Whether you are a professional athlete or a fitness enthusiast, the muscle soreness and joint pain in the 12- to 48-hour time frame after a vigorous workout can serve as a major frustration. The good news is that this muscle pain often indicates a positive training adaptation that leads to greater stamina and strength. The bad news is that without proper management of the inflammation that accompanies muscle pain, recovery times are significantly slowed and the risk for overuse injuries is heightened. Before seeking out Ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which can be harsh on the stomach, consider implementing the following nutritional strategies as an alternative method to help reduce inflammation and facilitate quicker recovery times.
Add some spice to your meals
In recent years, there has been an infiltration of studies exploring the anti-inflammatory properties in a variety of herbs and spices – with sage, black cumin, cinnamon, and capsaicin (from red pepper) demonstrating an ability to suppress or reduce various biomarkers of inflammation, and ginger and tumeric helping to inhibit the inflammatory process. Ginger root, for instance, recently was discovered to carry more than 50 different types of antioxidants to aid inflammatory conditions. In fact, ginger was shown to be potent enough to help alleviate pain in osteoritis patients. Try sauteing fish and some vegetables in olive oil, also known to carry anti-inflammatory benefits (thanks to a chemical known as oleocanthal) with spices for a recovery-themed meal post-workout.
A pineapple a day keeps the doctor away… and inflammation at bay
The skin of apples contains quercetin, a flavonoid that has a lot of scientists buzzing with optimism due to its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that stimulates the production and release of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and aids the absorption of quercetin. The powerful duo has been shown to suppress the inflammation that results from bruising and tissue damage from sport injuries, accidents and surgery – and may also help inflammation associated with allergic reaction.
Beyond apples, leading sources of quercetin include green cabbage, cranberries, kale, pears, grapes, onions, garlic, white grapefruit and spinach. The addition of 500-1,500 mg of bromelain taken between meals throughout the day is recommended. No need to dive towards supplements, however, as researchers have found that a cup of fresh and frozen pineapple has at least as much enzyme activity as a standard supplemental dose of bromelain.
Include a rainbow of berries in your diet
In a bright rainbow of blue, red and purple, berries contain powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which are responsible for their health benefits. Cherries, for example, were recently found to lower two known markers of inflammation in rats with metabolic syndrome. Cherry-enriched diets reduced the genes for these two inflammation compounds, suggesting a direct anti-inflammation effect. To get the most benefit from berries’ antioxidant properties, eat two to three types of fresh, frozen or dehydrated berries each day, aiming for at least a half-cup serving daily.
Try pomegranate, a historical fruit
One of the oldest fruits known to man, pomegranate has recently become more prevalent on the shelves of our local grocers; and with good reason. The plant’s antioxidant power lies in its ellagitannin compounds like punicalagins and punicalins. Not surprisingly, pomegranate has been shown to be a promising food for joint health, especially in arthritic patients.
Go green with tea All teas contain polyphenols; yet the most powerful one, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is found only in green tea. A recent study out of Baylor University found that subjects taking green tea extract for two weeks had significantly less muscle pain for three days after a grueling negative-rep workout. General recommended intake of polyphenols for an anti-inflammatory response lies at approximately five cups of green tea a day.
OVEN-STEAMED FISH WITH GINGER AND OLIVE OIL
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large scallions, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
Finely-grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 1/2-pound whole red snapper, cleaned
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the cilantro with the garlic, scallions, ginger, lemon zest, salt and pepper. On a sturdy baking sheet, spread a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil large enough to wrap loosely around the fish. Sprinkle one-third of the cilantro mixture lengthwise down the center of the foil. Set the fish on the mixture and sprinkle another third on top. Drizzle the lemon juice over the fish and fold up the foil sides and ends, forming a loose but well-sealed packet. Bake the fish for 40 minutes or until cooked through. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the olive oil with the soy sauce and vinegar and warm over moderate heat. Carefully open the fish packet and pour off the juices. Transfer the fish to a large platter and sprinkle with the remaining cilantro mixture. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve at once.
NUTRITION PER SERVING:
Calories 280 / Total Fat 11.6 grams / Saturated Fat 1.8 grams / Protein 40 grams / Carbohydrates 2 grams
Recipe compliments of Nancy Harmon Jenkins and www.foodandwine.com.
Want more tips to enhance your health and performance? Kim Mueller, owner of Fuel Factor Nutrition (www.Fuel-Factor.com), is a Registered Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist and competitive athlete who provides customized menu planning, nutrition coaching and goal-specific programs to active individuals worldwide. Kim can be contacted at kim@Fuel-Factor.com.