Canadian Cycling Magazine
Tame the Flame
Fight inflammation with the right foods
When you head out for a spirited ride or go hard with the weights, the next day you may feel a familiar soreness seeping into your muscles. In general, consider it a sign of a job well done; your tough training session produced micro-tears in your muscles, leading to some protective inflammation. During this time, it’s possible to feel fatigued, sore and achy. But given proper rest and nutrition, those tears will heal and, in the end, make you faster and stronger, as well as less sore.
Experiencing inflammation is part of an active lifestyle. But, there is always the possibility that this acute inflammation will become more chronic, especially if you consistently skimp on the important pieces of recovery. Over time, this pervasive and ongoing inflammation will not only plateau your progress, but can contribute to bigger health issues. Research is increasingly linking chronic inflammation in the body to cognitive decline, heart issues and even cancer. Here, the duration is the poison, so mitigating chronic inflammation is important. Luckily, there are a number of dietary measures you can take to tamp it down for better longevity, on and off the saddle. Consider this your dietary anti-inflammatory cheat sheet.
Go to Club Med
To keep inflammation in check, it can be a good idea to eat like you would if you were training in Mallorca. A 2021 meta-analysis in the journal Advancesinnutrition found that the Mediterranean dietary pattern—one that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, whole grains and olive oil over ultra-processed foods and excessive redmeat intake—can lower inflammation as indicated by reduced levels of the C-reactive protein, a key biomarker of inflammation in the body.
Chase the rainbow
A cyclist’s shopping cart should be full of brightly coloured vegetables such as dark leafy greens, tomatoes and bell peppers. They are the top source of carotenoids, plantbased compounds including lycopene and beta carotene with strong antioxidant efficacy that can lower oxidative stress and subsequent inflammation. This process is especially important if you’re clocking big miles that can stress the body, creating an environment for high amounts of inflammation-instigating oxidative cell damage.
Eat more slightly rotten foods
Sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt—these fermented foods may help keep inflammation at bay. After analyzing blood and stool samples of healthy adults, Stanford School of Medicine researchers discovered that a 10-week diet that was high in fermented foods resulted in measurable improvements in microbiome diversity, the population of beneficial bacteria residing in our digestive tracts, and, as a result, decreased markers of inflammation. A healthy microbiome, attained partially through dietary choices, such as a few daily servings of fermented foods, can drive up the production of bacterial-produced postbiotics, or bioactive metabolites like short-chain fatty acids that can have wide-ranging benefits for the body, including lowering inflammation.
Get hooked on fatty fish
While cyclists need plenty of protein, it’s best to avoid getting too much of it from red or processed meats as research suggests they can be pro-inflammatory. Instead, prioritize fatty fish species, such as sardines, salmon and mackerel. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which appear to have robust anti-inflammatory potential by affecting pathways involved in inflammation. Eating more omega-3s can also improve your omega-3-to-omega-6 ratio in the diet, which is important for controlling inflammation. We tend to eat too
“Consider this your dietary anti-inflammatory cheat sheet.”
many omega-6 fats as they are pumped into processed packaged foods and fast foods.
Spice up your life
Spices, like cinnamon and turmeric, can not only add flavour to your food at a zero-calorie cost, but they also appear to have anti-inflammatory powers. A recent investigation in the Americanjournalofclinicalnutrition discovered that people who increased their daily intake of a variety of spices tested for lower signs of inflammation in their bodies. It’s likely spices contain compounds that help limit inflammation-inducing stress in the body, but you need to use them regularly to glean their benefits.
Garnish your oats with berries
Berries not only add natural sweetness to oatmeal, yogurt and post-ride smoothies, but they are some of the richest sources of anti-inflammatory compounds, including anthocyanins. In particular, it’s dark berries such as blueberries and blackberries that pack the biggest inflammation-taming punch. You’ll want to eat at least ½ cup daily to get the most benefit. Luckily, dark berries are available frozen in the supermarket as a less-expensive option than fresh berries when they are out-of-season.
Crunch on walnuts
Walnuts can add some quality inflammation-fighting calories to your diet. Regular consumption of walnuts (30 to 60 ga day) resulted inasmuch as an 11.5 percent reduction of inflammatory markers among older adults, including one marker, interleukin-1 , which has been linked with a risk of coronary heart disease, according to a study in the Journal of the american college of cardiology. While these results need to be replicated in younger people, it’s safe to assume the plant-based omega-3 fat, as well as a range of micronutrients and antioxidants in walnuts, are going to help cool the flame.
Ditch most of the ultra-processed stuff
One of the most important diet changes you can make to keep inflammation down is to greatly limit the number of so-called ultra-processed foods that wiggle their way into your diet. upfs undergo multiple processing steps and are combined with any number of substances including hydrogenated fats, sugar, artificial flavours and emulsifiers to alter taste, texture and shelf life. The proinflammatory tendencies of these “foods” are thought to be a leading reason why they can drive up the risk for poor heart health.
Does timing matter?
While it is a smart move to feast on some anti-inflammatory foods shortly after a big ride, when it comes to sequestering chronic inflammation in the body, it’s the big picture that counts most. It’s more important to include foods that hinder inflammation in most of your meals and snacks during your day.