Detoxify, Energize & Strengthen – Post-Workout Foods to Support the Many Benefits of Exercise
Exercise has a laundry list of health benefits including detoxifying the body, strengthening muscles, bones and joints, increasing cardiovascular health, boosting energy, improving your mood and helping you fit into your skinny jeans. Different types of exercise tap into these benefits in various ways and to differing degrees, and when choosing a post-workout snack I like to focus on what systems I depleted during my workout and also how I can use food to further support the benefits of the exercise I’m engaging in. For example, many of the poses in yoga promote detoxification, as does sweating from intense cardio activity. Weight training strengthens muscles and bones, and Zumba energizes the body as you dance away unwanted pounds.
I’m going to give you recipes for some of my favorite post-workout foods and show how their powerhouse ingredients support and enhance the detoxifying, energizing and strengthening benefits of exercise. The ingredients are cacao, chia seeds, almonds, dates, kale, pineapple, coconut water, coconut oil and sea salt.
But First, What is Cacao?
Chocolate as we know it comes from cacao beans found inside the fruit of the cacao tree. The conventional chocolate process roasts these beans at high temperature which changes the molecular structure of the cocoa bean; reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value (then sugar, soy lecithin and sometimes even other oils are added to make the creamy chocolate bars we love so much.) Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been peeled and chopped up, and cacao powder is made by cold-pressing the un-roasted cocoa beans thus maintaining the living enzymes. Cacao is an amazing superfood – and any reason to eat more chocolate is always a good idea!
My Favorite Post-Workout Recipes:
Here’s how the ingredients in these recipes go to work for you…
Sulfur – cruciferous vegetables like kale are high in this compound, providing essential support for your liver which bears the brunt of the detoxification process. Cacao is a great source as well.
Fiber – found in kale, pineapple, cacao nibs, chia seeds, dates, and almonds, it keeps things moving which is crucial for flushing toxins out of your body.
Anti-viral/Anti-fungal – viruses and fungal infections can add to our body’s toxic load and interfere with detoxification. Coconut oil has both of these properties.
Electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium) – coconut water and sea salt contain the full range of electrolytes that you lose as you sweat and need to replenish for proper hydration, which is essential for flushing out toxins . Dates, chia seeds & cacao have high doses of both magnesium and potassium as well.
Iron – crucial for energy production, oxygenation and liver function, kale has more iron than beef, and cacao and dates are loaded with it. Almonds contain some iron as well.
B Vitamins – found in pineapple, almonds and dates, B vitamins are essential for keeping you energized.
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) – a specific type of fat in coconut oil and coconut milk that is immediately sent to your liver and very efficiently converted into fuel for immediate use by organs and muscles.
Strengthening – Muscles, Bones & Joints
Protein – the building block of our muscles, tendons, organs and skin; almonds and chia seeds are loaded with it.
Bromelain – an enzyme in pineapple that when taken without protein acts as a muscle relaxant.
Vitamin K – essential for bone, cartilage, and joint health and found in dates and kale.
Vitamin C – Kale and pineapple are loaded with this vitamin which aids in the production of collagen – the building block of your blood vessel walls, skin, organs, and bones.
Major Minerals – Essential for strengthening bones, protein syntheses, and muscle and nerve function, as well as keeping your heart beating steadily.
- Magnesium – cacao has the magnesium of a banana but without the sugar or banana taste (sorry for all you banana lovers out there, I just can’t get on board!) Dates, almonds and chia seeds are a great source as well.
- Potassium – chia seeds, dates and kale are full of it.
- Calcium – found in almonds, chia seeds, dates, and kale.
Trace Minerals – Essential for building new tissue, strengthening bones, flexing and contracting muscles and also keeping your heart beating.
- Copper, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, zinc – are all found in dates, chia seeds, cacao, kale and pineapple.
A Note About Fat – Why Does It Matter?
Vitamins A, D, E & K are all fat-soluble vitamins which means that you need fat in order for your body to absorb them.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential fats that our body cannot produce on it’s own and we must get from food. Chia seeds have more Omega 3s than salmon! Kale has Omega 3s as well.
Monounsaturated Fats are heart healthy fats found in cacao and almonds .
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTS) – as noted above, these fats are sent to your liver and very efficiently converted into fuel for immediate use by organs and muscles. On top of that, they are not stored as fat!
Pressed for time and looking for a ready-made post-workout snack? Here are some of my favorites:
RX Bars – they contain only 5 ingredients – all of the which are recognizable and pronounceable (my litmus test for pre-packaged food. My favorite is chocolate sea salt.
Salmon or Grass-Fed Beef Jerky – packed with protein and healthy fats.
Nuts – when all else fails, grab a handful of nuts! But go with raw or sprouted, or make sure your roasted nuts do not contain oils like canola and soybean.
Ashley Ondrick, a (mostly) healthy chef, is an Integrative Nutrition health coach, private chef and cooking instructor. She lives in St. Pete with her dog Spritz and can usually be found buying produce at the Saturday Morning Market or working up a sweat at St. Petersburg Yoga.