Inflammation and soreness are a normal part of intense exercise training for most athletes. While small bouts of inflammation are beneficial for muscle repair and growth, too much inflammation can negatively affect the recovery process. Often times people turn to NSAIDs (e.g. Advil) for soreness relief but these drugs are associated with negative GI symptoms and can impair training adaptations.
Here are a couple of dietary and lifestyle tips to help you decrease inflammation, recover optimally, and improve your exercise performance.
Don’t Fear Fats
Healthy fats can help your body fight inflammation and promote muscle repair. Some excellent sources of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, egg yolks, olive oil, and fatty fish. Omega 3 fatty acids help protect cell membranes from damage and promote muscle repair. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and sardines are an excellent source of essential omega 3 fatty acids.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Consuming alcoholic beverages in large quantities can promote inflammation. It is important to remember that alcoholic beverages should be consumed in moderation. It is recommended no more than one serving for women and two servings for men per day. Alcohol has also been shown to significantly disrupt sleep which can further impair the recovery process.
Get Proper Sleep
Athletes require at least eight hours of sleep per night for optimal performance and injury prevention. Without proper recovery with a good night’s sleep, more inflammation is promoted in the body through increased stress in the body. If you feel you are not improving in your training, then make sure to track your sleep quality. There are many sleep apps available now that can help you not only track how many hours you are sleeping but your sleep quality per night.
Consume Nourishing Carbohydrates
Having sources of whole grains in your diet can help fight off inflammation. Some excellent sources of nourishing whole grains include quinoa, brown rice, oats, whole wheat breads and pastas. Avoid consuming large amounts of refined carbohydrates which promote inflammation such as white rice, bread, crackers, cereals, cookies, pastries, etc. and consume mostly whole grains.
Eat the Rainbow
Eat a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables which contain essential nutrients and antioxidant polynutrients that fight inflammation in the body. Each color of the rainbow has a specific benefit. For example, the polynutrient in blue foods like blueberries contain polyphenols such as anthocyanins, quercetin, and resveratrol which promote cardiovascular support, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance cognitive function. Be sure to increase the consumption of these colorful plant foods during heavy training periods!
Turmeric root has been medicinally used for thousands of years. The yellow pigmented root contains a compound called curcumin which is responsible for its powerful anti-inflammation effects. To enhance the absorption of curcumin in the body, combine it with black pepper which enhances absorption by 2000%. Curcumin has been shown to be just as effective or MORE than the popular over the counter NSAID drugs!
Work with a Licensed Dietician
If your goal is to improve performance, prevent injury, and decrease inflammation, working with an experienced sports dietician can help you on your road to success! Nutrition is never “one-size-fits-all” so working with a dietician to create a personalized nutrition protocol is essential for meeting your performance and wellness goals.
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