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Enhancing Athletic Performance with Chinese Medicine : The Lungs

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  enhances athletic performance, and prevents injuries, as well as treating them. In this article, lets look at  balancing the lungs to enhance athletic performance. The lungs are vitally important in athletics. An athlete with “good lungs” is considered to be a peak performer.

TCM seeks to balance your body’s energies (physiological processes) to establish balance (homeostasis) and health. When your body is in balance, it performs more efficiently, allowing for peak athletic performance.

The multifaceted approach of TCM gives an athlete the competitive edge. TCM methods include acupuncture, the safe, and legal use, of herbs such as Cordyceps, and the mind calming, and centering practices of Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan. Through the balancing effects of these methods you can enhance your athletic performance.

The beauty of TCM is the ability to, through careful examination and history taking, see injuries coming.  By using diagnostic skill to identify the root of the problem, a weakness can be detected at the organ level.  By detecting imbalance at the organ level, you can treat it while it is still subtle, and before it leads to injury.

Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “Address the problem while it is still small, before it grows, and becomes too great to handle”.

Diet for Enhancing Athletic Performance

One of the very first things that should be addressed when trying to establish balance in an athlete’s body is their diet.  There are five flavors in Chinese medicine considered when balancing your diet. The five flavors are spicy, salty, sweet, sour and bitter.  Each of these flavors corresponds to one of your internal organs as follows:

Pungent or spicy  – relates to the Lung
Salty – relates to the Kidney
Sweet – relates to the Spleen
Sour – relates to the Liver
Bitter – relates to the Heart

Increasing or reducing these flavors can restore balance to an organ. To maintain lung health an athlete would eat pungent foods such as onions, garlic, ginger and cabbage.  These foods will address lung imbalances and maintain healthy lung function.  These foods should be used sparingly to enhance the flavor of other lung benefiting foods such as kale, mustard greens, broccoli and carrots.

The lungs in TCM are paired with the colon, and thus foods that cleanse and benefit the colon such as those that are high in fiber also benefit the lung.  The fiber in apples, cherries, carrots and oats has the added benefit of reducing cholesterol.

The Lungs and Wei Qi

The lungs also influence what is called the wei qi, or protective Qi, of the body.  Athletes will often push their bodies so hard that they will deplete their Wei Qi and become vulnerable to colds and flues. After a big event such as a triathlon it is common for athletes to become ill. This can be avoided by supplying the body with the proper nutrients before, during, and immediately after, an event, or workout.

Eating the above foods as well as taking TCM formulas that include such herbs as Cordyceps to improve lung function and Ginseng to deal with the stresses of a peak performance can keep an athlete healthy and performing well.

There are subtleties to be considered in the diet that relate to the athlete’s constitution. Thus, a qualified practitioner of Chinese medicine should be consulted before making any dietary changes.  In the case of herbs, a qualified practitioner should ALWAYS be consulted in order to create the correct formula and avoid any unwanted side-effects.

About the Author:

Hasan Sume has a Master of Science in Chinese Medicine. He is also a Northern Shaolin Black Sash graduate at 10,000 Victories. Hasan is a well rounded talent with many skills. He is also our drone pilot commander.


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