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Foods to Help You Recover Quicker

By Susan Kitchen

orangesAs athletes and fitness enthusiasts we set goals and make time to follow a structured training plan to be stronger and faster than we were yesterday. To accelerate recovery, we strive to consume a post-workout recovery snack of 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 30 to 45 minutes. This helps replenish our glycogen stores and repair muscle damage, which will help speed recovery; however, muscle soreness may still set in. Before reaching for the Advil, include these naturally occurring vitamins in your daily diet for optimal results.

Antioxidant-rich foods have been shown to help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. The three major antioxidant vitamins are vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. Other vitamins to assist with recovery and inflammation are vitamin D and vitamin B complex.

Vitamin C: This powerful antioxidant boosts tissue repair, helps flush the muscles of lactic acid and helps prevent upper respiratory tract infections.

Sources: Beets, oranges, kiwi, papaya, guava, green and red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and tart cherry juice.

Vitamin A: Known for its vision-boosting powers, but from a recovery standpoint, it helps strengthen the immune system and helps major organs function properly. (Vitamin A is synthesized by the body from beta-carotene).

Sources: Carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, pumpkin, cantaloupe and apricots.

Vitamin E: During strenuous exercise, a protein called creatine phosphokinase (CPK) seeps into the bloodstream. Vitamin E increases blood circulation and helps clear the body of CPK more efficiently. It also protects cells from free radical damage.

Sources: Sunflower seeds, almonds, fortified cereals, wheat germ, olives and avocados, as well as plant oils (soybean, corn and olive oils).

 B Vitamins: The B complex is comprised of eight vitamins that help the body perform a variety of functions. They help with the breakdown of proteins and carbs, boost muscle repair and assist with cell development. A lack of B vitamins can increase muscle cramps and soreness.

Sources: Kale, spinach, cabbage, tuna, dairy, whole grains, bananas and legumes.

Vitamin D: While it aids in the absorption of calcium to build strong muscles and bones, it also helps reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system.

Sources: Fatty fish, liver, eggs, fortified cereals, fortified milk products, meat and sunlight.

Spice it up: While you are preparing your vitamin-rich meal, add these ingredients to help combat inflammation: ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions and olive oil.

To sum it up and make this easy, always strive for fruits and vegetables that are bright in color, choose dark leafy greens, healthy fats, fortified dairy products and toss some spices in there for extra flavoring and to help reduce your soreness.

Bon Appetit!

Susan Kitchen, MPH, RD, CSSD, is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and owner of Race Smart, LLC, a nutrition and coaching practice. Personally, she competes in endurance sports from the marathon to full Ironman. To contact Susan, email or visit and on Facebook at Race Smart.   

To get a customized metabolic efficient nutrition plan, contact Susan Kitchen, MPH, RD, CSSD at

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.