By Jackie Freeman

Whether you've been hitting the gym, the slopes or the pavement, it's important to feed your body the right foods to maximize recovery after a hard workout. Why? Because muscles don't grow in the gym, but during rest and refueling afterwards. Here are a few of our top food picks to help build and nourish your body during that crucial post-workout recovery period.

1. Got Chocolate?

Loaded with anti-oxidants, magnesium, and Vitamin B, chocolate can help to reduce stress and boost energy. In the form of chocolate milk, it's a great source of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Plus, it's easy and fast for your body to digest, and satisfies your sweet tooth after a workout.

You can also incorporate chocolate into homemade No Bake Energy Bites. We all need a bit of indulgence after a hard work out, but with whole oats, peanut butter, and chocolate, this indulgence is also good for your recovery.

No-Bake Energy Bites | Photo by KGora

2. Monkeying Around (Bananas)

Bananas are rich in potassium--a key mineral to rebuilding muscle energy. Instead of reaching for a sports drink, balance your electrolytes with potassium from bananas.

Whether you eat them as a snack or dessert, you'll love these Frozen Bananas, topped with peanuts (for protein) and chocolate (for anti-oxidants).

Frozen Banana Bites | Photo via Bigstock

3. Let's Go Greek (Yogurt)

Repair and strengthen your muscles by adding protein-rich foods into your post-workout meal. Greek yogurt, which is high in protein but low in sugar, keeps you full (to reduce mid-meal snacking), while helping to repair and build muscle. It's perfect in smoothies, dips, and sauces, like this Chef John's Tzatziki Sauce

4. Keeping it Whole (Oats)

Our bodies need a balance of protein to rebuild and carbohydrates to refuel. Whole grains, like oats, are easy to digest and provide you with enough energy to last between activities. Top it off with a punch of protein, and you have a perfect recovery meal. Give these Whole Wheat Oatmeal and Banana Pancakes a try.

Whole Wheat, Oatmeal, and Banana Pancakes | Photo by Dianne

5. Going Nuts (Almonds)

Whether you grab a handful or a glassful (of almond milk), almonds have the perfect combination of protein and fat, giving your body energy sources to rebuild and repair. Bonus: Almonds have Omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, and are a great vegetarian protein option. Plus, the unsaturated fat found in almonds can help you feel full longer.

For refreshment, nutrition, and hydration, you can't go wrong with this Almond Berry Smoothie

Almond Berry Smoothie | Photo by Buckwheat Queen

6. Easy-Peasy (Eggs)

Like almonds, the perfect combination of fat and protein found in eggs is a versatile base for a post-workout meal. Plus, eggs have vitamins, amino acids, are low in carbohydrates, and are super easy to prepare all different ways.

Quiche is perfect for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. With spinach or other vegetables thrown into the mix, your body's getting even more post-workout recovery food. You can make this Crustless Spinach Quiche as a whole pie or as portable grab-and-go bites.

Crustless Spinach Quiche | Photo by waxing witch

7. Keeping it Pain-free (Turmeric)

If you're especially sore (or think you're going to be), reach for nature's anti-inflammatory pill in the form of turmeric. It has antioxidants that decrease muscle soreness and reduce inflammation. Hydrate and relax with this warming and soothing Haldi Ka Doodh (Hot Turmeric Milk), made with aromatic spices. Feel free to substitute plain almond milk for the regular milk, if you prefer.

Haldi Ka Doodh (Hot Turmeric Milk) | Photo by Buckwheat Queen

8. Fish for Compliments (Salmon)

Salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, not only helps reduce inflammation, but also is a great source of lean protein, which encourages muscle strengthening.

This recipe for Grilled Salmon with Avocado Dip gives you a double dose of healthy fats, both from the salmon and from the delightful avocado topping.

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Dip | Photo by Dianne

9. Popeye Knows Best (Spinach)

That beloved cartoon character with the huge biceps was on the right track. Dark leafy greens, like spinach, are packed with potassium, which helps reduce muscle cramps and balances electrolytes. Spinach is also loaded with fiber and anti-inflammatory agents.

Get your healthy greens with Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette. Use any fresh fruit in season if strawberries aren't available, and add leftover chicken for a balance of healthy carbs and lean protein.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette | Photo by MyHotSouthernMess

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