Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, builds bone and protects against osteoporosis and frailty later in life. Unfortunately, only bone under stress seems to benefit. For example, runners, who carry their own body weight, tend to have stronger leg bones than cyclists. Crossfit provides excellent training for bone strength. It includes weighted movements that target, stress and should strengthen most of the bones in the human body. That is provided you don’t over train and damage them or have an accident (see post on the risks and benefits of box jumps.)
Exercise may help protect against tooth loss or weakness.
One area that weight lifting and most forms of exercise will not target are the bones that make up our jaws (although some do manage to make an exception here. Look around and check facial expressions during heavy lifts). It is important that these bones stay healthy. If they degrade they will not be able to hold onto your teeth. Unfortunately, there has been very little research on exercise and tooth loss. The only study found in a literature search of Web Of Knowledge saw less tooth loss among older Japanese men who exercised daily (Yoshida et al. 2001.) This doesn’t quite tell us enough, because of other variables that are also associated with more or less tooth loss such as hygiene, frequency of professional care, dietary habits and smoking.
Is chewing gum good exercise for the bones supporting teeth?
Chewing gum may strengthen jaw bones and could protect chewers from tooth loss or improve the outcome of periodontal disease. A research team in Russia studied the effect of chewing gum on bone density in 93 periodontal patients (Loginova et al. 2006.) Bone density increased on the active chewing side. For optimal effect make sure to switch your gum from right to left periodically. Goes for the rest of your training too. The full paper is available in Russian.Yoshida Y, Hatanaka Y, Imaki M, Ogawa Y, Miyatani S, & Tanada S (2001). Epidemiological study on improving the QOL and oral conditions of the aged–Part 2: Relationship between tooth loss and lifestyle factors for adults men. Journal of physiological anthropology and applied human science, 20 (6), 369-73 PMID: 11840690Loginova NK, Veĭsgeĭm LD, & Churina SV (2006). [Influence of course use of chewing gum on alveolar bone density]. Stomatologiia, 85 (2), 22-4 PMID: 16710273
Many people dislike working out in the heat. There are also serious safety concerns to consider. Heat stress, or course, can kill . . . it can also make people sick. Those who recover from heat stroke, the more severe form of heat illness, can suffer life-long difficulties with regulation of body temperature. Older people, and presumably older athletes, are more vulnerable to heat stress. There may be many reasons for this. Older people may sweat less and they may sweat less efficiently (Inoie 1996). Vasodilation, an important cooling mechanism that shunts blood flow to the surface where it can cool, is less efficient in older adults as well (Smith et al. 2013). Thirdly, older athletes may be slower to recover from exercise-induced muscle damage. Exercise-induced muscle damage can increase production of pyrogens, specifically interleukin-6, tumor necrosis actor and interleukin-1-beta (Fortes et al. 2013). This research is important (and new at least as of 2013). The next section of this article addresses risk factors for heat illness. Please skip ahead if you know all this stuff already.
Risk Factors for Heat IIlness other than Muscle Damage
There are many known risk factors for heat illnesses. Among them are:
Being in poor physical condition
Various medical conditions
Already being under stress from lack of sleep
Working out in hot, humid conditions
Not being heat acclimated
Some people will still get heat stroke or heat illness even though they have not been suffering from any of the above conditions. The research discussed here is an attempt to determine if exercise-induced muscle damage increases risk of heat injuries. The hypothesis is that muscle damage increases inflammation, which upregulates productions of pyrogens, which adds additional heat stress. Additional heat stress, induced by the pyrogens, may be enough to tip an individual into heat illness or heat stroke. Pyrogens, for those who don’t know, are chemical agents that trigger fevers.
There is good evidence that exercise can cause fever. And that fevers can be blocked by anti-bodies that oppose inflammatory agents. A previous study collected plasma following an exercise protocol and injected it into rats. The rats then developed fevers. A second group of rats were injected with human plasma collected from donors prior to exercise, and no rat fevers developed.
Protocol for heat and muscle damage study:
Subjects for the muscle damage study were 13 young men (not heat acclimated). The muscle damage was induced by having subjects run downhill (at a -10% gradient) for 60 minutes (For those who commented that a -10% grade run for 60 minutes couldn’t possibly cause muscle damage . . . it will if you are not adapted to running downhill.) The second protocol required that subjects run at a +1% gradient, that was not muscle damaging. Subjects performed the tests twice, 14 days apart, in a counterbalanced manner. Researchers assessed evidence of heat strain 30 minutes after the protocol and again 24 hours after completion of the protocol. The time point of 24 hours post-protocol was chosen to coincide with peak (or close to peak) inflammatory response. Please see the figure for clarification. For full details please read the original paper (reference below).
Rectal temperatures were higher 30 minutes after the downhill runs, even though both protocols were of the same exercise intensity. In addition, Interleukin-6 was elevated following the downhill run and subjects reported feeling “hotter”. Rectal temperatures had decreased 24 hrs later, but remained slightly higher than normal (0.17 degrees C). That 0.17 degrees is probably not physiologically significant, but interesting that it was still elevated an entire day after the workout. Researchers also acknowledged that eccentric exercise impairs glucose synthesis, therefore it remains possible that diminished glucose may have contributed to the results found in the study.
What does this mean for us?
One important finding was that pyrogens (interleukin-6) were highest 30 minutes after the protocol. They remained elevated above normal 24 hours later, but had declined considerably. Given this information, one can imagine that individuals completing multiple workouts in quick sucession (as happens during crossfit competitions) may experience staggered accumulations of pyrogens. This would leave athletes at greatest risk of heat illness or heat stroke at the end of the workout cycle (or sequence of WODs). If you are a Crossfit trainer, competitor or interested spectator you may wish to take any potential increased vulnerability to heat stroke or heat illness into consideration. People at risk of rhabdomyolysis are likely at increased risk of heat illness as well. Fever, after all, is one of several signs of rhabdo. The question may be raised (and its an interesting one): Will taking anti-inflammatories protect someone from heat stroke or heat illness? I would need to read more on that, but off the top, possibly not. Ibuprofen, for example, increases production of Interleukin-6, which would make the situation worse. Aspirin? Maybe, but it may end up causing other problems.
A few people have asked for more information on how to keep cool. Most of these are pretty well-known:
Avoid dark colors if you are working out outdoors
Drink plenty of water
Keep air circulating if you are indoors or use air-conditioning
Dress in thin, light, minimal clothing (while avoiding sunburns).
There has been fairly recent research on the effects of hand cooling on internal temperature. You can read about it here. I’ve tried running in the heat while holding frozen water bottles. I think it works. Lastly, while we all “know” about how to keep cool, a lot of people skip steps.
For those wanting a simpler synopsis of the article and a little more information on heat stroke and heat illness . . .
Exercise induced Muscle Damage, Heat and Rhabdomyolosis
Exercise-induced Muscle Damage, Rhabdo and Heat
Most people in CrossFit are probably well aware of risks of rhabdomyolosis. Rhabdomyolosis occurs when muscles are damaged severely. Broken down proteins enter the blood stream and can clog up the kidneys. You can get muscle damage without rhabdomyolosis. It happens all the time. Most of the time it is minor and part of training. However, small amounts of muscle damage may increase a person’s risk of heat illness.
Heat Illnesses include:
Heatstroke – is life-threatening. Temperature can shoot up to the point of brain damage and death. A person with heat stroke may have dry skin, strong pulse and feel dizzy.
Heat exhaustion – not as bad as heat stroke, but can come before heatstroke. People with heat exhaustion may sweat heavily, have rapid breathing, and a fast pulse.
New research shows “exercise-induced muscle damage” increases risk of heat illness. This is different from exercise-induced heat illness, which may not involve any muscle damage. The study looked at runners exercising under hot, humid conditions. Thirty minutes of exercise in hot, humid conditions increased levels of pyrogens in blood over controls. Pyrogens are substances that cause fever. Working out in the heat with a fever seems like a particularly bad idea. The pyrogens subjects’ blood included interleukin 6 which is associated with inflammation. Pyrogens remained higher 24 hours later. This might mean that the risk of heat stress may build a little more every day. If you do a crossfit workout, or train at anything every day your risk of heat illness may increase a little more every day. People adapt to exercise and heat exposure. We become better at handling heat over time. The study was done with athletes who were not heat acclimated. Still, there is reason to be careful. Subjects exercising in the heat also experienced more muscle soreness the next day.
Conclusion for CrossFit Trainers and CrossFit Athletes
Muscle damage may increase risk of heat stress. Masters athletes may be at greater risk of heat illness. If you are a Masters Athlete and notice that you are having a harder time coping with the heat, it is not “all in your head.” Heat adaptation also happens. It may take longer than it did when you were in your 20s. Be patient. Understanding physiology may help. It helps for me. Notes: The featured photo is from CrossFit Heath’s recent fund-raising Masters Crossfit Competition organized by World War Fit. Bradford CD, Cotter JD, Thorburn MS, Walker RJ, & Gerrard DF (2007). Exercise can be pyrogenic in humans. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 292 (1) PMID: 17197641Fortes MB, Di Felice U, Dolci A, Junglee NA, Crockford MJ, West L, Hillier-Smith R, Macdonald JH, & Walsh NP (2013). Muscle Damaging Exercise Increases Heat Strain during Subsequent Exercise Heat Stress. Medicine and science in sports and exercise PMID: 23559121Inoue Y (1996). Longitudinal effects of age on heat-activated sweat gland density and output in healthy active older men. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology, 74 (1-2), 72-7 PMID: 8891503Smith CJ, Alexander LM, & Kenney WL (2013). Nonuniform, age-related decrements in regional sweating and skin blood flow. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 305 (8) PMID: 23926135
Crossfit masters athletes are a growing part of crossfit communities, crossfit boxes and client bases. Many Masters Athletes have felt ignored or that our unique experiences, injuries and needs are misunderstood by crossfit trainers who have had little knowledge about working with our age group. Accordingly many are seeking community, support and advice from their peers on Crossfit Masters webpages and facebook groups. The Crossfit Masters group CFMasters now has over 7,000 members from around the world. Other groups,that support primarily Crossfit Masters women or masters within a specific age class are also popping up. Many group members have questions that are masters specific:
How long does it take masters to recover from _______ (add type of injury here)?
How are other masters dealing with insomnia, or muscle soreness, or flexibility problems?
Do masters athletes have specific nutritional needs?
What can I do to get faster, stronger, leaner etc.?
How are hormonal shifts impacting my performance?
Masters crossfit athletes, masters athletes in general and the need for more research
The explosion of interest in participation in Masters Sports and Athletics is quite recent. The pace of research to address masters athletes needs is just warming up. Or possibly still parked in the driveway. Most of the research available to us has focused on health and functionality among the elderly. While it is useful to look at these studies, studies about us masters would be greatly appreciated. (Will be writing more on what we have so far soon. Take a look at our archives for now.)
For Crossfit Trainers working with Masters Athletes: what you should know
We want to be treated like athletes, but there are somethings that make us different than other athletes.
Understand that we will modify as we physically need to; we are not slackers. We are seasoned enough to distinguish muscle pain from joint distress and will protect ourselves from injury — Leanne Cantrell of CrossFit Mandeville
That our joints don’t work the way they used to. Find ways to help us get under the bar more efficiently, to get our elbows up into position, to engage our shoulders — addition from CFMasters athlete
“the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t on the list. Specifically that we need substantially more warm up, warm down, and stretching time. Oh, and aligned with some of the other thought already written – that coaches should ask us about our physical state, fitness and health history, any injuries we might have and our goals.”
Understand that our eyes are changing and that we don’t have the depth perception we used to. This makes box jumps harder. Its also harder for us to shift between near and far vision. That also makes it harder for us to do box jumps and slows us down.
Vision issues can also make it harder for us to be as agile.
Many masters men will be concerned about testosterone. Testosterone can be boosted by working out in a supportive (and co-ed) environment. Crossfit is perfect for that. As far as we know working out in a gung-ho co-ed group doesn’t increase cancer risk.
We are more likely to rupture a tendon or kill our shins and shoulders. Have an emergency plan for first aid and for serious injuries.
” New masters athletes appreciate mentoring by experienced masters athletes. Coaches can ask the experienced ones for this support.”
“Masters athletes may need to vary our level of intensity, weights or volume from WOD to WOD due to joint stress or other flare ups, I so appreciate when our coaches work on technique instead of going for better times or heavier weights that day.”
“That we have learned to finish what we start. Sometimes you just have to let us go to a corner and finish the WOD. We may not be the fastest. But we are persistent.” CFMaster
Cheer us on too. We appreciate it.
Here are a few articles that are specific to masters athletes. We’ll be summarizing these soon. Keep in touch.
Sillanpää E, Häkkinen A, Laaksonen DE, Karavirta L, Kraemer WJ, & Häkkinen K (2010). Serum basal hormone concentrations, nutrition and physical fitness during strength and/or endurance training in 39-64-year-old women. International journal of sports medicine, 31 (2), 110-7 PMID: 20222003
Sallinen J, Pakarinen A, Fogelholm M, Alen M, Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, & Häkkinen K (2007). Dietary intake, serum hormones, muscle mass and strength during strength training in 49 – 73-year-old men. International journal of sports medicine, 28 (12), 1070-6 PMID: 17497592 Another article of interest is: Position Statement (2010). Selected Issues for the Master Athlete and the Team Physician Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42 (4), 820-833 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181d19a0b
Crossfit meme generator features CrossFit Seven’s Max Effort (aka. Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney Andy Platt) showing Trainer Ryan Shupe how MMA differs from Crossfit. Max has learned quite a lot from his one on one interactions with clients and will be more than happy to share the finer points. We’ve chosen him for our model because of his dense brow, thickly stubbled jaw, and bad attitude. If you’ve been arrested and are ready to plea, give him a call. Make a meme. Add your own words and generate a custom sign for your webpage or facebook using this link. Or Click on the photo.
Join us! Wear the Shirt!
Remember to support our site with a WODMASTERS T-Shirt. Join us. Wear the shirt. Our shirts are excellent quality and finely printed. They make excellent gifts for your most-loved crossfit athletes. Shirts are made of 50% cotton, 25% quick-dry polyester and 25% modal. Modal is a plant-based fiber that is often made with bamboo. The fabric is soft as butter, resilient and holds up well in the face of challenging workouts and punishing washers and dryers. Our most awesome designs include “Our Lady of the Kettlebells” for the discriminating Catholic athlete, the Cracked Earth Eyepood Shirt and Mona Lisa Hoists her Bells. Buy directly from us or order through Amazon.
The Experienced as Hell Shirt. Sometimes the simplest things are better than other things.
We are the proud makers of the “Experienced as Hell” shirt for masters crossfit athletes and other tough nuts. This design is available in mens short sleeves or tank. Tanks are high quality, heather grey cotton while the short sleeves are made with top quality, resiliant and quick drying tri-blend fabric. Thanks.
John Mariotti (age 57) stands at the top of this year’s Masters CrossFit Open Competition. John’s path to Crossfit began with a meniscus tear that brought his ultramarathon-career to a sudden stop. He turned his focus to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but was frustrated by his younger, stronger, faster competitors. John bought a book by Pavel Tsatsouline, the famed Russian Kettlebell Master and author of The Russian Kettlebell Challenge: Xtreme Fitness for Hard Living Comrades and started training on his own. He discovered CrossFit in 2009, using it to gain an edge in Jiu-Jitsu, but he quickly fell in love with CrossFit as a sport in itself.
John has been a life-long athlete. In addition to Jui-jitsu and ultra marathons, John has been involved in TaeKwon-Do (6th degree black belt) Grappling, sprint triathlons, swimming , football, wrestling, track, water polo and snowboarding. Years of training and competition have taken their toll. It’s tough being a masters athlete. “My shoulder is tweaky, my knee has some tendinitis . . . but I’ve suffered nothing that has forced me to stop training. Some things caused a bit of a slow down or modification but not much. I’m pretty lucky that way.”
John’s strategy for avoiding injury includes lots of mobility training and massage. He goes for Assisted Release Therapy weekly, does thorough warm-ups before WODs, sleeps well, takes fish oil. “Besides that,” he says “I try not to do anything too stupid.”
Training for the games.
John placed 31st in his division in the 2013 CrossFit Open. John was extremely fit, but he knew he would need to fine tune his game in order to make it into the top 20. He looked for a coach, and was taken on by CJ Martin of CrossFit Invictus. CJ worked with John to improve his technique for all the elements that had appeared in the CrossFit games. John has found the time spent with CJ to be extremely helpful. “CJ is a master coach in this area. He seems to know just how hard to push and when to back off a bit. He also keeps my mobilization and diet and sleep in mind as well.”
Today, John feels as good as he has felt all year. That’s a good feeling coming into competition. This has been a hard and busy year for John. He has moved from California to Dallas, TX to open a CrossFit box of his own: CrossFit Odyssey. In spite of the pressures of opening a business and adjusting to a new environment John has continued to meet challenges head-on. He competed in the TX state weightlifting championships in January and took first place in his age and weight division.
Diet for a Masters CrossFit Athlete
John trains on a diet of “real food.” “Food is a joy for me and I never feel deprived eating the way I do.” He eats mostly paleo with lots of animal protein, fats and vegetables. He includes a lot of carbohydrates (potatoes are a huge favorite) as well. He does not eat grains with the exception of rice and avoids dairy and sugar. He is an infrequent drinker. John cooks for the week on Sundays. He has been following this diet for years, but has only recently increased his carbohydrate consumption. The carbs have been helping him deal with his high volume of training.
Advice for Masters Athletes in Training and Competition
When asked what advice he could off fellow masters athletes John responded :“It is easy for us get over-trained, especially if we just follow the same programming the younger guys do. Recovery is slower and PRs and gains are further between. Most of us still have that fire and try to keep up with the younger guys and that can be costly. Our minds and spirits are willing but the flesh doesn’t cooperate quite the way it did in years gone by. That being said…I can do things now that I could not do in the past…muscle ups, handstand pushups and double unders come to mind. I can lift more weight than I could 5 years ago. I move as quick as I did years ago and I have a much better “engine” than just a few months ago. My resting heartbeat is 43, which is as low as it has ever been. We can all get better…stronger, more skilled, and have better technique as long as we train smart as well as hard.”
Depression brain. Depression damages the brain and contributes to memory problems
Depression is a brain disorder that interferes with many aspects of function. The evidence for genetic susceptibility to depression is strong, although it may take a traumatic event, or even a series of traumatic events, to trigger it. The brains of people with depression differ from those of people who are not depressed. Brain imagery studies show differences in brain regions related to cognition, sleep patterns, feeding behavior and sleep. Studies have also demonstrated smaller brain volume, greater susceptibility to Alzheimers disease, heart disease and memory problems. Depression is a bio-chemical problem that is strongly associated with other serious medical conditions that can further reduce quality of life and lifespan.
How is depression related to other diseases?
There is increasing evidence that depression may increase risk of other diseases by changing body chemistry. These alterations may lead to decreased levels of anti-oxidants and increased oxidative stress.
Depression Brain and the Chemical Stress of Depression
Depression has been associated with elevated cortisol levels. The general thought, originating with Hans Selye’s research, is that elevated cortisol leads to suppression of immune function. There is a lot of good evidence supporting this, but more recent research indicates that even though cortisol levels may be elevated in depression, the immune system is not turned down– or at least not in the brain. Increased immune activity can cause oxidative damage to surrounding tissues. One of the ways the immune system protects the body from attack is by blasting offensive material with highly reactive chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide blasts releases free oxygen, which damages the cell membranes of targets, and destroys them. The blast is called an “Oxidative Burst.” Another type of “Blast” is created by production of nitric oxide. That type of “blast ” is a nitrosative burst. These “bursts” can damage healthy cells, especially when there is no appropriate target, such as infectious organisms. New research is showing that depression increases immuno-inflammatory activity. This activity can damage:
Lipids and Cell Membranes. This can cause cell death
Proteins. Also not good.
DNA. DNA damage can result in cancer
Mitochondria. Mitrochondria are needed to produce energy for cells.
Depression is also associated with
Reduced neurogenesis (growth of brain cells)
Reduced brain volume (popularly known as “raisin brain.”)
Memory problems and etc.
Increased vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease
Increasing immuno-inflammatory pathways can lead to decreases in production of melatonin and serotonin.
When the body increases activity of one pathway another pathway may be left with insufficient resources. Upping the activity of the immune system may mean lowering activity of something else. The molecule tryptophan is used in production of interleukins and tumor-necrosis factor alpha during activation of immunol-inflammatory pathways. Tryptophan is also used in production of the neurotransmitter, Serotonin and the hormone melatonin. Tyrptophan levels tend to be low in depressed people. So are levels of serotonin and melatonin. This may be because the demand for tryptophan is increased. Low serotonin is believed to be one of the factors causing the feelings of sadness and worthlessness of depression. Anti-depressants such as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) help maintain levels of serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. Sleep disorders are hallmarks of depression. It gets a lot more complicated and there is a lot more biochemistry involved. If you want to learn more check out the references at the bottom of this article. The point I’m hoping to make is that people who suffer depression may also be suffering more oxidative stress than is good for them and that depression is more than a psychological problem.
A question about depression.
Are the feelings of sadness, guilt, worthless , low serotonin and etc. secondary side effects of something else? Robert Sapolsky has likened depression to the response one would have to a crushing physical injury. Getting munched by a sabre-toothed tiger and surviving would mean an extended period of healing. It would be good to get your immune system up and running, because bacterial infection would be sure to set in next. Forget the neurotransmitters for now. You should be asleep anyway. Maybe in depression the body is settling in for a tedious recooperation and is then unable to turn off the response. People can stay depressed for years. And apparently it can be very difficult to help break a patient out of it. But what about long-term oxidative or nitrosative damage being done during the time someone is depressed? Could increasing anti-oxidants help? Could anti-oxidants protect depressed people from neuronal degeneration, shrunken brain volume, memory impairment and inability to think straight?
Anti-Oxidants and Depression.
Anti-oxidants may help. Maybe. There has been some interesting work on people who have genetic variants for an enzyme (MTHRF) important in folate metabolism. Folate is a B vitamin. Folate metabolites, like vitamins C and E, are powerful anti-oxidants. Some people, for genetic reasons, are unable to metabolize folate very well. People with genes that do not allow for efficient metabolism of Folate are at higher risk of depression (and several other disorders, including migraines). By some counts, around 70% of people with major depressive disorder are poor folate metabolizers. People who have difficulty metabolizing folate can get around the problem by taking a folate supplement that is already in an advanced form: L-methylfolate. In fact, some doctors are prescribing L-methylfolate along with anti-depressants to their depressed patients. Deplin is a prescription L-methylfolate. You can also get L-methylfolate non-prescription strength from health food stores or Amazon. It is not yet understood how L-methylfolate may relieve depression. But it is a strong anti-oxidant. Does it help by reducing oxidative stress? Would other anti-oxidants be helpful in treating depression, or in reducing the damage depression inflicts on the body? We’ll be keeping on eye on research developments.
If you are suffering from depression get treatment and try to eat well. Even if its hard. A little L-methylfolate might help.
Papakostas, G., Shelton, R., Zajecka, J., Etemad, B., Rickels, K., Clain, A., Baer, L., Dalton, E., Sacco, G., Schoenfeld, D., Pencina, M., Meisner, A., Bottiglieri, T., Nelson, E., Mischoulon, D., Alpert, J., Barbee, J., Zisook, S., & Fava, M. (2012).L- Methylfolate as Adjunctive Therapy for SSRI-Resistant Major Depression: Results of Two Randomized, Double-Blind, Parallel-Sequential Trials American Journal of Psychiatry, 169 (12) DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.11071114
Haroon E, Raison CL, & Miller AH (2012). Psychoneuroimmunology meets neuropsychopharmacology: translational implications of the impact of inflammation on behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 37 (1), 137-62 PMID: 21918508
Nitrate has been shown to improve exercise performance in healthy adults. Nitrate is metabolized to Nitrite and then Nitric Oxide. Nitric Oxide dilates blood vessels. Nitrate has been shown to reduce blood pressure, inhibit platelet aggregation (clumping) and improving irregularities in constriction and relaxation of blood vessel tissue. Nitrate may also reduce inflammation, make arteries less stiff and stiff. Healthy blood vessels and arteries allow more blood to be delivered to muscles during exercise. There have been a number of new articles on beets as performance enhancers. Beets are rich in anti-oxidants, but they are also high in nitrate. Nitrate can be metabolized to NO, which is a vaso-dilator (relaxes and widens blood vessels.) Nitrate from the diet, or nitrate supplementation may increase the response of type II muscle fibers to exercise.
Does Beetroot juice enhance exercise performance?
Given evidence that nitrate can increase muscle fiber activation, an experiment was undertaken to determine if beetroot juice would have similar effects. The research team compared normal nitrate-rich beet root juice against a beet-root juice that had had its nitrate removed. VO2 kinetics and exercise tolerance were recorded. VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use. The exercise session was a double-step protocol. The beet root juice supplement resulted in a 22% increase in exercise tolerance and faster VO2 kinetics. This indicates that it is most likely the nitrate that is providing the effect rather than something else in the beet juice. Anti-oxidants for example.
VO2 maxis a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen a person can take in.
Until recently nitrate was thought to be primarily a problem. Nitrate interferes with iodine uptake, so it could contribute to iodine deficiency. There are also associations between high nitrate consumption and cancer. Associations among nitrate and cancers are strongest with nitrate from meat products. It is possible that something else in meat increases cancer rates. Many vegetables, besides beets, contain nitrate too. High vegetable intake is strongly associated with lower risk of cancers, heart disease and early death. If you are thinking of using beets as a performance enhancing vegetable it would be important to know how long it takes
How long it takes for beets to be digested
How long it takes for nitrate to be metabolized to NO (nitric oxide)
When optimal levels are reached in the blood
What optimal levels are.
There has not been enough research to know how much is enough or how much is too much. We do know that nitrate levels are highest 2-3 hours after a drinking beet juice. Conversion to nitrite and nitric oxide probably happens very quickly. The test subjects in the Breese study took the beet root juice supplement for three days before starting the exercise protocols.
The Power of Walnuts
This is a tougher subject than beets. Walnuts seem to lower inflammation. Less inflammation may mean less pain during endurance exercise. The effects of walnuts on endurance performance has been studied in mice (Kim & Kim 2013). In this study a group of mice was dosed with walnut extract. Mice were given Walnut Extract at 600 and 900 mg/kg. This is probably awful lot of walnuts. Another group was dosed with water and served as controls. All the mice were given a forced swim test. (Not a polite thing to do) Time to exhaustion was recorded. Walnut-dosed mice:
Got the equivalent of a human eating 42 grams of walnuts once a day for 4 weeks. (About 1/3 of a cup)
Had lower lactate levels
Had lower ammonia levels
More liver glycogen.
The conclusion was that walnuts increase endurance
Walnuts and beets may give you a competitive advantage. They may also make you healthier overall.
About the Author:
Andrea Kirk, MSc. PhD is a toxicologist affiliated with the University of Texas at Arlington’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center‘s School of Public Health. Dr. Kirk does research on human exposures to environmental contaminants and micro-nutrient intake and excretion.
Vanhatalo A, Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, DiMenna FJ, Pavey TG, Wilkerson DP, Benjamin N, Winyard PG, & Jones AM (2010). Acute and chronic effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on blood pressure and the physiological responses to moderate-intensity and incremental exercise. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 299 (4) PMID: 20702806
Lidder, S., & Webb, A. (2012). Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables & beetroot) via the Nitrate-Nitrite-Nitric Oxide pathway British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04420.xKim DI, & Kim KS (2013). Walnut extract exhibits anti-fatigue action via improvement of exercise tolerance in mice. Laboratory animal research, 29 (4), 190-5 PMID: 24396383
Breese BC, McNarry MA, Marwood S, Blackwell JR, Bailey SJ, & Jones AM (2013). Beetroot juice supplementation speeds O2 uptake kinetics and improves exercise tolerance during severe-intensity exercise initiated from an elevated metabolic rate. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 305 (12) PMID: 24089377
Iron deficiency may slow down athletes, impair training and just making working out harder than it needs to be.
The Iron part of anemia, iron deficiency and athletes
Iron is important for athletes as well as everyone else. Iron is needed for formation of Hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the molecule in blood cells that transports oxygen through blood. People who have low levels of red blood cells are said to be anemic. Anemia can be caused by many different things. This article, however, will focus on anemia caused by nutritional deficiency.
Iron deficiency can slow you down and make your workouts harder and more frustrating than they need to be. People who are iron deficient (or anemic) don’t carry oxygen efficiently. The heart has to work harder to get oxygen to tissues. Low oxygen can also cause “poop out” (just too tired to continue the workout). No need to mention this . . . but . . . an iron deficient person is not likely to compete well either. Anemia is most common in women of reproductive age. Recommended intake of iron is 8mg/day for men and post-menopausal women. It is 18/mg/day for women who are menstruating. Iron deficiency anemia (anemia not caused by blood loss, injury, illness of metabolic disorder) is highest among women of reproductive age. It is uncommon in young men and boys and more common in people over 50. About 7% of masters adults may have iron deficiency anemia. (Looker et al. 1997)
The athlete part of athletes iron and nutrition
There have been a number of studies of iron intake and exercise performance in animals and in people. Performance related studies have looked at work performance, fatigue, endurance, oxygen use and heart rate (McClung & Murray-Kolb2013) Iron supplementation has been associated with:
Increased maximal exercise performance
Increased VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption
Lower heart rate
More voluntary activity
Improved work performance
Improved performance on fitness tests
Increased energy expenditure
Intense training can lead to anemia. The popular term for training-induced anemia is Sports Anemia. Possible causes are intestinal bleeding, iron loss through perspiration, inflammation and a generally faster rate of body iron turnover. Many athletes (especially older athletes) use ibuprofen to cope with muscle soreness and aches and pains from injuries. Chronic use of aspirin and ibuprofen can increase risk of iron deficiency because they can cause stomach bleeding.
Iron deficiency can cause some cognitive problems too. These include spatial ability, attention, memory, executive functioning and planning. These abilities are important in everyday life. They are also abilities that are essential to training and competition.
The nutrition side of athletes, iron and nutrition
Iron-rich foods include:
molasses (black strap style)
Other nutritional deficiencies can also make you vulnerable to iron deficiency even if you are getting enough iron. Vitamin C and Folate are important too. Low vitamin B12 also increases risk of anemia. There are a lot of interactions among Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, and Folate that are still poorly understood. High folate combined with low B12 increases the risk of anemia and risk of cognitive impairment in older people. Normal B12 and High Folate, on the other hand, protect against anemia and cognitive problems (Morris et al. 2007). Annoying that there no simple answers. The best strategy seems to be to eat a varied diet
Use pain relievers in moderation. Consider an iron supplement and make sure you are getting enough folate and vitamin C. Don’t over do iron intake. There is no evidence that extra iron will help you if you don’t need it. Too much iron can cause damage on its own.
Andrea Kirk, MSc. PhD is a toxicologist affiliated with the University of Texas at Arlington’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center‘s School of Public Health. Dr. Kirk does research on human exposures to environmental contaminants and micro-nutrient intake and excretion. She is also a former whitewater, dog-sledding, ice-climbing instructor and back-country ranger turned box rat.
Looker, A. (1997). Prevalence of Iron Deficiency in the United States JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 277 (12) DOI: 10.1001/jama.1997.03540360041028
Morris MS, Jacques PF, Rosenberg IH, & Selhub J (2007). Folate and vitamin B-12 status in relation to anemia, macrocytosis, and cognitive impairment in older Americans in the age of folic acid fortification. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85 (1), 193-200 PMID: 17209196
McClung JP, & Murray-Kolb LE (2013). Iron nutrition and premenopausal women: effects of poor iron status on physical and neuropsychological performance. Annual review of nutrition, 33, 271-88 PMID: 23642204
Pasricha SR, Low M, Thompson J, Farrell A, & De-Regil LM (2014). Iron Supplementation Benefits Physical Performance in Women of Reproductive Age: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 24717371
Masters Athletes may have some nutritional needs that differ from those of younger athletes. By Masters, we’re referring to athletes over age 40. This is currently the cut-off for Crossfit. Here’s what we know about Masters and protein:
Masters athletes may need more protein than younger athletes regardless of sport.
Consuming more protein may slow normal loss of muscle mass that occurs over time.
Masters athletes doing resistance training may need more protein than younger people because they don’t synthesize muscle proteins as quickly.
Masters Athlete Nutrition: what we know today.
The amount of FDA recommended protein stands at about 0.66 grams per kilogram of body weight. This number was derived by looking at many studies of people. Some of the studies looked at the average amount eaten by healthy people. Others looked at nitrogen balance: how much comes in vs how much comes out. People who lose more nitrogen than they take in through food are said to be in negative nitrogen balance. For these studies, the recommended amount would be the amount where the amount of nitrogen coming in is equal to the amount leaving (urine). There are a number of limits with these approaches. They do not answer the question of “what is best”. They have not focused on athletes or older adults. Weight lifters and others trying to add muscle have traditionally eaten a lot of protein. Way more than 0.66 grams/kilogram. Eating more than the recommended amount of protein doesn’t seem to hurt. Just don’t leave out other nutrients.
Scientists who work in this area have concluded that 0.8 g/kg is better for masters athletes than the old level of 0.66 g/kg. Many people will find number low and may get upset about. Don’t worry if you’ve just had a WTF moment. After all, we’ve been urged to consume at least a full gram of protein, 1.2 g/kg or even more. This may be perfectly valid if you are interested in strength gain or preservation of muscle mass during aging. We simply don’t know what is “optimal.” “Optimal” will, of course, depend on many different factors. The increase from 0.66 g/kg to 0.8 g/kg is 25%. That is a big jump.
Here’s what may help preserve or increase muscle mass for masters athletes
Eat more than 0.8 g/kg/day to increase strength (you have to lift too.)
Get some protein soon after a training session
Some recommend taking 5 g/day of creatine monohydrate. There is some evidence that it can boost strength gains and help increase fat free mass. Keep in mind that creatine can also increase water retention. Some of the gains in fat free mass may just be water.
For endurance: sadly, there is no evidence that carb loading helps.
Carbohydrates are important. If your body doesn’t have carbohydrates it will use some of your protein for energy. It will use fat too, but it will also use muscle.
What kind of protein is best for Masters Athletes?
There is a lot of research showing that red meat increases risk of cancer. I know a lot of people like red meat. But evidence says: avoid it. If you do eat red meat avoid grilling or charring it. Burning food creates carcinogens. Cooking fats at high temperatures produces acrolein. Acrolein may contribute to development of Alzheimers. Vegetable protein (beans and nuts) seems to lower risk of cancer. It also seems to lower risk of heart disease and diabetes. The paleo diet is against beans. There is really no reason not to eat beans other than that some popular diet books put them in the “bad” category. Beans should be well-cooked. If you are not used to eating beans . . . you will probably get better at digesting them peacefully. You may even get good at it.
It looks like masters athletes need more protein than others. The recommended increase from 0.66 g/kg/day to .80 g/kg/day is a 25% increase. Until we know more, increasing your protein intake may help you maintain or increase muscle mass. Limit red meat. Many people seem to be devoted to red meat, but the vast majority of research indicates it is a risky protein source. Avoid fish high in mercury (tuna, swordfish). Mercury accumulates in the body over time and has been linked to a number of poor health outcomes. Increasing protein intake with vegetable protein is a healthy strategy.
Tarnopolsky MA (2008). Nutritional consideration in the aging athlete. Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine, 18 (6), 531-8 PMID: 19001886
Bazzano LA, He J, Ogden LG, Loria C, Vupputuri S, Myers L, & Whelton PK (2001). Legume consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Archives of internal medicine, 161 (21), 2573-8 PMID: 11718588
Position Statement (2010). Selected Issues for the Master Athlete and the Team Physician Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42 (4), 820-833 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181d19a0b
Preservation of lean muscle mass matters for long term health and function. It is also important to those who want to gain muscle mass so they can look hot and/or awesome. it is also important for strength and for athletic performance. Whatever your interests, here is a report of a recent study on dietary fats and muscle mass.
Dietary Fat and Protein Turnover
Dietary fat may regulate protein turnover. The thought is that dietary fats influence both inflammation and insulin. This study was published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Study subjects were 2,689 women who are part of a study of twins in the UK. Data was collected on:
Percent of Calories obtained from Fat
Fatty acid profile
Fat -free mass in kilograms (an indicator of muscle mass)
Fat-free mass measured by X-Ray absorptiometry
Results of the Dietary Fat and Muscle Study
Women whose diets were higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids had higher fat-free mass (more muscle).
Women who got more of their calories from fat had less fat free mass (less muscle)
Women who ate more saturated fat had less fat free mass (less muscle)
Women who ate more unsaturated fatty acids had less fat free mass (less muscle)
Women who are more transfats had less fat free mass (less muscle)
Women who were in the top 20% for energy intake from polyunsaturated fatty acids had about a pound more muscle mass than women who were at the bottom 20% for polyunsaturated fatty acid. This is about the same difference in muscle mass that would be seen in a 10 year aging period. You could look at this and say that a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids saves 10 years of muscle aging. And you might be right. Polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce inflammation and seem to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer as well. We don’t know what drives age-related muscle loss. It might be related to the same factors that drive cell-aging in general.
The Simple Takeaway for Dietary Fat and Muscle Mass
This is the first study of its kind and more research is needed to figure out what is going on. However, this study supports the idea that a diet higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids is protective against loss of muscle mass. As many are sure to proclaim: correlation is not causation. That claim does not end arguments, although it is often used that way. It simply means that we need to know more. This is an interesting study that should lead to further investigation. Thanks to the team (Alisa Welch, Alex MacGregor, Anne-Marie Minihane, Jane Skinner, Anna Valdes, Tim Spector and Aedin Cassidy) for your hard work.
Welch AA, Macgregor AJ, Minihane AM, Skinner J, Valdes AA, Spector TD, & Cassidy A (2014). Dietary fat and Fatty Acid profile are associated with indices of skeletal muscle mass in women aged 18-79 years. The Journal of nutrition, 144 (3), 327-34 PMID: 24401817
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