Editor’s note: This interview was first published on May 16, 2016. Since that time, Natalie has become a mother and a debut cookbook author. We’re excited to honor Natalie’s return to competitive swimming by re-posting this interview with her expert tips for workout recovery.

Who is Natalie Coughlin?

Natalie Coughlin is one of the most decorated American athletes of all time. As a 25-time gold medalist, she has a deep understanding of the nutritional requirements to fuel workouts and competitions, as well as post-activity recovery. She’s also a Performance Kitchen Ambassador, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak to her about her top tips for proper recovery from workouts of all kinds. 

How important is post-workout recovery for you?

Very. One of the most important practices that have helped my athletic career is understanding the importance of a quality recovery meal, and the impact of good nutrition on recovery. I learned how essential it is to eat a nutritious, high-quality snack or meal within half an hour after a race or workout—it’s so important to get nutrients into your body to help you recover so it’s ready for the next event (or practice). 

What do you like to eat after a competition?

My post-competition recovery meal usually has a lot of protein and some whole grains for quality carbohydrates. That often means some kind of fish. The kinds I like include salmon, tilapia, branzino, black cod, and clams. 

What kinds of carbs do you reach for, and what do you do with them?

I often go for farro or brown rice for carbohydrates. If I’m making farro, I may do an Italian-style dish, maybe paired with roasted chicken or roasted salmon—those are some of my favorites. If I’m doing brown rice I might make a stir-fry or a curry. I also fit in as many vegetables as possible, which are very important for general nutrition. 

What about recovery movement? Do you do any particular stretches to aid recovery?

Definitely. I do a lot of yoga—I also do a lot of stretching pre- and post-race. My favorite yoga poses are handstands, which are great for balance and improving shoulder strength, and halasana, also called plow pose, which helps alleviate tension in the upper back and neck. Another favorite of mine is the pigeon pose, which opens up the hips—very important for swimmers! 

Do you travel with any equipment?

I love to travel with my foam roller, to roll out and massage sore muscles, especially the quads, glutes, pecs, adductors of the hip, and thoracic spine (the upper and middle back). The foam roller is really useful when there isn’t a massage therapist handy. I also travel with my Normatec (a compression device that helps promote better blood flow). 

What’s your favorite post-recovery snack?

I have a go-to cherry-almond smoothie. I make it with almond milk, frozen dark cherries, half a frozen banana, chia seeds, and Greek yogurt. It’s a great combination of protein, carbs, and healthy fats—and I love how it tastes.

Share your favorite way to recover from workouts with us in the comment section.

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