Foods to Aid in Muscle Recovery

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Are you taking too long to recover between gym sessions? Are you sick of muscle aches that feel as if they're never going to go away? Well, I got some good news that may help with your recovery.

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There are a number of things that you can add to your diet that will improve your recovery time. The first of these is herring. Often called a “bait fish” this small aquatic creature contains high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. Research by the Urmia University in Iran suggests that herring can be an effective agent at reducing the effects of muscle soreness brought about by exercise.

As we all know, muscle soreness goes hand in hand with progressive style exercise such as weight training. The degree of muscle soreness will be dependent on the amount of exercise intensity used in each exercise session. Generally, higher intensity levels will force the body (and muscles) to work extra hard which causes more “micro damage” to muscle fibers. This in turn, causes muscle soreness, which is part of the healing process.

In order to ascertain whether or not omega-3 fatty acids positively affect recovery, the researchers at Urmia University recruited twenty-seven men who had not participated in any training sessions for at least sixty days and got them to take part in exercise. Some of them were given omega-3 beforehand and some were given a placebo substance.

They were asked to report the levels of muscle pain that they suffered at one-day intervals for two days after the training session. There was no difference in pain perception after the initial twenty-four hours but on the second day, the group who had taken the omega-3 were observed to suffer less muscle pain, implying that omega-3 reduces delayed muscle soreness after exercise.

New Zealand Blueberries

Research conducted by the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research and the Massey University School of Sport and Exercise, which is also in New Zealand, demonstrates that New Zealand blueberries are also useful in hastening the recovery of muscles after training.

The researchers gave participants blueberry smoothies to drink before, during and after they exercised the thigh of one of their legs on a Biodex machine.

They did three hundred maximal eccentric contractions in order to cause micro-trauma to their muscle fibres. Blood samples were then taken in order to monitor the thigh's recovery. A few weeks later, the participants exercised the thigh of their other leg after drinking a smoothy with no blueberries in it. Blood samples were taken once again.

An improved rate of recovery was observed in the leg that was exercised after the blueberry smoothy was consumed. Head of the Massey University School of Sport and Exercise Professor Steve Stannard said that it is not clear exactly why New Zealand blueberries are useful for muscle recovery but expressed the view that it was probably a result of them containing high levels of anthocyanins.

Low Fat Chocolate Milk

A study carried out by researchers at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, shows that low fat chocolate milk is another foodstuff that is good for helping muscles to recover after a workout. Participants were given either low fat chocolate milk or a different beverage daily after taking part in an intense four-day training session.

After a fortnight-long break, they then took part in a normal training session followed by another intense four-day training session. The chocolate milk drinkers were observed to have lower levels of creatine kinase, which is an indicator of muscle damage, than the people who had consumed the other beverage, indicating that the low fat chocolate milk had helped their muscles to recover at a faster rate.

Nuts, Soya Beans and Watermelon

There is also evidence that increasing your intake of arginine, which is present in nuts, soya beans and watermelon, could bring about faster muscle recovery. Researchers at the Universite de Paris in France carried out a review of clinical studies about the function of arginine in the human body and concluded that it is required for synthesizing nitric oxide, which is a gas molecule that widens the blood vessels leading to increased blood flow and enhanced delivery of nutrients to muscles in order to reduce muscle damage and jump-start the recovery process. This research was presented in the November 2002 issue of the Biomedical Pharmacotherapy journal.

Optimum Recovery

Eating the correct diet can make the difference between fast and slow recovery. It is beneficial in that it both reduces the discomfort associated with aching muscles and helps you to get your strength back in a hurry. Eat New Zealand blueberries, herring and foods that are rich in arginine and then wash them down with a cup of low fat chocolate milk and you will ensure that you have the best possible recovery speed. It will help you to get the best from your sessions and result in bigger arms and higher strength levels.

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About the Author

Our contributor, Chrissy Redpath writes health content on behalf of

As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.

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