6 Foods That Can Soothe Sore Muscles

Intense HIIT sessions and bouts of strength training leave most gym-goers leaner, stronger, and incredibly achy the next day. Ending your workout with a proper cool-down and plenty of stretching can help prevent sore muscles, but these efforts will only take you so far. In order to get your body back to feeling great, healthy food is a must. And if you pick the right eats, your muscle soreness will disappear remarkably fast.

Nutrition also plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight, which is something everyone should remember. Consider this list a two-for-one because these foods can both alleviate muscle soreness and keep you lean. You’ll be feeling and looking better in no time.

1. Ginger

Ginger can help soothe sore muscles

Ginger can help those sore muscles. | iStock.com

This root has been hailed for its medicinal properties among different cultures for thousands of years, and research continues to come out in its favor. A study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition took an in-depth look at how herbs and spices impact certain biomarkers in the human body. According to the researchers, ginger proved effective both as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient. Since inflammation contributes to muscle soreness, this means ginger can help you during the recovery process.

One group of researchers even studied ginger as it relates to exercise recovery. The study, published in the Journal of Pain, had participants perform muscle contractions to induce pain and each was given raw ginger, cooked ginger, or a placebo. Those who consumed ginger, both raw and heated, experienced less pain the next day than the control group.

2. Fatty fish

parchment paper with raw salmon, lemons, garlic, herbs, and whole peppercorns

Go for that piece of salmon. | iStock.com

Those looking to build muscle already reach for protein-packed fish to fuel their efforts, but any type of athlete can benefit from getting plenty of this food in their diets. While the protein certainly helps in building muscle, it doesn’t actually do much for alleviating soreness. Omega-3 fats are what shine in that department.

According to one 2009 study, subjects who received an omega-3 supplement during a training program benefited from reduced soreness 48 hours after exercise. With just 27 participants, the study was small, but it’s not the only example. More recent research published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found similar muscle-soothing results.

3. Olive oil

flask filled with olive oil

Your muscles will thank you for olive oil. | iStock.com

One of the trademark ingredients in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has become a favorite for those looking to protect their hearts. This fat can also seriously help sooth aches and pains after a strenuous workout. Olive oil contains a type of antioxidant called oleocanthal, which has caught the attention of researchers. One 2014 review reported the nutrient can help fight inflammation and may protect against cancer and arthritis. The review even mentioned its ability to reduce pain may be comparable to ibuprofen.

4. Tart cherry juice

tall glass of cherry juice served with a pink straw

Drink cherry juice a few days before your big workout. | iStock.com

Instead of baking summer’s tart cherries into a pie, you might want to consider tossing them into your juicer. A few studies have demonstrated their muscle-soothing affect. One example from the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports had 20 marathon runners drink tart cherry juice or placebo in the days leading up to and after the 26.2-mile event. Those who went with the juice benefited from reduced inflammation and a faster path to regaining strength. A similar study involving a larger sample size reported that drinking tart cherry juice led to a significantly smaller increase in pain after a race.

5. Coffee

steaming mug of coffee in front of a window

That caffeine boost can really help. | iStock.com

Most of us would struggle to make it out of the house without at least one cup of coffee. When it comes to recovering from strenuous workouts, getting your caffeine fix can actually be a good thing. One review published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation highlighted a few studies that have demonstrated caffeine’s ability to alleviate post-workout soreness. The researchers acknowledged more studies need to be conducted, though.

Starting your day with a cup or two of coffee could benefit your efforts at the gym even if you aren’t addressing sore muscles. One 2008 review reported moderate doses of caffeine can boost performance for a range of different sports. But don’t overdo your java consumption. Mayo Clinic recommended no more than four cups per day.

6. Cruciferous vegetables

overhead shot of raw broccoli florets

Broccoli can help reduce your inflammation. | iStock.com

Whether you prefer broccoli, kale, or cabbage, filling your plate with any of these cruciferous veggies can help your body bounce back after a tough day at the gym. One 2014 analysis involving more than 1,000 women found those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables benefited from lower levels of inflammation. This type of produce is also packed with fiber, which will help fill you up after your exercise efforts leave your stomach grumbling.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec