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Sweet Potato

sweet potato

Your favorite orange spud is a real muscle-building winner: It contains 65 percent of your daily need for vitamin C, which your body uses to grow and repair tissue. It also sits pretty low on the glycemic index at 17—meaning it won't cause your blood sugar to spike and crash, but rather it provides you with a steady flow of energy to help you knock reps out left and right. Harju says it's best to leave the skin on your sweet potato, as that's where you'll find most of the vitamin A, beta-carotene, and potassium your body needs. Try oven baking one with some olive oil and sea salt for a simple, clean side dish.

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Pine Nuts

Pine nuts

Your favorite trail mix nuts get a lot of love, but don't leave out pine nuts. The little guys are filled with antioxidants that help combat any free radicals that were produced during exercise or picked up from pollutants during an outdoor workout. Since your body doesn't want free radicals floating around—they could potentially attack DNA and lead to cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute—you want to load up on antioxidant-heavy foods (other examples: dark berries and leafy greens). Harju says pine nuts also have monounsaturated fatty acids to help those muscles build back up post-sweat. (Thanks to their energy-boosting magnesium, pine nuts are also among the healthy choices for midday snacks.)

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Grilled Chicken

When your body shifts into recovery mode after a workout, it needs a nutrient-heavy meal. Enter chicken: The lean protein also contains carbohydrates to help fill you up so you don't feel the urge to binge-eat later. Add some veggies on the side and you're looking at a perfectly balanced post-workout meal. (Tired of the same boring ways to cook chicken? These chicken recipes will rescue your dinner ASAP.)

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You already know eggs are a top protein source, not to mention they help with muscle recovery and growth, but make sure you're choosing the right kind of eggs. Free-range, organic eggs are not only more humane, according to Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) standards, but the yolks also contain more nutrition. Research shows that they can have higher levels of vitamin A and E (important nutrients your body needs daily), omega-3 fatty acids, and beta-carotene. Scramble eggs with a serving of veggies and top it off with a few slices of avocado for a dish that's high in fiber and monounsaturated fats. Fiber helps keep your digestive system flowing and those healthy fats will help your body better absorb those nutrients from the vegetables, so your muscles get exactly what they need to grow.

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Brown Rice

Brown Rice

Brown rice is a high-fiber complex carb—meaning it gives you the exact energy boost your body needs to pump up the muscle-building power, says Harju. Add it to the side of a high-protein main dish, like shrimp or grilled white meat chicken, and you've got yourself a match made in foodie heaven.