Supplements for MMA Athletes: Glucosamine and Chondroitin SulfateEvery year athletes in all sports are raising the bar when it comes to setting new records for athletic performance. We see this even more in the sport of mixed martial arts as both the athletes and techniques evolve to new levels. However, with increased performance and higher demands placed on the body, sometimes the rate of tissue damage exceeds the rate of tissue repair. Consequently, it is essential for all MMA athletes to take the appropriate measures to enhance performance, speed up recovery, and fuel the intense training sessions with proper nutrition and supplements. Just like there is a science to training, there is a science to selecting the proper foods and nutritional supplements for MMA. In this series we’ll take a look at some of the supplements that will best serve the needs of MMA athletes.
Pain in the joints is a given when you are training in any combat sport, and osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) is likely to result the longer you have been in the sport. The physical nature of grappling, boxing, and wrestling accelerates the wear and tear on the joints, which makes it all the more important to supplement with something to promote joint health. Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are widely accepted as the two most beneficial supplements for promoting healthy cartilage.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are the molecules that serve as the precursors of cartilage. Cartilage lines all the joints in the human body and serves to protect and cushion joints from normal wear and impact. Glucosamine occurs naturally in healthy cartilage, and it works by maintaining the integrity of the cartilage matrix which is necessary for optimal joint function. It also supports the synthesis of proteoglycans which are the building blocks of cartilage and other connective tissues. Glucosamine is also believed to support the production of hyaluronic acid which is a major part of the synovial fluids that lubricate and provide mobility to joints.
Chondroitin sulfate is another glycosaminoglycan that is often taken in combination with glucosamine and considered to be the partner agent of glucosamine for joint health. Most of the available evidence from controlled studies show that glucosamine sulfate is effective in the treatment of degenerative joint disease. It has been demonstrated that glucosamine taken independently benefits patients with osteoarthritis, but it remains unclear if there is any additional benefit to using both supplements together compared to using either alone. Both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have also been reported to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects as well.
What you see is not always what you getDespite what the labeling on the supplement bottles might say, you don’t always get the purity or dosage of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate that is necessary for maximal benefit. It is widely accepted that therapeutic dosage for glucosamine sulfate should be 1500 mg daily and 1200 mg daily for chondroitin sulfate. Since there is no regulating agency like the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for nutritional supplements, the quality and purity of the supplement will vary among manufacturers.
What to look for in a nutritional supplementThe highest quality nutritional supplements should be manufactured in facilities that have been GMP certified (Good Manufacturing Processes). GMP certification is a reliable indicatory of purity and ensures that high quality control standards have maintained in the manufacturing of the product. Other things to look out for are certifications by the National Products Association (NPA, formerly known as the National Nutritional Foods Association or NNFA), National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia (TGA). Surprisingly, many nutritional supplement companies do not have any of these certifications so the quality of their products is questionable.
Even with all the encouraging evidence that supports the benefits of supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, there are still mixed opinions about whether it really helps or not. My own personal experience from using it and first hand accounts from many of my patients who supplement with it makes it something I recommend regularly. Anyone who participates in MMA and combat sports should definitely consider supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to maintain healthy joints and decrease the progression of arthritis. We recommend our patients try supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for about three to six months before expecting to see and feel the potential benefits. Individuals with certain food allergies or metabolic conditions should avoid taking glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate so as always, check with your doctor or consult with a certified nutrition professional before you start taking any nutritional supplements on your own.
Contact info: Dr. John H. Park, D.C., C.S.C.S.Progressive Spinal & Sports Rehab10076 Darnestown Road Suite 200Rockville, MD 20850www.ProSpineRehab.comwww.yourMMAdoctor.comPhone: (301) 294-5101
Dr. Park is a Chiropractic Physician specializing in sports medicine, orthopedics, and rehab. He has studied martial arts for over 10 years including tae kwon do, Muay Thai, and Brazilian jiu jitsu, and he works with professional and amateur MMA athletes.