Curcumin - Best Supplement for Muscle Recovery?


Refueling with curry after a hard workout? 

A recent study (  looked into the often touted effects of consuming Curcumin (a key nutrient of turmeric) on DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

DOMS is the pain you feel in your muscles for a few days after a hard workout. It’s a result of a combination of (i) micro-tears in muscle tissue, (ii) oxidative stress and (iii) inflammation caused by a hard workout. While at first glance all 3 may sound “bad”, they are the key to your body adapting and becoming stronger / more resilient. This happens as your body takes steps to “repair those tears, produce antioxidants to combat oxidative stress, and divert resources to the area to reduce inflammation”

It’s good for you to know how each of these 3 steps actually works, but I’ll keep it simple:
- Micro-tears are repaired using amino acids (the building blocks of protein), which you obtain from protein consumed (as food or supplements)
- Combating oxidative stress comes from anti-oxidants produced by your body or from food / supplements too
- Reduction of inflammation: your body diverts white blood cells and nutrient-rich blood to the area to combat inflammatory markers 

Recently, I wrote a post about antioxidants ( More and more research is coming out supporting the claim that “consuming too many anti-oxidants – especially from supplements – can actually hamper your ability to get stronger / fitter after a workout”. This theory is that “giving your body anti-oxidants from external resources discourages it from producing its own, and also reduces mitochondrial efficiency (this has been shown to be the case especially with Vitamins C and E).

HOWEVER, based on the study I’m linking to here, Curcumin acts differently: it is not an anti-oxidant itself, but rather “encourages your body to produce its own anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories”. As such, while you’re “repairing muscle & inflammation faster than normal, you’re not likely to suffer from the negative effects associated with anti-oxidant supplementation”.

Results of the Study
 Evidence of lower inflammation, faster recovery, less perceived pain and DOMS in Curcumin group vs. placebo

Limitations of the Study
- 3 of the 8 scientists associated with the Curcumin supplement company used
- The “hard workout” used to test consisted of 45min “hard downhill running”, so no test on weightlifting or other exercises
- Curcumin-group subjects “pre-loaded with Curcumin”, so we don’t know the impact of cycling Curcumin or taking it only after hard workouts
- Results were assessed over 48 hours post workout, so we don’t know the long-term effects

Finally, a word of caution: the Curcumin content in turmeric and curry dishes doesn't come close to the "concentrated" content in the supplements used in this study, so no, eating a big curry dish post-workout won't have the same effects...