Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Running

Running can bring us great pleasure and satisfaction on a daily basis.  However, whether it be after a workout or race, or as a result of injury, muscle soreness and inflammation are necessary evils associated with running and working out as the body goes through a natural inflammatory response to trauma and stress.  While products known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, i.e. Ibuprofen) are available to help deal with pain and inflammation, it is not always optimal to load up on these drugs before or after training.  In fact, allowing the body to go through the inflammatory process can actually enhance adaptation to training and serves as a warning sign for when to back off as the body gets worn down or overstressed, instead of ignoring or masking the pain with medication. 

As a more natural solution to fighting off inflammation and improving healing and recovery to get the most out of training, try looking at the foods in your diet. To begin adding more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, consider the following recommendations:

Aim for MORE of the following:

A variety of fruits and vegetables- These foods are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, polyphenols (especially quercetin), and phytonutrients which fight free-radicals in the body to minimize inflammation.  Berries, cherries, apples, and orange/green vegetables are some of the best sources of these beneficial nutrients.  
Mono- and Poly-unsaturated fatty acids- both types of fat have anti-inflammatory benefits, which include sources such as oily fish (salmon, sardines), avocado, olive oil, walnuts, almonds, and seeds. 
Spices/herbs- add garlic, ginger, and turmeric to your meals for added taste and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Adequate amounts of lean protein-  protein is responsible for building and repairing muscle tissue after exercise or injury breaks it down, and also helps to reduce inflammation.  Lean sources such as baked, grilled or roasted meat or fish, beans/lentils, and low-fat dairy are all low in fat and are essential for recovery.

Try to eat LESS of the following:

Refined starches and processed foods- these are low in fiber and high in sugar, thus causing a sharp increase in blood sugar and inflammation throughout the body.  Examples are white breads, pastas, crackers, cookies, and candy. 
High fat foods and refined oils- foods with large amounts of saturated and trans- fat actually increase inflammation in the body.  This includes foods that are fried/battered, topped with cream sauces or butter, higher fat cuts of meat, full-fat dairy, and safflower, corn, and canola oils.
Red meat- fatty cuts of red meat are typically high in arachadonic acid, a pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid, so try to keep levels of this low. Aim for more lean forms of protein to avoid ingesting toxic levels of this fat. 
Foods causing allergic reactions or inflammatory reactions in the gut- those who are allergic to milk, gluten, eggs, or nuts should avoid these foods to prevent inflammation and decreased absorption. 
**For more tips on how to improve your running/walking or recovery, contact Stephanie Hillman, RD, LD at shillman@columbusrunning.com.  Individual nutrition consultations are available!  Visit www.columbusrunning.com/Home/nutrition.

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