The Role of Naturopathic Medicine in Athletic Performance

by Dr. Chris Halldorson

The athletes competing at the Rio Olympics this summer need to have their bodies dialed in. On competition day, they will need to be able to perform flawlessly. The amazing athletic performances we will be watching are no accident. Olympians take years to prepare for a single event, and sometimes the race doesn’t last 10 seconds. Leading up to the Olympics, everyone wants to know about the secrets to an athlete’s training program. Everyone focuses on the workouts. How many hours do they train? How many km’s do they run? How much weight can they lift? The truth is, training is only half of the picture. The other component to improving athletic performance is recovery. Recovery helps the body to adapt to the training loads to which the athletes endure.

Athletes frequently want to learn shortcuts to increasing wattage, developing fast twitch muscle fiber density or producing bigger VO2 max values. Yes, there supplements, herbs, and injections (and sometimes medications) that can help, but often these methods are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)*. Fortunately, the biggest gains can be achieved through optimizing recovery. This enables the body to heal itself from training and be ready for the next workout. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles that can get in the way of recovery. Injuries, inadequate sleep, nutritional deficiencies, jet lag, and poor digestion are all common factors that athletes must resolve in order to permit recovery.

This is where naturopathic medicine can truly help improve athletic performance. If you are injured, naturopathic treatments can get you back in the game faster. Having trouble sleeping or recovering from jet lag? Basic naturopathic principles can help you wake up refreshed and ready to race, even in different time zones. No one can perform well on race day with digestive problems such as cramping, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. All naturopathic physicians are extensively trained to treat these conditions. Improved athletic performance is a combination of 50% training and 50% recovery. Naturopathic doctors can optimize your ability to recover by addressing three common functions: sleep, digestion and injuries. Athletes who do not address the recovery aspect of training won’t reap the benefits from their training. Investing in your recovery will improve your athletic performance, and Naturopathic Doctors can help.

* Because athletes must adhere to different standards than the general public in terms of medications, supplements and treatments, they are advised to seek out Naturopathic Doctors who are familiar with the current WADA banned substance list.

Dr. Chris Halldorson is a former competitive biathlete and Naturopathic Physician who practices in Kelowna BC. Outside of medicine, he is a regional provincial biathlon coach in British Columbia. He is happiest while cross country skiing with his dog.

 

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