Fitness enthusiasts are forever looking for ways to ensure they remain injury-free which means keeping their joints supple so that they can forge ahead with their gruelling exercise regimes. Some opt for pain-relief gels to ease muscle during and after workouts but it’s only a short-term fix. If we think of the body as an engine which needs fuel to be powered and maintain performance, then we need to address our diets.
Athletes and coaches alike often underestimate the extent to which nutrition affects the health and performance of the human body. Encompassing a complex set of physiological processes, the body relies on food for many of these processes to take place. Take, for example, fruit and vegetables which our mothers implored us to eat when we were children. Eating raw food is imperative to guarantee a regular supply of enzymes which are vital for several thousand enzyme conversions in the body, including helping to regulate processes such as food absorption, energy release, hormone production and even muscle strength and endurance as well as many other essential functions.
Undergoing vast amounts of exercise puts a great deal of strain on the body; factoring in the endless hours which athletes invest in training, it’s important to protect the body from damage caused not only by the wear and tear that pushing the body to the limit causes to our joints, but also inflammation and oxidative stress which result from intense aerobic exercise.
Clinical research studies on top athletes have suggested a link between intense exercise and oxidative stress, as the body struggles to detoxify free radicals whilst the engaged muscles metabolise oxygen at up to 200 times the normal rate, and up to 20 times the normal rate over the whole body. Not only has research has found that oxidative stress is increased after strenuous training, but also direct evidence of lipid damage, according to biomarker indications.
Inflammation is another burden for people who endure large amounts of training – indeed most time lost during recovery periods after sustaining an injury is as a result of excess inflammation in the weight-bearing joints. Often an uncomfortable time in which the athlete is likely to experience a great deal of pain, stiffness and swelling, recovery periods can be frustratingly long and inconvenient for the enthusiastic or competitive athlete. It’s important however, that injuries are left to fully heal and recover before intense training resumes. Going back to exercise before the recovery process is over can exacerbate the problem and cause chronic inflammation, which can eventually lead to loss of joint function. There are, thankfully, other ways to speed the healing of joints injuries and sooth the stiffness and aching caused by inflammation – and it’s only a case of adapting what we eat.
A very necessary but often neglected ingredient from our diets is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid called omega-3. An increasing body of research now points to the importance of consuming omega fatty acids as part of the daily diet, most notably the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (or EPA). Renowned for its brain-boosting and cardio-supporting properties, EPA has wide-ranging benefits to health.
In particular, EPA has many joint-healing properties. Modern eating habits, however, have lead to an imbalance of dietary fatty acids which have brought about significant repercussions to our health. Too many short-chain omega-6 fatty acids in the diet (most commonly in the form of vegetable oils) relative to omega-3s, results in the excessive production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines – substances which cause inflammation. Encouragingly, however, scientists have found that supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids decreases the production of the inflammatory substances, indicating that these good fats have a protective effect. EPA actively inhibits the production of these inflammatory substances by competing with the omega-6s for the enzymes responsible for the production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids which relieve inflammation and pain.
Crucial for speeding up recovery time post-injury, EPA has properties which directly contribute to the healing of ligament injury; indeed it is reported to promote cell migration, metabolism, growth and repair of wounded tissue. EPA is also linked with increasing the rate at which collagen is synthesised, thus helping to support healthy renewal of skin, tendon, bone, cartilage and connective tissue.
Most importantly for athletes, EPA neutralises the effects of free radicals in the body, thus helping to guard against oxidative stress resulting from strenuous exercise. Indeed recent studies measuring oxidative stress parameters indicate that omega-3s are potent free radical-scavengers, protecting the human body from overall damage caused by oxidative stress.
Our clinical-grade supplements are used widely by medical practitioners from a variety of disciplines for a range of ailments. Vegepa, a patented formulation of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, provides highly concentrated EPA and virgin evening primrose oil to promote vitality, strength and endurance by improving the cardiovascular system, encouraging mental stamina and countering the effects of free radicals. We have also formulated OmegaFlex – a supplement formulated specifically for athletes to reduce recovery time during injury rest periods. Containing a syngergistic combination of omega-3, -6 & -9 fatty acids and glucosamine hydrochloride, it encourages the renewal of damaged tissue, nourishes the synovial fluid and reduces inflammation.
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