Eating almonds daily helps to recover before exercise

A randomized controlled trial published in ‘Frontiers in Nutrition’ demonstrates daily consumption of almonds produces a change in metabolism reducing inflammation and oxidative stress from exercise and allowing the body to recover more quickly after physical activity.

Specifically, it produces an increase in the amount of the exercise recovery molecule. This molecule, called oxylipin (oxidized fat), is synthesized from linoleic acid by brown adipose tissue, and has a beneficial effect on metabolic health and energy regulation.

The key, the polyphenols of the almond skin

Corresponding author David C Nieman, professor and director of the Appalachian State University Human Performance Laboratory, North Carolina Research Campus, noted that “volunteers who consumed 57 grams of almonds a day for a month before a single exercise session ‘weekend warrior’ volunteers had more of the beneficial fat 12,13-dihydroxy-9Z-octadecenoic acid (12,13-DiHOME) in their blood immediately after activity than did control volunteers.” They also stated to feel less fatigue and tension, greater leg strength and less muscle damage after exercise than control volunteers.

“We conclude that almonds provide a unique and complex blend of nutrients and polyphenols that can favor metabolic recovery after stressful levels of exercise. Almonds contain large amounts of protein, types of healthy fats, vitamin E, minerals, and fiber. Y the brown skin of almonds contains polyphenols that end up in the large intestine and help control inflammation and oxidative stress,” says Nieman.

Four weeks of daily intake of almonds

The clinical trial involved 38 men and 26 women aged between between the ages of 30 and 65, who did not engage in regular weight training. Approximately half were randomly assigned to almond diet group, and the other half to the control group, which ate a daily cereal bar with the same calories. The researchers took blood and urine samples before and after the four-week period of dietary supplementation.

Performance measures included a 30-second Wingate anaerobic test, a 50-meter shuttle run test, and vertical jump, bench press, and leg-back strength exercises. Additional blood and urine samples were taken immediately after this 90 minute session of “eccentric exercise” and daily for the next four days.

After each blood draw, the participants filled out the ‘Profile of Mood States’ questionnaire (POMS) to quantify their mental state and rated their delayed-onset muscle soreness — that is, the pain and stiffness they feel after unusual or strenuous exercise — on a 10-interval scale.

As expected, the 90-minute exercise elicited an increase in self-reported sensation of muscle damage and muscle soreness, as well as an increase in the POMS score, which indicated a decrease in self-reported vigor, and an increase in fatigue, anxiety and depression.

The exercise also caused a transient increase in proinflammatory cytokine levels as IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, and MCP-1 in the blood, consistent with minor muscle damage. However, these changes in cytokines were the same in the almond and cereal bar groups.

Differences in two concentrations of DiHOME

It is important to note that, immediately after exercise, the concentration of the beneficial 12,13-DiHOME was 69 percent higher in the blood plasma of the almond group participants than in control group participants. 12,13-DiHOME is known to increase fatty acid transport and uptake by skeletal muscle, with the overall effect of promoting post-exercise metabolic recovery.

The reverse pattern was found for another oxylipin, the slightly toxic 9,10-dihydroxy-12-octadecenoic acid (9,10-diHOME), which was 40 percent higher immediately after exercise in the blood of the control group. than in the almond group. Unlike 12,13-DiHOME, 9,10-diHOME has been shown to have negative effects on general health and the body’s recovery from exercise.

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