Sore muscles can be a good sign when it comes to getting plenty of exercise. You feel accomplished and strong, and maybe even looking forward to letting your body rest for a spell before getting back to it. Chances are, after a good workout, you can start to feel muscle soreness setting in fairly quickly. But before you pop those anti-inflammatories or soak in Epsom salt, consider eating foods that help sore muscles heal and repair themselves naturally so that you can get back in the gym faster.
“The best way to figure out what you need to do is to first figure out what you want to do.”
― Tony Horton, The Big Picture: 11 Laws That Will Change Your Life
Try These Foods To Help Sore Muscles
Whether it’s weightlifting, running, Pilates, or yoga, exercise naturally takes its toll on your body, causing muscle fiber to become slightly damaged as muscles are challenged to work harder or in a different way than they’re used to.1
When muscles are exercised, something called lactic acid is released in the body.2 If too much is released during an intense workout, it leads to muscle pain and soreness, and is why sore muscles linger for a day or two after exercising.
Oftentimes, foam rolling or stretching can help aching muscles, but it’s important not to ignore the key role that diet plays in aiding muscle soreness. A balanced diet is important in contributing to muscle regeneration, protein synthesis, and muscle growth, and the same rules apply for muscle ache. Foods that are heavy in protein and other anti-inflammatory nutrients are key to combating muscle soreness. These are called “recovery foods.”
No matter what time of the day you find yourself exercising, stocking your pantry with these high-protein foods can help your muscle cells repair faster and ache less:
Not only is turmeric a delicious spice, it also has amazing properties. In fact, one study has found that turmeric can help greatly with body soreness.3 You can find turmeric in tablet or supplement form, or start adding more turmeric-heavy recipes into your diet and start seeing muscle soreness reduced in no time.
2. Cherry Juice
Research has found that cherries and tart cherry juice can support muscle recovery time, decreased muscle pain, and reduced muscle damage compared to other post-workout beverages.4 Be sure to throw some into your next smoothie drink or bowl, or simply have a glass of the juice before your next workout.
Berries, especially blueberries and raspberries, are a great source of antioxidants and can aid in reducing muscle soreness and pain. Berries are also a great source of natural sugars and are something that you should eat a great deal of in general, as they can do wonders when it comes to supporting your health.5
4. Cruciferous Vegetables
Leafy greens have never been a bad idea to eat more of, and they’re some of the best foods when it comes to helping with muscle soreness and adding even more protein to your diet. Cruciferous vegetables (think: spinach, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) are rich in calcium, which supports muscle and connective muscle tissue repair.6 You can simply throw these into omelets or stir-fry’s, or garnish with spices and balsamic vinegar for a delicious taste.
Other Honorable Mentions
Here are even more recovery foods to stock up on to ensure proper muscle healing:7
- Chia seeds – These contain all nine essential amino acids, and are a great source of protein.
- Fish or fish oil supplements – Full of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and magnesium, these fish products can help ease soreness and support muscle repair.8
- Bananas – Packed full of delicious carbohydrates and potassium, these ultimate muscle-friendly nutrients are a must-have for your pre- or post-workout snack.
- Taro root – Taro root is an excellent source of carbs and fiber, which prove to be a great aid when it comes to muscle repair.
- Sweet potatoes – Sweet potatoes are chock full of vitamin C, starch, and beta carotene, which help replenish your glycogen levels to keep you feeling great.9
- Whey protein – Adding this to a shake or smoothie is a great way to not only help ease muscle soreness, but also support your metabolism.
Whipping up meals with these ingredients is easy and fun, and your muscles will definitely be thanking you later.
Hydration Is Key
While protein is important for muscles, don’t forget to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. As always, water is one of the healthiest things you can put in your body both during and after a workout, as it helps blood flow and so much more. Hydrating your muscles is imperative when it comes to helping them repair and heal. Green tea is another great pick-me-up that may also help ease muscle soreness.
Green tea contains plenty of powerful fat-burning antioxidants, making it a great alternative (or even addition) to your next protein bowl or smoothie.10
Knowing The Difference Between Muscle Soreness and Joint Ache
It’s important to identify the difference between muscle soreness and joint pain in order to avoid serious injury. While many of these foods can help your muscles from hurting a day or two after a good workout, joint pain can feel similar and be dismissed as nothing to worry about.
Joint pain is often caused by an injury to a specific joint and typically affects the bones, ligaments, and cartilage around the joint, rather than the muscle itself. While what causes your joint or muscle pain may be different from your neighbor, the biggest indicator of joint pain is that exercise will worsen your joint pain and cause the joint to swell.11
This doesn’t happen with muscle pain because continuous exercise helps “train” your muscles for what to expect and allows the breakdown of lactic acid to continue. If you find yourself experiencing joint pain, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician so that you can explore the best, safest way to continue exercising.
Happy Diet = Happy Muscles
You’ve most likely heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” and it’s absolutely true when it comes to helping your muscles repair themselves safely and naturally. What you put in your body is important, and striving to eat a more balanced diet with foods that are heavy in protein and antioxidants can aid in easing muscle soreness is a step in the right direction when it comes to treating your body well. Over-exercise can lead to things like oxidative stress, muscle damage, and more if you’re not cautious of how much exercise you’re getting or if you’re not eating a proper diet.
Delayed onset muscle soreness is also something you can run into, which only makes another great reason for eating these recovery foods. You may not realize that your body needs to rest due to the absence of muscle soreness, and you could potentially cause extensive muscle damage, or even muscle contraction, if you’re not careful.
Getting ahead of muscle fatigue by adding these foods to your diet can help immensely. Add these recovery foods to your grocery list, and watch (or, rather, feel) your muscle cells getting back to their best in no time.
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