Hiking expends a lot of energy that needs to be replaced by healthy and hearty foods during your active recovery day.
Food matters. It’s the fuel that enables us to move through life with energy, avoid hanger, and let’s be real — we all love to indulge in delicious food. But food matters even more when you’re planning a day jam packed with lots of outdoor activity.
Often, when you prepare for long hikes, you think about the snacks you’ll eat on the trail, and the beer and pizza you’ll indulge in when you get home. But what about the foods we eat on our active recovery day? Those are just as important if you want to recover for your next big, bad, wild excursion.
What is Active Recovery?
Spend a day hiking up repeated switchbacks with bouts of scree? You’ll likely be sore the next day. That’s totally normal — it means you worked hard. And the day after a long, arduous hike will typically call for some much needed couch time and a date with your favorite show on Netflix (Jessica Jones, anyone?). But that’s not always the best way to recover from your stout trek. While vegging out might sound nice, your body might actually be craving a little more movement in your recovery process.
Active recovery is a way to give your body the break it needs without staying stationary. It typically involves light movement like an easy hike, jog, swimming, or yoga, and it can help loosen your tight muscles and get your blood circulating.
Recovery doesn’t just include movement, but also what you eat to recharge your body.
Foods for Your Active Recovery Day
Don’t push yourself after a big day of activity. But do give your body the chance to keep moving, and the fuel it needs for effective active recovery. These foods will have you bouncing back to the trail in no time:
Protein is a must for anyone who’s exercising as it helps repair and grow your muscles. And that’s exactly what you need after a long hard hike–especially for the quads and calves. Salmon is a great way to up your lean protein game, and its omega-3 fatty acids help with inflammation. You can kick off your morning with some Lox on a bagel or finish the night with baked salmon in herbs. We recommend either, or both.
Have you ever been told to eat a banana when you get a charley horse? That’s because bananas are nutrient-rich with magnesium and potassium, which helps relax tense muscles. It doesn’t sound ground breaking, but ending your hike with a banana and some peanut butter (for protein) can help your body relax. If you want your banana intake to be a little more complex, try a banana, pineapple, avocado, and coconut water smoothie.
This anti-inflammatory has been used for centuries, and with good reason. Turmeric contains a little known ingredient: curcumin, which is a a strong antioxidant. The benefits of turmeric can be hard to absorb in the bloodstream, however, so try pairing it with black pepper to aid in the absorption. A great way to enjoy all the benefits of turmeric is to make golden milk–a turmeric-based hot drink that requires a non-dairy milk, cinnamon, black pepper, and honey.
Pasta gets a bad rap with so many diets telling us to limit our carbs. But when you’re working hard, your body needs carbs. And they definitely have their place in your active recovery day plan, especially if you plan to get back out on the trails with immediacy. Try whole grain spaghetti for replenishing your glycogen stores. Add some greens and a sauce with some kind of protein for even more recovery benefits. Pasta with grilled chicken and spinach is a healthy way to indulge your carbo-cravings and recover faster.
Meat and Veggie Bars
If you’re on the go during your active recovery day, then you’re going to want to snack on something that’s quick and easy. Wild Zora’s paleo bars offer a balance between protein and other nutrients like fiber, iron, and vitamin C. Chances are these were hanging out in your pack during your hike, so you might as well enjoy one after the long trek to jumpstart your body’s recover process.
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