It’s one thing to wake up a day after a new HIIT class with tight quads, and it’s quite another to feel chronically tense, as though those muscle pains and cramps just never seem to go away. If you’re experiencing muscle cramps, where your body feels tired, weak, and sore, a change in diet might help alleviate the symptoms.
Why? Well, certain foods are high in nutrients that are linked to lowering inflammation and reducing muscle pain, as well as speeding recovery post-workout. (That’s why it wouldn’t hurt to grab one of these foods ASAP after cooling off.)
The easiest way to keep your muscles relaxed is to stretch regularly (try foam rolling!), get enough sleep, and support muscle health through a wholesome diet that’s rich in essential nutrients your muscles are begging you for. As for diet, here’s what you should stock up on now.
Foods That Ease Muscle Cramps
According to research, Montmorency tart cherries and cherry juice have antioxidant properties and can reduce soreness and tension after strength training. Antioxidants can lower inflammation and help speed muscle recovery, so damaged muscles can get back to feeling awesome and tackle another workout.
Bananas are great post-workout or any time of the day when you need a punch of magnesium and potassium to replenish lost hydration stores and to ease muscle cramping. A medium banana has about 400 mg (11% the daily value) of potassium, so it’s an excellent food to pair along with some nut butter for satiety. Plus, nut butter has protein, and protein also helps fuel your muscles and build strength. Another way to sneak in protein is through a protein bar, as it’s fast fuel to alleviate cramping.
A small study shows that watermelon (or watermelon juice if you want a smoothie or shake post-workout) can relieve tight, swollen muscles and get rid of cramping. What’s more, watermelon contains the amino acid l-Citrulline, which also can relieve tension. Enjoy some this summer—it’s super refreshing and at its peak ripeness!
Dark leafy greens, like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard, are high in magnesium, which helps relax muscles and restore electrolytes. You can add them to smoothies, whip up a fresh salad, sneak them into desserts, serve as a side to go with some lean protein, and more.
Healthy, Fatty Foods
Nuts and seeds, as well as fatty fish and avocado, also have a good amount of magnesium, protein, and healthy fats, all of which can lower inflammation and ease muscle cramping. Some great options for nuts and seeds include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. You can add them to yogurt or oatmeal, or sprinkle on top of salads.
As for avocado, there’s just more reason to enjoy your favorite green fruit! Enjoy on toast, with eggs, on a salad, in a dressing, or just plain. And try to eat 2-3 servings of fish a week to keep inflammation at bay and to protect your heart, brain, and joints!
Fill your plate with these yummy and nutritious foods when you feel a bit sore or start to cramp up. Your body will thank you!
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy. She can't resist a good sample, a margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. She writes for various magazines, such as Men's Health, Women's Health, SELF, LIVESTRONG, POPSUGAR, Allure, Health, Cooking Light, and more. Learn more about her on her website: isadorabaum.com.