An exercise and stretching program is essential for improving muscle flexibility, but it's also crucial to support your regimen with the right nutrients. A well-balanced diet should give you all the required nutrients, but if you fill in with supplements, tailor your choices to your goals. Developing flexibility involves joints, muscles and tendons, and they require diverse nutrients, from protein and chondroitin to vitamin C and zinc. There's no supplement that has been proved to increase flexibility on its own, however.
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While flexibility is usually associated with muscles, its technical definition refers to the range of motion in joints. As a result, many supplements marketed to promote flexibility contain nutrients for healthy joints.
Joint flexibility supplements contain glucosamine, chondroitin and methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM. Glucosamine is essential for building tendons, ligaments, cartilage and the cushioning fluid surrounding joints. Chondroitin helps keep cartilage healthy, while MSM may inhibit joint degeneration.
Studies show that glucosamine is especially effective for relieving joint pain and symptoms from osteoarthritis. It may also stop degeneration of collagen and improve range of motion, according to studies cited by Examine.com.
Improve Muscle Flexibility
Exercising to build and stretch muscles also helps joints because muscles support joint movement. Your muscles depend on different nutrients for strength and flexibility, however.
About 15 percent of a skeletal muscle consists of the connective tissues collagen and elastin, reports Human Kinetics. Collagen is quite strong, while elastin provides the elasticity needed for flexibility. Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients for synthesizing collagen and elastin because your body can’t produce them without it.
Your supplements should also contain copper because it works with vitamin C to produce elastin. Vitamin A, zinc and iron are additional nutrients needed for collagen.
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscles and connective tissues. Most people can get all the protein they need through a balanced diet, but if you use protein supplements, consider buying a protein powder that also contains the supporting vitamins and minerals.
Your body needs manganese to synthesize healthy cartilage and collagen. This mineral also serves as an antioxidant that boosts your immune system.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are well known for their cardiovascular benefits, but they also promote protein synthesis in muscles, according to a study in Clinical Science in November 2012. In this role they may help you maintain muscle tone and flexibility.
Be aware that chondroitin and glucosamine may increase the risk of bleeding if you take supplements in large doses. Pregnant women should avoid chondroitin and glucosamine because more research is needed to prove they’re 100 percent safe.
Glucosamine is often made from shellfish. If you’re allergic to shellfish, check the label to be sure the product is safe for you.
Zinc, iron and vitamin A in the form of retinol can become toxic in large amounts. Your total daily intake from food and supplements shouldn’t exceed 100 percent of the daily value unless your health care provider advises you to take more.
If you take any type of prescription medications, talk to your doctor to be sure they won’t interact with supplements.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- University of California, Davis: Flexibility
- MedlinePlus: Glucosamine Sulfate
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Chondroitin
- University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine: Methyl Sulfonyl Methane (MSM)
- Examine.com: Glucosamine
- Human Kinetics: Muscle Structure and Function
- Precision Nutrition: Strategies for Success: Nutritional Strategies for the Management of Sports Injuries
- Health Supplements Nutritional Guide: Manganese
- Clinical Science: Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Augment the Muscle Protein Anabolic Response to Hyperaminoacidemia-Hyperinsulinemia in Healthy Young and Middle-Aged Men and Women
- MedlinePlus: Chondroitin Sulfate
- World of Wounds: Nutrition and Wound Healing