Every athlete knows the key to excellent training and competition is proper recovery. In fact, in a 2017 survey of more than 300 elite athletes, over half mentioned utilizing at least one recovery strategy while in-season. But, beyond the ice tub, what can we do for recovery from within our bodies? More specifically, what can you do for inflammation? Let’s talk about your options!
Recovery foods for athletes
If you are looking for a place to start within your diet, fruits and vegetables are always reliable. This is because plants contain naturally occurring chemical compounds called polyphenols. These plant-derived nutrients, such as quercetin, curcumin, and resveratrol, fight off oxidative stress in the body and reduce inflammation.
Pro-tip, the colors of different types of produce aren’t just there for visual appeal. The various pigments come as a by-product of the kind of phytochemical present, and they each play an essential role in recovery! So, switch it up to enjoy the benefits of them all.
Another pro-recovery food group is fish, including salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and tuna. These foods provide the body with natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These particular nutrients are shown to reduce inflammation after training!
Vegan or don’t like fish? Algal oil is a plant-based alternative that may provide similar nutrients and impacts, though more research is needed!
This may be a bit of an uncommon share, but probiotic foods can be another secret weapon. Did you know that inflammation could stem from an unhappy gut or even an infection? A recent study suggests that probiotics can help with upper respiratory infections while restoring the good bacteria in your gut.
Thus, this gut helper may help the body reduce inflammation as a whole!
Oh, and don’t forget your prebiotics; think of them as food for the probiotics. The two go hand-in-hand.
We list most of these nutrients plus some in our whole foods performance booster list, be sure to check it out!
Potential inflammatory foods for athletes
There may be foods that can pose an inflammatory roadblock for you, but if you are here for a list of no-no foods, you won’t find it. Sorry for the buzzkill! However, I’m not going to leave you hanging. So here are some things to consider.
First and foremost, foods you are allergic to are bound to cause an inflammatory reaction. No surprise here, it’s inevitable, and it is truly the name of the game. Foods that you are allergic to will cause an IgE immune response and lead to symptoms such as anaphylaxis, hives, swelling, and more, hence why you should avoid them.
Foods you are sensitive to may be another cause of underlying inflammation. If you are sensitive to them, certain foods could ignite a secretion of mediators, the gatekeepers that work on your behalf to protect your body from foreign invaders.
Though just doing its job, this release can lead the body to hit full inflammation mode triggering symptoms such as migraine, chronic fatigue, extreme bloating, and other GI issues.
Recovery through stress management – Athletes and stress
A little birdie once told me that sports are 90% mental and 10% physical. After being in the trenches of it for years, I wholeheartedly agree.
With that being said, anxiety and inflammation can go hand-in-hand. Are you feeling pressured about an upcoming competition? Managing this can be the difference-maker you need to feel your best competing. Some research suggests that psychology and nutrition can also play a crucial role in return-to-play protocol for injured athletes.
Nevertheless, some factors are beyond our control when it comes to stress and anxiety. However, you can control how you manage stress at the table. Being mindful at mealtime by removing distractions, practicing deep breathing before eating, honoring fullness and hunger cues are great ways to calm the body.
Oh, and SLEEP! Need we say more? Multiple studies suggest that sleep deprivation can reduce performance, focus, and sharpness and potentially lead to undesirable food choices. Many of those changes come as a result of lingering inflammation!
When we sleep, our body can release cortisol which helps in the inflammation process. So getting some z’s can be crucial!
Before you go…
Remember, maximizing your recovery can be the difference between feeling good and feeling great! However, to get it right, there are many things you should consider, and there is nothing wrong with getting the right people in your corner to help you figure it out.
Do you need help specifically with nutrition or testing? We got you covered, set up a time to chat with us HERE!