10 Easy Recipes That Will Help You Recover After a Workout
If your New Year’s resolutions involve being more active, then that’s a great step (literally) in the right direction. Getting your heart rate up is good for more than your cardiovascular health — studies show that regular exercise can help support your mental and emotional health, increase your executive functioning, and help you sleep better, too.
So if you’ve been moving more, that’s great — now, let’s make sure you’re giving your body the energy it needs to perform. Eating well for muscle recovery is just as important as working out. The top-level note is that you want to make sure you’re getting enough protein, but there’s more to it than that. Here, we’ve put together ten high-quality recipes that will help you recover post-workout, and explain a little bit about what makes each of them so valuable.
Sneaking vegetables into your diet by disguising them as pizza: it’s not just a trick for kids anymore. These “pizza bites” are baked on top of sweet potato rounds, which are great for supporting your workout routine since sweet potatoes are jam-packed with potassium, an essential electrolyte you lose when you sweat.
Fatty fish like sardines can help with your inflammatory response and they’re also super high in protein, so these fishcakes are really a post-workout win/win. They’re also an ideal entry point for anyone who has been looking for a way to get into canned sardines (which can admittedly be pretty intimidating). Sardines are an inexpensive, vitamin-filled protein source, but the flavor is intense, especially for those who don’t love fish. Here, the mildness of the potatoes cuts down on the sardines’ fishiness, and the bright, clean notes of the salad help cut through the richness; if you’ve been sardine-curious, consider giving this recipe a shot.
Chicken breasts may have stolen the spotlight in the anti-fat wave of the 1990s, but we’ll defend chicken thighs any day: They’re a great protein source (critical for workout recovery), they’re considerably more flavorful and less dry than chicken breasts, and while their fat-to-protein ratio is higher, it’s still fine. This chicken thigh dish is bright, flavorful, and so easy to put together. We’d serve with a simple quinoa salad, along with steamed artichokes or roasted asparagus.
Hummus is nutrient-dense and is a great plant-based way to support your workout recovery. We like to make our own when we have time — just warm up a can of drained chickpeas over the stovetop, then toss in a blender with a little garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, and water. If you’re buying hummus from the store, make sure you check the ingredients so that you’re choosing a hummus made with high-quality oils (ideally, just extra virgin olive oil). Collards are a great fit for recovery, too, since they’re full of antioxidants that can help manage inflammation, making this hummus wrap recipe filled with multiple benefits in one snack.
Avocado’s creamy, buttery-rich mouthfeel has made it a mainstay in pop culture in the past few years (avocado toast, we wish we knew how to quit you). Avocados are also a fantastically healthy source of fat, which is so important for our post-workout recovery, and they’re high in vitamin B, which is important for muscle protein synthesis. This salad combines good proteins and fats for a great post-workout meal. (Note: As much as we love the flavor of a runny egg yolk, we’d add a dressing here, as well — a simple vinaigrette would work wonders.)
Almond butter is a great protein source, which helps you repair muscle tissue after your workout. These pancakes are so fluffy and delicious you’d swear they’re terrible for you, but nope — the ingredients list is pretty darn clean. To serve, we’d recommend topping these with sliced strawberries, blueberries, and a little warmed-up almond butter in lieu of the more traditional maple syrup. It’s less of a big sugar hit, and adds more flavor, vitamins, and fiber, too.
Because egg yolks have been so vilified, we tend to think of egg whites as a more essential component of muscle building than yolks, but in a small study, people who ate whole eggs immediately after resistance training had greater muscle growth than those who ate just egg whites. This makes some sense, given that egg yolks are filled with tons of vitamins, including B12, B2, A, and folate. This breakfast dish involves gently simmered eggs served over an herb-filled cannellini bean stew and a gremolata sauce (and we’d definitely serve this as a super-healthy take on breakfast-for-dinner, too).
In a recent review of studies, researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice accelerated muscle recovery and lowered markers of inflammation after exercise — so that sounds like a good excuse for a smoothie to us. To make this a good recovery drink after a workout, we’d toss a good chunk of silken tofu into this recipe for added protein.
Quinoa is a powerful grain: it’s a complete protein unto itself, which means that it contains the nine essential amino acids that your body needs. That and its ability to absorb spices (without contributing much flavor on its own) are among the reasons quinoa has exploded in popularity in recent years. This quinoa bowl recipe is a great one, but you can definitely add in any extra herbs or cooked vegetables you have left over in the fridge.
Beef bulgogi served with lettuce or perilla leaves is a fun, flavorful meal and super simple to make. If you’re someone who tolerates beef well, it’s frankly an excellent protein source: just three ounces of beef contains 22g of protein, which makes this dish an ideal way to recover post-workout. Serving this dish with kimchi is traditional to add probiotics and big flavor, and julienned vegetables like carrots and cucumbers add a little variety and crunch, as well.
Jess Novak is the Head of Content and Audience Development for Clean Plates. She’s obsessed with making meals that taste like they’re not healthy but secretly really are. You can follow her on Instagram @jtothenovak.