Kidneys Play an Important Role in Athletic Performance
This article is intended to provide you with (i) an appreciation of the critical role our kidneys play cleansing our blood and in the development of red blood cells, (ii) a list of nutrients, natural food sources and tips to maintain optimal kidney health, and (iii) a list of key nutrients and natural food sources needed for red blood cell production.
For the nutrients needed for red blood cell production see Key Nutrients for Red Blood Cell Production.
Having knowledge about your kidneys will help you be healthier and help athletes, especially endurance athletes (like Marathon Runners, Ironman Triathletes, Distance Cyclists and Distance Swimmers), reach peak physical performance though (i) the natural stimulation of natural EPO for the increased production of Red Blood Cells to naturally maximize our blood's oxygen carrying capacity and (ii) improved ability to keep your blood clean by filtering it of waste products.
Endurance athletes, in particular, should be very focused on maintaining optimal kidney health to maximize the bodies ability to produce red blood cells, as endurance athletes tend to be slightly anemic (low blood cell count) or chronically fatigued. Studies have shown that lower hemoglobin levels (anemia) can reduce exercise capacity increasing the risk of heart failure including the risk to endurance athletes.
Five Critical Kidney Functions
Each of your two kidneys are surprisingly small at about 4 to 5 inches long and about 1 inch thick, weighing in at about 4.5 to 5 ounces. Although your kidneys make up less than 0.5 percent of your total body weight, they receive close to 25 percent of the total amount of blood that your heart pumps while you're resting. Also, your kidneys use up about 20 to 25 percent of your body’s supply of oxygen to support five key functions.
Five Critical Kidney Functions:
- Secretion of the hormone called erythropoietin, which is responsible for stimulating the production of red blood cells in your bone marrow.
- Keep your blood clean by filtering it of waste products and eliminating these waste products from your body as urine.
- Help maintain your bodyís fluid composition.
- Produce an enzyme called renin, which is needed to help maintain your blood pressure.
- Convert vitamin D to its most active form.
Eastern philosophy and medicine has for centuries dwelled on the function and functional relationships of the vital organs as it relates to the vital energy at the root of life. According to eastern medicine, the kidneys (i) store life and semen essence, (ii) house the attributes of will power, and (iii) control all sexual function, along with surrounding glands.
The Role of Kidneys in Red Blood Cell Production
Our kidney energy represents our STAMINA!
In every second of human life, 3 million red blood cells die and need to be replaced by 3 million new ones. It's a complex process triggered by low oxygen levels.
Our kideys play an important role in the production of red blood cells by producing a hormone called Erythropoeitin (EPO) that initiates red blood cell production in our bone marrow, a process called Erythropoeisis. It is this hormone (EPO) that controls the rate of red blood cell production. It is interesting the the kidneys, in part, are prompted to produce EPO when the kidney detects it is receiving decreased oxygen supply. Through the stimilation of EPO, the bone marrow produces and releases into the blood stream, immature red blood cells (Reticulocytes) which mature into red blood cells within 1 to 2 days. This increased red blood cell production increases the red blood cell count in the blood thereby increasing the blood's oxygen carrying capacity.
Tips to Maintain Optimal Kidney Health
Urine that is clear and odorless is a sign of healthy functioning kidneys!
Maintaining optimal kidney health helps athletes achieve peak physical performance during competition and help in the recovery process as healthier kidneys can (i) naturally produce the maximum level of EPO's necessary for the creation of Red Blood Cells to increase the bloods oxygen carrying capacity and (ii) efficiently clean the blood of waste and toxin, essential during endurance events.
Stay Hydrated. Drink sufficient amounts of pure water to help your kidneys eliminate toxic chemicals and waste products. For an estimate of how much you should drink, halve your body weight and drink that in ounces of water. So, if you are 150 lbs., try to drink 75 oz. of water every day. You can exchange part of this amount with organic nonfat milk or fresh squeezed juices from organic fruits and vegetables. If water is your primary source of hydration make sure you are taking in sufficient electrolytes. See Hydration for Endurance Athletes
Natural and Nutritious Diet. Eating a natural and nutritious diet puts less stress on our kidneys blood cleansing function. The more toxins we consume in our foods, the harder our kidneys need to work to clean our blood. Two studies presented to the 2009 American Society for Nephrology have shown a relationship between diet and kidney health. One study found a link between intake of excess sodium and sweetened beverages. It's best then to avoid foods with excess salt and processed foods, which often contain excess salts. The second study found women who drank two or more servings per day of artificially sweetened soda doubled their odds of kidney function decline. Colas in particular contain high amounts of phosphoric acid, a substance known to change the urine in a way that favors kidney stone formation. Drinking too much coffee and similar stimulants will weaken the kidneys over time. It is also believed that cold and icy foods can deplete kidney energy.
Specific Foods for Health Kidneys.
- Watermelons. Occasionally Consume large quantities of Watermelons for a day, while regularly emptying your bladder. A watermelon fast.
- Cranberry Juice. Pure 100% unsweetened Cranberry Juice with no additives. Cranberries are known to protect against bladder infections by preventing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
- Fish and Fish Oils. Studies have shown a potential beneficial role for fish and fish oil consumption in kidney health.
- Egg Whites. Egg whites are pure protein and provide the highest quality of protein with all the essential amino acids. For the kidney diet, egg whites provide protein with less phosphorus than other protein sources such as egg yolk or meats.
- Olive Oil. Olive oil is a great source of oleic acid, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid. The monounsaturated fat in olive oil protects against oxidation. Olive oil is rich in ployphenols and antioxidant compounds that prevent inflammation and oxidation.
- Cabbage. Cabbage is packed full of phytochemicals, chemical compounds in fruit or vegetables that break up free radicals before they can do damage. High in vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber, cabbage is also a good source of vitamin B6, and folic acid. Cabbage also helps produce Testosterone.
The Kidney Rub and Tap. The kidney rub and tab is a brief exercise you can do to help maintain kidney health. You are able to massage your kidneys by placing the back of your hands on your skin over the location of your kidneys and rub up and down for about two to three minutes. The kidneys are located near the sides of your lower back. The kidney rub stimulates the adrenal glands and draws blood and energy to the kidneys.
Tapping the same area can help dissolve crystals before they form kidney stones and stimulates the kidneys.
Maintain Low Blood. Maintaining a low blood pressure is important to kidney health as high blood pressure creates constant and significant stress on the kidneys.
Exercise. Physical exercise is another important factor to consider for optimum kidney health. Both physical activity and sweating can help your kidneys to eliminate toxins and wastes. Sedentary lifestyle contributes significantly to many health problems including obesity, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney failure.
Get Enough Sleep. Good regular sleep is essential to maintain optimum kidney health. See Tips to Natural Good Sleep
Hot Baths or Showers When Under Stress. When under pressure and stress, hot showers or baths before bed relax tight kidneys.
Donít Eat Excessive Protein. Eating more protein than you need leads to greater workload on your kidneys, which must filter a by-product of protein metabolism called blood urea nitrogen (BUN) out of your blood. This increased workload can contribute to premature breakdown of the special capillaries (glomeruli) in your kidneys. Defining excess protein can be a bit tricky, particularly for endurance athletes with added high protein needs to aid recovery.
Donít Take Over-the-Counter Pain Pills on a Regular Basis. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin are known to cause kidney damage and disease if taken regularly. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and Excedrin) can also cause kidney damage and failure if used regularly. All of these over-the-counter pain medications probably don’t pose significant danger if your kidneys are relatively healthy and you use them for emergencies only.
As many professional athletes have discovered during the past several years, regular use of prescription anti-inflammatory pain medication like Vioxx, Indocin, and Naprosyn poses even greater danger to kidney health than over-the-counter pain killers.