After a good workout, it can nice to be feel sore — that is, until you can no longer move. Luckily, you can just make a little tweak to your diet and incorporate some foods that can help relieve sore muscles. Choosing foods with the right nutrients can help your muscles repair and can help relieve that uncomfortable feeling a day or two after your workout.
Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid doesn't cause muscle soreness. Instead, it is actually the damage to the muscle tissue that is caused by physical stress that creates such discomfort.
"When we push our bodies during heavy exercise, or even when we do an activity we haven't done in a while, we create micro tears in our muscles," says certified personal trainer Rui Li over email. "These are essentially tiny injuries that our bodies will then start to repair, hence the inflammation that comes along with soreness."
Although being sore means you're building some muscle, you shouldn't have to feel stuck to the couch because your legs are too sore for you to walk. If you frequently get sore from all that working out you do, try eating some of these 11 foods that help naturally relieve muscle soreness.
1. Tart Cherries
When it comes to relieving muscle soreness, tart cherries are one of your best options. Tart cherries are possibly more effective than aspirin at relieving pain and reducing inflammation, as they contain an antioxidant called anthocyanins that minimize swelling in exhausted muscles, according to multiple studies.
"Blueberries are full of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and can aid in reducing soreness," says personal trainer and nutritionist Jamie Logie over email. A study out of New Zealand found that blueberry consumption helps accelerate muscle repair and recovery of muscle peak isometric strength.
Like cherries and blueberries, pomegranates contain antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. A study from University of Texas, Austin found that pomegranate juice helped relieve soreness in subjects participating in resistance training.
"The old Popeye standby is also filled with a lot of antioxidants and nutrients that will help with recovery and soreness," says Logie. As an added bonus, the leafy green contains nitrate, a nutrient that helps build stronger muscles, according to a study from the Journal of Physiology.
5. Wild-Caught Fish
6. Lean Meats
Look for grass fed beef and free range chicken, as they contain protein that help in rebuilding back the broken down muscle tissue, says Logie. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends an average daily intake of 46 grams for adult women and 56 grams for men.
"Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties, which is a function of the active ingredient, curcumin," says Li. A study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that curcumin supplements help with muscle repair by reducing inflammation, and it helped subjects reduce their muscle pain from soreness. "You can get this in a capsule as a supplement or fresh from the supermarket or local farmers' market," says Li.
"Ginger essentially has the same effect as turmeric when it comes to muscle soreness," says Li. "The active ingredient, gingerol, is found to have great anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Similar to taking an ibuprofen for pain, both ginger and turmeric are highly effective at reducing the post-workout discomfort."
9. Whole Grains
Like protein, carbohydrates are also needed to help with muscle repair. A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology found that eating carbohydrates after a workout helps lessen muscle breakdown. Incorporate foods such as whole wheat, brown rice, and oats.
10. Brazil Nuts
"Deficiency in magnesium is a huge problem with most people, especially athletes," says Li. "When we don't get enough magnesium, we become especially prone to prolonged soreness and difficulty recovering. Brazil nuts are super high in magnesium, and can be consumed daily, just like supplements."
11. Sunflower Seeds
"Just like Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds are super high in magnesium," says Li. "Sprinkle them on your salad or as a crunchy topping to any entree, and you'll get your daily dose of magnesium with ease."
These foods are especially helpful in relieving your muscle soreness, but maintaining a balanced diet is key in making sure your muscles properly repair themselves.
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