What if you’re struggling with inflammation, but you want to gain muscle too? How can you make an anti-inflammatory diet a good match for building muscle?
- Muscle Development & An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Carbohydrates, Muscle Gain, And Inflammation
- Anti-inflammatory Diet For Bulking
Muscle Development & An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
“I’d really like to see something focused on nutrition and anti-inflammatory diets. My main goal would be to curate a sustainable anti-inflammatory diet that tastes good and supports strength training.
I saw in one of your recent posts that inflammation is one of the biggest contributors to stubborn belly fat, and that diet is one of the main ways to reduce inflammation. I haven’t yet identified a good resource exploring the intersection of lifting diets and anti-inflammatory diets. I’d love to see one.”
Matt makes some great points. There is next to nothing out there to combine an anti-inflammatory diet and lifting (except for our programs.)
While 100% of personal trainers I’ve seen are still droning on about calories in/calories out, the few people that I’ve seen online talking about chronic inflammation are 100% “health” focused and know nothing about the benefits of exercise and lifting.
What’s worse—the people who know that inflammation is the battle we’re facing today don’t seem to have much of an action plan to fix inflammation. They know what the problem is, but it seems that they don’t know how to solve it.
I’ve learned a ton through reading over 1,000 papers and experimenting on myself, and then teaching what I’ve found works to my clients over the past three years. And I’m *still* being surprised by new discoveries that impact organ health and inflammation every single day. Going deep down this rabbit hole of inflammation has led to coming across obscure facts. Such as how quickly the doctor clamped your umbilical cord affects blood delivery post-birth, affecting total blood amount and stem cell delivery, affecting blood pressure and organ “perfusion” with blood for optimal functioning, still affecting health markers several years later, with improved neurodevelopment and health status found at four years of age.
Already Inflamed? An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Will Naturally Help With Gaining Muscle
Back to Matt’s note, the ironic part is if you’re already suffering from symptoms of inflammation (acne, skin problems, hair loss, gut health issues), then no special intersection between an anti-inflammatory diet and a muscle-building diet needs to be made.
Removing inflammation through diet will naturally unlock your body’s ability to build muscle. You’ll get a much better return from your workouts. (I’ve even seen people gain modest amounts of muscle without exercise by removing inflammatory foods and adding nourishing ones in.)
Tendon Strength & Inflammation
For example, we need strong tendons to build strength. Tendon pain and tendonitis are linked to inflammation and insulin resistance.
Bone Density & Inflammation
Then we need strong bones to build strength. Bone density is linked to inflammation. (Because of poor digestion and/or the body requires magnesium or calcium from the bones to fight inflammation.)
Muscle Gain & Inflammation
Then we want to build more muscle. The ability to build new muscle is linked to inflammation.
Stubborn Fat & Inflammation
Then we want to get lean so that we look fit like an athlete. The ability to naturally and effortlessly become lean (with no pockets of stubborn fat) is linked to inflammation:
Carbohydrates, Muscle Gain, And Inflammation
I’m not a total idiot, though.
I take it that Matt knows that carbohydrates are huge for testosterone-boosting and muscle gain. Carbs make muscle gain so much easier because they help to generate ATP (oxygen gets paired with sugars), which helps our muscles contract, grow, etc.
The problem is that many people have a hard time digesting the most common types of carbs—leading to acid reflux and feeling tired or even nauseous after eating.
Easiest carbohydrates to digest
- Raw honey
- Baked fruit like apples, pears, etc.
- Overnight oats
- Ripe fruit
- Sourdough bread (many grains can be fermented, including corn and oats)
- Sprouted rice
- Cooked greens
- Maple syrup
But even something like sourdough bread can be hard to digest if you’re gut health isn’t on point. So improving digestion, adding in some nourishing foods like 100% grass-fed sweetbreads, liver, pancreas, etc., and getting more sunshine can help.
Hardest carbohydrates to digest
- White flour (easy to digest but drives inflammation through iron and unbalanced vitamin fortification)
- Whole grains that are unprocessed (whole grain wheat, corn, oats, rice—in that order)
- Brewers yeast, bakers yeast
- Unprocessed legumes (best to buy sprouted chickpeas, legumes, etc.)
- Nightshades are problematic for some people (potatoes, tomato sauce, etc.)
Anti-inflammatory Diet For Bulking
Eating more food during a bulk (slight calorie surplus) gives the body extra energy so it can not only run daily bodily processes but then spend the extra “cash” on muscle.
But it’s hard to eat more food when you’re already having trouble digesting a “normal” amount of food. How can you eat more food while still eating an anti-inflammatory diet?
- Eating less of the foods that make you feel sluggish and then eating more of the foods that make you feel energetic. Minimize common triggering foods, begin eating the most nutritious foods, etc.
- Common trigger foods include wheat, pasteurized dairy, eggs, and nuts.
- The least common foods to trigger reactions include meat, raw honey, fruit in general, etc.
- Take steps to improve your digestion. Improving your digestive capabilities will unlock the ability to eat more freely while feeling great. Get enough sunshine, avoid sources of nickel (stainless steel), drink clean water, sleep enough, etc.
- Eat more often. Try not to overload the stomach. Eat more often rather than eating bigger meals.
- Improve recovery. People talk about the importance of sleep, but when you’re wide awake at 2 am—or you can’t even get to sleep, to begin with—knowing the importance of sleep is torturous.
- Give your body a break. Your skin is an organ too, and it’s in a battle all day keeping bad things out. Skin and gut health are linked in research (called the Gut-Skin Axis). Taking care of one will take care of the other (and vice versa.)
There’s a lot more to be said about this topic, and we cover it all in our programs.