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Quinoa, another high-fiber food, has the bonus of also being a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs, some of which it cannot produce on its own so it needs to get from food. It's rare for one food to check all the boxes, so reach for quinoa post-workout. These 10 recipes can help get you started.

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Black Beans

You know beans are full of good-for-you fiber, but when it comes to gaining muscle, that's especially important. Why? Eating a protein-heavy diet can clog things up, so to speak, and you need fiber to keep things flowing smoothly, says Harju. So add 'em to your salad, soups, and stews and your ripped muscles (and well-functioning digestive system) will thank you later.


Consider avocados your go-to healthy spread, as they are yet another smart food choice filled with omega-3 fatty acids. Swap it in for mayo when making sandwiches, and pair it with some protein (like chicken or turkey) for a well-balanced meal. (These genius 8 new ways to eat avocado will help you switch things up, too.)

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.

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.)