Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness Science: Recovery with Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

by Ron Kennedy • October 17, 2016
As a personal trainer, one of the most complain complaints we hear when speaking to prospective and active clients about their fitness training programs is joint pain and the effects it has on their goals. It’s always a touchy subject because of the hindrance it has on the desired end results of peak fitness conditioning. The “will” is sometimes stronger than the “way”, especially taking conditions like arthritis, poor bone density, or simple deterioration of the joints from long term use (we all get older after all). In the science of our fitness training programs, we are always looking for ways to relieve joint pain from adjustments to certain angles of movements, as well as substitute functional movements to replicate the desired muscular contractions but not add as much pressure to the joint(s) of the targeted area. Though there is no way to condition the joints of the body, there are two supplements that have had aide in the function and even recovery of joints in the body: Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are the unique "building blocks" of cartilage and joint tissues. Cartilage provides cushioning in the joints, like a spring, absorbing the damaging, harsh jolts to each joint with exercise and everyday activities. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are also building blocks of synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint like oil. Excessive wear and tear on the joint causes damage and loss of this cartilage cushion and synovial lubricant. As we age, this constant trauma to the joint leads to osteoarthrits and chronic pain.

The exact way these substances work in the joint is still under investigation. There are recovery benefits, but to what lengths is still being determined by the science and fitness community. Animal studies have shown that when chondroitin is taken orally, it accumulates in the joint, and may neutralize destructive enzymes that would otherwise cause cartilage damage. Laboratory tests dating back to the 1950s showed that glucosamine sulfate stimulated cartilage production in special cells found in joints. Some researchers believe that glucosamine is effective only in the sulfate form, due to the importance of sulfur in the production of normal connective tissue. In a recent study of these two substances researchers reviewed fifteen human studies on the use of glucosamine and chondroitin for joints. The results of the analysis showed a significant improvement in joint pain for patients using either substance. Each individual study also showed them to be extremely safe, with almost no side-effects.

It has been estimated that more than 75% of people over the age of 65 years’ present osteoarthrosis in one or more joints. American studies have shown that 12.1% of individuals over the age of 25 years’ present clinical signs and symptoms of osteoarthrosis and that 6% and 3% of individuals over the age of 30 years’ present osteoarthrosis symptoms in the knees and hips, respectively. Osteoarthrosis is characterized by degradation of the joint cartilage. This clinical condition is composed of pain, stiffness, joint effusion and joint deformities. Biological, genetic, biochemical, nutritional and mechanical factors contribute towards the etiology of osteoarthrosis.

It is believed that glucosamine participates as a substrate in synthesizing glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans and hyaluronate in the joint cartilage. It also acts on chondrocytes through stimulating proteoglycan synthesis and inhibiting metalloproteinase synthesis. Use of glucosamine is based on studies done on animal models and in vitro studies that showed that the joint metabolism became normalized during the healing of chondral lesions, along with slight anti- inflammatory action. There are three types of glucosamine available on the market: glucosamine hydrochloride (taken from crab shells), glucosamine sulfate (taken from shrimp shells) and synthetic glucosamine (sulfate). Some studies have shown that glucosamine is more efficient than placebo for improving symptoms and that it can also diminish the speed of progression of joint narrowing in osteoarthrosis.

Chondroitin is a glycosaminoglycan that is found in several types of tissue, including hyaline cartilage. Recent studies have concluded that chondroitin stimulates synthesis of cartilage, and also acts towards inhibiting IL-1 and metalloproteinases. There is also evidence to indicate that chondroitin is better than placebo for alleviating symptoms, but that it is not effective for diminishing the progression of joint narrowing.

Time is the enemy of everything organic. We all age, and even the most genetically gifted athletes have to deal with the wear and tear on the body of their chosen sport or fitness pursuits. Warming up, post workout stretching, and proper intake of nutrients to build bone density (calcium for example) do greatly improve in slowing the process of time and tension. Yet for and additional weapon in the arsenal of fitness training, and equally as important the recovery from your training, glucosamine and chondroitin are excellent supplements to work in to provide the joints with some effective backup.