After a good workout, it can be nice to 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 have a hard workout and end up with sore muscles afterwards, it's not necessarily a bad sign," Jayne Williams, certified integrative health and nutrition expert, tells Bustle. "It's believed we are causing microscopic fibers in our muscles to become damaged, but if you are taking care of your body, eating the right things, engaging in proper muscle recovery ... it's actually a sign you are getting stronger."
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. "It's most important that we eat whole foods with anti-inflammatory benefits to aid in our muscle recovery so we don't end up 'down for the count' that results in getting off our 'work out game,'" Williams says.
If you frequently get sore from all that working out you do, try eating some of these 15 foods that help naturally relieve muscle soreness.
"Blueberries are full of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and can aid in reducing soreness," says personal trainer and nutritionist Jamie Logie. A study out of New Zealand found that blueberry consumption helps accelerate muscle repair and recovery of muscle peak isometric strength.
"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.
3. Wild-Caught Fish
Williams says that wild-caught fish like salmon have plenty of benefits including high omega-3 fatty acids, about 17 grams of protein, and important B vitamins. "Salmon's nutrient profile plays an important role in overall muscular health as well as dialing down inflammatory response while you're in muscle recovery," she says.
4. Lean Meats
Look for grass fed beef and free range chicken, as they contain protein that helps 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.
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. "Studies have actually shown a quicker post workout recovery when used on a daily basis," Williams says of turmeric.
Williams says that ginger is extremely similar to turmeric in the way it can benefit the body. "Both contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds that provide health benefits across a wide range of health conditions, muscle recovery being one of them," she says. "Best consumed using the actual raw root but also good in powder form, it is one of the superfoods I always reach for after a hard workout."
7. Sunflower Seeds
McKenzie Jones, RDN, CLT, tells Bustle, "Sunflower seeds are rich sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which may help to minimize damage to cell membranes caused by free radicals and the oxidative stress our bodies experience as a result of exercise."
"Eggs contain high amounts of protein, healthy fats and vitamins like essential B's and choline, which helps with both muscle recovery and healthy muscle gain" Williams says. Eggs also contain all nine amino acids which help your body build and repair muscles, making eggs a great choice for targeting muscle soreness.
Oats in oatmeal contain octacosanol, which is a chemical that helps your body use and regulate oxygen better. Oxygen plays a key role in eliminating soreness from your body, as it helps the body get rid of any lactic acid buildup that may be causing soreness. Eating foods that help your body's oxygen inevitably relieves muscle soreness.
10. Sweet Potatoes
"Sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene, calcium and iron which alone are important antioxidants, but together they are even more so for both muscle recovery and regeneration," Williams says. "The more antioxidant power, the faster recovery." Sweet potatoes can also help replenish your glycogen stores. Glycogen stores are what your body uses to draw energy from, especially during a workout. Fueling your body with sweet potatoes can help combat any fatigue that may be leading to muscle soreness.
Watermelons are mostly made of water, making it the perfect snack to boost amino acids that'll help soothe any muscle soreness you may be experiencing. "Emerging research on the consumption of watermelon to reduce muscle soreness post-exercise is also promising," Jones says. "This is likely due to the amino acid, l-citrulline found in watermelon, which offers antioxidant activity and increased blood flow." Athletes also often drink watermelon juice to combat soreness because according to a study, its amino acids can reduce recovery heart rate and relieve muscle soreness after 24 hours.
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. "Post-workout your body acts like a sponge, ready to absorb nutrients," Jones says. "Research has indicated that a combination of carbohydrates and protein (favoring more carbohydrates) helps to promote muscle recovery."
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