Amanda Hamilton: Nutrition

Quick questions


Amanda Hamilton

Regular contributor to BWS, Amanda Hamilton nutritionist, journalist and mother provides diet and nutrition information and advice. Amanda looks at aching joints and keeping the body healthy during the ageing process


Q: ‘I’m starting to notice that my joints ache for a few days after every workout. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?’

When it comes to joint pain after working out the knee joint is especially vulnerable to inflammation because it has to carry the full weight of your body and absorb the added force of running or jumping. And the heavier you are, the greater the stress exercise places on your joints. The word arthritis literally means inflammation of the joint – osteoarthritis is the type caused by wear and tear, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. But having sore knees or sore joints in general doesn’t mean you have arthritis, and there are things that you can do to help.

One of the best known supplements when it comes to joint health is glucosamine. Unusually amongst supplements, glucosamine had an easy ride into the public eye as an effective, affordable treatment. Back in 2001, medical journal The Lancet1 sparked interest by reporting that glucosamine had benefits for osteoarthritis, and supplements gained popularity when they were found to reduce cartilage damage in people with knee pain. However, more recently, larger trials2 have concluded that neither glucosamine nor another joint supplement called chondroitin are any more effective than placebo for joint pain or stability.

That said, many people still swear by glucosamine and arguably one of the best advantages is that is a natural, non-toxic compound. It is simply an amino sugar necessary for the construction of connective tissue and healthy cartilage. The health and beauty industry tends to focus on the outward signs of ageing such as wrinkles and bingo wings, but the ageing of the body on the inside can change the rate at which glucosamine is needed.

Put simply, as we age, we tend to need more at a time when we produce less. So, glucosamine is not masking symptoms but rather it may help your joints to grow new cartilage to cushion the space where bones meet. Glucosamine should be taken every day to feel the real benefit.

In other ways, omega-3 supplements may also help with inflammation, through tackling the symptoms more so than the cause of sore joints. Lean proteins and healthy fats from oily fish, nuts and seeds top the list. Walnuts and flax seeds are good sources of omega-3 if you don’t eat a lot of fish.

The best answer may be less is more. If you are in pain, it is always best to take a few days off, then focus on more gentle exercise. Flexibility and strengthening exercises can actually help improve and maintain healthy joint range of movement. A qualified fitness instructor or physiotherapist will be able to provide you with individual advice.

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