Is Plastic Compromising Your Health?

Is Plastic Compromising Your Health?

By Kevin Masson MSc, CSCS, CPT, USAW, FMS

When you walk into any supermarket or convenience store these days, you are confronted by shelf upon shelf of food and drinks in plastic containers. What you may not be aware of is the potential damage that can be caused to your body.

So what is plastic doing to your body? Why the fuss about drinking from plastic bottles and if they were that harmful, wouldn’t the FDA have something to say about it? The fact is that BPA-Free and FDA approved logo are used by manufactures for marketing purposes to act like their products are safe to use, but the confusion remains, is it really? Here is what we will cover in this article:

  • BPA and BPS (BPA-free) have a lot more similarity then what the FDA makes you think.
  • 81% of Americans have detectable levels of BPS in their urine.
  • Did you know that the chemicals released from BPA might stop you from getting pregnant? Or that it may be responsible for premature birth?
  • You may be inadvertently increasing your risk of cancer by refilling plastic bottles.
  • Bottled water may contribute toward heart disease and other chronic diseases.
  • We all know about the effect of plastic on the environment. Isn’t it time we took part in cleaning up the mess by refusing plastic?
  • So what to do about it? What are the other options?

That’s what I am here to report because unless you know the facts, it’s unlikely that an article on plastic bottles and containers is actually going to persuade you that you should change your ways.

I wrote this article not to scare you, but it is time to face up to the fact that the average person is totally unaware of what he or she is doing to their body by participating in something they consider healthy.

We are all encouraged to drink water and lots of it, so if you don’t get it in a plastic bottle, where’s the best place to get water you can trust? Meal prepping is a ritual of mine and a lot of other health-conscious consumers but eating in plastic containers may be counter-productive to what we are trying to achieve by prepping our meals.

One of the most common materials used in our everyday lives is plastic, and that sort of commonality should be examined for potential benefits or potential dangers. There is a chemical found in almost all plastics called Bisphenol A or BPA which has been linked to numerous health problems, and yes it can leach into your water and food.

You see water is commonly known as a universal solvent, which means that it dissolves and attracts other molecules. When water is in a plastic bottle, and you add heat to the equation, some of the plastic molecules will get mixed with the water molecules. We all heard this before “Don’t drink from the water bottle you left in the car.” I know you drank that water before; you remember how bad that taste was? Literally like drinking plastic, yep that’s because you literally did drink plastic.


What Is BPA and Why is it bad?

BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. BPA is so popular because it enhances the strength of plastic and helps prevent CDs from becoming easily shattered or the metal of a can corrode into the food. Pretty much it’s used to make products stronger. The chemical is added to many products from hygiene and beauty, to baby products and formula, to Tupperware and to-go cup, even the lining of canned goods. Surely something so common amongst our homes and markets must be safe, right?

Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor which imitates a human body’s hormones and will disrupt the productions and functions of natural hormones, including eliminating them altogether.  According to research from the University of Oxford, it behaves in the body in a similar way as estrogen does, messing up with puberty, ovulation, infertility, erectile dysfunction and sexual drive.

Since BPA primarily imitates estrogen, it should come as no surprise that it has been linked to breast and prostate cancer as well as hindering chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.  In the various literature produced around BPA ingestion, it has been linked to a myriad of heart conditions like hypertension, angina, and heart disease. Also, there has been evidence that BPA contributes to insulin resistance and thereby making type 2 diabetes more difficult to treat.

We know that there is an obesity problem at the moment and it is partially due to people not being educated on health and wellness, but BPA has been linked to being overweight as well. Several studies published report that those, including children, who were at risk for obesity or were obese, had BPA levels ranging from 47-85% more than their normal-weight counterparts. It should be noted that while BPA has been linked to harming fetal development, it has only been linked to child weight gain in the womb via animal testing rather than people. So, it may not cause a predisposition for obesity in children.

Among the risk of maintaining a healthy weight, hormone function, and heart disease, BPA has been found to cause a 29% increase in abnormal liver function, 91% increase in premature delivery and asthma in infants. Remember that these links have been researched since the 1980s and that is why so many companies now offer BPA free products. These are links and not causation, but ask yourself, if these links between illness and Bisphenol A have been continuously demonstrated for over nearly forty years, should we still trust plastic?

What is BPA free

BPA-free is the name given to the other chemicals that are replacing BPA, the most popular of them is referred as BPS or Bisphenol-S.  BPS was a favored replacement because it was thought to be more resistant to leaching. If people consumed less of the chemical, the idea went, it would not cause any or only minimal harm.

Yet BPS is getting out. Nearly 81 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPS in their urine. And once it enters the body, it can affect cells in ways that parallel BPA. A 2013 study by Cheryl Watson at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that even picomolar concentrations (less than one part per trillion) of BPS can disrupt a cell’s normal functioning, which could potentially lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, asthma, birth defects or even cancer. BPS also mimics the form and function of estrogen, therein can bind to receptors and disrupt growth, cell repair, energy levels, reproduction, even the development of a fetus.

Another research by Deborah Kurrasch, from the University of Calgary, turned to zebrafish to study the effects of BPS on embryo development. Zebrafish brain development is similar to human but easier to track as it is in an invisible layer. When the fish were dosed with BPS in similar concentrations to that found in a nearby river, neuronal growth exploded, rising 170 percent for fish exposed to BPA and a whopping 240 percent for those exposed to BPS. As the fish aged, they began zipping around their tank much faster and more erratically than the unexposed fish. The researchers concluded that increased neural growth likely lead to hyperactivity. This is very common in children with ADD or ADHD.

In another study, Hong-Sheng Wang, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati, found that both BPA and BPS cause heart arrhythmia in rats. He tested almost 50 rats, giving them the chemicals in doses akin to concentrations found in humans. Even at such low concentrations, the rats’ hearts began to race, but curiously only those of the females. They discovered that BPS blocked an estrogen receptor found only in female rats, which lead to the disruption of calcium channels, a common cause of heart arrhythmia in humans.

These in vivo studies agree with in vitro studies claiming that BPS is a hazard. But the problem doesn’t stop with removing bisphenol S from the market as was done for bisphenol A. The problem, according to Kurrasch, lies in the lack of industry regulation. Currently, no federal agency tests the toxicity of new materials before they are allowed on the market. “We’re paying a premium for a ‘safer’ product that isn’t even safer,” Kurrasch says. There are many types of bisphenols out there, so part of the public’s responsibility “is making sure that big corporations don’t just go from BPA to BPS to BPF or whatever the next one is.”

Why is it FDA Approved then?

In 2012, the FDA (U.S Food and Drug Administration) banned BPA from certain products such as baby food and baby food packaging, but BPA-Free products generally referred to as BPS is perfectly associated with the FDA approved logo, why is that?

Well, you see the FDA approval logo means that the FDA has decided the benefits of the approved item outweigh the potential risks for the item’s planned use. In other words, if you are to choose between “bad” and “worst,” you would choose the lesser of two evils. This does not mean that they are safe, it means that option 2 (BPA-Free) is better than option 1 (BPA) although both have shown to be detrimental to our health.


Impact on our environment

So what are plastic bottles doing to the environment? If they are that harmful for drinking from, what good are they? The fact is that even recyclable plastic bottles that are provided for the provision of water are not being recycled responsibly. Most people who buy them merely put them into their waste in the US and in a study by Augsburg University, the troubling aspect seemed to be the lack of education when it comes to recycling those products that are made to be recycled.

How much energy does it use to produce and transport bottled water? Well, you may be surprised to know that it takes 2000 times the amount of energy that could be put into ensuring that the water from your tap is safe thus imposing more energy use on the world than is necessary. The report by the Augsburg University concludes that the more we rely upon bottled water, the more the impact on the earth we live in. The amount of petroleum needed to be drilled in order to produce even PET plastic is unacceptable.

While we are still in the environmental aspect of this article, I have to talk about the vast amount of plastic found in our oceans. You can literally make a new continent made out of plastic found in the ocean, there is that much. This article is not about saving the environment but to make you reflect on something that you already know and increase your knowledge to become mindful consumers. I am sure you have all seen images of animals dying from plastic, turtles with plastic straws in their nose or birds full of plastic in their stomach and the list goes on.

You may have heard that big corporations such as Starbucks are now stopping their use of plastic straws, which is a good start but we need to do better than that. We only have one earth, and if we carry on the way we do, we are leaving quite a mess for our children generations.

Alternatives to plastic

With all the dangers linked to BPA products, how can you avoid them? The easiest way is to read the product information and see what it contains. As mentioned earlier, many companies have decided to produce BPA-free products and use BPS (Bisphenol S) or BPF (Bisphenol F). These chemicals are nearly identical to BPA and have been found to behave just like it. These chemicals are still being researched in order to find out if they are as dangerous as Bisphenol A. It isn’t too much of a stretch to worry about these chemicals since we do know, for a fact, that BPF and BPS are almost identical to BPA. If it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it probably is a duck.

If so many products contain BPA, how do you avoid them? Well, BPA is present in the environment as well and so entirely avoiding it is impossible, but there are ways to minimize your exposure to it. You can avoid foods packaged in plastic or cans. You’ll want to look out for recycling numbers 1, 3,6,7, or the letters PC as they will clue you that they are polycarbonate and the use of BPA. You’ll also want to start drinking from glass bottles or stainless steel rather than plastic ones, and yes they make glass baby bottles.



With children’s toys, you’ll want to be very sure that they are BPA-free as so many toys are chewed or sucked on with kids. Heat also helps BPA leach into foods, so be sure not to throw a plastic container in a microwave. In general, avoid plastic containers to store your food. Many bodybuilders and gym goers food prep in plastic food containers, this is the worst thing you can do, instead, use glass food containers.

Having a filter on your water at home and having it tested regularly is a good idea and I would suggest that you decide upon the filter that you need based on lab results on your own water supply. Installing a reverse osmosis filtration system in your home is one of the best ways to make sure that the water you are drinking is free from toxic substances. Use this table provided to help you to decide which filter will give you the purest form of water within your own home. Continue to drink water, but become less dependent upon water in plastic bottles. Even if you find the glass bottles to be a little more expensive, they are a healthier alternative. If you do invest in an at home filtration system reusing and filling your own glass or stainless steel bottles at home before you leave can be a cost saving alternative in the long run and you have piece of mind that the water you are drinking is of no detriment to your health.

If you are lucky to live next to natural spring water well then use it! It’s free! Use this website to find out if you have one near you.

These are just a few ways to reduce the levels of BPA in your body and improve your overall health. Many of the studies focused on the levels of BPA in a person as its presence in the body is unavoidable.



Like I stated above, this article is not meant to scare you or create a phobia about plastic, but simply to create awareness and educate on what you’re putting in your body, and try to control your health as much as possible. Some things are just unavoidable and so don’t panic if you drink from a BPA bottle every so often, you can only minimize risk but never eliminate it. So, when out and about shopping take some time to read what you’re buying, make sure the water bottles are made of glass. Don’t buy plastic food containers, instead prep in glass containers, IKEA sells them for $2.99. Get yourself a good tap water home filtration system that will get rid of a lot of the crap that is in tap water and if you are on the go, use stainless steel or glass bottles.

Take control of your body and decide, as much as possible, what you want in there.

Take Away Points

  • BPA is a chemical used to strengthen plastic and helps preserve can food.
  • BPA primarily imitates estrogen in the body and is linked to breast and prostate cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetic, premature birth, erectile dysfunction, low sex drive and other hormonal imbalances.
  • BPA-Free is also known commonly as BPS and has many (too many) molecular similarities with BPA.
  • The FDA approves BPA-Free because it is safer than BPA, even though both products have peer review research that shows detrimental health factors.
  • Plastic is not only detrimental to our health but to our environment, and people are unaware of how to recycle it properly.
  • You know it is BPA plastic or recycled BPA when there is a number 1, 3, 6 or 7 or the letters PC under the container or bottle you are using.
  • We cannot get rid of plastic, it’s all around us, but we can lower the amount we ingest.
  • Drink from Glass or stainless steel bottles
  • Prep food in glass containers, plastic containers mixed with heat from microwave I call that an estrogen party




Jenny L. Carwile et al, “Polycarbonate Bottle Use and Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations,” Environmental Health Perspectives 117:1368-1372, 12 May 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Factsheet Bisphenol A (BPA)”, accessed at, on 24 July 2012.

American Plastics Council, Questions and Answers about BPA, downloaded from www.bisphenol on 14 April 2004; Wilding et al, The National Workgroup for Safe Markets, No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods, May 2010. Available at ej4all.contaminatedwithoutconsent/downloads/NoSilverLining-Report.pdf.

Barrett, J. R. (2009, February). Trumped treatment? BPA blocks effects of breast cancer chemotherapy drugs. Environmental Health Perspectives 1172, A75. Retrieved from

Bisphenol A (BPA). (2010, August). Retrieved from

Carwile, J. L., Luu, H. T., Bassett, L. S., Driscoll, D. A., Yuan, C., Chang, J. Y., …Michels, K. B. (2009, May). Polycarbonate bottle use and urinary bisphenol A concentrations. Environmental Health Perspectives 1179, 1368-1372. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016, December 23). Bisphenol A (BPA) [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from

Diabetes and the environment. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Gao, H., Yang, B.-J., Li, N., Feng, L.-M., Shi, X.-Y., Zhao, W.-H., & Liu, S.-J. (2015, January 9). Bisphenol A and hormone-associated cancers: Current progress and perspectives. Medicine (Baltimore) 941, e211. Retrieved from

Gao, X., & Wang, H.-S. (2014, August 15). Impact of bisphenol A on the cardiovascular system — epidemiological and experimental evidence and molecular mechanisms. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 118, 8399-8413. Retrieved from

Huo, X., Chen, D., He, Y., Zhu, W., Zhou, W., & Zhang, J. (2015, September). Bisphenol-A and female infertility: A possible role of gene-environment interactions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 129, 11101-11116. Retrieved from

Li, D., Zhou, Z., Qing, D., He, Y., Wu, T., Miao, M., …Yuan, W. (2009). Occupational exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA) and the risk of self-reported male sexual dysfunction. Human Reproduction 00, 1-9. Retrieved from

Machtinger, R., Combelles, C. M. H., Missmer, S. A., Correia, K. F., Williams, P., Hauser, R., & Rocowsy, C. (2013, October 5). Bisphenol-A and human oocyte maturation in vitro. Human Reproduction 2810, 2735-2745. Retrieved from

Toxicological and health aspects of bisphenol A. (2010, November). Retrieved from

Wolstenholme, J. T., Rissman, E. F., Connelly, J. J. (2011, March). The role of bisphenol A in shaping the brain, epigenome, and behaviour. Hormones and Behavior 593, 296-305. Retrieved from

Xie, M. Y.,. Ni, H., Zhao, D. S., Wen, L. Y.1, Li, K.S.1, Yang, H. H., … Su, H. (2016 October). Exposure to bisphenol A and the development of asthma: A systematic review of cohort studies. Reproductive Toxicology 65, 224-229. Retrieved from


The Most Overlooked Mineral You Should Be Supplementing With.

The Most Overlooked Mineral You Should Be Supplementing With.

By Kevin Masson MSc, CSCS, CPT, USAW, FMS

 Magnesium deficiency is likely the #1 mineral deficiency in our world today. Estimates suggest nearly half of adult men and women in the United States aren’t getting enough magnesium.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an element and mineral found throughout nature and one of the body’s electrolytes. In the body, it is the fourth most abundant mineral and is crucial to many aspects of health. It is often under-rated over its big brother calcium in terms of supplementation. The 12th element in the periodic table is utilized in more than 600 biological reactions in a variety of ways such as:

  • Production of ATP, the energy currency of the body
  • DNA and RNA replication and repair during cellular division
  • Combining amino acids to synthesize complex proteins and enzymes
  • Neurotransmitter regulation in the brain
  • Regulating big brother calcium’s transport in the body, necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation.

And many more.

The daily recommended intake of magnesium for women is about 320mg/day (360mg/day during pregnancy), and 420mg/day for men. Children below 14 years of age require up to 240mg/day.A major percentage of this can be obtained from a well-balanced diet.

How do I know if I am deficit?

To know for sure, you would need a blood work done but there are symptoms often related to magnesium deficiency such as:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Insomnia or difficulties sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Hormonal Imbalance
  • Low energy levels, weakness or laziness
  • Anxiety and stress

If you tick some of the above or all of the above maybe you should try supplementing with magnesium.

Benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium intake and supplementation is shown to improve many of the common conditions and diseases ailing today’s generation. Let’s take a look at the benefits of magnesium intake and supplementation in 5 of them:

  • Exercise and Sports

Several studies done on athletes on magnesium supplementation have shown its efficacy in improving athletic performance. Runners reported faster sprinting and cycling times. Volleyball players noted improved joint movements. Other subjects also showed reduced cortisol levels.

Magnesium works by increasing muscle uptake of glucose and disposal of lactic acid, thereby increasing muscle recovery and efficiency that translates into improved performance in sports.

  • Type II Diabetes

Magnesium has been studied for its correlation with diabetes. One study states that not only have 48% of diabetic patients been shown to have a magnesium deficiency, but inadequate magnesium intake can also further predispose non-diabetic people to a pre-diabetic state (aka Syndrome X).

Another study demonstrated highly improved levels of HbA1c (Glycated Hemoglobin) in diabetic patients who were started on regular magnesium supplementation.

Furthermore, magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics as magnesium is crucial to how target tissues respond to insulin.

  • Hypertension

Magnesium has been shown to decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in a case-controlled interventional study. This effect makes magnesium supplementation a noteworthy addition to drug regimens for Hypertension. This effect, however, is not seen in people with normal blood pressure suggesting it uses limited to hypertension only.

  • Depression and PMS

Magnesium deficiency has been linked to a significantly higher risk of depression. One study estimates that risk to be about 22% higher in adults with low dietary intake of magnesium. While the mechanism is not yet fully known and more detailed research and study are required in this area, a randomized controlled trial in older adult patients if depression has shown that a regimen of 450mg supplementation improved mood as effectively as popular anti-depressants such as SSRIs.

Similarly, Post-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms have shown improvement with better magnesium intake. Women reported better mood with decreased frequency of water retention and abdominal cramps.

  • Migraines

Those debilitating migraine headaches accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and hypersensitivity to light and sound may be signaling that you’re deficient in magnesium. Magnesium rich foods and, in one study, one gram of supplemented magnesium improved migraine symptoms on par with painkiller medication such as Dexamethasone.

  • Sleeping Aid

Getting your magnesium levels up can almost instantly reduce your body’s stress load and improve the quality of your sleep. Insomnia is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. People with low magnesium often experience restless sleep, frequently waking during the night. Maintaining healthy magnesium levels often leads to more profound sleep. Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleep. Research indicates supplemental magnesium can improve sleep quality. (Nielsen, 2015)

How to take Magnesium supplements?


Without stating the obvious but nutrition is a big part of where you will find magnesium. A well-balanced diet should provide you with the amount that you need to live healthily. Magnesium can be found in some types of food such as the example below:

top 10 magnesium-rich foods based on magnesium content (values of mg in food from the USDA):

Spinach, cooked — 1 cup: 157 milligrams

Swiss chard, cooked — 1 cup: 150 milligrams

Dark Chocolate — 1 square: 95 milligrams

Pumpkin seeds, dried — 1/8 cup: 92 milligrams

Almonds — 1 ounce: 75 milligrams

Black beans — 1/2 cup: 60 milligrams

Avocado — 1 medium: 58 milligrams

Figs, dried — 1/2 cup: 50 milligrams

Yogurt or kefir — 1 cup: 46.5 milligrams

Banana — 1 medium: 32 milligrams


Most likely the easiest way to take magnesium is through supplements. The price varies from $10 – $20 depending on what brand you choose and the average dosage are between 100mg to 200mg which is a pretty decent amount so if you are going to supplement with magnesium the key is always to start small and increase the dosage if you can tolerate it.

Magnesium Salt Bath and oil

A lot of research are claiming the effectiveness and superiority of transdermal magnesium over an oral application. (Absorbing magnesium through the skin instead of eating it). It is claimed that the transdermal absorption of magnesium in comparison to the oral application is more effective due to better absorption and fewer side effects as it bypasses the gastrointestinal tract and goes straight to the lymphatic system. Although research is not conclusive on how much salt is needed for the requisite of healthy levels of magnesium.


Intravenous Infusion

One of the latest fitness crazes, IV infusion is exactly what it sounds like, you are hooked to an IV with a cocktail of your choice, in our case and in the purpose of this article let’s choose magnesium, and you basically sit and relax for 30 mins while the IV infusion works its way through your bloodstream. IV Therapy bypasses the gut, delivering essential nutrients and fluids directly into the bloodstream for quick and easy 100% absorption.

Side effects of Magnesium

Magnesium has shown a few side effects when it is taken in excess either via diet or supplementation.

Oral magnesium supplementation can sometimes cause diarrhea and lead to dehydration. Interestingly, magnesium excess can hinder absorption of dietary calcium as both elements compete at the same receptor on intestinal cells for absorption into the bloodstream.

Intravenous administration of magnesium is done mostly in severe deficiencies, but an excess of it can lead to feelings of nausea and vomiting in some people. And it can cause disruptions in cardiac conduction and beating, leading to decreased heart rates and rarely, arrhythmias as well.

Consult your physician before supplementing with magnesium.

Note: People with kidney problems should NOTtake magnesium supplementations until expressly indicated by their doctors.




  3. in Physical Stress)
  4. and type II Diabetes)
  5. and Insulin Resistance)
  6. in Hypertensive Diabetics)
  7. intake in Depressed patients)
  8. and PMS)
  9. in Migraines)

Can Caffeine Improve Athletic Performance?

Can Caffeine Improve Athletic Performance?

Can Caffeine Improve Athletic Performance?

By Kevin Masson MSc, CSCS, CPT, USAW, FMS


The number one stimulant in the world isn’t a steroid or cocaine—it’s caffeine. Looking collectively at the western world, research suggests that an incredible four out of five people consume caffeine in some form every day. Many turn to it to boost their daily production, so it is not surprising that it is believed caffeine can enhance sports performance. In fact, caffeine has even been banned in the Olympics and the NCAA in the past because of the edge it is believed to give sports players. Therefore, we should dive intothe science behind how caffeine works to enhance sports performance, the advantages that it gives competitors,and what athletes should know before they decide if caffeine is a good way to boost their performance.

Scientists do agree on one thing—caffeine is an ergogenic aid or a substance that can provide heightened speed and stamina after consumption. Most athletes are using this substance to their advantage, it is estimated that as many as 75% of elite athletes around the world turn to caffeine to give them a competitive edge. There are even reports of athletes truly committed to giving their performance that extra energy to stay at the top of the pack—Chris Hoy, a six-time gold medalist, and Scottish cyclist, is said to have brought along his own coffee grinder and machine to every sporting event he competed in—even the 2012 London Games (Kuzma, 2014).

How to Take it

Caffeine is mainly taken as a drink served hot or cold in today’smainstream coffee shops such as Starbucks and other brands. Caffeine can be supplemented through popular beverages, like Coffee, Tea and Energy Drinks, but it can also be taken in the form of a pill. Many of caffeine’s effects includesfat burning, strength benefits, and euphoria, are subject to tolerance, and may not occur in people used to consumingcaffeine, no matter how large the dose is. The average amount ofcaffeine in a cup of coffee is around 100mg which is considered to be mild. Caffeine dosages should be tailored to individuals. If you are new to caffeine supplements, start with a 100mg dose. Typically, 200mg of caffeine is used for fat-burning supplementation, while acute strength increases occur at higher doses, 500mg and above. Overall researchers tend to use a dosage range of 4-6mg/kg bodyweight

Restrictions on Caffeine in Sports

Though attitudes have changed on caffeine and its use by athletes, not everyone has always approved of its use. One of the first times caffeine was brought into the spotlight in sports was in 1984, when caffeine was banned from the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. The ban would last for two decades. It did not bar athletes from consuming caffeine completely, but they could be disqualified from competitions if their urine had more than 12 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter. The problem was that the testing for caffeine was not precise, especially considering people may have anywhere from 1-3% of the caffeine that they consume pass through the body and into the urine. Even a person who did pass 3% of the caffeine into their urine could still consume a fair amount of caffeine. For example, a 140-pound athlete could consume 576mg of caffeine and not pass the legal limit—that’s as much as four lattes from Starbucks (Kuzma, 2014).

According to the most recent research, however, the edge that athletes experience after consuming caffeine isn’t nearly as intense as it was once thought—the margin is just 3-6% improvement. While this small amount can make a huge difference, especially among elite athletes, it is the same advantage that a runner gains after eating carbohydrates during a long race. Athletes also do not need to consume nearly as much caffeine as experts thought. Rather than slamming back several lattes or popping a handful of caffeine pills, a single cup of coffee can be beneficial to athletic performance. This means that even though some athletes turn to a little caffeine to give them a competitive edge, it is usually only a small part of a much larger regimen to ensure they are performing their best (Kuzma, 2014).

How Caffeine Effects Sports Performance

Caffeine has numerous applications in sports use. One of the ways that it works in sports is the same as it works for the average Joe enjoying their coffee as they go about their daily tasks. It delays feelings of fatigue in the body. The mind and body get tired when the body sends out the neurotransmitter adenosine, which is a sleep-related neurotransmitter. There are receptors assigned to detecting adenosine and, when they do, it creates the feeling of fatigue. Caffeine works by blocking thesereceptors that detect adenosine, and therefore stopingyou from feeling tired (Kuzma, 2014).

Pre-workout caffeine supplementation can also reduce poor training performance due to sleep deprivation reported researchers in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Although sleep deprivation led to large decreases in total workout load in this study, sleep-deprived subjects who took caffeine performed as well as those who were rested. Yet non-sleep-deprived individuals who received caffeine performed better than all other groups.

In addition to testing the use of caffeine and how it affects mental focus and fighting off fatigueduring sports, it has been tested in the areas of endurance, strength and short-term performance. Most scientists agree that there is only a minimal impact, if any, on short-term exercise. Though athleteslike sprinters might ingest caffeine prior to their race, it has less effect than consuming carbohydrates. However, it is very beneficial in long-term performance and endurance. One study gave one group of cyclists a moderate dose of caffeine, with two other groups (a placebo and a control group). The cyclists performed for an hour and the result was that those who had ingested the caffeine had 4-5% better performance than those who did not. The same study found that caffeine without water (in the form of powder or a caffeine pill) was more effective than caffeine from a cup of coffee. It has also been found that there is not a significant difference in performance when considering caffeine amounts—a lower dose has the same effect as a moderate dose (Evolution Nutrition, 2016).

One of the reasons that it is believed caffeine improves endurance is because of the way that it mobilizes fat in the body. In the average person, the body burns glycogen to create energy. Glycogen is a fuel source, that isstored in the liver and muscles of thebody and isthe second fastest energy source for us to use. The problem is, once glycogen stores are depleted, the athlete starts to feel fatigued and may not perform as well as they did at the beginning of the athletic event (Kattouf, 2015).


This is the reason that marathon runners may consume carbohydrates while they are training. The additional carbs can be burned as fuel during the race. This means they do not have to worry about feeling exhausted or “hitting the wall” before they finish, because the body is more adequately prepared with fuel for the race.

When athletes consume coffee it mobilizes fat stores in the body, or in other words, your body burns fat for fuel, which delays the depletion of glycogen stores, allowing you to go a little longer and push a little further through that workout or athletic event.In other words, caffeine can helpthe athlete perform more repetition during times of muscle endurance, push themselves harder for longer periods, and improve their overall performance (Kattouf, 2015).

Regarding the performance of strength athletes, the information from studies has been mixed. The general conclusion shows that there may be an increase in performance for muscular endurance but that the effect on power and strength come from the release of noradrenaline, adrenaline, and dopamine, giving the user a feeling of energy, wakefulness, and well-being. (Evolution Nutrition, 2016).

For this reason, pre-workout supplements do a very good job in stimulating these hormones to give you the effect of being “wired” with a sharp focus on the task ahead.


Why Caffeine is Banned/Limited in Some Sports

Even though numerous studies have been conducted on how exactly caffeine affects performance, the jury is still out on if it truly gives sucha competitive edge, and if at allshould itbe banned in sports. This is reflected in the numerous times that caffeine has been added to and removed from various ‘banned drug’ lists for sporting events. As new evidence and research shifts opinion on the use of caffeine as a sports stimulant, so do the attitudes about how ‘fair’ it is for use during sporting events. It was once banned for use by Olympic athletes, with limits being placed on the amount of caffeine they were allowed to have in their system during an Olympic sporting event. In 2004, however, these restrictions were lifted (Kuzma, 2014).

Even though the ban in the Olympics was lifted, there are still some sports where it is not allowed. For example, the NCAA (National College Athletes Association) added caffeine to their banned drug list for the 2018 sports year (NCAA, 2017). Many of those who support caffeine being kept on a banned list believe that it can hurt players in the long run. The NCAA, for example, cites their decision because health risksassociated with high doses of caffeine, especially for long-term use. This includes things like anxiety, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues and even irregular heartbeat whichhas the potential of causing death (Kuzma, 2014). One could argue, however, that asingle cup of coffee discovered to enhance performance cannot cause these severe side effects of long-term use.

Additionally, it must be brought to attention that athletes may not even be consuming caffeine intentionally. Caffeine comes in more forms than energy drinks, coffee, and caffeine pills. It can also be found in chocolate, tea, and soft drinks, just to name a few. Food labelsdonot have to listcaffeineeven though those food items may very well contain caffeine some sources include guarana berries, yaupon holly, guayusa, and yerba mate (Coffee & Health, 2014). This explains why there have been limits placed on caffeine consumption for sports, rather than banning it altogether. It was to distinguish between those that consume caffeine to gain an advantage over their competitors and those who consumed caffeine as part of a daily habit (Human Kinetics, 2017).

If you didn’t know already,I was an NCAA DivisionI strength coach and I cannot countthe amount oftimes we had meetings about pre-workout supplements with our athletes, trulycrazy. We actually had one of our athletes suspended after testing positive for stimulants found in one of theirpre-workouts. I cannot stress this enough to student-athletes, even if it is sold in a local GNC, do not take it if it has a banned substance on it!

Common Opinions on Caffeine Use by Elite Athletes

One study, after the ban was lifted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), was conducted byadministering a questionnaire to 140 triathletes. These athletes were dispersed among 15 different countries and included many elite competitors, including competitors from the 2005 Ironman Triathlon. By investigating the results of the questionnaire, it becomes clear that athletes have a ‘pro-caffeine’ attitude. An astonishing 84% reported that they ingested caffeine to boost their focus during the competition, while 73% reported believing caffeine could enhance their stamina. Surprisingly, coffee was not the most popular way of ingesting caffeine—24% experienced positive results using caffeinated gels, while 65% reported positive feelings after drinking cola before a sports competition (Human Kinetics, 2017).

While it was clear that the athletes from the sample had positive feelings and experiences after ingesting caffeine, there was a lot of confusion regarding the legality of the substance. What they did know about caffeine and performance either came from experimenting on their own results, journal articles or magazines,or fellow athletes. Additionally, although 89% of these athletes planned on using caffeine for future performances, 25% were unsure of how ‘legal’ it was to do so. Interestingly enough, the athletes who admitted to consuming the most caffeine were aware of its status—they ingested an average of 415 mg of caffeine, compared to those who dosed around 222mg of caffeine (Human & Kinetics, 2017).

Even though it is no longer illegal, just restricted in some sports arenas, caffeine still remains a supplement of interest. Athletes submit to testing before each competition to monitor for aids that might be improving performance. Caffeine remains among those tested, more as a way to detect trends in usage than to discourage use however (Evolution Nutrition, 2016).

Legality is not the only ‘gray’ area regarding caffeine consumption. It turns out, there are many misconceptions regarding its use for athletic performance. One regards caffeine’s status as a diuretic or a dehydrating factor. The truth is that when caffeine is consumed as coffee or any other caffeinated beverage, especially by people who drink it regularly, it does count as fluids in the body. Even the United States military has conducted studies on this—wondering just how much caffeine troops need to stay awake and primed for battle while keeping good levels of hydration in dry desert areas. While extremely high doses can be detrimental to overall levels of hydration through the day, the amount that athletes can legally (and effectively) use for training does not even come close to this amount (Clark, 2005).

Practical Advice for Athletes Using Caffeine for Performance

Instead of focusing on restricting caffeine, when there are much more dangerous substances that have worse long-term risks, it may be better to advise athletes on the best way to consume caffeine for sports endurance. Some guidelines that athletes should follow include (Kuzma, 2014):

  • Never try it for the first time during competition – If athletes do choose to consume caffeine during a competition, they should use it during practice to see how it affects them. This is especially true in high-stake performance when athletes should be sure they are competing at their best.
  • Timing is everything – The effects of caffeine are usually felt 45 minutes to an hour after ingestion. This is how long it takes to pass through the digestive tract and be absorbed into the bloodstream. This means athletes should drink caffeine about an hour before they perform. Instead of doubling up on coffee for later events (drinking a cup in the morning and then a cup before the performance), some experts recommend that athletes skip the morning dose and consume their caffeine closer to the time of their athletic performance.
  • Remember that caffeine is not a miracle supplement – Caffeine might give you a competitive edge, but it is only a small fraction of the things athletes must do to give their performance a boost. It is not a substitute for proper hydration and nutrition, as well as, being familiar with the equipment and regular training.

Something else to consider regarding caffeine’s effectiveness is the amount that athletes already consume daily. The stimulant effect of caffeine does not work as well for people who are used to its effects. Athletes may want to abstain from caffeine for this reason, aside from part of their training regimen or when they are preparing just before their athletic event (Clark, 2005). Finally, even though many experts recommend consuming caffeine just an hour before a performance, athletes should remember that the effects come in anywhere from three to six hours later. Some professionals even recommend consuming caffeine 2-3 hours before a performance, so that it has a chance to mobilize the fats and make it ready to be burned for energy. This is because the first 15 minutes of the activity is when the body needs to preserve its glycogen stores the most (Karrouf, 2015).



Even though caffeine has been analyzed and studied for effectiveness in sports performance for decades, there is still much research to be done. One of the best things an athletes who isinterested in caffeine for performance can do is train with the use of caffeine to see how it affects them. Try it out an hour before exercising, as well as three hours before an intense workout regimen. Additionally, athletes should keep in mind that there is a maximum amount of caffeine that can boost performance, and more is not always the better choice. In fact, to prevent jitteriness, edginess, and potential irregular heartbeat, athletes should stick to the amount that works best for them individually to increase their performance. Additionally, it is important to stay current on the information regarding caffeine in performance and if it has been banned in certain competitions. Always adhere to the guidelines provided by sports organizations to prevent disqualification.




Burke, L.M. Caffeine and sports performance. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2008, 33(6): 1319-1334,

Clark, N. (2005, August 12). The facts about caffeine and athletic performance. Retrieved May 26, 2018, from

Coffee & Health. (2014, December 23). Sources of caffeine. Retrieved May 26, 2018, from

Evolution Nutrition. (2016, May 06). How Caffeine Affects Athletic Performance. Retrieved May 26, 2018, from

Human Kinetics. (2017, September 10). Caffeine for Sports Performance. Retrieved May 26, 2018, from

Kuzma, C. (2014, January 29). Are Olympic Athletes Legally Doping? Retrieved May 26, 2018, from

Kattouf, R. (2017, March 01). The Benefits of Caffeine for Endurance Athletes. Retrieved May 26, 2018, from

NCAA. (2017, July 11). 2017-18 NCAA Banned Drugs List. Retrieved May 26, 2018 from



The Benefits Of Red Light Therapy

The Benefits Of Red Light Therapy

By Kevin Masson MSc, CSCS, CPT, USAW, FMS

Red light therapy is an every-day term for the science of photobiomodulation. In other words, it is a therapy that uses red light wavelength to treat pain, inflammation, wounds, arthritis and improve mental and physical performance.

What if I told you, one of the best recovery tool you can use is actually light itself.

Imagine then the power of a red light penetrating your skin and the effects it might produce.  NASA first discovered how effective Red Light Therapy could be when they commissioned QDI to assess its use in stimulating plant growth in space.  It started as a way to limit bone and muscle loss in astronauts.  There followed a clinical trial on bone marrow, and stem cell transplant at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and patients reported a 45% reduction in pain and the research began to be focused on energy transfer to human cells.

After extensive research, it was found that it can amplify the production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) by up to 200%; ATP is a chemical that is needed for many processes within the body.   It is approved by the FDA and has been studied worldwide.  It is now used to treat a number of skin complaints, minor pains, and injuries and it affects skin structure.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

Research has found that red light reflected onto the skin at a particular wavelength frequency (600 to 90nm) can penetrate human tissue much more efficiently than light on other wavelengths.  This produces ATP which then rejuvenates the cells in our bodies and triggers many beneficial effects.

The light energy converts to cellular energy in the body and sets off a series of metabolic reactions including producing new capillaries and increased levels of collagen as well as releasing ATP.  The process is called ‘photobiomodulation,’ and its use is becoming increasingly popular as it is now believed to improve mitochondrial health, that is, supplying cellular energy.


Difference Between Red and Blue Light Therapy

Blue and Red Light Therapy depends on the light emitted through a variety of light sources.  They also differ in the diseases they treat.  Blue Light is used to treat Sad Affective Disorder (SAD), depression and other mental disorders; in population that does not have as much access to direct sunlight or work night shifts.

Blue light also has a bad rep when it comes to sleeping disorders. As modern society becomes more and more advanced, our circadian rhythm is getting affected by it. Blue light also comes from artificial light. The light produced by your phone, computer, TV and other light sources around your house. You see we human start producing melatonin (a hormone that helps us fall asleep) when it starts to get dark, (after sunset).

It is also worth noting that blue ligth is considerably closer to Ultraviolet (UV) light, which as we all know is considered to be at the origin of some health diseases including cancer.

The treatments that red light covers are covered in more details below.

Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy works by naturally stimulating body repair mechanisms aids in optimizing cellular function. Red wavelengths from artificial lamps as well as the red component of natural sunlight have been shown to affect the human body on a number of levels including:

Many benefits are ranging from the cosmetic to health-boosting.

  • Skin Repair and wound healing

Through vasodilation, red light therapy essentially increases blood flow and delivery of vital tissue building blocks to slowly healing wounds in order to speed up the process. Furthermore, the cells directly involved in the healing process, i.e., Fibroblasts are activated by the penetrating radiation by the formation of Adenosine Tri-phosphate or ATP, and they begin synthesizing crucial collagen. The effect on superficial wound healing times has been seen as early as 24 hours after a single light therapy session.

The same compounds have been shown to repair sun damage and reduce the advent of wrinkles, fine lines, and laughter lines as it alters the skin structure and a difference could be seen in wrinkles within a matter of months.   This could be because of new collagen formation or the reorganization and repair of elastin within the skin. This will give you that healthy smooth look that many anti-aging creams dream of achieving.

It can also be used to alleviate acne and other skin blemishes, including the lessening of scars, eczema and stretch marks.


  • Enhanced musculoskeletal repair

Decreased movement and painful joints are a result of decreased cartilage between the opposing ends of the bones involved, and with red light therapy, the improved collagen synthesis can repair the articular cartilage in joints and improve the symptoms of arthritis.

Similarly, the anti-inflammatory and lymphatic enhancing properties of red light therapy increase the repair and reinforcement of muscle fibers leading to decreased muscular pain and spasms.


  • Improved Thyroid health

It has been shown to have a positive effect on the thyroid gland.  There are roughly 20m Americans who suffer from a dysfunctional thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck.  This small gland releases hormones into the endocrine system and secretes them into nearly every cell in the body.  When the body does not receive enough hormones (Hypothyroidism), it can produce multiple symptoms including extreme fatigue, depression, forgetfulness and weight gain.  Conversely, when the body receives too many hormones into the endocrine system (Hyperthyroidism), sufferers can experience irritability, nervousness, muscle weakness, vision problems and sleep loss.


Clinical studies have shown red light therapy as an effective adjunct to drug treatments in patients with Hypothyroidism and Autoimmune thyroid disorders. One study in 2013 showed such improvement in 47% of subjects that they were able to safely discontinue their thyroid medications and rely on light therapy alone.


  • Weight Loss and Fat Reduction

It can also help with weight loss, fat reduction, and body shaping.  Whereas usually, to achieve these benefits, a healthy diet and exercise would be implemented, it is not always effective if there is a metabolic dysfunction present for instance.  Stress has a detrimental effect on the metabolic rate, and because stress is commonplace in our everyday lives, it follows that metabolic rate will also be adversely affected.  It has not been proven entirely, but there is a theory that light therapy helps the cells that store fat to flush it away.


  • Anti-depression

Red light therapy also has a stimulatory effect on the mood centers of our brain, such that patients of chronic fatigue and clinical depression showed a substantial improvement in their self-confidence, energy levels, conversational skills and overall satisfaction. Part of this effect is achieved by the tendency of light therapy to increase energy output at the cellular level and increase the production and release of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters in the brain.


  • Hair Loss and Growth Stimulation

It has also been shown to diminish hair loss and stimulate growth.  It works in the same way as for wound healing.


  • Joint Pain

Illness such as osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis have been relieved by this treatment. It can be used first thing in the morning to alleviate stiffness caused by arthritis and even when the illness is more advanced is still known to give some relief, although research shows more benefits in the short term.


  • Cancer Treatment

Perhaps most impressively, research made by NASA shows successful results in treating skin cancer and ease the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.


  • Testosterone production

A 2013 study in Biomedical Research examined the effect of light therapy on testosterone production in rats. This study found that light therapy at 670 nanometers (nm) increased the serum testosterone levels, with no noted side effects. Due to their findings, the researchers stated that red light therapy could potentially work as an alternative treatment method to traditional testosterone treatments.

Dr. Olli Sovijarvi has stated that red and near-infrared light wavelengths encourage the production of ATP in the Leydig cells that produce testosterone, enhancing their energy production and helping increase amounts of the hormone.

Why Use Red Light Therapy

What makes this therapy appealing is the fact that it is entirely natural.  It is a drug and chemical-free treatment and is entirely non-invasive, so no surgery or needles are required.  It does not damage the skin, the opposite in fact, and is painless to administer.  There is no soreness due to burning or itchiness or stinging.  It can be used for all ages from young to old and is suitable for all skin types.

There have been no adverse side-effects reported, and the treatment can even be done at home, being FDA approved.  The treatment harnesses all the benefits of natural healing, and the therapy delivers energy at a rate higher than that of the sun.  It is very energizing and relaxing to use.

Red Light Therapy is different from the more traditionally used laser treatment which sends a pulsing light onto the skin which deliberately destroys the epidermis or dermis in order to trigger new growth by causing inflammation and burning. Red Light encourages repair by directly encouraging cell regeneration and skin rejuvenation.

The treatment can be used once or more a day and is also dependent on its use. For example, if being used for the relief of pain then this should be noticeable at the end of one session.  If the intention is to reduce wrinkles this may take between eight and twelve weeks, or even more; everyone is different.

Low dosage does give a proper response whereas a high does give a negative or neutral response.  There is an optimum level for treatment.  Ideally, it is thought to be three to four times a week for four to six weeks but if it is being used for general maintenance only, then once or twice a week should be enough.  To start with, the treatment should be used daily for the first week.

How to Use Red Light Therapy

There are many ways to get the full benefits of Red light therapy, let us start with the cheapest one, or in this case the free method.

If you are a morning person and like to wake up before the sun rises you are in luck! You see the most effective way to get red light is also the most natural way and that is light coming from our sun. Now the tricky part is to make sure it is at the correct wavelength and that only occurs twice a day, at sunrise and sunset. At those specific time, the sun is low enough to produce that beautiful red color, and that is what we are looking for.

So that is great and all but if you are not a morning person and don’t have time to wait for sunset, do not worry. Technology is marvelous, and there are products out there varying from cheap to expensive prices that replicate the infra-red and near infra-red effect through LED lights.

Finally, Here at BioFit Performance, we do offer to our member’s infra-red sauna, it is included in our recovery tools, and the reason why we use infra-red sauna is that infrared heaters warm the body in the same manner as natural sunlight. Infrared heat therapy uses the wavelength of the visible and non-visible light spectrum of sunlight. Traditional saunas raise the temperature of the air to a very high level within the chamber to warm the body and this cause some people to have difficulty breathing in this extremely warm air. Infrared saunas work differently; instead of heating the air within the enclosure, infrared saunas heat the body directly. The result is deeper tissue penetration. In an infrared sauna, the body perspires and receives all of the healthy benefits but avoids the harmful and extremely hot air of a traditional steam sauna.

The experience you get from the infra-red sauna is healthier, but the key reason why we offer it is because of it’s healing benefits which will make you recover faster and feeling better than ever before.


To Conclude Red Light Therapy is quickly becoming a popular mode of naturally treating a host of different illnesses and a fast track to recovery for athletes With no side effects, you simply cannot miss out on the benefits of it and should try it out yourself.






  1. Gam, A. N., Thorsen, H., & Lønnberg, F. (1993). The effect of low-level laser therapy on musculoskeletal pain: a meta-analysis. Pain, 52(1), 63-66.
  2. Medrado, A. R., Pugliese, L. S., Reis, S. R. A., & Andrade, Z. A. (2003). Influence of low-level laser therapy on wound healing and its biological action upon myofibroblasts. Lasers in surgery and medicine, 32(3), 239-244.
  3. Bjordal, J. M., Couppé, C., Chow, R. T., Tunér, J., & Ljunggren, E. A. (2003). A systematic review of low-level laser therapy with location-specific doses for pain from chronic joint disorders. Journal of Physiotherapy, 49(2), 107-116.
  4. Hofling DB, Chavantes MC, et al. Low-level laser in the treatment of patients with hypothyroidism induced by chronic autoimmune thyroiditis: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. May 2013; 28(3): 743-53.
  5. Light technology Successfully Reduces Cancer Patients painful Side Effects From Radiation and Chemotherapy
  9. Ahn JC, Kim YH, and Rhee CK. The effects of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) on the testis in elevating serum testosterone level in rats. Biomedical Research.  2013; 24(1):28-32.
  10. Sovijarvi O. Dr. Olli Sovijarvi on Increasing Testosterone by Shining Light on Your Testicles. Biohacker Summit Blog. Oct 2016.




Bicep and Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy Rehab

Bicep and Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy Rehab

By Kevin Masson MSc, CSCS, CPT, USAW, FMS

Rehabilitation for bicep and rotator cuff tendinopathy often involves several steps. These problems are most common in people who push themselves to the limits with lifting, either through powerlifting at the gym or lifting on the job.

Tendinopathy is most likely to occur when overloading them, either by using them too much injures the tendons or lifting too much weight with them. The tendon describes the connective fibers gathered together between your muscle and your bone. If you look at a picture of the musculoskeletal system, you will notice the muscles are made of red and white tissue. The red area is the meat of the muscle, and the white area is the tendon.

When an injury occurs, the body will work to heal the tendon. Sometimes, injuries will heal on their own. When a week or more passes, without definite signs of improvement, tendinopathy may be setting in.

Tendinopathy typically describes symptoms of tendon injury that are chronic, meaning they last long-term. The symptoms can be constant or occur intermittently. Once this happens, rest is not enough, and rehabilitative therapy becomes necessary to prevent surgical intervention. Traditional methods do not usually work with bicep and rotator cuff tendinopathy.

To encourage healing, one of the most effective methods of treatment is a combination of dry needling and corrective eccentric exercise. Dry needling describes the insertion of thin needles into the muscle and tendon to encourage relaxation that is necessary for healing. It is often used in conjunction with a stretching therapy. For tendinopathy, corrective eccentric exercise is one of the most effective techniques. It involves stretching and contracting the muscle and tendon to encourage blood flow to the area and allow healing.


What is Rehab Therapy for Bicep and Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy?

Rehab therapy is an intervention for an injury when the body does not seem to be fulfilling its natural healing process. This is a common problem with tendons when there is not enough blood flow to the area. Blood carries the nutrients, hormones, and growth factors to the injury so it can heal. Unfortunately, the traditional methods like rest, ice and heat therapy, inflammation treatment, and others do not work well for tendinopathy. This is when alternative options, like dry needling and eccentric exercise, may be used.

Symptoms of Tendinopathy

Repetitive motions with the shoulder can cause tendinopathy over time. It also commonly happens to powerlifters, which place heavy loads on their muscles. The symptoms associated with tendinopathy include:

    Thickening or mild swelling of the tendon, especially near the joint

    Tenderness or pain in the joint and surrounding shoulder area

    Restricted motion of the joint, difficulty performing certain motions with your arm

    Stiffness of the shoulder and upper arm

If you are experiencing these symptoms for more than 7-10 days, it is likely that chronic tendinopathy may become a problem in the future. Also, be wary of extreme pain or swelling and an inability to move the shoulder—this could be a ruptured tendon.

Problems with Traditional Methods of Treatment

Many of the traditional treatments for bicep and rotator cuff tendinopathy target stopping inflammation. The problem is that inflammation is common with tendinitis, not tendinopathy. Inflammation does not usually happen when the tendon is overloaded or overstretched like happens with tendinopathy.

However, though inflammation is common with tendinitis, it is not common with tendinopathy. In fact, slight swelling of the tendon is a good thing, since it indicates the body trying to heal itself. The reason that traditional methods do not work is because many of them target inflammation, not the tightening and thickening that happens with tendinopathy.

Rest is also frequently recommended in overuse cases, especially for muscles. The problem is that resting will not heal tendinopathy—it just temporarily settles the pain. Once you return to normal activities, it is likely your condition will flare up.

Other common approaches use passive techniques, including shockwave therapy, various types of massage, injections, and therapeutic ultrasound. These are rarely effective and repeated muscle injections can make tendinopathy harder to treat.

Stages of Tendinopathy

Tendinopathy is a condition that can get progressively worse the longer that it goes untreated, especially in instances where the muscle continues to be used. The first stage is known as reactive tendinopathy, which describes the time following the injury. If the tissue is working to heal itself as it should, then the disease may not progress past this point, and the patient may make a full recovery.

Following this stage is tendon disrepair, which happens when the muscle continues to be overused and overworked. This causes pain and tearing. The reason that the area does not always heal during this stage is because the rate that the injury is being worsened through use is greater than the rate the tendon is healing at. The tissue is attempting to heal in this stage, but it is not getting sufficient rest with proper exercise to encourage the process. Without proper treatment, it may progress to degenerative tendinopathy.

Degenerative tendinopathy of the bicep and rotator cuff begins with cell death in the area. This is primarily caused by the lack of healthy blood flow and critical healing factors to the area. This is the first of the ‘worse’ types of tendinopathy, because, at this point, the injury may not heal. If you experience cell death in the area, it may be one of the last chances that you have to find an effective treatment that encourages healing. Otherwise, it can cause a tendon rupture or tear.

Tendon rupture describes extreme tissue breakdown that is usually accompanied by an inability to use your shoulder. If tendinopathy progresses to this stage, surgery is usually the only thing that can fix it. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you attempt other forms of therapy, including the often-effective process of dry needling paired with corrective eccentric exercise.


Dry Needling

Dry needling is done to inactivate or release tense muscles and tendons, using myofascial trigger points in the body. Its name comes from its use of a needle without medicines, thus a needle that is ‘dry.’ Once the area has been effectively relaxed, rehabilitative therapy can begin to increase the range of motion and strengthen the area.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling involves the insertion of a thin, filament needle past the skin and into the muscular and connective tissues. This is done to stimulate myofascial trigger points, which are located in and around the muscle, beneath the skin’s surface.

Bicep and rotator cuff tendinopathy requires areas in the shoulder to be targeted for effectiveness. The goal is to insert the needle into the tight band of muscle, which is the tightened or thickened tendon, that is found in the shoulder muscle group. You should expect some pain when these are touched.

How Dry Needling Works

When you suffer an injury, such as overloading the tendon between the bicep and rotator cuff, the tissues of the body will try to heal themselves. Slight swelling and inflammation are often good signs, indicating the beginning of the healing process. Following this, the body starts to heal and reconstruct the injured tissue.

The problem is that because the tendons between the bicep and rotator cuff are so active, it can be hard for them to heal correctly. The contraction of tissue, inflammation, adhesions in the surrounding area, and scar development all play a role in improper healing—which may result in soft tissue dysfunction. When this happens, chronic tendinopathy may develop.

The problem is the soft tissue dysfunction inhibits further healing, which can make traditional massage methods and manual manipulation of the area ineffective. Additionally, the dysfunction decreases blood circulation, a common problem in the rotator cuff area. The decrease of blood flow and other fluids flowing into and out of the area discourages future healing. When the circulation is impeded completely, the injured area may also suffer from weakness and deformation, which can alter movement patterns, increase pain, and make it difficult or impossible to use the muscle.

The location of the bicep and rotator cuff tendon can cause it difficult receiving blood supply even before an injury. This can be corrected by dry needling. Dry needling techniques target the problem area with the filament needles, which penetrate where manual manipulation cannot. The small lesions that are created stimulate the body’s healing response, despite the low blood flow. This causes the body to secrete blood factors and proteins necessary for tissue healing. It is generally believed that there is little to no pain associated with dry needling.

Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture

Though the two practices seem similar, it is important to note that dry needling and acupuncture are very different processes. While each of these techniques involves insertion of a thin needle into a specific area of the body, this is where the similarities end.

Acupuncture has roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Though it is used to treat a variety of conditions, it focuses heavily on the flow of energy (called Qi) through the body. It is believed that stress, toxins, and other factors can affect the flow of Qi and cause pain, sickness, and ailments.

Dry needling is based on scientific studies conducted using principles of Western medicine. The goal is to cause the body to send healing elements like critical nutrients, growth factors, and cells to the area, which is necessary for healing to occur.

Corrective Eccentric Exercise

This type of therapy takes advantage of eccentric muscle action, which is a lengthening of a muscle from a position of contraction or tension. For example, imagine that you are standing on your toes and then coming back to a flat-footed stance. Standing up your toes contracts the calf muscles. When you return to the flat-footed position, the lowering motion causes the calf muscles to lengthen again—this is the eccentric muscle action.

Why Eccentric Exercises Work

Muscles have two parts—the red, meaty part that makes up the main area of the muscle also called “the belly” of the muscle and the white area, which represents the tissue of the tendons. When you perform an action, the red muscle is strengthened through muscle shortening. By contrast, active muscle lengthening stresses and strengthens the tendon. Since bicep and rotator cuff tendinopathy affects the tendon, targeting this area is more effective than other methods of stretching that have been studied for treatment.

The goal of corrective exercise for tendinopathy is to encourage blood flow and healing of the tissue. This is done by:

    Relaxing the Tissue- Relaxation is incredibly essential for corrective exercise. When the tendon is already suffering pain and tightness, working it without relaxation can worsen the injury.

    Stretching the Tissue- When the tendon is stretched, it must be done gently. Anything greater than a gentle stretching can tear the area and cause worse problems.

    Strengthening the Tissue- Once the tissue has been stretched, it must be strengthened. The strengthening process works as it would with any muscle—it is broken down through physical activity. Then, the body sends healing factors and nutrients to rebuild the muscle, stronger than it was before.

A Note About Eccentric Corrective Exercise and Pain

If you are already struggling with bicep and rotator cuff tendinopathy, then pain may be a familiar feeling. When you are doing exercises, you should expect some pain. This should be muscle pain and feel like soreness or burning from exertion. What you should not feel is pinching or pain in the joints. This could indicate irritation of the problem or impingement of a joint or nerve, which can cause irreversible damage.

Dry Needling and Eccentric Corrective Exercise in Practice

When using dry needling and corrective eccentric exercise, there is one primary focus—healing. As the bicep and rotator cuff tendon is encouraged to heal, it will eliminate the symptoms used in the techniques, including pain, stiffness, and limited motion.

What to Expect: Dry Needling

Sessions of dry needling are usually spaced 5-7 days apart. During the session, the specialist inserts very thin needles into designated areas of the muscle. It is left in until the muscle starts to relax. The process is continued, targeting different areas until the muscle relaxes completely.

You should expect the muscles and tendons in your problem area to be sore following dry needling therapy. This will feel similar to the soreness from overworking the area like you would when lifting at the gym or at work. The pain can last as little as a few hours or as much as two days. Moist heat or ice is recommended for this pain.

It is highly advised that you follow your physical therapist’s instructions after the dry needling to improve your tendinopathy. An exercise regimen is prescribed following the treatment—some PTs will recommend you start working it as soon as it is no longer sore, while others will do 2-3 courses of dry needling (to see its effectiveness) before recommending exercise. The next section will go over one of the most effective exercise regimens for bicep and rotator cuff tendinopathy rehab—eccentric corrective exercise.

What to Expect: Eccentric Corrective Exercise

Exercise is something that should be done under the watchful eye of a physical therapist (PT) when you are experiencing a condition like a tendinopathy, which can become worse if the tendon is exercised the wrong way. Usually, a 3-part process of relaxation, stretching, and strengthening will be used for rehabilitation of the tendon.

For the relaxation, a technique called Trap Release may be used. Here, the PT will stand behind you and place their hand on your shoulder. They will instruct you move your shoulders in a slow, rolling motion. As you go around and into the lowest position, the PT will press down with 3-5 pounds of pressure on your shoulder.

A stretching exercise that may be used involves stretching the pectoral muscles. This will gently stretch the rotator cuff and bicep as well. Start by placing your hands on the back of your head, either laying your hands on top of one another or interlacing your fingers. Spread your elbows out to the sides of your head, feeling the stretch in your chest and shoulders. The PT will touch the backside of your elbow and gently pull it backward, deepening the stretch in your pectoral muscles. Then, they may ask you to try and press your elbows forward while they resist your movement. This creates a contraction, which is the goal of eccentric stretching.

Once you have finished stretching, strengthening is done. The strengthening exercises prescribed vary, but generally, they involve slightly increasing the weight that the bicep and rotator cuff tendon can support. Weight resistance exercises are more common that lifting for this during early treatment since they have a lower likelihood of injury.

For many patients, dry needling coupled with eccentric corrective exercise provides adequate pain relief and healing for bicep and rotator cuff tendinopathy rehab. Dry needling helps relieve pain and relax the tendon, while the exercise helps relax, stretch, and strengthen the area. The problem with traditional methods is that they may not target the tendon appropriately. By trying this method, you may encourage healing and avoid surgical intervention.



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