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The 5 Best Foods for Post-Workout Recovery

 By BRENDAN BRAZIER

While we focus on what we eat before a workout (energy without stomach discomfort) and during a workout (fuel to sustain), what we eat after workouts is often a free-for-all (anything in the pantry that will satisfy our hunger). But post-workout refueling is incredibly important to see performance and strength gains.

kale

Properly refueling your body after exercise will accelerate the rate of recovery, allowing you to schedule workouts closer together and elevating your performance to the next level.

My five favorite foods for workout recovery:

1. Foods with a 4-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein
As you work out, your body starts to deplete the levels of glucose in your blood and must turn to glycogen -- carbohydrates stored in your liver and muscle tissue -- for fuel.

Replenishing muscle glycogen with a 4-to-1 carbohydrate-to-protein snack will help you to push harder tomorrow. Look for foods that are mostly carbohydrates and a little bit of protein. I usually grab a handful of almonds and dried fruit or Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator to replenish muscle glycogen immediately after my workout. I then wait at least 20 minutes before consuming my high-protein meal.  

2. Electrolyte-enhanced water
I always drink electrolyte-rich water immediately post-exercise. I either make my own, by blending lemon juice, sea salt, a date and a small amount of dulse (seaweed) flakes, or I choose an electrolyte powder that is made without artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners.

3. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are my go-to superfood. Not only are they a great source of plant-based protein, but they are also rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Your body can't make omega-3s, so they must be consumed -- hence, "essential."

Omega-3s are especially important for athletes because they help to reduce inflammation. During training, you're breaking down your muscles and creating muscle micro-tears and inflammation. That might sound scary, but it's necessary to rebuild your muscles back stronger. Omega-3s help to reduce the inflammation created during exercise.

4. Dark leafy greens
Antioxidants also help manage post-workout inflammation. The best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables, especially those dark in color. Dark leafy greens, such as kale, Swiss chard and collard greens, are important post-workout foods for athletes of all types -- whether they're focused on strength or endurance.

Incorporating a salad that is rich in both antioxidants and omega-3s into your post-workout meal will help you to manage the inflammation created during your workout.

5. Plant-based protein powder
When reaching for protein to repair and rebuild my muscles after a workout, I always eat a plant-based source. This is because they are more alkaline-forming than meat, dairy or eggs, are lower in saturated fat, contain no cholesterol and have a smaller carbon footprint.

If I'm busy I always choose a multisource plant-based protein powder. When choosing a protein supplement, make sure it's multisource (contains more than one plant-based protein source) and is free of soy, artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. It's also important to check the sweetener; I choose either unsweetened or sweetened only with non-caloric stevia.

--Brendan

Readers -- Is timed food consumption part of your workout routine? What kinds of foods do you consume before, during and after a workout? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Brendan Brazier is a former professional Ironman triathlete, a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion, the creator of an award-winning line of whole-food nutritional products called Vega, and the best-selling author of the Thrive book series. He is also the developer of the acclaimed ZoN Thrive Fitness program and the creator of Thrive Foods Direct national meal-delivery service. He also just launched Thrive Forward, an online video series on wellness.

Recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on plant-based performance nutrition, Brendan works with NFL, MLB, NHL, UFC, PGA, Tour De France and Olympic athletes and is a guest lecturer at Cornell University, where he presents an eCornell module called "The Plant-Based Diet and Elite Athleticism."

For more information, visit Brendan’s website and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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