Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ginger Helps You Recover From Hard Training

Picture by Robin from Flickr
You've trained really hard leading up to your goal race. All the intervals your coach made you run (bike or swim), you've managed to go under the target times. You're ready to kick ass in the race. Alas, you catch a cold just before your race. You may not even make it to the starting line let alone clock a personal record. Sounds familiar?

Well, join the club, I've fallen sick more than once just prior to a key race after training real well before the race. All because I'd trained too hard and not recovered sufficiently.

It's been well established that moderate exercise helps your immune system get stronger, making it you less likely to fall sick. Hard exercise (like an interval session or a really long run) compromises your immune system temporarily until you recover. Hence, it's common to come down with a cold or a sore throat when you're training hard.

Now, new published research suggests that ginger helped with lowering inflammation markers in runners. The researchers studied a group of well trained runners for 12 weeks. They were young (average age 23), lean (average 1.72 m and 143 lbs), fit (average Vo2 max 67) and used to training hard.

All the runners did the same hard training in the whole 12 weeks they were studied. After 6 weeks, they did a treadmill run to exhaustion starting at 10 % gradient. Pace and gradient increased every three minutes to they could run no more. Straight after the run, the researchers measured 3 types of cytokines (markers of inflammation).

As expected all the runners had elevated levels since they'd been running hard. Half the group of runners were given 500 mg of powered ginger three times a day (in a pill that didn't taste or smell like ginger) while the other runners were given a placebo.

After another 6 weeks of hard training, the runners did another similar treadmill test to exhaustion. The difference this time between the runners' cytokine levels was striking.

Runners in the placebo group had cytokine levels 32 % higher than their first treadmill test, suggesting that this group of runners' immune system were shot to pieces by the bouts of hard running. This would increase their chances of an upper respiratory tract infection - just as they would be ready for their races (after 3 months of hard training).

The runners who had been ingesting ginger had cytokine levels 18 % lower than their first test, suggesting that their immune systems had actually gotten stronger, lessening their chances of falling ill prior to racing.

The researchers concluded that ginger's anti inflammatory properties had helped the runners. Ginger's effects mirror those of anti inflammatory medications, minus the side effects of course.

If only I had known earlier .....

For those of you still training and racing, a cup of stronger ginger tea contains about 250 mg of ginger, or it is widely available in capsule or powder form.

* The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger has been known, valued and used for centuries. Ginger contains active phenolic compounds (gingerol, paradol, shogoal) that have anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-imflammatory, anti-angiogenesis and anti-atherosclerotic properties.


Zehsaz F et al (2014). The Effect of Zingiber Officinale R. Rhizomes (Ginger) On Plasma Pro-inflammatory Cytokine In Well-trained Male Endurance Runners. Cent Eur J Immunol. 39(2): 174=180. DOI : 10.5114/ceji.2014.43719.

Halia O (or ginger tea without milk)
*Picture by mizie0o0 from Flickr

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