Question: I am a college basketball player and compete on average twice a week and my joints, not just my knees, are really feeling it. I am not doing any jumping exercises but spend most of my time doing basic barbell and dumbbell exercises and my strength levels were improving but now I can’t get the lifts done without aching and severe pain. I was told that I am low on copper and should increase my fish oil intake more, but beyond levels I am comfortable with. What is a suggestion that I can do that doesn’t require anything that is beyond standard procedure. I do a health screening once a year before the season starts and they said everything is normal.
Answer: Doing blood screening once a year will be helpful, but higher frequencies will get better information. In addition to more testing, observing changes over seasons will give more clues to what is going on. C-reactive protein is one of the tests that reveals inflammation, and at times during the season having high inflammation is a normal part of the training and competition process. The problem is when and how much inflammation is present and how much is overloading the body. The combination of testing and record keeping with training and competition dates will reveal if one is chronically dealing with inflammation beyond what is normal.
Adding more supplements is not the best way to dealing with overload as inflammation responds best from interventions that deal with root issues such as training balance and optimal nutrition plans. Copper deficiency (trace elements) isn’t a likely culprit if one is eating real foods and training normally. Taking high doses of fish oil is common with athletes, but ideally one should see if joint pain is happening to everyone or is it just specific to you. Other variables can be causing high levels of inflammation in your body, so start with planned rest by communicating with your coaches first, then see if the overload is from practice and resistance training.
Examining one’s food log can clue into general health benefits of having a balanced diet. While sounding cliche, the problem with many athletes’s diets is they become fueling and repair based and the foundation of general health is lost. Sports drinks, even with vitamins and minerals, are not real replacements to athletes that need other nutrients and fiber, a way to control inflammation during recovery periods, before and after games. Eating traditional meals instead of bars and drinks is a cornerstone to good health, the first step in raising performance.
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