What’s your go-to after-workout snack? According to recent research, a handful of nuts, especially almonds, should be on your post-workout snack list. Treating yourself to a handful of almonds daily may help ease pain and stiffness after an intense workout if your body isn’t used to such exertion, according to a small study published on January 9 in Frontiers in Nutrition.
In the study, researchers found that people who ate 2 ounces (oz) of almonds each day for one month had more of a recovery-boosting fat in their blood after intense exercise than those who snacked on a cereal bar with a similar calorie content. Participants who ate almonds also reported less fatigue and tension, better leg and back strength, and decreased muscle damage after exercise than those who ate a cereal bar in place of almonds.
Almonds Versus Cereal Bars: Which Is Better for Recovery?
Sixty-four men and women between 30 and 65 who did not regularly weight train participated in the study. The participants were randomized into two groups. One group ate a cereal bar each day, and the other munched on 2 ounces of almonds daily.
Then they asked them to participate in a single exercise session lasting 90 minutes. The session consisted of a maximal effort 30-second sprint on a stationary bike, a vertical jump, a shuttle run, a bench press for the upper body, and lower body strength-building exercises. Right after the workout, researchers collected blood and urine samples and continued to do so for four days. The participants also rated their degree of muscle soreness each day.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the stiffness and discomfort you feel after a workout you’re unaccustomed to. DOMS usually sets in around 24-72 hours after the physical activity and can last for several days. The pain is typically described as a dull, aching, and tight feeling, which is most severe in the muscles that you worked hardest during the exercise. It’s more common and severe with eccentric muscle contractions.
The good news is that DOMS is a sign that your body is adapting and strengthening itself to withstand the activity you’re subjected to. It is also beneficial for increasing your muscle and strength gains over time, but it can make it hard to get around for a few days. DOMS is a normal physiological response to intense physical activity and does not necessarily indicate significant injury or damage to the muscles.
Almonds Reduced Fatigue and Soreness
The results? The subjects who ate almonds felt less fatigued and sore. All participants had elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines; chemicals released in response to muscle damage related to exercise. But the group who munched on almonds had higher levels of a fat that aids in muscle recovery.
Plus, there were other perks. Almonds reduced post-exercise fatigue and muscle damage in the group that ate them. Nuts appeared to speed up recovery by lowering inflammation and oxidative stress caused by strenuous exercise.
How Might Almonds Boost Muscle Recovery?
Almonds are one of the most nutrient-packed nuts out there. They’re high in protein, healthy types of fats, vitamin E, minerals, and fiber, and their brown skins contain substances called polyphenols that help control inflammation and oxidative stress.
Exercise triggers inflammation, and polyphenols can quench free radicals that contribute to muscle damage, soreness, and stiffness. Keep in mind this study was carried out on untrained people who didn’t exercise regularly. It’s unclear whether they would have the same benefits for seasoned exercisers.
Still, almonds supply plant-based protein for muscle recovery and muscle building, along with vitamins and minerals that support muscle growth and energy production. They’re a healthy snack at any time. Choose almonds with the skin still on rather than blanched almonds. The outer skin is higher in antioxidants than the nut itself, and also contains fiber.
Other Nuts May Have Similar Benefits
Although this study focused on almonds, the researchers in the study point out that the benefits may hold for other nuts. All nuts contain antioxidants and inflammation-fighting polyphenols. You can also feel good about eating a handful of nuts rather than a bag of chips.
Many studies show that nuts lower inflammation markers, making them an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet – and the polyphenols in nuts are only part of the explanation. Nuts also contain vitamin E, plant-based omega-3s, and fiber that have inflammation-fighting benefits. Plus, the magnesium in nuts may help in muscle recovery.
If you munch on nuts, wash them down with plenty of water. When you exercise, your muscles sustain physical stress and experience micro-tears, which leads to inflammation and soreness. Although it’s the subject of some debate, drinking water may help flush out metabolic waste products that accumulate in the muscles during exercise, like lactic acid. Drinking water will not prevent post-workout soreness but will help you work harder during a workout and speed up your recovery time.
Water is also essential for delivering oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, which are necessary for repairing and rebuilding damaged tissues. Dehydration can also impair your recovery and even increase your risk of injury by reducing blood flow to your muscles.
You should drink lots of water before, during, and after exercising if you want to feel your best. Remember, proper hydration is key to helping your muscles recover and perform at their best. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and negatively affect your mood.
Harnessing the power of almonds can be an effective way to maximize muscle recovery post-workout. They are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and various vitamins and minerals, which can help support muscle growth and repair. Eating almonds as a snack before or after a workout, or incorporating them into a meal, can help ensure that you get all the essential nutrients needed to achieve optimal recovery.
- “Eating Almonds May Help Muscle Recovery After Starting a New Workout Routine”. 2023. Www.Everydayhealth.Com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/almonds-may-help-muscle-recovery-after-starting-a-new-workout/.
- Daniel Machin. “Almond intake alters the acute plasma dihydroxy-octadecenoic acid (DiHOME) response to eccentric exercise”. 2023. Www.Frontiersin.Org. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2022.1042719/full%20?utm_source=fweb&utm_medium=nblog&utm_campaign=ba-sci-fnut-almonds-boost-metabolic-recovery-after-exercise.
- “9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Almonds”. 2023. Www.Healthline.Com. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-proven-benefits-of-almonds.