Are you putting in the work, but still feel your training regime is not giving you the expected results?
Or maybe you are just starting out and want to make sure you are building rather than depleting your muscles? Keep reading to learn how to reap all the benefits from your workout by including best habits and best foods for muscle recovery.
Keep inflammation at bay
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Anti-inflammatory compounds have been found to greatly reduce muscle soreness after exercise and muscle loss: especially curcumin, the main medicinal compound found in turmeric, can have a powerful effect on your recovery. You can add it to your meals and smoothies or take higher amounts in supplemental form.
Other spices with strong anti-inflammatory effects are ginger and rosemary; coupling them with good quality fish, another food that fights inflammation, is a great way to improve your recovery. And bear in mind that by avoiding alcohol and minimizing exposure to stress, cigarette smoke and negative thinking, you already are reducing your inflammation levels!
Top up your antioxidants
Despite all the benefits of exercise, it does produce oxidative stress: it is important to maintain high level of antioxidants in your system to mop up the damage and ensure muscle recovery. The most efficient way to do so is by including lots of berries in your diet, eating them fresh or mixing them in smoothies: they have an extremely high concentration of antioxidants, as well as being a source of fibre and having high levels of vitamins.
Consuming colourful fruit and veggies should always be a priority for those who train with great intensity, as they provide the most amazing combination of antioxidant nutrients.
Choose your proteins wisely
The importance of eating enough protein to help build muscle is well known: just make sure you eat the right kind of protein for you. Eggs are great as they also provide antioxidants that can lower inflammation like selenium, lutein and zeaxanthin, but should not be consumed daily (especially poor quality “supermarket eggs” from intensive farming).
Whey protein can be great for muscle recovery, but verify first your digestive system can handle dairy – you could be doing more harm than good if you have even a mild lactose intolerance and are consuming dairy every day!
Meat obviously provides good quality protein, but it is now clear how its excessive consumption is linked to cardiovascular issues and systemic inflammation. Make sure you include plant-based proteins, especially quinoa, which has an astounding amino acid profile, but also avocado, lentils, nuts and seeds, as well as fish chicken or turkey.
If vegan, it could be useful to include a vegetable protein combination of brown rice, hemp and pea – all easily digested and assimilated.
And not just during your workout! Something as simple as drinking enough water during the day (not while you exercise, as that can make you nauseous) can make all the difference on how you recover from exercise: dehydration affects muscle tissues and also hormone regulation, with dramatic effects.
Stay away from heavily processed soft drinks and stick to water, coconut water or green smoothies throughout the day.
Rest is as important as exercise itself, so make sure you are getting enough sleep to allow tissue regeneration. Magnesium is a precious mineral to include in your diet: needed for more than 300 enzymatic reactions (from energy production to muscle relaxation), an ideal amount would be 3-400 mg before bedtime to replenish the lost stores and to achieve optimal muscle relaxation for a good night’s rest.
If you’d rather avoid supplemental magnesium, it is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds – also bear in mind that stress is the first cause of “magnesium loss” from our body: working on reducing that can actually be the best strategy!