5 Foods to Help with Muscle Recovery

As an athlete, you are always told that you need to fuel your muscles for proper recovery, but are you sometimes confused about what foods to reach for? There are many different options when looking for recovery fuel, but some are better than others! In this blog post, you will find a list of what foods help with muscle recovery, ways to incorporate these foods, and what you should avoid!

Why is It Important to Aid in Muscle Recovery

It is important to prioritize your post-workout nutrition because it is how you will achieve optimal body composition, feel refreshed before your next session, and increase performance results. Making sure that you are eating within 2 hours of a workout will increase muscle recovery due to your muscles being open to absorbing nutrients efficiently! 

 Some benefits of eating foods that aid in muscle recovery are:

  • Decreased muscle soreness.
  • Increase in lean body mass.
  • Decreased inflammation.
  • Increase concentration off the field.

Foods that Help with Muscle Recovery

1.   Protein

Protein gets a lot of hype for post-workout, and there’s a good reason for it! Choosing the right protein after a workout can lead to optimal muscle recovery because it is easily absorbed by your muscles for growth and decreases soreness and inflammation. The goal is 20-25 grams of protein

Here are some great post-workout protein options that are 20-25g of protein:

  • 4-6 oz lean meat (chicken, turkey, etc.)
  • 3 eggs (any style)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt. 
  • 1 scoop whey protein powder
  • 1 chocolate milk

2. Complex Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are just as important as protein in muscle recovery because you must restore the muscle’s energy stores after you have used it up. You can fuel up with complex carbohydrates like pasta, whole wheat bread, and vegetables that you would usually stray away from as pre-fuel. 

Aim for 60-90g of complex carbohydrates for optimal muscle rebuild and recovery. 

60-90g of carbohydrates looks like 

  • 1.5 cup pasta
  • 1.5 cup rice
  • 1.25 cup oats
  • 1.5 cup cooked quinoa

3. Water

Water is something you may overlook when it comes to muscle recovery, but for your muscles to receive the energy you eat, you have to be hydrated enough for your blood to circulate effectively. Aim to drink 150% of your water lost after a workout to ensure proper circulation!

4. Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice can aid in recovery by reducing muscle soreness and inflammation. Pairing cherry juice with a protein source post-workout can help with muscle growth as well. 

5. Fatty Fish

Cold water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and halibut, provide protein and healthy fats that decrease inflammation throughout our body. 

Foods to Avoid for Muscle Recovery

1.   Alcohol

Alcohol does not have any benefits when it comes to muscle recovery. It dehydrates your muscles and affects other factors of recovery like sleep. Alcohol decreases the level of testosterone and human growth hormone in your body, which are both needed for muscle growth. Research strongly supports a decrease in muscle protein synthesis when alcohol is consumed after a workout. 

2. Fried Foods

Fried foods can have lots of saturated fats and use oils that would not be beneficial to muscle recovery. They are also most likely lacking antioxidants that can decrease inflammation of the muscles and may even include pro-inflammatory compounds.

I recommend incorporating these foods as something you enjoy when you have a rest day or a period with low inflammation to help inflammation management.

3. Just Protein

Even though protein is important post-workout, you can’t get away with just that! A major component of a post-workout snack is carbohydrates, and you need more carbs than protein after you exhaust your muscles. Muscle recovery is aided by both protein and carbohydrates because you must facilitate muscle synthesis while also giving your muscles the energy that they lost to grow. 

Having a balanced meal post-workout utilizing thePerformance Plate Method will help aid muscle recovery and lead to better results down the road. 

Sports Dietitian-Approved Recipes for Muscle Recovery

1.   Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili

This Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili contains a complex carbohydrate in the sweet potatoes and black beans, as well as a protein source in the turkey. It is super easy to throw together, and cheap to make. You can throw everything in the crockpot at the beginning of the day and you’ll have a warm home-cooked meal when you get home after training!

2.   Peanut Butter Chocolate Overnight Oats

Overnight Oats provide protein and complex carbohydrates to ensure proper muscle recovery and replenishment. This Peanut Butter Chocolate recipe includes two of my favorite foods; chocolate and peanut butter!

  • ½ cup oats: 7g of protein
  • 1 cup chocolate soy milk: 8g of protein
  • 2 tbsp of peanut butter: 7g of protein
  • 1 tbsp of chia seeds: 3g of protein
  • ½ – 1 ripe banana
  • Mix all ingredients into a jar/container and store in the refrigerator overnight! 

3. Air Fryer Salmon

Salmon is a cold-water fish that will help fight inflammation, while also providing lean protein. This air fryer recipe makes it easy to incorporate it into your fueling plan! Adding one cup of cooked rice and a side of your favorite vegetable will help make this a complete muscle recovery superstar! 


There are many reasons why muscle recovery is important, such as decreased muscle inflammation and soreness. You now know what foods you should have to help muscle recovery and foods you should also avoid.

To help maximize your muscle recovery, incorporate quality protein, complex carbohydrates, water, tart cherry juice, and fatty fish into your meals. You can find these foods in the 3 recipes above! 

While nutrition can aid in muscle recovery, it can also prevent your body from recovering efficiently. Alcohol, fried foods, and sugary beverages/treats should be limited in times of high muscle soreness or inflammation. 

Making sure you are getting adequate muscle recovery with post-workout fuel is something that I discuss with my athletes in our sports nutrition programs! Our team of dietitians helps athletes and active individuals with flexible on-demand content and live nutrition coaching. 

If you are looking for better muscle recovery, I encourage you to sign up today. We currently have open enrollment, and I would love to help support you in getting to your goals!



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