Category Archives: Age

Coffee Study: Its not just the caffeine that makes you smart and athletic

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Caffeine and Coffee have been used by athletes to improve athletic performance and to make training easier.  Research is also indicating that coffee may also reduce risk of cognitive decline that comes with age.  A recent study sought to determine which is responsible for the positive effects of coffee on function:  Coffee itself or caffeine?  Aged (or Masters as we prefer to call them) Rats who drink the equivalent of 10 cups of coffee a day do better at cognitively and physically challenging tasks than rats who were given only caffeine supplements.

The Rat Coffee Study Design

All rats were male.  And aged.  Which for rats means about 18 months old.  Rats were given divided into groups and given either

  • Rat chow spiked with powdered coffee
  • Rat chow spiked with the equivalent of plain caffeine

for 8 weeks.  Rats were then subjected to a battery of psychological and neurological tests:

  1. Rod walking:  requiring the animal to balance on a stationary, horizontal rod
  2. Wire suspension: measures muscle strength and ability to grasp a horizontal wire and remain suspended
  3. Inclined screen: measures muscle tone, strength, stamina, and balance by placing the animal on a wire mesh screen tilted 60° to the horizontal plane of the floor
  4. Accelerating rotarod: measures fine motor coordination, balance, and resistance to fatigue by assessing the duration that the animal can remain standing/walking on a rotating, slowly accelerating rod.
  5. Keel hauling.  Rats were immersed in water at one of four random start locations. Each rat was allowed 120 s to escape onto the platform
  6. Plank walking, which measures balance and coordination making the animal walk a plank set out over the starboard bow at a height of approximately 20 feet above shark infested waters.

Now that is a workout.  Performances were recorded with video for submission to the CrossFit Games 2014.

Coffee Performance vs. Caffeine Only Performance

Summer Mona Lisa Grey white ground
Mona Lisa Hoists her Kettlebells on a soft, quick-drying tri-blend WODMASTERS workout shirt

The rats who got the powdered coffee did better than the rats who received caffeine supplements.   What does this mean for us?  Coffee, like most foods, is a complex mixture containing hundreds if not thousands of different chemicals.  These chemicals include vitamins and minerals, but there are also many many others whose actions we don’t yet understand.

We also understand very little about how different nutrients interact.  We also know little about the effects of taking too much.   This is why it is better to eat a healthy diet of real food than to rely on supplements or No-Doze Monster drinks or whatever that stuff in the tiny bottles is called.  College students take note.  Masters athletes: Hold off on massive anti-oxidant supplements.  Anti-oxidants at high levels can damage DNA.

Coffee Study: Its not just the caffeine that makes you smarter and more athletic

 

Last note on coffee:

10 cups is probably too much.  No note was made on how jittery and neurotic the rats felt.  High coffee consumption is associated with other problems.

 

Cropley V, Croft R, Silber B, Neale C, Scholey A, Stough C, & Schmitt J (2012). Does coffee enriched with chlorogenic acids improve mood and cognition after acute administration in healthy elderly? A pilot study. Psychopharmacology, 219 (3), 737-49 PMID: 21773723

Cho ES, Jang YJ, Hwang MK, Kang NJ, Lee KW, & Lee HJ (2009). Attenuation of oxidative neuronal cell death by coffee phenolic phytochemicals. Mutation research, 661 (1-2), 18-24 PMID: 19028509

Shukitt-Hale B, Miller MG, Chu YF, Lyle BJ, & Joseph JA (2013). Coffee, but not caffeine, has positive effects on cognition and psychomotor behavior in aging. Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 35 (6), 2183-92 PMID: 23344884

Telomeres may shorten with depression but there are things you can do to protect them.

Telomere Depression and Aging

CrossFit WOD with social support to protect against depression and telomere shortening
Social support matters. Maybe this kid is protecting his father from depression and telomere shortening.

If you read the news you may have noticed articles on depression and telomere length.  There is no reason to think you are screwed and get more depressed. Or get depressed if you weren’t already. Improving your diet seems to increase telomere length.  So does exercise and stress management.

Telomeres protect DNA by capping the ends of chromosomes and preventing them from unraveling or tangling with one another. Telomeres shorten with each cell division. They shorten until they become too short to serve their protective function. At this point the cell will cease to divide and it becomes senescent. Telomere length is a marker of biological age. Shortened telomeres are also associated with inflammation and oxidative stress. Many diseases and maladies of advancing age are associated with short telomeres. Shortened telomeres have been noted in cancers, cardiovascular disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Telomere depression: Does depression shorten telomeres?

Most recently, telomere shortening has been found in people suffering from depression. This may be one of the reasons why people who suffer from depression have poorer health and do not live as long as people who have not.  There is a lot of interesting research coming out on the biochemistry of depression. Click here for articles on folate deficiency and depression, mthfr variants and depression, and exercise and telomere length.

This is depressing.  Is there anything I can do to?

 

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You might be able to protect your telomeres with the right shirt. Mona Lisa and her Kettlebells at the WODMasters shop packs a powerful punch.

So far research indicates that a healthy diet may protect telomeres. People who follow a Mediteranean Diet with lots of vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, legumes and fruit have longer telomeres than people who follow a diet high in saturated fat, refined grains, sugar, junk food, fried food etc. (Paleo diet followers: there is no research yet on how the paleo diet might protect telomeres. Best guess is that if you include lots of vegetables and use olive oil you will be better off than most.)

Exercise also seems to protect telomeres. Studies show that Masters Athletes have longer telomeres than their sedentary peers. This is good news for Masters Athletes.  A study of men with prostate cancer who underwent a lifestyle intervention program to increase fitness, diet, stress management and social support experienced an increase in telomere length five years later. The control group that did not receive lifestyle intervention showed decreased telomere length. Good news if you eat well and take care of yourself.  Bad news if you don’t.

Social support may protect telomeres and protect against depression and biological aging
Social support may protect telomeres and protect against depression and biological aging

Teleomere takeaway.

Depression is bad for your life. It is a serious disorder with potentially serious repercussions. Get it treated. Eat well, exercise and care for your social relationships. It may protect you from depression and protect your telomeres too.

Sometimes the right shirt will put you in a great mood.  WODMASTERS shirts are available on our website.  Support us with a purchase.
Phillips AC, Robertson T, Carroll D, Der G, Shiels PG, McGlynn L, & Benzeval M (2013). Do symptoms of depression predict telomere length? Evidence from the west of Scotland twenty-07 study. Psychosomatic medicine, 75 (3), 288-96 PMID: 23513237

Boccardi V, Esposito A, Rizzo MR, Marfella R, Barbieri M, & Paolisso G (2013). Mediterranean diet, telomere maintenance and health status among elderly. PloS one, 8 (4) PMID: 23646142

Ornish D, Lin J, Chan JM, Epel E, Kemp C, Weidner G, Marlin R, Frenda SJ, Magbanua MJ, Daubenmier J, Estay I, Hills NK, Chainani-Wu N, Carroll PR, & Blackburn EH (2013). Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study. The lancet oncology, 14 (11), 1112-20 PMID: 24051140

Kim JH, Ko JH, Lee DC, Lim I, & Bang H (2012). Habitual physical exercise has beneficial effects on telomere length in postmenopausal women. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 19 (10), 1109-15 PMID: 22668817

Masters Women's Health: Does low estrogen make women unresponsive to anti-depressants?

Depression may be caused by poor Serotonin handling

Don't let the blues get you down.  Get a womens power shirt instead.  This beautiful shirt features Botticelli's birth of spring expressing herself effortlessly with a set of 50 pound kettlebells.
Don’t let the blues get you down. Get a womens power shirt instead. This beautiful shirt features Botticelli’s birth of spring expressing herself effortlessly with a set of 50 pound kettlebells.

Depression stinks.  It hurts.  And it hurts others too. Taking care of yourself, and your moods, is important.  A positive outlook and sense of optimism can carry you a long way.  And it will help you bring along those you care about.  This article reports on some very interesting research on depression and hormones.  It is especially interesting for women whose hormones are shifting.  (in peri-menopause or menopause.)  Estrogen may be important for serotonin signalling.  Low estrogen may make it difficult for some women to respond to anti-depressants.

First, a little background:

  • Serotonin is a neurotransmitter
  • Serotonin allows neurons to communicate with each other.  And sometimes help produce emotions.
  • Depression in some people may be caused by too little serotonin
  • Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)  work by keeping serotonin active and keeping nerves functioning well.
  • Prozac, Zoloft, and Citalopram are examples of SSRIs.

There are differences in Serotonin Receptors

WODMASTERS Power Woman shirt with kettlebells.  Great shirt for crossfit
To hell with anxiety. Who cares when you’re wearing a WODMASTERS power woman shirt.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers.  They travel from one neuron to another by docking at a receptor.  The receptor is a molecule that is designed especially for its transmitter.  Serotonin needs a serotonin receptor if it is going to work.   The shape of the receptor is very important.  But not every person has the same receptor shape.  There are some people whose receptors don’t seem to fit as well.  And they are more likely to suffer from depression.  And anxiety.

Estrogen and Progesterone may be needed for SSRIs to work

 

Womens crossfit shirt with kettlebells feminine
Our lady of the Kettlebells with a touch of pink. Our Lady Hoists.

Estrogen and progesterone influence the serotonin system including serotonin receptors.  One of the genes responsible for the serotonin receptor is called 5HTT.  So far it looks like you can have either a “short”  version or a “long” version.  The short version (s-5HTT) looks like the problem version.  Monkey have similar systems.  Like Crossfit women.  Researchers used monkeys to see how important estrogen and progesterone are the response to SSRIs.   Monkeys with the shorter gene for the serotonin receptors did not have as strong a response to SSRIs.  Monkeys with low estrogen and low progesterone were the least responsive.  Crossfit women too?

Take away for CrossFit Masters Women and all Women

CrossFit Shirts for women with low and high estrogen
CrossFit Women are strong, resilient and beautiful Sometimes they have large shoulders.

If you are post-menopausal or hovering around that neighborhood you may not respond well to SSRIs.  Especially if you have the short version of the serotonin receptor gene.   This is one reason why hormone replacement therapy might make some women less depressed.  If you are on SSRIs and they are not working go see a doctor who knows his or her stuff.  A psychiatrist will know more than a family doctor.  Don’t be embarrassed.  CrossFit Women shouldn’t get embarrassed.  Embarrassment stinks.

Michopoulos V, Berga SL, & Wilson ME (2011). Estradiol and progesterone modify the effects of the serotonin reuptake transporter polymorphism on serotonergic responsivity to citalopram. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 19 (6), 401-8 PMID: 21843009

CrossFit Masters Nutrition: Lutein Supplements Improve Night Vision even in people who do not have Macular Degeneration.

CrossFit Masters Nutrition and Vision. Our vision changes with age.  Much of that change may be due to exposure to ultra-violet light (uv-radiation).  Ultra-violet light is the same range of light that causes sunburns.  Eyes are naturally protected from ultra-violet light by anti-oxidants.

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There are three anti-oxidants that protect the eye.  These are lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.    Lutein accumulates in the retina.  These macular pigments are powerful anti-oxidants.   As we get a bit older (wiser, smarter, cooler) these macular pigments tend to change.  And not for the better.  They get depleted and vision gets worse.    There are a number of things that can cause Lutein levels to drop off:

  • Diet low in Lutein
  • Smoking
  • Oxidative Stress from many different sources such as air pollution, arsenic and other bad stuff.
  • Maybe age

Fortunately, there are things we can do to protect our vision.

  • Don’t engage in nasty habits
  • Eat well to protect your vision and keep your vision strong over time.

CrossFit Masters Nutrition:  The Eyes Have It.

Most of us will notice vision changes in our forties and fifties.  Its not just a need for reading glasses.   Eyeball pigments (macular pigments) are needed for more than reading.  The loss of pigment makes us lose some of our capacity for clear, central color vision.   We may have a harder time with glare and with contrast.  These things can make depth perception and driving a problem.

Researchers been investigating the role of lutein supplements as a means to counter these changes in vision.  While we may not notice vision changes until we are in middle age changes and damage may occur decades before.  If Lutein is depleted it cannot protect your eyes from day to day stress.  This may cause damage to accumulate over time.   People who spend a lot of time outdoors seem to lose macular pigments like Lutein.  Loss of macular pigments is associated with increased risk of macular degeneration.  Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness.

CrossFit Masters Nutrition: The study in brief.

The new study (Yao and Yuan 2013) looked at healthy, relatively young people.  Ages ranged from 25 to 47.   This study is especially interesting because the subjects did not have macular degeneration or other vision problems.  Subjects were given a thorough eye exam and given Lutein supplements for a year.  There were significant improvements in sharpness of vision, contrast sensitivity and sensitivity to glare.  Nice to know that improving your diet and help your driving and night basketball skills.  More studies are needed to see if increasing other macular pigments will also improve vision.  Lutein must be obtained from the diet.  The same is true for zeaxanthin.  Its possible that increasing intake of zeaxanthin would also improve vision.  Or that taking both would produce better results.  More studies will tell.

CrossFit Masters Nutrition: Supplements or Real Food?

You can get Lutein supplements if you want to go that route, but the best choice is probably to get lutein from real food.  Lutein is a carotenoid.  Like Vitamin A.  There are about 600 different carotinoids identified so far.  Most vegetables will contain many different carotenoids.  Some of these are also important for health.  Good sources of Lutein include:

    • Kale and other leafy greens
    • Peas
    • Egg Yolks
    • Carrots (Lutein in cooked carrots is more accessible)
    • Other Yellow vegetables

If you are following the Paleo diet and eating lots of vegetables you are probably doing well in this department.  If you are a vegetarian and eating lots of different vegetables you are probably doing well too.

Yao Y, Qiu GH, Wu XW, Cai ZY, Xu S, Liang XQ.  Lutein supplementation improves visual performance in Chinese drivers: 1-year randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.  Nutrition.  29 (7-8): 958-964.

Loughman J, Akkali MC, Beatty S, Scanlon G, Davison PA, O’Dwyer V, Cantwell T, Major P, Stack J, & Nolan JM (2010). The relationship between macular pigment and visual performance. Vision research, 50 (13), 1249-56 PMID: 20394766

 

Feeney J, Finucane C, Savva GM, Cronin H, Beatty S, Nolan JM, & Kenny RA (2013). Low macular pigment optical density is associated with lower cognitive performance in a large, population-based sample of older adults. Neurobiology of aging, 34 (11), 2449-56 PMID: 23769396

Masters Athletes: Finger length ratios and muscle mass.

Mona Lisa Works the Bells Shirt

Muscle mass decreases with age.  Loss of muscle mass may begin as early as the Mid-20s.  However the rate of loss increases once a person passes the age of 60 or 65.  Good news is that resistance training and exercise increases muscle anabolic response.  An increase in protein may also be called for.  (see our last article).

Finger length ratios and muscle mass.

People may be more or less likely to lose strength and muscle mass as they age.  One of the factors that may be important is the amount of androgens (testosterone) you were exposed to before birth (Halil et al. 2013).  Not much that can be done about this now.  Other than to keep working out.  But it might help to know if you needed to keep more of an eye out.  And take care to protect yourself by maintaining strength and fitness.

WODMasters Bat Shit Mug

The ratio of the index finger to the ring finger is used as a measure of pre-natal androgen exposure.  (that’s androgens, such as testosterone, before birth).  The longer your index finger is than your ringer finger = the more testosterone your were exposed to before birth.  New research indicates the longer your ring finger the stronger you are likely to be in old age.  A longer ring finger is also associated with better math skills and higher risk of autism.  Ratio of these fingers is also associated with bunch of other interesting things. Like success in sumo wrestling (Tamiya et al. 2012).  

Tamiya, R., Lee, S., & Ohtake, F. (2012). Second to fourth digit ratio and the sporting success of sumo wrestlers Evolution and Human Behavior, 33 (2), 130-136 DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2011.07.003

Halil, M., Gurel, E., Kuyumcu, M., Karaismailoglu, S., Yesil, Y., Ozturk, Z., Yavuz, B., Cankurtaran, M., & Arıogul, S. (2013). Digit (2D:4D) ratio is associated with muscle mass (MM) and strength (MS) in older adults: Possible effect of in utero androgen exposure Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 56 (2), 358-363 DOI: 10.1016/j.archger.2012.11.003  

Giffin NA, Kennedy RM, Jones ME, & Barber CA (2012). Varsity athletes have lower 2D:4D ratios than other university students. Journal of sports sciences, 30 (2), 135-8 PMID: 22132823

CrossFit Masters Nutrition: Protein Intake for Muscle and Bone.

Current recommended protein intake for people over the age of 19 is 0.8 g/kg/day. A lot of strength trainers and CrossFit trainers will recommend a lot more.  CrossFit Masters may need more protein than younger athletes.  Masters CrossFit and older people may need more protein whether they are working out or not.   The muscles of Masters Athletes are less responsive to strength training. We can define Masters as over 35, 40 or 50.  But at what age, physiologically, does a need for greater protein intake occur?  Some sources state loss of muscle mass begins around age 25. While others say it begins much later.

Masters CrossFit.  How much Protein?

Some researchers believe that increasing protein intake may help older athletes.  As well as older people in general avoid loss of muscle mass and strength associated with age.   Spreading intake out over the course of the day may also help anabolic response to training.  Increasing protein intake may help with other things too.  Increasing protein intake increases calcium absorption.  So increasing protein intake may help with bone health.  We have probably all heard that calcium is needed to prevent osteoporosis.  And that strength training also prevents osteoporosis.  Some researchers are proposing that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Masters be increased from 0.8 g/kg/day to 1.0 to 1.2 g/kg/day.   For better calcium and nitrogen balance. This is still under what is recommended by many for strength training.  Sports nutritionists recommend 1.2 to 1.7 g/kg/day for athletes.

Strength training and increased protein to prevent muscle loss.

CrossFit Masters Shoulder Blues Mug.

Loss of muscle mass may begin as early as age 25.  But exercise is protective.  For Masters and for young athletes.  The question is open over whether or not Masters athletes need more protein than other athletes.  Sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) is thought to affect about 1/3rd of people over age 60.   It is a problem affecting many people.  So far the best treatment is strength training and exercise.

How to track protein intake.

Try SuperTracker and keep track of what you eat over a week.  It is a USDA government website that will tell you how much protein (more or less) you are getting from a wide range of foods.  It will also give you a detailed report of many different nutrients and tell you where you are deficient.  You may be surprised at where your weaknesses are.

Gaffney-Stomberg E, Insogna KL, Rodriguez NR, & Kerstetter JE (2009). Increasing dietary protein requirements in elderly people for optimal muscle and bone health. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 57 (6), 1073-9 PMID: 19460090

Sumukadas, D. (2010). Optimal management of sarcopenia Clinical Interventions in Aging DOI: 10.2147/CIA.S11473

Sayer AA, Robinson SM, Patel HP, Shavlakadze T, Cooper C, & Grounds MD (2013). New horizons in the pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of sarcopenia. Age and ageing, 42 (2), 145-50 PMID: 23315797

Sumukadas, D. (2010). Optimal management of sarcopenia Clinical Interventions in Aging DOI: 10.2147/CIA.S11473

Dupuy C, Lauwers-Cances V, Abellan Van Kan G, Gillette S, Schott AM, Beauchet O, Annweiler C, Vellas B, & Rolland Y (2013). Dietary Vitamin D Intake and Muscle Mass in Older Women. Results from a Cross-Sectional Analysis of the EPIDOS Study. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 17 (2), 119-24 PMID: 23364488

Protein intake and recovery for Masters Athletes

How much protein do Athletes need?

Younger athletes may benefit from increased protein intake in a number of ways. Increased protein intake may result in muscle strength gains in young adults in as quickly as six weeks (Candow et al. 2006).  Protein supplements may also increase strength in elderly people (average age 83) as well (Bjorkman et al. 2012).  The Bjorkman study of 106 elderly men and women showed a 2.1% gain in body weight with a high-leucine whey protein supplement vs. a 1.9% loss in weight with a placebo.  This was over a six month period.  Leucine is important because it serves as a trigger for muscle synthesis.  Leucine is also a branched chain amino acid (bcaa).  This does not mean supplements are better than a healthy diet. We have evolved to eat food, after all. However, we also seem to have evolved to not do as well as we’d like as we get older. Masters athletes may benefit from increased protein intake.
CrossFit Games Masters Competitor Ken Cutrer of CrossFit EST,

Protein may speed recovery.

Protein intake after exercise may also help speed recovery.  This would be important to athletes participating in an extended period of competition. The CrossFit games, for example. Or in similar high output situations. Whey protein hydrolysate increases the rate of recovery after resistance training.  When protein is hydrolysated it has been partially broken down.  This speeds absorption.  Unhydrolysated proteins (normal proteins from food) may take longer.   This may mean recovery takes 6 hrs. rather than 24 hrs (Buckley et al. 2010).

Masters athletes may benefit from protein supplements.

Older athletes take longer to recover, and lose ground faster during periods of inactivity. Hydrolysated protein supplements and supplements with high leucine content may help Masters Athletes.

WODMasters Designs at the WODMasters Online Store

Candow DG, Burke NC, Smith-Palmer T, & Burke DG (2006). Effect of whey and soy protein supplementation combined with resistance training in young adults. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 16 (3), 233-44 PMID: 16948480

Buckley JD, Thomson RL, Coates AM, Howe PR, DeNichilo MO, & Rowney MK (2010). Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise. Journal of science and medicine in sport / Sports Medicine Australia, 13 (1), 178-81 PMID: 18768358

Björkman, M., Finne-Soveri, H., & Tilvis, R. (2012). Whey protein supplementation in nursing home residents. A randomized controlled trial European Geriatric Medicine, 3 (3), 161-166 DOI: 10.1016/j.eurger.2012.03.010

Masters Athletes respond to protein intake and resistance exercise as well as young athletes.

CrossFit Masters Athletes and Protein Intake

This is an interesting bit of research.  It was published a year ago but doesn’t seem to have been picked up by news sources.  Here it is: Masters muscles respond to protein intake and resistance exercise by making more muscle as well as young adults.  The study (Patton-Jones et al. 2011) looked at 7 young adults and 7 adults with an average age of 67.  They did multiple reps of knee extensions and ate a meal of lean ground beef.  Its a small number of people, which limits its power, but its hard to recruit people for this kind of thing.  And . . . it required a muscle biopsy.  That might have hurt.  The authors didn’t mention if it did or not.  Thank you study people for doing this for us.

Crossfit Master Amy Kramer of Crossfit Seven,
 Competes in a Reebok CrossFit Fundraiser
at Luke’s Locker, Fort Worth, TX.

Do Masters Athletes need more protein?

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t important differences between people in their 60s and people in their 20s.  See this earlier post.  What the research tells us though is that the rate at which muscle proteins are synthesized following protein intake and resistance training does not appear to change with age.  At least not through our 60s.  The results are important because we all want to stay strong, and most of us would like to get stronger.  That, along with a desire for fun and camaraderie is why we do Crossfit.

Protein Intake and Sarcopenia

It seems like there are a lot of messages out there telling us we won’t be able to.  Stuff it.  Another reason why these results are important is because people tend to lose muscle mass as they age.  This is what sarcopenia is.  It can be a real problem for the elderly, and can severely limit their ability to get around and take care of the business of life.  The question of how much of sarcopenia is inevitable, and how much is due to inactivity hasn’t been completely answered.  But this study points to lack of resistance exercise as a possible major factor.

Symons TB, Sheffield-Moore M, Mamerow MM, Wolfe RR, & Paddon-Jones D (2011). The anabolic response to resistance exercise and a protein-rich meal is not diminished by age. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 15 (5), 376-81 PMID: 21528164

Long-term exercise prevents muscle loss in Masters Athletes.

We all fear loss of strength and competence that might occur if we were to actually get older. We’ve probably all heard, and seen ourselves, that people lose muscle mass and bone with advancing age. Its depressing. While ignoring it and putting concerns aside works pretty well generally speaking, its nice when evidence supports our drive and desire to have a good time while staying strong. Exercise prevents much of the muscle loss seen in older people. A lot of the muscle loss observed in seniors may simply be due to chronic inactivity. Its difficult to separate inactivity from any inevitable loss of strength in research studies, since many people become inactive with age. The study referenced below used highly active athletes aged 40-81 and evaluated their health/activity, body composition, quadriceps peak torque, and made magnetic resonance images of bilateral quadriceps, Mid-thigh muscle area, quadriceps area, subcutaneous adipose tissue, and intramuscular adipose tissue. Mid-thigh muscle area and quadriceps peak torque did not decline with age. Specific strength did not decline with age either. Good news. And a little bad news. There are changes in performance with age. One important one appears to be slowed reaction time. This means slower running and slower lifts. It is quite possible that loss of speed is a major factor in the amount of weight you can lift. Hopefully as the Crossfit Games continue to evolve, we will see scaling for Masters in line with physiological factors.

graph from Korhonen et al. 2009. 

ResearchBlogging.org

KORHONEN, M., MERO, A., ALÉN, M., SIPILÄ, S., HÄKKINEN, K., LIIKAVAINIO, T., VIITASALO, J., HAVERINEN, M., & SUOMINEN, H. (2009). Biomechanical and Skeletal Muscle Determinants of Maximum Running Speed with Aging Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 41 (4), 844-856 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181998366

Wroblewski, A., Amati, F., Smiley, M., Goodpaster, B., & Wright, V. (2011). Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 39 (3), 172-178 DOI: 10.3810/psm.2011.09.1933

How does age influence performance in the Crossfit Games?

Sharp, experienced and stubborn as hell.

We’ve been struggling to write this without sounding overwhelmingly geeky and don’t think its working.  So, let’s just do this:

Partial data from the 2011 CrossFit Games (in this case,
women ages 40-44 who finished in the top 1000) affords an interesting outlook on performance by age.  Would that all data were available.  What is most obvious is that numbers of participants appears to decline with age.    There were a lot more 40 year olds in the top 1000 than there were women aged 41-44. This may reflect a number of different things.

  1. Fewer women participate in sports in general as they enter their 40s.
  2. There are fewer women participating in this sort of activity.  
  3. There may be more attrition due to injuries
  4. People mellow out in terms of giving that much of a $hit after age 40 about competing.  

It does look like the 40 year olds did better than the rest.  The top three 40 year old performers placed 23rd, 33rd and 82nd overall while the top three 41 year olds placed 463rd, 509th and 520th.  That is a huge drop.  Things were a little better for the top 42 year olds at 255th, 309th and 476th overall. 43 year olds gained a little more ground placing 220th, 230th and 438th and then the 44 year olds dumped it placing 387th, 710th and 963rd.  Studies of trained athletes by age show a modest decline in performance after age 40 followed by pretty good maintenance until age 70 when there is another larger drop.  Good news is that there’s no reason why we can’t continue to enjoy beating ourselves into the ground.  Give it some more thought at 70, and don’t take a drop in performance around that age personally.  Its not you.