And no, they are not protein, creatine or BCAAs, although each one of them is useful in the right form and in the right time. These three foods you won’t find in a vitamin shop and they do not come in the form of powder, except maybe one, but not always. Intrigued? Here they are – welcome your three best friends post-workout:

  1. Turmeric
  2. Cabbage
  3. Pineapple

Surprised? Then let’s learn more about their use.

When you train, and this is especially true for strength training, you force your muscle fibers to twitch under more stress than they are used to. This causes the fibers to tear and get inflamed. Inflammation is a natural state of any damaged tissue, and just like the damage itself, inflammation needs to be reduced to speed up recovery. While proteins and amino acids (which form the proteins) are essential for muscle repair in order to restore its full potential and even get it growing, there are other types of proteins that directly reduce inflammation thus boosting the recovery process. Turmeric, cabbage and pineapple are great in reducing inflammation and have many other health benefits too.

Pineapple contains a powerful enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain breaks down food proteins. It is also anti-inflammatory and has anti-cancer properties, which make pineapple a valuable addition to the diet, especially post-workout, because training also increases the rate at which free radicals are produced in the body. What makes a pineapple even more appealing is its low calorie content (50 kcal per 100g fresh fruit), despite the really high content of nutrients. It has both soluble and insoluble fiber, which help regulate digestion and blood cholesterol. It is full of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, and can provide you with almost the entire Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of the essential vitamin. In addition, it has other antioxidants like vitamin A and beta-carotene, but in small quantities. Many people are afraid of eating a lot of fruit due to high sugar content. But it is not the sugar in fruit that makes us gain weight in the first place, it is an unbalanced and processed diet. Eating a whole pineapple (medium size) at least once a week is a common practice for me. I am not even afraid to have it as my late dinner. Although if you have poor glucose tolerance or digestion, I wouldn’t advise eating fruit late at night and on its own. It is better to include some fat and protein with it, such as a handful of nuts to slow the absorption of sugar. Bottom line: pineapple is a very healthy fruit that should be included in everyone’s diet (unless there are contraindications or allergies), especially if you are involved in strenuous activity.

Cabbage may come as a surprise for many. Most of us have probably heard that this healthy low-calorie vegetable also helps prevent and fight cancers due to the presence of sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinole – phyto-chemicals with very potent antioxidant properties. But this is not the end of the good news. Cabbage is believed to be anabolic, which means that it actually aids in building muscle and other tissues in the body by preventing the muscle destruction (catabolic process). Cabbage also provides you with over 50% RDA of vitamin C (per 100g), while vitamin C reduces inflammation, prevents infections and is also anti-aging. It also has plenty of vitamin K, essential for strong and healthy bones. The presence of other vitamins and minerals makes cabbage a desirable vegetable on your plate. Try eating it raw, pickled and lightly sauteed for the best benefits. Things to consider: you might want to not stuff yourself with cabbage if you have thyroid problems or bloating issues. And remember to start slow when introducing new foods into your diet or increasing the amount of the existing foods.

Turmeric has long been used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine that is about 5,000 years old of not more. Turmeric is a natural pain-killer due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is also anti-microbial and anti-flatulent (hint: cook your cabbage with turmeric). Its phyto-chemical content is antioxidant and anti-tumor, it plays a huge role in cancer prevention. Turmeric can also lower bad cholesterol and detoxify liver, which is important given our modern lifestyle and environment, full of chemicals and pollutants. It is incredibly high in iron and manganese, and is a great source of B vitamins, especially B6. The taste of turmeric can be something you will need to get used to, but if you do, it is a great addition to the post-workout shakes and smoothies. If you decide that it is too much, than adding it to soups, curries and roast vegetables can be a good option. Some people even drink turmeric in teas. It is your choice what form to use. Remember to start it slow or you risk putting yourself off this wonderful herb as it can be very intense in its taste.

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