Getting covered in mud battling your way through assault courses, or pounding up and down steep hill ranges may not sound like fun to everyone, but the endorphins and fulfilment that comes from endurance sports such as cycling, long distance running and even skiing means they’re becoming increasingly popular. If you’re living with PsA then it can feel like a challenge to stay active when your body is hurting, but studies have actually found that exercise combined with dietary changes can improve the size and severity of psoriatic areas, so lace up your trainers and get moving!
What to eat while training for an endurance event
Tweaking your diet before, during and after an event can help optimize your performance and minimize symptoms of PsA, helping you to smash your personal best! Nutrition is key to a great performance; think of it as the fuel that your body needs to ensure you have energy to reach the finish line and recover properly afterwards. Here, I share some sports nutrition tips to help boost your diet while living with PsA.
Macronutrients: Protein carbohydrate & fats
Protein plays an important role in muscle synthesis and recovery, so it’s a key part of any athlete’s diet. Aim for 20-25g servings of protein at each meal across the day, particularly at breakfast. This is a perfect opportunity to also get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by including foods like salmon, omega-3 enriched eggs, pumpkin seeds and ground linseeds (flaxseed). Omega-3 fatty acids are so important because they help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Cook using heart-healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, add slices of avocado onto toast or sprinkle nuts and seeds onto cereal or salads for an antioxidant boost.
Some people with PsA find that a vegetarian or vegan style diet helps alleviate their symptoms, so if this is you, include plant based sources of protein like tofu, beans, nuts and seeds in each meal to meet protein needs.
Carbohydrates are king for performance during sporting events as they ensure an ongoing supply of energy to the working muscles. Choose whole grains such as barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, and brown pasta for sustained energy.
Micronutrients: Vitamins, Minerals and Phytonutrients
Micronutrients are naturally found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices. These foods feature heavily in a Mediterranean style diet and can boost intake of vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium - antioxidants which have been found to alleviate symptoms of inflammation.
Rosehip has also been linked with pain management and anti-inflammatory properties that may help alleviate PsA symptoms (it’s also a rich source of vitamin C). Try drinking rosehip tea (found at your local health food store) instead of tea or coffee or use rosehip powder as a natural supplement.
Cherries and berries are another rich source of antioxidants which can help with inflammation. Tart cherries contain anti-inflammatory properties that may have an additional protective effect to reduce muscle damage and pain associated with PsA. Drinking tart cherry juice before and after endurance sports activities has also been found to help alleviate muscle pain in endurance sports. Test it out during your training phase to see whether it is a supplement that helps you.
Race day nutrition with PsA
Practice, Practice, Practice! The key to successful race day nutrition is to trial the foods that you intend to eat at the event during your training sessions; it would be so disappointing to have to drop out if a new food or supplement didn’t agree with you on the day! Don’t forget to test any food, gels or sports drinks that are supplied at your event in a training situation to see whether your body agrees with them AND whether you can eat or drink enough of them to meet your energy needs.
This article was written by Gemma Sampson, a regular contributor at PsAndMe.com, a social site dedicated to helping the whole PsA community.