What Foods Help with Soreness?

What Foods Help with Soreness?

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


You are less likely to feel soreness when you regularly exercise the same muscle group with the exact same intensity. 

When you work out a different muscle group, or use heavier weights, the muscles have to adjust to this additional pressure. This is why they feel sore. 

Muscle aches are a part of progress and an indication that you're becoming stronger. You're body is in reset mode because it has adjusted to your new challenges. We must distinguish between muscle pain and a real injury. 

It's likely you injured yourself if you are in severe pain. You should either wait for the pain to subside before you return to exercising. 

Nutrition is the most important factor to consider when trying to speed up the process of muscle repair.  

  • What causes muscle soreness after exercising?
  • Nutrition in sports performance
  • What food helps reduce muscle pain?

While we all strive to reach the next level, it is important to be mindful of the risks of going too fast. We all want that six-pack in record time.

But if our muscles don't have time to recover we are heading towards injuries, fatigue and no or little chance to get to where we desire to be. 

If we do not allow our muscles enough time to heal, we will end up with a sore and ripped body and little energy to continue. 

What causes muscle soreness after exercise? 

Exercise causes microscopic damage and mild inflammation on muscles, leading to delayed-onset muscle soreness hours or days later.

Your body's response is to repair this damage through soreness; any discomfort felt beyond 36-48 hours could indicate overtraining, while any lasting pain could indicate overdoing it or be an indicator that rhabdolysis (release of large quantities of myoglobin into bloodstream) has taken hold.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) usually occurs after doing something new or strenuous that challenges your muscles in ways they're unfamiliar with working.

DOMS may occur after any form of exercise; it's most prevalent with exercises involving eccentric contractions like running downhill or lowering weights from barbell squats or push-ups.

At some point, almost everyone has experienced DOMS--whether mountain climbing for the first time since childhood, participating in an annual school sports game, or returning to regular fitness routine after an extended hiatus.

DOMS typically peaks two days post exercise and then begins to subside over time.

One of the best ways to ease soreness is through nutrition and simply getting moving and continuing exercising, according to one physical therapist.

I would advise doing light cardio or using active recovery techniques like foam rolling, yoga and walking as ways to keep moving and reduce soreness.

Warming up correctly before each workout and prioritizing safe progression with new or challenging movements may also help minimize soreness.

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The Role of Nutrition in Physical Performance

Eating a well-balanced diet is vital for anyone hoping to perform at their best, including athletes.

Athletes require food that supports energy requirements while supporting healthy hormone levels so they can train hard, recover properly, and perform at their best.

Food should contain the appropriate balance of macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein).

Carbohydrates provide energy for exercise and are stored mostly as glycogen in muscles and liver tissue; having sufficient carb stores ensures you have energy for short bursts of exercise as well as long training sessions without feeling tired or lacking energy.

Your carb needs can be fulfilled through whole grain breads, pasta, cereals fruits and vegetables to meet this requirement.

Fats play an essential role in fueling exercise and helping maintain healthy hormone levels, but their source is equally essential; high amounts of saturated and trans fats can raise cholesterol levels significantly and increase heart disease risk significantly.

Athletes should source their fat consumption from various sources including lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Muscle glycogen stores must be replenished after endurance exercise.

Resynthesis is best accomplished through consumption of carbohydrates post-exercise; athletes should focus on optimizing this effect by eating or drinking carbohydrates prior to exercising and then having a carb-only beverage post-exercise.

Athletes should consider their consumption accordingly for maximum effect - some sports recommend eating a carb-rich meal 3-4 hours beforehand while other practitioners suggest having one post-exercise.

What foods help reduce muscle soreness?

Rest and nutrition are both critical to muscle recovery. There's not much you can do to accelerate the recovery process apart from active recovery to ensure that the muscle do not become tight. 

We can accelerate the healing process if we consume foods that reduce muscle pain. 


Protein-rich foods are high priority on the list of muscles recovery food. Amino acids are essential to muscle repair and growth. Proteins contain amino acids. 

Professional athletes and bodybuilders are known to eat eggs because of their bioavailable, high-quality protein. Eggs eaten before or after exercise can help reduce muscle pain. 

Fatty Fish

They're packed with Omega-3 fatty acid, which is great at fighting inflammation, and can boost muscle growth and repair. 

They are the essential amino acids your body requires to help you recover from a tough workout and promote muscle growth.

 Omega-3 contains Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) as well as Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). These acids are essential for muscle recovery and anti-inflammatory functions. They also help to prevent damage caused by oxidative stresses and keep you healthy. 

Starchy Vegetables

After a hard workout, your body will benefit from starchy vegetables that are rich in carbon. They replenish glycogen stores. It is important to keep your glycogen level high to be able to work harder, and to reduce rest periods before you move on to the next stage. 

Sweet potatoes, beetroots, parsnips peas sweetcorn and butternut squash can help replenish the body and repair any muscle damage caused by exercise. 

Manuka Honey

Honey is one of the more expensive honeys on the market, but for good reason. More and more people are discovering its health benefits, including the ability to relieve muscle pain. The honey is from New Zealand's Manuka bush and has a milder taste than normal honey. 

The primary benefit of this product is its ability to reduce inflammation after exercise. The perfect breakfast addition, it's packed full of carbs that give you energy. 

Whey Protein

Whey protein is the one product that has received a lot of research over the past few decades. The verdict was unanimous. It's not just great at building muscle. Whey is also the best antidote for aching muscles. 

The secret weapon of bodybuilders who want to gain muscle in record time, and improve muscle recovery. It is the ideal addition to shakes and smoothies. Your workout cabinet should be stocked with whey protein. 


Oatmeal should feature on your list of priorities for breakfast. Easy to make, oatmeal has many health benefits including improving digestion, easing achy muscle pain, and weight loss. Oatmeal is a great way to replenish your glycogen and energy after a workout. 

Dairy Food

Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cottage cheese are a great way to replenish the body and relieve muscle pain. 

These products contain the essential nutrients needed for muscle recovery, as well as carbohydrates that boost energy. The sodium in milk is ideal for rehydrating. The milk is also rich in phosphorus and potassium. It contains iodine and vitamin B2 as well. 


Coffee can be the unsung hero of your workout. Coffee gives you a boost to keep you moving and is also good for your muscles recovery. Caffeine can help block pain receptors. 

It's vital to understand why muscles hurt (they are recovering, and must heal first before you move forward). You won't be able to move forward faster if you block out the pain or reduce it. Your muscles will still have to heal and recover. 

Are you ready to increase your gains?

When dealing with muscle pain, you should focus on foods that help your muscles repair more quickly. This will allow you to make progress quicker. While painkillers may help reduce soreness and discomfort, they can also give you false hope that you will be able to work out soon. 

You risk getting injured if the muscles haven't healed enough. Fruit, vegetables, and dairy will help replenish your system, and speed up muscle growth and repair. 

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By eating properly, your muscles will grow stronger, recover more quickly, and become more resilient over time. Conversely, poor nutrition can lead to muscle damage by impeding cellular repair processes and adaptation.

Malnutrition and low muscle mass are prevalent across all age, weight ranges, and clinical conditions and have significant impacts on training, recovery and performance.

Muscle development and repair require macronutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, and fluids.

An adequate dietary intake helps promote glycogen replenishment and support cellular repair following exhausting endurance exercise; timing is key here - with most nutrients taken within 60-90min after exercise for maximum efficacy.

Carbohydrates replenish glycerol stores and restore blood glucose levels after intense exercise, aiding muscle glycogen recovery while providing energy to skeletal muscle fibers for high intensity workouts.

They're an indispensable fuel for high intensity exercises like cycling.

Protein provides the building blocks needed to build lean muscle mass, as well as serving as an important part of enzymes and hormones essential for muscle recovery.

You can find sources of protein in meats, fish, dairy products, nuts seeds soy and eggs.

Water helps regulate body temperature, lubricate joints and transport essential nutrients directly into our muscles.

Hydrating post-workout is especially essential to avoid cramps and fatigue; however, too much salty food or drink can actually dehydrate you and upset digestion; instead it is best to opt for water, electrolyte drinks or nutrient-rich beverages such as milk smoothies and juice.

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