Anti-Inflammatory Foods For Runners
Reduce Inflammation, Recover Faster & Burn More Fat
Whether it's a result of your long run on the weekend, your cross training session or pushing hard on the track, inflammation is a normal part of being a runner.
What's Going On?
During our workouts, we push comfort zones and cause micro tears in our muscles. As a natural and normal response to these micro tears, inflammation occurs and our body sends extra blood to these damaged areas to heal them. This inflammation is localized, temporary and necessary to restore and build those damaged tissues back up. This process is what allows us to build stronger muscles.
However, this inflammation can become a problem when it becomes systemic and chronic instead of local and temporary. This happens when we don't eat right, rest enough or sleep enough to facilitate adequate recovery. Life stress, poor gut health and over training in general will ramp up inflammation to a point where we can't properly recover or burn fat effectively.
As a result, we take longer to recover between workouts, we have more joint and muscle pain, we hold belly fat, we get sick more often, we tire more quickly making our training feel hard and we get injured more often. As runners, we all know the importance of a proper warm-up, cool-down and the inflammation-reducing benefits of ice and Epsom salt baths, but it is important to not overlook diet. The foods we eat reduce, or increase, inflammation.
What foods contribute to inflammation?
Far too many runners spend money on good quality shoes, foam rolling and visiting their physio or massage therapist on a regular basis while still eating heavily processed foods, drinking sports beverages loaded with sugar and leaning on coffee, diet soda and muffins to get through the day.
Sugar, white and refined grains, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, trans fats, caffeine, alcohol (yes, even wine) and anything you have a personal sensitivity to, like dairy, gluten and/or, soy are common offenders for many people, so take a look at how often you’re consuming these, and where you may be able to reduce your intake.
In an ideal world, it would be great to remove all inflammatory foods from your diet, simply adding strong anti-inflammatory foods will provide significant benefits.
Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods To Add To Your Diet
Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).
Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as "anthocyanins" and "resveratrol" are found in these small and delicious fruits.
In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant "sulforaphane." This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin. Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours. Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won't have the same anti-inflammatory effect.
I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week's recipe (see below).
Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Spinach
When it comes to reducing inflammation and gaining strength, Popeye was on to something! Spinach contains the antioxidants vitamin C and E, as well as carotenoids and flavonoids, all helpful for fighting inflammation.
Anti Inflammatory Food #4: Tart Cherries or Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherries contain anthocyanins, compounds that can block inflammation while helping to prevent muscle damage. Add tart cherry juice to your post-workout recovery drink to gain these benefits, or eat a couple tart cherries as an after-dinner snack.
Anti-inflammatory Food #5: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish, etc) for the Omega 3's
Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: "trans" fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: "omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.
The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Because fish consumption should be limited to once or twice per week, due to concerns with PCBs, heavy metals and mercury, adding vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids into our diets on a daily basis is perfect. Top plant-based sources of Omega-3s include flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts
Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Green Tea
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG. EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer's.
Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It's thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.
Anti-inflammatory Food #7 - Turmeric
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin. This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties. It has also been shown to outshine NSAIDs in its anti-inflammatory abilities.
I've added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory Food #8: Dark Chocolate
Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.
Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely "flavonols"). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They've even been shown to prevent "neuro-inflammation" (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.
Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!
Anti-inflammatory Food #9 - Ginger
"The anti-inflammatory effects of ginger are well researched and have been used for thousands of years. In fact, ginger shares pharmacological properties with NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (ie. Advil). However unlike NSAIDs, which extinguish inflammation altogether, compounds called gingerols found in ginger work to manage inflammation (by suppressing pro-inflammatory compounds). This is key, because healing from your last run will only take place if there is controlled inflammation – not too much or too little. Ginger is also known to boost the immune system, calm the gastrointestinal system, reduce nausea, vomiting and seasickness, and protect against cancer." Sarah J Cuff, RNH.
My favourite way to consume ginger AND turmeric together in one shot, is by enjoying a cup of Healing Ginger and Turmeric Detox Tea.
There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.
You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of "anti-inflammation." When you do you will help your body to recover faster from your training workouts. You will build a fit, strong and healthy runners body that is pro fat burning and becoming injury proof for a life of health and happinesss!!!
Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric, Spinach): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa
- ¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 dash salt
- ½ tbsp turmeric
- 1 dash black pepper
- 2 cups broccoli, chopped
- 1 cup spinach
In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.
Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened. Add in Spincah for an additional minute.
Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.
Want the rest of my Super Foods for Runners? Grab them HERE.
XOXO - Carey
Physiotherapist and Founder of RunningMoms
PS. Are you ready to end the sugar cravings, get rid of the belly fat and find a solution to your all day exhaustion so that you can feel comfortable, confident and amazing in your own skin again? Do you want to build a fit, strong, healthy and pro-fat burning runners body without having to restrict all the foods you love? Clients in my RunningMoms Metabolic Reboot program focus on anti inflammatory foods and recovery strategies in addition to effective lean muscle building workouts and powerful macro nutrition strategies becuase reducing inflammation in your body is critical to fat loss. If you’d like to lose belly fat, increase lean muscle, end your sugar cravings and improve your energy and mood, head over here for the program details and to grab your spot in the next round.