Have you ever felt that sometimes, as athletes, we are a bit too fatalistic when it comes to work-out injuries? For a group of people that are so in tune with their bodies and in control of their weight and fitness, our Wellness Consultants at Apple Wellness often surprised at how many of us athletes just shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, injuries happen, you know.”
Yes, injuries absolutely happen. And they happen to even the most cautious and careful athlete.
BUT. We don’t need to just accept our fate. The reality is, we can greatly diminish the risk of work-out injuries and accidents through nutrients. In fact, when it comes to preventing common exercise injuries, quality nutrition is the driving factor.
Athletes that support their bodies with a strong foundation of key nutrients and whole, healthy foods create a strong defense against strains, sprains, and tears. And, if they do have an injury, they’ll be back in the gym or on the pavement much, much faster.
Preventing Injuries with Work-Out Basics
Before we just dive into nutrients that help reduce the chance of an injury during a workout, we want to cover some important basics. In order to have a successful fitness regimen with few (or no!) injuries, we’ve got a few primary exercise injury prevention tips to cover. These practices are level one fitness training safety.
Drink water. Dehydrated joints and tissue are more susceptible to tears and injury. Dehydration also puts an additional stress on the body, causing chemical imbalances and poor athletic performance. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.
Always warm-up. Lots of workout injuries occur when people rush into their workout without taking a few minutes to warm-up first. A warm-up gently prepares your body for exercise by gradually increasing your heart rate, loosening the muscles, and increasing blood flow. Dynamic movement is essential — this prepares your muscles for physical activity and goes a long way in preventing injuries and muscle soreness.
Don’t forget the cool down. This gives your body time to return to a normal heart rate and breathing pace, decreasing the chance of sudden dizziness or fainting (a result of blood pooling in the large muscles of the legs when strenuous activity is suddenly halted). This also helps your circulatory system more effectively remove lactic acid buildup from your muscles (meaning your muscles will hurt a bit less the next day).
Include cross training. Doing the same motion or movement too many times can lead to strained muscles, inflammation, and worn-out joints. Vary your workout routine to build strength in multiple areas and allow muscles to rest in between repeated workouts. When only certain muscles in your body are strong and others are weak, you put extra strain on your body and can even negatively impact your posture. So, shake up that routine!
Be careful of your trouble spots. Be cautious when you’re training in an area with a known trouble spot (like deadlifting when you’ve got low back issues). Listen to your body, recognize your own warning signs, and rest when you need to.
Dress appropriately. Wear the right athletic gear suited to your workout. Professionals have designed specialized workout gear for a very good reason — safety. Use the right equipment for your workout and replace worn-out equipment promptly.
Find a good trainer to guide you. A trainer will be one of your most important tools as you find fitness and avoid injuries. They’ll be your guiding force in fueling your body, learning the appropriate work-out techniques, cross-training, and pushing yourself without harming yourself.
(Obviously, at Apple Wellness we’re huge fans of the trainers at FIT and they are always at the top of our list of recommendations!)
Nutrients to Prevent Work-Out Injuries
With our basics now covered, it’s time to look at preventing injuries by fueling your body with specific healing, defense-building nutrients. Choosing a healthy diet that is rich in whole foods, vegetables, and healthy proteins is a big first step, but we can’t always get quite enough of the most important nutrients — especially for those of us who are really pushing our bodies as we train and workout.
Omega 3’s and Fatty Acids
You probably associate popping Omega 3 pills with heart health (and you’d be right — omega 3s are important for keeping your heart strong, your eyes healthy, and your brain function humming along). But fatty acids can also help athletes prevent common workout injuries from occurring.
Omega 3’s speed up workout recovery. After a training session, your muscles are riddled with microscopic tears. Omega 3s help speed up the healing process, getting your muscles back in shape quickly, so that they can keep up with your workout regimen. Omega 3’s also decrease muscle breakdown by increasing protein synthesis (a fancy way of saying that it helps transform protein that you eat, like a steak, into protein in your muscles.)
Omega 3s prevent tissue degradation and provide lubrication for joints and tendons. This lubrication means less inflammation occurs during and after your workout. Inflammation is the prime culprit behind pain and chronic injury problems. Any injury that ends with an ‘-itis’ (like tendonitis or arthritis) can be prevented and/or relieved by Omega 3’s. In fact, ‘itis’ in Greek means inflammation. Omega 3’s get in front of problem points in your body, soothing inflammation as it arises and diminishing the risk of gym injuries and chronic inflammation problems.
Finally, Omega 3s power up brittle bones. This is a huge plus for those athletes that are entering their silver years, but is important for anyone who cares about being (and staying) fit. Fatty acids increase calcium absorption and heal the worn-out mitochondria in bone cells. Brittle bones are a recipe for broken bones and loooooong recovery times. By keeping your bones strong and supple, you’re looking at far less couch-time.
In summary, Omega 3’s offer:
- Healthier muscles
- Speedier recovery
- Stronger bones
- Soothed inflammation
- Lubrication for joints
- Healthier heart and cardiovascular system
Branch Chain Amino Acids
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are, as our owner Tim O’Brien likes to say, the building blocks of muscle. They are essential for building muscle tone, repairing damaged muscle tissues, and supporting a healthy immune system. In fact, they’re essential for pretty much every function of your body.
Amino acids are chains of organic compounds, primarily constructed from carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen. There are more than 500 known amino acids (though there are probably more yet to be discovered). Twenty-three of these are proteinogenic amino acids. This means that they combine into peptide chains to create the building blocks of proteins — which are, in turn, the building blocks of our muscles.
How do these hard-working amino acids help prevent workout injuries?
Amino acids (BCAA’s in particular) prevent muscle breakdown. This helps your body avoid muscle strains, pulled muscles, cramping (that can lead to a fall or dropping a weight), and shin splints.
BCAA’s speed up the recovery time. For athletes that are training hard, if your muscles can’t recover quickly enough to keep up with your training, you will continue to gradually wear down. Those muscles will eventually become ‘trouble spots’ in your body. By keeping ahead of the game on your muscle recovery, you’ll significantly diminish the chances of muscle damage during a workout.
BCAA’s protect your ligaments and tendons. BCAA’s, especially L-glutamine and L-arginine, are abundant in muscles and tendons. When long-term stress, an illness, or an injury occurs, your levels of BCAAs can drop, leaving your body open to new or worsening health conditions. However, if your body is regularly supplied with amino acids, you’ll be producing the structural proteins you need to prevent injuries and repair strains and sprains.
- Prevent muscle breakdown
- Speed up recovery
- Reduce the risk of developing ‘trouble areas’
- Protect ligaments and tendons
- Diminish risk of strained muscles and sprains
Muscles tend to hog the limelight when it comes to sports recovery and nutrition, but we all know that muscles without functioning tendons and ligaments are pretty useless.
- Your tendons are thick bundles of collagen that connect your muscles to your bones. They allow movement.
- Ligaments are flexible bundles of collagen that connect bone to bone, and allow your joints to move. They also protect your joints from damage.
Both ligaments and tendons are composed of collagen, elastin, proteoglycans, and minerals — like calcium.
Calcium is helpful in reducing joint pain and inflammation. It helps to maintain healthy bones, as well as healthy tendons and ligaments. Inflammation and pain in one area of our body can cause us to overcompensate in other areas, or pushes us into ‘stupid training’ – i.e. pushing ourselves too far, or not following the appropriate techniques.
If your joints are healthy and moving freely without restriction from inflammation, you’ll be free to train correctly. No sudden pains to cause a catch in your step when running, no overcompensating or ‘protecting’ the sensitive area — inadvertently opening yourself up to damage in another area.
Calcium lactate is one of the best supplements for knee joints. This supplement is so helpful for runners, bikers, climbers, and weight lifters that we try to make sure every athlete has included it in their daily supplementation. (All of our Wellness Consultants swear by it when they’re training!) Our knee joints deal with more wear and tear than virtually any other joint in our bodies. Supporting these joints is crucial for lifelong health and fitness.
Supplementation with calcium lactate can help prevent ACL and meniscus tears of the knee (a rip in one of the ligaments that helps stabilize the knee or cartilage that cushions the knee joint). It can also prevent rotator cuff tears, which are rips in the group of muscles and tendons that hold the arm in the shoulder socket.
Calcium can be hard for our bodies to absorb, so we recommend choosing an easy-absorption brand. Taking Vitamin D with your daily calcium is another way of increasing your absorption rates.
Calcium Lactate offers:
- Joint support, especially for the knees
- Diminished risk of ACL and meniscus tears
- Reduces joint pain and inflammation
- Helps maintain healthy bones, tendons, and ligaments
Digging Deeper into Workout Nutrition
This is by no means an exhaustive list of nutrients that will help to keep your body healthy and reduce your risk of experiencing common workout injuries. But, our team of Wellness Experts and fellow athletes how found that these three nutrients are some of the most important and effective for strength training injury prevention.
Have more questions? We’d recommend stopping into one of our Apple Wellness store locations or giving us a call. And of course, your trainers at F.I.T. are here to guide you in your fitness journey too. We’re all in this together!
Blog Contributed by Apple Wellness