foods that help you with muscle recovery after training

There’s nothing like the feeling you get after smashing a sweat-dripping, intense workout. Whether you’re the kind of person who loves to crush treadmill sprints or you prefer to hit the yoga mat for a vinyasa flow, there’s a special rush you get when you’re filled with endorphins. The not so desirable part? That post-fitness soreness. 

Stressing your muscles—regardless of your go-to exercise method—creates microscopic tears in them (don’t freak out, it’s OK!). These tears make you sore at first, but then ultimately help make you stronger by increasing muscle mass, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). The good news? You can get a leg up on that I can’t move my arms feeling with the right nutrition. That’s right: Certain foods boasting specific nutrient profiles can help you recover smarter, and even lessen next-day soreness.

“Aim to get in your post-workout meal sooner rather than later, preferably within three hours of training,” suggests Dr. Ryan M. Greene, DO, MS, and medical director at Monarch Athletic Club in West Hollywood. “You’re aiming for a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, since protein is best absorbed with a carbohydrate co-transporter.”

Your body is built to heal from the inside out and eating recovery foods are important in the healing of injuries.

If you provide the right foods and nutrients to your body during the time of healing the duration of an injury can be shortened.

Research has shown that lack of nutrition can delay wound healing.

Our body’s use the nutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) from the foods we eat to aid in the process of recovery.

As such, when you’re limiting the amount of nutrients you put in your body, you now have less nutrients available to dedicate towards recovery.

So, you want to carefully balance eating enough calories to aid in recovery without going overboard and gaining weight.

The easiest way to do this is make sure all the foods you eat are nutrient dense and help with healing. This means no wasted calories!

What Foods Will Help Me Recover Faster?

If you happen to be fighting a nagging injury or have just recently picked up a runner injury, I suggest adding the following foods and nutrients to your diet to help get back on track with your training and allow your body to be at its best.

Even if you do not currently have any aches or pains, adding these foods into your diet can help prepare your body for healing if you should happen to get hurt.

Foods rich vitamin C

Examples include:

citrus fruits, kiwi, peppers and broccoli.

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that your body does not have the ability to make, which means you need to consume it on a daily basis. Vitamin C plays an important role in the healing process by building new protein for the skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.

Vitamin C also helps our bodies maintain cartilage and bone tissues. In addition to the healing properties, vitamin C offers internal protection against free radicals. Free radicals are molecules in our body that can cause significant damage and come from our external environment, such as the foods we eat, high intensity work outs (like running), and chemicals we are exposed to.


Taro roots

Think of taro as sweet potato’s purple cousin, says Peter Abarcar Jr., Executive Chef at the Westin Hapuna Beach, who incorporates responsibly sourced, organic items into the brand’s Eat Well menu. “Taro is a great source of carbohydrates as well as fiber,” he adds. “It’s perfect to pair with a protein of your choice to really get in an ideal post-workout meal.” Cynthia Sass, RD, contributing nutrition, adding that the purpose of a good recovery meal is to “provide raw materials to heal from the wear-and-tear exercise puts on the body, which is ultimately what makes you stronger and more fit.”

Foods Rich in Vitamin A

Examples include:

sunflower seeds, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, swiss chard

Vitamin A promotes the production of white blood cells in your body. White blood cells are the main “keepers of the injury”; they help fight off infection and viruses.

Even if you don’t have a visual injury like an open wound, your body will still rely on the production of white blood cells to protect the injury and increase the rate of healing.



Spinach, as well as other cruciferous vegetables, is jam-packed with nutrients that help stave off inflammation including Vitamins B, C, and A. It also packs 5 grams of protein per cup (yes, please). It’s something that you can easily slip it into your post-sweat protein shake without altering the taste at all. 

Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Examples include:

salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts.

Many research studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids have the ability to reduce inflammation, so much so that other pain killers and drug may not be needed.

Most of these studies have been conducted on individuals with rheumatoid arthritis or other cases of extreme inflammation. The results of these numerous studies indicate that high quality omega-3s will reduce inflammation from an injury or daily run.

Reducing the swelling and inflammation around an injury will reduce the pain you may be experiencing and promote healing!


Chia seeds

Chia seeds boast three grams of complete protein, which means that they have all nine essential amino acids. “Chia seeds also supply key minerals, like iron, calcium, and magnesium, as well as anti-inflammatory fat, which helps support exercise recovery,” says Sass. 

A bit confused about how exactly to use them? Abarcar suggests adding them to Greek yogurt or a smoothie for a bit of crunch. “If you have time in advance, you can also make a chia seed pudding,” he says. The best part? “All you need is a little coconut milk and some fresh fruit to top it off with.”

Foods Rich in Zinc

Examples include:

 oysters, nuts, seeds, and chicken.

Every single tissue in your body contains zinc; therefore, it becomes very important in the healing process of any injury. Zinc will help your body use the fats and proteins you consume to promote growth and healing of the injured tissue.

Zinc will also help keep your immune system strong, much like vitamin A, which will protect you from other infections or viruses.



Oatmeal is excellent because it’s super easy to make when you’re in a pinch (and fast, too). Not to mention, it can also lead to a longer life, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Circulation. Researchers from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that people who ate 33 grams of whole grains daily—which is what you’ll get in a bowl of oatmeal—reduced their risk of  premature death by 9 percent compared to those who barely ate whole grains at all. 


Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Examples include:

blueberries, tart cherries, prunes, turmeric, ginger, coffee.

Free radicals are the toxins that are roaming around our body, especially when we sustain a running injury. They make us weaker by taking from our healthy cells. Foods like blueberries, strawberries and tart cherries help to control those free radicals, so our body can focus on repair.

Ginger and numeric have also been named natures anti-inflammatory medicine as they accelerate recovery within our bodies.

Finally, coffee has been proven to not only decrease recovery time, but restore Central Nervous System function, so it can get back to making you better.


Green tea

An October 2018 study published in Physiology and Behavior found that men who supplemented with 500mg of green tea extract reduced markers of muscle damage caused by exercise. “It’s a rich source of antioxidants and polyphenols that assist with regulating oxidative damage introduced throughout training as well as every day life,” says Greene.

Foods Rich in Protein

Examples include:

grass feed beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, Greek yogurt.

An injury to the body automatically increases the body’s demand for protein. Protein is required in multiple processes that take place as soon as the injury happens and through the injury recovery time.



Not only are they super portable, but bananas are also loaded with both carbohydrates and potassium, two muscle-friendly post-workout nutrients. “Bananas replenish carbohydrates burned for fuel during exercise, along with potassium, an electrolyte lost in sweat,” says Sass.