Your recovery rate directly determines how effective your training will be. If you are not recovering at an optimal rate, you will not be able to maximize each workout session, which results in a lost opportunity for training gains. Unmanaged chronic inflammation will not only slow down your muscle growth or fat loss efforts, but it will also lead to injuries. You already know the importance of foam rolling and stretching, but you can gain a competitive advantage by introducing an inflammation management protocol into your diet and lifestyle practices for optimal recovery rates.
By utilizing the SnS Method for inflammation management, Joe Scali (ex pro hockey player & CrossFit Games athlete) transformed from the potential of never regaining full use of his shoulder, into the best shape of his athletic career, only months following his surgery! Use the lifestyle and diet practices that he implemented to maximize your training sessions leading up to the CanWest Games!
Let’s start with stress management. Your body reacts to all stressors in the same manner - whether you’re being chased by a bear, beating yourself up over your body image, or panicking about a work deadline, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol. Your body is smart and well equipped for survival with this “fight-or-flight” response - however, your body is NOT equipped to deal with the constant activation of the nervous system. Chronically increased cortisol production will only produce large amounts of cortisol for so long before your body stops producing cortisol in the attempt to protect the body’s tissues (aka burnout). While you cannot eliminate all the stress in your life, you CAN learn how to change your response to situations in your environment. Guided meditation, gratitude journalling, breathing exercises, nature walks, and engaging in loving relationships are a few simple ways to manage your cortisol.
Sleep is regulated by circadian rhythms, which drive hormones to keep your sleep and wakefulness optimized throughout the day. If your circadian rhythm is out of sync, so is your sleep. Circadian rhythms also regulate the immune system and thus, inflammation - disrupted circadian rhythm equates to poor immune function which increases inflammation. Getting 7-9hrs of quality sleep each night is crucial to healing inflammation. Going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, getting direct sunlight exposure each morning, cutting food and water intake a few hours before bed and creating a quiet, cool and dark environment can all help optimize your sleep quality and quantity.
Eliminating inflammatory foods from your diet is one of the simplest ways to reduce inflammation and optimize gut health, as your gut health is linked to everything from your digestion to your energy. Many athletic nutrition programs emphasize high sugar consumption for post workout recovery. While post workout sugar intake does replenishes glycogen stores faster, crushing refined carbohydrates post workout is not the best method to managing inflammation, as consuming a diet high in sugar triggers the release of cytokines, which are pro-inflammatory molecules. We removed all forms of artificial sugars from Joe’s diet including his beloved ketchup, bottled cold brew, post workout protein bars, and nightly yogurt and granola ‘gains bowl’. We replaced the artificial sugar around workouts with naturally occurring sugar from real food like white potatoes. Throughout the rest of the day, Joe stopped consuming what was convenient to fill his high caloric demands and focused on improving food quality by filling his diet with:
-Organic grass fed & grass finished meat to balance omega 6:3 ratio as the modern diet is much higher in omega 6 fatty acids which cause inflammation (omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory). The ratio in grass fed beef is the 3:1 that we’re looking for, whereas conventionally raised beef can get up to a 20:1 ratio
-Wild caught cold water fish such as salmon and sardines increases EPA & DHA consumption, which have been shown to decrease the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP)
-Nutrient dense vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli which contain antioxidants that fight inflammation by reducing cytokines and NF-kB levels, which drive inflammation
-Extra virgin olive oil can reduce several inflammatory markers as it contain antioxidants that have comparable anti-inflammatory effects to drugs like ibuprofen
-Walnuts contain omega 3 ALA and antioxidant polyphenols that fight inflammation, support gut health and fight against oxidative stress
Some high quality natural supplements can be as powerful as pharmaceutical drugs, without the intestinal, kidney, liver and heart damage that goes along with heavy NSAID consumption.
-Fish Oil has been shown to reduce CRP and DHA has also been shown to increase blood flow to the brain during mental tasks (which may improve ADHD). Sardine oil is a high quality option. Algae oil is a great alternative (not just for vegans!) as it is absorbed well and void of the potential toxins that can go into standard fish oils.
-Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory supplements when combined with bioperine (black pepper extract) to maximize absorption, as curcumin itself has poor bioavailability. Nova 3 Labs Max Rehab is a great option.
-Ginger reduces inflammation and optimizes gut health as it is not only a strong anti-inflammatory, but also an powerful anti-microbial
The best time to consume these anti-inflammatories is a few hours prior to your workout to reduce any injury or pain flare ups. Never take anti-inflammatories immediately post workout as you do not want to shut down the hormetic response to exercise - wait at least a few hours to allow the natural inflammatory response to exercise ride out.