Healthy and fit from the inside out. (Credit: Getty Images)
Food is medicine – and when it comes to training, it's one of your best allies. In fact, research points to the benefits of healthy snacks or post-workout meals. How you refill and refuel your body after exercise, a long walk or a short run is important and can directly impact your recovery, body composition and future performance.
Below, we're sharing five nutrient-packed healthy snacks to help you speed up recovery, reap the benefits of your workout and get you ready for the next session.
1. Chocolate milk: Two healthy snacks in one
Drink your way to a fitter, stronger and healthier you. (Credit: Getty Images)
Surprisingly, this childhood favourite happens to be one hard-working recovery snack. Chocolate is made from cocoa that has been refined, roasted and melted. Most chocolate products sold in the market usually contain milk for a creamier taste. Both cocoa and milk are rich in nutrients that nourish mind and body.
Cocoa is rich in polyphenols, known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that aid recovery and improve performance. Milk is an excellent source of bone-building calcium and sodium and a complete protein – meaning that it comes with all the amino acids your body needs to heal, repair and restore itself. But what exactly makes cocoa and milk a match made in heaven? It's the perfect ratio (4:1 carb-to-protein ratio) of fast-digesting and energy-boosting carbohydrates and high-quality, muscle-building proteins. Chocolate milk also provides minerals and vitamins along with protein.
Research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that low fat chocolate milk may be as effective or superior to commercial sports beverages in promoting post-workout recovery.
Treat yourself to a guilt-free glass of chocolate milk once you hit the gym this week. Just make sure to check the label and opt for a low-sugar, healthier option. For a plant-based version, swap cow's milk with soy milk. Soybeans are an excellent source of complete protein and soy milk. Of all plant-based kinds of milk, soy milk is nutritionally the closest to cow's milk.
2. Turmeric: The snack booster
Train, refuel, rest and repeat. (Credit: Getty Images)
While it's technically not a snack on its own, this antioxidant-rich spice native to Southeast Asia has earned a place among our picks for good reason.
Also known as the Golden Spice, turmeric has sparked the interest of nutritionists and researchers alike for being a true power food. Its anti-inflammatory properties, coupled with muscle-friendly B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, manganese and iron, make this mighty spice an ideal post-workout ally. As a snack booster, it can help jumpstart recovery, promoting muscle repair and growth.
A little bit goes a long way. Blend a tablespoon of turmeric into your favourite smoothie, add it to juices or steep it in hot water. Infuse it into roasted veggie recipes and fresh salads. You can even sprinkle it onto the following healthy snacks to make them even healthier: hardboiled eggs, avocados, hummus, nuts and plain popcorn. These flavours all get along with turmeric.
Don't forget to add a pinch of black pepper or a dash of lime to unlock turmeric's full potential and enhance its absorption. Studies have shown that just a small amount of piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper (Piper nigrum), can increase turmeric's absorption by a stunning 2,000 per cent.
As new research suggests, vitamin C might have a similar effect. You can easily find it in strawberries, citrus fruits like oranges, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit and a wide variety of vegetables, from bell peppers and tomatoes to cabbage, broccoli and Brussel sprouts.
3. Nut butter: The vegan-friendly snack
In all its varieties, nut butter is every plant-based and vegetarian's go-to source of protein. It's also a great go-to source for post-workout muscle recovery.
Providing approximately 10 g of protein per serving (depending on the nut), along with plenty of good fats for brain health and sodium for electrolyte balance, it's an excellent snack to have after a tough workout session. Not only will it help replenish your depleted glycogen and protein stores, but the slow-release energy from the healthy fats will keep you well-satiated.
Opt for almonds and pistachios for a snack packed with nutrients and the highest amount of plant protein. Almonds provide 21 g protein per 100 g serving. Pistachios are a close second in terms of protein content, with 20 g per 100 g serving.
While nut butter is perfectly fine on its own, it also pairs quite well with fruit. Try it with apples or bananas. As reliable sources of natural sugar, dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, they will both help refill your energy reserves quicker.
4. Hardboiled, fried, scrambled eggs
Eggs are one of nature's nutritional powerhouses. Whether scrambled, fried, raw or hardboiled, eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein, vitamins, healthy fats and minerals such as phosphorus and iron. An excellent food choice, they are one of the simplest healthy snacks to reach for to ensure a speedy recovery.
Research suggests that eating three whole eggs after a workout can help promote muscle repair, reduce inflammation and replenish glycogen and electrolyte stores, thanks to the amount of sodium and potassium they provide.
If you're looking to add more carbohydrates to the mix, you can pair eggs with puffed rice cakes, have them on wholegrain toast or make an egg salad sandwich for a quick meal on the go.
5. Avocado: The ideal post-workout partner
Healthy is the new strong. (Credit: Getty Images)
This super-fruit is primed for muscle growth and recovery. Avocados are an excellent source of B vitamins, potassium, folate and fibre – all of which benefit the heart and cardiovascular system. This nutritious food is also extremely rich in monounsaturated fat – the healthy fat, necessary not only for absorbing vitamins A and E, but also for repairing muscle. The high fat content helps replenish your energy and takes longer for your body to digest, so avocados also keep you feeling full for longer.
Avocados are incredibly versatile in the kitchen. Mash them into tasty guacamole and enjoy them atop wholemeal bread. Add them to your favourite smoothie, combining the avocados with hardboiled egg, chickpeas or tempeh for an added carb and protein boost. Or sprinkle a pinch of salt on the cut fruit, scoop it out from its skin and enjoy it on its own.
Try to incorporate some of these healthy snacks into your routine to boost performance and achieve your fitness goals. You'll soon see the benefits.
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