Achieving muscle pliability requires more than just foam rolling. Yes, daily foam rolling is vital in reducing muscle tightness, aches, pains and movement restrictions. However, there is another key piece to the puzzle. The foods and beverages you put into your body affect your muscle quality more than you think.
Did you know that eating more fruits and vegetables can actually help to loosen your muscles and improve your muscle pliability? Some of the best muscle tissue I have felt as a physical therapist was in people who were committed to plant-based eating in some capacity.
INFLAMMATION & NUTRITION
The reason for that is inflammation. Inflammation is the name of the game when it comes to muscle recovery. Inflammation levels in your body will ultimately predict how your body will feel. Following a tough workout, practice or game, it is believed that inflammation build-up occurs as a result of cell debris and waste bi-product from micro-tears in the muscles. The immune system cleans up the inflammation and debris, and then signals the brain to begin the muscle rebuilding process.
When there is excess inflammation in the body from poor diet and other lifestyle habits, the immune system has more work to do in addition to repairing the skeletal muscles after a workout. Thus, the repair process is compromised, which can lead to prolonged muscle tightness and pain because the muscles are never fully recovered. Some other habits outside of your diet that can increase inflammation levels are increased stress, poor sleep, and lack of exercise.
At TB12 we recommend 80% of your diet be plant-based. Why such a high percentage? One of the major reasons why plants are helpful in reducing inflammation is because of phytonutrients. These special chemicals are only found in plants, and their job is to fight off bacteria, fungi and inflammation to help keep the plant alive. When humans ingest fruits and vegetables, they ingest the phytonutrients and are able to reap the same bacteria-fighting and inflammation-reducing benefits as the plant. So when your muscles are trying to recover after a tough workout, consuming more fruits and vegetables will help to reduce the inflammation in your body, allowing your muscles to recover back to their normal state. Some strong anti-inflammatory consumable plants include avocados, celery, spinach, kale, mushrooms and peppers.
HYDRATION & PLIABILITY
It's also difficult to be pliable if you’re not well hydrated. Our muscles are made up of about 75% water, so they will function better and recover faster if they are well hydrated. That being said, consuming a plant based diet can accelerate the muscle repair process because of the high water content in fruits and vegetables. Some popular plants such as cucumbers, watermelon, and tomatoes contain more than 90% water. In addition to their hydrating benefits, fruits and vegetables also contain important vitamins and nutrients essential for healthy, pliable muscle tissue.
THE ROLE OF ANTI-OXIDANTS
Most of us have heard the term anti-oxidants, but what are they really and how do they improve muscle pliability? Anti-oxidants are compounds in fruits and vegetables that work to attack and de-activate damaging, oxidizing agents, known as free radicals. These free radicals tend to damage healthy cells in our body which increases inflammation levels. Consuming anti-oxidizing compounds neutralizes the damaging charge on free radicals, and ultimately reduces inflammation levels. Foods such as blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, beets, bananas, carrots, and broccoli are all rich in anti-oxidants. Consistently integrating some of these foods into your diet can make a big difference in your muscle quality.
On the flip side, you can diminish muscle pliability and increase pain by consuming pro-inflammatory foods. Some of the usual suspects you want to steer clear of are added sugar, fried foods, gluten, processed foods and alcohol. These foods can vastly increase your blood sugar, alter gut bacteria, and increase inflammation levels which then leads to poor muscle recovery. A treat every now and then is okay, but avoiding these on a daily basis will reduce inflammation, pain, and tightness. Other factors such as exercise, hydration, sleep, stress, and mindset are also major predictors of inflammation levels and muscle pliability as well, which is why the TB12 Method is a holistic approach. There isn’t just one thing, but a lot of things that allow you to feel and perform your best.
You can find some great TB12-approved recipes on our Playbook blog.