After a hard workout, or an intense week of training, it's normal to feel a bit creaky and sore. A decent stretch and a good night's sleep can aid recovery, but nutrition plays a huge part in ensuring our muscles are able to restore themselves.
Once muscle soreness sets in, it can be a struggle to get out of bed in the morning, let alone maintain a training routine. But before rifling through the medicine cabinet to find those painkillers, consider these four naturally occurring vitamins to help speed up recovery.
Sussing out selenium
Selenium is a trace mineral and antioxidant, which helps fight free radicals caused by toxins like herbicides, cigarette smoke, and radiation that can lead to cancer and heart disease. Your body needs only a small amount of selenium to make certain enzymes and it is important for overall good health. In proteins, selenium is combined to form antioxidant enzymes and selenoproteins.
Where can selenium be found?
Selenium is present in many foods that feature in your average diet: meat and poultry, seafoods, eggs, dairy products, breads and grains. The concentration of selenium in these foods varies greatly on a number of factors including the levels found in the soils plant-based foods are grown in, or the levels found in the food eaten by animal-based foods. So make sure you're sourcing good quality produce when doing your weekly shop.
What about vitamin E?
Like selenium, vitamin E protects cells from cell damaging free radicals, and is an antioxidant linked to preventing cardiovascular disease. It's also been shown to be clinically useful in treating fibrocystic breast pain and PMS and aids in preventing cataracts. Vitamin E improves circulation, repairs tissue, and promotes normal clotting and healing. It reduces scarring from some wounds, reduces blood pressure, and helps with leg cramps: perfect for when you're training regularly. It's easy to include more vitamin E in your diet simply by adding a few nutritionally dense extras to your meals, such as sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, and avocados. Broccoli and leafy greens like spinach are also rich in Vitamin E, so don't be afraid to pile your plate high with them.
What's the fuss about vitamin C?
Vitamin C is an antioxidant required in tissue growth and repair, adrenal gland function, and healthy gums. It protects our bodies against the harmful effects of pollution, it prevents protects against infection, and enhances immunity. This powerful antioxidant also boosts the production of collagen (connective tissue that help repair tendons and blood vessels), and helps flush the muscles of lactic acid- the cause of your dreaded DOMs.
Where can vitamin C be found?
- Vitamin C can be found in
- Citrus fruits
- Red peppers
- Sweet potato
Figuring out vitamin A
Vitamin A nourishes the eyes as well as the skin, and has been shown to be useful in some disorders of the gastrointestinal tract like IBS. It is important in the formation of bones and teeth, aids in fat storage, and protects against colds, influenza, and respiratory infections. Vitamin A plays a key role in slowing the ageing process, and assists the body's ability to utilise protein. This is important from a recovery standpoint, as well as the muscle soreness associated with performing frequent strenuous exercise, it can also affect the immune system making us more susceptible to colds and other viruses.
Where can vitamin A be found?
Vitamin A can be found in
- Organ meats
- Dairy products
How do all of these vitamins aid muscle recovery?
If you have kicked up the intensity of your workout, pushed your long-distance running potential, or have begun a new lifting routine, your muscles may be sore the next day, or even for a couple of days. These changes in your routine cause tiny tears in your muscle fibres and connective tissues, but a well-nourished diet rich in vitamins will aid recovery.
Selenium for recovery
Selenium is highly valuable in muscle recovery, and a deficiency can result in extreme fatigue. Selenium also regenerates vitamins C and E. We already know how important vitamin C is for normal functioning but its role in the health of blood vessels means it supports our muscles' needs for oxygen and nutrients. It also helps reduce the amount of cortisone produced by the body when under stress. Excess cortisone will decrease the body's testosterone levels, shifting your body into a catabolic state where muscles are used for fuel.
Vitamin E for recovery
Similarly, without adequate vitamin E, cells cannot repair properly after damage, as it's essential in the rebuilding of the plasma membrane. The tearing/repairing process in muscle growth is natural but vitamin E facilitates that repair element preventing cells from dying, which can lead to muscle wasting diseases over long periods.
Vitamin A for recovery
While vitamin E can enhance athletic performance by better helping the body utilise oxygen, vitamin A optimises the body's ability to use protein and encourages the synthesis of new protein: essential for speedy muscle repair and recovery.
Sometimes it can be a struggle to eat enough and to juggle all the essential vitamins used in muscle growth. Ensuring you're getting enough selenium and vitamins A, C and E will help you stay at the top of your game. Taking a quality natural supplements such as a high quality multivitamin will ensure that your body is getting the levels of vitamins it needs, laying a great foundation for your muscle building recovery.