Inflammation is the body’s way of healing or fighting off an infection. This can be beneficial initially. However, if the inflamed state is continued longer than needed, then the inflammation can cause pain and decrease performance for athletes. Exercise will increase the body’s inflammation in response to intense exercise. Through diet, and rest, the inflammation can be reduced so that further damage can be prevented. Free radicals are also created with intense exercise. These free radicals can cause damage to cells that can also contribute to inflammation. Long-term exercise can help the body adapt to the inflammation and free radicals by creating its own antioxidant defense. Another way of helping the situation, or to provide more of a safeguard, would be to consume fruits that are high in antioxidants. Some of these fruits include cherries, blueberries, and pomegranates. These fruits can potentially help reduce inflammation and help fight off free radicals after a strenuous workout. Consumption of these fruits is great not only for their antioxidant properties, but also for their carbohydrate source. After long strenuous exercise, glycogen (stored carbohydrate) stores are low and need to be replenished immediately to help promote recovery. Here are a few ways to include these fruits in a post-workout meal.
Make a smoothie and mix in frozen or fresh cherries, blueberries, or pomegranate. Add some whey protein to make it an even more powerful post-workout beverage.
Mix the fruits into some low-fat Greek yogurt
Whole Grain cereal with low-fat milk and add in any of the mentioned fruits
Add dried berries to some trail mix and eat as a snack throughout the day
Foods to be avoided that can possibly lead to increased inflammation: Foods high in saturated and trans-fats. Limiting fried foods, processed pastries and white, thick, creamy sauces/spreads/gravies will lower saturated and trans fat intake. By consuming higher antioxidant foods, the body should be able to fight off inflammation more effectively. Also eating more fruits will help athletes replenish glycogen stores, consume more fiber, and obtain more healthy vitamins.
Abed, K. E., Rebai, H., Bloomer, R. J., Trabelsi, K., Masmoudi, L., Zbidi, A.,… Tabka, Z. (2011). Antioxidant status and oxidative stress at rest and in response to acute exercise in judokas and sedentary. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25 (9), 2400-2409. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fc5c35
Thrombold, J. R., Reinfeld, A. S., Casler, J. R., & Coyle, E. F. (2011). The effect of pomegranate juice supplementation on strength and soreness after eccentric exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25 (7), 1782-1788. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318220d992
Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD is a sports dietitian in the DFW area. She has worked with Texas Christian University Athletics, the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, FC Dallas Soccer, Jim McLean Golf School and many PGA Tour players as well as with many middle school, high school and endurance athletes. Amy speaks at a variety of nutrition, athletic training and coaching conferences. She is an ambassador/spokesperson for the National Dairy Council, a Dairy Max Health and Wellness Advisory Council member and on the Speakers Bureau for Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Amy is also the co-author of “Swim, Bike, Run – Eat,” a sports nutrition book for triathletes.
Amy received her Bachelor of Science in speech communications from Texas Christian University and Master of Science in exercise and sports nutrition from Texas Woman’s University. She is also a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.