I’m riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this year – a 160-mile bike ride across Massachusetts to raise money for cancer research (my grandfather died of cancer, my best friend had cancer and beat it, and two classmates from Harvard have died of cancer) – so one of the effects I’m experiencing more than usual is muscle soreness.
I’ve researched the best ways to counteract this discomfort (I can barely get out of my car some days!) and have found that drinking lots of water and eating targeted foods and herbs can really help the pain and create a speedier repair process. The stress involved in rebuilding muscle tissue puts the body into an inflammatory state, which causes pain. There are a few strategies: the pre-workout drink and the post-workout snack. With both, a mix of protein and carbs is ideal for muscle repair.
Before a workout:
Drink almond milk with turmeric, or for a tastier and more involved version, mix up this ‘flooding formula’ anti-inflammatory drink:
- 2-10 grams Turmeric
- 2-6 grams Punarnava
- 1-4 grams Ashwaganda
- 1-4 grams Licorice
- 1-4 grams Arjuna
- a dash of black pepper
Blend all ingredients into almond or coconut milk (or 1/2 cup of almonds or coconut meat and 1 cup of water). The black pepper is key – it boosts the bioavailability of turmeric up to 2,000 percent!
Drink nettle-leaf tea with licorice and marshmallow roots. Nettle is rich in minerals and nutrients. Licorice works to help the body create mucus, which soothes inflammation. Marshmallow cools and moistens.
These herbs will reduce inflammation and start the repair sooner, and reduce any pain that may ensue from your zealotry.
Try these snacks after a tough workout:
Brazil nuts – full of selenium that prevents cell damage and inflammation, has antioxidant properties and helps in muscle metabolism – which is the process of building new tissue after you’ve stressed it with exercise.
Chocolate milk (the pure cacao and local, unhomogenized, whole milk kind!) – a great ratio of protein and carbohydrates. Sip to replenish glycogen, your body’s secondary energy reserve, burnt during exercise – and promote muscle building. It rehydrates cells to reduce fatigue as well.
Dark leafy greens – Collards, Nettles and other dark leafy greens are rich in phytochemicals.
Sweet potatoes – full of complex carbohydrates and antioxidants, these will help refill your energy and encourage production of hormones essential for growth. They replenish electrolytes like potassium lost through sweat. Pair with cottage cheese for a protein punch.