The weekend is a time when most people do their long runs, hard workouts, and race. And if you’re anything like me, you reward yourself for a job well done. I know for me personally, after a long hard 20 miler, I often times reward myself with delicious not so healthy foods that probably aren’t doing much to help my recovery. And now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Kara Goucher doesn’t go straight for a soft pretzel followed by a trip to the Cupcake Shoppe after her Saturday long runs. Yikes, even just typing that makes me want to start apologizing to my body. Foods can play such an important role in our recovery and getting us back out the door ready to tackle the next run. So if soft pretzels aren’t then answer, then what is?
Today’s Question: What are some good anti-inflammatory foods that runners should eat after a hard workout or race?
You would be hard pressed to find a runner who doesn’t know where the advil is in their house. Often times if we are injured or need to recover after a hard workout, we rest, ice, compress, elevate, and take a few NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). However, are we really paying attention to what we are putting in our bodies and using food as a way to treat our inflammation? Many parts of the runner’s body can become inflamed – the IT band, the muscles, the tendons, the knees, you name it. But in addition to RICE, food can play a very important role in getting us out the door, healthy, and ready for the next run.
Certain foods possess certain anti-inflammatory agents that can help to speed up the recovery process. In researching the top anti-inflammatory foods, one that was constantly mentioned was turmeric. This spice, which is commonly used in Indian cuisine, has been shown to be just as effective as some NSAID drugs. Even Rich Roll, in a recent guest blog post for Tim Ferriss, reiterates the benefits of this spice. He also emphasizes that an athlete who consumes a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods, will be able to train harder and longer than others. Stupid pretzel…
Other foods that are high in anti-inflammatory properties are:
- Salmon: high in omega 3 and protein
- Basil: the oil in basil inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase, which is the same enzyme NSAIDS inhibits
- Broccoli: high amounts of the flavonoid quercetin which counters inflammation
- Ginger Root: contains the anti-inflammatory compound phenol and studies have shown that ginger root can reduce exercise-induced muscle pain by 25%
- Kelp: contains fucoidan, a type of complex carbohydrate that is anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-oxidative.
- Sweet Potatoes: a good source of complex carbohydrates, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin B6 and C as well as dietary fiber and these nutrients are powerful antioxidants that help to heal inflammation in the body
- Green Tea: contains powerful anti-inflammatory flavonoids
- Blueberries: contain phytonutrients that fight against inflammation
- Tart Cherries: contain the antioxidant anythocyanins, which possesses anti-inflammatory properties
In addition to speeding recovery, anti-inflammatory foods have other benefits such as reduction in heart disease risk, keeping existing cardiac problems in check, reducing blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and soothing tender and stiff arthritic joints. Ever since I’ve started running, there has always been someone there to remind me that when I’m older, I’m going to have arthritis. I’m not planning on letting that happen, but I do think in order to be more proactive, I need to be a little more conscious about the foods I’m eating after a hard workout. Yes, the soft pretzel is delicious, but maybe I should go for sushi with green tea instead.
Dinner before Boston: Salmon with Sweet Potatoes
Delicious, but probably not so great after a hard workout
Happy Trails and Happy Running!