Exercise is good for us, but it causes stress within our bodies. Every cell is straining to maintain all your bodily functions while you work out, so it’s important to eat right and fuel your hard-working body with foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
Read on to find out which are the best foods to repair and regenerate your body after a workout.
Whilst not a nutrient, water is a key part of your body, and you need to stay properly hydrated even when you’re not working out. Water carries the nutrients from your food to your muscles, so it’s important to keep up the H2O. Drink it straight from the tap, or eat water-containing vegetables or fruits, such as watermelon or celery.
Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair, and it’s full of amino acids that our bodies produce – and some that it doesn’t. Proteins help to build that lean body mass, but they are a core part of the enzymes and hormones that communicate with the body to heal itself.
The best sources of protein are: dairy, beans and legumes, lean meats, seafood, eggs and soy.
Calcium builds strong bones and teeth, but it’s also responsible for triggering muscular contraction. Muscles are made up of two filaments called myosin and actin. These filaments slide over each other during muscle contraction and convert ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
The more exercise you do, the more ATP you need, and good food sources are yogurt, cheese, tofu, spinach and fortified milk.
If you’re feeling more tired than usual, you may be suffering from a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is also essential for muscle relaxation and for preventing cramps. Magnesium and calcium work to help reduce blood pressure and encourage better sleep.
Glutamine is a substance that helps to repair muscles, which includes the lining of the digestive tract. Glutamine is also important for boosting the immune system and helping maintain good gut function. Glutamine is found in chicken, fish, dairy, beef, eggs, spinach and fermented foods.
6. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, and is best known for contributing to strong bones, but it’s also essential for strong muscles. Vitamin D is linked to hormones such as testosterone, which helps maintain muscle and muscle growth. Vitamin D is also linked to improving mental health and reducing anxiety. Not many foods contain vitamin D, so some doctors recommend taking a supplement.
Foods containing vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, fortified yogurt, milk, orange juice, mushrooms and eggs.
Potassium is necessary as an electrolyte in muscle contraction, and it’s also used for carrying other nutrients to the muscles. Potassium also helps your kidneys flush out the excess sodium in your system, and studies have shown that people who don’t have enough potassium are at higher risk of hypertension and heart disease.
Foods containing potassium are: bananas, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, chicken and salmon.
Carbs are actually one of the best building blocks of muscles, contrary to popular opinion. They support muscle growth and repair, and are an essential source of glycogen, which helps to fuel your workouts and rebuild your muscles.
Good sources of carbs include vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and legumes.
9. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is part of a set of eight vitamins that make up the Vitamin B complex. B12 helps in making red blood cells, which contain the haemoglobin that binds to oxygen. Poultry, meat, fish and dairy are good sources of vitamin B12.
Iron is a mineral that helps transport oxygen to muscle tissue, and also assists in regulating the metabolism and helping the immune system. Iron rich foods include leafy greens, poultry, lean meat, fish, eggs and fortified whole grains.
Have you ever had your sleep disrupted by painful muscle cramps? Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid, which has been shown to help ward off muscle cramps after intense workouts. It helps to produce carnosine, which balances the pH in muscles and fights the build up of lactic acid that leads to cramping.
You can find beta-alinine in animal protein and plant-based foods such as asparagus, edamame, seaweed, turnip greens and watercress.