Athletic performance, Recovery & Longevity with Holistic Savoir-Faire (Science)

In the Mainstream, competitive sports tend to shorten lifespans while promoting an un-necessary onslaught of oxidative stress, lactic acid and inflammation which feeds chronic diseases. Of all the elements to athletic performance, recovery is key. In this piece, we will first look at a few mechanisms of action that helps to explain why this above-mentioned assertion is true (Section A) and follow up with different holistic techniques that show how to achieve athletic excellence with a strong recovery time via holistic-savoir faire thanks to which the athlete can prolong his or her lifespan. (Section B)

Section A

The Evidence of Sport cellular damage and Mechanisms of Action

Reducing oxidative stress and inflammation are two of the major biochemical processes that need to be holistically addressed with regard to physical exertion. In this realm, oxidative stress is one of the most important pathway to target, if only because one of its byproducts, ROS, (reactive oygen species) can increase and overwhelm defenses, causing a chain reaction that damages the structure and integrity of mammilian cells. Even after about five minutes of exercise, our bodies can experience significant DNA damage.

“These findings identify lipid-derived free radical species as possible contributors to peripheral mononuclear cell DNA damage in the human exercising model. This damage occurs in the presence of lipid oxidation but in the absence of any change to protein carbonyl concentration. The significance of these findings may have relevance in terms of immune function, the aging process, and the pathology of carcinogenesis”. (Source)

Oxidative stress in one of the major fifteen aging pathways, it is implicated in virtually every known human disease and there is an increasing body of evidence linking free radical production to the process of accelerated aging. This is so because free radicals damage DNA, the human genetic code.  In fact, ultra-marathoners show evidence of DNA damage in about 10% of their cells tested during a race, which may last for up to two weeks after a marathon. (Source).

Furthermore, to oxidative damage ia associated kidney impairment and inflammation, one of the major drivers of most chronic diseases and accelerated aging.

 “Considered altogether the investigated variables showed up that exhaustive and prolonged exercise not only promotes the generation of ROS but also induces oxidative stress, transient renal impairment and inflammation”. (Source).

Even short periods of intense exercises can cause DNA damage. Regardless of the mechanisms of exercise-induced DNA damage and accelerated aging, the fact that a very short bout of high-intensity exercise can cause an increase in damage to DNA is all the more a cause for concern that most longevity enthusiast follow exercise recommendations promoted by medical gurus like Drs Hymans, Mercola and others by going that extra mile to physically drain themselves.

“High intensity exercise can enhance the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen free radical species, which may cause a number of perturbations to cellular integrity, including deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) modification. In the absence of adequate DNA repair, it is theoretically possible that several biological disorders may ensue, in addition to premature aging”. (Source)

Tentative conclusion: When humans oxidize glucose to produce energy, an abundance of free radicals are created. The more exercises, the more oxidation of glucose via the oxydative phosphorylation mechanism that transforms glucose to ATP chemicals. While some oxidative output is needed by the body for different functions, too much will promote chronic diseases and accelerated aging since free radical damages DNA, our genome.

Lastly, for now, the lactic acid mechanism. The lactic acid that makes yogurt tangy and wine perky is the same lactic acid that builds up in  one’s muscles with strenuous exercises. Instead of bacteria fermenting the sugar in milk or wine to make energy for themselves, our muscles ferment sugar in our diet to produce energy to contract.  It’s when this lactic acid builds up in muscles faster than it can be removed that we can end up with a burning sensation in our muscles (from muscle tear) that hinders movement.

Section B

Holistic Solutions

An Holistic Approach To Peak Athletic Performance via Food

In addition to aerobic training (Source), taking in citrus fruits can be an efficient way to remove excess lactic acid. But whole organic fruits are better then fruit juices, if only because these spike insuline too much (Source).

Because physical exercises produce lots of inflammation and free radicals and free radicals cause DNA damage, it necessarily follows that antixoxidants are key. The best way to address this challenge however is less via supplementation than via holistic nutrition and herbalism.

Debunking Synthetic Supplementation

It turns out antioxidant supplementation has little if any effect on significantly reducing oxidative stress, and according to some studies, may actually increase the amount of stress on the body. (Source). Another study showed that even  beta-carotene supplementation is problematic.

Pharmacological antioxidant vitamins have been investigated for a prophylactic effect against exercise-induced oxidative stress for many years. To my knowledge, all of the synthetic supplementation tests, when done with integrity, have failed.  Because large antioxydant doses are often required to neutralize the exercise DNA damage, when these are in a pill form, they lead to a state of pro-oxidation, that which causes even more oxidative damage. For example, men doing arm curls taking 500 milligrams of vitamin C appeared to have more muscle damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress.

“Dietary supplements, such as vitamin C and E, are used by many people, especially athletes. The users often believe that high dosages of supplements improve health (resistance to illness and disease) and physical performance. These assumptions are, however, generally not supported in the scientific literature. On the contrary, some studies have indicated that high dosages of antioxidant supplements have negative effects on exercise-induced adaptation processes(Source)

Likewise with sport-related muscle injury, it has been shown that not only synthetic vitamin C was injurioust to the redox status of the sport person, but the great detox supplement NAC was a contributor as well.

“The subjects receiving vitamin C and NAC had higher levels of lipid hydroperoxides and 8-Iso-PGF2alpha 2 d after the exercise. This acute human inflammatory model strongly suggests that vitamin C and NAC supplementation immediately post-injury, transiently increases tissue damage and oxidative stress”. (Source)

Time wise, it usually takes around two weeks for damage to occur

“To assess the effects of an encapsulated antioxidant concentrate (EAC) and exercise on lipid peroxidation (LIPOX) and the plasma antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase (Pl-GPx)…The EAC induced an increase of LIPOX as indicated by MDA and decreased pl-GPx concentrations pre- and postexercise”. (Source)

Holistic anti-oxydant rich Super-Foods

On the other hand, Nature’s antioxydants via food has been show to be the best way to address sport-induced oxidative stress. The power of antioxidants is found in the symphony of nutrients from whole foods working together synergistically. (Source) One of the reasons that helps to explain this conclusion is based on the principle of “synergy. Thanks to natural molecules being  recognized as such by the body’s inner intelligence, the right amount of oxidants are used in the right combination. Furthermore, recent evidence in the biogerontology (longevity) world has proven that human metabolism needs some ROS for proper functioning. (Cf Optimal Longevity Institute’s work). Thus, the body’s innate intelligence will allow the right amount of ROS to flourish.

One study has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that a diet filled with a large amount of natural foods rich with antioxidants and other phytonutrients is efficient for the right amount of reduction of oxidative stress, (Source), including, but not limited to dark leafy greens.

Eating the “rainbow”, the full spectrum of colorful plant foods in one’s diet is a good way to be guided on this issue, as different pigments represent different antioxidants. For example, carotenoids are orange pigments found in carrots and sweet potatoes, and anthocyanins appear red, purple, or blue in various berries.

Consuming a high level of micronutrient-rich foods can also help with reducing localized inflammation such as muscle soreness. Some specific foods have been shown to have a natural anti-inflammatory effect, like tart cherries, turmeric, and ginger. In fact, some of the more intelligent and successful athletes consume all three of those foods on a regular basis.

“These data show efficacy for this cherry juice in decreasing some of the symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage. Most notably, strength loss averaged over the four days after eccentric exercise was 22% with the placebo but only 4% with the cherry juice”. (Source)

Likewise with watercress, which is a key superfood in Mediterranean diet. (Source) It has been shown that two hours before intense exercise, eating a serving of raw watercress was protective of ROS versus the control group. (Source)

“Watercress contains an array of nutritional compounds such as β-carotene and α-tocopherol which may increase protection against exercise-induced oxidative stress. The present randomised controlled investigation was designed to test the hypothesis that acute (consumption 2 h before exercise) and chronic (8 weeks consumption) watercress supplementation can attenuate exercise-induced oxidative stress. A total of ten apparently healthy male subjects (age 23 (SD 4) years, stature 179 (SD 10) cm and body mass 74 (SD 15) kg) were recruited to complete the 8-week chronic watercress intervention period (and then 8 weeks of control, with no ingestion) of the experiment before crossing over in order to compete the single-dose acute phase (with control, no ingestion). Blood samples were taken at baseline (pre-supplementation), at rest (pre-exercise) and following exercise. Each subject completed an incremental exercise test to volitional exhaustion following chronic and acute watercress supplementation or control. The main findings show an exercise-induced increase in DNA damage and lipid peroxidation over both acute and chronic control supplementation phases (P< 0.05 v. supplementation), while acute and chronic watercress attenuated DNA damage and lipid peroxidation and decreased H₂O₂ accumulation following exhaustive exercise (P< 0.05 v. control). A marked increase in the main lipid-soluble antioxidants (α-tocopherol, γ-tocopherol and xanthophyll) was observed following watercress supplementation (P< 0.05 v. control) in both experimental phases. These findings suggest that short- and long-term watercress ingestion has potential antioxidant effects against exercise-induced DNA damage and lipid peroxidation” (Ibid)

Furthermore, it has been shown that human blood cells bathed in free radicals  can reduce the DNA damage it causes by 70% within minutes of dripping some watercress on them. (Source)  In addition, it was shown in vivo, that by exericing  without watercress in our system, DNA damage shoots up, but by eating a single serving a day for two months, the human body shows no significant damage even after intense treadmilling. (Ibid.)

It seems to be the overall quality of the diet that is the key, more so than just a few specific foods. Endurance athletes such as Brendan Brazier and Rich Roll, boxer Timothy Bradley Jr., and NFL Pro-Bowler Tony Gonzalez as well as Dotsie Bausch have all noted the power of a micronutrient-dense plant-based diet to speed up their recovery time and allow them to train more with better outcomes.

 The Game Changers puts plant-based elite athletes—such as fast-cycling Olympic medalist Dotsie Bausch, endurance runner Scott Jurek, and charismatic strongman Patrik Baboumian—in the spotlight, with riveting fitness footage that’ll make you search the back of your closet for your gym shoes. Naturally, the film is backed by scientific evidence that a plant-based diet really does give you an edge in achieving top physical performance. (Source)

Tentative conclusion on this issue: Oxidative stress is a natural physiological process that describes an imbalance between free radical production and the ability of the antioxidant defence system of the body to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals can be beneficial as they may promote wound healing and contribute to a healthy immune response, inter alia. However, free radicals can have a detrimental impact when they interfere with the regulation of apoptosis and thus play a role in the promotion of some cancers and conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants are molecules that reduce the damage associated with oxidative stress by counteracting free radicals. Regular exercise is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, although it can increase oxidative stress. As a typical plant-based diet comprises a wide range of antioxidant-rich foods, the consumption of these foods will result in an enhanced antioxidant system capable of reducing exercise-induced oxidative stress. (4) Furthermore, it has been shown for millenia or eons that a oxydant-rich plant-based diet lowers risks of cardiovascular disease, different cancers and other diseases.

Anti-Inflammatory Plant-based Diet

It is especially important for injured or recovering athletes to avoid inflammatory foods.  There are at least two dozen factors that affect a food’s inflammatory potential, including the amounts and proportion of various fatty acids, the amount of antioxidants and other nutrients, and a food’s glycemic impact, or effect on blood sugar levels and other factors. (See InflammationFactor.com for “Inflammation Factors” (IF) food index.

Among others, the following foods have a high anti-inflammatory value. Pineapples, because these are rich in a proteolytic enzyme called bromelain, which produces substances that help fight pain and inflammation. Blue, red and purple colored fruits and vegetables, all of which contain antioxidant flavonoids that limit inflammation, stop tissue breakdown, improve circulation and promote a strong collagen matrix. This includes pomegranates eggplant, berries or tart cherry juice and ginger two University of Georgia studies of which showed that 2 grams of ginger per day helps fight inflammation and reduce exercise-induced muscle pain, and this can easily be consumed by boiling chunks of ginger, steeping a piece for tea, juicing it or mixing ginger with a smoothie elixir. Other foods with high IF ratings include garlic, peppers, parsley, dark leafy greens, onions, salmon, avocado and apple cider vinegar. Peppermint is also high and helps with muschle fatigue and soreness as well as citrus fruits and berries.

Nitrates and Nitric Oxide (NO) producing Foods

Dozens of studies now suggest that the nitrates in vegetables, such as beets and green leafy vegetables, may help not only sick people “as a low-cost prevention and treatment intervention for patients suffering from blood flow disorders” like high blood pressure and peripheral vascular disease, but also healthy people as an effective, natural performance-enhancing aid for athletes. (Source) Most of the studies were done with beet juice, though a new one used whole beets. (Source)  which showed about the same benefit.

The reason why vegetable high in nitrates are so good is because nitrates are converted to nitric oxides and NO is key to help the inner lining of our cell ways, the endothelium, dilated and smooth, just like with red wine as long as the wine of clean and taken in small amounts.

There was another study a while ago suggesting that one of the reasons the Okinawans in Japan looked forward to many more years of good health at the same age at which many Americans and Europeans were dying is all the nitrate in their green leafy vegetables, which tends to bring down blood pressures. (Source)

Researchers also tested the immediate effects on our arteries of a single meal containing a cooked box of frozen spinach, for both arterial stiffness and blood pressure. First, they needed a meal to increase artery stiffness and pressure, so they gave people a chicken and cheese sandwich, which lowered the elasticity of their arteries within hours of eating. But, when they added the spinach, the opposite happened. After chicken and cheese, the force the heart had to pump went up within minutes, but the spinach kept things level. So, a meal with lots of “spinach can lower blood pressure and improve measures of arterial stiffness.” (Source)

“Therefore, consumption of a nitrate-rich meal can lower systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure and increase large artery compliance acutely in healthy men and women. If sustained, these effects could contribute to better cardiovascular health”. (Ibid)

High-nitrate vegetables like celery, endive, lettuce, Swiss chard, and even a spice like fennel can also  be quite useful for all people in particular athletes. (Source)

Of all of the high nitrate foods, fennel seeds are particularly convenient because all the athletes has to do is chew of them before working out. (Source)

 “… Fennel (Foneiculum vulgare) seeds are often used as mouth fresheners after a meal in both the Indian sub-continent and around the world. The present study aims to quantify the nitrite and nitrates in fennel seeds as well as elucidating the effect of fennel derived-nitrites on vascular functions. Results from our study show that fennel seeds contain significantly higher amount of nitrites when compared to other commonly used post-meal seeds. Furthermore our study confirmed the functional effects of fennel derived-nitrites using in vitro and ex vivo models that describe the promotion of angiogenesis, cell migration, and vasorelaxation. We also showed that chewing fennel seeds enhanced nitrite content of saliva. Thus our study indicates the potential role of fennel derived-nitrites on the vascular system. (J Food Sci. 2012 Dec;77(12):H273-9)
Often used as mouth fresheners after a meal in both the Indian sub-continent and around the world, when one chews these seeds, nitric oxide production is significantly upregulated, which has the predictable vasodilatory effect of opening up blood vessels. Researchers singled out mountaineers, thinking chewing fennel seeds could help maintain oxygen levels at high altitudes and help prevent HAPE—high altitude pulmonary edema, which is one of the leading killers of mountain climbers once you get more than a mile and a half or so over sea level. (Source) (1)

As a double bonus, fennel seeds can also help  as a carminative for intestinal gas (Source) and as an excessive hair growth inhibitor for women (called antihirsutism activity), the so-called bearded woman syndrome. Indeed, applying a little fennel seed smoothie cream one can make in one’s blender can significantly reduce this growth. (Source)

As a caveat, these seeds are so powerful in terms of hormone production that there have been cases reported of premature breast development among young girls drinking fennel seed tea a couple times a day for several months. (Source)

“Thus, long-term use of preparations such as Foeniculum vulgare, which is used to eliminate gas and regulate intestinal function in children, may cause premature thelarche, and thus, the use of such preparations should be limited” (Ibid: “thelarche” =  is the onset of secondary (postnatal) breast development, usually occurring at the beginning of puberty in girls. Its etymology is from Greek θηλή [tʰelḗ], “nipple” and ἀρχή [arkʰḗ], “beginning, onset”).

Their estrogen levels were elevated, but, after stopping the tea, their chests and hormone levels went back to normal. On the other hand, for women who would like to boost the size of their breasts, it would be more holistic to munch on fennel seeds than to to ask a modern medicine plastic surgeon to cut and fill the breast with foreign materials, most of which are carcinogenic, as different class action lawsuits have proven with a preponderance of the evidence (Cf holistic Justice Institute’s work).

Other Great Super-Foods for Sport Recovery

Many observational studies have shown that fruits and vegetales are key insofar as sport recovery. But observational studies are assumed by the mainstream scientific community to not prove causation. However, there was a controled trial on spinash supplementation, which was shown to have a significant effect  on exercise-induced oxidative stress. And, by spinach supplementation, they meant they just gave some guys some fresh raw spinach leaves, one gram per kilo. So, like a quarter of a bunch a day for two weeks, and then they had them run a half-marathon. And, they found that “chronic daily oral supplementation of spinach” alleviated effects on known markers of oxidative stress and muscle damage.” (Source)

This study also showed that when a person runs a half-marathon without spinach: a big spike in oxidative stress, blood malondealdehyde levels, that stay up hours or even days later. In the spinach group, the before-and-after two weeks of spinach was much more impressive. Furthermore, regarding the resulting muscle damage, as measured by creatine kinase leakage from muscles (an enzyme that should be in the muscles, not leaking out into your blood), one starts out at about 100, and go up to 200 after the half-marathon. Right after, two hours later. Usually, it’s the next day where you really feel it—that delayed-onset muscle soreness, with CK levels reaching 600 before coming back down. That’s without spinach. On spinach, one gets a similar immediate post-race bump, but it’s that next day where spinach really shines. You don’t get the same next-day spike. So, for a competitive athlete, that quicker recovery may get the athelete back training harder sooner. The scientists attribute this to “the anti-inflammatory effects of spinach.” (Ibid)

Black currant Juice

Same with black currant juice. After some hardcore weight lifting, muscle damage and soreness indicators go up and stay up, whereas the same lifting, drinking berries, and it goes up, but comes right back down. (Source)

Cherries

As for tart cherry juice, when taken, it was shown that prolonged, intermittent sprints in soccer players were accompanied with a reduction in biomarkers of inflammation, so much less soreness. The results that can be read via mouse click on the Source link below showed that the soreness reported in the days afterwards  was half in the cherry group versus the placebo group. Then, they measured maximum voluntary isometric contractions of the leg muscles, which understandably took a hit in the days after the intense workout, but not in the cherry group. (Source) In addition, tart cherries are known to contain phytomelatonin molecules, thus the deep repair sleep is better. Other red fruits like organic grapes also have been shown to be superior to the mainstream sugary drinks. (Source)

Raisins

After about an hour of strenuous exercise, long-distance athletes start to deplete their glycogen stores—the body’s source of quick energy. Studies dating back to the 30s found that by hooking athletes on a treadmill up to an IV drip of sugar water, they could delay fatigue, and that drinking sugar water could help as well. (Source)  So, the sports supplement industry has come up with an array of energy drinks, shots, gels, bars, chews—even sports jelly beans, used by the Jelly Belly Cycling Team.  In fact, the Jelly Belly Candy Company paid for a study that found that said sports jellybeans could shave four or five seconds off of a 10K cycling trial, compared to sports drinks or gels.

However, from the point of view of holistic exercises, it has been shown that low-cost, natural food products rich in carbs like sun-dried raisins can improve performance at least as much, and this, without the downs, mineral depletion, cavity causing, intestine damaging effects of sugar. Furthermore there was much more pleasure in appreciating real food, measure in terms of the study’s “hedonic scores”.

“The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a natural carbohydrate (CHO) source in the form of sun-dried raisins (SDRs) vs. Sports Jelly Beans™ (SJBs) on endurance performance in trained cyclists and triathletes. (…) Therefore, SDRs are a natural, pleasant, cost-effective CHO alternative to commercial SJBs that can be used during moderate- to high-intensity endurance exercise” (Source)

Fasting and Caloric Restriction

While the majority of post-workout sports nutrition recommend an abundance of carbohydrates and protein as soon as possible after finishing a workout, there is actually quite a bit of evidence that fasting has a better recovery effect. In a study on cyclists, three weeks of overnight-fasted workouts increased post-workout recovery capability, while maintaining lean muscle mass, lower body fat and maintaining performance.

Caloric restriction (up to 40% for 3 weeks) and exercising after fasting overnight can improve a cyclist’s PWR without compromising endurance cycling performance”. (Source)

Another study on endurance athletes suggested that fasted training may more quickly activate muscle protein translation, especially compared to athletes who had ate carbohydrates before training.

In conclusion, training in the fasted state, compared with identical training with ample carbohydrate intake, facilitates post-exercise dephosphorylation of eEF2. This may contribute to rapid re-activation of muscle protein translation following endurance exercise(Source).

There is also benefits to fasting for weight training. A 2009 study found that subjects who lifted weights in a fasted state had a greater  anabolic response to a post-workout meal. In this case, levels of p70s6 kinase, a muscle protein synthesis signaling mechanism that acts as indicator of muscle growth, doubled in the fasted vs. the fed group.

Our results indicate that prior fasting may stimulate the intramyocellular anabolic response to ingestion of a carbohydrate/protein/leucine mixture following a heavy resistance training session”. (Source).

Another study showed that intermittent fasting (restrictive eating) was key to peak performance. In this experimentation, the team put mice into four groups and observed them for 2 months as they went through the following exercise and eating patterns: The control (CTRL) mice did not exercise at all and could eat as much food as they wanted every day. Like the CTRL mice, the exercise (EX) mice could eat as much daily food as they wanted, but they also ran on a treadmill for 45 minutes each day. The “alternate day food deprivation” (ADF) mice were only fed a fixed amount on every other day and did not exercise at all. The EXADF mice were restricted to the ADF eating pattern but also exercised every day on a treadmill for 45 minutes.

As expected, the results showed that the mice that exercised daily (the EX and EXADF groups) performed better in endurance tests than the two groups that did not exercise at all (CTRL and ADF). However, the ADF mice that exercised daily (the EXADF group) had better endurance — that is, they could run farther and last longer than the daily exercise mice that were allowed to eat what they wanted (the EX group).

Analyzing this study, we can see that the results showed that the effect of ADF was to “shift fuel preference” in muscles toward fatty acids and away from carbohydrates, and it also “enhanced endurance” in the ADF mice that exercised (EXADF) and all the more so that glucose recovered better in the restrictive eating group.

From the examined evidence, it appears that the enhanced endurance performance came less from changes to volume of oxygen usage, or VO2max  (a way of measuring the amount of energy used during exercise) than from a reduction in their respiratory exchange ratio, or the ratio of CO2 produced to O2 consumed. This observation suggests that ADF caused the fuel source to switch from carbohydrates to fats.

The scientists also observed that ADF affects the liver differently to exercise. For example, ADF alters gene expression that regulates “ lipid metabolism and cell growth,” whereas exercise changes gene expression that alters “calcium signaling and stress adaptation.” (Source) These findings support the thesis that evolutionary pressure has caused the body to optimize and perform extremely well when food is scarce, included when chased by a saber tooth hunger tiger. 

Martin Berkhan, a big proponent of fasting and author at LeanGains.com, has an interesting analysis  on the possible mechanism behind fasted training adaptations:

“Another way to think of it is that by providing nutrients to the body, exercise is experienced by the body as less of a stressor compared to fasted-state training. No need to adapt or compensate when all is provided for you. A similar phenomenon can be seen with antioxidant intake, where recent studies show that ingesting antioxidants from supplements weakens the body’s own response to deal with free radicals created by training. We are making it easy for the body and that may be a suboptimal way to train.”

However, for extremely thin individuals with low essential body fat stores, people prone to eating disorders, and women who deal with adrenal fatigue or hormonal imbalances, the risks and stresses of long fasts may outweigh any benefits.

 Proteolytic Enzymes

Proteolytic enzymes such as papain, bromelain, trypsin and chymotrypsin promote healing by supporting the production of cytokines, activating immune system proteins such as alpha-2-macroglobulins, breaking down fibrinogen and slowing the clotting mechanism. This is another strategy that can even help heal wounds faster or assist with bouncing back more quickly from surgery and intense training. Some of the better enzymes are Wobenzymes or Recoverease.

 Amino Acids

When used in daily doses (preferably during workouts) of 3-10 grams per hour, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) such as leucine, isoleucine and valine can significantly enhance performance, improve physiological markers such as red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum albumin and fasting glucose, and also decrease inflammatory markers such as creatine phophokinase while enhancing restoration of muscle glycogen.  BCAA can be found in capsule or powder format.

Because they are a more complete source of amino acids, and because they keep the body from “cannibalizing” one’s own lean muscle tissue during exercise, whole amino acids (also known as essental amino acids or EAA’s) are a better option than BCAA’s, albeit more expensive. (2)

From the holistic viewpoint however, the Happiness Medicine Institute’s prefers a more natural plant-based diet with as much raw organic material as possible mixed with key superfoods. (See the Institute’s consultation services for more).

Omega 3, Fish, MCT  and Algae Oils

While omega-6 fatty acids found in compounds such as vegetable oils and heated seeds, nut and nut butters can produce eicosanoids that are pro-inflammatory (especially when eaten in the quantity that many endurance athletes use), omega-3 fatty acids found in sources such as coldwater fish, algae and fish oil are anti-inflammatory.

Conventional fish oil supplements contain significantly more EPA than DHA (typically a 3:2 EPA:DHA ratio), but mounting research suggests that higher levels of DHA are optimal for recovery and anti-inflammatory, as a result,  fish oils with something close to a 1:1 EPA:DHA ratio would be better.

Caveat: when taken fish oils, they should be clean and in a natural trigylceride form and not the cheaper, less well-absorbed ethyl ester form. Preferably, a fish oil should also be packaged with antioxidants such as astaxanthin and Vitamin E to keep the fatty acids from becoming rancid (and to keep your fish oil from doing more harm than good to your joints).

For the Happiness Medicine Institute, we prefer algae oil, vegan version, if only because too many fish oils are rancid, with toxic material therein and there has been lots of evidence that showed fish oil to be a promter to certain cancers, in particular the  aggressive prostate cancer (See the Advanced Cancer Research Institute for more on this issue). MCT oils directly from fresh coconuts is the Institute’s preference.

Ferritin & Iron (Heme and non-heme)

Research at the Center for Sports Medicine in San Francisco examined 101 female high school runners over the course of a cross-country season, and found that the runners who were injured had average ferritin levels that were about 40% lower than those found in non-injured runners. The runners with the lowest ferritin concentrations had twice as many injuries as the runners with highest ferritin.  (ie, ferritin is your body’s critical iron storage protein).

Since iron is a key component of hemoglobin, the compound which carries oxygen to muscles and other tissues, it’s possible that athletes with low ferritin have decreased oxygen delivery to tissues, become fatigued more easily during workouts and races, and then end up with exhausted muscles that are less able to stabilize and support the knees and ankles which were incidentally the two primary sites of injury in the study above .

Furthermore, research in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal has suggested that low ferritin might also decrease the rate at which muscles and connective tissues are repaired, allowing minor injuries to mutate into major problems.

However iron, in particular heme iron that comes from animal foods, can be toxic, and high stores of iron are even associated with heart disease and cancer (Cf the Institute’s work on this). Hence, the Institute recommends testing both your ferritin and iron levels and to avoid animal heme iron products, including supplementation. Vegan sources appear to be the best.

Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Superoxide Dismutase

Glucosamine is an sugar present in the protective exoskeleton of shellfish, and chondroitin sulfate is a major component of cartilage. Glucosamine and chondroitin are also natural substances produced by the human body. Glucosamine stimulates  cartilage production in your joints and chondroitin helps to attract water to the tissue, which helps cartilage to stay elastic. Chondroitin may also block the action of enzymes that break down cartilage tissue.

Supplements that contain the “sulfate” form of glucosamine (glucosamine sulfate) appear to be the best. The scientific evidence for this form is stronger than for supplements containing the glucosamine hydrochloride form. Furthermore,  the use of at least 1500mg of glucosamine sulfate per day would be recommended for intense sport activity. It usually can take up to three months or long to notice any improvement in stiffness, pain or mobility. (3)  Boostin anti-oxidation with superoxide dismutase enzymes by diet helps lots too. (Source)

 Curcumin, Tumeric, Ginger, Cinnamum & Watercress

Curcumin is the principal compound in the popular Indian spice turmeric (which  is a member of the anti-inflammatory ginger family). It is a widely recognized herbal anti-inflammatory that has proven in hundreds of studies to be as effective in reducing inflammation as injectable cortisone. Curcuminoids, which are extracted from turmeric, are the subparticles that make up curcumin, and have been found to be very powerful COX2 inhibitors, without damaging the gut in the same way as something like ibuprofen.

To enhance the anti-inflammatory and bioavailability effect, curcumin can be combined  with pepper and boswellia, which is an herb that can also inhibit COX2 the body, but operates by a slightly different mechanism than curcuminoids. Ginger can also help, if only because it can have an analgesic effect when the training gets too intense (Source) and addresses the COX2 challenge. (Source). Adding ginger to cinnamum is a plus. (Source) Of all superfoods, watercress is one of the more efficient insofar as significant anti-oxidation is concerned. (Source) 

Hydration and Fresh Young Coconut Water under certain Conditions

Because of their high potassium and saturated fat contents, coconuts have been controversial, including coconut water.  The inside of the coconut has been used as an alternative when  mother’s breast milk is unavailable. (6) Its liquid is whitish with solid white flesh inside known as coconut meat (Source). Coconut water forms naturally in the fruit and contains 94% water and very little fat. Most of the good, including the good medium chain tryglecerides (which are a blessing for the thyroid) are in the with pulp. Coconuts take about 12 months to fully mature. Coconut water typically comes from young coconuts about 6–7 months of age, though it’s also found in mature fruit.

Coconut water may one of the best beverages for restoring hydration and replenishing electrolytes lost during exercise. Electrolytes are minerals that play several important roles in your body, including maintaining proper fluid balance. They include potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. Two studies found that coconut water restored hydration after exercise better than water and equal to high-electrolyte sports beverages (Source A)SourceB). The participants also said that coconut water caused less nausea and stomach discomfort (Source). Coconut water is slightly sweet with a subtle, nutty flavor. It’s also fairly low in calories and carbs. The water is freshest when it comes directly from the coconut.

In general, for atheletes, coconut water has also been shown to be beneficial (Source), notwithstanding some risks with hyperkalaemia. (Source).

“In conclusion, ingestion of fresh young coconut water, a natural refreshing beverage, could be used for whole body rehydration after exercise”.(Source)

Coconut water drank directly from the fresh young Coconut would be more indicated than in pasteurized containers, some of which may have deleterious additives, sugar and chemicals. Given it’s potassium-sodium imbalance, I would personally add some organic celtic or himalayan salt to coconut water for a better electrolyte balance.

In effect,  recent studies have shown that coconut water in itself is unbalanced in terms of electrolyte composition, in particuar with regard tot the sodium/potassium ratio. Coconut water has so much potassium that people with kidney disease can run into “life-threatening hyperkalemia” (too much potassium in the blood) if they drink over two quarts of coconut water and don’t have normal kidney function, which would otherwise just flush the excess away.

In patients with diabetes and renal impairment and on potassium‐retaining medication, there is a high risk of developing hyperkalaemia”. (Source)

Consumers often don’t realize coconut water has a lot of potassium  Even one quart a day may be too much for someone whose kidneys have been compromised by diabetes. The risks with cream of tartar is similar as it has 20% pure potassium therein. “Ingestion of cream of tartar can potentially result in life-threatening hyperkalemia” (Source)  Cream of tartar overdose deaths dating back to the 1800s.  Check out footnote 5 for  some History on coconut water, including on a class action lawsuit. (5)

Be that as it may, in addition to the organic salt technique for coconut water, the best hydration and electrolyte balanced liquid I have found is clean quality Vitamin B-12 and mineral rich mountain spring water whose environment is occastionally visited by thunderstorms. For Happiness Medicine Institute, Nature’s solutions are usually the best.

Magnesium (Epson salts, Transdermal Mg and more)

Magnesium based Epsom salts bathes are well known for decreasing muscle soreness, enhancing relaxation, and displacing many of the calcium ions that can accumulate in muscle tissue during workouts. This is because Epsom salts deliver magnesium sulfate, which is the active compound that actually causes the effects listed above

Epsom salts actually deliver magnesium sulfate, which can help with post-workout recovery. However, magnesium chloride is even more effective than Epsom salts, and you can actually dissolve one to three pounds of pure magnesium chloride flakes or crystals in a bath for an extremely relaxing and soreness relieving soak. A bath will deliver about 500mg of magnesium. Alternatively, after a long run or ride, you can soak your feet in a magnesium chloride footbath.

Humans have about two ounces of magnesium circulating through your body – mostly in muscle and bone tissue. This mineral is essential for more than 300 reactions in your body, including nerve and cardiac function, muscle contraction and relaxation, protein formation, and perhaps most importantly for the exercising individual, synthesis of ATP-based energy. A magnesium deficiency can result in muscle cramping, excessive soreness, inadequate force production, disrupted recovery and sleep, immune system depression, and even potentially fatal heart arrhythmias during intense exercise.

Multiple studies have shown magnesium to be effective for buffering lactic acid, enhancing peak oxygen uptake and total work output, reducing heart rate and carbon dioxide production during hard exercise, and improving cardiovascular efficiency. In addition, supplementation with magnesium can elevate testosterone levels and muscle strength up to 30 percent.

While seeds, nuts, grains and vegetables are good dietary sources of magnesium, active people who include these foods in their diet can still be deficient in magnesium. This is due to a combination of mineral loss through perspiration and accelerated mineral turnover due to high activity levels. Furthermore, using an oral magnesium supplement may not fully replace this deficiency, as oral magnesium in the amount needed for an athlete is not easily absorbed and at high doses creates diarrhea. So while the use of oral magnesium (such as magnesium citrate powder) is helpful from a supplementation standpoint, a far better way to deliver targeted doses of magnesium is through the use of topical (also known as transdermal) magnesium.

The delivery of drugs transdermally (through the skin) is a practice used in medicine to  avoid the risk or inconvenience of intravenous therapy, to lower loss of absorption as a drug passes through the gastrointestinal tract, to lower metabolism of the drug by the liver, and to provide a more targeted application (such as a topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug delivery via  patch vs. swallowing a pill). This same practice can easily be used to deliver high doses of precisely targeted magnesium to your muscles pre or post-workout for enhancing performance and recovery. Since topical magnesium also bypasses digestion, higher doses of this key mineral can be delivered.

How to: Before a race or hard workout, using a few transdermal spray squirts or a large dab of magnesium lotion on one’s shoulders, arms and legs can be helpful, including post workout. In most cases, 10 sprays will deliver approximately 100mg of magnesium. The  skin should be dry. By lightly rubbing in the magnesium after spraying, the penetration is better. Some people may find that topical magnesium spray causes a tingling or slightly annoying burning sensation. This is normal, and usually subsides with use.

Sports massage therapy is also indicated, especially with magnesium chloride spray or oil. A magnesium sports massage can assist with the body’s natural recovery process and speed up healing from a workout or injury, as well as help prevent future injuries from sore and stiff muscles. Finally, if you have a strain or sprain, topical magnesium can be used to improve circulation or decrease pain. The procedure is to simply spray the magnesium on a sore area and rub it in. Anything above 500-1000mg can cause loose stool or gastrointestinal discomfort. So if you’re using oral magnesium, make sure you’re keeping track of total magnesium “exposure”.

Bottom line:  concentrated magnesium chloride appears to be more effective than Epsom salts. Topical magnesium chloride is available for use via a spray application (or via an even more potent and pampered lotion application)

Yoga, Inversion, cold water, PEMF, hyperthermia and more

Inversion table to invert can be helpful as well as elevating one’s legs above the head by propping oneself up against a wall and keeping those legs elevated for at least 1 minute for every mile that has been completed. Another option would be any popular yoga inversion moves, such as plow pose, supported shoulder stand, supported head stand or even the feathered peacock pose. Cold water can help to ground and unregulated vitality. Pulsed electric magnetic frequencies and sauna hyperthermia can also be useful (See the Institute’s workshop on  physical exercises).

NSAIDs for Injury or Recovery?

When a person takes NSAID’s, the body has a difficult time manufacturing prostaglandins, which are natural substances  involved in mechanisms such as protecting the stomach lining, regulating blood pressure, and calling in inflammation to an area that has been injured (which can result in pain, redness, swelling and discomfort as that natural inflammatory process takes place).

Because prostaglandins serve functions in addition to simply causing inflammation, NSAID’s can cause stomach upset or gastrointestinal bleeding, and while the risk of stomach irritation or bleeding  increases with long-term use of NSAID’s, many exercising individuals simply pop these pills every now and again, ie, to reduce post or pre-workout soreness, or to be able to “push through pain” to complete a competition. The worse of the worse is to use PPI (proton pump inhibitors) for acid reflux, as that has been shown to remove Co-Q-10 and lead to stomach cancer.

Although studies published since 2005 have investigated the safety of NSAID’s before exercise, a recent entitled “Aggravation of Exercise-Induced Intestinal Injury by Ibuprofen in Athletes” was corrobative. (Source) In this study, nine healthy and trained men were studied on 4 different occasions: 1) taking a standard dose of 400 mg ibuprofen twice prior to a bike workout. 2) cycling without the ibuprofen; 3) taking 400 mg ibuprofen twice at rest and finally 4) resting without ibuprofen intake. In each case, researchers measured small intestinal damage through monitoring plasma intestinal fatty acid binding protein (I-FABP). They also measured urinary excretion of special sugar probes, which can determine the amount of gastrointestinal permeability – a sign that the gut is becoming “leaky”.

One study found that taking 400 mg ibuprofen four hours before exercise reduced the sorness, but didn’t actually prevent muscle cell injury – which is concerning, since this means that the ibuprofen may mask pain, but at the same time, can lead to increased risk of injury as you push through muscle damage. In this study, researchers measured creatine kinase (CK), which is a protein that muscle cells release when they are injured.

Other studies have found that NSAID use during long events, such as a marathon or triathlon, actually decreases kidney function, which can lead to very dangerous issues during exercise, including a decreased ability to properly regulate your sodium and electrolyte status and your hydration levels. This becomes especially dangerous in the heat, in which there already is a great amount of stress on the kidneys, and this extra stress may create a high risk of long term kidney damage or kidney failure.

One of most eye-opening studies on ibuprofen use during exercise occurred in research performed during the Western States trail running race, which is a popular and grueling 100 mile race. In this study, runners were split into three groups: a group with no ibuprofen intake, a group taking 600 mg of ibuprofen one day before and on race day, and a group taking 1200 mg of ibuprofen one day before and on race day (having a group that was actually taking more ibuprofen allows researchers to see if there is a “dose response”, meaning whether a more pronounced effect is seen if more ibuprofen is given). This study found that both of the ibuprofen groups have significantly higher levels of marks for severe muscle damage, including C-reactive protein, plasma cytokine and macrophage inflammatory protein, and this effect increased with higher amounts of ibuprofen intake.

Furthermore, race time, post-workout soreness and rating of perceived exertion was not affected by taking ibuprofen, which means that ibuprofen did not help at all and ibuprofen caused significantly greater inflammation and muscle damage compared to not using them at all.

While both ibuprofen consumption and working out both resulted in increased I-FABP levels (reflecting small intestinal injury), levels were higher after cycling with ibuprofen than after cycling without ibuprofen. In addition, gut permeability (“leakiness”) also increased, especially after cycling with ibuprofen – which reflected a loss of gut barrier integrity. In addition, the amount of intestinal injury from ibuprofen and gut barrier dysfunction were extremely well correlated. Based on this study, it can be concluded that exercise slightly aggravates your small intestine, and ibuprofen turns this into a significantly risky issue. It should therefore be discouraged and replaced with more holistic approaches.

 Conclusion

More and more high-level athletes are altering their hydration habits and diets to include more and more nutrient-dense plant foods as these can fight the effects of inflammation, oxidative damage and one of its byproducts, reactive oxygen species better than any supplement and drugs. Plant based foods are also effective in removing excess lactic acide. Plant foods average 64 times more antioxidants than meat, fish, eggs, and dairy and plant fiber is guy for the microbiota and sugar stability. Furthmore, animal protein itself has a pro-oxidant and toxic effect on multiple levels.

Hence, it must be concluded that with the ingestion of lots of greens and fruits as mentioned, in association with a holistic lifestyle and a few of the techniques mentioned above, athletic recovery time and performance can excel, as more and more athlete professionals are showing. And as a bonus, the longevity pathways are favored.

Ch Joubert (Director of HM Institute)

PS. There are many other important holistic techniques available to achieve peak performance and a keen recovery time, some of which can be received by consultation.

The ebook (still under construction) on Peak atheletic performance reviews the strengths and weaknesses of many other sport routines and enhancement techniques that help guide peak athletic performance, from betaine (necessary to regulate homocysteine and energy), sophrologie to creatine, caffeine, whey, casein protein powders, keto and paleo diets (which we do not recommend) and other protein powders, glutamine, branch chain amino acides (BRAA), inulin fiber, vitamin D, the Med diet, wine, herbs, breathing and sleeping techniques and much more.

References

(1) One should not confuse HAPE with HAFE, though, which is caused by the expansion of gas at high altitudes—a condition known as high altitude flatus expulsion or “Rocky Mountain barking spiders.”
(2). So why are whole amino acids so much more expensive, and what’s the difference between them and other proteins? At the low end of the amino acid spectrum, you’ll find whey and soy protein powder – and only 17% of their content is utilized by the body, with 83% leaving your body as nitrogen-based waste. Foods like meat, fish and poultry fare a bit better with 32% being absorbed and 68% being wasted. Eggs are the winners in the food stakes with 48% being utilized with 52% waste. Compare those numbers to EAA’s, which have a massive 99% utilization by the body, with only 1% leaving as waste. EAA’s are also absorbed by the body within 23 minutes, compared to several hours for food or powder sources of whole protein (and, for any weight watchers, there is only 0.4 of a calorie per gram/tablet/capsule). Master Amino Pattern. It’s completely legal to use EAA’s in sporting events, and because they have a potent fatigue-fighting and recovery-enhancing effect, they’re one of my top recommended supplements to use for both performance and recovery. I recommend 5-10 grams taken prior to a hard workout or race, and another 5 grams each hour during the event.
(3).  Athletes have personally tried many different glucosamine-chondroitin blends and many have settled on one called “Kion Flex” to be most effective. Popping 8-12 capsules per day if you’re injured can be indicated, especially if there’s nagging joint pain. In addition to glucosamine-chondroitin, it contains a cocktail of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories such as cherry juice, ginger, turmeric, white willow bark, feverfew, valerian, acerola cherry, and lemon powder.
(4).  This observation does not mean that absorbic acid can’t be useful medically. For hospital sepsis, it can be life saving. It can also be useful with cancer. And of course the skin and ligaments. This is because Vitamin C plays a critical role in collagen formation, and collagen is the primary component of connective tissue. Vitamin C also works as an antioxidant to limit free-radical damage to tissues, and boosts the growth of fibroblast and chondrocyte cells, which produce connective tissue fibers and cartilage. For example: “Four grams of ascorbic acid daily produced a significant improvement in the quality of newly synthesized collagen but did not alter that formed prior to the supplementation of C. The combined evidence in this review provides a substantial base for further research, both clinical and experimental trials, concerning the interrelationships between vitamin C and the body’s healing potential”. (Source)
(5). Studies on coconut water as an electrolyte-replacement beverage date back decades, when coconut water was compared to other beverages, and found to be “more suitable.” But, the other beverages they compared it to were toxic soda pop like Pepsi, Coke and Sprite.  Vita Coco recently settled a $10 million class action lawsuit for claiming its coconut water was “super-hydrating” “nutrient-packed” “mega-electrolyte” “super-water”. However, when independent testing was done, the evidence showed that the actual electrolyte levels were a small fraction of what the label advertised. A recent study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition compared coconut water to a manufactured sports drink and found no difference between the two in terms of hydration or exercise performance, and in fact those drinking the coconut water reported feeling more bloated and experienced greater stomach upset.
(6). If one is looking for an alternative to dairy, experts recommend the nutritional offerings of soy over coconut milk, but because of allergies and other issues, coconut milk with some extra vitamins and minerals may be the best as a breast milk alternative and all the more so that its high content of lauric acid, a fatty acid also found in breast milk  helps protect against infections and bacteria and there is no lactose, which  can be difficult to digest for a baby whose gut bacteria are not well formed, in particular with C section mothers. Coconut milk is also a good source of niacin, iron, and copper. Canned and cold beverage versions of coconut milk don’t contain protein and have to much saturaged fats, the best is to make it at home from young coconuts. (Source
Disclaimer: Nothing in this educational article should be construed as medical advise.
Happiness Medicine Institute, (c), 2018.  All Right Reserved.
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