For years, athletes have turned to supplements for performance and recovery. But some athletes have recently discovered the recovery benefits of turmeric. If you’ve ever completed a tough workout, you know all too well the pain and stiffness that can occur several hours afterward. It’s known as ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ or DOMS. The stress of overworking your muscles triggers an inflammatory response and that well known pain. Curcumin (the active constituent of Turmeric that gives it its distinctive yellow color) has proven to be beneficial in recovery from exercise due to its powerful antioxidant and inflammatory effects.
Inflammation is your body’s response to stress, including physical stress like strains or over-worked muscles. This response is part of your body’s natural healing process and isn’t always a bad thing. After a tough workout, inflammation responds by healing the “damage” to the tissues you just worked. This is a good thing, since working out causes micro-tears in your muscles, and the healing that inflammation provides is what helps with muscle growth.
However, repetitive physical stress, like working out without taking a day off, tough practices, or long hours spent in the gym can lead to the release of free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to your cells along with exhaustion, muscle degradation, being more prone to injuries, and even aggravate chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Curcumin may help reduce the inflammation and pain caused by a tough workout. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant, and antioxidants help to remove those damaging free radicals. Some studies have shown just how beneficial turmeric can be for athletes. One such study found that muscle soreness and damage was reduced after an intense workout when subjects took curcumin.
Another study also found that curcumin supplementation can decrease exercise-induced oxidative stress. Researchers in a small study even found a reduction in psychological stress during exercise when supplementing with curcumin. Participants reported feeling less stressed during training days even though their Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) was the same as the placebo group.
The results from these studies suggest that turmeric has the potential to be very beneficial in the recovery process following a particularly demanding workout.