Sporting bone broths - by Rachel Jesson

Quite some time ago, I wrote a blog on the benefits of a hearty bone broth and how this age old tradition wholesomely nourishes your entire being.

Now, very excitingly for us fitness enthusiasts, new research is starting to show the benefits of including bone broths in long distance races.

There hasn’t been a flurry of press releases as yet largely because of the unpredictability and uniqueness of each batch: science doesn’t like inconsistency, so we’ll just keep this as our little secret for now…

If you’ve forgotten what bone broth is, it’s a load of grass fed bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and skin boiled over a long period of time (ideally 24 hours and counting). During this process, there is a breakdown of cartilaginous bits into absorbable forms of collagen and gelatine. Various other minerals are extracted as well.

Consuming broth has been shown to improve digestion and to strengthen the immune system. Additionally, recent research has discovered that it aids in muscle repair and growth, reduces joint pain, and promotes a balanced nervous system. We could also have concluded this ourselves because the ancestral reports stated that; “the power of broth to relieve headaches, calm the mind, chase butterflies from the stomach, improve focus and gain energy.”

In sport, in some parts of the world, bone broths are being handed out at the end of marathon and Ironman races to help maintain the fluid balance in the body. Large quantities of salt are lost during profuse sweating and the sodium in broths helps to retain that fluid.

There are also four important amino acids found in bone broths that benefit athletes:

  1. Proline for healthy collagen and cartilage.
  2. Glycine for healthy blood, fat digestion and detoxification. It can decrease the inflammation in the body. “Dr Boothby found that 15 grams of glycine increased muscular strength and skill, delayed the onset of fatigue, and even restored wasted muscle tissue…”
  3. Glutamine to prevent muscle atrophy. During marathons, blood glutamine has shown to drop by 20 per cent, suggesting that glutamine should be ingested during long races to prevent this loss. Glutamine is the third most common amino acid found in bone broth. It is also an important supplement for overtrained athletes and it plays a big role in the recovery from training and injury.
  4. Alanine for enhanced endurance capabilities and muscle hypertrophy.

Exact levels, ratios and concentrations of collagen, gelatine, amino acids and minerals depends on the the type of broth, the recipe, the sourcing of ingredients and so forth. For example, a lamb and beef shank are richer in bone marrow when compared to poultry broth, where the bones are lighter and thinner. This is the part that frustrates our scientists! This is real food, showing its true colours: whole food is full of uncertainty and unpredictability, just the way that us at The Nutritional Institute like it. I’m more than happy that we can’t put bone broths into the box that science wants, but I just hope that this information reaches the athletes (and non-athletes) who need it!

I end off with this profound, but sad quote: “Science today follows the money, and unless something can be pilled, powdered and patented, it’s not likely to be investigated.”

This blog forms part of an article that I recently wrote for Functional Sports Nutrition magazine. Click here to read the whole article.

Here's recipe for my seasonal homemade chicken soup as well. This makes a delicious broth that is easy for your body to digest.