As a nutrition coach, it always amazes me how much time athletes and bodybuilders focus on working out, performance, and performance-based nutrition yet often ignore the science of nutrition and muscle damage or muscle repair.
Every bodybuilder knows that the basic process of building stronger muscles involves breaking down muscle fibers so that they can rebuild and regrow even bigger and stronger. Yet when you look at 99% of bodybuilding supplements or nutrition tips for athletes, it’s almost always about performance.
I’m sure you’ve seen all the flashy ads about saying things like, “Take this creatine and GET RIPPED!” or “Drink this protein shake and watch your muscles BULGE!” and many of you have probably even looked into things like anabolic steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. THIS IS NOT HOW YOU BUILD A STRONG BODY LONG-TERM!
The very process of muscle growth should give you a hint about the role of nutrition in increasing muscle strength and performance. Think about it – your body literally has to tear muscle fibers in order to make them grow. Thus, the entire process of muscle growth is actually a process of muscle repair! It’s not really growth at all (in the sense of normal growth, such as when a child grows from 4’10 to 5’1).
Thus, if you really want long-term muscle growth and performance that will stand the test of time, you need to focus on nutrition for cellular repair, not on quick-fix solutions that may increase muscle size rapidly but cause massive organ damage to other parts of your body. What’s the point of GETTING RIPPED and sick? Why not get ripped and even healthier at the same time?
Preventing Burnout and Muscle Damage in Bodybuilders
The key to nutrition for protecting and helping muscle repair and reducing muscle damage is understanding oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a dangerous byproduct of the process whereby your body burns food for fuel combined with oxygen at the cellular level to produce ATP (energy). In this chemical reaction, your body actually produces free radicals or oxidative radicals that are molecules missing an electron. Because they are missing an electron, these molecules are highly unstable and will damage any other molecules they come into contact with, creating a chain reaction of damage inside your body.
When free radicals hit your DNA, they can cause mutations. When they hit your blood vessels, it can lead to hardening of the arteries and heart disease. When free radicals damage your skin, it can cause wrinkles and fine lines. And when free radicals hit the proteins in your muscles, it can cause permanent muscle damage by creating protein carbonyls and other damaged proteins.
This process of oxidative stress is why so many athletes experience burnout or overtraining syndrome – because your body literally cannot repair the oxidative damage nearly as fast as you’re producing it in your exercise routine. In fact, exercising dramatically increases your oxidative stress load – so the more you exercise, the more you need to protect your body from oxidative stress.
The only way to reduce oxidative stress throughout the entire body is to eat more antioxidants from whole fruits, vegetables, berries and other plant sources. An apple, for instance, has over 10,000 phytonutrients or antioxidants – and those are just the ones scientists have discovered! There are probably tens of thousands more that we haven’t yet isolated. But what we know for sure from the research is that eating these nutrients from whole foods will reduce your levels of oxidative stress and reduce your levels of protein carbonyls and damaged muscle proteins.
That’s why the USDA recommends eating 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. And for serious athletes, you should be eating at least 13 servings a day. And that’s 13 servings of RAW, fresh, vine-ripened fruits and vegetables and it should be a variety as well – not just 13 apples.
Supplements For Muscle Repair
Because of the research on oxidative stress, muscle damage and muscle repair, the only supplement I take personally and recommend for athletes and bodybuilders is a raw food supplement – a fruit and vegetable juice powder concentrate. It’s the only supplement I’ve ever seen shown in a double-blind, placebo controlled study to dramatically reduce protein carbonyls and muscle damage in athletes. It’s also been shown to reduce sick days in elite athletes by as much as 50%. You can read more about the fruit and vegetable concentrate here.
This article written by Tom Corson-Knowles, founder of Authentic Health Coaching. You can get Dr. Candace Corson’s Top 5 Nutrition Tips Report for free at www.AuthenticHealthCoach.com
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