7 Best Things to Eat and Drink After a Workout

Going to the gym is only part of the equation. If you can't seem to put on the muscle you want or you are too tired to hit the gym two days in a row, chances are it isn't your workout but what is on your plate that is standing in your way. Check out these 7 powerhouse foods to get the most from your workouts.

1. Whey

In brief: Fat-torching, energy-restoring protein, plus lactoferrin for immune support The Lowdown: After a workout, proteins degrade faster which makes building muscle difficult. One scoop of whey contains the same amount of protein as an entire chicken breast. When ingested after exercise, whey produces an insulin spike encouraging muscles to absorb glucose and replenish energy stores, all while naturally occurring lactoferrin gives your immune system a boost. Research also shows that people who supplement with whey burn almost twice as much fat as those who don't. How to eat it: Make the most of your protein powder by pairing it with carbohydrate-rich foods like juices, shakes, or even a bowl of polenta.

2. Eggs

  In brief:  A complete protein source, including branched-chain amino acids for faster recovery The Lowdown: Dietitian Leah Mark, M.S., C.D.N., C.P.T, says that food trends come and go but "an egg is the gold standard." Eggs contain all 9 essential amino plus branched-chain amino acids which help reduce muscle damage in the body. And if you want the most out of your eggs, keep the yolk. The yolk contains half the protein as well as all the vitamin D and omega 3s. How to eat it: Anyway you like. Eggs are great that way!

3. Sweet Potato

  In brief: A good nutrient-rich source of carbohydrates The Lowdown: Protein alone isn't enough to do it, says nutritionist Dallas Hartwig, M.S., P.T. To fuel intense workouts, the body breaks down muscle glycogen—your energy reserves— so you'll need a healthy, plant based carbohydrate if you are going to be at all ready to go in your next workout session. Sweet potato are a real deal superfood complete with three days' worth of vitamin A and 26 grams of carbohydrates to restore your glycogen supply. They are also full of fiber with will keep you feeling satisfied. How to eat it: Sports dietitian and owner-director of Nutrition Energy in New York City Lauren Antonucci, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., C.D.E., C.D.N., recommends consuming half your metric body weight in grams of carbohydrates after exercise—which means one sweet potato should do it. Use one to boost a smoothie.

4. Avocado

  In brief: Monounsaturated fat for muscle repair and B vitamins to jump-start your metabolism The Lowdown: "An ideal recovery meal should also include good fat, which is needed for healing muscles and joints," says sports nutritionist Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., M.A., R.D., C.S.S.D. and author of Slim Down Now. Avocado is the big winner here. Aside from being full of healthy fat, they contain a host of B vitamins that help your body metabolize all those healthy carbohydrates and proteins you've been packing away. How to eat it: Throw a few slices into an omelette or turn the whole fruit into a smoothie.

5. Cherry Juice

  In brief: An arsenal of antioxidants to fight off muscle damage The Lowdown: A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that subjects who drank 24 ounces of tart cherry juice every day (the equivalent of about 120 whole cherries) experienced less muscle soreness and just a fraction of the usual strength loss after exercise. How to drink it: Avoid juices made from concentrate. Fresh juices are more likely to contain the helpful anthocyanins and flavonoids naturally found in cherries

6. Green Tea

  In brief: An energy boost when you need it most, together with fat-burning, free-radical-fighting compounds The Lowdown: Green tea is more than just a pick me up, it contains powerful antioxidants that help metabolize fat and fight exercise-induced free radicals that would otherwise cause inflammation and muscle soreness. Green tea is just good for you in general. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), one of its key compounds, has been shown to help treat a number of chronic inflammatory conditions, from cancer to Alzheimer's and heart disease. How to drink it: drink it as you would ordinarily drink tea. Or, you can make some in advance and infuse it with ginger.

7. Chocolate Milk

  In brief: All the hydration you need, plus nutrients to help you recover The Lowdown: After a light workout, water is a perfect way to hydrate yourself. But if you've maxed at the gym, you'll need a little extra. "Chocolate milk is a great option for recovery," says sports nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, M.S., C.D.N., F.A.C.S.M. "You'll get plenty of fluid, together with carbohydrates and protein." As an added bonus, it packs a gold mine of calcium, healthy fats, and whey protein. How to drink it: To making this recipe at home. It contains sweet potato so you're killing two birds with one stone! There you have it. A list of wonderful, healthy ways to help your muscles get what they need and keep your energy levels where they need to be.

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