Post-workout recovery pain is obviously no fun to deal with and it’s also not easy to treat through diet alone. However, you can greatly reduce the inflammation you suffer after a workout by including some specific foods in your diet on a regular basis. It’s important to take care of your muscles just like you do your heart. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods, which will help soothe your muscles instead of contribute to acidity within the muscle cells that leads to pain.

Stretching muscles past their limit or pushing yourself to the max can cause inflammation naturally in the body. Inflammation can also come from general exercise and is nothing to fear, however, diet can truly make a huge difference in not only helping soothe your inflammation but also prevent a majority of it from occurring. They key is to know what to eat before hand and what to fuel with afterwards.

Sugar, refined grains, meat, dairy, eggs, and processed oils are the worst inflammatory foods because they’re so highly acidic. They all contribute to inflammation and will increase the amount of time it takes you to recovery. Leafy greens, berries, omega 3 sources of fats, anti-inflammatory sources of protein, and foods rich in Vitamin A and C, however, will stop inflammation before it starts and can help lessen the amount you suffer after exercise.

Here are five of the best food choices to fuel up with after your workout that will also aid in lean muscle formation and contributing to a healthy post-workout recovery plan.

1. Spinach

Kale gets most of the glory in the greens department, but spinach is the guy to choose for your muscles and post-workout pain. Spinach contains large amounts of Vitamins A, C, has 5 grams of protein per cup, and is rich in chlorophyll to lower inflammation. It’s also very versatile and can be used fresh or even frozen in a post-workout smoothie without a noticeable taste like other greens. Spinach also contains B vitamins that can help boost your metabolism and contains a large dose of plant-based iron to support your energy and recovery even further. This Green Superfood Detox Smoothie is a great way to try it out!

2. Nuts and Seeds

Walnuts, chia, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and almonds are all some of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can eat after your workout. These are all rich in healthy fats, along with protein, fiber, and low amounts of inflammatory compounds. Peanuts and cashews, along with pecans tend to be more inflammatory, though still make nutritious options otherwise. Top some oatmeal or a smoothie with some fresh nuts and seeds after your workout. Or, pair a small handful with an apple or an orange as a light post-workout snack that contains protein, fats, and carbs.

3. Orange Produce

Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe, papaya, and peppers are all rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients. They contain beta-carotene, which is one of the most anti-inflammatory nutrients you can consume that converts to Vitamin A inside the body. They’re also great sources of Vitamin C and contain large amounts of water to remedy post-workout dehydration. Vitamin A and Vitamin C help lower inflammation and can tremendously reduce post-workout recovery time. You can enjoy these in a smoothie, a salad, or even in a hearty soup like Warming Carrot Ginger Soup.

4. Berries

All berries are high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants such as anthocyanins and quercetin. They’re some of the best foods to lower inflammation in all parts of the body, including the heart, digestive system, and the muscle cells. Try out everyday, power-packed varieties like blueberries and raspberries, along with blackberries and strawberries in a variety of your recipes. Don’t forget about goji, camu camu, and acai berries either, since they’re some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

5. Plant Protein

Protein isn’t specifically anti-inflammatory but it does help your muscles recover more quickly, which can help reduce inflammation due to poor recovery. Good options include: hemp seeds or hemp protein, chia seeds, spirulina, and any sprouted protein powder, which is less processed and more nutrient rich than non-sprouted varieties.

Build a lean, mean, recovery-fueling post-workout smoothie and add in as many of these goodies as you can and check out these Superfoods that Can Enhance Your Workouts for more plant-powered workout inspiration.

Image Source: Warming Carrot Ginger Soup