One of the keys to optimal wellness and endurance sports performance is the principle of homeostasis.
This principle involves the ability of a cell to sustain a consistent and steady internal environment via adaptation of vital physiological processes such as temperature, pH balance, and the like.
This creation and regulation of a stable equilibrium occurs at the cellular level.
It is analogous to how a thermostat regulates heat and air-conditioning levels or a thermos regulates hot and cold liquids.
Homeostasis is required for every organism on the planet to sustain life.
Homeostasis represents the first key to optimal cellular health – a healthy membrane. A healthy cell membrane is critical for an optimal internal cellular environment. The membrane represents the wall between the internal and external environments.
An unhealthy membrane causes cells to lose elasticity, the ability to hold water, nutrients, and electrolytes. Cells then incur a communicative meltdown with other cells in addition to being properly regulated by hormones.
Alterations to membrane integrity result in cell malfunction, damage, and death which contributes to a lengthy list of chronic and degenerative diseases.
Cell membranes are composed chiefly of dietary fatty acids. Your dietary decisions influence composition, structure, function and integrity of both cells and membranes. This will impact your performance on the trails and recovery therefrom.
The type of fatty acids you consume determine the composition and integrity of your cell membranes. Diets predominated by animal products produce viscous membranes due to excessive cholesterol, saturated and trans-fatty acids.
Optimal membrane function is easily attained via primary source foods which promote elasticity and fluidity because of the levels of appropriate fatty acids.
Cell membrane composition will facilitate or impede the transformation of fatty acids into eicosanoids [hormone-like compounds] responsible for regulating inflammation, blood vessel dilation and constriction, platelet accumulation levels, cardiovascular, digestive, and kidney function among other cellular processes.
Proper function of the foregoing processes is vital to snowshoers, trail runners, and anyone interested in being alive. It is clear that altering the ratio or type of dietary fat ingested will result in significant physiological changes.
The type and ratio of dietary fat within the cell membrane amplifies or mitigates your risk of chronic and degenerative diseases.
The type of fatty acids in cell membranes impacts hormonal and cellular interaction.
Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, improve the ability of insulin to utilize glucose, transport vitamin C, metabolize protein, transport nutrients, amino acids, neurotransmitters, and other molecules via cell membranes and reduce heart attack risk by 70 percent per several studies.
Essential fatty acids [EFAs] must be derived from food because the body cannot synthesize it. EFAs propel cellular repair and regeneration. An adequate supply and balance of EFAs will fight infection and reduce inflammation.
EFAs represent a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid [PUFAs]. Omega-3 [alpha linolenic acid | ALA] and omega-6 [linolenic acid | LA] fatty acids are important for survival and endurance sports performance.
While ALAs prevent disease excessive consumption of LAs promotes inflammation.
ALAs can be converted to beneficial compounds within the body [DHA and EPA] while the ubiquitous LAs are typically converted to unsaturated fatty acids of little use to your body.
The typical North American diet is too high in omega-6 fatty acids. The recommended Adequate Intake levels of ALAs is 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women.
Flax and hemp seeds, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, and seaweed are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, edamame, wheat germ, tofu, and tahini represent omega-6 fatty acid whole food sources.
Green leafy vegetables, walnuts, chia, flax, hemp, and Sacha inchi seeds provide a healthy balance of both ALAs and LAs.
The benefits to snowshoers and trail runners include improved endurance, increased ability by the body to burn fat as fuel, enhanced hydration, improved joint function and elasticity, among other benefits.
Pathology is the study of disease processes; it is clear that alterations to cell membrane function are the fundamental factors in the onset of virtually all disease. EFAs are transformed into compounds called prostaglandins. These compounds perform several vital regulatory functions including:
~Blood clotting and platelet aggregation;
~Gastrointestinal function and secretions;
~Kidney function and fluid balance;
A system termed the “sodium-potassium pump” has a profound impact on homeostasis.
The system pumps three sodium ions [via extracellular compartments] out of the cell for every two potassium ions [via intracellular compartments] to sustain electrolyte balance. This system maintains three characteristics vital to cellular health:
~Electrical potential/resting state;
The system monitors cell communication, antioxidant protection, and ion regulation such as calcium, magnesium, among others. The sodium-potassium pump utilizes 33 percent of a cell’s daily energy production and about 70 percent of a nerve cell’s daily energy expenditure.
Excess sodium is not friendly to an endurance athlete’s electrolyte balance, performance, or recovery. Less sodium mitigates an athlete’s thirst level and dehydration risk while providing more fluid for metabolic uptake.
Sodium and potassium levels are critical to homeostasis. The acid/alkaline balance is also critical because the acid by-products of snowshoeing, trail running, and metabolism must be neutralized by alkaline minerals.
A diet predominated by a wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables will meet the alkaline needs of your body and improve your endurance sports performance and recovery.
Electrolytes are mineral salts your body utilizes to maintain homeostasis. Sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, bicarbonate,and phosphate are critical electrolytes your body needs to maintain proper intracellular and extracellular fluid gradients.
The balance among these fluids affects hydration and blood pH and is essential for nerve and muscle function.
A state of homeostasis is imperative to offset the fine line between dehydration and the body’ inability to function.
Potassium carries nutrients to the cell while sodium whisks metabolic waste from the cell membrane.
Cellular function, sports performance, and recovery are dependent on a healthy sodium-potassium ratio.
Meeting the electrolyte needs of your body is simple via a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle. Fruits and vegetables contain all the electrolytes your body requires in easily digested, absorbed, and assimilated forms.
Celery is one of the best vegetable sources of sodium. Bananas, dates, tomatoes, and avocados top the list respective to potassium sources.
The health of a cell is clearly linked to the level of impairment to the system. Said system may become impaired in the following ways:
~Elevated blood sugar [hyperglycemia];
~Increased inflammatory protein production;
~Glucose binding to cellular proteins [glycosylation];
~Lack of oxygen [hypoxia];
The key is to ensure that anabolic [productive] processes outpace catabolic [destructive] processes within your body to maintain growth. The sum of anabolic and catabolic activity represents metabolism.
Homeostasis results when the anabolic and processes are in synch. Physiological aging can be slowed – and even reversed – when you provide your body with proper nutrition, rest, and sleep to sustain anabolism.
Significant tissue damage occurs when there is a lack of oxygen. When unstable, highly reactive oxygen atoms frantically search for missing electrons, the line in the sand has been drawn between free radicals and antioxidants.