>Sports Nutrition Insider -Published April 2011

>Stone’s or SAD (Sudden Athlete Death) Syndrome: More is not always better.

It may seem odd to the general population that while most need to add or increase their training intensity or volume, there are many out there that suffer debilitating, life threatening and even fatal conditions from doing TOO much. Over the past few decades we’ve seen some seemingly implausible diseases and fatalities occur in athlete’s or those training for athletic events, who seemed to be doing all things right and on the right path of health and fitness. Such examples of this are Lance Armstrong and champion miler Steve Scott’s battles with testicular cancer, men who lived what most would deem a healthy lifestyle. J.V. Cain was a tight end for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1970’s who suddenly collapsed and died of heart failure, yet another example of a seemingly healthy individual. A personal friend and amazing MMA athlete and coach Sherri Thompson who recently and unexpectedly died of heart failure is another example. Top distance runner Ryan Shay who during the U.S. men’s Olympic marathon trials collapsed and died suddenly. Sharon Stone (which is where the name of the syndrome comes from) who suffered an unexpected near fatal stroke while she prepared for a three-mile charity run. What do these and the others involved in the over 200% increase since the 1980’s in serious exercise related injuries have in common? They suffered from a myriad of conditions due to an excessive amount of high intensity training without adequate and proper nutrient intake for healthy recovery, immunity and biological/physiological homeostasis that lead to cellular abnormalities (inflammation) causing illness and/or death.

Excessive training, or any excessive stress for that matter, elicits an increase in pro-inflammatory hormones like cytokines and catecholamines. When a surplus of these hormones occurs an excessive immune response stimulates an important negative feedback mechanism in our bodies, which protects your cells from an “overshoot” of pro-inflammatory hormones and other products of activated macrophages with tissue-damaging potential. This means your body’s natural guard is down and your cells are open to oxidation leading to autoimmune diseases activity and/or progression [1].

Choosing the Right Foods and Supplements to Beat Back Inflammation

Let’s be realistic here, I am not going to ask anyone who’s passion potentially involves many hours of hard training, but I will ask that you begin incorporating certain anti-inflammatory foods and supplements to offset the excessive stresses you are placing on your body. Let’s begin with some anti-inflammatory foods (buy organic when possible):

* Most whole fruits and vegetables (like celery, asparagus, avocado, bananas, broccoli, sweet potatoes) trying to eat them raw to keep the nutrients and enzymes in tact. Be weary of the nightshade fruits and veggies like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant as they are a subgroup of people who find these foods irritate and actually promote an inflammatory response.
* Organic coconut oil, butter (from grass fed cows), olive oil
* Proteins like lean poultry, whey protein, fatty fish like as salmon,mackerel, sardines (limit consumption of fish due to a high level of heavy metals found in the supply today, supplement for additional omega 3’s) and omega 3 eggs
* Sea vegetables like dulse, wakame, kelp (these are great in salads)

Foods to avoid:

* Most grains with the exception of whole grain rice, quinoa, millet, corn
* Red meat in excess of 1-2 servings per week
* Dairy other than organic unsweetened Greek yogurt and kefir

Anti-inflammatory spices and herbs :

* Turmeric
* Ginger
* Basil
* Cilantro
* Parsley
* Mustard Greens

Anti-inflammatory supplements:

* Theaflavin – this can be found in supplemental form and is an extraction from black tea. Research shows a dosage of 1,760 mg of theaflavin to have a significant effect of training induced stress responses [2].
* Fish oils – aim for 6-12 grams daily total fish oil (about 3-6 grams of EPA + DHA) [3,4]
* Glutamine – this amino acid has is easily depleted from the body with training and has a high turnover rate. It is a vital component in immunity wherein if it is so depleted in the body, the expression of inflammatory cytokines is increased. Approximately 30g/ day is well tolerated [5].
* Vitamin C to bowel tolerance under high training conditions, E 400IU and D3 30,000 to 100,000 IU

In most cases in life, any extreme is just too much. While the first recommendation is of course to work at a smarter progressive and reasonable overall rate, there may be times overreaching must apply. If you are an athlete or training for an upcoming event, be sure that you are eating enough high quality, nutrient dense foods and/or supplementing appropriately to keep your body’s defenses up, your life may just depend on it!


1. ELENKOV, I. J. and CHROUSOS, G. P. (2002), Stress Hormones, Proinflammatory and Antiinflammatory Cytokines, and Autoimmunity. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 966: 290–303. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2002.tb04229.x
2. Arent, S.M., Senso,M, Golem, D.L, and McKeever, K.H. The effects of theaflavin-enriched black tea extract on muscle soreness, oxidative stress, inflammation, and endocrine responses to acute anaerobic interval training: a randomized, double-blind, crossover study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:11doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-11
3. Jia Q, Ivanov I, Zlatev ZZ, Alaniz RC, Weeks BR, Callaway ES, Goldsby JS, Davidson LA, Fan YY, Zhou L, Lupton JR, McMurray DN, Chapkin RS. Dietary fish oil and curcumin combine to modulate colonic cytokinetics and gene expression in dextran sodium sulphate-treated mice. Br J Nutr. 2011 Mar 15:1-11.
4. Bloomer,R., Larson,D.,Galpin,A, Fisher-Wellman,K., and Schilling,B. Effect of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid on resting and exercise-induced inflammation and oxidative stress. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6(Suppl 1):P3doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-S1-P3.
5. Roth, E. Nonnutritive Effects of Glutamine. Surgical Research Laboratories, Medical University of Vienna, A-1090 Vienna, Austria 2008 American Society for Nutrition J. Nutr. 138:2025S-2031S, October 2008.


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