The last thing you're probably thinking about after a workout is ways to reduce inflammation. It's more likely that you're rushing to the shower, back to class, or headed to a meeting and don't have time to think about every nutrient in your next meal. But your post-workout meal is very important. Besides just satiating your hunger, it needs to replace glycogen stores for future workouts, and repair muscle damage and restore fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat.
Eating a meal with anti-inflammatory foods for better recovery is an important element of your post-workout routine. Reducing inflammation after your swim workout allows your muscles to repair efficiently and will also eliminate that soreness that sometimes creeps up a few hours after your intense training. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. To make sure that you're ready for your next workout or competition, you want to eat a meals with some of the foods below within 30 to 60 minute after you've cooled down. This short window of time is ideal for replacing glycogen stores, so you'll want to eat some high glycemic index carbs and about 10-20 grams of protein as well. And it's advised to eat real, whole food options to aid in recovery unless you're constrained for time.
1. Omega 3 fats
Foods containing omega-3 fats are one of the best things that you can eat after your workout to initiate a healthy recovery and reduced inflammation. In addition, these foods also help lower cholesterol and support heart health. If you're on the go, convenient sources of whole foods-based omega 3 fats include walnuts or almonds. Nibble on these if you're in a hurry or add chia seeds and ground flax to your smoothies. If you've got time for a meal, enjoy some salmon or tuna to get the benefits of the omega 3s.
2. Black beans
Did you know that 1 cup of black beans provides about 15 grams of protein, plus another 40 grams of carbohydrates and 15 grams of fiber? Besides being a well-balanced source of nutrients, black beans also provide antioxidants that help repair muscle damage. Have some on top of a salad, add a 1/2 cup to your soups, or have a burrito with a whole wheat tortilla for some extra carbs.
Research has shown that anthocyanins found in cherries and other dark berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries have an anti-inflammatory effect. This is the perfect snack to enjoy after a workout if you also have a bit of a sweet tooth. Mix them in with your favorite smoothie, or add them to a salad or a cup of plain Greek yogurt for a healthy post-workout snack.
4. Whole grain carbs
If you've got a gluten allergy then steer clear of these foods, but for everyone else, whole grains are a great food source for post-workout meals that can fight inflammation and speed up your recovery. Whole grain carbs contain plenty of filling fiber, and some studies have shown that fiber and fiber-rich foods can lower blood levels the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein. For the best sources of this recovery aid, eat foods made with the entire grain kernel, like whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, bulgur, brown rice, or quinoa.
The best spices that have anti-inflammatory properties are turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Studies with athletes who participated in high intensity workouts showed that by taking 3 grams of either cinnamon or ginger, they had shortened recovery time and DOMS after intense training. These are both easy spices to add to yogurt or your post-workout smoothie for added flavor and recovery benefit. And turmeric has an anti-inflammatory, pain-killing compound called "curcumin" that has been shown in studies with male athletes to reduce pain and muscle injury. Mix in some turmeric to your soups or veggies stir fry and put your body on the path to faster recovery.
6. Leafy greens
And last but not least, add in some dark green veggies to your diet for better recovery. Brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, and broccoli all have a mineral compound that reduces inflammation while providing energy that won't cause a spike in blood sugar. And they help with hydration which is important to replenish after a strenuous workout. Add some into a chicken salad, or use spinach instead of plain lettuce on your sandwiches and burgers.
So next time you need a post-workout meal, add in some of these ingredients to avoid that muscle soreness and fatigue. Eat right, feel better, and perform at your best!