You’ve just finished a hard workout and you want to help your body recover. You reach into your gym bag and grab… a wedge of cheese? Actually, yes, says a new study in the Journal of Nutrition, which found that young, fit men who ate about 3oz cheese after a strength workout were able to synthesize more muscle protein cells in their body during the recovery process, helping them rebuild muscle faster.
“In order to adapt your muscles to exercise, you need constant renewal of your muscle proteins,” says study co-author Wesley Hermans at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. “We found that 30 grams of cheese protein increases muscle protein synthesis.”
While eating cheese immediately following a workout had the greatest impact on muscle repair in the study, says Hermans, the body can benefit up to a day later.
“Exercise sensitizes muscles for amino acids that are circulating in the blood so your muscles can absorb more of them up to 24 to even 48 hours later,” he says. “So during this time, you can benefit from extra protein intake.”
While cheese has other health perks (namely, a hefty dose of bone-strengthening calcium), it also packs a decent amount of fat, acknowledges Hermans.
Consider less-rich versions like Swiss, feta and low-fat cheddar after your strength session, then have lean protein, like fish, for dinner. Recovery tastes Gouda.