How does inflammation present itself in a resistance training program (I'm currently using Starting Strength)?

If it is catabolic (I am asking because I suspect it is), how can one lessen its effects through scheduling, rest, nutrition, supplements, or otherwise?

Please correct me in comments if I'm misunderstanding the issue.

  • 1
    I found an article that might be a good starting point for a good answer: t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/…
    – user3085
    Aug 8 '12 at 18:22
  • I'm going to read that in detail later. I've been wondering lately if my triathlon training and under-recovery helped contribute to my Achilles rupture via long term inflammatory response. I also have a good link on my favorites at home for eating to minimize inflammation.
    – JohnP
    Aug 8 '12 at 18:45

Inflammation's affect on a strength training individual differs based on where the inflammation occurs:

  • In the muscle. This is normal as part of training. Eating and resting will take care of this quickly.
  • In the connective tissue. This is usually associated with overuse injuries such as tendinitis and bursitis.

If you are following a program like Starting Strength, they have figured out the proper amount of rest as a beginner to help you with muscular inflammation and fatigue. If you follow the program as written, and eat, then you will be fine.

The second issue is a little more problematic, and the likelihood of having to deal with that type of inflammation goes up with the weight lifted and your age. If you deal with connective tissue inflammation, the basic approach to dealing with it is:

One example where muscle imbalances can cause problems is with tendinitis. If you do a lot of work on your triceps and don't do a lot for your biceps (or vice-versa), you can develop tendinitis in your elbows. If you can't do pull ups, you may consider doing curls to help balance the strength in the arms.

  • I wouldn't say that's necessarily true. Of course plenty of people do well on the program, but some people need more rest time than it prescribes.
    – Robin Ashe
    Aug 8 '12 at 18:52
  • What part wouldn't you say is necessarily true? There's two main issues stated. As far as needing more rest time, that depends on a number of factors--but muscular inflammation shouldn't be the main one. Aug 9 '12 at 12:25
  • Be careful with NSAIDs like ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) or ASA (e.g. Aspirin). There's a lot of science suggesting that these COX inhibitors interfere with muscle growth (hypertrophy). A better choice might be fish oil omega-3 supplements. These act as COX inhibitors too, but have a more complicated effect that ends up being net beneficial to hypertrophy. Aug 9 '12 at 17:10
  • Use NSAIDs when you have joint inflammation. That's what they are there for. It's also important to be clear on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy or myofibrilar hypertrophy. Sarcoplasmic addresses energy systems and size, while myofibrilar addresses strength (push/pull ability). NSAIDS will not affect myofibrilar hypertrophy, which is of more concern to people doing Starting Strength (per the OP). The affect on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy has yet to be properly studied. Aug 9 '12 at 17:42
  • I will say that omega-3s don't have the same immediate affect as the more traditional Aleve, Advil, or Asprin for pain relief. Think of Omega-3s more for long term health, rather than immediate relief. Aug 9 '12 at 17:44

As far as nutrition goes, there are foods that promote inflammation (you don't want to avoid them entirely, it's actually a necessary part of healing) and foods that help stop inflammation. There are diets specifically designed for dealing with inflammation, one I'm fond of is Meals that Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk. It specifically addresses inflammation due to injury.


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