The battle for size isn’t just fought in the gym: you need a post-workout meal that’s protein-rich and antioxidant-packed, to make sure your muscles aren’t sold short

TINNED TUNA

How much? A small tin (100 grams), flaked
Why? Anita Bean, nutritionist and the author of The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition, says: “Besides being an excellent source of muscle-building protein (100g of tuna contains 22g of protein, almost half your recommended daily allowance), tuna has bone-strengthening vitamin D.” It’s also leaner than fresh tuna, as canning removes most of the fat.

YELLOW CAPSICUM

How much? One, thinly sliced, seeds removed
Why? “One gives you 100 per cent of your vitamin C RDA, which strengthens blood vessels and improves bloodflow. It destroys the harmful free radicals generated by the immune system to remove the tissue damaged during exercise.”

CHERRY TOMATOES

How much? Six, halved
Why? “These are full of vitamin C for post-exercise recovery and keeping your immune system in good shape, as well as being a cancer-bashing antioxidant.” As an option, roast them to aid your absorption of cancer-fighting lycopene.

BABY SPINACH

How much? Two handfuls
Why? “Spinach is packed with antioxidants, which reduce muscle soreness.” It also contains photosystem I, a chemical that researchers at Rutgers University in the US found increases the body’s ability to convert protein into muscle. Popeye was right all along.

LARGE BLACK OLIVES

How much? 10
Why? “Olives contain heart-healthy vitamin E and monounsaturated oils (the good fats). They also have significant anti-inflammatory properties, speeding recovery after training.”

SPANISH ONION

How much? Half, thinly sliced
Why? “They make you cry but contain high levels of an antioxidant that mops up free radicals, lowers cholesterol and thins the blood.”

FRESH PARSLEY LEAVES

How much? Two tbsp, roughly chopped
Why? “It’s rich in muscle-boosting iron (two tbsps provide 25 per cent of your RDA) to charge your red blood cells with oxygen.” It freshens the breath, too. Take that, onion.

The dressing

1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed

The method

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Combine the tuna, capsicum, tomatoes, olives, onion and parsley in a medium-size bowl. Pour the dressing over the tuna salad and toss to coat. Pile the spinach leaves into your box. Top with the tuna mixture. Enjoy, safe in the knowledge that you’re protecting your gym-time investment.

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