Tag Archives: inflammation

Soothe Those Achy, Breaky Muscles

1 May

Soothe Those Achy, Breaky Muscles

Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

Do you have trouble with sore, achy muscles? Do you struggle with excessive soreness after exercise? Do you have difficulty warming up those “cranky” areas? Even marginal tightness or a minor tweak to your muscles can distract your focus and disrupt the way you move. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before your quality of life and performance are negatively impacted—or worse, you sustain a more serious injury. Heck, sore muscles—or the thought of getting sore—may keep you from participating in the activities you love altogether.

According Sage Rountree, a sports coach specializing in athletic recovery, some muscle soreness is a normal side effect of strenuous exercise activity; however, certain types of soreness can be a more serious warning sign1:

Soreness

With that in mind, if you typically and consistently experience symptoms on the “Warning Side” of the table above, it may be best to visit with a medical professional and/or qualified fitness professional.

When it comes to sore muscles, the great news is that you don’t just have ignore them altogether (i.e., “rub some dirt on it”) or become a slave to them. In fact, there are simple, yet significant proactive steps and recovery techniques that you can implement to help reduce muscle soreness—both before (i.e., preventative) and after the fact.

First, it may be important to point out that acute muscle soreness is caused by microscopic tears between muscles and the surrounding tissues. (Not, as you’ve likely been led to believe, lactic acid build-up.) These microtears, which, in the “right amounts,” are an important part of the strengthening and rebuilding processes, lead to acute inflammation. In other words, to effectively deal with sore muscles, it’s important to properly manage inflammation.

  • Balance your fats. Increasing your consumption of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats (e.g., freshwater fish, fish oil) and subsequently decreasing your intake of industrial vegetable oils (e.g. soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower), which are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats2 and found on the ingredients list of nearly every packaged food, is one of the single-most important things you can do to better manage inflammation.3
  • Consume more anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients. In addition to freshwater fish and fish oil, there are a number of foods that contain anti-inflammatory compounds: avocados, blueberries and other berries containing anthocyanins, coconut oil, cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale), tea (e.g., green, white, oolong, rooibos), cocoa, papaya, pineapple, hot peppers, red wine, turmeric (curcumin), basil, thyme, cloves, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon.
  • Remove inflammatory foods. Food intolerances can stimulate an inflammatory response and act like slow-burning systemic inflammation. These are distinct from true food allergies, and the following is a list of “probable suspects”: grains, dairy, soy, shellfish, FODMAP-containing foods, nightshades, histamine-containing foods, food additives and preservatives, processed sugar, artificial sweeteners, tree nuts, and peanuts. This is not to say that everyone will have a problem with all of these foods (or any of them); however, it’s simply meant to point out that these foods (some of them otherwise “healthy”) could contribute, and using a food journal could be helpful to identify any individual triggers.
  • Get your gut in order. The gut is more than a digestion center and what you eat (or don’t) can have a significant impact on overall wellbeing and performance. Probiotics (i.e., friendly gut bacteria) perform a variety of very important functions, and of importance to this conversation, they help regulate the immune system, produce anti-inflammatory chemicals, and down-regulate pro-inflammatory molecules. Foods that are rich in probiotics include fermented foods like plain yogurt (with live cultures), kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and kombucha.
  • Eat more building blocks. Over time, joints stiffen and muscle goes bye-bye. This, to some degree, is determined by exercise (i.e., physical activity), but nutrition also plays a crucial role as it provides the basic components (e.g., amino acids) of tissue rebuilding. Along these lines, it’s crucial to boost your intake of lean protein, which provides critical amino acids. Furthermore, research shows that specific amino acids (especially leucine, one of the BCAAs) may be especially important for muscle recovery and strength as folks get older.4 Taken together with above recommendations, a vanilla-blueberry protein-chia seed—cinnamon protein smoothie made with kefir sounds like a great post-round option!
  • Recovery exercise and massage. In a 2003 review study, researchers from Auckland University found that, amongst all treatment factors including massage, anti-inflammatory drugs, stretching, homeopathy, ultrasound, and more, “exercise is the most effective means of alleviating pain” when experiencing muscle soreness.5 In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers found that 10 minutes of active recovery exercise (performed with resistance bands) was just as effective as massage treatment in relieving muscle soreness.6
  • Epsom salt baths. Magnesium helps relax muscles, and magnesium deficiencies are amongst the most common nutrient deficiencies. Taking a magnesium-based Epsom salt bath can help restore magnesium levels and help sore muscles recover.
  • Sleep. One of the most important recovery techniques that you can begin to emphasize is getting plenty of quality sleep, as sleep debt has been shown to hinder muscle recovery.7 While consistently getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night would be ideal, even increasing your sleep time by 30 – 60 minutes can make a difference in promoting muscle recovery (not to mention myriad other health, body composition, and performance benefits).

As you can see, there are many factors well within your control that can aid in preventing and reducing muscle soreness. Even better, by helping your body better manage inflammation (aka the “silent killer”), you’ll also be improving your overall health, feelings of wellbeing, and vitality to boot!

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References:

  1. Rountree SH. The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery: Rest, Relax, and Restore for Peak Performance. Boulder, Colo: VeloPress; 2011.
  2. Bosma-den Boer MM, van Wetten M-L, Pruimboom L. Chronic inflammatory diseases are stimulated by current lifestyle: how diet, stress levels and medication prevent our body from recovering. Nutr Metab. 2012;9(1):32. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-32.
  3. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother Bioméd Pharmacothérapie. 2002;56(8):365-379.
  4. Casperson SL, Sheffield-Moore M, Hewlings SJ, Paddon-Jones D. Leucine supplementation chronically improves muscle protein synthesis in older adults consuming the RDA for protein. Clin Nutr Edinb Scotl. 2012;31(4):512-519. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2012.01.005.
  5. Cheung K, Hume P, Maxwell L. Delayed onset muscle soreness : treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Med Auckl NZ. 2003;33(2):145-164.
  6. Andersen LL, Jay K, Andersen CH, et al. Acute effects of massage or active exercise in relieving muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. J Strength Cond Res Natl Strength Cond Assoc. 2013;27(12):3352-3359. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182908610.
  7. Dattilo M, Antunes HKM, Medeiros A, et al. Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2011;77(2):220-222. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2011.04.017.
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Thermodynamics: a Calorie is NOT a Calorie

4 Apr

Thermodynamics: a Calorie is NOT a Calorie

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

While I would certainly agree that energy balance plays a predominant role in weight loss and weight gain,  I do not agree that the quality of one’s food choices does not make a difference. A calorie-based approach to weight loss — strictly referring to the quantity of calories and not the quality — is not the most effective or efficient way to reach your weight loss goals.

While I could offer an off-the-wall example of consuming 2,000 calories a day from pure sugar versus the same number of calories from carrots, that is not applicable real world. However, there is strong data to suggest that simply replacing calories from carbohydrates with an equivalent amount of protein is enough of a stimulus to promote improved body composition.

As a matter of fact, researchers at the University of Illinois assigned women to either a high-carbohydrate diet or a high-protein diet, both with the same overall calorie intake. After 10 weeks, both groups lost weight while dieting, but the high-protein group — which simply replaced some calories from carbohydrate with protein — lost more weight overall and nearly double the amount of body fat.

Not only does a higher protein intake yield greater weight loss, more importantly, it results in more fat loss and retention of more calorie-burning lean muscle mass. What’s more, the high protein group had improved levels of blood triglycerides and reported greater satiety throughout the course of the 10 weeks of dieting. The scientists concluded with the following:

“This study demonstrates that increasing the proportion of protein to carbohydrate in the diet of adult women has positive effects on body composition, blood lipids, glucose homeostasis and satiety during weight loss.”

While empirical evidence suggests that rising obesity rates parallel the increase in consumption of processed foods, another group of researchers from the Ponoma College Department of Biology set out to see if there was a difference in the thermogenic response to eating whole foods versus processed foods.

These researchers found that both the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) — the primary contributor to your metabolism — and the TEF of eating whole foods is significantly higher than eating the same number of calories from processed foods. The TEF of the whole food meal was nearly double that of the processed food meal, which was comparable to the processed food meal in overall energy, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

Participants burned 50% more calories after eating the whole food meal. What’s more, the participants that consumed the processed foods experienced a drop in their metabolic rate below their RMR in the hours after the meal, while the whole food group never fell below their RMR. The whole food group also experienced an elevation in metabolism an hour longer after the meal than the processed food group.

If that’s not enough convincing information, a recent study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has shown that regular consumption of processed junk foods — implicated in all manner of health problem — is the biggest dietary driver of tissue inflammation. The study, recently published in the PLOS ONE online journal, analyzed inflammatory responses in rats fed different diets: control diets, a lard-based high-fat diet and a “cafeteria junk-food” diet consisting of nutrient-poor snacks such as salami, chocolate, cookies and chips.

Lead researcher Liza Makowski stated, “The rodents that ate the junk-food diet gained the most weight and displayed tissue inflammation.” The scientists were particularly interested to find a specific metabolite in the junk-food eaters that could spur as much inflammation as toxins in certain bacteria. “This metabolite could be the signal that starts the snowball effect of inflammation leading to metabolic syndrome,” Makowski says. This can result in obesity and high blood pressure, and is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

While the research correlating food additives — from artificial sweeteners to dyes to preservatives — is in its infancy, researchers are investigating this connection every day to help point a finger to a causative relationship.

One very common food additive with which many of us are familiar, MSG, has already been linked to obesity in research. Researchers that collected data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey concluded, “MSG consumption was positively, longitudinally associated with overweight development among apparently healthy Chinese adults.”

Researchers have also made connections between artificial sweeteners and weight gain. In one study that recently appeared in the scientific journal Appetite, scientists compared the effects of feeding rats yogurt sweetened with either sucrose (i.e., table sugar) or the artificial sweeteners saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low®) and aspartame (Equal®) on body weight and total caloric intake. The researchers found that, compared to sucrose, the addition of the artificial sweeteners to yogurt resulted in increased weight gain, despite similar total caloric intake among groups.

Do you still believe that a calorie is a calorie, or that weight loss is simply a matter of pure thermodynamics? Put these take-home points to use right away to optimize your metabolism, overall health, and weight loss efforts:

  • Increase your protein intake and reduce your overall carbohydrate intake.
  • Focus predominantly on whole foods, or what we call one-ingredient foods.
  • Reduce or completely eliminate processed foods.
  • Reduce or completely eliminate foods with additives, like artificial sweeteners and preservatives.

References:

Layman DK, et al. A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2003 Feb;133(2):411-7.

Barr, S., Wright, J. Postprandial Energy Expenditure in Whole-Food and Processed-Food Meals: Implications for Daily Energy Expenditure. Food and Nutrition Research. July 2010. 2(54), 144-150.

Sampey BP, et al. Metabolomic profiling reveals mitochondrial-derived lipid biomarkers that drive obesity-associated inflammation. PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e38812.

He K, et al. Consumption of monosodium glutamate in relation to incidence of overweight in Chinese adults: China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS). Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jun;93(6):1328-36.

Feijó Fde M, et al. Saccharin and aspartame, compared with sucrose, induce greater weight gain in adult Wistar rats, at similar total caloric intake levels. Appetite. 2013 Jan;60(1):203-7.