Posted On Aug 18, 2016
How can the average person achieve performance-level wellness and fitness at any age? Go see a chiropractor. It’s what elite athletes do, and it makes a big difference.
BY KEVIN WILSON
DON’T JUST LIVE—PERFORM!
Want to safely get the most out of your body? Tired of stress, strain, and pain? To harness the techniques that performance athletes rely upon, a chiropractor may be the person to see.
As people age, some settle for basic health, wellness, and physical fitness. However, a growing number of adults set the bar higher. If you’re skeptical, simply check the finishers of local marathons or triathlons—which include more and more competitors in their 50s, 60s, and 70s each year. Many have transitioned from maintaining a basic quality of life to high performance—the desire to operate at one’s peak at any age or level of ability.
WHAT IS PERFORMANCE?
Performance, simply put, is the state of operating at 100 percent. It’s not just about what you can do, but about getting the most out of your body—whatever your capabilities may be— while minimizing the chance of injury. “When speaking the language of performance, you have to understand that it’s not just about the highend athlete, it’s about everyone,” says David Kingwater, DC, of Kingwater Chiropractic in Whitesboro, New York. Dr. Kingwater was a strength coach and chiropractor for former mixed martial arts fighter Matt “The Hammer” Hamill, and works regularly with high school athletes and competition powerlifters in addition to a regular patient load.
“The difference between the elite athlete and the weekend warrior is that the average person doesn’t pay the price of preparation,” Dr. Kingwater says. “You wouldn’t believe how many people come into my office and say they are hurt or don’t feel right, and then admit that they don’t eat breakfast.”
As much time as athletes spend training, equally as much (or more) is focused on recovery. A chiropractor is just the person to help. “We’re jacks of all trades,” says Dr. Kingwater. “We are well-versed in exercise science, rehabilitation, spine and joint pain management, soft tissue injury, and often more.”
Nicholas J. Ruggiero, DC, a chiropractor and director of the Ruggiero Sports Medicine and Injury Institute in Coral Springs, Florida, treats regular patients as well as elite athletes. “Athletes, and people from all walks of life, come to me because they want their bodies to work right, so they can be at their best for competition or for general good living,” he says.
Chiropractic medicine is all about the relationship between the proper function of the muscles and joints, proper nerve function, spinal alignment, and overall health. After assessing musculoskeletal problems and spinal alignment, chiropractors will use a variety of techniques (often involving physical manipulation of joints and muscles) to set things straight, literally and figuratively. “For peak performance the body must be able to move correctly, which is essential for maximizing strength and endurance, preventing pain, and preventing injury,” Dr. Ruggiero says. “In other words, biomechanical perfection helps you get the most out of your body.” Your chiropractor can also suggest home therapy and rehabilitation techniques, including stretches and proper exercises, to strengthen weak areas and restore proper function.
To vault one’s self from pain to performance, it’s wise to do as elite athletes do.
Your body is approximately 70 percent water. It is necessary for every chemical reaction throughout the body, flushes out waste products and toxins, lubricates joints, facilitates healthy digestion and exchange of gasses in the lungs, and is essential for proper muscle function. “The truth is that many people live in a fatigue state which can be turned around by drinking more water,” Dr. Ruggiero says.
While the average person can get by with less, the long-standing guideline of eight 8 ounce glasses of water per day (totaling 64 ounces, or a half gallon) just isn’t enough, especially if you’re more active. A good guideline is a half-ounce per pound of body weight—at least a gallon per day if training, and it’s better to err on the side of drinking more. “If you dehydrate meat, you get jerky, which is stiff and hard to articulate,” explains Dr. Kingwater. “When you bend or pull on beef jerky, it tears or breaks. It’s the same with your muscles, so hydration is key for limiting your chance for injury.” Also, water helps to flush byproducts of cellular metabolism such as lactic acid that can cause soreness and get in the way of proper function. In that way, water is key for endurance as it helps muscles stay fresh and ready for action.
No matter what level of health, wellness, and fitness you seek, food is a cornerstone to success. “Take a normal guy who didn’t eat breakfast, rushed lunch, and then wants to hit the racquetball court before he goes home to dinner,” says Dr. Kingwater. “Right away he’s in trouble because he wants to perform, but he hasn’t properly fueled his body with the protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals it needs to run right,” said Dr. Kingwater. “His reflexes will be hampered, energy levels will be less than they should be, muscles and other tissues are lower quality than they could be, and the chance of injury goes up.”
Performance athletes consume well-balanced diets of organic, high-quality natural foods not crammed full of preservatives. “Every time food is handled or processed, it loses something, so the nutritional value of processed food is much lower than you might guess,” Kingwater says. “But the calories don’t go away, so you end up with calorie-rich, nutrient-poor food, and it effects your body from head to toe.”
“If you ask me what athletes do that normal people don’t do, it’s this: they eat up to eight meals a day, no sugar, high quality organic fruits and vegetables, high quality protein such as fish, eggs, and turkey, lots of leafy-green vegetables, and no fruit juices. They drink only water,” insists Ruggiero.”
Regardless of your goals, a sports nutritionist can help you find the right ratio of fat, carbohydrates, and protein for your body mass and tailored to your training.
If you’re expecting a whole lot more out of your body than the average person, supplementation may be warranted.
Omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids not only keep blood pressure and triglycerides in check, they are believed to aid in proper joint function and may even stave off depression, ADHD, and dementia. Omega-3 fatty acids help control inflammation through out the body, so they naturally play a role in performance and recovery. Taking more than 1,000 milligrams a day may be beneficial but may cause blood thinning, so if you’re taking blood thinners, consult your doctor.
CoQ10. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a key enzyme found naturally in organ meats, beef, and peanuts, is similar in its makeup to a vitamin, and has antioxidant properties—meaning that it helps protect from and repair naturally occurring cell damage. CoQ10 plays a significant role in cell growth and energy metabolism, and is believed to enhance post-exercise recovery and maintain daily energy levels. “This may be the most important supplement that a lot of people don’t take,” says Dr. Ruggiero.
Magnesium. This element, naturally found in whole grains, legumes, and green vegetables as well as nuts and seeds, is important for maintaining bone health. It’s also key for proper function of nerves and muscles—useful, according to Dr. Ruggiero, if you’re looking to perform at your peak. Most adults can safely take 350 milligrams or less in supplement form, but it’s still good to consult your doctor, especially if you have a history of kidney problems.
Multivitamins. “Everyone should take the best they can find,” says Dr. Ruggiero. “If you’re training, your body must get what it needs. Given what you’re putting your body through, you aren’t likely to get what you need from food alone.” What you don’t need gets flushed.
SLEEP AND SLEEP POSITION
Your body requires sleep to rejuvenate itself. The position you sleep in can effect not only the quality of your sleep but proper alignment of your body, especially joints and muscles. Based on body type and specific conditions, doctors may recommend sleeping on your side or back. Dr. Ruggiero recommends lying in a supine position (on your back) with a pillow supporting the head and neck for proper spinal alignment throughout the night.
“You sleep several hours a night, so less than ideal positioning will have that much time to cause problems,” he says. These problems can include pinched nerves and unnatural stress on joints and muscles.
So how much sleep do you need? “Six to eight hours—any more than that is a waste of time,” insists Dr. Ruggiero. “You need to listen to your body. I sleep about five hours a night and I have a great day. Others need more and your needs may change as you train harder.”
EXERCISE AND STRETCHING
A daily regimen of warm-up and stretching helps improve and maintain flexibility and resiliency—both of which are key to proper movement and prevention of injury.
Never stretch a cold muscle. A warm shower before stretching can be beneficial, or one can warm up through activity, such as jumping rope or a brisk walk. Otherwise the risk of injury goes up. “You want that blood flowing for the same reason you need hydration, to keep the fluid levels where they need to be for proper flexibility and function,” Dr. Kingwater says. Hold stretches for 15 to 30 seconds—if you don’t, you get little, if any, benefit. But be careful—too much soreness can lead to overstretching and injury.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
“The impact of these kinds of changes is extraordinary,” says Dr. Kingwater. “Alone, making these changes will make a difference, but the more you put together the more profound the change. Anywhere from three to six weeks is enough for you to start seeing a dramatic difference if you make a sea change toward a performance-oriented lifestyle.”