No, it isn’t the name of a heavy metal station on Pandora for us to rock out to when we’re crushing our WODs.  Sadly, it is one of the major villains fighting against our ultimate health and longevity.

We’ve often been told that the main culprit in heart disease (which is the #1 killer of Americans) is cholesterol.  Conventional wisdom says to lower our cholesterol we need a diet low in fat, and this advice over the years has led to the standard American diet.

I don’t need to tell you that the standard American diet (ironic the abbreviation is SAD?) isn’t working.  The sheer number of people spilling out of their motored carts at any major theme park will tell you that!

The shift to a low fat diet created an explosion of chemical and preservative laden food, along with replacing all that fat with tons of sugar. All of these things cause chronic inflammation, which if not present wouldn’t allow cholesterol to accumulate in the wall of our blood vessels in the first place.

Inflammation is simply your body’s natural defense to foreign bacteria, toxins or virus.  If we chronically expose the body to foods the human body was never designed to process, chronic inflammation occurs.

The main food culprits here are processed carbs (sugars and flours), excess omega-6 (corn, soy, and sunflower oils), and trans fats (like hydrogenated oils) which add to a food’s shelf life.  Sadly, we can’t even trust food labels these days as legal loopholes have allowed for creative labeling.  Instead read the ingredients list and if you can’t pronounce it, you don’t want it in you.

When we consume simple carbohydrates such as sugar, blood sugar rises rapidly and our pancreas secretes insulin which drives sugar into each cell where it is stored for energy. If the cell is full and does not need glucose, it is rejected to avoid extra sugar.  This causes your blood sugar to rise producing more insulin which causes the glucose to become fat.

What does all this have to do with inflammation?  All of these things are like sandpaper to the very delicate walls of your blood vessels. When they aren’t allowed to heal before the next attack, this repeated injury sets off big time inflammation.

The answer to fighting inflammation when it comes to food is a return to their natural state. To build muscle, eat protein and choose the complex carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables.  Eliminate inflammation causing omega-6 fats, sugars (generally anything ending in ‘ose’), white starches, and the processed foods that are made from them.

Stress, smoking, genetics, and over training are also significant contributors to inflammation.

Exercise actually causes inflammation! When regulated properly and allowed to heal during rest and recovery though, it become beneficial rather than dangerous.  A degree of inflammation is necessary to get results like hypertrophy, increased stamina, strength, and improved work capacity.

Your body gets stronger via the inflammatory response to the stress by rebuilding its tissues for future demands.

I’m getting into subject matter that I could go on for a very long time about.   My guess is that you already have an idea of what you should be doing, but we’re all constantly burning calories on making excuses of why we can’t do what we know we should be.

Do yourself a favor, get back to basics, and start taking a pro-active approach to reducing the inflammation in your life.  Do a little reading, and ask your coach some questions.

Community Challenge:

One of the best parts of community events that happen outside of the gym and away from the distraction of our daily fitness is the extra time & focus for bonding.

It’s so often that we’re caught up in the anxiety over the WOD, or mobilizing for a lift, or rushing in from work to make it to class on time.  Afterward it’s often just as frantic of a frenzy.

Taking things outside the gym is a great way to get to know your fellow community members, learn a little something about them you didn’t know, and make a new friend.

How much do you really know about the people you sweat with every day?  What do they do for a living? Do they have kids?  What are their hobbies?  Do you know their last name?  Do you even know their first name??

My top priority at the gym is fostering a great community.  If we have a strong foundation of friendship, camaraderie, & mutual support, then everything else falls into place.

I put forth this challenge to each of you this week:

  • Warm-up or cool down & roll out with a person or group that you don’t know their name(s).
  • Strike up a conversation with someone that goes to a different class time than you.
  • Walk a 400m after class with someone that you’ve never talked to.

If we each do one of these things this week, it’ll be a great push in the right direction!