Inflammation is a natural response in the body, and to some degree, it is necessary to promote internal healing and recovery. There are two kinds of inflammation which have entirely different causes and effects on training and recovery. How inflammation affects your training and recovery depends on which type of inflammation you are experiencing.
1. Acute Inflammation
Acute inflammation happens in response to an injury or an infection. When the body detects a problem, blood and lymphatic fluid are sent to the area to help the body repair and recover. This causes heat, redness and swelling that can be painful with restricted mobility.
Post-exercise aches and pains frequently result from acute inflammation in response to minor tissue damages following intensive exercise. This kind of inflammation requires recovery time to heal, which is why recovery between exercises is so fundamental to improved performance.
2. Low-Key Inflammation
Low-key inflammation is when the cells of the body become inflamed at a micro-level. This happens when your immune system goes into overdrive; a stress response to lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and lack of exercise.
Often, low-key inflammation causes pain and stiffness in the joints without an obvious cause. This kind of widespread internal inflammation is measured by inflammatory markers called cytokines, which are proteins found in blood and tissue.
What Causes Low-Key Inflammation?
Unlike Acute inflammation, Low-key Inflammation can have long term whole-body consequences. Inflammation at a cellular level is triggered by ongoing stress within the major body organism, caused by the body’s inability to self-regulate. Diet, lack of exercise and being overweight are the leading causes of chronic low-level inflammation.
Sugar, and the sugars produced by eating high-calorie, processed foods that are high in saturated fats, fuel cellular inflammation. Which in turn, causes a myriad of health issues from heart diseases to autoimmune diseases and rheumatoid arthritis.
Exercising for just 20 minutes a day can have a significant impact on reducing cellular inflammation. Widespread inflammation can be successfully managed by making healthy lifestyle choices. Exercise regularly, avoid excessive smoking and alcohol consumption, eat lean protein and reduce your consumption of sugar, refined starch and dairy products.
Healthy anti-inflammatory foods that reduce low-key chronic inflammation include:
1. Oily fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or tuna should be consumed at least twice per week.
2. Cinnamon helps the body fight inflammation naturally and is particularly effective when combined with honey. Enjoy it on a hearty breakfast porridge!
3. Yoghurt. Despite being a fermented dairy product, yoghurt reduces inflammation by improving the gut lining to inhibit cytokines from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
4. Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli contain lutein, which is thought to reduce the inflammation marker IL-6 in the cells.
5. Whole grains that are high in fibre help keep weight down to a healthy BMI, which reduces widespread cellular inflammation. Whole grains take longer to digest and don’t convert into sugars as much as refined grains.
6. Grapes contain a chemical called resveratrol which helps fight inflammation with a similar effect to aspirin. Eating whole grapes can reduce pain and stiffness in the joints.
7. Green tea is full of antioxidants and contains high levels of catechins which inhibit the production of inflammatory proteins. Unlike with other healthy teas, green tea is produced by lightly steaming the leaves, which is a delicate process that helps preserve catechins.
8. Ginger decreases the production of inflammatory proteins, which significantly reduces pain and stiffness in the joints.
9. Dark chocolate contains anti-inflammatory compounds found in raw cacao. Eat chocolate containing a minimum of 70% cacao to avoid excess fat and sugar intake.
10. Berries are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Training With Acute Inflammation
When you are injured or suffering from an infection, the body needs time to rest. This allows the lymphatic fluid to drain away from the infected area and gives muscles and fibres a chance to regenerate and heal in a healthy way.
Training with acute inflammation is counterproductive to the healing process, which slows down recovery and can lead to further injury. Rest, elevation and cold compress treatments are recommended, rather than training. You can also improve joint and muscle recovery by applying topicals on a regular basis, like the WholyMe Relief Balm, which is highly effective, all-natural and organic certified.
With acute inflammation, training is negatively affected by the inflammation, leading to reduced speed, strength and performance. Recovery time is longer, with less ability to heal over time.
Training with Low-Key Inflammation
With low-key chronic inflammation, you may feel some stiffness and pain at first; however, this should ease through the exercise and improve over time.
There is little reason for this type of inflammation to negatively affect your training program, as exercise helps reduce low-key chronic inflammation. The more you train, the less inflammation you should experience, and the better your training will become.
While the inflammation itself has neither a positive nor a negative effect on your training, the overall benefit of training improves the pain caused by inflammation, which in turn increases your speed and strength when training, and leads to faster recovery times.
There is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that exercise can both reduce and aggravate inflammation. To avoid long term injury and improve performance, the key lies in regular exercise while being attentive to your body’s needs and recovery time.
Written by Celine Ivari.