Benefits of Turmeric and Athletes
Athletes are typically the first people to jump on any type of food trend that could potentially give them the cutting edge in competition. There is the gluten free movement, the paleo diet, sugar is your enemy – as are carbs. Then of course beet juice will improve your VO2 before, after and during competition – just to name a few. Vague scientific studies will promote the food trend and others will cry foul.
A trend I’ve been seeing a lot of recently, (that doesn’t seem to have people jumping on either side with emotion), are about the nutritional benefits of turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant and is the main spice in curry. It has a mild, warm and bitter taste and frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. But it’s the root of turmeric that is used widely to make medicine. It contains a yellow-colored chemical called curcumin. Curcumin is the source of the health benefits found in turmeric.
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The selling point for athletes and curcumin, are the claims of it being a miracle anti-inflammatory agent for muscles, reduces bruising and can even help with healing of sprains if rubbed into the skin. Delving into the science behind the benefits of curcumin led to some overly ambitious claims, as well as some legitimate ones.
One such study was the effect that curcumin had with a runners muscle fatigue in regards to running uphill and downhill. The study examined the effects of curcumin on inflammation and recovery of running performance following downhill running in mice. The mice were prescribed a dose of curcumin and assigned a regimen of running uphill, downhill and a run on a treadmill. What they found was that the muscle of the mice prescribed the regimen of downhill running with curcumin had both a decreased time to fatigue and run time. Whereas, the mice prescribed the curcumin for uphill running had no added benefits. The conclusion was that the “results support the hypothesis that curcumin can reduce inflammation and offset some of the performance deficits associated with eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.”
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Another study looked into how curcumin might help with muscle atrophy and recovery in rats. The rats were subjected to hindlimb immobilization for 8 days and allowed to recover for 10 days. Half of the rats were then injected with curcumin or a placebo. What they found was that curcumin did not reduce atrophy, but did increase muscle recovery. Conclusion of the study shows curcumin treatment improved recovery during reloading of muscles and may help facilitate the initiation of muscle recovery.
Neither study is a definitive conclusion that you need to turn your kitchen in the House of India and that curcumin is the miracle we’ve all been looking to find. However, the studies are promising and don’t show any genuine negatives to incorporating turmeric into your diet on a more regular basis. So my conclusion is “eat more curry!!!!”.