Loving the BITE: Let Your Food Be Your PAIN Medicine
We’ve heard it before. No pain. No gain. And we all know the feeling of being an athlete, in pain. Of course, there’s some pain that you ride through, and should (like the pain of pushing yourself). And there’s some pain that’s an indication to stop. Other pain, is more like soreness, and is just a reality of being an athlete.
Luckily, there’s a few nutrients out there that can soothe a cyclists’ pain. Here are my favorites:
5 Nutrients or Foods for Cyclists’ Pain:
Turmeric & Ginger –
I’ve posted about these 2 spices many times on Loving the Bike, and it’s for good reason – they work wonderfully to provide our bodies with potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-pain nutrients! In fact, they are well-researched and well-documented in this realm –
First, Turmeric – Due to its strong anti-inflammatories, curcumin (the main component in turmeric) can reduce pain in joints, ligaments, muscles, and throughout the body. In fact, a study was conducted on 45 rheumatoid arthritis patients to compare the benefits of curcumin in turmeric to arthritis drugs (diclofenac sodium), that put people at risk of developing leaky gut and heart disease. According to the authors, “The curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement in overall [Disease Activity Score] scores and these scores were significantly better than the patients in the diclofenac sodium group. More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events. (Banafshe HR, et al. Effect of curcumin on diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain: Possible involvement of opioid system. Eur J Pharmacol 2013;)
Then, – ginger – Ginger is loaded with anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, and specifically it has benefits for joint pain and joint health. In addition, studies in the last few years show that it’s effective in reducing muscle soreness in athletes. In fact, in one study, participants took either 2 grams ginger or placebo each day for several days before strenuous exercise, and the ginger participants had a 25% reduction in soreness indicators vs. those on placebo.
To use turmeric and ginger to reduce soreness for everyday health, include the fresh roots or powders in daily meals or snacks. Or, take a supplement for each that contains ~400-600 mg ginger and turmeric. For a therapeutic dose for current pain in muscles, ligaments, or joints, increase your intake to 2 doses per day. See this full article for turmeric warnings and
Lavendar & Peppermint Essental Oils. These only sort of fall under the realm of nutrition, but as plant component that can enter the blood stream via the digestive tract, skin, or respiratory system, I think they fit. And, they work well for pain.
First, lavendar – Lavendar was accidentally discovered as a skin anaglesic agent when a chemist used it on a burn and felt almost-instant relief. Since I’m no stranger to burns in the kitchen (dang those cast iron pans), I keep it handy. As an athlete, I’ve also found it effective for minor pain such as a smashed toenail that I want to keep cycling and running on, and blisters. To use lavendar oil, dilute 10-25 drops in 1 Tbsp carrier oil (such as avocado oil or fractionated coconut oil), and rub onto skin.
Then, peppermint oil – One of my favorite pain solutions uses natural peppermint oil and menthol to significantly reduce muscle pain and soreness – sort of like an all-natural icy hot (but better!). Since these components readily travel through the skin, I’m not willing to use a bunch of chemicals that may or may not be healthy in my body for pain relief. There are a few different types of these “rubs” out there, and I keep a tube of Deep Blue on hand for my own muscle soreness, and my athlete kids’ growing pains and leg cramps.
For more information on my work with Essential Oils & Athletes, see the link below…
l-glutamine is an amino acid used by the gut cells and skeletal muscles cells. While sedentary people likely receive adequate l-glutamine through regular protein foods and the constant breakdown/repair of muscles, athletes often become deficient due to their high skeletal muscle demands.
What’s more, I’ve found that many athletes also have both stomach and digestion issues (both when eating training nutrition and daily nutrition), and both can be remedied with supplementation of l-glutamine (the gut cells & skeletal muscle cells use it the most in the body). So, it can help digestion while reducing sore muscle pain!
- Add 5 grams (from a supplemental powder) to your recovery meal or snack after any training 90+ minutes. Or, after any short-duration high intensity training.
- Before and During rides: If riding 3+ hours, add 5 grams l-glutamine in pre-training fuel, and add 2-3 gm l-glutamine per hour to your sports drink.
- Daily Nutrition: If you suffer from digestion issues, IBS, leaky-gut syndrome or multiple food allergies, supplement with 3-5 grams l-glutamine daily (in addition to training amounts).
Watch my video, get a great recovery recipe and more information here.
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar:
No list of mine is complete without Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. And while there’s been research on it for all sorts of ailments, some, like joint pain and arthritis rely more on anecdotal evidence and folk-medicine. And, as long as it helps me, I’m okay with that. (For a full research review on it, you can access this document for free at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/).
Here’s a few ways it can soothe your pain:
- Many cyclists and athletes suffer from sinus infections and issues. In fact, athletes often suffer from more colds and sinus issues than sedentary counterparts through the winter months because our bodies are pushed to a level of (sometimes) lower immune function, less sleep, and inadequate nutrients. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar is a great mucus-busting phlem-fighter. that helps drain the sinuses and relief pressure.
- Next, it can relieve night-time and on-the-bike cramps. I don’t know how it works exactly…and, most of the research began with pickle juice. As I was studying up on it for a podcast a few years back, I learned that pickle juice relieves cramps effectively and quickly (in research & practice) – I’ve since experienced success with it with my own clients. It had been hypothesized that the very high sodium content was the reason. However, researchers found that the relief was much too fast for the sodium to have even been digested and absorbed by the gut. It was something else. Something acidic: the likely hero is vinegar. To find out more, and get my ACV Tonic Recipe, click here.
- Lastly, many people report reductions in arthritic pain in the knees specifically with the addition of vinegar into their diets. There’s all sort of hypothesis and conspiracy theories here, but I’ll stick with what I know above. If it helps my joints as well, even better!
Epsom Salts/Magnesium. Magnesium does oh-so-many things in the cyclists body, and unfortunately, it’s often low in both sedentary folks and athletes. Adequate magnesium can improve daily energy, sleep quality AND fight pain by reducing both on-the-bike and night-time cramps and sore muscles. If you suspect your magnesium levels to be low, I recommend supplementation with magnesium supplements and/or sprays/salts that absorb through the skin. First, I recommend that most all people supplement with 200 mg magnesium per day. Then, I recommend that athletes increase it with another 200 mg dose per day, or with daily (or at least tough-training-day) Epsom salt soaks or magnesium oil rubs. To use epsom salts, add 1 cup to a warm bath and soak for 15-30 minutes. For magnesium oil rubs, use a commercial sport magnesium oil and apply to the skin once daily.
After using it consistently with athletes at these levels during the last year, I’ve gotten many reports of improved energy, sleep and reduction in pain and cramps!
Of course, if we’re taking about an injury, it’s best to see your doctor and find a good solution. But, for the everyday pain that many of us athletes experience, from sore joints and muscles to blisters to cramps, here’s some relief! And the best part, all of these nutrients are good for us cyclists as a whole, with little to no side effects or risks!
(FYI, I have used affiliate links to provide examples of specific products above).
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.
If you’d like to work with Kelli one-on-one with a Custom Nutrition Plan & Coaching, or download one of her acclaimed Instant Download Plans like Fuel Right Race Light, click here: Apex Nutrition Plans for Endurance Athletes. Be sure to use coupon code lovingthebike for a 15% discount!