Athletes have been turning to almonds when they want to benefit from the performance and recovery benefits. However, there’s also more to this simple nut than meets the eye. Researchers say that these are also beneficial to those who are about to embark on a new workout routine. The anti-inflammatory benefits of almonds will help with muscle soreness and fatigue especially after a one-off hard-core session at the gym.
Apparently, regularly snacking on almonds can ease pain and stiffness after doing intense exercise, especially when you aren’t used to this type of activity. This was according to a small study published on January 9 in Frontiers in Nutrition.
Researchers noticed that those who had 2 ounces (oz) of almonds each day for a month had more of a recovery-boosting fat found in their bloodstream especially after just one session of hard exercise. They compared this to those who had a cereal bar that contained a similar amount of calories.
Even more so, “They also reported feeling less fatigue and tension, better leg [and] back strength, and decreased muscle damage after exercise than control volunteers,” said David C Nieman, DrPH. He is a coauthor of the study, a professor, and the director of the Appalachian State University Human Performance Laboratory at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. He recently spoke about this in a press release.
Almonds Or Cereal Bars for Recovery
There were 64 study participants involved, 38 men and 26 women. They were aged 30 to 65 and all of them did not do weight training regularly. The study made was a randomized controlled trial. This meant that the subjects were randomly placed into one of two groups: first was a group that ate 2 oz of almonds every day, and the second was a control group who asked to take a daily cereal bar that had the same caloric count.
A single exercise session was 90 minutes long. This included a Wingate anaerobic test. This involved an all-out 30-second sprint on a stationary cycle against resistance, a 50-meter shuttle run test, a vertical jump, a bench press, some and leg-back exercises for strength.
After that, they took blood and urine samples from the participants right after they exercised. This went on every day and for the four days after. Each had been rated for their delayed onset muscle soreness (often referred to as DOMS), or the pain and stiffness they felt after doing something they weren’t used to do.
Those Who Had Almonds Felt Less Fatigue and Tension After
As the researchers had expected, the hour and a half of exercise brought about feelings of muscle soreness. They also felt a decrease in energy and an increase in fatigue.
Some lab work was done and the results showed that both groups had temporarily higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines found in their blood. This meant that there was minor muscle damage for them, but for the group that had almonds, they also showed a higher concentration of the recovery-boosting fat 12,13-DiHOME. This was, in reality, 69 percent more than those belonging to the control group.
Moreover, those who had almonds showed 40 percent lower levels of the mildly toxic fat called 9,10-diHOME in their blood. This fat, when present, is known to have a negative impact on the person’s overall health and the body’s recovery from exercise. All these were noted by the authors.
Almonds – Filled with Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients and Antioxidants
All in all, those who had almonds also had lower post-exercise fatigue and muscle damage. When inflammation and oxidative stress caused by strenuous exercise lowers, the nuts seemed to help those who needed recovery do it faster.
“We conclude that almonds provide a unique and complex nutrient and polyphenol mixture that may support metabolic recovery from stressful levels of exercise,” Dr. Nieman said.
Why do almonds help? These nuts are high in protein, healthy types of fats, vitamin E, minerals, and fiber. The brown skin covering also contains substances such as polyphenols. These help keep inflammation and oxidative stress in the large intestine at bay, Neiman explained.
As for the polyphenols, these belong to a class of compounds that are available in plant food, as per the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center at Colorado State. Most polyphenols function as antioxidants when they are ingested and they are able to protect the body against environmental harm like UV damage and pollution. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and soy are also high in polyphenols.
“These findings are very interesting and supportive of the anti-inflammatory benefits that almonds can provide,” says Julia Zumpano, RD. She is a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. People know that almonds contain polyphenols, which is why these have been reputed for their anti-inflammatory and cell protective benefits, she also said.
Limitations of the Study
The study has limited because of the participants. They needed a bigger group. More importantly, they also needed to research more just to further confirm what they saw, said Zumpano.
The research fund came from the Modesto-based Almond Board of California. The Almond Board is an organization that aims to promote the nut via marketing, funding, and promoting studies that focus on the health benefits that come with it.
It must be noted that the board doesn’t have anything to do with the study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation, manuscript preparation, or decision to submit the article to be publicized, said the authors.
Also, this study only looked into almonds. The other nuts hadn’t been considered yet. Similar levels of of polyphenols are also in hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and pistachios, to name a few. The highest is still walnuts, according to a study in the journal Food & Function.
Zumpano also said, “All nuts have slightly different nutritional profiles. We know that almonds are high in mono-unsaturated fat and polyphenols which are likely the cause for the positive outcome. If you want to maximize the benefits, I would suggest sticking to almonds or walnuts instead of other nuts.”
Making Room for Almonds
There’s no denying that almonds are full of nutrients. It also must be known that these are calorie dense, with 165 calories per 1 oz serving, as per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Now, the question is: is it possible to anyone to eat enough almonds to enjoy the benefits that come with it as what the study found?
“It is possible for an average person to consume 2 oz (57g) of almonds per day,” or about 46 almonds for a total of 328 calories, said Zumpano. It must be noted as well that the common “weekend warrior” may not exercise as intensely as the subjects in the study. Hence, they may not go through the same benefits if they don’t what the participants had done, she added.
The two servings of almonds each day need be built into the person’s daily food plan and caloric intake in order to avoid those extra and unneeded calories, explained Zumpano.
“I would suggest they replace another snack, food, or beverage that has a similar caloric makeup — ideally, replacing a processed food or beverage, such as the cereal bar used in the study,” she added.