5 Ways Reducing Inflammation Can Make You a Better Cyclist

5 Ways Reducing Inflammation Can Make You a Better Cyclist

Improving your athletic performance is always possible, whether it's by cycling faster, longer, or just getting stronger overall. However, chronic inflammation can be a major obstacle to achieving your goals.

Inflammation is a natural response to intense exercise and can result in soreness in the days following a workout. But the amount and duration of inflammation are crucial factors.

According to Will Cole, a functional medicine expert and author of The Inflammation Spectrum, inflammation is not inherently bad as it helps the body fight off viruses and heal wounds. In fact, healthy levels of inflammation are essential. The problem arises when inflammation becomes chronic and disrupts the body's balance.

Chronic inflammation has been linked to serious medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, and can also hinder athletic performance, preventing us from engaging in our favorite activities.

Therefore, it's essential to take steps to manage inflammation. By reducing inflammation throughout the body, individuals can feel better, perform better, and achieve more success in their athletic pursuits, says physical therapist David Gershkovich, founder of Riser Physical Medicine in New York City.

Expert-recommended strategies for taming inflammation and becoming a better athlete:

1. Improved Performance
Taming inflammation can lead to increased energy, output, and performance. By managing chronic inflammation in specific areas of the body, athletes can perform better and move through various ranges of motion with less restriction, resulting in quicker muscle firing and better joint mobility. Chronic inflammation has also been linked to less muscle mass and strength, which can hinder athletic pursuits.

2. Faster Recovery
Athletes who manage inflammation through recovery methods like nutrition, ice, compression, rest, or light mobility work recuperate more efficiently, allowing them to perform better. Recovery is exponentially improved when inflammation levels are lowered, resulting in better performance and fewer injuries.

3. Increased Confidence
Chronic inflammation caused by underlying weakness or instability can make athletes avoid certain movements or sports, which can hinder their performance. Without inflammation, athletes can fully commit to movements and know that their bodies will support them, leading to increased confidence.

4. More Enjoyment
Taming inflammation can make physical activity more enjoyable, leading to better results. Athletes who feel better in their bodies are more likely to enjoy their sport and have a more consistent training routine. Additionally, when inflammation is managed, athletes experience the positive impacts of working out, such as dopamine hits and improved mood.

5. Better Overall Health
Chronic inflammation can lead to extreme soreness, joint pain, and other health issues that can hinder athletic performance. By managing inflammation, athletes can feel better overall and give their best to their sport of choice.

5 ways to reduce inflammation

You can decrease inflammation in various ways. Some involve taking action, like modifying your diet and doing stretching exercises. Others are more passive, such as ensuring you get enough restful sleep. Combining multiple strategies may yield even more effective outcomes.

1. Eat an anti-anflammatory diet
To reduce or prevent inflammation, one effective approach is to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet. According to Angie Asche, MS, RD, CSSD, founder of Eleat Sports Nutrition and author of Fuel Your Body, this diet emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods and limits added sugar, refined grains, trans fats, and hydrogenated oils. Instead, it emphasizes foods such as avocados, cold-water fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, berries, beets, citrus fruits, cherries, leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Asche points out that prioritizing nutrition can have a significant impact on performance and recovery. Clients who follow an anti-inflammatory diet often report feeling better overall, especially when it comes to joint health, energy levels, and post-workout recovery. This effect may be particularly noticeable in older athletes and those at the professional level.

2. Get more and better sleep
According to Asche, one effective but often overlooked way to reduce inflammation is to ensure you get sufficient sleep. To achieve this, it's important to cultivate healthy sleep habits. "Adequate" sleep typically means 7 to 9 hours per night, although some athletes may require more, she notes.

Achieving good sleep requires intentional effort. Asche recommends avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and blue light exposure in the afternoon and evening. Instead, focus on maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, reducing stress, and using supplements like magnesium or consuming magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium plays several essential roles in the body, including supporting muscle relaxation, controlling the stress response, and promoting restful sleep.

3. Take rest days from exercise
According to Gershkovich, athletes should prioritize rest and recovery as much as they prioritize their workouts and training if they want to have a long and healthy career in sports. Instead of just focusing on the number of sets, reps, and sport-specific exercises, they should also take the same level of care and specificity for resting, recovering, and healing their bodies after workouts. In fact, rest days are crucial for building muscle as they allow the muscles to repair and become stronger after being stressed and broken down during workouts.

Gershkovich suggests that if you experience soreness on your rest days, you can use passive methods such as ice and compression to reduce inflammation.

4. Incorporate restorative movement
Gershkovich suggests that gentle physical activities like swimming, walking, stretching, and light yoga can have anti-inflammatory effects. However, it's crucial to keep in mind that this isn't the time to strive for personal records in the pool or engage in intense power yoga classes. The key is to understand that the active approach to an anti-inflammatory program involves light movements, as opposed to high-intensity exercises. By moving the body calmly and fluidly through various ranges of motion, one can facilitate the natural pumping of fluid and inflammation throughout the body.

5. Make good mental health a priority
According to Cole, even if you have all your physical habits under control, including a healthy diet, quality sleep, and regular rest days, chronic stress can still lead to inflammation. Research indicates that athletes with better mental health perform better.

Cole emphasizes that our brain is a vital part of our body, and stress from toxic work environments, unhealthy relationships, or excessive screen time can all contribute to inflammation. Negative thoughts such as shame, stress, trauma, anxiety, and external factors can also significantly impact inflammation levels.

To combat this, incorporating stress-relief techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing can be helpful. For more severe issues like trauma or acute anxiety, seeking professional help is recommended.


The Strate Superfuel Advantage

The ingredients in Strate Superfuel are designed to help you recover from acute inflammation faster. It doesn't contain any sugar, preservatives, or artificial colors that contribute to chronic inflammation.

Now you can fuel your ride AND fight inflammation at the same time!

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