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The Best Foods For Muscle Pain Relief

Flexpower Fitness - Before you get moving, you might have some questions. We're here to do what we can to help.

Pre- or post-workout, what you eat may help you feel the burn without feeling burnt. 

“No pain, no gain” makes for a great catchphrase, for sure, but that doesn’t mean pain is a prerequisite for fitness, or an unavoidable outcome for getting up and getting moving. We’re here to help you soothe those aching muscles with Flexpower creams and bath soaks, of course, but if there was a way to help lessen the chance that you’ll have pain to begin with starting with what you eat, we have a feeling you’d be interested in that too. Turns out, like a lot of things, you are what you eat. 

Here are some foods to eat pre- and post-workout to help muscles and joints recover faster and ache less. 

Relieve Muscle Pain With Protein

“Protein is important but more is not necessarily better,” says Mascha Davis, a private practice dietitian nutritionist, national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and author of Eat Your Vitamins: Your Guide to Using Natural Foods to Get the Vitamins, Minerals, and Nutrients Your Body Needs. “The Academy [of Nutrition and Dietetics] recommends you eat 10-35% of total calories from protein when trying to build muscle. But don’t forget that during a workout, you burn off a lot of glycogen or carbs, too. Try to replace both no later than 15-30 minutes after a workout with a light snack.” Davis recommends the following as ideal post-workout snacks for helping muscles recover: 

  • Yogurt with Berries
  • Apple with Peanut Butter
  • Tart Cherries
  • Cottage Cheese

Pick Your Fruit

Sliced watermelons

A 2010 study on long distance runners found that tart cherries and tart cherry juice can help reduce muscle pain, since they are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. 

Watermelon, too, has proven recovery impact. One study found that giving athletes watermelon juice — which contains the rind, the highest source of l-citrulline — after a workout helped reduce recovery heart rate and muscle soreness after 24 hours. The natural sugars in watermelon also help drive protein to  muscles and replenish low glycogen stores, and the high water content helps prevent muscle-cramping dehydration. 

Bananas are also a great source of the electrolyte potassium, which research suggests may help reduce muscle soreness post-gym. 

Crack an Egg

eggs in a basket

Eggs are a source of leucine, which is linked to muscle recovery. Eating eggs after exercise may help reduce the risk of delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS. 

Foods to Avoid if You Have Joint and Muscle Pain 

A good way to prevent muscle and joint soreness is to avoid inflammatory agents like: 

  • Sugar
  • Gluten (grains like wheat, rye, or barley) 
  • Saturated Fats (like cheese) 
  • Alcohol 

When All Else Fails, Take a Nap

Don’t underestimate the power of sleep, either.  “When trying to recover from workouts, keep in mind that factors other than diet influence your performance,” says Davis. “Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep for optimal results.” 

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