Should Athletes Use Ginger and Turmeric for Recovery?

by | 11/08/18

Studies Show Promise in Ginger and Turmeric’s Ability to Reduce Pain Associated with Inflammation and Exercise

Competitive athletes, and even those who partake in frequent training for sports or fitness, often look for ways to optimize performance. Although the benefits of exercise are plentiful, it does place stress on the body. Chronic strenuous exertion can become a health concern, causing athletes to suffer or reduce training. Inflammation and muscle soreness are two leading consequences of challenging workouts, for which athletes often turn to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen. However, NSAIDS can cause uncomfortable side effects when relied upon regularly. Both ginger and turmeric have well documented anti-inflammatory effects – is it possible that athletes could benefit from incorporating these foods into their diets?

One of the common traditional uses of ginger is for the treatment of pain, and modern studies have found ginger to be an effective analgesic in diseases of inflammation, such as arthritis. Ginger has also shown promise in reducing the pain associated with exercise. In one placebo controlled study, both raw and heated ginger demonstrated a reduction in muscle pain, following exercise that induced both pain and inflammation.

Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, contains the compound Curcumin, which has been studied extensively for its anti-inflammatory properties, in the settings of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. One study examined the effectiveness of Curcumin in treating delayed onset muscle soreness, which is a symptom following muscle activity that is associated with inflammation and oxidative stress. In a placebo-controlled design, Curcumin or a placebo was administered to the study’s volunteers prior to and following a downhill running test. At the conclusion of the trial, the volunteers in the Curcumin group reported less pain and had less evidence of muscle injury than those who received a placebo. Another study examined the antioxidant potential of Curcumin by administering Curcumin either before or before and after strenuous exercise. Compared to a placebo, both Curcumin groups demonstrated higher antioxidant concentrations, which can assist in reducing the oxidative stress of workouts.

I certainly appreciate the value of pharmaceuticals and encourage anyone making significant diet changes to discuss these with a medical provider, but there is plenty of evidence for athletes to consider using both ginger and turmeric as a safe or non-NSAIDS way to reduce pain and inflammation and improve their training capacity.

Here are a few of my favorite uses of The Ginger People products for athletes:

  • To rehydrate and re-energize after a workout, mix a Ginger Rescue Ginger Shot with cold water and a dash of Himalayan sea salt. (To reap the benefits of both ginger and turmeric, use the Wild Turmeric flavor.)
  • Ginger Rescue Chewable Ginger Tablets provide an easy, on-the-go source of ginger. (The Mighty Mango flavor is extremely tasty.)
  • Ginger Juice and Minced Ginger are pantry staples – ideal for blending into a post-exercise protein shake.
  • Turmeric Latte Mix is delicious when made following the package instructions – a soothing evening drink. I also love using it as a spice blend to add to overnight oats, roasted sweet potatoes or toasted nuts – all of which help fuel my workouts.

Alexandra Rothwell Kelly is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters in Public Health, currently residing in San Francisco. She received her undergraduate degree from New York University and completed her graduate studies at Mount Sinai. Alexandra has several years of experience in oncology nutrition at the Tisch Cancer Institute in New York and has performed clinical research in integrative medicine and health technology. She conducts individualized nutrition and lifestyle counseling with a focus on general wellness, chronic disease prevention and cancer survivorship.