Optimize Your Performance
A New and Crucial Way to Optimize Athletic Performance
When endurance athletes think about inflammation their first thoughts typically go to the swelling of a joint. The red, hot and sore post-injury situation that keeps them off road or bike. What I want to introduce to you here is a far more insidious form of inflammation. One that is secondary to the foods that you put in your mouth and one that for most can be easily be optimized by nutrition. I am talking about inflammation caused by a poor “folate status”. Folate is a generalized term for vitamin B9 (not to be confused with the nasty, man made substance folic acid). There are over 150 different forms of folate with lentils and spinach being the foods with the highest concentrates. The need-to-know here is if you work out really hard, and don’t eat enough raw, uncooked folates, you will elevate the level of the amino acid homocysteine. This equates to increased inflammation. One study in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition found strenuous activity in handball players who had low folate levels resulted in higher concentrations of homocysteine than those who supplemented accordingly.
What does this mean to you?
If you are trying to maximize your athletic performance, you want to do whatever you can do to keep homocysteine levels normalized. It is extremely stressful to have high homocysteine levels as it must be cleared by a process called transulfuration in your liver. An unhappy liver struggles to create glutathione, also known as the “Superhero of Antioxidants”. Glutathione has been heavily researched as there are over 100,000 citations about it on the research site Pub-Med. Suffice it to say, if you are working out day in and day out, especially if you are over 40, you need high levels of glutathione. And no, you can’t take a supplement here. The best way to increase your levels is to do it through natural processes. Lots of endurance athletes like to work hard and play hard. For many, the play hard part tends to have alcohol involved. We all know alcohol stresses your liver. I am not saying you should not go out occasionally and have a few drinks, just know that if you do it within 24 hours of having had a really tough workout or competition, you are hitting your body while its down. If you are looking for a great way to lower your immunity and slowly develop an injured or diseased body, get into the habit of getting loaded after workouts. So to recap, eat your leafy greens and lentils and keep alcohol consumption to a minimal. Help your methylation pathways function more optimally in order to allow your liver to not have to clear an overabundance of homocysteine (think inflammation) from your body. This will give you the best chance of producing glutathione. And that’s a good thing.