Working out is a fantastic way to take care of yourself, not only physically but mentally too. There’s nothing like a great run, walk, yoga session, or tough workout at the gym to relieve stress and recenter your thoughts. Working out is also an excellent way to motivate yourself in other areas of your life, lower your blood pressure and blood sugar, and even help you sleep better. But what’s not so great about working out, is the post-workout inflammation you might find yourself dealing with on a regular basis. Cramps, muscle and joint pain, or just general fatigue may be signs you’ve either overdone it, or that you’re not refueling your body properly afterwards.

The moment you stop exercising, you should be focusing on what to refuel your body with. This doesn’t have to be a large meal, or a chalky, acidic whey protein shake. There are many options to choose from, though it’s best to choose something anti-inflammatory, which will help with the recovery process to a greater extent.

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Post-workout focus should be primarily about restoring glycogen to the muscle cells so your muscles can begin the recovery and regrowth process. Since muscles break down during exercise, they require a certain amount of carbohydrates and protein for restoration directly after . Carbohydrates help raise insulin to boost glycogen to enter the muscle cells, where insulin then transports protein into the cells for regrowth and repair.

But any old protein and carb won’t do. You want to be sure you choose both healthy carbs and proteins, not sources of refined sugars or acidic, processed protein choices. Complex, healthy carbs are easy to find in the plant-based kingdom, along with anti-inflammatory sources of protein. 

Here are five foods and beverages that you can choose from that will lower inflammation in the muscle cells, and ensure healthy recovery and regrowth. Rotate these a few times a week and see which ones you enjoy the most:

1. A Green Smoothie With Hemp Protein

A filling green smoothie is an excellent choice to have right after your workout. For one, it’s bursting with alkalinity, from greens, and hopefully low-glycemic fruits like berries. And in case you haven’t heart, hemp protein is a fitness buff’s best friend! It’s great to use in your green smoothies since it’s high in chlorophyll to ease inflammation, along with all essential amino acids. Not only is it a complete protein, but also a great source of complex carbs, mostly in the form of fiber. The sugar from the berries or other fruit of your choice will help raise insulin just enough to allow the protein from hemp to reach muscle cells and the fiber from the greens, hemp, and fruit will help slow down blood sugar so your glycemic levels stay steady. Plus, greens like spinach, kale, and spirulina are even high sources of protein, so they’re great to include as well. Lastly, hemp has omega 3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation even further, and is a source of magnesium that helps relieve joint and muscle pain as well. Try out The Best Green Smoothie EVER and use hemp protein as a great way to try this option out.

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2.  Protein Porridge 

You can use hemp protein to make protein porridge, or you can make it a few other ways too. Protein porridge is basically a hot bowl of your choice whole grains, mixed with some high sources of protein, and maybe some flax, chia, or even some berries if you like. This is a great option if you workout in the mornings before breakfast and need something filling to start your day with that will also help support post-workout recovery. One simple recipe most people enjoy and can easily make at home is a porridge with oatmeal.

Combine the following: 1/3-1/2 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats with 1 cup non-dairy milk, 1 scoop your choice plant-based protein powder (such as hemp), some chia and flax, and some sweetener of choice. Add a dash of cinnamon for extra flavor, and maybe some vanilla. Give it all a good stir, pop it in the fridge overnight to set so you’ll have it ready in the morning after your workout. Or, you can cook the oatmeal on the stove and add in the other ingredients after it’s done cooking. Your call – hot and chilled porridge work the same. If you’re not a fan of oats, try a few other options like quinoa, millet, or even go grain-free and use teff, coconut flour, and/or some raw nuts instead. Oatmeal and other grains, nuts, and seeds are all great sources of both carbs and protein, which naturally make this a great post-workout choice.

3.  Green Tea Smoothie

Green tea is a natural anti-inflammatory agent and rich in antioxidants that fuel energy and mental focus. Who doesn’t want all of that, right? Matcha tea, is especially higher in chlorophyll, is less-processed, and 138 times higher in antioxidants than regular green tea. Wowza! All you need is a tiny teaspoon of matcha in your choice smoothie to get the benefits this tea has to offer. Though it doesn’t provide either carbs or protein, including it in a smoothie that does contain carbs and protein is a great way to enhance post-workout recovery. In fact, matcha green tea is highly recommended by many body-builders, along with health experts. Try out matcha in some of our favorite smoothie recipes.

4. A Piece of Fruit and Some Almonds and Pumpkin Seeds

If you’re too short on time to prepare something, or perhaps low on funds or groceries, a simple piece of fruit like an apple, banana, or an orange are all great post-workout options. They all offer slow-to-digest sugars, fiber to slow down your blood sugar, water to rehydrate your body,  along with vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium that will help ease post-workout recovery. Have one of these with a small handful or raw almonds or pumpkin seeds, which are both high in protein, and more anti-inflammatory than most other nuts and seeds. Almonds contain 7 grams of protein in just 1/4 cup, while pumpkin seeds offer around 13 grams per 1/4 cup, along with a boost of chlorophyll to further reduce inflammation. The best part about almonds and pumpkin seeds, is they are also high in magnesium, which is a critical mineral needed for muscle fatigue and recovery, bone health, and it helps lower cortisol, which is naturally high after exercise.

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5. Coconut Chocolate Chia Pudding

Chocolate, coconut, and chia all in one recipe? Who can argue with that after a hard workout? This post-workout idea isn’t just for culinary delight, however. It’s actually quite beneficial post-workout for a few reasons. First, let’s start with the chia pudding, which can technically be flavored any way you like and will still benefit you in multitudes due to the anti-inflammatory benefits chia contains. Chia is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, iron, potassium, magnesium, and is even a complete source of protein. It’s also packed with fiber to slow down insulin release into the cells. The mucilage properties of chia make it perfect for helping your body stay hydrated and for keeping you full. Coconut contains natural sugars (though minimal), and more fiber, protein, and healthy fats than anything else. Though the fats in coconut are saturated, they are mostly in the form of MCT (medium chain triglyceride) fats, which are used for energy and not as storage. This will help give you that post-workout boost you’re looking for and help satisfy your hunger. You can use coconut meat, unsweetened coconut shreds, coconut flour, or coconut cream (coconut butter.) Avoid the oil directly after a workout since it’s primarily just fat and not a whole food source of coconut like the other options. Chocolate, such as raw cacao nibs, powder, or even cocoa powder, are all rich in magnesium, fiber, complex carbs, and iron. These will help energize you after a workout and refuel your muscle cells even further. Chocolate is also a wonderful way to lower your blood pressure and blood sugar, so long as you avoid chocolate bars, which are high in sugar and often added fats like oils or milk.

To make your pudding, prepare a batch of Energizing Chia Pudding and stir in some a tablespoon or two of coconut and a cacao or cocoa product of your choice, and enjoy!

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For more post-workout tips, check out How to Build a Post-Workout Smoothie for Optimal Recovery, and leave your favorite post-workout meal idea in the comments section!

Image Source: The Best Green Smoothie EVER