Calling Fitness Aficionados
fanatics 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 cardiosupporting
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.
Cambridge biotech company Igennus, has formulated a range
of clinical-grade supplements which 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.