Inflammation and performance

We’ve probably all read an article or two that talks about inflammation and it’s various consequences, but what is inflammation? Historically, inflammation was defined as: redness, swelling, heat, and loss of function. However, with advances in molecular biology, we have since come to understand that inflammation is the combined result of numerous signalling particles in the body that activate the immune system. These signalling particles, known as cytokines, can have either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory effects depending on which specific particle is in circulation. Originally, it was thought that these cytokines do not cross the blood brain barrier, but research has now shown that the pro-inflammatory cytokines can enter the brain and cause inflammation within the brain. This in turn is thought to cause a number of changes in behavior that are collectively called “sickness behavior.” One of these changes seems to be a decrease in physical performance or fatigue. For the ultra-distance athlete, this is important because these pro-inflammatory cytokines are given off by by muscle and immune cells during an extended endurance activity. They can then prevent the brain from fully activating the muscle, leading to less force and slower running times. We are currently working on a product to reduce this inflammation so you as the runner can maintain your running pace longer during your race. In my next post, I will attempt to explain the current strategies for reducing inflammation and why they may or may not be beneficial to you as an athlete.

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