Every year, athletes in all sports are raising the bar when it comes to setting new records for athletic performance. We see this even more in the sport of mixed martial arts as both the athletes and techniques evolve to new levels. However, with increased performance and higher demands placed on the body, sometimes the rate of tissue damage exceeds the rate of tissue repair. Consequently, it is essential for all MMA athletes to take the appropriate measures to enhance performance, speed recovery, and fuel the intense training sessions with proper nutrition and supplements. Just like there is a science to training, there is a science to selecting the proper foods and nutritional supplements for MMA. Let’s take a look at some of the supplements that will best serve the needs of MMA athletes.
Pain in the joints is a given when you are training in any combat sport, and osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is likely to result the longer you have been in the sport. The physical nature of grappling, boxing, and wrestling accelerates the wear and tear on the joints, which makes it all the more important to supplement with something to promote joint health. Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are widely accepted as the two most benefi cial supplements for promoting healthy cartilage.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are the molecules that serve as the precursors of cartilage. Cartilage lines all the joints in the human body and serves to protect and cushion the joints from normal wear and impact. Glucosamine occurs naturally in healthy cartilage, and it works by maintaining the integrity of the cartilage matrix, which is necessary for optimal joint function. It also supports the synthesis of proteoglycans, which are the building blocks of cartilage and other connective tissues. Glucosamine is also believed to support the production of hyaluronic acid, which is a major part of the synovial fl uids that lubricate and provide mobility to joints.
Chondroitin sulfate is another glycosaminoglycan that is often taken in combination with glucosamine, and it is considered to be the partner agent of glucosamine for joint health. Most of the available evidence from controlled studies shows that glucosamine sulfate is effective in the treatment of degenerative joint disease. It has been demonstrated that glucosamine taken independently benefi ts patients with osteoarthritis, but it remains unclear if there is any additional benefi t to using both supplements together compared with using either alone. Both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have also been reported to have anti-infl ammatory and pain-relieving effects as well.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT
The highest-quality nutritional supplements should be manufactured in facilities that have been GMP (good manufacturing processes) certifi ed. GMP certifi cation is a reliable indicator of purity and ensures that high-quality control standards have been maintained in the manufacturing of the product. Other things to look out for are certifi cations by the National Products Association (NPA, formerly known as the National Nutritional Foods Association or NNFA), the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia (TGA).
Even with all the encouraging evidence that supports the benefi ts of supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, there are still mixed opinions about whether it really helps or not. My own personal experience from using it and fi rsthand accounts from many of my patients who supplement with it make it something I recommend regularly. Anyone who participates in MMA and combat sports should defi nitely consider supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to maintain healthy joints and decrease the progression of arthritis. We recommend our patients try supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for about 3 to 4 months before expecting to see or feel the potential benefi ts. Individuals with certain food allergies or metabolic conditions should avoid taking glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, so as always, check with your doctor or consult with a certifi ed nutrition professional before you start taking any nutritional supplements on your own.