The athlete is constantly challenged for high level performance and this demand challenges both body mechanics (Biomechanics) and body chemistry (Biochemistry). The presence of Allodynia (pain that occurs in response to a stimulus) and Hyperalgesia (abnormally intense pain due to a painful stimulus) are clinical phenomena common among athletes of all levels and are responses that are profoundly influenced by nutrition and the body’s inflammatory state!
What Drives Inflammation??
Inflammation occurs after tissue injury and is also an integral part of the healing process. However, chronic inflammation represents a lack of healing and actually promotes ongoing damage. In the athlete, high level workloads promote the inflammation process and must be dealt with nutritionally. We are genetically adapted to consume a diet that consists largely of vegetation (fruit, nuts, vegetables) and animals that ate vegetation, which represents what is commonly referred to as a “Paleolithic” or hunter-gatherer diet. Several dietary imbalances result from the consumption of our modern diet that promotes a Pro-inflammatory state such as excessive omega-6 fatty acid intake, inadequate potassium, magnesium, and phytonutrients. Additionally, the popular “Mediterranean Diet” reduces inflammation as it focuses on consumption of fish, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and select whole grains.
*Insulin Resistance or Syndrome X – this is a pre-diabetic state otherwise known as Metabolic Syndrome and consists of elevated blood sugar, triglycerides, reduced HDL levels, elevated BP and waist circumference > 40” for men and >35” for women.
*Free Radicals – Otherwise known as Oxidative Stress, this mechanism of inflammation is implicated in the development of numerous conditions of “body breakdown” or oxidation (body rust).
*Omega 6 Fatty Acids – Omega 6 fats drive inflammation and common foods that have elevated ratios of omega 6 fats/omega 3 fats are Grains (20:1), Seeds (70:1), Chicken (17:1) and Grain-Fed Meats (6:1). Grains have severely high omega 6 ratios leading to inflammatory conditions and even worse, they contain lectins, gliadin and an acidic pH – all of which promote inflammation!!
*Potassium, Magnesium, Dietary pH – Acidic pH is a significant promoter of progressive bone loss and sarcopenia (muscle wasting) and acid forming foods such as grains, eggs, dairy and red meats elevate inflammatory changes in the body. Magnesium deficiency influences inflammation and deficiencies lead to compromised mitochondrial function (energy driver of life), tissue hypoxia (reduced oxygen and nutrient in tissues), oxidation (body rust) and elevated Substance P – pain signals to the brain. Potassium deficiency can lead to impaired glucose utilization and subsequently glycogen stores in skeletal muscle (critical for endurance athletes!) and an acidic pH! Obvious deficiencies are muscle weakness, pain and cramping.
Foods that promote anti-inflammation need to be the staple of the athlete’s dietary regimen if injury, pain and nagging repetitive soft tissue stress are to be minimized. Fruits, Vegetables, nuts, potatoes, Fresh Fish,Wild Game, Grass/Pasture Fed Meats, Omega 3 Eggs, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, spices such as Ginger, Turmeric, Garlic, Oregano and Cumin should be consumed. Pro-inflammatory foods such as refined grains, whole grains, flour products, grain fed meats/eggs, most packaged and processed foods, fried foods, trans-fats and commercial salad dressings should be avoided at all costs.
While the average American has been estimated to have a 30:1 Omega 6:3 ratio (pure inflammation!), a favorable dietary ratio is considered to be less than 4:1 Omege 6:3 ratio with 1:1 being the goal!! Regular supplementation to support the anti-inflammatory process is typically necessary especially for the athlete and aging (>40) individual. A whole-foods based phyto-nutrient multivitamin/mineral formula, Magnesium (400-1000mg/day), EPA/DHA Fish oil (3-6 grams/day), Coenzyme Q10 (>100mg/day), Lipoic Acid (400mg/day), Acetyl L-Carnitine (1000mg/da), Ginger (1-2 grams/day), Turmeric (1-2 grams/day) and Boswellia (1-2 grams/day) is a solid regimen supporting the anti-inflammatory diet. This type of eating and supplementation will not only energize the body, reduce unwanted adipose tissue but will minimize inflammation, pain and recovery time from the unwanted and often avoidable repetitive stress type injury.
So go eat your Kale and Spinach and mix in some Garlic and Olive Oil with some Grilled Salmon for an anti-inflammatory, pain reducing cocktail!! Drop the inflammatory load and get the most from your training!!