I’m not a nutritionist. But I am a strong believer that what you eat and put on your body affects your body and mind. This post will focus more on the body part, but I couldn’t leave out the importance of food and the mind. In general, the food you consume changes the way your body recovers from exercise. The lotion you wear changes how you heal from injury. That sugar addiction you have affects how fast you will be able to see mobility changes. And whether or not your body will maintain those mobility gains. A lot of athletes are informed with the proper fuel to eat before and after a workout, but it’s really your entire day that can affect the way your body functions. And if you’re not consciously aware throughout your day you may find yourself with one or more of the following:
1. Extreme soreness after workouts
2. Fatigue/low energy
3. Chronic injury
4. Slow progress with mobility and/or fitness gains
I recently finished a book by Dr. Catherine Shanahan MD and Luke Shanahan titled “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food.” This book gave some research validity to some of the things I had already heard of, as well as some new areas that I hadn’t really touched on with my own nutrition. Dr. Shanahan healed herself of chronic knee pain with changes in her diet. She had tried conventional medicine and rehabilitative medicine, but nothing seemed to work. However, when she happened to be unable to eat her high sugar diet (say on vacation camping) she noticed significantly less pain in her knee. This lead her to research more along the lines of nutrition, and then to write this magnificent book describing how we are given certain genes but can changes them through proper nutrition.
Throughout my schooling I was always under the impression that we are given certain genes and are stuck with them. So if my mom and my grandma both had back pain, I might as well accept that I will have back pain. I’d come across patients that already accepted that they had bad knees and would need a replacement at some point because one of their parents had one. Even though they just had some minor knee pain from poor movement! As I saw more and more patients, and was able to see them get better even though they had been given “bad genes” I realized there had to be more. Then I learned about a newer area of study called epigenetics, which means that we can change the expression of the genes that we have in order to improve (or worsen if you so choose) our lives. Talk about empowerment! So if you happen to come see me with some injury that is incurable because your family generations all had it I’m gonna give you some tough love and say YOU’RE WRONG. You can change it as long as you’re willing to put in the time to change.
I would highly recommend reading this book if you’re interested in taking charge of your life. This book is full of so much information that I can’t summarize it all, but I want to leave you with some general recommendations so you start moving towards a healthier body.
NO VEGETABLE OIL
I remember when canola oil was supposed to be the best thing for you. This was all a lie! The seeds that vegetable oils come from may have been healthy at one point, but must be refined to make oil and are therefore stripped of their nutrients. So not only are they empty calories, but also cause increased inflammation in the body…..something that slows down healing that we need to recover from exercise and injury. This isn’t the good inflammation that we need to heal, this is excess that the body can’t handle and therefore can’t proceed with normal recovery.
DECREASE SUGAR INTAKE
Man I love sugar. Or as my dad calls it, crack. This is probably the last and hardest thing to cut out of my diet. After reading this book, and continuing to notice how I feel after eating crappy, non-natural sugar, I’m more motivated to cut it out. In more simple terms than Dr. Shanahan describes, when sugar is consumed it literally hardens your cells and tissues. When our blood sugar levels are normal, the kidneys can handle getting rid of the waste before it does more damage. But the kidneys can’t handle excess sugar which is when the damage remains inside your body affecting the way it functions. Here’s a paragraph from the book helping to explain the damage sugar can cause:
” [ ] sugar binding to hormone receptors, jamming them, and rendering us insensitive to the hormone insulin. Once you are insulin resistant, blood sugar levels rise higher still, leading to diabetes and all its related disorders, including weight gain, and circulatory and sexual dysfunction. For the same reasons sugar jams hormone signals, it also clogs nutrient channels, weakening bone and muscle and slowing neural communication, which can impair mood and memory and lead to dementia. While all this is going on, sugar stiffens the collagen in your tendons, joints and skin, causing arthritis and premature wrinkling, while interfering with the production of new collagen throughout your entire body. And because sugar changes the surface markers your white blood cells need to distinguish indigenous cells from invaders, it opens the door to cancer and infection.”
– Dr. Catherine Shanahan
So clearly a lot of bad things with sugar, but the point I really want to make is that this doesn’t just relate to people with diabetes, cancer, or infection. These reactions in the body happen every time we consume sugar in excess……whether in the form of carbs, alcohol or that chocolate brownie! To relate it back to the musculoskeletal system, it basically causes everything in your body to become stiff……..something you don’t want limiting your squat depth or overhead position. In addition, if you exercise your muscles soak up the excess sugar. This sounds like a good thing because the sugar is not floating around in our body, but the excess causes it to ruin the collagen (building block for the body) making it stiff and easier to break.
If you’ve had chronic injuries or difficulty reaching your mobility/strength goals……I hope the above information has sparked some interest. It may be time to assess your sugar/vegetable oil intake and see where you can clean things up to make sure your body is able to function in an optimal way to support your lifestyle. The human body is AMAZING and can recover from almost anything. We just have to give it the right tools and environment in order to be the rockstar we want it to be.