As athletes, we tend to take certain liberties because we think our bodies are more capable than the average populace. In a way, that is correct, but putting the cart before the horse is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
Nowhere is there more evident than when it relates to the health of our bones and joints, which we take for granted will “just be around” to support whatever load we place on there, in perpetuity.
Indeed, many athletes may go a lifetime without experiencing significant joint pain or any malady affecting bone tissue, but there is an equally large number of people that do suffer from issues relating to these, adversely affecting their goals.
Like any other tissue, bone and joint also require nourishment to thrive and continually regenerate, especially after the rigors we athletes put them through. Athletes are considerably at higher risk of experiencing some sort of issue relating to the bones or joints from wear and tear, or inadequate mineralization in the case of bones.
But not to worry. Looking to add a good insurance policy to these important structural assets? Then let’s explore what can be considered as mandatory consumption.
The poster child mineral of bones over the past century, it is actually the most abundant mineral found in the human body. A healthy adult possesses between 1 and 1.5 kg of calcium, with over 99% of this mass concentrate in bone tissue (teeth included).
While not extremely prevalent in healthy, younger adults, osteoporosis becomes a pressing issue for women as they approach menopause, coinciding with the abrupt reduction in estrogen production that occurs at this time. Upon losing the protective effect of estrogen on bone tissue, calcium leaching from bone can occur if adequate consumption is not met.
Of course, this eventuality can be significantly reduced if adequate consumption patterns are established earlier in life.
An extremely popular joint supplement, it is a mainstay of management in osteoarthritis sufferers. Glucosamine functions by helping to provide a very important raw material; one known as a glycosaminoglycan, which forms an important component of cartilage.
Owing to the fact that true “cartilage” in supplemental form is very poorly absorbed, while glucosamine boasts over 98% absorption, it can be considered one of the best treatment options for supporting the health of joints.
Glucosamine also provides a much better option at joint pain management than NSAID medications, as a Chinese study which investigated the consumption of a glucosamine study found[ii]. Over the course of 4 weeks, at a dose of 1500 mg daily, glucosamine yielded better results and tolerability when compared to ibuprofen.
There were concerns that glucosamine may be unsuitable for people with allergies to shellfish, but most of these fears have been dismissed as it is extracted from the actual shells of these animals, and not the proteinaceous body.
Considered the other side of the coin to glucosamine, many of the supplements you find on sale today occur with these two ingredients. Also a glycosaminoglycan, chondroitin possesses a few different properties than glucosamine.
For instance, chondroitin is considered a sort of matrix that interfaces between cartilage, where is confers both strength and elasticity to the tissue. Plus, it also draws moisture to the joints, adding another layer of lubrication that reduces the likelihood of injury occurring.
Chondroitin also plays an important role in supporting bone tissue recovery, since the glucosaminoglycans found in this tissue type are primarily of chondroitin origin[iii].
Shoot for a daily dose of between 300-900 mg taken in split doses.
Also known by its much longer name of methylsulfonylmethane, at its core it’s a great source of a very basic compound- Sulphur. By weight, it is about 34% Sulphur, and is considered one of the important building blocks to support the health of cartilage[iv].
Both types of structural proteins, keratin and collagen, are Sulphur dense, which can help you understand the importance of this supplement to overall joint health. Any scenario characterized by joint breakdown, whether that be from wear and tear of auto-immune causes, can benefit from MSM’s actions.
Although often overlooked, this vitamin does much more than help to protect you from the common cold. A very effective anti-oxidant vitamin, it also plays a critical role in the maintenance of connective tissue.
Connective tissue include the gums, tendons, ligaments and very important joints, which are critical for day to day function. Much of vitamin C’s usage came to light during the days of trans-atlantic ship voyages, where sailors would routinely develop scurvy from the lack of readily available citrus fruits.
Vitamin C plays an important role in the synthesis of collagen, a structural protein that supports pain-free joint health, and can even assist with bone regeneration following fractures or other related injuries[v].
An ancient ayurvedic herb and staple of the Asian subcontinent, turmeric possesses extraordinary anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the presence of the compound curcumin. When consumed, turmeric exerts potent effect on reducing pain and tenderness in joints relating to injury, arthritis or even bursitis. If you are past your mid-thirties and subject your body to intense workouts frequently, adding turmeric to your supplement arsenal before it’s too late can save you discomfort and from losing time owing from the gym owing to injury.
It is easy to become complacent and open yourself up to injury, as oftentimes skeletal muscle grows at a rate far exceeding that of supporting structures, inevitably leading to a game of dangerous catch up.
Be on the safe side- ensure you support the very important joints, connective tissue and of course, bone, to keep yourself banging barbells for years to come.
[i] Tai V, Leung W, Grey A, Reid IR, Bolland MJ. Calcium intake and bone mineral density: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2015;351:h4183. Published 2015 Sep 29. doi:10.1136/bmj.h4183
[ii] Momomura R, Naito K, Igarashi M, Watari T, Terakado A, Oike S, Sakamoto K, Nagaoka I, Kaneko K. Evaluation of the effect of glucosamine administration on biomarkers of cartilage and bone metabolism in bicycle racers. Mol Med Rep. 2013 Mar;7(3):742-6. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2013.1289. Epub 2013 Jan 25. PubMed PMID:23358550.
[iii] Singh JA, Noorbaloochi S, MacDonald R, Maxwell LJ. Chondroitin for osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;1:CD005614. Published 2015 Jan 28. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005614.pub2
[iv] Butawan M, Benjamin RL, Bloomer RJ. Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients. 2017;9(3):290. Published 2017 Mar 16. doi:10.3390/nu9030290
[v] DePhillipo NN, Aman ZS, Kennedy MI, Begley JP, Moatshe G, LaPrade RF. Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review. Orthop J Sports Med. 2018;6(10):2325967118804544. Published 2018 Oct 25. doi:10.1177/2325967118804544