As a strength and fitness athlete, everything you do in the gym and at the dinner table doesn't have a sole focus. Rather, you should always have at least a two-pronged approach to the motivations behind your training and nutrition. Yes, you train hard and eat right so that your body can be a good looking, incredibly functioning machine, capable of winning physique/bodybuilding shows, or perform well at sporting endeavors. However, at the same time, every athlete should also be focusing upon long-term health and vitality.
Many young athletes overlook the importance of making health one of their goals. They eat and train to look and perform well, but never stop to think about the many systems of their bodies which are affected by the training they choose and the foods they consume. Your health will be with you just as long as your appearance, and possibly longer! Let's look at flax seed and examine its many advantages for performance in the gym, as well as in terms of long term overall health and vitality.
Most athletes are looking for ways to lower their body fat levels while maintaining muscle mass and strength. Did you know that flax seed can help you lose weight? Packed with fiber and healthy fats, flax seed helps to make you feel fuller, for longer. You'll crave smaller meals less often, which is a huge advantage for the hungry dieting athlete. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory nature of flax seed helps to maintain metabolism and keep the fat burning process intact.
Omega-3 EFAs, or essential fatty acids, contain what are considered to be the "good fats". These have been proven in laboratory tests and clinical studies to have positive effects upon the function of the heart and cardiovascular system.
Do you like eating fiber? For many strength athletes, eating adequate fiber is difficult. Most athletes consume more food than the average person, and sweat a great deal more, leaving the body dehydrated and in need of higher levels of dietary fiber each day. Flax seeds are high in fiber, particularly a gel-forming fiber known as mucilage gum. This kind of fiber helps to keep food in the stomach a bit longer, leading to greater nutrient absorption by the intestines. Flax seed also contains high levels of insoluble and soluble fiber, which will help to reduce your sugar cravings. This is very useful for the athlete on a pre-contest diet!
Bile production in the body is key to cholesterol management. Flax seed oil helps to lower your cholesterol in the body by trapping bile, creating more bile, and thus burning up excessive cholesterol in the bloodstream. If you're a strength athlete who consumes a great deal of red meat and eggs, or if you have a family history of high cholesterol, it's important to keep an eye on it. Flax seed can help with that!
One of the greatest keys to cell health in the body is antioxidants. We seek them in our foods to help us repair the damage that stress, training, and other factors in life have upon our bodies. Luckily for you, flax seeds are packed with antioxidants known as lignans. These fiber-related polyphenols help with hormone balance, cellular health, and provide some anti-aging benefits. If you're a hard-training athlete intent on staying health, avoiding colds and keeping your body running well for the long-term, the antioxidants in flax seed are essential!
Skin & Hair
Your body is the work of art which displays all of the hard work you put in at the gym. So why would you wrap such a nice present in some old newspaper? Taking care of your hair and skin will make you look better onstage, but also help to provide you with a more youthful appearance for years to come. Flax Seed contains ALA fats which provide essential B-vitamins to your hair, reducing flakiness and dryness. For the skin, these oils reduce the symptoms of eczema, rosacea, and acne, which can be major issues for athletes that sweat a great deal. Consuming 1-2 tbsp daily is all the flax seed you need to give your skin and hair a much needed boost!
Many foods containing gluten are considered to be inflammatory in nature, causing disease at worst and slashing muscle production at best. Some athletes possess a gluten sensitivity issue, putting them at risk for allergic outbreaks. Flax seed is gluten free and works as an alternative to grain when cooking. Mix with coconut flour for best results!
Omega-3 fatty acids
You may know that flax seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Containing DHA and EPA, two highly critical omega-3 fats, fish oil should already be an essential part of your diet. Use flax seeds for ALA, a healthy fat which converts into EPA at a highly efficient rate. This is required for a balanced diet, and proper organ function. It's very hard to lose body fat if you're not getting your omega-3s on a regular basis!
As a strength training athlete, you put your body through a lot. As a result, you grow bigger, stronger, and leaner. At the same time, the systems of your body take a bit of a beating. Use flax seed as a supplement on a regular basis to provide your body with many of the recovery and preventative tools needed for optimal performance now and in the long term. Good luck!