You probably think sports and exercise are great for your health. We’re not here to convince you otherwise – countless studies confirm a positive link between exercise and general mental and physical well-being (source).
But there’s a catch: exercise causes acute inflammation, and if left untreated for too long, the inflammation can become chronic.
EXERCISE AND ACUTE INFLAMMATION
Can this really be true? In short, yes. When you exercise, small tears appear in your muscles. Your body treats them like a micro-injury and responds by sending white blood cells to try and help.
This process is called “inflammation,” and it’s a way for our body to heal itself.
Post-workout inflammation helps muscles heal and adapt to the increasing levels of workout difficulty. This is a perfectly normal part of the recovery process. But, problems can appear if you don’t handle your recovery well. If you push your body too hard without rest in between, this acute inflammation could turn into a chronic one. And if there are other external factors, such as lack of sleep, a suboptimal diet, or stress, you could really be in trouble.
LET’S DIG A LITTLE DEEPER… WHAT IS CHRONIC INFLAMMATION?
First of all, what is the difference between acute and chronic inflammation? It comes down to time.
Acute inflammation appears as a response to a sudden event that disrupts our body. And to get back to what I was saying, acute inflammation is a common response to exercising. When we exercise, we push our bodies and work our muscles. This results in improved health, more strength, and yes, acute cases of muscle inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is a different beast.
While symptoms of acute inflammation are fairly obvious, chronic cases manifest in subtle ways. You can feel fatigue, soreness, and chest pain for weeks, or even months or years. The causes or chronic inflammation are varied. Scientists generally agree that smoking, stress, and alcohol contribute to chronic inflammation. Sometimes certain diseases, such as cancer, can cause prolonged bouts of inflammation. And untreated causes of acute inflammation can very well turn into chronic situations.
If you’re overtraining or doing super intense workouts with no sufficient recovery time in between, you’re way more likely to develop a chronic case of inflammation. Your whole body could start to hurt, and you could become more injury-prone. Chronic inflammation is also an underlying cause of many other health issues, so it’s definitely not to be taken lightly. It can lead to DNA damage, internal scarring, and diseases such as arthritis, asthma and even cancer (source).
SO HOW TO AVOID CHRONIC INFLAMMATION AND RECOVER PROPERLY?
While it’s true that exercise can cause flare-ups of inflammation, it’s also a great tool to fight it. Confused? Well, with recovery done right, exercise is a great boost to our immune system. The stronger we are, the better we can fight off chronic inflammation stored in our bodies.
The best way to prevent inflammation caused by exercise is to maintain a training program that gradually progresses in difficulty. That way your muscles have a chance to build strength without stressing your body.
Basically – slow and steady wins the race.
But you know what else? A healthy and balanced lifestyle also helps! Let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways to stay inflammation-free:
- Get a good night’s sleep – every night. Sleep is essential to all our life functions. When we are well-rested, our productivity, mood, and focus are improved. And, sleep does wonders for muscles! They rest and recover during sleep, thus reducing inflammation. Lack of sleep can have dramatic and adverse effects on the recovery process (source).
- Stop drinking! Why does this matter? Well, a glass of wine here and there is OK, but drinking too much can increase the inflammation in your body. Alcohol also has a negative impact on our general health, so avoiding it is a pretty good idea for anyone serious about their fitness.
- Keep up a regular exercise schedule. In other words, don’t skip exercise days and don’t skip recovery days. Exercise helps to keep down chronic inflammation but to truly benefit from exercise, you must be disciplined. Working out ten days in a row and then resting for a month or vice versa is not a good idea. Balance is the key.
- Rest. But no, really, REST. Here’s the thing: no matter how hard you’re training, if you don’t rest, all that exercise will ultimately do you more harm than good. Rest days are crucial for the recovery process.
- Practice mindfulness. Stress is the silent killer. It’s also been shown to increase inflammation and lead to various other issues (source). And while physical fitness is important, we must take care of our minds as well. Some ideas to reduce stress: meditate, walk your dog, hang out with friends and stop and smell the roses once in a while. Sounds good? It really is!
- Don’t forget to hydrate. I can’t emphasize this enough: drink enough water. If you’re exercising, you absolutely need to track your water consumption and make sure it’s on the right level. Optimal hydration is a key factor in the performance of any athlete. Additionally, it helps release the toxins which too often lead to inflammation.
WE ARE WHAT WE EAT
Here’s the scary part: even if you exercise and apply all of the advice above, if you’re not eating well, you can still develop inflammation and a host of other issues.
So what’s the magic formula?
Food gives us the energy our bodies need to function properly. This energy is stored in fat cells, along with many other substances. When we exercise and these cells break up, we eliminate a lot of toxins and burn a lot of energy. It is extremely important that we eat a healthy diet when exercising.
THREE KEY FOODS TO REDUCE INFLAMMATION
Fish such as salmon or mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have proven anti-inflammatory properties (source).
Extra virgin olive oil has been a staple in the Mediterranean diet for centuries. Recent studies have demonstrated why: olive oil contains several compounds that drastically reduce inflammation (source).
Not only are tomatoes delicious, but they also contain a lot of vitamin C and lycopene, an antioxidant that has unparalleled anti-inflammatory properties (source). Want to know the best part? Lycopene increases in power when mixed with a source of fat.
Just imagine: roasted salmon drenched in extra virgin olive oil with tomatoes on the side. Nutritious, anti-inflammatory AND delicious!
HOW CAN SPICES, TEAS, AND SUPPLEMENTS HELP FIGHT INFLAMMATION
Herbs are nutritional powerhouses. They contain some amazing active ingredients that can help your body fight off just about any attack. Think I’m exaggerating?
Let’s just take a look at green tea as an example. In addition to reducing cancer and heart disease risks, green tea contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Remember cytokines, the agents of inflammation? Well, EGCG helps reduce their numbers and production (source).
Then there’s Curcumin, the miracle component of turmeric. People have been using it to cure a vast array of diseases, but it’s been proven to have amazing anti-inflammatory properties (source).
Another great anti-inflammatory agent is Thymoquinone, the active ingredient found in the Black Cumin Seed. In the Middle East and Mediterranean areas, people have used black cumin for ages, as they believed it helped them with various health issues. Recent studies confirmed that thymoquinone does indeed have antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects (source).
Herbs like thyme, basil, parsley, and oregano contain another anti-inflammatory superhero – Luteolin. Luteolin also suppresses cytokines, and it has some great antioxidant properties, making it a great preventative supplement for cancer.
And to bring some real spice to your life – let’s not forget the chili peppers! They contain a substance called capsaicin, which is what makes them hot. In addition to being anti-inflammatory, peppers such as jalapenos or cayenne can help reduce pain (source).
Astonishing, isn’t it?
These magical herbs and foods have the power to reduce both acute and chronic inflammation and help with many other health issues. And for someone who is exercising and taking their health seriously, a balanced diet is an absolute must!
If you’re on the run or forget to sprinkle some turmeric into your rice dish, you can always take your supplements. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about choosing the right option for you. We have found that liposomal technology brings the best results when it comes to treating inflammation with supplements.
How does Liposomal Technology work?
Supplement nutrients are protected using liposomal microspheres, which act as a carrier. That way, the healing substances bypass your digestive tract and deposit the anti-inflammatory super-components directly in your cells. Liposomal technology ensures that you get your daily nutritional needs met in a safe, effective and fast way.
Everyone can make a positive change in their life. For many of us, that usually means eating healthy and exercising. Just remember to take it slow and track your progress. Get your rest, eat your veggies, and don’t forget to drink water!
Did you find our advice useful in your training and post-training sessions? What were your experiences with sports recovery and inflammation? Do you have any personal tips? Share in the comments below!