Exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) is characterized by symptoms that present both immediately and for up to 14 days after the initial exercise bout.
The main consequence of EIMD for the athlete is the loss of skeletal muscle function and soreness. As such, numerous nutrients and functional foods have been examined for their potential to ameliorate the effects of EIMD and accelerate recovery, which is the purpose of many nutritional strategies for the athlete. However, the trade-off between recovery and adaptation is rarely considered.
For example, many nutritional interventions described in this review target oxidative stress and inflammation, both thought to contribute to EIMD but are also crucial for the recovery and adaptation process. This calls into question whether long term administration of supplements and functional foods used to target EIMD is indeed best practice. This rapidly growing area of sports nutrition will benefit from careful consideration of the potential hormetic effect of long term use of nutritional aids that ameliorate muscle damage.
This review provides a concise overview of what EIMD is, its causes and consequences and critically evaluates potential nutritional strategies to ameliorate EIMD. We present a pragmatic practical summary that can be adopted by practitioners and direct future research, with the purpose of pushing the field to better consider the fine balance between recovery and adaptation and the potential that nutritional interventions have in modulating this balance.