As an avid martial artist, you no doubt have dealt with pain in your joints. Aside from the occasional and obvious acute injury, there is a good chance that the discomfort you feel is due simply to excessive inflammation. There are a number of causes of inflammation ranging from overtraining and exposure to pollutants to poor food choices. Make some minor adjustments to these, and you could see life-changing results.
So what can you do?
Basic weight loss, exercise and reduction of bad stress are excellent ways to begin combating inflammation. However, today I’ll take it a step further. I will zero in on nutrition and discuss how your food choices can make a huge difference.
In Part 1, I will look specifically at three things to avoid in your diet to reduce unwanted inflammation. In Part 2, I will explore three foods to eat and three nutrients to add to help combat inflammation.
3 Things to Avoid in Your Diet
Much of the inflammation you experience results from your body metabolizing what you eat. You might be asking, “Isn’t my body supposed to metabolize and break down food?” The answer is yes, but not all foods are created equal.
Some protect from inflammation while providing energy and the necessary building blocks to repair tissue after you train, while others wreak havoc on your body. The purpose of this article is to illuminate those troublemaker foods so you can make informed decisions to keep, reduce or eliminate them from your diet.
1. Sugar and highly processed carbohydrates
We all know what table sugar is, and we are aware that it’s not good for our teeth or our waistline. What’s more, it is detrimental when it comes to inflammation. Sugar triggers your body to release fatty acids from the liver, resulting in inflammation. The same goes for highly processed carbohydrates, which are found in foods such as white bread and pasta. Highly processed foods frequently lack quality fiber and quickly break down into sugar — and then you’re right back where you started with simple sugars triggering inflammation.
Consider consuming agave, stevia, fresh fruit and whole grains instead of sugar and highly processed carbohydrates.
2. Unhealthy fats from fried foods
It’s no secret that fried foods are bad for your heart, but did you know that they may also be responsible for that pain in your knee? Fried foods literally bring what are known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs) to the table. Along with having a slew of negative effects on the body, these AGEs also are known to cause inflammation. It’s best to keep your intake of them to a minimum.
It is ideal to replace fatty fried foods with grilled, baked or broiled options. This allows you to get all the goodness of a lean cut of protein or a serving of veggies without the negative effects of the unhealthy fats that come from the frying process.
3. Excessive alcohol
A drink here or there is one thing, but excessive amounts of alcohol can impair more than your ability to drive. Alcohol causes inflammation through multiple mechanisms. One of them is its negative effect on your gut health. The metabolism of alcohol causes an increase in lipopolysaccharides resulting in increased inflammation.
Beyond that, as alcohol is metabolized in the gastrointestinal tract, it continues to cause inflammation in the bowels. If that wasn’t enough, it can disrupt the way your body deals with inflammation due to its effects on the central nervous system.
And all this says nothing about alcohol causing dehydration, which in and of itself can lead to an increase in inflammation. In the world of inflammation, alcohol is at least a quadruple whammy.
If you’re in pain, think before you drink. Consider nonalcoholic options instead of that beer or cocktail. At the very least, keep consumption of fried foods and simple sugars to a minimum while having an occasional drink or two.
Now you have a good handle on what to avoid or at the very least what to enjoy in moderation to keep dietary-induced inflammation to a minimum. Be sure to check back for Part 2 of this article. I will look specifically at what foods you should eat and what nutrients you should add to combat inflammation and get the most out of your martial arts training.
CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist)
SNS (Sports Nutrition Specialist)
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