Gym Approved: 5 Foods that Ease Sore Muscles

Getting your body in shape requires engaging in exercise routines that push your body beyond its limits. After your first couple of intense workout sessions, you may notice that you feel pain while doing simple activities such as squatting down on the toilet and getting dressed quite painful. No need to worry, the pain you feel is normal and it is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

The post-workout soreness you feel happens when there are microscopic tears in your muscles, a result of your intense workout. Those fibers rebuild themselves to give your muscle strength and mass or “big gains.” The day after your workout, it’s important to stretch, cool down, and avoid any intense exercise to allow your muscles to heal. 

A healthy way to ease your post-workout soreness is to complement your workout with the right diet. Some foods are known to prevent and relieve post-workout soreness because they boast nutrient profiles. Here are five foods that can help minimize muscle soreness.

1. Beetroot Juice

Drinking beetroot juice after an intense workout can help ease muscle soreness and accelerate the recovery of torn muscle fibers. It’s packed with vitamin C, folate, iron, and magnesium, which are all nutrients you need to heal your muscles. Beetroot juice is also rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. One of them is betacyanin (a type of betalain) that's said to have anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation occurs during the repair process when the body increases blood flow to the affected area to replenish oxygen and fuel muscles. Make yourself some red beet smoothie or juice after your workout session to promote muscle regeneration.

2. Fatty Fishes

Fatty fishes such as Cod and Salmon contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats that promote muscle recovery and healing. These fishes are also packed with antioxidants and muscle-building protein that can help to reduce post-workout muscle inflammation. Studies show that eating salmon increases plasma amino acid concentrations and enhances the stimulation of post-exercise muscle protein synthesis rates in young adults. Grill some salmon with greens and potatoes post-workout to reap those good proteins. 

3. Sour Cherries

Sour cherry juice or tart dry cherries are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that may aid muscle pain and help your muscles recover more quickly. A study on the effects of tart cherry juice on professional runners compared to a placebo shows that the former is more effective in improving recovery time, easing muscle pain, and reducing muscle damage. Alleviate sore muscles by drinking 1.5 oz of sour cherry juice before and after your workout.

4. Banana

Bananas are a rich source of potassium and complex carbs, which can help increase your insulin and drive protein into your muscle to stimulate muscle growth. They also contain glycogen which increases lean muscle mass, aids recovery from stranger training sessions, and increases muscle growth. Drink a banana smoothie, snack on them raw from their peels, or slice them onto your yogurt before you hit the gym. 

5. Spinach

Spinach is a great source of Vitamins C, B, and A, nutrients that help ward off inflammation. It also contains sulforaphane, a compound known to inhibit enzymes linked to joint and muscle inflammation. Let’s not forget its rich potassium and magnesium content, which helps replenish electrolytes lost through sweat during workouts.

Wondering if there are other foods that can help you knock out post-workout soreness? Below we give you five more from the long list of pain-reducing foods.  

Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, and blackberries are rich in anthocyanins. This compound when ingested helps reduce inflammation and reduce discomfort and soreness of the joints and muscles. The antioxidants in these fruits also help repair your muscles after a workout session.

Turmeric: Turmeric contains a special compound known as curcumin, which is known to have beneficial effects on chronic inflammatory-related muscle and joint pain. You can find turmeric in Indian dishes. 

Coffee: Caffeine can be helpful for sore muscles too. It provides some pain-reducing compounds and enhances the effects of other pain relievers. Research proves that a cup or two of coffee taken some hours before exercise can help reduce the pain that comes with working out.

Cottage Cheese: Cottage cheese provides a good dose of protein and is packed with good bacteria. We know protein plays an integral role in muscle replenishment post-workout. Live cultures of good bacteria can help break down and absorb nutrients that can aid muscle gain.

Seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds are all rich in omega-3 fats. This fatty acid is used to produce hormones that control muscle inflammation. Omega 3 fats are not produced naturally by your body, so you need healthy food sources.

The Bottom Line

Muscle pain after an intense workout is a normal side effect known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The good news is that the pain won’t last forever. However, while your muscles are still tender and sore, you can incorporate the foods fruits, veggies, proteins, and healthy fat sources into your diet to help you weather through the storm like a champ. Try out the foods listed above, but ensure to take a break if your muscles are too sore.