How important is it to protect your joints when you’re highly active?

Fitness man bike

Protecting our joints for optimal performance today is one thing, futureproofing them to continue to challenge yourself physically later in life is another.

It used to be widely accepted that joint pain as we age was inevitable, and simply due to ‘wear and tear’ – a catch phrase to explain any pain, loss of mobility or function. 

Proper use over our lifetime keeps joints lubricated and stimulates the repair and rebuilding process. A lack of use on the other hand, allows the cartilage to become dryer, more brittle and more prone to damage over time.

Highly active individuals need to balance the ‘risk’ that physical activity brings to our joints – both in the short and long term – and the benefits that movement brings to our joints.

For the most part physical activity, training and sports have benefits that far outweigh any risks, but looking at the protection of our joints holistically amidst training structure, diet and any supplementation is an important measure.

How can we best protect our joints?

Anything that causes pain is going to be detrimental to performance and research has been pretty clear that you can’t repair damaged cartilage through surgery, with the management of symptoms such as cortisone and NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) being largely ineffective or short term. 

In a paper published from Stanford University, doctors warn that “the greatest threat to the health of the aging athlete is not the aging process itself but rather inactivity. Motion is critical to articular cartilage health, repair, and homeostasis (a healing joint environment).” So inactivity is the real curse. Whether that is frequent high periods of sitting associated with most modern day lives, or our retirement as athletes or a move away from our youth sports.

Simply put, appropriate exercise and lifestyle, including diet will help not just joints but the rest of the body stay healthy and functional and reduce levels of systemic inflammation. When it comes to diet – one that places the emphasis on whole, natural foods – lots of colour from fruit and veg, high quality proteins and natural fats is the way to go. Avoiding large amounts of processed foods, sugars, artificial flavours and colours  and alcohol – these will all contribute to inflammation which exacerbates pain and contributes to ageing and breakdown of tissue, including joints. 

Should I be using supplements?

Diet and lifestyle factors (such as continual appropriate movement, maintaining a healthy body weight) are first and foremost. 

But without doubt supplements can provide additional benefits, filling dietary gaps for specific nutrients and delivering high quality targeted ingredients at specific times. Good quality supplements can be used to help reduce inflammation associated with joint pain and stiffness as well as contribute to the health of the tissue. 

Most of us likely don’t get enough of these specific nutrients – anti-inflammatory components like omega-3 fats and compounds such as turmeric and boswellia – from food alone. Supplements can be a safe and effective way to meet these requirements.

Just be sure to check the quality of the supplement. Look for ones that include evidence based ingredients in efficacious amounts and for quality brands to ensure a high degree of manufacturing safety. Supplements that are third-party batch tested provide an added layer of reassurance, you know what you are getting is what’s listed on the label, and there are no additional nasties that can either cause serious health reactions or lead to an adverse doping test – if you’re competing at a serious level of competition. 

Egg-shell membrane and your joints

NEM® is the original eggshell membrane from Stratum Nutrition, USA. This joint health ingredient is the most clinically studied ingredient of it’s kind, backed by 16 published research studies. Throughout these trials both subjective and objective measurement tools are used, which adds another level of substantiation to the results.

Sustainably sourced by carefully removing the membrane from used chicken eggshells that would otherwise be environmental waste, this membrane is then partially hydrolyzed in a chemical free process.

NEM® is a source of glycosaminoglycans, such as chondroitin and hyaluronic acid, as well as three varieties of collagen.

About PILLAR Performance

PILLAR Performanceis an Australian owned and made range of elite sports micronutrition products, created by NSW Waratah player, Damien Fitzpatrick who battled several significant injuries during his career.

Working with some of Australia’s best dietitians and sports scientists, PILLAR has developed a range that specifically supports the rigours of high-performing athletes – covering every micronutrient they require year-round. The PILLAR range features market first ingredients and formulations that are clinical strength and third party tested through HASTA (Human and supplement testing Australia).

PILLAR is the preferred choice of the Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos in the NRL and the AFL’s GWS GIANTS.