If you workout, chances are you’ll experience pain and tender muscles at some point in your life. Think twice before you reach for the anti-inflammatory medication.
If you workout, chances are you’ll experience pain and tender muscles at some point in your life. As a fitness enthusiast, you push yourself to the limit and thrive on exceeding your own expectations, surpassing your goals and setting new ones. And this enthusiasm will sometimes result in swollen achy joints, tender muscles and fatigue.
Food Is A More Natural Approach
Right now you may be wondering what you are left with to treat those nagging aches and pains. Chronic use of NSAIDs and cortisone will mask pain so could possibly injure yourself even more and, even if you lay off exercise they’ll blunt your healing progress over time. What’s a gym-goer to do? Choose food. The following foods are your best bets for decreasing inflammation without hampering recovery:
- Pineapple – pineapple is rich in an enzyme called bromelain*, which produces substances that help fight pain and inflammation. Choose fresh or frozen over canned pineapple (blend the frozen in a shake or add to a variety of recipes).
- Mango – some believe that mango may help with inflammation. Even if it doesn’t, mango is fantastic in salsas, fruit salad, blended into protein shakes (it makes them thick and creamy like a frozen dessert), over fish, chicken or tofu and of course, sliced by itself. Mango is also an excellent source of both vitamin A and vitamin C (C for collagen!).
- Blue, red and purple colored fruits and vegetables – contain antioxidant flavonoids that may limit inflammation, limit tissue breakdown, improve circulation and promote a nice strong collagen matrix. Eat eggplant, berries (fresh or buy them frozen) or choose tart cherry juice (not from concentrate though as processing can destroy some antioxidants).
- Ginger – two studies from the University of Georgia show that 2 grams of ginger per day helps reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.
Choose Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
- BCAAs are among the best supplements for slowing or halting muscle tissue breakdown. Consume them pre or post-exercise (alone or in BCAA rich whey, eggs or dairy) and you’ll blunt the muscle breakdown process that occurs as an immediate result of lifting weights. Could taking BCAAs help heal your injured muscle? Quite possibly. Clearly you need enough total protein with the right amino acids to repair muscle.
Inflammation is a natural step in the healing process. Though we don’t know everything about local or systemic inflammation and, scientists believe that excess inflammation may do more harm then good, we do know that constantly masking inflammation through cortisone shots and NSAIDs will hamper healing over the long term. Therefore, if you are looking for natural solutions, try food, RICE, massage and a good physical therapist. After all, Band-Aids don’t last forever.