Over my years as a dietitian, there is definitely one common theme that I’ve seen: lack of focus on recovery. It’s not necessarily that there are major misconceptions about recovery, but it is simply not a priority for most. I really try to shift that narrative for those that I work with. If you have a higher output in life (tough workouts and high stress job), you need to recover harder! This is how we build up physical resilience and come back even stronger.
One of the simplest ways to make sure you’re recovering well is to incorporate certain nutrients that are optimal for recovery into your diet. Here are a few nutrients that are total game changers when it comes to recovery.
This mineral is involved in SO many processes in your body. Overall, it helps with relaxation including muscle relaxation and sleep support. This is one of the most common deficiencies in the Standard American Diet, so it is important to take a look at overall intake throughout the day. Magnesium-dense food sources include beans, nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, and avocados.
Zinc is another crucial mineral for immune system recovery and testosterone production, which can help with muscle growth in both men and women. Oysters contain by far the highest amounts of zinc (although I don’t expect you to eat those daily). Other sources include grass-fed beef, cashews, chickpeas, lentils, and pumpkin seeds.
This vitamin’s big claim to fame is its role in the immune system, but does have many other roles in recovery. Vitamin C is a key player in collagen synthesis, so it can help your joints recover after strenuous workouts. It also is required for healthy adrenal function, so very important in your body’s overall stress response. For sources think BRIGHT red and orange colors, like citrus, berries, and peppers.
While different types of fats are beneficial for recovery and inflammation reduction, I like to shed some light on omega-3’s in this area. Studies support that omega-3’s can alleviate joint pain and play a role in muscle gain and maintenance. EPA and DHA are the most biologically active omega-3 sources and are found in fish sources. ALA is not as biologically active, but still beneficial, and it’s found in plant sources such as walnuts and flax seeds.
Final thoughts on nutrients for recovery
If you are stressed or active, it is important to structure your eating around recovery. This helps your body bounce back even stronger and keep you progressing toward your goals. Remember that your body is giving you the ABILITY to work as hard as you do; we need to give it the rest and recovery that it needs.