by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Our muscles are a fairly important part of our body, as they’re responsible for pretty much everything we do. They help us move, run, jump, and even stand still. They also help us stay strong, lean, and healthy.
Athletes rely on their muscles for strength and endurance. But when you over-exert your muscles or suffer from an injury, they can become tight and sore.
If you want relief from sore muscles without taking drugs, you should reach for some natural food and beverages that can help boost muscle recovery.
7 Foods That Help Improve Muscle Recovery
These seven foods can help speed up muscle recovery by reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and increasing blood flow to your muscles.
Beetroot is a great source of nitrate. This compound helps to increase blood flow, which helps to deliver essential nutrients to your muscles. If you’re looking for some extra help with muscle recovery after a hard session, beetroot juice is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
According to a 2016 study including 30 active men, it was found that drinking beetroot juice immediately, 48 hours after, and 24 hours after completing strenuous training decreased muscle soreness and improved muscle recovery to a greater extent than a placebo.
2. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice is rich in antioxidants, which may help relieve pain and inflammation. The compound that gives cherries their dark color, anthocyanins, is also found in red wine and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. They inhibit the release of inflammatory mediators like prostaglandins and leukotrienes by inhibiting enzymes that produce them.
In a 2021 review of 25 studies, 15 of which focused on tart cherry juice, the researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice accelerated muscle recovery, reduced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and reduced markers of inflammation after exercise.
The caffeine in coffee and tea can help relieve sore muscles after exercise because it stimulates blood flow to the muscles. This increased blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and removes waste products like carbon dioxide from them. Caffeine also speeds up the removal of lactic acid from your muscles, which otherwise builds up during exercise and can cause muscle soreness after exercise.
A study of 9 men who typically consumed low amounts of caffeine found that consuming caffeine 1 hour before an intense upper-body exercise majorly reduced levels of muscle soreness on days 2 and 3 after exercise.
Dairy products are excellent sources of calcium and protein, which are both essential for muscle recovery. Additionally, calcium is required for muscle contraction, so it’s vital to get enough calcium if you’re going to be working out regularly.
The best dairy products to consume after a workout include yogurt and milk. Yogurt contains live cultures that help your body rebuild itself after exercise. Milk is also a good choice because it provides high-quality protein that can help repair damaged tissue.
Eggs are a great source of protein. Eating eggs can help your body repair damaged muscle tissue after a workout. Eggs contain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. The body needs amino acids to build muscle and repair torn-down muscle fibers. Eggs also contain vitamin D and choline, which further aids with muscle recovery.
In a small 2017 study that included 10 men, researchers had participants eat a meal with either whole eggs or egg whites immediately after resistance training. Even though all the meals had the same amount of protein, the whole-egg meals led to greater muscle growth than the egg-white-only meals.
6. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish like sardines, salmon, and trout are full of essential nutrients that help with muscle recovery. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may help your body to fight inflammation and support muscle growth.
Some experts suggest that consuming 1.1 ounces of protein after exercise supports optimal muscle recovery. One 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of cooked salmon contains 1 ounce (29 grams) of protein.
This juicy fruit is a great way to help your body recover from strenuous workouts. Watermelons are packed with antioxidants, and the lycopene found in them can help reduce inflammation and prevent muscle soreness. Although watermelon has more sugar than most other fruits, it also contains citrulline, which is an amino acid that helps you get more out of your workouts by improving blood flow throughout your body.
In a small 2013 study, athletes who drank 16.9 ounces (500 mL) of either natural watermelon juice or watermelon juice enriched with L-citrulline reported reduced muscle soreness 24 hours after exercise compared to those who drank a placebo.