Best way to recover from an intense workout? Eat a handful of these every day

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Feeling sore and beat up after a rigorous workout can make the next day or two more difficult to get through. Scientists recommend eating more almonds for gym rats who work out regularly. New research reveals that “weekend warriors,” or people who do their most strenuous physical fitness on the weekends, experience a much easier recovery if they eat almonds every day.

The nutrients in almonds increase a fatty molecule called 12,12-dihydroxy9z-octadecenoic acid (12,13-DiHOME) in the blood. The molecule is created from brown fat (the good fat) tissue and is important with energy regulation and metabolism. One of its jobs is to enhance the transport of fatty acid and its uptake by skeletal muscle, which stimulates metabolic recovery after exercise.

“Here we show that volunteers who consumed 57g of almonds daily for one month before a single ‘weekend warrior’ exercise bout had more beneficial 12,13-DiHOME in their blood immediately after exercising than control volunteers,” says David C. Nieman, a professor and director of the Appalachian State University Human Performance Laboratory at the North Carolina Research Campus, in a statement.. “They also reported feeling less fatigue and tension, better leg-back strength, and decreased muscle damage after exercise than control volunteers.”

The authors recruited 38 men and 26 women between 30 and 65 to take part in the trial. None of the participants did regular weight training. Half of the group was randomly selected to eat 57 grams of almonds every day for one month. The other half ate a calorie-matched cereal bar. Blood and urine samples were collected before and after the four weeks. People were then asked to participate in the following exercises: a 30-second Wingate anaerobic test, a 50-meter shuttle run test, a vertical jump, a bench press, and leg-back strength exercises.

Blood and urine samples were also collected for this 90-minute workout regimen and then everyday for the next four days.

Each time blood was taken, participants filled out a questionnaire to measure their mental state. They also self-rated their delayed onset muscle soreness—pain and stiffness after strenuous or unaccustomed exercises—from 1-10.

The participants reported feeling more muscle damage and muscle soreness after the 90-minute exercise. They also experience less vigor and more fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Blood samples showed the workout also boosted the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the blood, which is associated with minor muscle damage. However, there was no difference in cytokine levels between the almond and cereal bar group.

There was a difference in the production of 12,13-DiHOME between groups after the exercise. The study authors observed a 69% increase in the fatty molecule in the blood samples of people in the almond group versus the control group.

Another difference was in the levels of another molecule called oxylipin. It is a mildly toxic derivative of 9,10-diHOME and was 40% higher in people in the control group. Unlike 12,13-DiHOME, the oxylipin derivative has been associated with interfering with the body’s ability to recover after exercise. The study suggests that eating almonds daily changes your metabolism, potentially by decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation, which allows the body to recover faster.

“We conclude that almonds provide a unique and complex nutrient and polyphenol mixture that may support metabolic recovery from stressful levels of exercise. Almonds have high amounts of protein, healthy types of fats, vitamin E, minerals, and fiber. And the brown skin of almonds contains polyphenols that end up in the large intestine and help control inflammation and oxidative stress,” adds Nieman.

The new study is published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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