I think I post some version of recovery drink at least once a year. Here’s my newest combination of goodies meant to make training harder and more frequently a lot easier on your body!
I’ll start by making a heretical statement. You don’t need protein after a workout. Conventional wisdom states that since you’re breaking down muscle through intense exercise, a catabolic process, you need to replenish protein stores to avoid muscle loss and soreness. That may be true if you’re into bodybuilding or if you’re trying to bulk up, but most of us don’t need the extra protein. If you already consume enough protein, then that post-workout shake might be doing more harm than good.
Why is this? There’s a lot of debate over whether lactic acid buildup, caused by the body’s increased acidity during exercise, makes you sore, or if it’s the tearing of muscles caused from the strain of training that’s to blame. (Especially 24 hours later. See DOMS).
The truth is, it could be a little bit of both depending on how you train. Both a sustained elevation in your body’s pH and damaged muscle tissue will make you sore. Both have one thing in common, though: they both cause inflammation.
Research on inflammation–both localized and systemic–consistently reveals the impairment of essential body processes. Chronic inflammation can cause a wide range of ailments including arthritis, immune disorders, heart disease, and cancer. For athletes and martial artists, it also causes muscle soreness and inhibits performance.
While many trainers advise eating consuming protein after training, it may not be the best solution, as most protein sources increase inflammation even if they help repair muscles. And one thing’s for sure: inflammation causes pain, and, for many of us, an anti-inflammatory cocktail like this may be best!
1.) Garden of Life Perfect Food – Super Green Formula
My original interest in inflammation-fighting foods started with this product. I tried a bunch of green drinks in the past, but Garden of Life Perfect Food Super Green Formula is my favorite. Unlike other green supplements which only consist of spurlina and wheat grass, this one has a very high concentration of chlorella, an algae super food, and powdered fruits as well as vegetables. After hard training this drink actually gives me a little bit of a rush; I feel re-energized right away. Best of all, it’s low calorie and there’s no sugar like you find in sports drinks.
2. Fish Oil
I now take 1000 milligrams of fish oil after every training session. It’s proven to reduce inflammation throughout the body and is especially useful to help balance your pH levels. Aside from reducing muscle pain, taking fish oil helps correct the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats that will not only ruin your health but will sap your performance gains. You don’t need to take as much as Joe Rogan (interesting convo); I find 5000 milligrams a day sufficient. If you can’t stand fish burps, find a capsule with extra gelatin to slow release. Also, read the label to ensure your supplement is purified and free of mercury.
3. Gaia Herbs Kava Kava
Taking this supplement is optional. If you’re the type to take ibuprofen to ease muscle soreness, however, you may want to give kava kava a try. The anti-inflammatory properties of this herbal root are well known and work to reduce muscle soreness if taken post workout. It is mildly intoxicating at higher doses–especially prepared as Pacific Islanders traditionally consume it. I like the Gaia Herbs supplement because it’s quite mild; after all, you don’t want to feel even more woozy after strenuous training. I take one or two capsules a few times a week.
Try It For Yourself!
Lowering inflammation will promote faster recovery more effectively in many athletes as opposed to merely taking protein supplements. The combination of greens, fish oil, and kava kava has been working great for me; I feel replenished and energized after even the hardest training sessions and have much less soreness–an important thing as I’m now in my 30’s! You can add some low-glycemic carbs into the mix such as agave syrup if you need some sweetness. Admittedly, some of these ingredients are a required taste, but I haven’t found a better blend of ingredients to fight acidity, inflammation, and soreness. Unless your main goal is to gain lots of muscle, you might want to replace that protein shake!
Questions? Comments? Do you have a preferred anti-inflammatory supplement we could try? Let us know!
NOTE: Like most supplements, you should cycle off kava kava for one week per month. Even though there’s an extremely low risk, impaired liver function may result in overuse of the product.