There’s a lot of buzz around the word “inflammation” nowadays, people blaming everything from gluten to carbs to pesticides to pollution. But what is inflammation and is any of it good?
The truth is all we’re doing when we’re training is breaking down muscle, producing acute, short-term, inflammation. This is a good thing if done properly- our muscles grow back stronger and more capable of handling intense exercise. The key word there is “if”- without proper recovery, our body remains in that inflammatory state longer, wreaking havoc on our immune system, extending our soreness, cutting the “fight” out of our next training session. Let this go long-term and the inflammation can become chronic, from a nagging hamstring to a full-blown illness.
High-intensity and long-duration exercise produces free radicals in our bodies. Yes, free radicals- those nasty cancer-causing byproducts of our damaged cells. The great news is these can be put in their place with recovery nutrition focused on anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods. Grab for these foods soon after your session and especially within the first 24 to 48 hours after training.
Plant Foods: Your go-to superfoods for anti-inflammatory properties AND antioxidants…. Dark leafy greens, berries, lemons/limes, tomatoes, orange and yellow fruits, all colors of peppers, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, onions, and sweet potatoes. And guess what?! They’re all carbs.
Whole Grains: Amazing sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and fiber. Did you know gram for gram black rice beats blueberries in antioxidants? Brown/black/wild rice, steel-cut oats, barley, buckwheat, quinoa.
Omega-3 Fats: Renowned for their powers to prevent cancer and heal the cardiovascular system... Fatty cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, cod, tuna, trout), flaxseeds, hempseeds, walnuts, almonds, avocados, seeds, avocado oil, extra-virgin olive oil (and of course olives).
Spices: You can dramatically improve the anti-inflammatory properties of a meal by adding spices, sometimes even a hundred fold…. Ginger, turmeric (found in mustard and curries), curry, rosemary, chili and cayenne pepper, basil, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa powder, herbal teas (especially green, white, and black).
At the same time, limit or avoid these foods in the hours after training because of their pro-inflammatory properties…
Trans-fat, Omega-6, and Saturated fats: Processed foods with a long shelf life, fast and fried foods, red meats, pork, lamb, and poultry skin, dairy products, partially hydrogenated oils, and most vegetable oils
Bankrupt foods: Often called “White Death”- white flour and white sugar, and added sugar
Alcohol: I know, it’s sad, but true. The only exception for this in recent research is a small glass or two of red wine.
Give your body the right tools, and you’ll enhance your ability to fight infections, increase blood flow to heal muscles, and protect yourself from long-term disease.