Do you have a painful shoulder?
Do your wrists hurt?
Carpal tunnel syndrome an issue?
Have you pulled a muscle?
What about tendonitis, does it come and go?
Is Tennis elbow getting you down?
Does your neck get stiff and painful?
How about foot and ankle pain?
Do you get frequent leg cramps?
What about muscle spasm?
What about shin splints?
Achilles tendonitis, is it your weakness?
Have you ruptured your Achilles tendon?
Does your low back give you fits?
Have you had a nagging injury that you are trying to ignore?
Has an injury or an over-use syndrome got you down?
Rest, Ice and Elevation not relieving your aching joints?
Are your Muscles persistently sore and painful?
Do you have an old joint injury that flares up now and again?
If so, you are not alone
No matter your level of participation or degree of expertise – YOU are an athlete.
All Athletes, whether casual or professional, are at risk for sporting related injuries.
People have different reasons why they exercise.
A lot of people are trying to lose weight, while others are trying to maintain their fitness.
Many are focused on heart health, high blood pressure or their blood sugar.
All around fitness and well-being is the goal for the truly devoted.
Some are into competitive sports where improving performance can pay off.
Still others are just having fun.
Finally, a select few make a living playing their favorite sport.
Can we prevent injuries?
Yes, many are preventable, but some are not.
A lot of people view injuries as cases of “Bad Luck”, freak accidents or just part of the game.
Athletes, by design, push themselves to extremes that “couch potatoes” only see on TV.
Exercise, also by design, puts Stress on our bodies.
Our bodies grow stronger as we endure Stress but it can cause problems as well.
A quick definition and explanation:
Stress – a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.
Think of stress as something that exceeds a given tool’s limits. [Our Bodies are essentially tools]
A Few Analogies:
You need your car to get around but if drive too fast or too carelessly or text while driving your auto will encounter “stress” in a special way – a collision.
A minor wreck may not even damage your bumper [little stress] but a “full speed rear-ender” can send you shopping for a new vehicle [BIG stress].
Using a shovel with a wooden handle. If you’ve had the privilege of digging a ditch you have heard the creak and groan of exceeding the shovel’s capacity [stress].
If your shovel is small enough and the dirt hard enough you may have broken its handle [big stress].
My third example involves unintended stress. Imagine you are a boxer and you’ve lucked out – a title fight with Mike Tyson.
If you are well trained, in perfect condition, and skilled in the arena of boxing you may escape with a bad headache and the beginning of your Van Gogh Halloween costume.
However, if you are like me [not a big fan of getting punched] and not particularly well trained – you may find yourself in the hospital, or worse.
These three examples are analogous to our efforts.
We are reckless at times and pay the cost. This can be from not taking care of ourselves – drinking too much, not eating enough [or too much] or playing too much.
Often, we are merely doing “work” and exceed our limits. This can be from working too much without proper rest and relaxation – not re-charging our batteries.
Finally, we can put ourselves in situations where we encounter outside stress beyond our intended experience – sports or exercise.
All three examples can easily be applied to today’s topic –Avoiding Injuries.
How can we fortify our bodies against stress and injury?
Put Simply – Full Spectrum Nutrition
Let’s review what nutrients we MUST have for optimal Health
The Essential Nutrients
Remember, by definition, a nutrient is considered “Essential” when its absence leads to symptoms or put another way – to achieve ideal health it must be present in your body.
Our food, ideally, should supply these “Essential” nutrients.
However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that you cannot “get everything you need from the four food groups”.
It is my firm opinion that we MUST supplement our diets to achieve optimal nutrition and ideal health.
Our “Essential” Nutrients are easily divided into four groups:
Oils and Fats
Each of these categories supplies Key nutrients to our health.
Optimizing or fine tuning each group will help us endure the stress and strain of exercise.
If you have inadequate nutrition you are at increased risk of injury.
Here’s a good overview….
VITAMINS [some important points]
Vitamin C is very important for the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and joints.
Often painful joints improve with vitamin C alone.
Tendons can rupture due to the lack of vitamin C.
Vitamin C “cross-links”/strengthens collagen – our major structural protein in bones, skin and muscle.
Athletes have increased needs for vitamin C.
Needs range from 2 grams to 8 grams per day.
I take around 6 grams a day, divided into 3 doses.
Vitamin C is 100% Non-toxic aka Safe, even large amounts.
Bowell tolerance or loose stools are seen with excessive dosing.
In animals that create their own vitamin C, they increase production when they encounter stress.
If you bruise easily, you are on the road to Scurvy – look it up.
We cannot make vitamin C – it must be in our diets.
Sugar depletes the B vitamins.
B vitamins help prevent fatigue.
B vitamins are necessary for optimal metabolism, performance and recovery.
Food sources are miserably low in B vitamin content.
Thiamin or B1 improves muscle function, including the heart.
B1 protects against pain syndromes and improves mental clarity.
Riboflavin or B2 also helps in energy metabolism.
Chapped lips are a symptom of a Riboflavin shortage.
Pyridoxine or B6 is crucial to muscle function.
Muscle spasm, asthma and carpal tunnel syndrome – B6 deficiency.
B12 is needed for proper energy utitilzation.
Many get “low blood pressure” if B12 is lacking [less than 120/80]
~ Vitamin E
Vitamin E is important for muscle function.
Muscle soreness is sometimes related to low vitamin E levels.
Vitamin E and Vitamin C collude – keeping cell membranes stable.
Vitamin E protects the heart and brain
Vitamin D is required for normal calcium metabolism.
Healthy bones depend on calcium and vitamin D.
Vitamin D can be made in your skin when exposed to sunlight.
With 30 minutes exposure your vitamin D is activated for 24 hours.
Activated, Vit D increases calcium absorption 10x for a full day.
~ Vitamin A
Vitamin A is important for healthy skin.
Dry eyes are an early indicator of a vitamin A shortage.
Vitamin A is important for intestinal health & proper absorption.
MINERALS [a few important ones]
Minerals: Many scientists believe there are 60 minerals necessary for optimal health.
On average, for each mineral deficiency there are 10 symptoms.
Calcium balance is crucial to health.
If calcium is missing there are dozens of problems.
Popping, creaking and cracking joints improve when calcium is optimized.
Low back pain is associated with a lack of calcium.
Twitching muscles indicate a calcium shortage or imbalance.
Insomnia is a key symptom of calcium’s deficiency.
Sleep becomes restorative when calcium is on the case.
Dark colas’ phosphorus rob calcium from our bodies.
Avoid phosphorus containing dark colas.
Magnesium is vital to muscle health as well as over 100 other bodily functions.
Muscle spasm can be caused by a shortage of magnesium [other culprits include sodium, potassium, calcium and B6 deficiencies.]
Magnesium can prevent bone spurring, kidney stones, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, asthma and even seizures.
Exercise induced asthma can be prevented and reversed with magnesium [with EFA’s and B6]
A lack of zinc leads to more infections – including acne and prostate problems.
Without enough zinc you can expect a reduced sense of smell.
Many with hair loss are short on zinc.
“Smelly tennis shoe syndrome” is the result of a zinc shortage. [no joke- there are no odor producing sweat glands on the feet].
Chromium deficiency can cause a “sweet tooth” or insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance can cause weight gain, especially fat, and eventually lead to diabetes.
Chromium can help prevent weight gain and actually improve muscle growth.
Elastic fiber maintenance in tissues, blood vessels, organs [including the skin] relies on copper.
Copper is needed for healthy bones, tendons, ligaments and joints.
“Stretch marks”, sagging skin and failing blood vessels are all indicative of a copper deficiency – including crow’s feet, varicose veins, hemorrhoids and aneurysms.
Joints function suffers when elasticity fails – making us more prone to injury.
~ Other minerals
Manganese, silicon, boron, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, vanadium, potassium, sodium and iron all have supporting functions as do a long list of trace minerals.
PROTEIN and AMINO ACIDS [CAN be optimized through Diet]
Most people are aware that protein is important to health.
Protein is essential to proper joint and muscle function.
The brain, heart and liver have high metabolic demands for protein and amino acids.
Some protein sources are better than others.
Foods sources include two key categories: Animal and Plant sources.
Animal proteins provide all 20 amino acids in balanced, proportional amounts.
I recommend animal protein as your main source.
Plant sources are famous for missing one or more key essential amino acids [Soy has very little methionine, an essential amino acid and Corn lacks tryptophan, also essential].
When any “Essential” nutrient is missing or deficient there will be symptoms.
It is worth noting that methionine, an essential amino acid, is important for healthy joints.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian be sure to learn about what vegetables to combine to better achieve the proper amino acid balance.
I’m not a big fan soy protein, but if you like it that’s ok; soy should be less than 25% of the protein you consume to avoid amino acid imbalance.
For the more serious fitness enthusiast a protein supplement is recommended to ensure ideal protein balance.
Which protein supplement is best?
I like whey protein and egg protein.
There are various products that are well tolerated and even taste great.
It is a personal decision about which one to get.
Some like different flavors or a convenient ready to drink liquid.
I like to keep it simple.
Probably the best source is the “whey isolate” version, but it is more expensive.
I use an unflavored product that has no additives or flavors that can be mixed with almost anything, just not hot liquids – curdling will occur.
Separate amino acid supplements can be of tremendous benefit.
Specific amino acids can help optimize function and performance.
l-Arginine, an essential amino acid, is good for the heart, helps circulation and improves endurance – it also works like a natural Viagra.
Arginine helps promote growth hormone production – aiding in recovery
Arginine improves your immune system as well as preserving muscle mass.
l-Glutamine helps promote muscle recovery – reducing injury risk.
Glutamine helps keep the intestinal lining healthy – improving absorption.
Sugar cravings vanish with 2-3 grams of glutamine [as needed]
The liver relies on glutamine to function well.
Glutamine also balances acid in the blood.
GABA, in the brain- nature’s Valium, is made from glutamine.
Glutamine can help to beat obesity via muscle preservation and liver support.
l-Carnitine is good for muscles, especially the heart.
Cardiomyopathy improves with carnitine.
Carnitine improves energy levels and endurance.
Muscle loss is reduced with carnitine.
Carnitine reduces “lactic acid buildup” – less pain from the gain.
Carnitine is essential to burn fat [mitochondrial function]
Thyroid function is dependent upon carnitine.
Mental acuity is improved with acetyl-l-carnitine.
~Other important Amino Acids
The branched chain amino acids [BCAA’s] are important for serious weightlifters and bodybuilders.
Tryptophan or its supercharged sibling 5-HTP helps with sleep and depression.
Methionine helps joint function, improves depression as well as helping the liver.
OILS and FATS
Fat has a bad reputation.
In reality, what fat needs is a good publicist.
Excess fat does account for our undesirable weight.
The question is…”what” makes us fat?
The biggest culprits are carbohydrates or starches and sugar.
Carbohydrates are made from glucose – gathered into HUGE molecules called starches.
When we eat starches, especially in large amounts, insulin is produced and in short, the liver is directed to make fats – lots of it.
Back to the FATS….
~ The Essential Fatty Acids [EFA’s]
ω-3 fatty acids [Omega 3]
α-Linolenic acid or ALA (18:3)
ω-6 fatty acids:[Omega 6]
Linoleic acid or LA (18:2)
We have the EFA’s to thank for proper mental function.
Our muscles rely on the EFA’s.
Skin is dry and flaky without the EFA’s [Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis]
Asthma can stem from a lack of the EFA’s.
Our hearts depend on and thrive with the EFA’s.
Migraines are associated with a poor EFA state.
“Hang nails” are a thing of the past if your EFA’s are optimized.
Inflammation is relived with the EFA’s [Tendonitis, bursitis, sprains and pulled muscles]
Margarine aka Trans-fats or hydrogenated oils sabotage the EFA’s.
A little more explanation on fats and oils
The Omega 3 oils get the spotlight nowadays and are very important.
α-Linolenic acid or ALA
eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA
docosahexaenoic acid or DHA
Dietary sources include cold water fish like tuna, sardines or salmon as well as fresh vegetables, but it is difficult to get enough from diet alone, unless you are an Eskimo.
Other fats or oils are also instrumental to good health; saturated fats found in animal products [including butter] and coconut oil, some Omega 6 oils [Linoleic acid or LA and gamma-linolenic acid or GLA] and the Omega 9’s are all part of the healthy team of good dietary fats.
Omega 3’s should comprise around 3% of your daily calories – or 7-10 grams.
The Omega 3’s come from animal and plant sources; fish oil, krill oil and flax oil supplements.
I take a concentrated fish oil capsule along with flax oil capsules.
You can also get liquid versions or combination products.
Saturated fats are rendered harmless when adequate amounts of the omega 3 oils are present.
The omega 6:3 ratio is an interesting topic.
The ideal ratio is one omega 6 to one omega 3. [1:1]
If the proper ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 oils is not maintained
there will be inflammation.
The ratio would ideally be 1:1 but our American diet gives some awful numbers, 15:1 .
I’ve seen a report of 50:1
[remember 3’s are soothing where 6’s are inflammatory]
A proper omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is vital to avoid an inflammatory environment in the body.
Omega 9 oils, although not essential, help out by displacing the plentiful Omega 6 oils.
Olive oil is heat stable.
Corn, sunflower and safflower are loaded with Omega 6’s and break down when heated.
A quick Excerpt from PubMed
Biomed Pharmacother. 2002 Oct;56(8):365-79.
The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1.
The Vita-Nutrients: These are nutrients that are present in the body when it is at its best.
We can make them but not in optimal quantities, especially when we are under stress [physical or mental], and as we age.
Glucosamine/chondroitin with MSM is a popular mixture to give athletes an ideal blend of joint nutrients [I prefer the bovine version].
I don’t have joint pain, but I take it as a preventative measure.
I think every athlete should take glucosamine to help prevent joint damage.
People with joint pain almost always have reduction of symptoms within 2 weeks.
~ Co-Enzyme Q10
Co-Enzyme Q10 or CoQ10 is a vitamin like compound found in every cell of our bodies and is crucial to energy production.
The more you learn about it the more you’ll want to take it.
I think 100-200 mg per day is a good place to start.
Some health nuts [like myself] take more, 400-800mg per day.
CQ10 is 100% non-toxic.
There other Vita-Nutrients to consider like DHEA, pregnenolone and Adrenal Extract for the more enthusiastic supplement shoppers.
Take Home Message……….
We cannot get “Full Spectrum Nutrition” from foods alone.
We MUST to supplement our diets to get “Full Spectrum Nutrition”.
To achieve Optimal Health we need “Full Spectrum Nutrition”.
And as I always say….
To achieve optimal health we need Full Spectrum Nutrition.
Around 90 nutrients are considered ESSENTIAL.
These nutrients can be divided into 4 groups:
Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids [Protein] and Fats/Oils.
If Optimal Health is the goal, it is virtually impossible to get “everything you need” from foods alone.
To get full spectrum nutrition we ALL need to supplement our diets.
Supplements to consider:
1) Get a good multiple vitamin/mineral product. Versions with “Chelated” minerals are best. I also like those with some plant based vitamins.
2) Take a quality Calcium product. Look for MCHA as the calcium source and one that includes Magnesium, vitamin D and some assorted trace minerals.
3) Take Omega 3 oils. Flax oil is the best to start. Adding Krill or fish oil later [BTW – Krill oil in the container has a distinctive odor – if you place 3-4 desiccant packs in the bottle and refrigerate it, the odor is gone in 12 hours]
4) Find a good Colloidal mineral product for trace minerals. Make sure it’s from Humic shale and NOT ionic minerals. Humic shale is the “fossilized” remains of the dinosaur days. Plant based colloidal minerals are 98% absorbed.
5) Vitamin E is difficult to get in sufficient amounts from foods. I advise people to supplement with at least 400 IU per day.
Natural versions are best, look for “d-tocopherol” but avoid “d-l-tocopherol”- it’s the man-made version and is only 25% usable. Look for a vitamin E with mixed tocopherols that also contains selenium.
6) Try to find a Glucosamine Chondroitin and MSM product [bovine source is best] to protect your joints.
7)) Consider taking extra Vitamin C [products with rose hips also contain the Bioflavonoids from the natural C family]. I prefer capsules over tablets. Chewable versions can mottle teeth – not good.
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