Foods That Help With Muscle Recovery After Exercise

07 September, 2020
Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help with muscle recovery, reducing inflammation and relieving pain. Which other foods can help with this too?

Often, an athlete’s diet is oriented towards maximizing recovery after exercise. Certain foods include nutrients that improve or speed up muscle recovery. Why is this necessary?

During a training session, the muscles are put through a lot of stress. Once the exercise session is over, the priority is to regenerate the damaged tissue. That’s how your muscles become stronger with subsequent training sessions.

That’s the goal any good diet should achieve. It should be rich in foods that aid protein synthesis, the process where your cells produce new proteins. Your diet should also reduce any markers associated with oxidative stress (this happens when not enough antioxidants are present in the body) and inflammation. Which foods and nutrients should you include in your diet to help you with muscle recovery after exercise?

Add foods rich in protein to aid muscle recovery

The best nutrient of all that help your body with the recovery process is protein. You can find good protein sources in animal-based foods, as well as in nuts and certain vegetables.

Protein is used by the body to repair muscle tissue damage, and it makes the muscles stronger through exercise. Currently, it’s recommended that athletes consume up to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Exactly what an article published in the magazine Nutrition Journal affirms.

Consuming the necessary amount of protein also stimulates the process of muscle building, by means of the anabolic process of the body (building organs and tissues). To improve muscle recovery after exercise, we recommend you consume the following nutrients together with a portion of carbohydrates.


Antioxidants to reduce muscular damage

Antioxidants are substances that fight against the production of different kinds of reactive oxygen, which can cause damage to some cells. They help to control oxidation in the body and prevent muscle damage and cellular aging. For those reasons and more, antioxidants are crucial to include in any athlete’s daily diet.

Turmeric has excellent anti-inflammatory properties

Include turmeric in your diet especially if you’ve suffered an injury recently.

Many vegetables and spices are rich in antioxidants. One example is turmeric, a root similar to ginger that’s generally ground into powder for use in cooking. Turmeric can improve muscle recovery after exercise, according to an article published in the magazine Journal of Sports Science & Medicine.

Anti-inflammatory foods to help muscle recovery

There are many natural foods and nutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties. As an athlete, you should include these foods frequently in your diet. These are foods that are able to reduce inflammation and speed up the recovery processes. They also relieve feelings of pain.

You can find one example of this group of nutrients in omega-3 fatty acids. They’re a group of healthy fats present in fatty fish, nuts, and some vegetable oils. Make sure you regularly consume these products, to counteract the effects of omega-6 fatty acids. These can actually cause inflammation in the body when you consume a high concentration.


When you achieve a balance between these two types of fats, you can help maximize the anti-inflammatory process. By doing that, you’ll increase the effectiveness of any other nutrients you take in to help repair any muscle damage.

What foods should you avoid?

Apart from increasing your intake of foods rich in the above nutrients, what else should you do? It’s also necessary to reduce your consumption of other products that hinder the recovery process. This is the case for example with simple sugars, trans fats, and alcohol.

When you include these items in your diet, they can actually partially block muscle growth and development after exercise. This directly influences your performance levels and your recovery capabilities. Also, alcohol is capable of hindering your cognitive function, which is why it’s a good idea to avoid it.

A girl eating donuts full of simple sugars and processed fats

Sugar can hinder an athlete’s muscle recovery.

Optimize your diet to improve your muscle recovery

To sum up, when you’re looking to improve your recovery after a workout, what should you take into account? Here are the main points to take away from this article with regards to your diet. There are nutrients such as protein that help to repair tissue damage and generate new tissue. These processes stimulate muscle building.


Also, there are foods with anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to relieve the feeling of pain after a workout. These, as we mentioned above, are products rich in omega-3 fatty acids, among others.

There’s also another group of nutrients that include antioxidants. These reduce muscular damage and cellular aging. However, we don’t recommend you overdo it with foods that include antioxidants. Excessive intake of some antioxidants could partly block the muscular development that takes place after exercise.

Lastly, it’s fitting to reiterate the need to reduce your intake of foods that cause inflammation in the body. These are mainly processed products that are high in trans fats and in simple sugars.

Don’t forget that you should avoid toxic substances such as alcohol. This is because they cause negative effects such as a drop in performance levels and muscle development when exercising. They also cause damage at a cognitive level, which is counterproductive in the medium and long term.

  • Verreijen AM., Engberink MF., Memelink RG., Van der Plas S., et al., Effect of a high protein diet and/or resistance exercise on the preservation of fat free mass during weight loss in overweight and obese older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J, 2017.
  • Delecroix B., Elbasset Abaidia A., Leduc C., Dawson B., Dupont G., Curcumin and piperine supplementation and recovery following exercise induced muscle damage: a randomized controlled trial. J Sports Sci Med, 2017. 16 (1): 147-153.