Dr. Isaac Eliaz M.D., MS., L.Ac. has been a pioneer in preventive medicine since the early 1980s, and serves as a respected researcher, innovative product formulator, clinical practitioner, author and lecturer. Dr. Eliaz integrates his background in Western medicine with extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, Ayervedic, Homeopathic and complementary medical systems. Dr. Eliaz is also the Director of the Amitabha Medical Clinic & Healing Center in Sebastopol, Calif., where he and his team of integrative practitioners treat cancer and other chronically ill patients using a wide range of cutting edge and traditional therapies drawn from diverse medical systems.
Q) What advice would you give to patients who are athletes, with regards to staying in shape and taking care of their bodies for athletic performance?
A) For athletes to take care of their health, they need to be able to clearly balance short-term performance goals and long-term fitness goals, as well as short-term benefits and long-term consequences. A classical example is using anabolic steroids for short-term gain and ending up with long-term damage.
The other key component is to address not just the physical body, but also the mind and emotions. By caring for their emotional, psychological and psycho-spiritual health, athletes can improve not only performance, but also the satisfaction they receive from athletic activity. This approach also allows for a deeper, more comprehensive experience and understanding of what true fitness means.
The basic principles to achieving optimal fitness goals:
PROPER SLEEP: Both quality and quantity. Beyond sleeping enough hours, having your room dark enough is also very important. A dark room allows for better rest, repair and regeneration due to the higher levels of melatonin secreted when sleeping in total darkness. It is best to go to sleep around 10 p.m., but bed time can vary based on the seasons.
GOOD HYDRATION: Most people are chronically dehydrated. Good hydration allows for better muscle recovery and faster removal of lactic acid build up during athletic activity. Our nerve conductivity system will also function better, allowing for better responses out on the field.
FOLLOWING AN ALKALINE DIET: This diet involves eating certain low-sugar fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, and limiting grains and meat. Completely avoid refined sugars, alcohol and caffeine in order to help maintain the balance of blood alkalinity without stressing the body’s regulators of acid-base homeostasis. This way of eating allows for better muscle recovery and toxin removal, increased energy and improved healing capacity.
BALANCED EATING: Following a healthy diet of nutrient-dense whole foods supported by proper supplementation will feed your body with the required components for optimal performance. Eating at regular times each day is important, and eating high-quality protein after intense physical activity is also key.
RHYTHMIC AND BALANCED EXERCISE REGIMENS: Exercising regularly with appropriate breaks and rests allows us to recover, assimilate and integrate what we achieved, and progress to the next level. Performance improvement is not a linear path but rather a dynamic, multi-layered growth process.
Q) Many athletes take dietary supplements, such as protein and vitamins, to stay healthy and get the nutrients they need. Which supplements do you recommend?
A) The following are my top recommended supplements for athletes and those with increased levels of physical activity.
PROTEIN: Particularly high quality protein such as whey, as well as easy to digest amino acids.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS:
Methyl B-12 We often don't get enough of this important nutrient, but it has numerous benefits for the nervous system and energy/stamina levels.
Zinc Zinc is involved in biochemical processes including cellular respiration, DNA reproduction, maintenance of cell membrane integrity, free radical scavenging and tissue repair.
Magnesium The king of minerals for athletes is magnesium, as it helps muscle fatigue recovery. Magnesium is also the mineral that promotes smooth coordination of movement and rhythm, which is why it is so important in cardiac arrhythmias and muscle contractability. We are very often deficient in magnesium.
MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS: Certain medicinal mushrooms can significantly improve athletic performance and endurance. Cordyceps and Reishi are the two most widely-known varieties. Using a balanced mushroom formula can be very helpful in maintaining overall energy, stamina and performance. I recommend a Ten Mushrooms formula that I created over 15 years ago, which has been used by many athletes and climbers with excellent results.
BOTANICALS: An excellent botanical formula for increasing physical and athletic capacity is Padma Basic, which is a Tibetan-based formula that increases circulation, reduces inflammation, provides free-radical scavenging (antioxidant) support, and improves endurance. This unique formula has been used by competitive mountain bikers with great success.
ANTIOXIDANTS: Help to keep your body oxygenated and reduce oxidative stress and free radical damage after intense workouts and activity. Antioxidants and green products such as powdered greens and microalgaes, Co-Q-10, Acetyl L Carnitine, R-Lipoic Acid, Vitamin C, etc. can help with this.
Q) You are a strong advocate of techniques like yoga, Qigong and Tai chi for overall well being. What are the benefits of these practices for an athlete’s physical health?
A) There is a simple, straightforward principle that these practices all share: They each promote relaxation in the body and tissues, calming the mind and emotions as well. The profound state of relaxation and healing that is brought on by regular practice of these ancient exercises allows for much better repair and circulation, while reducing harmful inflammation.
There is a significant difference between these methods, especially Qigong, and regular exercises. Regular exercises strengthen our muscles and as a result, our energy improves. Qigong moves energy, and as a result our strength and endurance improves. Practicing both regular exercise and gentle, energy moving exercises like Qigong and yoga, is an integration of the best of both worlds and will thus help you achieve optimal performance and recovery.
For more valuable health tips, as well as information about his work, visit Dr. Eliaz' website
Originally published in November 2011