You push yourself, sweat a lot, and feel the rush of endorphins that leave you feeling great. That euphoric feeling quickly subsides as you experience the aching and soreness that begins hours, or even days, after hard exercise. I know, I have been there. But where does it come from and why does it always show up a couple of days after certain workouts?

Any muscle soreness you feel 24 to 72 hours after exercise is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACMS). This soreness doesn't show up after all workouts — only when you do new or intense exercise. Muscle contractions cause microscopic tears along the muscle. These tiny tears don't directly cause the soreness. The discomfort is actually a by-product of inflammation and your body repairing itself.

If you are a hardcore exerciser, one of the most important things you can do is to allow your body to recover. Once you finish an intense workout you need to take care of your body so you can be ready for the next one.  Hard workouts take a lot out of us, and the foods we eat after a workout can either speed up our muscle recovery or prolong it, so we want to give our body the nutrients it needs.  Of course, we need a lot of water, but we should also replenish the electrolytes lost and the carbs burned during our workout. Here are five of the best foods to reduce muscle soreness and enhance muscle recovery.

  • 1

    Spinach

    Spinach is full of nutrients that help prevent inflammation. It contains vitamins A, B, and C and is also packed with 5 grams of protein per cup. You can toss it in a salad or blend it into your smoothie!

  • 2

    Berries

    Fruits are packed full of antioxidants, which help your muscles recover after a workout. Blueberries contain a high amount of antioxidants and they are also a healthy source of carbs. 

  • 3

    Chia Seeds

    Chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids. They supply key minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium. All of these support exercise recovery as they also contain anti-inflammatory fats. 

  • 4

    Green Tea

    An October 2018 study published in Physiology and Behavior showed that men who recovered with 500mg of green tea, reduced muscle damage. Green tea is also a good source of antioxidants and polyphenols. 

  • 5

    Bananas

    This fruit is loaded with carbs and potassium which are both key in supporting muscle recovery. Bananas replenish carbs that were burned during exercise, along with potassium that gets lost in sweat.