Is it good? Is it bad? How does it impact my health and recovery?
All of your questions, broken down, and answered now!
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and infection. It is a process that allows signals to tell the immune system to heal tissues or fight off disease. Now, when inflammation occurs for too long and it becomes chronic negative effects can occur. Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and several autoimmune diseases. Diet alone may or may not fully treat inflammation, however, it can help prevent these diseases from building and also aid in a proper immune response to inflammation.
What About Exercise-Induced Inflammation?
Exercise-induced inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury from intense physical activity. This may be seen through the presence of redness, swelling, or pain. On a less severe level, an intense workout has the ability to cause damage to an exercised muscle group. When this happens, leukocytes and inflammation builds in the localized area where muscle tissue damage occurred. Anti-inflammatories help reduce this inflammation and allows recovery to transpire much more rapidly. If inflammation lingers for too long, fatigue, muscle soreness, and damage may begin to surface. The ability to grow healthy muscle tissue reduces and progression in training is halted, leading to a possible loss in muscle. This is why we want to focus on avoiding chronic inflammation to help enhance recovery time and reduce muscle soreness.
How Does Food Fit Into This?
Several foods have been shown to help aid in the recovery and inflammation process thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory rich components. High intake of vegetables, berries, nuts, spices, whole grains, and omega 3’s all offer benefits through their antioxidant properties or by diminishing the effects. Below lists several categories and specifically what is going on in each!
Vegetables: Spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, beets, and mushrooms (also high in vitamin D) all contain excellent sources of vitamins A, C, flavonoids, and carotenoids. These nutrients ALL have antioxidant properties making vegetables an easy front runner to fight inflammation.
Omega 3’s: Chia seeds, flaxseeds, fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, tuna), olive oil, and avocados (also high in vitamin E) all contain copious amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. This type of fat is essential, meaning the body cannot produce it on it’s own and it needs to come through the diet. Omega 3’s reduce chronic inflammation by dampening its effects, and reducing the production of eicosanoids and cytokines- two molecules linked to inflammation.
Berries: Consuming berries before and after intense exercise has shown to reduce post-activity inflammation and oxidation. This is because berries are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and anthocyanins (the pigment responsible for deep blue/red/purple coloring). Best choices include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and goji berries. Cherries also contain many of these same nutrients which is why tart cherry juice is a common supplement before or after workouts.
Nuts: Nuts contain vitamin E which is a key protector against free radicals. They also have excellent antioxidant properties helping further reduce inflammation. Try adding almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, or pistachios to your daily diet for maximum benefits.
Grains: Refined grains may increase your risk for chronic inflammation, but whole grains help lower it because the fiber is not stripped. Quinoa, brown rice, whole grain bread, oats, barley, farro, and millet are top picks!
Spices: Spice up your dish and reduce inflammation at the same time…turmeric, ginger, and garlic have all been proven to reduce the effects of inflammation. Throw a little ginger or turmeric into your next smoothie for an easy way to pack in a nutritional punch.