A wide range of factors affect your body’s ability to perform at optimal levels. Athletes must worry about getting enough protein, nutrition, healthy sleep, electrolytes, hydration, flexibility, and that’s just the start.
What most athletes may not be aware of is the impact of toxins on their athletic performance.
An overload of toxins, whether environmental, such as second-hand smoke and pollutants in the air and water, or consumed, such as BPA from plastic bottles, pesticides in food, heavy metals, and alcohol, have a dramatic impact on athletic performance.
Unfortunately, toxins are almost impossible to avoid in the modern world. Pesticides, heavy metals, industrial fumes, and thousands of other poisons are everywhere – just look at the air pollution statistics of major cities and you will get the idea. Athletes are particularly susceptible to airborne toxins because of how they use their respiratory systems – inhaling more often and more deeply.
The impact on performance may appear gradually, appearing initially as fatigue, brain fog, and weakness – all of which are often “pushed through” or misdiagnosed. Toxins have an insidious, hidden, detrimental effect on the body.
Thankfully, understanding this physiological phenomenon gives you an edge: You can avoid toxins and give your body’s native detoxification processes the support they need to keep you going strong to boost your performance.
The human body can naturally process and eliminate toxins – up to a point.
A strategy to avoid a toxic overload can supercharge your health and athletic performance, allowing you to break through a plateau and achieve a level of peak physical performance you once believed was unattainable.
Part One: Understanding Toxins and Toxic Overload
The word “toxin” loosely covers a wide range of substances, and they are literally everywhere. They exist in everything from plastic bottles and cookware to your food, clothing, soaps, in the outdoor air, indoor air, and in almost every household item.
According to the CDC’s Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, most Americans have over 200 chemicals in their blood and urine. These toxins come from a range of sources, including:
- Air pollutants
- Heavy metals
Most toxins enter your body in one of three ways, each of which has built-in defenses to process and eliminate the toxins before they cause damage:
Respiratory system: Your entire sinus system is built with a mucosal barrier that traps and nullifies toxins before they reach your lungs, but this system is unable to catch it all. Inside your lungs, you have microscopic and fibrous cells called cilia, which trap toxins and prevent them from entering your bloodstream. Toxins are then released through exhalation, or in some cases, coughing and sneezing.
Skin:Your skin is the largest single organ on your body, providing one of the most effective lines of defense against toxins. When toxins enter your skin or are stored in your fat cells, the physiological act of sweating helps to flush them from your system. This is one of the reasons that the ability to sweat normally is so important.
- Digestive system:Your digestive system houses 70-80% of your immune system and has one of the most complex, efficient systems for detoxification in the human body. At every step, toxins and pathogens are processed, nullified, and flushed away. Fat-soluble toxins, alcohol, and a wide range of other toxins are processed by your liver, and others are handled by the kidneys and urine.
So, if the body is so efficient, then what’s the problem?
Part Two: Compromised Liver, Poor Digestion, and Toxic Overload
The problem begins when your natural detoxification systems are compromised, or you are exposed to an overload of toxins. Here are some examples of common toxins, and what can happen:
Alcohol: Unlike most foods and drinks, alcohol is absorbed directly by your intestinal walls into your bloodstream, which explains the rapid onset of a buzz or intoxication. The blood is then processed and filtered by your liver and the alcohol is prepared for excretion – but here’s the problem: The processing of alcohol creates a toxic byproduct that damages the liver.
In small doses, alcohol doesn’t pose a serious problem – but when too much alcohol is consumed over time, you can suffer liver malfunction and eventually, liver disease. Once your liver can no longer function correctly, it is less able to filter your blood and it leaves a host of other toxins free to circulate through your bloodstream, become lodged in your cells, and trigger systemic inflammation.
Bisphenol A (BPA): BPA, and related chemicals BPE and BPS, are toxic compounds found in most plastic food containers, cans, and cookware. Molecules of these compounds are known to shed from plastics, to be consumed in your food and drink.
Your body can process and eliminate small quantities of BPA or related compounds, but studies have shown that even as little as 4.5 micrograms per pound can cause adverse effects on the body. It has a similar structure to the hormone estrogen and has been known to cause reproductive issues in both men and women.
Glyphosate: Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the most common pesticides in the market. It is used both commercially and residentially (if you have ever tried RoundUp, you have been exposed to glyphosate). It is a known carcinogen and can cause significant digestive issues – including leaky gut (weak intestinal barriers that allow unprocessed toxins to enter your bloodstream directly).
When you are exposed to even moderate quantities of glyphosate, your digestive system can be compromised, which results in an overloaded liver and high levels of toxicity.
Heavy metals: Heavy metals are dense metallic elements that are toxic to the human body, even in small quantities. Lead and mercury are two of the most common examples, but this category of toxin also includes cadmium, arsenic, chromium, and thallium.
Heavy metals can enter your body through your skin, respiratory system, or digestive system, and they can wreak systemic havoc on your body. Your body can eliminate heavy metals with the help of specific vitamins and minerals called chelating agents, which bind to the metals and remove them in the digestive process. If you are deficient in chelating agents or have an overload of heavy metals, dangerous symptoms can occur – including abdominal pain, dehydration, heart abnormalities, liver damage, kidney damage, nervous system malfunction, and many more.
The longer you suffer from an excess of toxins, the more impaired your body’s innate detoxification systems become.
But – there IS hope. Read on for more information on common symptoms and what YOU can do about it.
Part Three: How Toxins Affect Your Athletic Performance
Every biological process in your body is intricately connected to your athletic performance, and a toxic overload can be the hidden factor behind a lackluster performance. Some of the most common symptoms of toxic overload include:
- Brain fog
- Muscular weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Excessive urination
- Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms tend to appear gradually, eventually reducing your athletic potential – even when the symptoms are minor.
Part Four: Reduce Toxic Exposure
The simplest way to reduce toxins in your body is to avoid them. Despite today’s crazy world that has toxins everywhere, there are steps you can take that will reduce your toxin intake. This gives your body a chance to get rid of the “backlog” and catch up.
- Eat ORGANIC. One of the most important ways to reduce toxicity is to eat foods that are certified organic. Not only do these foods contain higher nutrient densities to supply your body with what it needs, but they are free from the pesticides and chemicals present in most food.
- Avoid exercising and training in a densely populated city (when possible). As an athlete, your respiratory system is much more active – and training in a city with high levels of pollution means you are inhaling toxins just by breathing.
- Avoid any household products that have artificial fragrances. Artificial fragrances are toxic and should be avoided.
- Stay away from pesticides.
- Avoid highly-processed foods, as these are generally chock full of toxic chemicals.
- Stay away from products that contain BPA, which means avoiding plastic bottles, cardboard, and cans as much as possible.
- Avoid the use of non-stick cookware, as the coating contains harmful chemical compounds that can enter your food and be consumed.
Part Four: Chelating Agents and Liver Support
If you suffer from any level of toxic overload, you may need to give your body some extra support. Modern scientific research has shown that specific nutrients and compounds can help give your body the edge it needs to shed the toxic garbage. Some of the top foods and nutrients to boost detoxification include:
- Healthy fats and oils
- Nuts and seeds
- High-quality protein
Remember, these foods must be ORGANIC, or you may still be consuming more toxins than your body can handle.
As an athlete, you may also want a more immediate solution to detoxification, in which case you can try a product like Body Detox from BodyHealth. This oral spray is the result of extensive scientific research and contains a combination of advanced biotechnology, homeopathic remedies, and natural medicine.
The Bottom Line
Toxins have a long-term detrimental impact on all body systems, and as an athlete, will significantly impact your overall performance and endurance. Making a few changes can help you live a less toxic, healthier life – your body will love you for it!