Every runner is familiar with the dual effects of pushing yourself a little harder than usual during a run. Right after your workout, you feel exhausted but great – even euphoric – but soon after you’re resigned to the couch, muscles aching with soreness, and held captive by bags of frozen peas.
That pain, which sets in after unfamiliar or high-intensity exercise, is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. Fortunately, a recent study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology may have unearthed an easy way to beat post-workout soreness.
That’s where curcumin comes in. Curcumin is an extract from the root of the curcuma plant. It’s also known as turmeric root and gives turmeric, a mainstay spice in classic Indian curry dishes, its characteristic yellow color. This extract has long been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for its anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and antioxidant properties.
In the study, researchers gave 17 men either an oral curcumin supplement (2.5 grams) or a placebo twice daily for two to three days. Next, participants were evaluated on how they responded after doing a single-leg press exercise designed to induce muscle soreness. Each participant served as their own control, since they were given either the curcumin supplement or the placebo at different time periods, but they never knew which one they were given.
The researchers found that curcumin supplementation caused a decrease in DOMS-related leg-muscle pain symptoms. Curcumin also lowered a blood marker for muscle damage and even reduced inflammation. These results imply that curcumin may help with muscle repair. Curcumin supplementation could offer runners a way to halt the negative effects of DOMS and lead to improved training and performance, along with injury prevention.
The study suggests that taking an oral curcumin supplement daily may help with muscle soreness, but you can also get the benefits of curcumin by using turmeric in your cooking. Try sprinkling it on roasted vegetables, adding a pinch to scrambled eggs, steeping it in tea, and, of course, stirring it into soups, stews, and curries.