5 of the Best Plant-Based Recovery Foods
If you're more of an herbivore, you'll want to read this after hitting the gym.
One of the most important things you can do to help improve your workouts is eat properly after them. With an increasing number of folks moving towards a more plant-based diet, there also comes a (false) belief that plant-based foods are inferior to animal foods for recovery.
Getting in proper sources of protein and carbs after exercise helps promote muscle growth and maintenance, and reestablishes energy reserves vital to performance. In addition to protein and carbs, plant-based recovery foods also offer up ample doses of inflammation fighting antioxidants, which most exercise enthusiasts need more of. Here are five to try.
Chrissy Carroll, registered dietitian and USAT Level I Triathlon Coach suggests these sweet spuds to help refuel tired muscles. “They're rich in healthy carbohydrates, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin A and potassium.” Sweet potatoes are great for breakfast and other meals as well. “Go savory by loading up your potato with beans and salsa,” says Carroll. “Or go sweet by adding almond butter, raisins and nuts.”
A good old PB&J can be the secret weapon to a successful recovery and is a great on the go option as it doesn’t require refrigeration. With 7 grams of protein in a 2 tablespoon serving, peanut butter can be a tasty addition to a rice cake or a post-workout smoothie blended with frozen banana and soy milk.
You may not automatically think of sweet and juicy berries as recovery food but they’ve got a lot of post workout nutrition to offer according to Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, and nutrition partner with U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. “Blueberries are one of my go-to plant-based recovery foods since research suggests that drinking a blueberry smoothie before or after a workout helps accelerate recovery or muscle strength.”
In addition to smoothies, blueberries can be easily added to salads, oatmeal or your morning bowl of cold cereal. Rizzo also points out the benefits of these berries for those suffering from joint pain. “Eating blueberries daily may reduce joint pain and stiffness in those who suffer from arthritis.”
Soy products contain all the essential amino acids your muscles require and are more versatile than you might think. “Tofu is a good source of plant-based protein, key to repairing those muscle fibers after a tough workout” says Carroll. “It's also a great source of plant-based calcium, which athletes need for bone health." If you can't get past the texture, try blending silken tofu into a fruit smoothie for a power-packed recovery drink.
The best plant-based recovery food may be a combination of several different kinds. Chris Mohr, PhD, RD of MohrResults.com encourages going for variety. “Foods like oats with berries, hemp seeds and nuts, or a soy-based yogurt with berries and nuts can offer the combo needed [after a workout].” Mixing it up also helps to ensure you are getting a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as part of your post workout routine.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.