Muscle Recovery, Diet and Supplements

By Jen Dieter, MPT, DN-Cert, CF-L2

Muscle Recovery, Diet and Supplements

As we push our bodies after a hard workout in the gym or after a challenging session in physical therapy,
it is important to give your body the appropriate tools for muscle recovery. Some of the areas to be investigated in order to improve our recovery can include food, supplements, proper hydration and weight loss.

Muscle recovery can be achieved through diet and supplements. JOI Rehab

Man Resting Post-Workout or Muscle Recovery

Food for Recovery

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

In regards to food and recovery, the most important thing is to find a healthy diet and stick to it!
Anti-Inflammatory Diet is proven to be beneficial. To fight inflammation go for whole unprocessed foods with no added sugar such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, a little bit of low-fat dairy, and olive oil. Here are some good examples:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale and collards)
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna and sardines)
  • Fruits (cherries, strawberries, blueberries and oranges)
  • Nuts (almonds and walnuts)

Whole Food Plant Based Diet

A Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet was associated with a significant reduction in pain compared to an ordinary omnivorous diet, with statistically significant pain reduction seen as early as two weeks after initiation of dietary modification.

Supplements to Aid Recovery

There are a wide variety of supplements on the market. My favorites to help achieve an anti-inflammatory response and muscle recovery include:

  1. Curcumin
  2. Fish Oils
  3. Magnesium

They can assist the body in acting as a natural anti-inflammatory that can combat the inflammatory process, assist with muscle soreness and pain relief.

Lady with a healthy diet taking her supplement. JOI Rehab

Woman with a Healthy Meal and taking Supplements


A 2017 study by Hewlings and Kalman published in the journal Foods concluded that, “curcumin can help in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions… and may also help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness…” [2]

A study by Peng and coworkers, published in 2021 in the journal Drug Design & Therapy, examined curcumin’s effects in a variety of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and psoriasis. The investigators concluded that, “curcumin has good anti-inflammatory properties, and curcumin regulates NF-κB, MAPK, AP-1, JAK/STAT and other signaling pathways, and inhibits the production of inflammatory mediators.” [3]

Shep and colleagues published in the journal Trials in 2019 and compared curcumin and diclofenac treatment in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Because many OA patients struggle with the side-effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the investigators sought to explore curcumin as a natural alternative. They found that, “Curcumin has similar efficacy to diclofenac but demonstrated better tolerance among patients with knee
OA.” [4]

Fish Oil 

The average health adult should take between 3500-4000 mg of EPA/DHA daily. The omega 3 long-chain fatty acids, DHA and EPA, offer substantial health benefits for a variety of conditions. They are especially known for their anti-inflammatory effect as it relates to neurologic, cardiac, and orthopedic disease, but another goal of taking high-dose DHA/EPA is for control of the hormone insulin which has tremendous metabolic role in diabetes and weight

Fish oil is the best source for DHA/EPA. In order to meet this recommendation for daily DHA/EPA, refer to the label showing the # of mg contained in each soft gel or teaspoon. For instance, a typical 1000 mg fish oil capsule contains 120mg DHA and 180 mg EPA totaling 300mg DHA/EPA. In order to get a does of 1500 mg DHA/EPA, you would need five 1000mg fish oil capsules. Many health food stores and mail-order companies offer more concentrated omega3 per doses which allows you to take fewer capsules or less liquid. (5)


Magnesium is another electrolyte mineral that is involved in proper muscle function, plus over 300 other reactions in the body. It works along with potassium to support proper muscle function. Magnesium is essential to muscle relaxation. It activates the sodium-potassium pump to bring potassium back into the cells.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of magnesium is 350 mg for men and 280 mg for women. The daily average intake is between 143 mg and 266 mg, resulting in a deficiency is most people. Without magnesium, potassium will not re-enter the cells and the muscles cannot relax. Magnesium has been shown in many clinical studies to positively impact diseases of the heart muscle, like cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, which both involve a decreased efficiency in the pumping action of the heart muscle. (6)

Weight Loss for Muscle Recovery

A healthy weight loss program can assist recovery, in the gym and in the physical therapy setting. For every pound of weight lost, there is a four-pound reduction in mechanical load exerted on the knee during daily activities [7]. Weight loss of 15 pounds has been shown to reduce knee pain by 50% in overweight individuals with arthritis [8]. With the above diet recommendations, an exercise regime developed for you by your physical therapist or athletic trainer, you will be on the right track to achieve the weight loss results you want!

Written By: Jen Dieter, MPT, DN-Cert, CF-L2

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[5] Dr. Jeff Jaqmein, Baptist Primary Care San Jose Nutrition Recommendations
[6] ; Stacey Littlefield,
Chief Formulator, Redd Remedies
[7] S. P. Messier, D. J. Gutekunst, C. Davis, and P. DeVita, “Weight loss reduces knee-joint loads in
overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis,” Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 52, no. 7,
pp. 2026–2032, 2005.
[8] S. J. Bartlett, S. Haaz, P. Wrobleski et al., “Small weight losses can yield significant improvements in
knee OA symptoms,”Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 50, no. 9, supplement, p. S658, 2004.

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