Athletes involved in wrestling, CrossFit, powerlifting or tennis undergo high-intensity or eccentric muscle contraction with multiple exercise sessions within a timeframe of 24 hours or with as little as 0-6 h time gap between two exercise sessions. This type of contraction can lead to muscle damage and soreness. Such eccentric exercise can cause excitation contraction coupling and can make muscle fiber release pro-inflammatory cytokines that attract neutrophils and macrophages to repair the damaged tissue. Such disturbances cause muscle dysfunction and decreased performance.
While antioxidant supplements cannot reverse the inflammation cascade, they can at least prevent further worsening of muscle strength due to muscle damage. Post-exercise supplements that include protein, especially whey protein supplements, or amino acids can improve recovery from eccentric exercise. Although supplements that contain proteins or antioxidants have proved to be useful in treating muscle soreness, there are no studies that uphold the fact that a combination of both protein and antioxidant supplementation can help in muscle recovery and soreness.
Effect of protein and antioxidants on muscle recovery
The study included 60 male participants between the age group of 18-30 years. These participants were quite sedentary and did not involve themselves in physical activity more than 2-3 times every week for the sake of fitness. During the first day of testing, participants performed 100 eccentric contractions (ECC) of the knee extensors of the right leg and they were constantly encouraged during these 100 contractions. The participants were organized into 3 different groups, but no significant differences were observed for age, height and weight measures, macronutrient dietary consumption, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, sodium, calcium and iron intake between the groups.
All the 3 groups experienced muscle soreness following ECC. The primary purpose of this study was to find out whether a combination of protein and antioxidant supplements was more effective than only protein or carbohydrate control in reducing muscle soreness and function following ECC. The findings convey that:
We feel exhausted and depleted of energy after a day’s hectic work, running errands at home or after a vigorous workout session. When this is the case of a common man, what about sports personalities and athletes who train continuously for prolonged hours in the ground or court? Recovery is an integral part of any training activity. Dairy foods make an excellent option to replace the carbohydrates lost during exercise.
What is so special about dairy products that make them versatile for refueling?
Wear and tear in muscle tissue is common after training and these tissues undergo repair to make them better than before. High-quality proteins help to garner muscle strength after a strenuous session of endurance training, vigorous-intensity training and endurance events. Depending on the size and shape of the active people undergoing training, these individuals require anywhere between 20-25 grams of protein. Studies have discovered that dairy protein supersedes other protein sources in optimizing muscle protein synthesis post training.
If a person wishes to consume 20g of protein after training he/she can go for options such as 600ml of flavored milk, 200g of unsweetened yogurt with 30g of nuts or half a cup of low-fat cottage cheese with crackers.
Indispensable for an Active Lifestyle
Dairy foods are also packed with calcium, a nutrient needed for strong bones and teeth. Immune system can be suppressed when an individual performs high-intensity exercise and this phenomenon can be reversed only with the intake of high-energy foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and protein. Dairy foods fulfill all these requirements to the dot.
A lean and fit body is fundamental for an athlete and research proves that eating dairy foods helps to stockpile on lean muscle gain and fat loss. Studies also show the link between eating dairy products and reduced risk of obesity.
When we involve ourselves in some activity we usually don’t think about the negative aspects right at the start of the activity. Likewise, people involved in sports think about success and goals and don’t think about injury. But, they are well aware that participating in sports includes muscle pulls, sprains broken bones, stress fractures or orthopedic surgery that can keep you temporarily out of practice/participation. Foods play a critical part in helping you recover from surgery, heal wounds faster and make your bones and muscles stronger to help you get back to practice and events as soon as possible.
During times of injury, you need not and should not follow the same food practices as your physical activity is limited and hence, calories burnt is also lesser. Ensure to rule out your post-workout protein shakes or energy bars to fuel workout plans and decrease portion sizes to compensate for the decrease in calories burnt. Eat three to four energy-packed meals that are rich in vitamins and minerals cutting down all calories added from pre- and post-workout snacks.
Proteins for Strong Muscles & Bones
High-quality proteins are essential for a strong immune system and to accelerate wound healing. By high-quality, we mean foods such as eggs, low-fat cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt or baked chicken that can be consumed in the initial days after injury or surgery. Soy-based foods is a good food choice for vegetarians and soy milk or almond milk is an option for people who don’t/can’t drink cow’s milk. Don’t assume that you need to eat proteins only to build muscles, you need them for building strong bones too. Fractured sports persons must definitely include some portion of protein with every meal and snack.
Big Shots of Healing
Individuals need a combination of different nutrients to heal injuries out of which vitamin C and zinc are the big shots of this healing process. Vitamin C helps to make collagen and repair tendons, ligaments and heal surgical wounds. Although citrus fruits strike us immediately when we talk about vitamin C, other good sources include strawberries, kiwi fruit, broccoli, baked potatoes and bell peppers. While zinc supplements are an easy way out to replenish your body, it is better to add zinc to your body in the form of foods such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy foods, whole-grain bread and cereals, dried legumes and nuts. This is because, too much of zinc can lead to nausea and vomiting.
Healthy bones are always linked with calcium and vitamin D whose best sources are low-fat dairy foods. Milk is always fortified with vitamin D to aid in calcium absorption while yogurts are not. Hence, it is better to check the nutrition label of any yogurt before purchasing it to ensure that you get your vitamin D right. So, next time you have a stress fracture eat foods rich in these two nutrients to strengthen your bones.
Although fiber might not be helpful in healing or recovery, pain medications prescribed post-surgery/injury are bound to create constipation. Water, prunes or prune juice can help relieve constipation.
Nutrition is the backbone of performance in sports. Best nutrition practices before, during and after workout/game day are essential for optimized performance and the nutrition goals for each is different. Success or defeat, the post-game or post-exercise period is crucial to restore the body with the lost nutrients and allow it recover.
Recovery is a challenge for athletes who undergo two or more sessions of training every day or participate in multiple events in one given day. In such scenarios, the work-to-recovery ratio do not match, and the best possible thing is to start an event with maximum energy.
During the recovery period, an athlete needs:
Recommended Foods for Recovery