They’re often founding lurking in the back of the cupboard as an emergency meal for when the fridge is empty.
But some of the most common items most people have stored away have surprising health benefits after a work out.
While no-one can argue against fresh fruit and veg, lean meats and protein-rich chicken, these ingredients are not always to hand following a post-work gym session.
But baked beans for example, are brimming with protein and carbohydrates while porridge can help with muscle recovery and relaxation.
Here we try to reveal the 10 items you might have hidden away that could help to keep your body functions at their optimum.
Tinned beans and pulses
Beans, lentils and chickpeas have a lot going for them as a cupboard staple. They’re a great mix of carbohydrates and protein, both of which are needed to restore your muscles after a workout.
They’re a good way to easily add some extra protein to salads, soups, stews and even stir-fries, and are a particularly important source of protein if you’re vegetarian.
If you work out early in the morning, a big bowl of oat porridge can make a perfect post-workout breakfast. Oats provide slow-releasing carbs to help replenish the energy stored in muscles. They are also a good source of magnesium, which is believed to help support muscle recovery and relaxation.
It can be a good emergency supper on the odd occasion a workout goes on til late at night and leaves someone with no time to cook a meal.
Protein and carbohydrates are needed after a workout to help restore muscles. And high-protein pasta answers both needs.
Note that Clearspring’s Green Pea and Quinoa Pasta provides 21 g of protein per 100 g compared to around 12 g in standard wheat pasta. It can be used in place of any normal pasta and is a great refueling food.
Tinned sardines are great source of protein, used to restore muscles and help build strength. Sardines are also one of best non-dairy sources of calcium – if you eat the soft bones. They may contain lots of omega-3 fats, which help with reducing inflammation – particularly helpful if you’re sore after a workout.
Calcium plays a vital role in muscle function and energy as well as keeping our bones strong. Canned sardines should be in everyone’s cupboard, but particularly if you’re into fitness.
Oatcakes are a great pre-workout snack and are complimented well by a teaspoon of peanut butter or a few slices of banana. They contain easy-to-digest carbohydrates that are released in a controlled way, preventing you from suffering an energy crash during exercise.
Oatcakes can also be great to carry with you for post-workout refuelling if you know you’re not going to eat a meal for a few hours.
Believe it or not, intensive exercise can have a negative effect on your gut health. So eating foods that are rich in easily absorbed nutrients and are gentle on the gut can be particularly helpful after a workout.
This is where traditional fermented foods come in, as the fermentation process can increase their nutrient levels, as well as making them easier to digest.
Miso paste is made with natural ingredients and can be used directly as a dip or condiment for carrot sticks. It can also be added into stews, stir-fries or sauces – it provides a great way to quickly and easily add flavour and nutrients to food.
Nut or seed butters
Nuts and seeds are good sources of restorative protein and healthy fats, experts say. They’re rich in minerals too, including magnesium and calcium that support energy, muscle function and bone strength, and zinc for the immune system.
Nut or seed butters – nuts or seeds ground to a creamy paste – make a tasty, filling snack when combined with complex carbohydrates such as oatcakes.
Rather than peanut butter, go for almond, walnut, cashew nut, hazelnut or pumpkin seed butter. They have a better nutrient content and a superior profile of healthy fats. But because they’re so delicious, it’s easy to overdo nut butters. Keep it to a teaspoon or two at a time rather than half the jar, please.
Mixed nuts and dried fruit
This combo makes another great on-the-go snack. It’s ideal when you’re coming out of work on the way to the gym, or after a workout to tide you over until your next meal.
Protein, healthy fats and minerals can be found in the nuts, while energy-restoring carbohydrates belong in the fruit. Buy a big bag and store it in your cupboard, dividing up into smaller servings to carry around.
Not only does it taste delicious, honey has healing, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Manuka honey – which is produced by bees that pollinate the manuka bush – has even become a popular natural remedy for coughs and sore throats.
This can be particularly relevant for athletes and fitness fanatics. Intensive exercise can temporarily suppress the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to coming down with a bug. But be warned, it is high in sugar.
Pea protein powder
Pea protein powder is suitable for vegans, who are often in need of extra protein, and those with a dairy tolerance. It’s more filling than whey protein and can be added to warm or hot foods such as soups, stews and porridge to give a boost.
It can also be used in shakes and smoothies to help with protein intake.