Some post-workout soreness for a day or so may be a small price to pay for keeping fit and strong, but what if a common kitchen spice could help reduce your pain costs even further? New research from the University of Georgia suggests that ginger can decrease muscle pain for up to 24 hours after resistance exercise.
Ginger has been shown to help reduce knee and hip pain in people with osteoarthritis and may also improve neurological and cognitive function. One likely reason is because it lowers inflammation of the capillaries that supply blood to the respective areas- the joints, neurons and brain. Researchers decided to apply this concept to the muscles by conducting a study to see if daily oral supplements of ginger could reduce muscle pain in the three days following resistance exercise.
Thirty four people were randomly assigned to receive 2 grams of either raw ginger or a placebo once a day for 11 days, and forty people were randomly assigned to receive 2 grams of heat-treated ginger or a placebo once a day for 11 days. Heat treatment was used because it has been proposed that heat may enhance the pain-relieving properties in ginger. The subjects did not know if they were receiving ginger or the placebo.
On Day 8, everyone did 18 repetitions (3 sets of 6 reps each) of the downward portion of a preacher curl. On days 9-11, the researchers measured biceps pain using scientifically-verified scales. On Day 9 (24 hours after exercise), those who took both raw and heated ginger had about 25% less pain than those who took the placebo. They continued to report less pain than placebo participants after 48 hours, although these results were not statistically significant. There were no discernible differences between the raw and heated forms of ginger, suggesting that ginger may be beneficial whether eaten raw or cooked as part of a dish.
It should be noted that the study was funded by McCormick, a major spice manufacturer that produces ginger. However, the results do support previous, unrelated findings that also suggest ginger’s inflammation-reducing and pain relief properties.
So, the answer to your post-workout soreness may already be on your spice rack. Even just 2 grams (or 1/14 of an ounce) of raw or cooked ginger a day might reduce your post-workout muscle pain. Make sure to take other steps, too: proper form, post-workout stretching, and adequate hydration will also help keep your pain in check.