4 Ways Inflammation is Affecting Your Gains
As bulk season approaches, our hoodies will come on and we will go into hiding. We'll start packing in the protein, bulking up, and getting ready for next time you can hit the beach.
There's been a lot of buzz on the topic of inflammation and how it affects us when we are trying to build muscle.
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What is Inflammation?
Inflammation and cortisol have caught a bad rap for something that seems bad, but it's required for our body to function. Inflammation is pretty much the signal for your immune system to pay attention to that area.
It's your immune system's response to fix some tissue damage and get rid of things that shouldn't be in that area like a virus. So when we break muscle fibers down when we lift, our body uses inflammation to signal muscle repair and growth.
1.) Inflammation Can Help Your Gains
There are some benefits and drawbacks to inflammation, so let's get the good one out of the way.
Inflammation is likely essential for your body to elicit muscle growth and adaptation.
Several studies suggest some of the mechanisms we rely on to regulate muscle growth actually rely on inflammation. So it's not inherently a bad thing, especially when inflammation also plays a pretty big role in muscle repair.
One recent study done with humans seems to support this. The study found active, young men who were taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for eight weeks reduced their resistance training-induced muscle growth by about 50%.
So these guys were on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for eight weeks and their gains were only about half of what they could have been. Inflammation has been suggested as part of the muscle growth and repair process, and we can see that long-term use of an anti-inflammatory may slow your growth response in training.
2.) Inflammation Kills Your Training Frequency
So now we can talk about the downsides to inflammation.
Inflammation is one of the contributors to your delayed onset muscle soreness. It also causes your joints to hurt and makes taking a poop suck.
It's known that training volume is one of the biggest components of muscle hypertrophy, so when we are debilitated from soreness, we are limited on how often we can lift.
This definitely doesn't mean you need to use an anti-inflammatory to not get sore, because that doesn't work.
You're just killing your gains.
This means your training needs to be calculated, using your muscles effectively and not eliciting a huge inflammatory response.
3.) Inflammation Won't Let You Go Full Beast Mode
Inflammation impacts how frequent you can train, it makes you sore, and it can also reduce the intensity at which you can train.
This simply means making smart decisions on what exercises we perform and how hard to train when performing them. Our bodies can't recover from such a huge inflammatory response, so working on slowly adapting your body and not testing your personal records every day allow you to grow. The tricky part is, there is a certain level of intensity our body needs to elicit muscle growth.
Find the right combination of frequency and intensity that works with your body.
4.) Too Much Inflammation Hurts Your Gains
Excessive inflammation has been shown to be catabolic. Excessive inflammation kills your gains and ultimately can cause disease. Some studies even suggest inflammation plays a role in muscle loss as you age, even if you are physically active.
Inflammation seems to be critical for muscle repair and growth, but too much is bad. Studies suggest that small, short bursts can induce growth, but not so much that it hurts how frequently or what level of intensity we train at. This is why managing levels of inflammation is important.
Keeping an active lifestyle, eating nutritious foods, and reducing your intake of things that cause inflammation such as smoking, drinking, and drug use.
Wrapping It Up
You can't get around muscle soreness by eating anti-inflammatory medicines to build more muscle — studies show you are leaving your gains behind if you do. Limiting your training frequency and intensity helps you reduce your inflammation, keeping it under control.
I invite you to journal every day, including your food, exercise, and sleep, noting how you feel throughout the day. This will help you get a feel of what's helping your body, hurting your body, and what you can change to improve.