Recover Like A Pro: The Best Foods For Recovery

Rest and recovery are key pieces of the equation in terms of getting maximum ROI from high intensity/challenging workouts such as Tone House. Janis, expert nutritionist helps us understand the best foods to recover like a pro…

Assuming we’ve consumed the right foods in our post workout meal what are the top 3 recovery foods we should be included in our diet to refuel our energy stores?

I’m taking some liberties with the word “diet,” because heavy exercise affects your entire system. So to re-boot and re-store, you need to focus on:

  • Water
  • Real food (aka, try to actually eat real food instead of slamming down a supplement drink)
  • Sleep and parasympathetic nervous system activity (things like: massage, restorative yoga, meditation, floats or baths)

How does consuming junk food, for example something that contains refined sugar impact recovery?

Intense workouts are interpreted as “stress” by your body (my original teacher on this topic is Ironman athlete Brendan Brazier, author of several books including the upcoming Thrive Diet, 10th Anniversary Edition). Your dietary selections, including junk food or refined sugar, can also stress the body. If you want to give your body the best chance of recovering, you want to reduce the dietary stress in order to recover.

What about alcohol?

See above.

Drinks = stress.

It doesn’t mean “no,” but it does mean that you want to consider the overall stress load on your body. Mental stressloads such as workload, family demands, relationship stress, financial stress are to be considered.  But so, too, are things like your diet, sleep, rest, and exercise. Each of these can contribute to positive reductions on your stress load, but they can also conversely contribute.

Moderate alcohol intake can (and, some scientific studies will argue, even should) be part of a healthy living protocol if you are getting enough sleep, active relaxation and recovery, have a healthy family and social life and are managing your work and financial commitments plus eating a real-foods diet 80+% of the time.

Otherwise, alcohol will likely be interpreted as an unhealthy predator in your body and counteract all the hard work you are logging at the gym.

How important is proper water consumption and how much water should we be consuming (is there a formula to determine how much water we should have)?

You definitely want to consume a lot of fluid to keep your joints and fascia healthy. Fascia requires a lot of water to remain hydrated (which keeps you from both feeling, and being, “stiff”). I don’t generally prescribe formulas, as it depends on weather/humidity/workout load/dietary consumption of fluid.

It’s better to drink 2 cups of water throughout the day than it is to chug 3 cups of water in one Herculean effort to get in your “8 cups.”

Try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as they have high water content.  Sip non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day. And tote a water bottle to the gym.

How important is to consume electrolytes during and post workout to kick off recovery on the right note?

Electrolytes are a fancy term for: sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium and

Unless you sweat profusely, train for more than 1-2 hours a day, or notice muscle cramping, a diet that includes real foods should cover off your electrolyte replacement needs.

Look for foods like:

  • Dill pickles or tomato juice or plain old table salt to replace your sodium
  • Tomatoes, lettuce, olive to replenish chloride
  • Potatoes (with skin), bananas, or plain yogurt to supplement your potassium
  • Pumpkin seeds, cacao powder, spinach, or Epsom salt baths to supply extra magnesium
  • Spinach or kale to supplement calcium

One thing you want readers to remember about recovery and nutrition…

 Use common sense.

Focus on rest and recovery if you are going to be intense. That doesn’t mean lazy, that means actively pursuing a diet and lifestyle that allows your body to work to maximum capacity for 1-2 hours a day and be supported through healthy choices the other 22-23.


-Janis, Meal Ninja blackbelt certified nutritionist and Head Coach

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