Keep Healthy and Roll On: Inflammation and Grappling
Grapplers are more inflamed than they may realize. The high-impact training combined with poor nutritional and lifestyle habits sets up a perfect environment for inflammation. And inflammation is not just going to impact performance it is going to impact health.
While the focus of most grapplers is performance, I would argue their focus should be on health. Chronic low-grade inflammation that is produced as a result of grappling can cause long-term issues if it is not managed.
The Pros and Cons of Inflammation
Inflammation can be caused by stress, trauma, and overuse. Not all inflammation is bad. The body produces inflammation for a reason. When you are injured, inflammation around the injury area brings nutrients to that area to help the healing process.
But chronic low-grade inflammation caused by stress, overuse, and diet will have the opposite effect - decreasing health and performance. A study done in 2014 for Nutrition Journal looked at inflammation and its impact on health. The researchers in that study concluded that inflammation can cause depressive symptoms and lead to metabolic syndrome.
Why Grapplers Need to Be Aware
Grapplers are at a high risk for chronic inflammation. The frequency and intensity of training combined with the lifestyle stress we all have to navigate results in greater inflammation than someone who just lifts weights a few days a week. For a competitive grappler, trying to cut weight for a tournament adds an even higher risk due to the reduction in nutrients and calories.
"Regardless of why you started training, one goal that should always be in your mind is to improve your health."
But most grapplers continue to train without considering these health risks. Continuing to train will decrease immune function and increase the chance of injury. The best thing to do would be to cut back on training, but grapplers are not found of rest days especially if they are training for a tournament.
Many people suffer from high inflammation and do not know it. Common signs of inflammation include joint pain, muscle pain, fatigue, and high blood pressure. Physicians often look at the blood tests for signs of inflammation. Your doctor may recommend testing for any or all of the following: elevated high sensitivity c-reactive protein (HS-CRP), homocysteine, and elevated blood glucose.
If you are a grappler there is a high chance you are experiencing some of those signs. If you are here are three steps to help you.
Rest can be hard for a dedicated grappler to navigate. During competition season, multiple rest days per week may not be possible. But at least aim for one day completely off and choose one other day for light training or just mobility work. Outside of competition season, it’s good to take at least two days off each week.
"By focusing on health instead of performance, grappling can be a healthy addition to anyone’s training program."
Nutrition plays a key role in reducing inflammation. Every person may have his or her own nutritional strategies that work. But there are a few things that everyone should incorporate into their nutritional plan to help reduce inflammation. Here are the three supplements I recommend:
- Fish oil- This supplies the body with omega-3 fatty acids important for fighting inflammation. A daily does of 6g is recommended to reduce soreness. That 6g is the combined amount of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Creatine- One of the most researched supplements out there. Its benefits range from helping with muscle repair to brain health. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 3-5g daily of creatine monohydrate.
- Curcumin- This one is a substance found in the spice turmeric. A 2013 study published in Biofactors described curcumin as a safe non-toxic anti-inflammatory compound that is highly promising. The recommended dosage is up to 1mg/kg of bodyweight.
Grapplers should work as hard on mobility work as they do on training. Mobility work will help the body repair from the damage of training. When mobility work is done is less important than how often.
Spend twenty to thirty minutes a day on mobility work. For grapplers who are feeling achy and swollen, VooDoo Floss Bands are a great option. These bands are used to compress tissue. By compressing the myofascial structures, the bands force your tissues to glide together and this restores movement. The compression itself helps push the swelling out and bring nutrients in. As Kelly Starrett says, “Garbage out, groceries in.”
Adding mobility work to your program does not have to be complicated. Try the following schedule:
- Day 1 - Lower body mobility
- Day 2 - Upper body mobility
- Day 3 - Thoracic spine mobility focus
- Day 4 - Hip focus
- Day 5 - Ankle and wrists
The other two days remaining in the week can be used for anything that needs extra attention.
Overall - Focus On Your Health
Some grapplers start training because they want to compete. Others just want to get a good workout and learn something. Regardless of why you started training, one goal that should always be in your mind is to improve your health. By focusing on health instead of performance, grappling can be a healthy addition to anyone’s training program.
Check out these related articles:
- An Athlete's Guide to Inflammation - What to Eat and What to Avoid
- Top 10 Foods to Fight Inflammation
- The 5 Critical Responsibilities of the Grappling Student
- What's New On Breaking Muscle Today
1. "Independent Analysis on Supplements & Nutrition." Examine.com Blog RSS. Accessed February 9, 2015.
2."International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Creatine Supplementation and Exercise." JISSN. Accessed February 9, 2015.
3. Perez-Cornago, Aurora, Rocio de la Iglesia, Patricia Lopez-Legarrea, Itziar Abete, Santiago Navas-Carretero, Clara I. Lacunza, Francisca Lahortiga, Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez, Jose Alfredo Martinez, and M. Angeles Zulet. 2014. "A decline in inflammation is associated with less depressive symptoms after a dietary intervention in metabolic syndrome patients: a longitudinal study." Nutrition Journal 13, no. 1: 1-20. EBSCO MegaFILE, EBSCOhost (accessed February 9, 2015).
4. Shehzad, Adeeb, Gauhar Rehman, and Young Sup Lee. "Curcumin in inflammatory diseases." Biofactors 39, no. 1 (January 2013): 69-77. EBSCO MegaFILE, EBSCOhost (accessed February 9, 2015).
Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo 2 courtesy of David Brown.