Archive for the ‘performance’ Category

Recovery and Therapeutic Techniques- Part 2.

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A spinal nerve with its anterior and posterior...

A spinal nerve with its anterior and posterior roots. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The article/blog post I wrote a few months back entitled, I Have a Message…Go Get a Massage received a good amount of interest, as well as feedback.  I had originally intended to cover several of the therapeutic and recovery techniques that I recommend and employ myself.  After awhile of editing and shortening, I realized there was just far too much info for a single post.  I suppose this could be considered the sequel, so without me rambling on and on (probably going off in a totally different direction in the process) lets get into some of the other therapy practices I believe in.

Perhaps the most polarizing of all “mainstream” healthcare practitioners’ are Chiropractors.  I’ve heard so many varying opinions when it comes to chiropractic care it’s mind boggling. The sentiment towards Chiropractors, at least from what individuals I’ve worked with over the years, ranges from, “Dr. Chiro allowed me to walk again” to “it’s all Dr. Chiro’s fault I’ll never walk again.”  I think this originates from a misunderstanding of what a Chiropractor intends to accomplish through his or her manipulation and adjustments to the effected area of the body.  Your nervous system controls and coordinates all functions with-in the body, when the signals being sent through the system get interfered with, parts of the body will not receive proper messages.  Therefore, impairing proper movement patterns, these impairments are not isolated ONLY to the directly affected area of the body.  That’s only the beginning, remember, the body is a kinetic chain working in harmony like a well conducted orchestra.  Just like an orchestra, the human body is harmonious until just ONE of the numerous possibilities is off tune or misaligned.  This can dramatically alter the sound and flow of the entire orchestra or human body.

A subluxation refers to an incomplete or partial dislocation of a joint or organ.  More specifically a vertebral subluxation is when one or more of the bones of the spine move out of position and create pressure of irritation of spinal nerves.  Spinal nerves are the nerves between each of the bones in the spine.  The pressure or irritation causes these nerves to malfunction and interfere with the signals traveling over the nerves.  It’s the responsibility of the Doctor of Chiropractic to locate subluxations and reduce or correct them.  This is done through a series of chiropractic adjustments designed to correct the vertebral subluxations in your spine.  A study conducted by Drs. Anthony Lauro and Brian Mouch, published in The Journal of Chiropractic Research and Clinical Investigation(1991) indicated chiropractic care might improve athletic performance by 16.7% over a two week period.  Like I always say 1% of something, is better than 100% of nothing.  The report also concluded that subluxation free athletes react faster, coordinate better, and execute fine movements with improved accuracy and precision, amounting to an overall better athlete.  In closing, when the body is aligned properly, your nervous system is tuned allowing the kinetic chain to fire in unison.  This leads to peak performance, fewer injuries and faster recovery.

One practice in particular that I’d like to mention is acupuncture.  Acupuncture is a technique of inserting and manipulating fine filiform needles into specific points on the body with the aim of relieving pain for therapeutic purposes.  According to traditional Chinese acupuncture theory, the acupuncture points lie along meridians along which Qi (chi or ch’i) the vital energy flows.  Some of the benefits of acupuncture include a quick reduction in inflammation, as well as, releasing pressure form trigger points which greatly accelerates the healing process.  The importance of reducing any inflammation is that it prevents blood stagnation via release of osmotic pressure away form the injury, again creating a more efficient healing process.  Additional benefits form acupuncture include increased circulation, a boost to the immune system, many patients claim increased energy and serenity, and it has been found to be especially effective in treating ligament and tendon strains which are quite common among training athletes.  Regular acupuncture enthusiasts claim that it helps significantly in their training and performance.  A number of avenues such as building muscle mass, increased glycogen storage, improvement in fast twitch muscle fiber activation and overall energy which are paramount for a great performance.  To give you an idea of the athletic influence that acupuncture has take the 1993 Chinese National Games where a total of 9 women broke world records and claim to have only used legal Chinese herbs and the constant use of acupuncture treatments.  Acupuncture is becoming so respected that for the first time ever it was offered during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, for all athletes and officials to incorporate into their recovery, healing, medical and whatever other forms of treatment they desired (within the parameters of IOC guidelines of course).

Lastly, I want to briefly discuss TENS therapy which stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.  This type of therapy is performed by placing electrodes on a desired location of the body, either directly on an effected area, or at key points along the nerve pathway.  A small battery powered generator emits a milli-amp of electricity through wire leads to the electrodes.  TENS therapy is often used in pain management protocols as well as physical therapy, however I intend to discuss what I believe to be the benefit of TENS therapy for a high performance athlete.  As I discussed when we train we breakdown the muscle fibers and repair them through proper nutrition and so on.  Over the course of these processes we develop micro scaring in the muscles and I believe a TENS unit is great in assisting in the break up of the scare tissue.  One of the reasons for the excellent healing properties of TENS therapy is the increased circulation it brings to the area where the electrodes are placed.  In my experiences, I notice that TENS therapy tends to “open” the muscles fibers, what I mean is, I simply feel there is more volume to the muscle bellies after this type of a therapy session.  I wouldn’t say that there’s a time limit on transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, but I find thirty minutes to be sufficient.  If you plan on having any longevity in your sport of choice it’s imperative that you put just as much effort into recovery and healing your bodies as you do to training and practice.  Being at your absolute best is a 24/7 job, attention to detail is a must in order to achieve Ultimate Human Performance.

Glutamine & Creatine

Glutamine: The benefits may surprise you!

Glutamine is a common supplement found in many supplement stores, gym bags, protein shakes and a plethora of other nutritional products.  Yet, ironically it’s considered a non-essential amino acid…and in my opinion, the greatest benefits of glutamine rarely get recognized!  This is a disservice to all of you, hence the goal of this article is not to change anyone’s opinion or sell you on a glutamine product.  The goal is simply to teach you, to the best of my abilities, why glutamine is widely considered a staple in many training athletes supplement arsenal.  As well as, why glutamine should have more universal appeal to those outside the “bodybuilding/fitness” arena.

What is Glutamine?
Glutamine is classified as a non-essential amino acid, since it can be readily synthesized by various tissues such as skeletal muscles, liver, and adipose tissue.  glutamine is the most abundant single amino acid found in the bloodstream, which comprises 61% of the free intracellular amino acid pool (most abundant amino acid in skeletal muscle tissue), while Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA‘s) comprise 8.4% of the pool.  Glutamine’s unique structure, containing two nitrogen side chains, consists of 19% nitrogen- making it the primary transporter of nitrogen into the muscle cells.

Over the years people begun to recognize the benefits of glutamine (each will be discussed further), such as:
1) Enhances the Immune System
2) Enhances glycogen storage
3) Improves Intestinal and Gastric health
4) Prevents Muscle Tissue breakdown (Catabolism)
5) Promotes Muscle Tissue growth and repair (Anabolism)

What Does Glutamine Do?
During exercise or other times of metabolic stress such as diet, severe injury, illness, etc. the demand for glutamine in your blood matrix (Plasma) markedly increases.  For instance, various cells of the immune system such as lymphocytes and macrophages depend on glutamine as a primary fuel source, and thus the demand for glutamine increases when and immunological response is mounted.  Macrophages and lymphocytes are the primary virus and bacteria fighter in your bloodstream.  As glutamine travels through the body, the enterocytes of the small intestines are the largest consumers of glutamine accounting for about 40-50% of glutamine consumption.  Also, glutamine is required for the synthesis of nucleotides.  Thus, a sufficient supply of glutamine is particularly important for rapidly dividing cells such as enterocytes and the immune cells.  Therefore, the synthesis of glutamine may be insufficient to meet the physiological demand during times of severe metabolic stress when the amount of free glutamine is rapidly depleted.  Therefore, it may be beneficial for people who continuously place themselves in infectious areas or commonly get sick, to supplement with glutamine to aide virus and/or bacteria fighting cells.

Glutamine supplementation may also promote nitrogen retention (a positive nitrogen balance) and prevent the loss of muscle protein.  A decreased ratio of testosterone to cortisol is believed to be directly responsible for losses in muscle mass since cortisol promotes the synthesis of glutamine.  By maintaining intracellular concentrations of glutamine within the skeletal muscles, the synthesis of glutamine may prevent the loss of intracellular nitrogen.

Therefore, it may be beneficial for people who continuously place themselves through strenuous workouts to supplement with glutamine to aide when glutamine stores are depleted.  Furthermore, by enhancing plasma concentrations of glutamine, the demand for free form glutamine by other tissues and cells (i.e., small intestines and immune cells) is attenuated and thus the release of glutamine from muscle tissues is reduced.

Why Does Your Body Need Glutamine?
To fully understand why glutamine is beneficial to the body, we must continue this biochemistry lesson.  The body uses glutamine to shuttle ammonia around in the body, so blood levels of glutamine try to maintain constant.  Glutamine is craved by the digestive tract and the immune system as fuel.  Most people eat more than enough protein from the supermarket, but they do not get enough glutamine through the digestion of meats and other proteins.  Under certain pathological circumstances the body’s tissues need more glutamine than the overall amount supplied by the diet and natural synthesis such as during a strenuous workout.

During catabolic stress, for instance, intracellular glutamine levels can drop more than 50% and plasma concentrations can fall by 30%.  It’s under these circumstances that supplemental glutamine becomes necessary.

Skeletal muscle contains the greatest intracellular concentrations of glutamine, comprising up to 60% of total body glutamine stores, and is considered the primary storage depot of glutamine, and thus the primary exporter of glutamine to other tissues.  In times of metabolic stress, glutamine is released into circulation, where it is transported to the tissue(s) in need.  Intracellular skeletal muscle glutamine concentration is affected by various assaults including injury, sepsis, prolonged stress, and starvation.  Besides skeletal muscle, the lungs are the next largest producer of glutamine.
Glutamine is especially useful post workout when nutrients are at a low until recovery.  In this condition research shows glutamine levels are significantly reduced, taking up to one month (in extreme cases) to return to baseline.  In athletes, glutamine has been used as a marker to indicate overtraining.  This fall in glutamine is catabolic to muscle tissue.  In a catabolic state, glutamine is the first amino acid used to correct that deficiency.  Glutamine drives protein into the muscle cells where it is synthesized for growth  This means that additional glutamine is necessary during periods of stress, resulting in bigger, stronger muscle cells.

Research Findings
In a recent study of glutamine’s role enhancing the immune system, glutamine demonstrated that increased levels of glutamine leads to greater amounts of virus and infection fighting cells, T and B Lymphocytes.  Cells of the immune system including the macrophages and lymphocytes depend on glutamine as a primary fuel source.  In addition, it has been hypothesized that a high rate of glutamine consumption by these rapidly proliferation cells is required for sufficient nucleotide synthesis.

Research indicates that low levels of glutamine within the body may result in the increased susceptibility to infections and illness due to a suppressed immune system.  The ability to reproduce and the activity of immune cells in vitro have reportedly been suppressed in trials lacking glutamine.  Tests also demonstrated that the increased rate of infection and illness (particularly infections of the upper respiratory tract) has been reported among athletes participating in intense, long duration sports (i.e., marathon racing).
It has been suggested that a decline in plasma glutamine concentrations may be one of the factors responsible for this increased rate of illness.  Specifically, the activity of natural killer cells, a reduced number and proliferate ability of lymphocytes, and a reduced ratio of T-helper to T-suppressor cells may be the result of prolonged, exhaustive exercise.

Glutamine as a GDA (Glucose Disposal Agent)
In another study of glutamine’s role on glucose and glycogen formation, the importance of glutamine was also emphasized.  The human carbon based skeleton of glutamine can serve as a gluconeogenic precursor and may regulate gluconeogenesis, which is basically the production of glycogen, independently of the insulin/glucagon ratios.  Because glutamine may serve as a precursor to glucose independently of glucagon regulation, glutamine supplementation may also enhance glycogenolysis and thus increase muscle glycogen stores even when insulin levels are low.  So basically glutamine helps regulate glycogen in your body when levels are low and may even increase them, which would result in better performance and growth.

Use of Glutamine
Glutamine and L-Glutamine can be purchased in powder or capsule form.  Glutamine containing products are protein shakes, protein powders and protein drinks.  Additional glutamine can be added to protein powders and shakes.  However, glutamine is relatively unstable in solution, and thus glutamine powders must be consumed shortly after being mixed into solution.

Glutamine Side Effects
It is completely safe.  There are no known side effects.

Conclusion
Hopefully this article has opened you up to the topic of glutamine supplementation.  Supplementing with glutamine can result in measurable gains in strength, muscularity, and immune function.  Taking glutamine before and during a workout will increase performance and delay fatigue.  This amino acid is needed for the maintenance of muscle tissue during physical stress and intense exercise and plays a crucial role in the fight against sickness.  From the perspective of athletes, glutamine functions as an anabolic/anti-catabolic agent, which allows the body to burn fat and not muscle.  Therefore, glutamine is crucial in your quest to achieve Ultimate Human Performance!!

Speed Training and Dynamic Warm-ups Revealed.

What the heck is a snack anyways? How many calories is it outside today?.

So you wanna transform your physique, huh!?.

Pancreas…Insulin…Body Fat! Ohh My!!.

Micronutrients…Make a Mega Difference!!.

Micronutrients are nutrients required by humans and other living things throughout life in small quantities to orchestrate a whole range of physiological functions, but which the organism itself cannot produce.  (Canadian UNICEF Committee, Global Child Survival and Health, 2006, p.67)

I tend to find that many athletes underestimate the importance of vitamins and minerals, that’s why I found it appropriate to start this blog with the acronym, CHOPKINS Cafe MG.  This acronym stands for the bio elements that make up the fundamental structures of all living things; carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium, iodine, nitrogen, calcium, iron, and magnesium.  Quite simply, these are the “bare necessities” needed for mammalian existence.  Vitamins are organic compounds that a living organism requires in trace quantities for good health, but which the organism can not synthesize and therefore must be obtain through it’s diet.  Vitamins are not an energy source but play a vital role in releasing the energy that is stored in foods consumed for sustenance.  Vitamins play a key role in the control and regulation of enzymes, as well as, the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems.  Minerals in contrast to vitamins are inorganic compounds.  Minerals require no digestion, and some may even be stored in the liver.  Minerals are vital in the formation of strong bones and teeth, they also help control the nervous system, fluid balance, muscular contractions, as well as, some hormone functions and enzyme secretion.  Electrolytes provide the proper electrical charge within bodily fluids for the transmission of nerve impulses, muscular contraction, proper acid-base balance for ideal ph and overall fluid levels.  Without getting into specific detail of each particular vitamin, mineral, or electrolyte… The key take home message here is the importance of a balanced nutrition program, a quality vitamin/mineral supplement, and the significants of proper hydration and electrolyte replenishment.  As an athlete, the aforementioned elements are lost through sweat, respiration, physical, and mental stress to the body.  In order to perform at optimal levels at all times, I can’t stress enough the importance of proper nutrition and supplementation.  Intensely trained athletes don’t necessarily have a difference in micronutrient requirements than that of the average person… However, the requirement is typically far greater.

Many studies have been done on athletes using vitamin and mineral supplements.  The outcome is consistently the same,  supplemented athletes show greater performance, for longer periods of time then non-supplemented athletes.  It’s nice to think that it’s a possible to ingest the required amount of vitamins and minerals from one’s diet, but in today’s day and age of pesticides, preservatives, and poor soil quality it’s nearly impossible (I hate to be negative, but let’s be honest here).  I personally believe, as an elite athlete being spot on with one’s nutrition program AND giving an equal amount of attention to micronutrient supplementation based on vitamin/mineral testing is essential to performance.  This simple process will eliminate the guess work involved, ensuring each athlete knows exactly what he or she as an individual is lacking in order to attain… Ultimate Human Performance!