When you as a fitness professional think of injuries, you likely think mostly of a sprain or strain. However, overuse can also cause injuries. The typical inflammation response from exercise can go from an acute stage to more chronic because of overuse, causing the body to be in a constant state of inflammation. Fatigue and poor nutritional habits can exacerbate the inflammatory response to basic exercise and morph into something more serious, chronic and systemic throughout the body, all of which can lead to more chronic injuries.
You may recommend to your clients that they get more sleep or modify their schedules, but one factor that you may overlook is nutrition. Proper nutrition can help heal the inflammation from the inside out.
Here are five foods that your clients should pay attention to; one of which can increase inflammation and the other four of which can help prevent inflammation and injuries.
1. Sugar. Sugar is a beast. When people are fatigued, they crave that quick energy that they get from items that have a higher than normal sugar content. Sugar is a sweet poison and highly addictive. Americans overload on sugary, refined and processed food. Although bodies need some sugar for energy, people can get that energy from glucose, which comes from foods such as fruits and vegetables. Glucose is also present in the bloodstream all the time. Bodies regulate it well so that when it overloads on it, the body doesn’t know what to do with it. Too much sugar in the body can lead to problems such as skin issues, restlessness, diabetes and heart issues because of the inflammatory effect it has on the body. Still, many people crave sugar, so recommending that your clients not eat sugar at all is unrealistic. However, you can recommend that if they are craving something sweet, they eat an apple or a banana to see if that quells the craving.
2. Potassium. Speaking of bananas, one of the nutrients that bodies definitely need but that people don’t get enough of is potassium. People need potassium, along with a balance of sodium to help with heart health. Potassium also helps the body maintain a neutral pH level. When bodies are too acidic on the pH scale, the cortisol (stress) hormone begins to rise as does internal inflammation as a side effect.
3. Greens. Greens have some of the highest levels of nutrients of any foods. Greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli and collards are some of the top foods that help to fight inflammation. Greens along with other fresh vegetables and fruits are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals and help restore health in the body on a cellular level. For those reasons, fresh produce should be the first level of defense when fighting inflammation in the body.
4. Protein. Most people who get too much protein tend to have more inflammation, injury and an unbalanced pH in the body. Bodies are made of protein and require protein. As fitness professionals, you likely recommend that your clients consume protein after a workout. However, it’s important to think about the type of protein they put into their bodies. Protein can come from both plants or animals. Protein is not a one-size-fits-all solution as everyone is individual, and everyone requires nutrition from different sources. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your clients avoid processed protein sources.
5. Fats. Fats are a necessity in the body because fats provide energy for most of our life functions as well as help with brain function and hormonal balance. Having said that, moderation is key, and you should ensure that the types of fat your clients are eating are heart healthy options, such as avocados, raw olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Nutrition is a priority to help your clients bring their bodies back to a state of balance, so their bodies can begin to function the way they were meant to function. Good nutrition reduces inflammation, increases energy and reduces the risk of injury. When your clients feel better, they function better; when they function better, they sleep better; when they sleep better, they eat better. That's a healthy cycle that everyone need in their lives.
Of course, if you are not a registered dietitian, you have to ensure you stay within your scope of practice when you talk about nutrition, but knowing that certain foods can help your clients with inflammation or can cause more inflammation will be a bonus in your practice.
Debra Orringer, MS, is a board-certified integrative nutrition health coach, an ACE medical exercise specialist and an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist. You can read more about her on her website, www.DebraOrringer.com, or follow her on her Facebook page, Health Coaching with DebO. You can also find her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/debraorringer.