Your muscles might feel sore after a run or overdoing it at the gym, particularly if you don't normally exercise as rigorously. This occurs due to muscle damage and the buildup of natural waste products in your cells. Eating the right foods before and after physical activity can help your muscles heal faster, ease soreness and pain and even protect against muscle damage in the first place.
Protein Repairs Muscle
Protein-rich foods provide amino acids, the building blocks for your muscles and other body tissues. You must get adequate protein from your daily diet to help your body repair cells and build new ones, particularly if you have sore muscles. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends an average daily intake of 46 grams for adult women and 56 grams for men 5. If you exercise strenuously or are an athlete, you may need more protein. Ensure that you get at least two to three servings of protein per day. One serving includes 2 to 3 ounces of lean cooked meat, poultry or fish; an egg; an ounce of cheese; or 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans.
- Protein-rich foods provide amino acids, the building blocks for your muscles and other body tissues.
- You must get adequate protein from your daily diet to help your body repair cells and build new ones, particularly if you have sore muscles.
Blueberries Contain Potent Antioxidants
Which Fruits Help Increase Muscle Growth?
A 2010 study published in the journal "Molecular Nutrition and Food Research" suggested that antioxidant compounds found in blueberries may help prevent muscle damage 4. According to the research, blueberries contain high levels of antioxidants called anthocyanins that may help protect skeletal muscles -- such as those in your limbs -- from wastes produced during strenuous physical activity. Further study is needed on the amount of blueberries that are needed for this effect and when they should be eaten.
Cherry Juice Might Help Heal Muscles
Like blueberries, cherries may also have a protective and healing effect on muscles. Research published in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine" in 2006 reported that individuals who drank 12 ounces of a cherry juice blend daily for eight days had less muscle soreness and pain due to damage from exercise 2. Notably, individuals who drank the cherry juice showed an average of 4 percent strength loss after exercise, while those who did not had a 22 percent loss in strength. This may be due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cherry juice. Ensure that the cherry juice you purchase does not contain added sugars.
- Like blueberries, cherries may also have a protective and healing effect on muscles.
- This may be due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cherry juice.
Carbohydrates Provide Energy
Can Certain Vitamins Help Weak Leg Muscles?
Carbohydrates are your body's main source of fuel; producing protein and repairing damaged muscles requires abundant energy. A 2003 study in the "Journal of Applied Physiology" assessed the effect of eating 100 grams of carbohydrates on protein breakdown after exercising with weights 3. The study found that individuals who had the carbs showed slightly less muscle breakdown after exercising. Carbohydrates are important for energy as well as keeping your muscles healthy before and after being active. Choose whole-grain and low-fat carbohydrates from foods such as whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, legumes, nuts and raw vegetables.
- Carbohydrates are your body's main source of fuel; producing protein and repairing damaged muscles requires abundant energy.
- Carbohydrates are important for energy as well as keeping your muscles healthy before and after being active.
Which Fruits Help Increase Muscle Growth?
Can Certain Vitamins Help Weak Leg Muscles?
Beer Consumption & Muscle Cramps
Should You Drink Grapefruit Juice Before Working Out?
Good Post Workout Foods for Weight Gain
Side Effects of Tylenol for Bodybuilding and Muscles
When to Consume Isopure Protein?
Are There Good Foods for Hamstring Recovery?
Protein for Women for Weight Gain
How Long Does It Take Women to Build Muscle?
- National Institutes of Health: Protein in Diet
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: Efficacy of a Tart Cherry Juice Blend in Preventing the Symptoms of Muscle Damage
- Journal of Applied Physiology: Effect of Carbohydrate Intake on Net Muscle Protein Synthesis During Recovery From Resistance Exercise
- Molecular Nutrition and Food Research: Blueberry Fruit Polyphenolics Suppress Oxidative Stress-Induced Skeletal Muscle Cell Damage in Vitro; 2010
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein
- Cherry juice, tart. USDA FoodData Central. April 1, 2019
- Apple and cherry juice, pure, unsweetened. University of Sydney Glycemic Index Research Service. Updated November 26, 2019
- Kuehl KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, Chesnutt JC. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 May 7;7:17. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-17
- Howatson G, McHugh MP, Hill JA, Brouner J, Jewell AP, van Someren KA, Shave RE, Howatson SA. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Dec;20(6):843-52. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01005.x
- Levers K, Dalton R, Galvan E, Goodenough C, O'Connor A, Simbo S, Barringer N, Mertens-Talcott SU, Rasmussen C, Greenwood M, Riechman S, Crouse S, Kreider RB. Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on an acute bout of intense lower body strength exercise in resistance trained males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Nov 16;12:41. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0102-y
- Levers K, Dalton R, Galvan E, et al. Powdered tart cherry supplementation demonstrates benefit on markers of catabolism and muscle soreness following an acute bout of intense lower body resistance exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11(Suppl 1):P31. Published 2014 Dec 1. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-S1-P31
- Traustadóttir T, Davies SS, Stock AA, et al. Tart cherry juice decreases oxidative stress in healthy older men and women. J Nutr. 2009;139(10):1896-1900. doi:10.3945/jn.109.111716
- Kelley DS, Adkins Y, Laugero KD. A review of the health benefits of cherries. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 17;10(3):368. doi: 10.3390/nu10030368
- Chai SC, Davis K, Zhang Z, Zha L, Kirschner KF. Effects of tart cherry juice on biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in older adults. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):228. Published 2019 Jan 22. doi:10.3390/nu11020228
- Chai SC , Davis K , Wright RS , Kuczmarski MF , Zhang Z . Impact of tart cherry juice on systolic blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Food Funct. 2018 Jun 20;9(6):3185-3194. doi:10.1039/c8fo00468d
- Lynn A, Mathew S, Moore CT, Russell J, Robinson E, Soumpasi V, Barker ME. Effect of a tart cherry juice supplement on arterial stiffness and inflammation in healthy adults: a randomised controlled trial. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2014 Jun;69(2):122-7. doi:10.1007/s11130-014-0409-x
- Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, Perlis ML. Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. J Med Food. 2010;13(3):579-583. doi:10.1089/jmf.2009.0096
- Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec;51(8):909-16. doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
- How Fat Affects Gout. Arthritis Foundation.
- Martin KR, Coles KM. Consumption of 100% tart cherry juice reduces serum urate in overweight and obese Adults. Curr Dev Nutr. 2019;3(5):nzz011. Published 2019 Feb 25. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzz011
- Chen PE, Liu CY, Chien WH, Chien CW, Tung TH. Effectiveness of cherries in reducing uric acid and gout: A systematic review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019;2019:9896757. Published 2019 Dec 4. doi:10.1155/2019/9896757
- Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Updated March 21, 2019
- I Swallowed A Cherry Pit! Are Stone Fruit Pits Poisonous? Poison Control. National Capitol Poison Center.
- What You Need to Know About Juice Safety. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Updated 10/30/2017
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.