Looking to enhance performane and recovery, while reducing the incidence of injury? It is possible, but one has to understand what processes are at work and how to intervene. Exercise is something that we are all told to increase in our daily lives, but unfortunately, many equate this to a 45 minute, hard core workout performed in a gym on a daily basis. Although this is true, it is not true in all situations. Exercise can be walking, working in the yard, working in the barn, doing house chores…the list goes on. In terms of horses, exercise can be a long turn out with running in the pasture, routine daily training as well as a hard run at a jumper course. It is good for us and them, as it improves cellular function and oxygen metabolism, but also helps to strengthen muscle, improve circulation, burn calories and just improve overall health. But there is a bad side…
Exercise is extremely beneficial to the body and sadly, something that most of us and our pets and horses do not get enough of. The lack of proper exercise in our lives and theirs, is often one of the main contributors to an overweight body condition and likewise metabolic related health problems, especially when coupled with excessive caloric intake. Exercise is obviously beneficial to muscle development, bone health and cardiovascular health, but also helps to lower stress levels, reduce body weight, improve metabolism and even impact insulin function. In many cases, consistent exercise can even benefit gastrointestinal health.
The thing about exercise is that people tend to forget that it is not beneficial at all levels, meaning that in some cases we can go to extremes. With exercise, we force our cells to go to levels potentially that they have never been before, making demands on them to produce energy and function beyond capacity in some cases. Although this is not the norm, we do need to realize that there is always some bad with the good. I recall years ago when studying herbal medicine with a Chinese practitioner, we were discussing overall energetic balances in humans. He had commented that some of the most “unbalanced” individuals in his practice were hard core athletes and bodybuilders. I questioned why, but the answer became clear to me in the essence of “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” or “everything in moderation”.
With increased demands on our body, or exertion, our cells need to produce energy in the form of ATP. In order to produce this energy, they must have fuel or substrates themselves, generally in the form of sugar and oxygen. During the process of energy production, free radicals are generated as part of normal course. These free radicals then, if allowed to accumulate, can cause damage or hinder the cells in their performance. If oxygen is not available for the cells to utilize for fuel or is depleted from the tissue, we then switch to anaerobic respiration, which then can result in lactic acid production and muscle fatigue. We have all experienced this when pushing our bodies to the limit, whether if that is on the treadmill or on the city streets running. The burn we feel in our thighs is a result of lactic acid buildup and a sign of tissue oxygen depletion and free radical accumulation. Oxygen depletion and cellular malfunction as a result of overexertion is also the cause of acute heart attacks in many individuals as well as strongly linked to acute or catastrophic breakdowns in horses during training. This cellular malfunction is also a direct cause of injury, fatigue and joint degeneration.
So, here is the thing through my eyes. If we take all of this into consideration, we then are able to see the possible negative impacts on health. One can push the limits to the max in themselves as well as their horses, expecting output from the body that was never intended. If we continue to push and push, even in what is perceived light training, injury can occur and will occur…it is just a matter of time. That injury is a result of cellular damage, oxygen depletion and free radical formation/inflammation. These three things weaken the cell, whether if it is a cardiac cell, muscle cell or tendon cell. This weakness then predisposes to injury in the long term. So, let’s take what we know and apply it to see if we can change the course of events.
Let’s take for instance of horse in light training that injures his suspensory ligament or deep flexor tendon. Taking what we know, we now realize that the tendon itself was likely weakened due to pushing those cells beyond their limits with free radical production and cellular damage. In most of these cases, the prescribed treatment is rest (which is great) along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (which is also not a bad thing in the short term). The horses are usually put on stall rest with no exercise or even limited walking for months with the usual recovery in 6-12 months. Now, take into consideration that a high percentage of these horses rarely even return to the same level due to persistent tendon/ligament associated lameness. The same statement often holds true for humans with damaged cruciate ligaments or other joint injuries. If we apply what we know, we should be asking, “what can one do to prevent or minimize that cellular damage to begin with or what can I do to aid in cellular repair after the injury has occurred?”
First, we need to combat oxidative stress through the use of not just one antioxidant but ideally a synergistic blend that help to neutralize free radicals at all stages of energy production. Using one antioxidant is not ideal as that single nutrient can then become a free radical itself in the end and cause more harm than good. In many cases, some nutrients, such as CoQ10 and Lipoic Acid are not only antioxidants but are directly connected with improvement in energy production. Other nutrients such as amino acids Glutamine, Arginine, Carnitine and even Creatine all contribute to increased intracellular antioxidant levels and improve cellular energy production.
Second, we need to combat the inflammatory process that is being triggered as a result of excess free radical production and other environmental/dietary factors. This inflammation is directly connected with cellular damage, changes in blood flow and overall poor health/performance. This inflammation occurs on multiple levels and thus is best to conquer on as many levels as possible. Herbs such as Curcumin, Boswellia, Ashwaghanda and many others strongly down regulate the inflammatory process as well as act as secondary antioxidants themselves. They help to combat inflammation naturally and without side effects by helping to return inflammatory protein levels to normal versus completely inhibiting them as in the case of many NSAID medications. These inflammatory proteins are needed and necessary, but just not at elevated levels.
Third, we need to supply basic nutrients to help aid in tissue repair and regeneration. One cannot expect to lift weights with the intention of building muscle if they do not provide the necessary nutrients for those cells to grow and multiply. You must provide nutrients such as protein, b-vitamins and many different minerals. Pea protein, spirulina and various mushrooms are my favorite sources of natural nutrients to aid in cellular energy production, repair and regeneration. Protein and nutrient depletion is a major problem in today’s society either as a result of shear depletion (not providing enough to meet added demands) or due to excessive consumption of an ’empty calorie’ diet with no nutrient benefit. We all need to up our protein intake for several reasons and there are many supplemental choices.
Whey protein is one of the most common sources of protein used by serious athletes, but unfortunately a high percentage of humans are allergic to dairy products on many levels. Some don’t even realize that they are allergic, but just tolerate the increased gas, bloating and discomfort after consuming dairy products, not realizing the connection. This intolerance actually contributes to inflammation that is occurring in the gut, which then manifests systemically in many forms such as skin or respiratory allergies. Pea protein is part of a few new Cur-OST products that we are offering for both humans and horses. Peas are in the legume family, related to alfalfa, and provide a high level of protein with a similar amino acid profile to whey. The difference is that pea protein is more digestible and as a result, we are able to extract more nutrients and reduce ongoing inflammation within the gut. This equates to an improved overall performance not only for us but our equine athletes as well!
Going back to our analogy of the horse with a tendon injury, we can now hopefully see that there is much we can to to prevent and manage these conditions with improved outcomes all around. By using our Cur-OST products, we can manage the inflammatory process, provide antioxidant support as well as nutrients to aid in repair/regeneration. If these three conditions were met initially, in many cases the injuries would be much less likely to happen and if they did, addressing these three conditions usually results in a much better and quicker recovery. By addressing these three issues adequately, we not only reduce the rate of injury, but we enhance performance on all levels as well as fatigue.
Athletics is a big part of our family and as a result we spend a great deal of time at tennis tournaments for our son. It is amazing to me to see some of these kids with potentially career ending injuries as a result of the demands that they place on their bodies at such a young age. I often wonder if they are ‘feeding’ their cells properly and protecting them against injury, then I get my answer when I see these same kids eating fast food during match breaks. Their parents then continue to feed them soft drinks and sport drinks, thinking that this in some way will help them. One in particular had a severe back injury which almost sidelined their career. After some coaxing to this young adult, they recovered after some guidance and support as well as use of our Ultimate Human formula. Their recovery was swift and strong. Their endurance improved 50%, match success skyrocketed and people were left wondering how this player recovered.
Recommended Equine Protocols to Enhance Endurance & Recovery:
- EQ Plus & EQ Nourish for routine situations
- EQ Total Support & EQ Nourish for easy keepers or metabolic syndrome types
- Consider EQ Stomach for added gastric support and healing
Recommended Human Protocols to Enhance Endurance & Recovery:
We see it and experience it all of the time. Whether if it is us or one of our horses in training, fatigue is a huge factor as well as injury. The good news is that this fatigue and injury should be perceived as a sign that something is not right, not just and inconvenience. The proper fuel and recovery substances are not there, which then opens the door for problems.
In the end, you do have a choice whether if it is for yourself or your horse athlete. You can choose to continue down the same road with the same results or worse OR you can make a conscious choice to understand what it going on and supply what is needed to enhance health. We shouldn’t have to be dependent on pharmaceuticals to get us through the day or for our horse to get through that event. There is so much more that can be done to aid in success and improve outcomes. If you want to run faster, play harder,have more energy or just be less stiff post working in the yard…you have options. If you want your horse to run faster, jump higher or have more stamina…you have options. You must supply the nutrients and protective factors needed for cellular health. The choice is yours and our job is to be here to guide and support you!
Yours in health,
Tom Schell, D.V.M.