Well, we’ve just entered Week Three of Beat the Couch and so far so good!
No major dramas and everyone is behaving. No insurmountable injuries or life events that have taken people off the grid. It’s so exciting to see people work so diligently towards their goals and then see the progress taking shape. That feeling as your body gets stronger (or at least complains less!) is really amazing and rewarding for everyone.
That doesn’t mean I expect us to get through completely unscathed though. When people start moving after a long period of being fairly sedentary, there are bound to be some aches and pains – any extra weight can compound this. Our interval-based approach and the gentle increments do help to prevent injuries, as does the care provided by many of the chiropractors and physiotherapists in Bermuda. As trainers, we can’t emphasise enough how important it is to “listen to your body when it whispers; don’t wait for it to scream”. Preventive care is key.
Regardless of what sport you do, no matter how carefully you train, there will be inevitable setbacks for some – whether it’s tripping on a kerbside or pushing yourself a fraction too far, these things happen. The problem with injuries – aside from the pain – is the massive interruption in momentum. For many, it’s taken a huge amount to get going and having to pause in the pursuit of a goal when you have already worked so hard, can be demotivating and depressing. The thought of losing any ground gained is upsetting. Don’t panic though, there’s so much we can do to accelerate your recovery!
This is where a critical switch in thinking is essential. You may have to ease off, or you may not be able to train at all, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep going. The adage “you are what you eat” is always important, but especially so if you have been injured. You need to pay attention to your nutrition now more than ever. And this is why ….
During the inflammatory phase of an injury (which can last a couple of days), immune cells travel to the area of damage to clean up. While this process is essential, reducing the level of inflammation in your body through your diet can help to limit the extent of both the pain and the inflammation. Next, for a few weeks afterwards, secretory cells (such as fibroblasts) help to repair and replace the damaged tissue with new collagen. From this point, in what’s known as the “remodelling” phase, the new tissue strengthens and gains stability.
Collagen is a type of protein found in connective tissues (skin, ligaments, tendons and bones). It’s made up from several amino acids but requires enough vitamin C to take it from food source to collagen state. This means that getting plenty of vitamin C is important too – as well as the cofactors that support the specific type of collagen synthesis you are after. For example, if you are trying to heal bone, more vitamin D would be useful (supplements are often helpful) as well as vitamin K from green leafy vegetables.
When it comes to the remodelling phase, your focus should be on quality, quality, quality. This means whole, real, natural food – packed with vitamins, minerals and good fats. If you have diet sodas or junk in your life, it’s time for them to leave the building!
As that might not be specific enough, here’s some detail on what you should be including. It makes such a difference. Give it a try!
Tips for maximising recovery:
1. Eat good fats
Not all fat is bad, but you don’t see elite athletes sitting around eating fried chicken. Along with the junk, they’ll also be avoiding poor quality red meat/dairy and avoiding some omega-6 fats such as processed corn and sunflower oils. Instead, they’re eating plenty of nuts, seeds, fish/fish oils, coconut oil and avocado. These are rich in the good fats that are actively anti-inflammatory and help to rebalance the omega 6: omega 3 ratios in the body.
2. Include phytochemicals
If you’ve heard that turmeric, ginger, garlic, bromelain and flavonoids are anti-inflammatory, then you’re on to a winner too. You can get some of these in supplement form (for example curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric) but they are also easily included in your diet. Add turmeric to curries and casseroles, put ginger in stir-fries and smoothies and add garlic to everything (OK, maybe not your smoothie….). Pineapple is a rich source of bromelain and great as a dessert, in smoothies, or even in a curry or stir-fry.
Green tea, dark chocolate and red wine are also all good sources of flavonoids so your recovery phase doesn’t have to be entirely treat-free! Just go easy on the chocolate and alcohol as of course there comes a point where excess outweighs the benefits. An extra note here: because natural supplements can be very powerful when it comes to inflammation, if you have a medical condition or are taking medication, you should check with your doctor first.
3. Support collagen synthesis
Get lots of vitamin C – not just through oranges, but other surprisingly more potent sources such as yellow peppers, broccoli and kiwi. Remember to add some leafy green veg for bone health and also sulphur-rich food (onions, leeks, cabbage, eggs, broccoli) if you need to repair cartilage. If you have a muscle injury, then providing more branch chain amino acids through quality protein sources (organic meat/dairy/eggs, organic protein powders or shelled hemp seed and the Linwoods ground seed mixes) is also recommended. You can make life super easy by taking a quality grass-fed hydrolysed collagen supplement, such as the one by Great Lakes at Miles. Remember to take it with fruit or a vitamin C supplement though!
4. Stay hydrated
One of the most basic, but critical steps when it comes to your overall health and recovery. Perhaps we should change “you are what you eat” to “you are what you eat and drink”. The water content of your muscles, cartilage and bones would surprise you and it’s critical for transferring nutrients in – and toxins out – of your cells. If you are looking for electrolytes, try the Nuun tablets or Ultima Replenisher for quality, drinkable electrolytes that don’t taste like sweat.
5. Choose food that nourishes you
Above all, when you are recovering from injury, choose food that nourishes you. What you eat and drink literally provides you with the resources you need to repair your body. Healthy food will build you up. Unhealthy food will knock you down. It really is that simple. If you have to take some time off your training and the loss of momentum is disheartening, switch your focus to your nutrition instead. Getting back on track will be faster and easier and you will perform all the better for it. If you want extra support, join me for Nutrifit, our six-week optimum nutrition programme. We start Thursday, October 29. All details are online at natural.bm.
Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram
When people start moving after a long period of being fairly sedentary, there are bound to be some aches and pains