Fitness: 12 Foods to Eat to Avoid Sore Muscles



  • Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), a condition you may face when taking up a new type or intensity of exercise, is a bodily response that can be addressed through diet
  • The best recovery foods to eat after an intense workout are raw, organic whole foods containing healthy amounts of carbs and protein
  • Some of the specific foods shown to soothe muscle soreness include bananas, cacao, coffee, eggs, salmon, spinach, sweet potatoes and watermelon, as well as spices like cinnamon, ginger and turmeric
  • Two substances you should avoid combining with exercise are alcohol and sugar, both of which cause inflammation

By Dr. Mercola

The reality of sore muscles (or the fear of them) is a common source of discouragement for anyone new to exercise and those desiring to increase the intensity of their workout. While it is perfectly normal to experience a condition called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when taking up a new type or intensity of exercise, the truth is you may be confronted with DOMS even if you exercise regularly.

Becoming familiar with DOMS and food-based methods to speed up healing may encourage you to stick with your workout program even when faced with muscle soreness and stiffness. One way to support your body post workout is to consume particular foods known to promote muscle recovery and growth. Let’s take a look at 12 of the best foods for sore muscles and two substances you should avoid when exercising.

What Causes Post-Exercise Soreness?

You may experience muscle stiffness after starting a new exercise program, adding a new exercise to your current program or increasing the intensity and duration of your routine. This stiffness is often accompanied by discomfort and pain and also may involve cramping.

If you’ve been exercising for any length of time, you may already know working out causes microtears in your muscles that contribute to DOMS. Even though the microtears cause muscle soreness and stiffness that can be uncomfortable a day or two after your workout, the good news is you gain muscle mass and strength when those fibers rebuild.

Any movement may result in DOMS discomfort, but jogging, pushups, squats and weightlifting are more commonly associated with the condition. You are likely to notice DOMS-related effects when performing routine activities such as getting out of bed, putting on your shoes or doing other tasks that require bending and lifting.

Fortunately, stiffness associated with exercise is not usually a cause for concern and can be treated at home. It is quite simply the cost of strengthening and toning your muscles. Notably, the sensation of DOMS discomfort occurs more frequently after you perform new eccentric physical activity.1

By way of explanation, when your muscles move through an exercise, they make both concentric and eccentric movements. During a concentric movement the load being lifted is less than your muscle’s maximum force. Each contraction shortens your muscle, such as when you raise a weight while doing a bicep curl.

On the other hand, eccentric muscle contractions happen when the load on your muscle increases to a point at which the external force on your muscle is greater than the force it can generate. Even though your muscle may be fully activated, it is forced to lengthen due to the high external load.

Think of the same bicep curl: As your arm is extending, the muscle is lengthening yet is still activated to control the extension. This is eccentric motion and it causes structural disruption in your muscle fibers, microtears and the subsequent muscle pain and soreness.

12 Foods You Can Eat to Soothe Sore Muscles

Because muscle soreness is a natural part of working out, you can help your body recover faster by complementing your workout with the right foods. Assuming you can tolerate them, below are 12 foods you can eat to help soothe tired, aching muscles:2,3

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Turmeric — Research26,27 on the golden spice turmeric’s active ingredient — the powerful antioxidant curcumin — suggests a curcumin supplement can help reduce DOMS-related pain, lower your risk of injury and improve muscle performance recovery.

Keep in mind curcumin from turmeric is poorly absorbed, which means if you add turmeric to your food, you’ll be absorbing around 1 percent curcumin. To increase your intake you can:

Boil the powder — Boil 1 tablespoon of turmeric in a quart of water for 10 minutes to create a 12 percent solution that you must consume right away to ensure its effectiveness

Make a microemulsion — Mix 1 tablespoon of raw turmeric powder with two egg yolks and 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil and drink it immediately

Purchase a high-quality curcumin supplement — Look for an extract containing 100 percent certified organic ingredients with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. Choose a sustained-release formula that is free of additives and fillers.

Bodybuilding.com recommends doses of 3 to 4 grams daily, noting the addition of piperine in curcumin supplements can boost its bioavailability.28

With such a generous selection of healthy foods from which to choose when nourishing your body postworkout, I’ll close by mentioning two items you most certainly want to avoid: alcohol29 and sugar. They are two inflammatory substances that do not combine well with exercise or healthy living.

While your body needs carbs during the recovery phase, I recommend you choose foods containing both carbs and protein from one or more of the whole food sources mentioned above. By choosing the right foods to help your body recover after an intense workout, you will likely feel better and experience less muscle soreness — factors that may encourage you to exercise more often.

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