Whether you’ve made use of our physical therapy services in the past, you’re a current physical therapy patient, or you’re an athlete who may well have need of a physical therapist in the future, you need to understand how nutrition affects physical performance. Your body is depending on you to supply it with the necessary raw materials to conduct its countless everyday functions. The more you demand from it, the more careful you must be about your nutritional strategies. Read on to learn more about this vital connection — and then reach out to our physical therapists at Orthopedic and Balance Therapy for assistance in achieving your goals.
The Nature of Nutrition
Your car won’t run properly without gas — but neither will it run properly, or at all, if you feed it nothing other than gas. Just as cars require fuel, oils, additives, electricity, and other provisions for smooth, consistent operation, your body needs a mix of several different types of nutrients. These nutrients are grouped into two primary categories — macronutrients and micronutrients. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Macronutrients – Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber and water. The first three of these are directly involved in providing the body with energy. The body uses carbs first, since they burn most readily, making them an important fuel for both short-burst activities and endurance training. Proteins, which are made up of 20 essential amino acids, are the building blocks of muscle — including that all-important muscle, the heart. Fats are stored as a reserve fuel supply, but they’re also involved in everything from brain health and inflammation management to hormone production and joint lubrication.
- Micronutrients – When a physical therapist mentions micronutrients, he’s talking about vitamins and minerals. Some minerals regulate each other’s actions (such as sodium paired with potassium, or calcium and magnesium). The body also requires trace elements such as copper, selenium, and chromium. Among the vitamins, athletes flock to B-complex vitamins because of their ability to increase energy availability. But you also need a mix of Vitamins A, C, E, K, and others to keep your body functioning.
Making Nutrition Part of Your Physical Therapy Strategy
The wrong nutritional balances can sabotage your physical function in all kinds of ways. For instance, if you’re neglecting your carbs before an endurance event, your body may start burning fat as fuel — but it may also burn protein, depriving you of muscle power. If you’re getting loads of calcium but no Vitamin D, that calcium won’t be made available to your bones and other tissues. If you gulp gallons of water without replenishing sodium, you could end up with a dangerous condition called hyponatremia. This is one reason why your physical therapist makes a point of addressing nutritional practices as part of your training or physical therapy program.
Nutrition can also enhance healing, comfort and function. One particular type of fat, omega-3 fatty acids, is known to reduce inflammation, allowing you to heal faster, feel better, and go further in your physical therapy sessions. Vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory effects. Specific amino acids can help your body in its efforts to synthesize proteins. Eating the right carbs at the right time can boost your athletic performance by giving you the energy you need when you need it.
Our Physical Therapists Can Help
Are you looking to give your personal vehicle what it needs as you train for an event or complete a course of physical therapy? Contact us so our physical therapists can create your holistic plan for peak performance!