Why Eating Indian Food Might be the Best Post Workout Meal

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By: Hayley Harris

By: Hayley Harris

Registered Dietitian, Health and Fitness Instructor, and Recipe Developer

You can’t talk about recovery, and specifically inflammation, without talking about one of the biggest buzzwords in health; turmeric. 

Turmeric has been used throughout Asia for its culinary and medicinal properties for thousands of years. Turmeric is a common spice, derived from a root in the ginger family and has been widely consumed in many forms such as tea in Japan, curry in India, and an all-natural food colorant in the Middle-East. 

Turmeric Time

Not only is the flavor of the spice popular, the benefits to human health make it even more desirable. Turmeric is known for its antimicrobial, antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties (1). The phytochemical that is responsible for turmeric’s amazing health benefits is called “curcumin”. This polyphenol gives turmeric its bright orange appearance and can exert important effects at a cellular level. 

Curcumin targets signaling processes within the body to mitigate inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory markers in the bloodstream (2). This reduction of inflammatory compounds has been associated with reduced pain, improvement of metabolic disorders, and even neurogenetive disease (3). It is also a powerful antioxidant, important for protecting cells from damage from free radicals, keeping your organs and tissues working their best!

The Big Question

But will it help you recover after a workout? Studies using mice have shown that curcumin regulates two pathways that prevent muscle damage as well as improving muscle recovery time to improve performance (4). Studies in healthy, active humans have shown similar results. Consumption of curcumin reduced muscle inflammation enough to promote a faster recovery, but did not affect muscle soreness. However, the reduction in inflammation translated to improved performance and power output in future workouts (5,6). Furthermore, a study using cyclists revealed that athletes who supplemented with curcumin experienced “better than usual” scores in psychological stress, meaning they felt better on training days than the athletes taking a placebo (7). 

If you want to try turmeric to promote your own recovery and well-being during workouts, there are two important things you should know. 

Before You Begin

First you should know that curcumin is not well absorbed and is cleared from the bloodstream quickly. But don’t despair! There is something you can do to insure that curcumin is well absorbed, and sticks around long enough to combat inflammation. Simply pair turmeric with a source of fat, and black pepper. Curcumin it is a fat-soluble compound so it needs a fat source to be taken up and utilized by the digestive system. Black pepper contains a compound called “piperine” that works against the enzyme that clears curcumin from the blood. Taking turmeric with black pepper increases its bioavailability by 2000% (1). 

Thinking back to what was said about traditional uses of this spice, it would make sense that consumers of curry felt that there was a medicinal benefit to turmeric. They ate this amazing spice with coconut milk (a great source of fat) and a mix of other spices including black pepper! 

If you want to experiment with turmeric, some spicy Indian curry might be a great place to start! You can also try cauliflower tossed with olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper, and roast it in the oven. Eggs are a great source of fat and are delicious with a little dried turmeric and black pepper mixed in as well. 

Turmeric, can alleviate some, but not all, aspects of muscle damage. It will help your body balance inflammation, and help you feel great during your workouts! For something so delicious and equally effective, it’s definitely worth a try!

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