Do all athletes experience inflammation?
Yes. Acute inflammation, otherwise known as short-lived, will occur after training and exercise.
Inflammation is an immune response to any type of stress on your body.
In terms of athletes, this could mean stress caused by resistance training, endurance running, CrossFit, etc. If you're putting in the work, chances are you'll experience some type of inflammation, it's bound to happen.
But there are vitamins and supplements to help. We'll go over seven vitamins and supplements that can help to prevent and reduce inflammation to keep you in your prime.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Krill Oil
These seven vitamins and supplements are some of the best ways to reduce and prevent excessive inflammation.
Vitamin A is a potent anti-inflammatory micronutrient that plays an important role in the specialization of various tissues in the body. It also promotes the innate and adaptive immune systems.
There are several compounds found in food that your body uses to make Vitamin A. Namely:
Green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and beef liver are good sources of these compounds, so it’s a good idea to try and eat them daily.
This is especially important because research shows that a deficiency of vitamin A can lead to the onset of muscle inflammation and can worsen existing inflammatory states.
As an athlete, it’s important to eat a diet that’s rich in vitamin A or take a vitamin A supplement to help reduce inflammation associated with regular exercise.
There are 2 types of vitamin A supplements that you can take. These are:
- Retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate (preformed vitamin A)
These are sold as capsules that you can take daily (but don’t forget your healthy eating too).
Better yet, you can get vitamin A as well as other vitamins and minerals from a healthy blend of veggies and adaptogens.
A potent source of nutrients and popularly known for its deep blue-green color, Spirulina is an antioxidant powerhouse with strong anti-inflammatory effects that can help combat the inflammation caused by training.
Spirula contains phycocyanin, a pigment protein, which fights oxidative stress and free radicals to fight off inflammation.
Research shows that spirulina's antioxidant properties help to relieve pain, decrease inflammation, and boost brain functions.
Spirulina can be added to:
- Smoothies/Smoothie Bowls
- Protein Shakes
- Homemade Energy Bars
Pro Tip: If you're short on time, find a supplement with spirulina to save you the hassle of trying to create your own recipes.
B-complex vitamins are involved in the regulation of your immune response and energy levels.
Because they’re water-soluble, they must be taken consistently to avoid the risk of becoming deficient.
It’s important to get B-complex vitamins daily because your body can’t store water soluble vitamins, and any excess is eliminated.
B vitamins are found in the following foods:
- Spinach and kale
- Milk and cheese
- Tuna, mackerel, and salmon
- Oysters and clams
There are 8 types of B vitamins and only vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 have anti-inflammatory properties.
Let’s look at these two in more detail.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is involved in the production of red blood cells in your body. It’s also needed for protein and glucose metabolism.
Protein is required for the growth and repair of muscle. Glucose acts as a primary source of energy during workouts.
Vitamin B6 helps your body to fully extract these nutrients from your food so that they’re available for use during and after exercise.
If not enough protein or glucose are absorbed because of low vitamin B6 levels, your body can’t repair the wear and tear that regular exercise causes your muscles.
This can lead to prolonged inflammation.
Keeping your vitamin B6 levels in the optimum zone by taking supplements or eating food rich in vitamin B6 can help you to avoid excessive inflammation post workout.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is also used by the body in energy metabolism.
All body cells require vitamin B12 for:
- Fatty acid synthesis
- DNA synthesis
- Energy production
As an athlete, you require extra amounts of vitamin B12 because your muscles are continuously degrading fats and producing energy in the form of ATP.
If you don’t get enough vitamin B12, you run the risk of developing megaloblastic anemia.
With this type of anemia, your body won't be able to make enough red blood cells and will end up making larger than normal cells to compensate.
These larger red blood cells aren’t as efficient in providing enough oxygen to your body’s tissues.
As a result, you’ll suffer from fatigue and your endurance during workouts will be reduced.
Increasing your vitamin B12 intake, either by improving your diet or taking supplements, can help you to avoid this.
Vitamin B12 can help you in another way too.
When you train, products of respiration build up in your muscles. When the session ends, your body spends some time breaking these down using oxygen.
When there’s an inadequate supply of oxygen, these by-products are broken down more slowly and can cause inflammation of muscle tissue.
Taking enough vitamin B12 and iron as an athlete can help to keep your muscles well oxygenated and reduce post-workout inflammation.
Specifically, Curcumin which is the active extract in Turmeric.
Curcumin is known as a "cleansing agent" and has been clinically proven to block cytokines - small proteins that trigger inflammation.
By blocking cytokines, curcumin is able to effectively reduce and prevent inflammation altogether.
Athletes who are experiencing joint pain and inflammation can benefit from taking a turmeric supplement to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation caused by exercise.
People often talk about the immune-boosting properties of vitamin C.
It’s a potent antioxidant that reduces inflammation by counteracting free radical damage.
While that makes it a must-have in the winter months, vitamin C has other properties that can improve your body function as an athlete.
Vitamin C is used in wound healing and other immune processes. It also supports the synthesis of collagen in muscle fibers.
Collagen is an important building block of muscle tissue, tendons, and muscle ligaments.
When you train to improve your agility, power, or endurance, damage is done to these structures.
Vitamin C can help to maintain or replenish collagen in the body so that you can keep working out without burning out.
It’s also useful for athletes that are recovering from serious injury or excessive muscle fatigue.
Good sources of vitamin C include:
- Red and green capsicum
- Guava and papaya
- Broccoli and brussels sprouts
- Tomatoes and citrus fruits
You can also increase your vitamin C intake with supplements.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that the body produces when exposed to sunlight.
Responsible for regulating:
- Calcium and Phosphorus Absorption
- Signal Processing
- Hormone Protein Synthesis
- and Inflammatory Responses
...Vitamin D can help athletes reduce inflammation from exercise and training, especially athletes who train indoors or are located in areas with limited sunlight.
Here's how Vitamin D works, it reduces inflammation by inhibiting these pro-inflammatory cytokines:
- Interleukin 6
- Tumor necrosis factor 6
Pro Tip: Add vitamin d to your lineup to protect against inflammation, especially if you are an indoor or winter athlete that has limited access to natural sunlight.
Krill oil contains essential fatty acids that are known to provide anti-inflammatory functions to help reduce inflammation and improve joint pain.
More effective than other marine omega-3 sources, Krill oil contains astaxanthin, the pigment that gives krill its bright pinkish-orange color, which has beneficial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Studies have shown that Krill Oil:
- Reduces the production of inflammation
- 1,000mg of Krill Oil a day, helped people with higher blood fat levels, reduce inflammation and pain.
Lastly, Krill oil will always be superior to fish oil, because it is sourced from the pristine waters of the Southern Hemisphere, which ensures less potential of toxins and contamination.
If you're an athlete, inflammation (short-lived, not chronic) is bound to happen.
Use these vitamins and supplements to your benefit:
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Krill Oil
Whether you're a runner, a wrestler, a martial artist...inflammation is normal after training, but there are ways to minimize it so that you can recover better for your next session.