Intense workouts and all out game day plays tear your muscles and lead to inflammation in the body. Most athletes experience achy muscles several days after exercise which is a sign of micro tears in the muscle tissue. These tears activate the immune system resulting in swelling and inflammation. This type of inflammation is good to an extent since it helps your body repair and build larger muscles.
Chronic inflammation that persists over a longer period of time from over training, eating a poor diet, having a weakened immune system, or a number of other causes is a bad type of inflammation. This type breaks down muscle tissue, further weakens the immune system, and increases the likelihood of illness and susceptibility to disease. A high inflammatory state in the body, whether short term or long term, can decrease aerobic capacity and affect athletic performance.
Nutrition plays a critical role in decreasing inflammation and decreasing recovery time to help improve athletic performance. The first step is to get rid of foods that trigger inflammation and are low in nutrient value. Foods high in saturated fat and trans fats are top offenders and include fried foods, ice cream, sausage, bacon, red meat, chips, butter, whole milk, pizza, baked goods, and full fat cheese.
Unsaturated fats are healthier for the body but could also lead to inflammation as well. We must obtain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from our diet and keep each in balance to prevent inflammation. A typical American diet has a ratio of 20:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, triggering chronic inflammation in the body. To correct this differential, athletes should be eating less corn and soybean oils often found in packaged foods. They should increase their intake of fish, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts to create more of a balance.
Highly processed foods and sugar are also inflammatory foods. Examples include white bread, sweetened cereal, fruit snacks, cookies, high fructose corn syrup, white rice, frozen meals, soda, and candy. These foods should be replaced with quality nutrient carriers such as beans, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, whole grain bread, and oatmeal.
Other added ingredients to avoid include artificial coloring, artificial flavors, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and hydrogenated oils.
Other foods you should eat regularly include avocado, broccoli, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, olive oil, green tea, onions, spinach, tomatoes, turmeric, fish, and berries.