It’s the morning after Tough Mudder. Whether you’re a Mudderling or a mega-Mudder, you’re likely experiencing fatigue and muscle pain. It should be no surprise that taking on a dozen obstacle-riddled miles has left you with muscle, joint or even digestive inflammation. (Don’t tell us your stomach didn’t turn before Electroshock Therapy.)
Mild exercise-induced muscle soreness isn’t anything to fear, it’s simply a sign of inflammation, a reminder your body is in the process of healing. And unless you have an ice bath that resembles Arctic Enema, you’re probably seeking the most common muscle relief aids: fluids and aspirin.
However, if your usual recovery routine isn’t enough, try adding some natural anti-inflammatory foods into the mix. In the end, you might find that a simple trip to the grocery store can be just as helpful as a trip to the pharmacy.
Herbs and spices add flavor to your meals, but did you know that many act as natural anti-inflammatory agents? For example, ginger and turmeric contain compounds that regulate the process of inflammation, in addition to soothing stomach irritation caused by exercise-induced stress. Studies have also shown that these herbs can hinder the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds. Additionally, cinnamon can also help slow the release of the pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid from cell membranes.
Onions and garlic can be as tough on inflammation as they are on your breath. Onions contain the phytonutrient quercetin, which encourages blood flow and fights the negative effects of extended muscle stress. Phytonutrients like quercetin not only protect the plants that house it, but the person eating it as well. Recent studies have found that garlic contains some of the active anti-inflammatory components found in pain medications that inhibit inflammation.
Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that work to reduce inflammation. As your body can’t produce these fatty acids, it’s important to get them from food or a supplement. In addition to supporting muscle recovery, omega-3s help the body’s most vital muscle: the heart. The American Heart Association recommends eating foods high in omega-3s to help prevent heart disease. Not a fish fan? No sweat. Flaxseeds and walnuts can help do the trick.
Dark, Leafy Greens
Color up your plate with vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens and swiss chard. Dark, leafy greens contain, beta-carotene, the antioxidant-packed carotenoid which converts to Vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene contributes to the growth and repair of muscles and other body tissues.These greens also contain vitamin C, which is essential for collagen production. Collagen, a main component of connective tissue, helps mends wounds and aides in joint flexibility.
If health food is nature’s medicine and fruit is nature’s candy, think of the following as medicinal candy. Berries, such as blueberries or raspberries, are great for recovery, as they contain antioxidants that speed up muscle recovery after strenuous exercise. Studies suggest that consuming tart cherries or tart cherry juice post-workout can reduce muscle soreness and inflammation. Still winded after your run? Citrus fruits contain vitamin C, which supports lung health and helps those who suffer from asthma.
When compared to highly processed grains, whole grains such as barley, fiber-packed brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat and steel cut oats digest more slowly. Slower digestion prevents blood sugar spikes, which can feed inflammation. Also, whole grains generally contain more dietary fiber than processed grains. Studies have shown that dietary fiber can protect against high amounts of C-reactive protein, an indicator of acute inflammation.
Inflammation after strenuous activity is a natural sign that your body is in healing mode, but shortening recovery time is a no-brainer. In addition to your normal recovery routine, look to the produce aisle as nature’s medicine cabinet and add some of these foods to your grocery list after checking Tough Mudder off your to-do list.