Athletes of all ages, types, and levels are learning that getting the most out of their body requires a comprehensive approach that factors in prevention as much as it does treatment. Consumers are constantly inundated with advertisements and information about the latest and greatest workouts, fitness supplements, medicines, and health boosting ingredients—but what actually works? While there is no shortage of healthy workouts and dietary supplements, approaching the body and mind with a naturopathic approach is often the best way for an athlete to stay in tip top shape.
The Naturopathic Approach
Naturopathic medicine is sometimes referred to as “alternative” medicine, but there is nothing alternative about it to the millions of people who follow its basic tenets. The naturopath approach focuses on keeping the body, spirit, and mind in harmony by utilizing healthy diets, positive thinking, stress reduction, and using naturally occurring substances to promote healing. A natural health approach is preventative rather than reactive, helping people live healthy and balanced lives.
The Benefits of a Naturopathic Approach for an Athlete
The human body is in many ways no different than a motor; it requires quality fuel and consistent maintenance to operate at full potential. Unfortunately many athletes fail to see their full potential due to inadequate care of their body. Athletes also commonly experience injuries and performance difficulties that may be avoidable or lessened with a greater focus on balanced health. The following are some of the benefits afforded by the naturopath approach and some common treatments:
- Infusion Therapy for Optimal Nutrient Levels and Detoxification. Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies are not uncommon among athletes and those who live high intensity lifestyles. A seemingly small nutritional deficiency can dramatically affect energy levels, weaken the immune system, and cause a host of other difficulties. Certain vitamins and nutrients are best absorbed directly into the blood stream via injection or IV. Infusion therapy delivers the vitamins and nutrients needed to bring levels back to normal, helping the body recover from fatigue and boosting energy stores.
- Clinical Nutrition. Even the most naturally talented athlete may fail to see his or her complete potential if their diet doesn’t match their unique needs. The naturopathic approach focuses on eating real, whole foods in favor of the highly processed, chemically laden, and nutritionally deficient foods that line many of the shelves at grocery stores. A naturopathic professional works with clients to find a diet that matches their specific lifestyle and medical needs, typically incorporating moderate proteins, healthy fats, and low glycemic complex carbohydrates. The ideal whole diet keeps nutrients at preferred levels, helps provide consistent energy levels, and strengthens the immune system—everything an athlete needs. Naturopath professionals will also work with vegetarian or vegan clients to ensure their diet fits their athletic lifestyle.
- Acupuncture. The ancient practice of acupuncture is based on the belief that needles inserted into specific areas of the skin help balance the natural flow of energy or “chi” in the body. In Western medical terms, acupuncture works to stimulate muscles, nerves, and connective tissue. Acupuncture is widely used for pain relief, relaxation, and to boost an overall sense of wellness. Athletes turn to acupuncture as an effective means of managing chronic pain, healing injuries, and treating stiffness and mobility issues.
- Nutritional Supplementation. Athletes can experience notable benefits from nutritional supplementation—if done correctly. The quality and usefulness of many of the supplements found on the shelves is questionable; some of them are little more than sugar pills. Naturopath professionals use the highest quality pharmaceutical grade supplements that are tested for potency, purity, and their ability to be properly utilized by the body. Naturopath professionals work with people to ensure they are taking supplements that will actually benefit them and fit their overall health needs. Helpful athletic nutritional supplements include:
- Omega 3s and Other Essential Fatty Acids—help with cardiovascular health, joint health, cognitive function, and much more.
- Meal Replacement Proteins—athletes often require additional protein intake to help with muscle recovery, strength development, energy, and as general diet supplementation for vegetarian and vegan athletes.
- Multi-Vitamin and Minerals—most people will benefit from taking multi-vitamin and mineral supplements, provided they use a quality product. The demanding nature of an athletic lifestyle makes a multi-vitamin a good choice for preventing deficiencies and providing an all around nutritional boost.
The Naturopathic Approach Focus on the Individual
Unlike many other health and medicinal approaches, naturopathy does not use a “one size fits all” approach. This is particularly important for athletes, as their health and wellness plan may require highly specific focus—a triathlete will likely have different needs than a football player. Naturopathy commonly uses professional medical lab services to get a detailed view of a person’s overall health, nutritional needs, organ function, allergies, or the presence of heavy metals or toxins. Naturopath professionals use this data to find the optimal plan for infusion therapy, diet planning, nutritional supplementation, acupuncture, and more.
Living a balanced and healthy life goes beyond natural treatments, diet, and supplementation. Naturopathy also involves developing a mind, body, and spirit connection to enhance overall health and wellness. Given the intense—and often stressful—mental side of athletics, athletes can use the naturopath approach to develop the calm and confidence that is required for competition. Naturopathy often involves wellness and lifestyle coaching that helps people learn more about the mind, body, and spirit connection and how a healthy body helps maintain a healthy mind and vice versa. Athletes commonly turn to naturopathy to boost their performance and gain a competitive edge, only to experience a total transformation in everyday health and happiness as well.