study. Nutrients, 9(7), 735