Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of fuel to help keep you energized and moving during physical activities*. They provide vitamins, minerals, and the hydrating fluids needed to keep you active in the summertime. Choose your favorite piece of fruit for a snack beforehand, or snack on a preferred vegetable after your workout. Not only are these foods nutritious and delicious, but they help restore your muscles and joints even after the activity to ensure a speedy recovery.
*Whether walking, swimming, or doing housework, any voluntary bodily movement that requires energy is considered physical activity.
How you decide to refuel after exercising your body directly impacts the speed of your recovery; after all, who wants to stay in bed with sore muscles after just getting started on a fitness journey! Because energy is exerted during periods that involve a lot of movement, it is vital that you allow yourself to indulge in foods that replenish your cells. Healthy food choices, namely fruits and vegetables, are one of the easiest ways to restore your body. Fruit is an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates, which are needed to provide withstanding energy for physical activity. Not only this, but by eating fruit, you are nourishing your body with one of the highest quality hydration sources available.
Which fruits are best for physical recovery?
Many people consume popular sports drinks to provide the body with the nutrients it needs to maintain physical endurance. They offer electrolytes that help maintain the necessary fluid balance within the body, but also contain extreme amounts of sugar. Did you know that fruits can act as a healthier alternative to sports drinks, as well as offer an impressive dosage of the same electrolytes such as potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium? Fruits provide the body with a higher quality of replenishment, while withholding from the added spoons full of sugar that often come in sports drinks. A few tasty fruit-based substitutions to these beverages include:
Bananas – Not only are bananas extremely inexpensive and super sweet when ripe, but they are filled with carbohydrates and potassium that assist in speedy muscle recovery.
Oranges – These juicy citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, a nutrient that helps the body absorb iron, which is essential for transporting oxygen to your muscles.
Berries – All of the small, candy-like berries are packed with antioxidants which are important for countering oxidative stress that happens during exercise. And as severe oxidative stress can lead to inflammation, foods like berries that are rich in the antioxidants known as polyphenols, are perfect for preventing any potential damaging effects.
Just like fruits, vegetables are also jam-packed with various nutrients that are needed for optimal physical performance. They offer low-calorie, nutritious solutions to help your body recover. Steam or sauté your favorite veggies alongside your favorite protein source such as chicken, fish, or quinoa for a complete meal that helps repair and strengthen your muscles. Opt for dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale to receive several nutrients and vitamins that contribute to strong bones and a regulated metabolism. Another option for a post-workout meal may consist of sweet potatoes or beets, as they both improve energy production and healthy digestion. The point here is to focus on foods that contain high amounts of vitamins and essential minerals such as:
Manganese – This mineral helps with energy production and is critical for bone health, and may contribute to improved bone mineral density when combined with calcium, zinc, and copper.
Vitamin B6 – Without sufficient vitamin B6 levels, the body is not able to create and absorb enough amino acids which are critical for building and maintaining lean muscles. It also helps with nerve function, as well as muscle contraction.
Calcium – When you sweat, critical nutrients like calcium are lost. This mineral contributes to healthy bones and muscle function making it essential for speeding up the recovery period.
Along with essential vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables, hydration is another crucial element when engaging in physical activity. When the body begins to perspire, water is released in an attempt to cool down its temperature and maintain homeostasis. Not only does sufficient hydration help regulate body temperature, but it also keeps the joints lubricated and organs functioning, as well as delivers nutrients to cells.
How much water and when?
The goal with drinking water in relation to physical exercise is to consume the amount you will lose through sweat so that there is a net-zero balance in the body. Aim for around 16-24 ounces before your workout period to avoid becoming dehydrated. A simple way to gauge how much water your body needs before and during physical exercise is by observing the color of your urine. If your urine is clear to light yellow, you can probably hold off on hydrating until after your workout. On the other hand, if the color is a bold to dark yellow with a strong smell, you’ll definitely want to make sure to prep your body by drinking some water and keeping a bottle close by in case you become thirsty.
How to boost your water intake?
Choosing to eat fruits and vegetables that are naturally filled with water is another way to stay hydrated without having to focus on drinking as much from a bottle. As mentioned, fresh produce offers the fluids and electrolytes needed to keep your body performing. Eat a piece of your favorite fruit like an apple, orange, or pear before your workout to increase your water intake. Don’t forget to keep hydrated and continue to drink water after you exercise as well!