Why Turmeric Is My Workout Weapon of Choice These Day
One can never guess where the next super-powered supplement may come from. It may just be sitting in your spice closet, completely being underutilized compared to its full potential.
What if I told you that chances are good, you’ll find just that in your closet right now! A powerful antioxidant that can help you recover muscle strength much quicker, take acre of your skin health and do a few more wonders — Turmeric! That fact may surprise you, but bear with me and ill explain the what and why of turmeric.
So, you probably recognize turmeric, or curcuma longa, from your spice rack. Also known by its active compound, curcumin, it’s widely known for its bright yellow colour. It is made from the root of the turmeric plant, which is native to India and Southeast Asia. It’s one of the components of curry, but is also included on its own in many Southeast Asian dishes.
In addition to its culinary use, turmeric has a long-standing history in Ayurvedic medicine, and has been extensively researched for decades.
Could you add it to your sports supplementation to help with workout-related inflammation? We’ll take a look at some research to try and answer why it has become so popular with gym goers recently.
Let’s start with what most people are interested in: performance.
While we know that resistance training is the main tool to building lean muscle mass, the flip side is that when it’s done improperly or too much it can cause muscle damage that can negatively affect athletic performance. This is especially true when recovery periods are short, like when athletes prepare for an event (or when you try and get that summer body in May).
Damage to your muscles and tissues initiates inflammation, which is a vital and normal response of our body’s immune system to stress. While some inflammation can be good to help with muscle repair and adaptation (that’s how you gain strength), secondary muscle damage due to uncontrolled inflammation, particularly when eccentric (lengthening) muscle activity is involved, can cause many undesirable effects (Tanabe et all, 2019). These include decreased muscle strength and range of motion, swelling, and delayed-onset muscle soreness aka muscle pain and stiffness. Curcumin has received special attention because it is believed to behave the same way as anti-inflammation medication but with a less pronounced inflammatory effect, and its completely natural (McFarlin et all, 2016)!
In the cell, curcumin exerts its antioxidant effects by suppressing the molecules and pathways that are responsible for triggering the inflammation cascade. It is believed that improved inflammation control may translate to faster muscle recovery and enhanced functional capacity.
These observations prompted researchers to investigate whether curcumin could play a role in lessening the effects of muscle damage and inflammation caused by eccentric exercise (downhill running) in twenty healthy, moderately active males (Drobnic, et all, 2014). A European Journal of Applied Physiology study followed suit by conducting a more robust, double-blind, randomized-controlled design (Nicol et all, 2014). Both studies reported that consuming curcumin 2 days before to 3–4 days after exercise improved muscle pain and stiffness.
Collectively, these studies reported promising effects of curcumin use before and after exercise in reducing the side effects of muscle damage, but it is unclear whether the timing of intake may play a role in the proposed benefits. To answer this, a recent study by Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports earlier this year reported that curcumin ingested 7 days after exercise may contribute to faster recovery of exercise-induced muscle damage. An added bonus? Curcumin supplementation 7 days before eccentric exercise was shown to lessen inflammatory responses.
Our bodies get subjected to oxidative stress through many mechanisms, including exercise, unhealthy body composition, the environment we live in, and certain foods we eat. This type of stress can cause cell damage through the creation of free radicals, as well as speeding up the aging process.
Turmeric’s antioxidant properties help fight damage caused by oxidative stress. Studies have shown it to have many potential benefits, including improving blood flow and adding resilience to skin (Goel et all, 2008).
The curcumin in turmeric has antioxidant properties that can help combat skin irritations, and may even diminish acne scars when applied topically. Although full-scale investigations have yet to confirm this treatment, scientific evidence points to curcumin as a promising natural skincare remedy (Drobnic, et all, 2014).
So, all in all turmeric, and its main component curcumin can be very beneficial for you from several aspects, especially if you exercise. It can help you recover faster; it can help treat muscle soreness and stiffness, fight oxidative stress and in addition to all that help you get better skin! You should definitely consider putting it into your diet or supplemental regime. Consider a protein supplement that contains turmeric, or other products that help down it easier.
Goel, A., Kunnumakkara, A. B., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2008). Curcumin as “Curecumin”: from kitchen to clinic. Biochemical Pharmacology, 75(4), 787–809.