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Feeling a little lost on the post-game road to recovery? Head south of the border with a Southwestern meal that will restore your energy and improve muscle recovery. Jane Jakubczak, RD, CSSD, CDN, Maryland Terps coordinator of nutrition services, recommends a spicy meal and explains why it’s good post-activity.
Grilled steak + Rice + Black beans + Salsa + Guacamole
Grilled steak True, this protein is a little higher in fat than chicken, but it’s also a source of iron and zinc, nutrients all athletes need. Jakubczak says, “Iron plays a role in transporting oxygen from your lungs to your cells to your muscles. If your muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen, you tend to feel very fatigued and you’re just not going to perform optimally.” She adds that zinc is necessary to “keep your immune system strong [and] fight infection…especially when you’re at the height of your training,” because demanding training “might compromise your immune system a little.”
Rice & shells “[Often] male athletes will consume too much protein at the expense of carbohydrates,” Jakubczak says. “That’s actually detrimental, because carbohydrates are the body’s high-octane fuel. If [you’re] not getting enough, [you’re] going to feel like you’re literally running out of gas.” That includes reduced endurance, strength and power, she adds.
Jakubczak recommends going for quality carbs for optimal energy. And her number-one pick isn’t a tortilla shell. Surprised? “Even though I’m always encouraging athletes to eat carbohydrates, [tortilla shells] aren’t exactly the healthiest of choices,” she says. “The hard shell is hard because it’s fried.”
So her top option is rice. Second in line are soft-shell corn tortillas, since they’re smaller than a flour tortilla [her third choice], which keeps portion control in check.
Black beans “Definitely go toward black beans,” Jakubczak advises. The benefits are threefold. They’re packed with protein [about 7g per ½C], and they’re starchy carbs [25g], a nutrient Jakubczak says you “definitely want to replenish after competition.” The third plus: beans are filled with fiber, which slows the digestive process to satiate your appetite and keeps your GI tract on track.
Salsa Jakubczak says pile on the salsa. It’s an excellent option, because “it’s mostly just tomatoes, onions and spices, so it’s very low in fat, and [therefore], low in calories.” Bonus: salsa’s high in vitamins, like C, and antioxidants, which studies suggest reduces inflammation, meaning less muscle soreness.
Guacamole Go for this green, derived from avocados, which also have high-antioxidant properties. “[Guacamole] is high in fat, but it’s the healthy fat that can actually reduce inflammation,” Jakubczak says. Keep the portion to a quarter-cup, which is about the size restaurants serve on the side.