Whether you do overhead presses, benches, squats, leg presses, whatever, the bottom line to muscle growth is progressive resistance and strict form. Of course, you need to add a proper diet and adequate rest and recuperation
to the mix so that trained muscle can recover from the trauma of weight training sufficiently enough to grow and be ready for the next assault by the tonnage. If you are like most serious bodybuilders, you're anxious to continue
pounding away as soon as possible, and often that intense drive prevents you from getting the recuperation you need. Over time, a lack of rest compounded with the progressive microtrauma of resistance training may lead to
serious inflammation, most notably in the joints. If untreated, the inflammation can worsen over time, weakening the surrounding structure and eventually leading to serious injury.
When the inflammation gets serious, many bodybuilders visit their physicians, who often prescribe anti-inflammatories for treatment. But anti-inflammatories have their own side effects (e.g., ulceration of the stomach lining), and may not necessarily be the best line of defense for a hard-training bodybuilder. Luckily, like so many other things in life, there are other fish in the sea. JAWS OF LIFE In the April 1994 FLEX, I reported on the use of shark-cartilage supplementation to combat joint pain, even arthritis. In case you may have missed that report, let me give you a quick recap. Sharks are the only creatures on this planet that rarely develop cancer or degenerative joint disease. The shark, in fact, is boneless; its exoskeleton, as opposed to an internal skeleton, is comprised largely of cartilage.
When components of a shark's cartilaginous exoskeleton are analyzed, several com-pounds related to the complex carbohydrate family are identified. These substances are known as mucopolysaccharides. Two members of this family, chondroitin sulfate A and chondroitin sulfate C, plus another still-unidentifiable compound, have been isolated. These substances are known not only to reduce inflammation but they also block a process known as angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels). Angiogenesis is acceptable for a growing child's developmental needs, but in adults, angiogenesis is associated with tumor growth and vascularization of joint cartilage, which can lead to degenerative joint disease.
Normal joint cartilage is avascular - that is, it contains no blood vessels. However, examination of the joint fluid of osteoarthritic patients very often reveals a substance called ESAF (endothelial vascularization stimulating angiogenesis factor). ESAF causes vascularization of joint cartilage to occur. Interestingly, the components of shark cartilage help block this process from occurring.
Not too long ago, a five-year double-blind study of osteoarthritic patients was conducted in Czechoslovakia by V. Rejoholec, MD and associate professor in the department of internal medicine/rheumatology at the Policlinic of Medical Faculty at Charles University. In this study, 147 osteorarthritic patients were divided into three groups. Two of the groups were given variations of a cartilage extract; the other group (a control group) received a placebo.
The cartilage-treated groups showed an 85% reduction of pain, while the control group showed a decrease of only 5%. More important, the actual joint degeneration decreased by 37% in the cartilage-treated groups.
Over the last four years I have used shark cartilage successfully with many of my patients, including senior citizens and bodybuilders, suffering from osteoarthritis and/or joint inflammation. Trust me, you don't have to be a senior citizen to have osteoarthritis. Many of my body-builder patients who have routinely abused their joints now exhibit chronic joint disorders and inflammation. A significant number of my patients, when treated with shark cartilage and other supportive therapies, has shown considerable improvement in their conditions.
The benefits of shark cartilage seem considerable, and in this light, the FDA is presently testing a shark cartilage supplement called Cartilade, manufactured by Cartilade Technologies, Inc. of Elmsford, New York. The initial reports from this study of Cartilade appear to be favorable.
A look at the Physicians' Desk Reference, the bible of prescription medications, lists dozens of anti-inflammatories. Each one of them does the job, yet nearly all of them have serious side effects, particularly if taken long-term. Many bodybuilders enjoy the challenge of heavy training and competition, but, unfortunately, many of them also end up suffering from nagging joint problems. It seems contradictory for these athletes to ingest often-toxic anti-inflammatories when a natural nontoxic alternative exists in the form of shark cartilage.