Most of you may have tweaked your diet, increased your water intake, or added in some supplements to your daily routine to ensure optimal skin or hair health, however, do you ever give much thought to your joints?
If the answer’s no, the read on for tips on ways to keep your joints healthy, so that you can be hitting the gym for years to come.
In this article, you’ll find:
Glucosamine is a substance that can be found naturally in our bodies. It helps prevent our bones from rubbing against each other to cause pain and inflammation.5
There are currently two major types of glucosamine heavily researched: glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulphate. Most of the research available tends to favour glucosamine sulphate over glucosamine hydrochloride.5
Two studies have found that supplementing glucosamine in cyclists, football players and rugby players resulted in protective effects on knee joint health.6,7
There was a reduction in the breakdown of muscle fibres in the joint cartilage of the group taking a higher dose of glucosamine in comparison to the low dose and placebo group.
In conclusion: Supplementing glucosamine at the recommended dose of were ~1000-1500mg a day may help preserve joint health and as a result improve your ability to achieve your goals in the gym floor.
Just like glucosamine, chondroitin is also a substance found in our cartilages and helps to prevent breakdown of the cartilage.
Although it’s another area where more research is required, there are promising results from a number of studies showing how chondroitin can help to reduce joint pain and stiffness.6
Supplements available in the market combine both chondroitin and glucosamine. However, it’s still unclear if taking one supplement is better than the other or if you should take both to benefit from its effect.6
In conclusion: Supplementation of chondroitin, alongside a healthy, balanced diet, may improve outcome of stiffness and pain. More research is needed to see if there are any positive effects on joints health in healthy young individuals.
There are two primary omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosaptenaenoic acid (EPA). Both of these substances have anti-inflammatory effects that are beneficial towards our health.8
Omega-3 is considered an ergogenic aid meaning it can help prepare you to exercise, improve your exercise efficiency and enhance recovery from exercise or prevent injury during intense training.2,9
In conclusion: There are studies available to suggest the benefits that may occur from taking omega-3’s especially in line with your heart and joints. This proves to be extremely useful for individuals who dislike or do not eat enough fish throughout the week.
4. Methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM)
MSM is a substance that can be naturally found in fruits, vegetables, grains, animals, and humans. It’s thought to provide sulfur to make other chemicals in the body.
In one study, when compared to a placebo, MSM had in fact improved post-exercise muscle and joint pain at clinically significant levels.11 There are also many other studies that have found chronic consumption of MSM to result in less muscle damage post-exercise.12
The suggested dosage to take of MSM is ~1g a day.
The importance of joint care
The occurrence of early osteoarthritis in athletes is well known, especially in sports with rapid acceleration or continuous high impact on joints.2 Arthritis is a condition in your joints where you develop pain, stiffness and swelling. Around one in seven people in the UK are diagnosed with this condition every year.3
Why should you take care of your joints?
Joint injuries are very common on the gym floor and can occur for several reasons including:
1. Excessive use of weight on an exercise coupled with bad lifting technique
2. Poor nutrition
Joints are like muscles in that they require the right nutrients to adapt to any stress taking place whilst training. In the long-term, poor nutrition and hard training can lead to joint conditions due to accumulated stress.
3. No rest days
Training on consecutive days with no rest over time can result in the joints suffering from too much trauma, disallowing the joint to recover.
A lack of sleep can also result in poor recovery as when we sleep our body produces hormones that deliver nutrients to the right places for full recovery.
How do I make my joints stronger?
1. Use the right training routine
Depending which sport, using the right training regime is important to make sure you are not putting your joints through too much effort. In bodybuilding for example, a routine that alternatives between periods of higher volume and repetition worth with periods of lower repetition and heavier weight tends to be recommended.
2. Don’t forget to warm up
If we forgot to warm up before we train you are at risk of having an injury. A warmup can involve anything for example, riding a stationary bicycle for 10 minutes, an uphill walk for 15 minutes or a lighter set in one of your reps.
3. Have an overall balanced diet
The common recommendations are to follow a healthy Mediterranean diet that includes wholegrain carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, fish, less meat and butter and more vegetables and plant oils. All these foods contain an array of nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids. These have an anti-inflammatory property that in the long run supports good joint health.3,4
4. Eat enough calories
Some of you may have periods throughout the year where you ‘cut’ your calories low to promote weight-loss. It is important to ensure you don’t reduce your calories too low as this leads to loss of bone mass and poor joint health.
A general rule of thumb is to start by taking off 200-300 calories a day and work from there.
5. Supplement with Vitamins and Minerals
The National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) in 2014 published updated guidelines with recommendations for the management of arthritis.4 They specifically stated: “Do not offer glucosamine or chondroitin products for the management of osteoarthritis”.
Since these guidelines were updated in 2014, there have been plenty of promising results from studies published on the use of various supplements (a.k.a nutraceuticals) to help with overall joint health.
The most important thing to remember is that supplements are never a quick fix and in most instances, supplementation is most effective when combined alongside a healthy balanced diet.
Take home message
So, do these supplements work? The studies available are showing many positive results for their use in preventing joint injuries in several high impact sports. Further research is needed to provide more significant results.
If you are currently taking any medications, you should consult with a pharmacist or doctor before taking any supplements.
Have a balanced Mediterranean focused diet with a combination of a good training regime including rest days and possible supplementation of any minerals above to help you achieve your fitness goals.