One of the most frustrating injuries an athlete can suffer is that of a stress fracture. This is caused by the accumulation of micro-traumas sustained within a period of time not sufficient for recovery, and can leave the individual unable to weight bear and left with few other options than the often dreaded rest.
As stated, a stress fracture, like most injuries, mainly occurs due to a workload and subsequent breakdown, exceeding the capacity to heal. Whenever we workout, we are injuring our body to some extent. This is not in the traditional sense of injury as in a broken bone or concussion, but rather micro-traumas and micro-tears to the body’s tissues.
When done intentionally, the goal is for the tissue to heal stronger, creating a more durable and efficient tool with which to do work. A key component to this process is rest and recovery.
The body is a miraculous machine capable of being conditioned and achieving improvement. However, the machine has its limits and when breakdown exceeds recovery, injuries are sustained and can persist.
This holds true for all the body’s tissues, including bone in the case of a stress fracture. While navigating the training minefield and finding that perfect, individualized balance in order to achieve maximum benefit, while equally respecting the recovery process can be tricky, it is clearly the most obvious tip for avoiding these pesky injuries.
Well let’s take it a step further and arm ourselves with the knowledge to hedge our bets against the fracture of the stress variety. In order to ensure your parts are equipped to withstand the repetitive pounding and subsequent micro-traumas and tears, we need to understand what we can do to set the table for healthy, dense bone.
We all know a key component of bone is calcium. What isn’t such common knowledge is the fact that calcium plays a key role in maintaing our blood pH (acid v base measurement) within a narrow range necessary for us to live. This pH level is of vital importance and trumps many other physiological aspects in order to survive, including optimal bone health.
If our body’s pH starts to drop and thus become more acidic, something is required in order to offset the acidity. The main built in mechanism in order to combat this is for calcium to be pulled from bones in order to neutralize the acid; bone derived calcium sustaining a survivable pH and thus maintaining life, strong bones not so much.
The best way to avoid this is to limit or refrain from creating an acidic internal environment. Obvious offenders include the carbonic acid and phosphoric acid found in soda as this will leave your body with no other choice but to sacrifice strong bones to avoid systemic acidosis. (As if you needed another reason o can the soda.)
A not so obvious, yet extremely acidifying food is wheat. Any product derived from this grain (bread, pasta, chips, most processed/refined foods, etc.) has the ability to drop pH levels (higher acid content) without any buffer.
Again this leads to the body, in all of it’s infinite wisdom, making the no brainer decision to confiscate bone fortifying calcium from your tibia or metatarsal, leaving you more susceptible to being sidelined with a stress fracture; an injury that yields few treatment options but to rest and hopefully learn from your mistakes.
(This is pertinent information not just for athletes but any individual concerned with osteopenia or osteoporosis)
Being a fellow, lifelong, self professed athlete, I understand getting after it and pushing the limits. Sometimes it’s difficult to step back and look at the big picture rather than the next session or event. More is not always better when it comes to training and walking the breakdown-recovery tight rope. While navigating that rope can be tricky and yield itself to occasional injuries due to blind tenacity and competitiveness, an intelligent nutritional approach offers potential assistance.
While I would never be one to condemn the tenacious, competitive spirit that makes a lot of us tick, utilizing the availability of knowledge in order to build a better machine for the process is a must. Avoiding acidifying foods is yet another way to intelligently hedge your bets against a stress fracture and keep you doing what you love to do.
Go get it.