Ditch the ready-made shakes which can be high in fat and empty calories. Carefully use this “hour window” to feed your nutrient starved muscles with these power-packed foods to replenish energy and build muscle:
1. Protein – builds muscle by “repairing” torn fibers following a vigorous workout, protein is crucial. Warning: protein shakes served at most gym smoothie bars can be packed with sugar and other “flavorful” ingredients; watch the peanut butter, typically low-grade and high-sugar. Best to bring your own (put the powder in a shaker bottle). Try these all natural protein powders: Vega, Garden of Life. More on protein and some other recommendations.
2. Avocado – packed with potassium, calcium, folic acid, copper and fiber. Avocados are also a carotenoid-rich food which helps protect the body’s immune system, typically much lower following a workout (this is why it is essential to wash your hands following your gym visits. See: “Fitness and sickness: the 10 filthiest places for germs at the gym”)
3. Spinach – two-fold power, spinach is also an ideal pre-workout food as it boosts strength with phytoecdysteroids (a natural plant steroid); think Popeye. Spinach is ideal for post-workouts as these same plant steroids have been shown to increase muscle growth by a whopping 20%!
4. Salmon – sure tuna is good for you, too but the canned variety is up for debate. Salmon is high in protein and omega-3s. Opt for the wild variety. Cook with olive oil, which has the highest levels of polyphenol phytonutrients. Add red or cayenne pepper to boost your metabolism.
5. Sweet potato – yes, it’s a carb, but unlike the bread basket, sweet potatoes are complex (good) carbs and are one of the most nutritious vegetables. High in fiber, protein and iron, the sweet potato helps to restore muscle glycogen for faster recovery.
Tip: Combine items two through four for an ideal post-workout meal
6. Quinoa – ditch the brown rice and try this easy-to-cook and unconventional power seed, rich in protein, iron and vitamins (you can’t find that in rice). Quinoa is an ideal source of fiber. Find out why I’m so big on fiber. Oh, it’s pronounced keen-WAH.
7. Broccoli – it can be delicious, it’s all in the prep. The stems are difficult to digest, chop off the florets, wash and top with olive oil (getting the hint?), sea-salt and chopped pepper. Micro for 90 seconds. Should be crunchy and deep green. Broccoli is a perfect vegetable, high in chromium which helps to metabolize protein. Eat it.
8. Lentils – these make for heart-healthy, heart-warming soups. Lentils are high in protein and fiber. They’re inexpensive and easy to prepare. If it’s on the menu, order it instead of fat-filled French Onion.
9. Flaxseed – the omega 3s in flaxseeds could help to reduce inflammation, beneficial in muscle recovery. Flaxseeds also promote fullness and might very well curb your midnight cravings. Opt for the oil variety as seeds are difficult to digest. Bonus: flaxseed oil helps prevent acne (when eaten, so don’t put on your face).
10.Green tea – high in catechins, an antioxidant shown to seep-up metabolism and helps to burn more fat. Essentially, you may lose weight by drinking green tea. If you’re not into the warm variety, try Ito-En. Their iced blends are delicious and low in sugar.
For more info: Stefan Pinto was once 60lbs overweight. Following principles first discovered in the Men’s Health Abs Diet, Stefan Pinto advocates healthy eating through nutrient-rich “superfoods” and less-processed, naturally grown products.