You don’t have to suffer from post-exercise soreness. Eat the right foods, and skip the ouch!
If you’re a person who does not look forward to or enjoy the muscle soreness that comes after a good workout, then keep reading! While the proper amount of tenderness from exercise is a good thing, it is vital to supply the body with post workout nutrients to allow for full and optimal rebuilding of the tissues. Exercise, both cardiovascular and strength, is stressful on the body and causes inflammation. No, this doesn’t mean exercise is bad for you; some inflammation and stress is a natural and necessary response. Exercise is a type of complimentary stress; with exercise, you are breaking down muscle and other tissues. Then, the body takes the food you eat and uses it to rebuild and replenish these muscle and other tissues, making them stronger.
Too much exercise can be harmful, causing too much tissue breakdown and too much inflammation. When there is swelling, redness, or pain, you know there is too much inflammation, which is not a healthful state. But, even if you aren’t experiencing bad pain or inflammation, the normal and healthy post-exercise soreness is unpleasant for many, and can elongate the amount of time between workouts.
If you, for whatever reason, are wanting to help decrease the amount of post-exercise soreness, then it will be key for you to eat an abundant amount of foods high in antioxidants (which are anti-inflammatory). Some of my top suggestions for post-exercise foods to combat soreness include:
Ideally taken in the fresh root form, turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory food. Turmeric is high in a compound called curcumin, which is known as being a particularly potent anti-inflammatory agent. Beyond just the curcumin, turmeric also supplies other fabulous antioxidant compounds, such as glutathione (the master antioxidant), alpha lipoic acid (ALA), and Coenzyme Q10. Use turmeric root in smoothies, in sautés, grated into various dishes, or freshly juiced.
Dark greens, especially when fresh, local, and organic, are the nutrient powerhouse of nature! Dark greens such as spinach, kale, collards, and other such greens provide an abundance of an array of nutrients, many of which are strong antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids, and flavonoids. They also provide a varying amount of other nutrients to support health, such as vitamin A, K, and many minerals. Use these greens either raw, lightly steamed, sautéed, or freshly juiced.
Especially when consumed fresh and ideally locally and in season, berries are another of nature’s wonder foods. Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, goji berries and others provide a high amount of nutrition for very little sugar and calories. They are particularly high on the list of fruits for antioxidant content, supplying zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and other antioxidant compounds to combat inflammation.
Ideally consumed in the raw, organic (and soaked or sprouted) state, seeds like flaxseed, chia, hemp, pumpkin, and sesame seeds provide a great amount of minerals, including the micro-minerals, as well as a healthy serving of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 content of these foods is what makes them a superstar because most Americans consume far too much omega-6 and are deficient in the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. These fats not only help fight inflammation but help keep skin and joints lubricated and functioning well.
Whether consumed fresh, or in the (organic) juice form, tart cherries are a great source of something known as anthocyanins, a strong anti-inflammatory agent that prevents the inflammation leading to muscle soreness.
Best consumed in the raw, lightly steamed, or sautéed state, garlic is another amazing food nature provides us. Garlic is incredibly high in antioxidant compounds, particularly two known as diallyl sulfide (DAS) and thiacremonone. Aside from these two potent antioxidant compounds, garlic is also high in many vitamins and minerals (many of which help boost circulation) such as phosphorus, selenium zinc, polyphenols, arginine, and vitamins B6 and C.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yoghurt, and cultured foods help fight inflammation due to their high content of the healthy bacteria (probiotics). These probiotics also help support digestive health, which is key for proper absorption and assimilation of the nutrients from the food you’re eating.
Many people forget the importance and value of water, not only for general health but also regarding preventing muscle soreness. Water is necessary to flush out the debris, toxins, and other elements from the muscles and other tissues that can cause achiness, stiffness, or pain. Make sure to drink an abundance of water, ideally at least a cup of water an hour on average, to allow for proper functioning of the body and its systems.
These are some top anti-inflammatory foods to boost your recovery post workout, but these are not the only foods good to consume post exercise. The key thing to remember is to fuel your body with foods from nature, unprocessed and prepared or cooked in traditional, healthful means. This is going to ensure you better replenishment post workout.