Top 3 Ways to Reduce Inflammation for Active Men: A Trainer’s Perspective
As a very active person myself, one of the most disappointing things that can happen is a setback in my training. At 36 and being a Strength and Performance Coach for elite athletes, I’m pretty good about being smart in the weight room. However, as any weightlifter will tell you, sometimes we get a little pain or some inflammation that just doesn’t seem to go away as fast as we want. Depending on the severity of the inflammation, you may be able to work around it, but sometimes your training takes a hit and so does your hard-earned muscle mass.
Muscle is the exact opposite of fat. It’s hard to put on and easy to take off. Muscle that may have taken months to achieve can be lost in a matter of weeks. Not good when we consider that as we age it gets harder and harder to put on and maintain valuable muscle mass. Some of the benefits that muscle gets you are increased sensitivity to insulin, a better metabolism, higher testosterone levels, and a slowing of the aging process. In fact, in the book Biomarkers, William Evans and Irwin Rosenberg tout increasing muscle mass as the #1 thing you can do to slow the aging process. So, with all these benefits, how can we make sure we never miss a valuable workout due to nagging injuries that have inflammation as their root cause?
1) Go Gluten Free: When working with athletes I try to avoid taking things away. I would much rather add healthy foods that eventually squeeze out the bad stuff. However, this is one exception, as gluten impacts so many systems of the body. The stats vary wildly as to what percentage of the population is gluten intolerant. Some say 15%, some say 100%. From experience, I would say that the number is much closer to the 100% clip. I have never had an athlete who didn’t benefit from either completely going gluten-free or drastically reducing it. Some benefits are a lower body fat percentage, less achy joints, better skin, more flexibility, more energy, and an improved immune system. One trick I use with my athletes is to have them go gluten-free for two weeks, then I tell them they can eat whatever they want once the two weeks is over. Surprisingly, most of them decide not to include gluten in their “free” day as they are now feeling so good and have seen such positive results. The other thing that happens is that they eat a ton of it, feel miserable and never want it again. Either way, I get my point across. Try this test on yourself if you are still a non-believer.
2) Create Meals That Are 75% Meat and Veggies: As I mentioned in Tip #1, I like to squeeze out the inflammatory bad guys and create a plate that is 75% high quality meat and organic veggies. High quality meat means the animal was raised in a stress-free environment and fed its biological food source. Examples would be wild seafood, grass-fed beef, and pastured poultry. One of the best delivery sources for these high-quality meats is USWellnessMeats.com. If you are satisfied with your current body fat levels then you can experiment with the other 25% of the plate. My favorite gluten-free options are quinoa, sweet potato, yam, and wild/brown rice. If you are still wanting to lean down a bit then just make the entire plate meat and veggies. An example would be a grass-fed bison steak, asparagus sautéed in coconut oil, and a dark green salad with a homemade olive oil vinaigrette. Not only will these foods help to bring down inflammation, the large amounts of vitamins, minerals, good fats, and amino acids will help stack on muscle mass. Double bonus!!
3) Reduce Body Fat: The hard truth is that excess body fat increases wear and tear on the joints, especially the weight bearing ones like the hips, knees, and ankles. Few things can crush a man’s motivation like chronic pain in these joints. Trust me, I’ve dealt with it for 15 years in my own knees as an athlete. It can be downright depressing. By reducing your body fat to healthy levels you will not only improve short-term inflammation but also decrease your chances of a hip or knee replacement in the future. By following Tips #1 and #2 you will already be starting the leaning down process. Other tricks that will help are getting 8 hours of sleep per night, cutting out or reducing sugar, consuming half your body weight in ounces of water daily (i.e. a 200lb man would drink 100 oz), and reducing stress.
If you’ve noticed, I haven’t included any supplements. Not because they aren’t beneficial, but because you have to get the above three things dialed in to truly reap all of their benefits. There are many helpful supplements for reducing inflammation, such as fish oil, curcumin, buffered vitamin C, and ginger. However, they are only as good as your core nutrition!