Inflammation often gets a bad wrap in the fitness world. Mainly because it is seen as the enemy because it is so closely associated with injuries and chronic pain. Not only that, inflammation can be traced back to just about every major health problem we have in medicine today.
So it’s no surprise that when people talk of inflammation that they immediately think of it as the devil, but this really isn’t the case.
We need a healthy amount of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is an immune system response to tissue damage. Its purpose is to remove cellular debris from the site of damage and initiate repair.
If you’ve ever been injured, you obviously know that the injured area becomes stiff, and sore. This is the body’s way to limit range of motion in that area to keep you from further damaging it. The body essentially applies a “splint” so as to give it time to heal. And increased inflammation is a part of that healing process. So this is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s important not to upset this process by the body so that it can do the job properly.
For example, there is a big debate about the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method that has been around in sports therapy for a long time because there have been a tremendous amount of studies that show that icing an area post injury actually can make it so that it takes the healing process longer to take place. Ice constricts blood flow, and slows down inflammation response. One of the things we tend to do is often believe that we know better than our own body does. So we somehow end up introducing methods that, while look good on paper, aren’t really ideal for what we are trying to accomplish. In the case of an injury, we need for inflammation to do its job to help heal that area, work on making the area mobile again, increasing blood flow to the area, and then the healing process is sped up.
So inflammation is not the devil, and has a lot of positive benefits that we need in regards to tissue or injury repair. The issue with inflammation is not allowing it to become chronic. This is where inflammation starts creating problems in our lives.
When you exercise, and there is micro trauma at the cellular level, and what we call muscular damage. When this occurs there is a repair process that does involve an inflammatory response and it has a purpose as well. In fact, a very positive one. It helps to promote healing and is a part of making your muscles larger, stronger, and more prepared for future training sessions. In fact, this mild form of inflammation, which a lot of us feel as post exercise soreness is a component that helps to reduce more soreness from future training sessions. Most of us understand this process. It’s a part of the adaptation principle to stresses or demands on the body. So the healthy inflammation response in this regard is something we need in order to get stronger, faster, and more prepared for future training sessions.
This is a good thing, chronic inflammation is something totally different.
More chronic inflammation can occur when there is either too much damage done at the cellular level, or because of repetitive stress in a particular joint or soft tissue. For example, when you read too many motivation memes on Instagram or take way too scoops of pre-workout and go crazy in the gym and do four times as much work as you usually do and can’t walk right for days and days after.
If muscle soreness is too great, it can seriously compromise performance. In fact in one study of runners who experienced severe delayed onset muscle soreness their running economy was reduced by as much as three percent. Which doesn’t seem like a lot on the surface, but when you understand that over the entire lifetime of a runners career their economy is only reduced on average by about 10 percent, that’s a significant amount.
So a small degree of soreness isn’t much to worry about, and is part of the normal adaptation to a new stress on the body. But a significant degree of soreness that changes movement patterns means that now the joints will end up moving in ways to protect the injured area and in fact create an environment for more injuries or problems. So what is the best way to supplement and combat it? Something that has been studied and around for ages but more recently has hit the market in the first exogenous and consumable form, the BHB compound. It is now being delivered in a drink called Keto-OS