Inflammation can be good and bad. Inflammation is an immune system response to tissue damage; its purpose is to remove cellular debris from the site of damage. It’s not the devil as you need inflammation to help repair a damaged site whether it’s a hard workout or rolling your ankle from running. The issue with inflammation is preventing it from becoming chronic. Understanding what inflammation is could be the key to helping you reach your health and fitness goal quicker. However, it could be the reason you have stopped seeing results after trying numerous gym and nutrition programs.
There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic.
Acute Inflammation (good inflammation) is the natural response necessary response of the immune system. When you get injured (cuts and bruises, DOMS – Delayed onset muscle soreness, rolled ankle) or sick (allergic reaction) the body sends white blood cells to the area to repair the damage. This kind of inflammation is part of healing and is a natural bodily process in response to protect itself. Essentially, it’s the body protecting itself from invading pathogens.
Chronic Inflammation (bad inflammation) begins as a small overreaction to a stimulus. It occurs when there is too much damage done at a cellular level and or because of repetitive stress on a joint leading to overall muscle aches and pain. It is characterised by simultaneous destruction and healing of the tissue from the inflammatory processes – therefore, you might have constant back, knee or hip pain preventing you from constant inflammation not leaving the site which prevents you from doing certain movements in the gym which could be hindering your health and fitness goal. Chronic inflammation has been directly linked to autoimmune diseases (such as arthritis & allergies) and osteoarthritis. At the very worst chronic inflammation leads to insulin resistance (will go into further detail about this in the next blog) and heart or cardiovascular diseases. Inflammation is characterised by redness, pain when pinching skin, and some immobility issues, chronic inflammation leads to a loss of performance in the gym and your lifestyle.
What is the Cause of Chronic Inflammation?
- Excessive refined carbs and minimal amounts of fats.
- Constant amounts of nibbling on all those non-nutrient dense foods from office treats to general snacks can also cause inflammation. To heal inflammation, you must heal the gut and when there is an over consumption of sugary refined carbohydrates as the fiber and antioxidants are moved which alkalinize the body and all the good fats are removed, causing the body to consume foods which don’t help the body perform daily functions, causing you to feel tired, cranky and sleepy.
- Due to today’s fast passed modern society, there is a great demand for food companies to make vast amounts of food quickly. Therefore, in the process of doing this the company look for cheap, easy ways to make food quicker and make it last longer on the shelf. Due to this, the gluten molecule we constantly ingest today is more inflammatory than previous molecules used in bread produced 100s of years ago. The process has been stripped of many molecules, vitamins and minerals that the body cannot properly digest, on top of this extra sugars are added along with other chemical ingredients like preservatives, which are added to assist the crops in growing quicker than they should. This essentially blocks the digestive system from breaking down foods and give your muscles and cells the nutrients needed to build muscle or burn fat. A constant overfeed in these foods will prevent you from seeing results and could be the reason you have stopped seeing results.
- Free Radicals
- When you are inflamed, free radicals are introduced to the body and the cells. These free radicals damage cells and cause more inflammation to the site, preventing you from performing either daily activities or a certain movement in the gym which could give you more bang for your buck to help you gain muscle or loose fat. Free radicals are created by our natural everyday functions and play an important role in eliminating the weakest cell in the area to make better stronger cells, but too many impede the healing process as the body is overwhelmed with free radicals.
How it affects muscle growth
- Acute inflammation is a common response to training protocols and they can hang around for up to 48 hours’ post exercise. Muscles release protein molecules (cytokines) to decrease the amount of myostatin – a protein cell produced by myocytes that act on muscle cells which tell the body to stop producing these cells which reduces the amount of muscle growth. Chronic inflammation increases levels of myostatin impeding on your ability to grow lean muscle mass effectively/ take longer than you would usually expect to see results. Thus, leaving people angry, frustrated and stressed out about why sometimes they can’t see results even though they have been training hard and consistent 3-5 times per week.
Your diet and lifestyle either help manage or contribute to inflammation.
Key tips to reduce inflammation:
- Antioxidant-rich diet can be one of the best defences against inflammation.
- Eat strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. Antioxidants minimise inflammation because they target free radicals inside the body and inhibit the production of enzymes that cause irritation and pain. Antioxidants also help fight cancer, heal wounds and assist in lowering blood pressure. Generally known as the ‘Mediterranean diet’ such as lots of vegetables, healthy fats (avocados, olive oil & nuts).
- Focus on getting adequate omega 3 fatty acids.
- Get Omega 3’s from fish, plant foods (leafy greens such as broccoli, spinach, leek, green beans, Brussel sprouts), nuts (almonds, walnuts, macadamias (and protein sources. Omega 3s (found in fish oils) are known to play an important role in decreasing inflammation, they have some strong anti-inflammatory effects on the immune system.
- Gluten free To Remove Inflammation
- Gluten is a naturally occurring in wheat, barley and rye (usually found in bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits and alcohol). Gluten isn’t a diet fad. Gluten is a highly inflammatory food that irritates the gut and if the gut isn’t working properly then you won’t digest those essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to repair itself, grow and ability to lose weight.
- Get Moving
- Go for long slow light intensity walks 2-3 times per week for reducing muscle soreness, feel active, relieve stress and have a clearer mind.
- Reduce Carbohydrate Intake
- Carbs are not the devil and can be very useful in terms of gaining muscle and changing body composition. Limit your carbs and refined sugars, this way less insulin will be raised causing less inflammation. Simple carbs post workout (earning your carbs) and small amount before bed to help you sleep is best.
- General Tips
- Avoid/reduce alcohol, avoid gluten, avoid drugs, avoid trans-fats, eat more vegetables and fruits, eat an adequate amount of protein, drink more water, have curcumin daily and reduce daily stressors in your life.
Bamini Gopinath et al., Am J Clin Nutr,2011
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Timothy D. Mickleborough et al.,Medscape, 2006
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