The Rapid-Recovery Diet
Stock your kitchen with these science-supported protein-shake alternatives.
Intelligent exercisers already know that your workout is only as good as your recovery. Skimping on the necessary rebuilding efforts can stifle your progress and put you at risk of injury. But there's only so much foam rolling you can (and are willing) to suffer through. Thankfully, you can combat aches with nutrition. These surprising finds are a welcome respite from the familiar favorites (looking at you, chocolate milk). Take a look:
Some health food stores and supermarkets sell the fresh rhizomes, or roots, which you can juice or add to smoothies. Or you can find the ground version in almost any spice aisle. Carolyn Brown, R.D., a nutritionist at Foodtrainers in New York City, recommends the Wakaya brand, which she says is nearly 6 percent curcumin—the active compound in turmeric that’s been shown to be as effective as ibuprofen at relieving pain—versus 1 percent in most bottles.
A member of the same plant family as turmeric, ginger interferes with inflammatory enzymes and can reduce soreness by up to 25 percent 24 hours post-workout. Mince or grate the root and add it to stir-fries, or steep it in hot water to make tea.
Tart cherry juice
Research suggests that it may be more effective than aspirin, but because the juice is a concentrated source of sugar, Brown recommends drinking it only during the week before a big effort or race. Have one tablespoon in the morning, and one within the hour or two after your workout, or what Brown calls “the magic window for rebuilding muscle and reducing inflammation.”
“It’s not sexy, but the omega-3s in salmon and anchovies can increase range of motion and blood flow to the muscles while decreasing soreness,” says Brown. The American Heart Association advises eating fish, particularly the fatty kind, at least two times a week, but if you’re not a big seafood fan, Brown recommends taking a daily supplement with 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of omega-3s.
In one study, people who were given a pill with the same amount of caffeine found in about two and a half cups of coffee had significantly lower levels of pain during a cycling workout. And another study found that about that same amount of caffeine cut post-workout pain by nearly 50 percent.