By: Mo Ferris, BS human food and nutrition, Applied science in culinary arts, MS nutrition and wellness
As athletes, we pound the pavement, attack the climbs, live for the next WOD or do drop sets and super sets. We may have at a time or two contemplated the phrase “no pain, no gain” or perhaps “pain is only temporary, quitting is forever”.
Pain or no pain, the wear and tear on our muscles and joints during moderate to high intensity exercise causes inflammation. To add insult to injury (pun intended), the huffing and puffing that goes along with cardio workouts generates more unstable oxygen molecules, aka free radicals, which fuel inflammation further.
A little acute inflammation is a good thing. It is the body’s natural response to an injury and a necessary part of the healing process. For athletes, a little acute inflammation actually may be a very good thing. Research shows it not only repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue, but it is positively linked to promoting training adaptations as well.
But when acute inflammation becomes chronic, health risks, disease and injuries ensue. The shift from acute to chronic inflammation turns those positive training adaptations into delayed healing, delayed progress and diminished performance.
In addition to training, other factors like job or marital stress, insufficient sleep and genetics can add up to even more inflammation. But, deciding what to eat offers an opportunity to contain the flame.
There are foods or components of foods that act as direct causal factors of inflammation and those that are modifiers or regulators. Direct triggers for inflammation include trans fats, saturated fats, high glycemic carbohydrates (low fiber or refined carbs like white rice, potatoes and instant oatmeal) and too many omega-6 fatty acids (corn, soybean and safflower oil) compared to omega-3 fatty acids (ground flaxseed, avocado, nuts and salmon). Most notably, sugary foods and highly processed and packaged products induce inflammation as a result of proteins and fats chemically reacting or combining with sugar during food processing.
Eating Clean removes many of these pro-inflammatory foods from the equation and replaces them with the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ones found in un-or minimally-processed foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
As athletes we bring enough added inflammation upon ourselves by training hard. Also, lets not forget the countless energy gels and sugar laden beverages endurance athletes must turn to during the times that calorie quantity trumps quality. These are just two of the many reasons why, it becomes even more important for athletes, especially, to Eat Clean and choose nutrient dense whole foods over inferior food-like products at every opportunity. Oh, and the same goes for choosing whole foods for their anti-inflammatory/antioxidant potential over supplements. A growing body of evidence is now indicating that the high dosage or the matrix of some antioxidant supplements may do more harm than good when it comes to training adaptations and athletic performance.
So when it comes right down to it, Eat Clean in 2015 to contain the fame.Elite Health Services, located in Old Greenwich, (and now Westport!) CT is a world-class provider of certified functional manual physical therapy, personal fitness, golf & triathlon performance training, massage therapy and wellness related services. Our team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals take a no-excuses approach to providing exceptional care and delivering exceptional results. To learn more visit www.EliteHealthServices.