After a tough ride it can feel good to pull up a bit sore the next few days as a nice reminder that you aced it. When muscle soreness limits your ability to perform however, it stops being a trophy and begins to take a toll on your training schedule, flexibility at work, and even your general ability to get around.
While some muscle soreness is okay, there are a number of ways to help your body recover quickly from a hard session, reducing long-term injury risk and getting you back in the saddle sooner.
Before you jump in a bucket of ice water or down a few anti-inflammatory pills, it’s good to know there are some natural and healthy options for maintaining optimum strength and mobility.
Standing in cool water can have a great positive effect on your muscle tension. It doesn’t need to be bobbing with ice to help release toxins from your muscles and reduce swelling. The average pool temperature is enough to do great work or sit in a coolish bath (24-26 degrees is fine). If you live close to the beach, wade in up to your knees or just above and enjoy the view (calm water only, standing in waves it just going to give you another workout).
How and what you eat can also have a massive impact on how you feel. Many foods have natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can help clear out the baddies and fill you up with goodies.
We are going to start with natural sources that are great for easing muscle soreness, so your focus is on performance and getting your strength back faster after a workout.
Keep an eye out for follow up posts on the best foods to aid muscle recovery for weight loss and the best foods to aid muscle recovery while you are bulking up.
Of course all three are linked and everything listed is great for your overall health, so even if your focus is on performance, you’ll really benefit from weight loss and muscle growth as well. Eating healthy keeps your body at its best. So make the most of the fresh food aisle at your supermarket, or better yet, visit your local farmer’s market or organic food store.
Best foods to help reduce muscle soreness
Coffee (the full strength kind with caffeine) helps accelerate recovery through easing muscle soreness and giving your central nervous system a kick-start. While coffee is great big yes, sugar is a great big no. Refined sugar can dehydrate, slow absorption of nutrients and wreck havoc with your mood and metabolism. With that in mind, take your post ride coffee black and straight up. If you want a little flavour dust it with cinnamon.
Big Tip: Cinnamon helps control your blood sugar levels and aids glycogen replenishment for fast tissue repair. It’s an all-round good guy and tastes great in any beverage or sprinkled on snack or meal.
Avoid caffeinated soft drinks which are loaded not only with massive amounts of refined sugar but also artificial chemicals and toxins your body will have trouble clearing. Note – instant coffee has no health benefit, it is completely manufactured and should be avoided at all costs.
Dark coloured berries are full of antioxidants that help remove toxins from your muscles and ease swelling and soreness. Muscle soreness occurs because waste chemicals get trapped inside the muscle. Raspberries, blueberries, sour cherries, strawberries, blackberries, and plums assist in eliminating waste and getting your muscles to a healthy condition fast.
Blueberries and sour cherries in particular have been shown to help reduce the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and may even assist with a good night’s sleep (just don’t eat them too close to bedtime).
Avoid berry shakes. Think a berry smoothie is a great way to kill two birds with one stone? Well maybe not. Dairy products can inhibit the function of antioxidants in the body. Keep your milk and berries separated by at least an hour.
3. Fish oil
Oily fish is great for naturally helping your body to build it’s own protein. It also reduces inflammation, which is a trigger for muscle soreness as well as igniting injuries (old and new).
Treat yourself to fresh cod, salmon and mackerel to get the best effects from oily fish. It’s great at lunch or dinner as it’s light and goes well with a fresh green salad or lightly steamed vegetables.
Just keep in mind that fresh is best. While fish oil tablets might do the job, it’s always best to go for the real ingredients and enjoy a great meal at the same time.
Stay safe and enjoy the ride!