There are plenty of theories about the best foods to consume following a workout. While there's science to back most of them, the majority of foods marketed to athletes are loaded with artificial ingredients and sweeteners.

Conversely, superfoods are all natural, nutrient-dense foods that offer a number of health benefits. Here, we've rounded up three of our favorite tried-and-true options to help speed up your recovery after a grueling workout.

Hemp Seeds

Hemp hearts are the perfect topping for smoothies, oatmeal and salads. Photo: Sambazon/Unsplash

Hemp seeds are packed with plant-based protein and are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This tiny-but-mighty superfood is also a good source of vitamin E as well as phosphorous, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc. Hemp seeds are an ideal post-workout food because the omega-3s work to reduce inflammation in the body, allowing your muscles to repair and rebuild more quickly.

Hemp seeds can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Add them to your favorite smoothie, toss them on a salad or mix them into oatmeal to reap the benefits.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is like nature’s Gatorade. Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Coconut water contains more electrolytes per serving than traditional sports drinks, without the added sugar and artificial ingredients. Often referred to as "nature's Gatorade," coconut water is rich in vitamins, electrolytes, amino acids, enzymes, and antioxidants. The naturally occurring electrolytes, such as potassium, magnesium and sodium, help to rehydrate and restore the body after a long, sweaty workout. Additionally, potassium works to maintain proper organ function and the antioxidants work to combat disease, so you can stay healthy and active.

Enjoy coconut water straight from the source or buy a bottled option. If drinking it plain isn't your thing, add it to your smoothies, make an electrolyte-rich iced coffee or create a healthy salad dressing.

Maca

Add a scoop of maca to your morning coffee to gain the benefits of 20 essential amino acids. Photo: Asoggetti/Unsplash

Maca hails from the mountains of Peru and has exploded in popularity in recent years due to its incredible health benefits. Typically available as a powder or supplement, this superfood contains 20 amino acids per tablespoon, which helps to reduce inflammation and cramping.

Maca is also packed with antioxidants, which can help increase the number of immune cells working to repair you muscles – meaning less sore muscles. In addition, maca is a great source of carbs and protein and is packed with vitamin C, copper and iron, making it the perfect recovery food.

Maca has a subtle, nutty flavor, which makes it a great addition to smoothies, coffee and oatmeal. You can also get creative and use it in sweet treats and homemade energy bars.

If you’re looking to take it a step further, try adding even more nutrient-dense superfoods to your diet. Turmeric, leafy greens, salmon, sweet potatoes, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds are all great choices to incorporate into your post-workout meals, and can go a long way for your recovery and your overall health.

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