17 Best Vegan Foods for Muscle Recovery

17 Best Vegan Foods for Muscle Recovery

Vegan protein sources. Top view on a blue wooden background

Vegan diets often get a bad rap when it comes to muscle recovery. Common sources of protein often include animal meats and byproducts, and some individuals new to the vegan diet may find themselves puzzling over the best vegan foods for muscle recovery.

The best vegan foods for muscle recovery are those that help ensure proper blood flow, provide adequate amounts of protein, and contain micronutrients known to assist in muscle repair and growth. These vitamins and minerals include vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Let us take a closer look at these criteria and delve into the best vegan foods for muscle recovery. This way, you can exercise to your heart’s delight without feeling light-headed or woozy. A vegan diet does not have to be a low-protein one, so read on.

Substances and Nutrients That Help Muscle Recovery

To discover the best vegan foods for muscle recovery, we analyzed the process of muscle recovery to find out what components are necessary. We discovered that muscles recover more quickly and more effectively when they are given plenty of:

  • Water
  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • B Vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These substances and nutrients are transported to muscle tissue via the circulatory system. Oxygen-rich and nutrient-dense blood help to repair torn and tired muscle tissue. Consequently, individuals hoping to experience faster muscle recovery should take extra care to maintain their circulatory system.

Water

Staying hydrated is one of the best things you could ever do for your body. The human body, at any given point, is up to 60% water. Most of the water can be found in our bodily fluids, including our blood, mucus, urine, saliva, and sweat. Blood, in particular, is reliant on consistent hydration.

After all, blood is 90% water. It also contains hormones, proteins, and salt. Naturally, blood is also responsible for transporting life-sustaining nutrients and chemicals around the body. Without it, our bodies would not be able to function. 

When you work out and challenge yourself to do more than you did last time, you may come away with sore muscles. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common condition that occurs after exercise. It typically occurs as a result of microscopic tears along muscle fibers. 

Inflammation is a common side effect of DOMS and typically signifies an increase in circulation. While this can be worrisome at first, it is often nothing to fret about. Increased circulation often means a boost of healing cells, proteins, and helpful vitamins and minerals. 

Without water, this process would not be possible. If you are not drinking several glasses of water each day, it may be helpful to add water-rich foods to your diet. For this article, we will be discussing some of the most nutrient-rich and water-rich vegan foods that may assist in muscle recovery.

Protein

Proteins are often called the building blocks of tissue, and it is not challenging to see why. Proteins are a necessary part of nearly every biological function, from cell creation and repair to chemical production and synthesis. Without protein, we would be unable to grow, heal, and survive. 

Consider this: Our hair, skin, and muscle tissue is primarily made of various specialized proteins. If you eat a low-protein diet, you are more likely to experience:

  • Brittle, slow-growing hair
  • Uneven skin tone and slow healing
  • Weak, easily injured muscles

While many people choose to get their protein from animal sources, vegan dieters have fewer options. Fortunately, modern protein supplements and smart meal planning have made protein deficiency a thing of the past. 

So long as vegan dieters ensure proper protein intake, there is no amount of strenuous exercise or bodybuilding they can’t endure. Of course, water and protein are not enough to keep a body healthy and strong. Micronutrients are also crucial.

Vitamin A

Let us say that you have been drinking plenty of water and eating protein-rich foods for every meal. You may still suffer from muscle weakness and poor healing if you’re not consuming enough vitamin A. That is because vitamin A is an essential part of the protein synthesis process. 

Think of protein as a wrapped package waiting at your door. You will not be able to open that door and receive the package without a key, in this case, vitamin A. If possible, try to consume protein-rich meals in tandem with ingredients that contain worthwhile amounts of vitamin A.

For example, chowing down on a bowl of Hearty Tomato Lentil Soup with Carrots could help you enjoy a boost of protein and vitamin A, ensuring that your body utilizes every bit of the consumed proteins. A slice of cantaloupe with a sprinkling of chia seeds could be equally helpful and wholesome.

This article will offer plenty of potential combinations for you to try and enjoy. By using a little creative wit and remembering to balance these vital factors, you may be able to experience faster muscle repair and improved muscle growth.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are responsible for muscle recovery, but perhaps not in the way you think. They primarily act as recycling agents, helping to get rid of old proteins and make way for newer ones. B vitamins also help produce usable energy necessary for the muscle recovery process.

Tempeh, nuts, legumes, and whole-grain products are often excellent sources of B vitamins. Many of these foods make excellent mid-day snacks, and others can be quickly and effortlessly added to meals. 

As such, it is not fantastically difficult for vegans to consume a healthy amount of B vitamins, with the exception of B-12. Still, individuals with nut and gluten allergies may struggle to find a reliable and safe source, and supplements may be necessary in such cases.

The gold-standard for vegan B-12 is nutritional yeast. In fact, all you need is one tablespoon full and you will receive more than double the recommended daily allowance.

If nutritional yeast isn’t your thing, consider foods such as cereals and nut-milks that are fortified with this essential macronutrient.

Vitamin C

Many people are aware that citrus fruits contain a massive amount of vitamin C. Additionally, there seems to be some common knowledge regarding the use of vitamin C, especially when it comes to improving immunity. 

However, there are quite a few quirks of vitamin C that aren’t as widely known or discussed. Some examples include:

  • Vitamin C is vital to our dental, dermatological, skeletal, circulatory, and nervous health
  • Regular vitamin C consumption could lower the risk of heart disease
  • When you consume vitamin C, your blood vessels dilate (become wider and more open)

When you’ve consumed enough water to ensure your body’s blood supply is sufficient and foods with protein, vitamin A, and B vitamins, adding a few vitamin C-rich snacks could help your body transport everything more rapidly, especially to tired muscle tissue.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

While fish is the most popular source of omega-3 fatty acids, they’re not the only source. This is excellent news for vegans and vegetarians hoping to experience reduced muscle soreness and decreased inflammation. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are also heart-healthy components that can help reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Remember, one of the smartest ways to reduce muscle recovery time and pain is to maintain your circulatory system. 

When your heart and blood vessels are in excellent condition, the rest of your body is usually not far behind.

Strawberries

One of the best things about strawberries (besides their sweet taste) is their water content. Strawberries are about 91% water, so if you tend to start your day with coffee (a natural diuretic), you may want to think about adding a few chopped strawberries to your morning bowl of oatmeal, cereal, or smoothie.

They’re relatively low in carbs and surprisingly low in sugar, but they can provide a tiny boost in dietary fiber to kick-start your digestive system. Strawberries also contain vitamin C and folate. 

Folate is also called vitamin B9, and it’s a vital micronutrient for muscle repair and growth. However, strawberries also contain small amounts of many other vitamins and minerals. Overall, it’s a tasty snack that’s far healthier than standard candy, but that is just as sweet. 

Tempeh

When you’re looking to increase your protein intake, there’s almost nothing better than tempeh. Tempeh is a soybean product. It’s made by soaking soybeans, boiling them, then letting them ferment for several hours before cooking them once more and serving immediately.  

While the look and consistency might not appeal to all eaters, its protein and nutrient content will. Still, individuals with soy sensitivities or allergies may want to limit their tempeh consumption. If you don’t have any soy allergies, you can enjoy 31 grams of protein per cup of tempeh.

That’s about half the recommended dose for an average-sized person. And with a helpful dose of manganese and prebiotics, tempeh is bound to help keep your digestive system in excellent condition and reduce inflammation as a result of sore muscles.

Kale

Adding kale to the menu is almost always an excellent idea. That’s because kale is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals. A single cup of kale contains more than 200% of your recommended dose of vitamin A. It also contains more than 100% of your recommended intake of vitamin C.

To make matters even more appealing, kale has small amounts of several different B vitamins. Essentially, it’s one of the most efficient choices for individuals seeking improved muscle recovery. The only components it’s truly missing are the omega-3 fatty acids and the excess water.

Kale can be washed and dried for salads, or it can be baked into healthy chips. However, be aware that baking or cooking kale will lower its nutrient content. As such, it may be best eaten raw with a few carrots, tomatoes, and a couple of tablespoons of your favorite dressing.

Pineapple

Pineapple is another surprisingly effective option for vegan athletes. It’s water-rich, provides a wallop of vitamin C, and also features an impressive amount of B vitamins. Sliced pineapple can be deliciously sweet and slightly tangy, and its fiber content can help ease troubled digestion.

If you’ve been looking for the perfect fruit to add to your snack list, you may want to consider pineapple. Though it can be a challenge to slice and prepare a whole pineapple at home, learning how to prepare pineapple only takes a few minutes and a couple of tools. 

Still, most grocery stores sell pre-prepared pineapple slices and chunks that make it easy to enjoy pineapple more regularly. If you already enjoy smoothies regularly, you may want to consider adding pineapple and the next ingredient to your favorite fruit smoothie recipe.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are beloved by athletes and weight-loss enthusiasts all over the world. Though they may be small and unglamorous, they offer a massive amount of energy that can help you stay focused and alert throughout the day. They’re also relatively low in carbohydrates.

Even better, chia seeds contain a smattering of B vitamins, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Imagine the kind of muscle-healing benefits you could enjoy by combining a few strawberries, some kale, a pineapple chunk, and some chia seeds in a smoothie. 

Adding chia seeds to your meal is simple and straightforward. You can add chia seeds to your breakfast cereal or oatmeal to a smoothie, yogurt, plain water, fruit juice, and much more. You could even sprinkle them over some sliced or balled cantaloupe.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is a type of melon. It has a slightly sweet, rather mild and neutral taste. However, that flavor is masking a surprising load of nutrients that could help you experience less muscle soreness and increased recovery. 

Cantaloupe contains a significant amount of vitamin A and vitamin C. It’s also a water-rich food that could help restore your internal water balance and improve blood flow. This melon is also a source of potassium, protein, and dietary fiber.

You could eat cantaloupe on its own or pair it with other tasty fruits in a fruit salad. You could even make a cantaloupe-based dessert by whipping together a chocolate mousse and balling some melon.

Blueberries

Blueberries are a superfood that is difficult to contend with. They’re full of immune-boosting antioxidants, circulatory-friendly vitamin C, and phytochemicals that may help prevent cancer

Blueberries are capable of producing a litany of positive physical effects and may even help improve cognitive performance and ability. Their dietary fiber helps to keep eaters full, and their prebiotic nature ensures optimal gut health. 

Their manganese and vitamin K content helps to keep muscle tissue, skin tissue, and skeletal tissue in the best possible condition. Overall, there’s no reason not to start adding blueberries to your morning oatmeal or smoothie. 

And if you’re feeling particularly sweet, why not bake a whole-grain vegan blueberry pie? You could add some chopped walnuts for added flair, taste, and nutrition.

Walnuts

Though it’s often a good idea to limit the number of fats and oils you eat, vegan diets don’t tend to proffer excess polyunsaturated fats. As such, it’s often perfectly healthy to enjoy nuts, avocados, and small amounts of wholesome oils. 

Walnuts could be a great snack, especially if you’re looking to increase your protein intake. These nuts are low in sugar but high in fiber, so they could also help your stomach and digestive system work more effectively. While they do contain fats, most are monounsaturated.

When you eat a handful of walnuts, you’re getting a boost of vitamin C, iron, potassium, and folate. You can chop up some walnuts to use as a garnish, process them into a delicious walnut butter, or snack on them whole.

Peaches

Adding a peach to your daily meal plan could be a sweet way to boost your protein and vitamin C intake. While peaches aren’t particularly rich in nutrients, they do provide a small array of crucial vitamins and minerals and are full of water.

You may want to add peaches to your breakfast if you also enjoy coffee in the morning. Of course, you could also drink an extra glass of water to help counteract the diuretic effects of your morning brew. But peaches are sweet, tasty, and exceptionally versatile fruits.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans. While their shape and size can be off-putting for some (especially those accustomed to kidney beans and black beans), their nutritional content and rich taste will hopefully persuade a few more individuals to give them a try.

These light-brown and tan beans provide 3 grams of protein per ounce. That means that a single cup of these beans provides just about 15 grams (0.53 ounce) of protein. This plant-based protein is an essential part of any vegan diet. Additionally, garbanzo beans are full of dietary fiber.

If you’re interested in making stews and soups, you might want to consider adding a handful of chickpeas to your latest concoction. Doing so just may help you get the proper protein you need for proper muscle repair.

Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato french fry craze continues to hold strong, partially due to the creamy texture and pleasantly sweet taste of sweet potatoes, and partially because sweet potatoes are a nutrient-rich option. 

A single sweet potato is just over 100 calories and contains a low amount of carbohydrates. However, it’s one of the best sources of vitamin A, providing about 400% of your daily recommended intake per potato.

Sweet potatoes also provide B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and potassium. Adding a few to a stew or tempeh dinner could help you get a wide range of nutrients you need for improved muscle recovery and growth. If you haven’t discovered sweet potatoes, now is the time.

Mango

Did you know that eating mangoes could help your muscles recover a little faster? Mangoes are water-rich, helping your body produce plenty of blood for rapid healing, and they contain essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium. 

Besides, they’re a delicious and creamy fruit that can be enjoyed in many different recipes. Mangoes pair well with other fruits, so they also make an excellent smoothie ingredient. These tropical fruits can be relatively sugar-rich, so it’s crucial to enjoy them in moderation.

Broccoli

Broccoli is rich in vitamin C, provides a little protein, and has enough fiber to keep your digestive system functioning efficiently. It’s also an excellent source of B vitamins, vitamin A, and potassium. 

As such, adding broccoli to your diet could help you experience improved muscle recovery. While it’s often better to eat the stalks and tree-like growth while the broccoli is still raw, you can steam it, saute it, or even fry it if you’d like. 

But if you’re eager to enjoy the health benefits of broccoli (and less eager to take a huge bite of raw broccoli), you may want to consider chopping a few stalks up into fine pieces and adding them to a hearty vegetable stew. In this way, any nutrients boiled out of your ingredients will remain in the stock.

set overnight oats with berries, coconut, peanut butter, Chia seeds and chocolate chips. toning. selective focus

Oats

Unlike many types of store-bought bread, oats are a whole-grain food. While they may contain more carbohydrates than many of the vegetables and fruits on this list, they’re also an excellent source of protein. 

Instant oats aren’t nearly as wholesome as steel-cut or rolled oats, though they do require significantly less time to cook. Still, oats are incredibly versatile. 

You can boil them and make oatmeal, or you can add them to one of the thousands of bread, cake, and biscuit recipes. One cup of oats contains 10 grams of protein (0.35 ounce). Oats also contain B vitamins. 

When it comes to choosing sugary cereals or nutrient-rich oats, it’s always better to choose the oats. Their nutrient content and abundance of fiber is bound to keep you feeling full while also helping you enjoy stronger, healthier muscles.

Mushrooms

While fungal infections can be irritating and uncomfortable, eating certain types of fungus can be quite good for you. Many of the non-toxic mushrooms found in grocery stores and local markets are full of antioxidants, B vitamins, fiber, and potassium.

In this way, eating mushrooms could help you stay healthy and resist infections, ensure that your damaged muscle tissue is ready for repair and growth, and help your body maintain nerve and muscle function. Mushrooms can be enjoyed in soups, stews, or salads. They can also be roasted over a fire or on a grill. 

You may even decide to stuff your mushrooms and bake them or fry them. Due to their versatile nature, mushrooms could be a popular household staple for you and yours. Of course, not everyone agrees with the texture of raw or cooked mushrooms.

Algae

Believe it or not, algae is one of the best things you can eat, period. That’s because algae are some of the most energy-rich substances on the face of the earth. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, life-sustaining amino acids, protein, and vitamin C. 

Of course, the precise nutrient content differs from strain to strain. To enjoy the full effects of algae, it may be best to consume it as a supplement. Still, if you enjoy seafood, especially sushi, you may enjoy raw and partially cooked seaweed and algae from time to time. 

The only danger here is the potential increase in bodily mercury levels. Consuming algae supplements ensures that you can enjoy all of their benefits without suffering any of the potentially toxic side effects of eating too much seafood.

greek style avocado tomato salad with feta cheese, olives, cucumber, onion, lettuce

Avocado

A couple of decades ago, avocados were primarily popular among guacamole fans and aficionados, at least in the United States. Since then, avocados have grown into an impressive agricultural industry and institution in North America and Mexico. 

If you’ve ever heard of avocado toast, then you may be familiar with avocado’s rise from semi-obscurity to widespread popularity and mainstream fame in the United States. What you may not be familiar with is the bounty of nutrition contained within these odd green fruits.

Avocados are rich in healthy fats that may help lower cholesterol and promote improved cardiovascular health. They’re also full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin E, and a few B vitamins. 

This makes them handy snacks or ingredients for vegans looking to improve muscle recovery time. Due to the naturally creamy nature of the avocado fruit, you can add it to nearly any recipe in the place of butter or fat. 

Of course, frying with avocado paste is not recommended, as it does not transfer energy as oils do. But if you’d like to do some shallow frying with avocado oil, you’ll likely end up with a tasty treat.

Conclusion

The best vegan foods for muscle recovery are those that contain plenty of water, protein, vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids. For muscle tissue to heal and grow, it needs to have plenty of nutrient-rich blood flowing through it. 

If you are dehydrated, your body may not be producing enough blood to help your muscles effectively heal and repair themselves. Additionally, muscle tissue is made of dense proteins. If you are not consuming enough protein, your body may struggle to repair damaged tissues. 

Hopefully, this list of the best vegan foods for muscle recovery has inspired you to make some bold and healthy choices at the grocery store. Remember, you can exercise and push yourself and still enjoy a vegan diet—you just need to be eating the right foods.

Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS

Compliment Your Body, LLC
1441 Broadway #6087
New York, NY. 10018
(646) 868-8956

Compliment Your Body has been providing corporate chair massage and in-home massage therapy to New York City and the surrounding boroughs since 2004. We are local to New York City and pride ourselves on our team of local therapists. All of our therapists are hand-picked and thoroughly vetted. We don’t hire over the phone, we meet our team on the field.

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For every single in-home or chair massage, Compliment donates three meals to a New Yorker in need through our relationship with Food Bank For New York City.

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Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS, owner and CEO of Compliment Your Body, LLC has over fifteen years of experience in the health and wellness field. During his career he has worked in a multitude of settings, including spas, chiropractic offices, and on the field at IronMan competitions. Richard was hired in 2005 with the United States Tennis Association as a Massage Therapist and provided therapy to the professional athletes at the US Open Tennis Championships from 2005 - 2010. Richard graduated in 2004 from The Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences. He is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He also completed the Plant Based Nutrition course at the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a Level 2 Nutrition Coach with Precision Nutrition. Compliment Your Body has been providing corporate / event massage therapy, and in-home massage therapy to New York City and the surrounding boroughs for over fifteen years, and has been the corporate massage provider to the New York Times throughout this time. Commitment, compassion, connection and charity are the pillars of our business. Experience the CYBNYC difference!

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