You feel beat up, you’re tied, you’re sore and you’ve lost the spring in your step…and you have to perform at your best in the next 24-28 hours. What do you do?
Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage (EIMD) is characterized by symptoms that present both immediately and for up to 14 days after the initial exercise stress (Owens, 2019).
EIMD can be caused through weight training, running, team sports, collisions; you name it – Essentially, when a large stimulus is exerted on the muscle.
As you’re probably aware, this can lead to muscle soreness and losses in:
– Muscle Function
– Functional & Exercise Capacity
– Force Production & Limb Position
Therefore, you typically become a worse athlete by having excessive amounts of muscle damage. Therefore, how can we reduce these symptoms to recover faster?
Firstly, the nutrition strategies used for ultra-fast recovery primarily target oxidative stress and inflammation, and not necessarily the rebuilding of the muscle tissue.
To further add to the confusion, the inflammatory response post exercise is needed to drive adaptation. In many cases, you wouldn’t interfere with this process as maximising this response is the primary focus.
HOWEVER, if the exercise stress is VERY HIGH and impairs timely return to training/competition OR is too high where it becomes detrimental to adaptation (causing mal-adaptation), then you’d look to apply the following strategies:
1) Protein: Even though it’s always pragmatic to have protein post exercise to support the remodelling of the muscle tissue. The increases in muscle protein synthesis don’t alleviate muscle damage or enhance muscle recovery.
2) Polyphenol Enriched foods (Tart Montmorency Cherries + Pomegranate Extract): May have a positive impact on muscle function, inflammation and production of oxidative stress. I.e. may possess similar properties to anti-inflammatory drugs.
3) As quoted by Owens (2019) ‘pragmatically, a diet rich in polyphenols (fruit and vegetables) may be the best strategy to augment (improve) recovery from damaging exercise.’
4) Omega 3’s (EPA + DHA) possess anti-inflammatory properties. Where most studies show a positive effect on muscle function and inflammation. Similarly, follow a food first approach (oily fish) to get the best bang for your EPA+DHA buck.
5) Vitamin D: Individuals with higher levels of vitamin D displayed faster recovery of maximal force in the recovery phase after exercise. Therefore a need for daily supplementation during winter months when sun exposure is low.
6) Vitamin C&E: Somewhat of a mixed bag with regards to their impact on recovery despite being antioxidants and their ability to reduce oxidative stress.
7) Creatine Monohydrate: Has the ability to increase the number of satellite cells (muscle stem cells) and therefore potentially improving muscle regenerative capabilities.
From a nutrition perspective, optimising recovery through managing EIMD comes down to minimising nutrient deficiencies by following a food first approach (no shock here), with perhaps the addition of creatine supplementation.
From a recovery standpoint, managing EIMD is just one part of the equation; you also need to consider carbohydrate replenishment, hydration, sleep, and other strategies such as massage, compression, cold water immersion.
Needless to say there’s slightly more to this than ‘rest up’ – if you want to truly accelerate recovery, consider implementing the aforementioned strategies. Recovery hard my friends
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