Category Archives: Masters

Masters Athletes: Long-Term Impact of Strength Training on Muscle Strength

A Crossfit Masters Athlete shares his outlook with a young Crossfit trainer
A Crossfit Masters Athlete shares his outlook with a young Crossfit trainer at CrossFit Seven in Fort Worth, TX

We can expect to lose about 1% of our muscle strength each year after age 50. By age 65 that rate of loss increases. There are some interesting differences in the how and why of strength loss. When researchers look at strength they tend to look at static muscle strength and dynamic muscle strength. Basically static muscle strength refers to the ability to generate a force. Dynamic muscle strength basically refers to strength in which bones and tendons actually move. As people get older dynamic muscle strength suffers more than static muscle strength. Muscle power (the ability to do a strength movement quickly) also suffers. Muscle power declines faster than strict strength. This is one of the reasons why Masters Athletes, particularly Crossfit Masters Athletes, do not perform as well as younger athletes. You can tell a Masters Athlete over and over that he/she needs to move quickly in order “to get under the bar.” But, simply put, Masters Athletes are physiologically different than younger athletes. As stubborn and strong as they are, they may not be able to move their elbows any faster. At least not yet.

Don’t give up on Masters Athletes. Don’t give up in general.

Strength training can improve muscle strength and muscle power in Masters Athletes. This has been documented in short-term studies. But what about over the long haul? A recently published study sheds some light. A fairly large group of older adults (233) participated in a 1-year strength training program. Measurements were taken before and after. Researchers also evaluated the condition of 83 former participants some 7 years later. Strength and power improved in adults who completed the training. (This is hopefully no surprise). What is surprising and good news is that the adults who completed the training had better measures of strength, power and speed seven years after completing the program. Measures for everyone (trained and untrained) were lower than they had been though.

This study has its limits. It was not clear (or unknown) if subjects kept working out or not. Nor was it known how much more or less active subjects in the control group might have been. Still, it is nice to know that positive effects were seen seven years after an exercise program was completed.

Take away message:

So far research (and anecdotal evidence) indicate you should not stop working out. Trainers: keep encouraging your masters athletes.

Kennis E, Verschueren SM, Bogaerts A, Van Roie E, Boonen S, & Delecluse C (2013). Long-term impact of strength training on muscle strength characteristics in older adults. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 94 (11), 2054-60 PMID: 23831385

Timing of protein intake: 20 grams of protein within 2 hours of exercise builds muscle with max efficiency

Timing of Protein intake builds muscles after resistance training.

Timing of protein intake matters.
Timing of protein intake can matter. Before or shortly after exercise seems to work best.

Today’s topic is an overview of dietary protein and amino acids and how these help build muscle and prevent muscle loss.  First, just a tiny bit about proteins and amino acids.  Proteins are made of amino acids.  Proteins are (for the most part) broken down into amino acids during digestion.  Once that happens they can be reassembled into whatever proteins your body needs.  Amino acids are hugely important to physiology.  They are needed for enzymes, hormones, hair and other things.  For most people, the first thoughts of protein and amino acids are muscle.

There is good evidence that consuming protein directly before or after resistance training reduces muscle breakdown and increases muscle mass accumulation.  The fine points of how much, which amino acids and exactly when they should be taken are under investigation.  Here are a few highlights.  Bear in mind that these may change as research continues:

  • Timing of intake: so far it looks like protein has its best protective effect when taken just before or soon after resistance training.  Consuming protein as late as two hours after exercise doesn’t seem to work as well as consuming proteins within five minutes of an exercise session.  Keep in mind that this timing difference may not matter functionally.  Even without extra protein, muscles are in active building mode for about 48 hours after exercise.
  • Which amino acids: How different amino acids stack up against each other is unknown to date.  Studies conflict.  One study is not necessarily wrong.  Two studies can conflict and still provide valuable information.  Results that seem to contradict one another may be caused by differences in how the study was done.  How old were the subjects; were they all men, or men and women?  What was the timing?  What training protocol was followed?   How much protein was given?  What else were the subjects eating or doing in their real lives?
  • How much: 20 grams of amino acids (or protein in a meal) seems to induce maximal results for young adults.  Older adults and elderly people may need more to get the same benefit.  This is probably because they (we) aren’t as efficient as we used to be.  Bummer.  But there you go.  Elderly people taking 35 grams of amino acids after exercise have had better results than elderly people taking 20 grams of amino acids. Elderly people in one study needed 40 grams of protein to reach maximal rate of muscle protein synthesis.

Timing of Protein Intake and Amino Acids can help prevent muscle loss during dieting.

Protein intake is important body builders and hyper-jacked crossfit nuts.  But it is also important to people on weight loss programs.  Increasing protein while dieting can help preserve muscle mass.  Preserving muscle mass matters to many people for aesthetic reasons.  Muscle gives form and definition.  Having well-developed muscle may also help people keep weight off.  That is pretty well accepted.  Less attention is given to the importance of preserving muscle mass during aging.  People who are constantly dieting and losing muscle mass may end up with even less when they are older.  Loss of muscle with aging is a major cause of frailty and loss of independence.   People with no interest in sporting huge muscles should still pay attention to this aspect of health.

Protein after exercise

If you are a young adult you can get your 20 grams of protein by using a protein bar or shake.  Powerbar makes a bar containing 20 grams of protein at a cost of about $2.00.  You could also have a glass of milk and a whole wheat peanut butter sandwich at a cost of about $0.60.  The milk and peanut butter sandwich would have about 23 grams of protein.  You could save $1.40 each time.  Please consider donating that money to research.  Many of our Paleo Diet readers will consider milk, bread and peanuts as horrors of the dark.  Its OK to eat these things.  Especially if the alternative is refined snacks, processed food or junk food.

If you are a masters athlete or older adult you may need to think about the extra calories you might get from two glasses of milk and two peanut butter sandwiches.  Timing meals with exercise may help.

Take away:

Twenty grams of protein within 2 hours of exercise helps build muscles with maximal efficiency.  Older adults may need 35 to 40 grams to get the same effect.

ResearchBlogging.org

Churchward-Venne TA, Murphy CH, Longland TM, & Phillips SM (2013). Role of protein and amino acids in promoting lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating lean mass loss during energy deficit in humans. Amino acids, 45 (2), 231-40 PMID: 23645387

Vitamin K may keep your brain from falling apart

Keeping your brain from falling apart is serious business.  Tape and twine have their places, but we are writing to report on some other . . . . “stuff.”   Today’s stuff is Vitamin K.

Vitamin K, Health and Research

Research is indicating that Vitamin K may be important in protecting brain function. Researchers recently measured vitamin K levels in blood (as serum phylloquinone) and compared them with how well people did on several tests of cognitive function. People with higher levels of Vitamin K did better on tests of verbal memory and recall.   320 men and women between the ages of 70 and 85 participated in the study. This is good news because we do have some control over our vitamin K intake. The study has its limitations of course.  A blood test measures only what is currently in a person’s system.    The blood test used in this study was not able to measure people’s Vitamin K intake over a long period of time.

What is Vitamin K?

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Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin.  There are two common forms K1 and K2.  K1 comes from plants.   K1 was the form of vitamin K evaluated on the study of cognitive function.

Animals (like us) use K1 to make K2.  K2 is also synthesized by bacteria in the gut.   People may have many different kinds of gut bacteria.  Your gut bacteria will be influenced by your diet and medical history.

Vitamin K is best known as the vitamin the helps blood clot.  Good dietary sources of Vitamin K include:

  • Leafy greens
  • Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli
  • Grains (minor sources)
  • Liver, eggs, meat, fish

Vitamin K may be important for maintaining bone health as well as brain health.  Vitamin K is being evaluated as a possible treatment for osteoporosis.  Until we hear more on that it is probably best to eat real food and plenty of vegetables rather rely on supplements.  Vitamins in vegetables come “packaged” with many other biologically important molecules.  You may need the entire package (by which we mean vegetable not multivitamin).  A dose of one particular molecule may not be particularly helpful.

Presse N, Belleville S, Gaudreau P, Greenwood CE, Kergoat MJ, Morais JA, Payette H, Shatenstein B, & Ferland G (2013). Vitamin K status and cognitive function in healthy older adults. Neurobiology of aging, 34 (12), 2777-83 PMID: 23850343

Knapen MH, Drummen NE, Smit E, Vermeer C, & Theuwissen E (2013). Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 24 (9), 2499-507 PMID: 23525894

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

Depression may be caused by poor Serotonin handling

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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

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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

 

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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

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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

Bone Health and Osteoporosis: Ups and Downs of Bisphosphonates.

Bone Health and Osteoporosis Risks

CrossFit Bone Health and Osteoporosis.
A CrossFit Masters Athlete from CrossFit Bare Cove in Hingham, MA. takes care of her Bone Health.

If you are young you should eat well, not smoke, and get plenty of weight bearing exercise. Preferably starting from birth (which would be moving your little arms and legs.) There is a lot of research going on in Bone Health. We are learning about it at a rapid rate. This is exciting, but it also means there is a lot that is unknown. And our understanding may change. So far, the agreed Major risk factors for Osteoporosis include:

  • Being female (women lose bone at faster rates than men, and have less to start with)
  • Being white
  • Being small-boned
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Losing weight
  • Menopause

Bone Health Protection

  • Being black
  • Having a larger frame
  • Gaining weight (but can cause other health problems)
  • Good diet, not smoking, minimal alcohol intake
  • Weight bearing exercise
  • Being on hormone replacement therapy for menopause (but this increases risk of heart disease and breast cancer)
  • Sufficient vitamin D
  • Sufficient calcium intake

Some things are within our control.  Others are not.  If you are having bone loss you should consider taking bisphosphonates.

 

Bone Health and Bisphosphonates

Bisphosphonates are drugs used to prevent osteoporosis (excessive bone loss). Bone is living tissue. It is constantly replenishing and remodeling itself. Visualize a busy sculptor with modelling clay. If your body (sculptor) senses that bone is not under much stress it will stop paying so much attention to it and focus its energies somewhere else. Bisphosphonates block the cells that break down bone. Cells that produce bone are not bothered by bisphosphonates. This leads to thicker bones.

Bisphosphonates can make bone thicker, reducing hip fractures. They can also make bone more brittle. Some people who have been on bisphosphonates have suffered peculiar shattering of bones. Hip fractures are very dangerous, whether you have osteoporosis. Especially for older people who do not heal as quickly as young people. If you are over age 50 there is a 25% chance that a hip fracture will kill. The odds are worse for the elderly and frail. If you are thinking of taking a bisphosphonate drug to prevent osteoporosis you should probably think about the odds of getting a “traditional” hip fracture vs. a bisphosphonate fracture. The odds of getting a bisphosphonate-type fracture are quite small compared to the risk of getting a traditional hip fracture. Easy choice?  Not yet.

Bisphosphonates and other health risks and benefits.

Bisphophonates may improve “bone health”. They are also associated with

  • Cancer of the Esophogus
  • Atrial Fibrillation (this seems to be more of a risk with intravenous administration)
  • Decreased risk of colorectal cancer (Yea!)
  • Decreased risk of stroke. (Yea)
  • Disintegration of the jaw and tooth problems.
  • Making you feel crappy.   If you take bisphosphonates you should sit quietly for 30-60 minutes afterward.  This will reduce the risk of damage to the esophogus.

Bone Health, Bisphosphonates and Duration of Treatment

Your doctor may recommend that you take bisphosphonates for several years (maybe 5) and then stop for a year or two.  You would be monitored during your “vacation” time to see if your bone has stabilized.  If you start to lose bone again, your doctor may put you back on bisphosphonates.

Meanwhile, continue to eat well and exercise.  Think about giving CrossFit a try too.

I hope this helps.

Here are a few references.  There are many more.

Thosani, N., Thosani, S., Kumar, S., Nugent, Z., Jimenez, C., Singh, H., & Guha, S. (2012). Reduced Risk of Colorectal Cancer With Use of Oral Bisphosphonates: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Journal of Clinical Oncology, 31 (5), 623-630 DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2012.42.9530

Kang JH, Keller JJ, & Lin HC (2012). A population-based 2-year follow-up study on the relationship between bisphosphonates and the risk of stroke. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 23 (10), 2551-7 PMID: 22270858

Kang JH, Keller JJ, & Lin HC (2013). Bisphosphonates reduced the risk of acute myocardial infarction: a 2-year follow-up study. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 24 (1), 271-7 PMID: 23152093

Watts, N., & Diab, D. (2010). Long-Term Use of Bisphosphonates in Osteoporosis Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 95 (4), 1555-1565 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2009-1947

Hormones: Exercise changes estrogens and reduces risk of breast cancer

Hormones and Research for Women’s Health. Hormones are powerful molecules. They are chemical messengers. And they exert powerful effects in many different ways. Changes in hormones effect athletic ability. They also effect flexibility and endurance. But exercise seems to changes hormones as well. There is some interesting news on exercise and estrogen. Estrogens are female sex hormones. If you are a woman, someone who cares about or works with women, you should know why sex hormones like estrogen matter.

The basics of why hormones and exercise matter for breast cancer.

There is a lot of interesting stuff coming out about estrogen. Especially about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for masters women. We will follow up with additional articles.  There is a lot to cover.  For now, sex hormones (estrogen in this case) matter for maintaining muscle, skin, connective tissue, and brain function.  The way hormones are metabolized may matter for cancer.

Fit women are less likely to get breast cancer.  Among other things.  We have long known that exercise is good for people.  But we generally know little about why. Estrogen breaks down as part of normal metabolism.  An estrogen molecule that is metabolized is transformed into different molecules.  These estrogen metabolites have actions of their own.  Who knew?  One of the estrogen metabolites decreases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Exercise, Hormones and Breast Cancer.

A new paper (Kurzer et al. 2013) compared the breakdown of estrogen in women who exercise with those who were sedentary.    Women who exercise moderately to vigorously for about 30 minutes a day, produced more of the metabolite that decreases risk of breast cancer.  While this study does not prove these changes reduce the risk of breast cancer it is very interesting. The study opens doors for new studies.  This study was done with young women.  And they were walking, using an elipitical machine, or a stairmaster.   Would the change in estrogen handling be seen in CrossFit Women?  In High Intensity Interval Training (HIT)? With weights?  Would the same results be seen with older women?  With women on estrogen replacement therapy?  Hopefully we will soon be seeing more work done on hormones, exercise and cancer risk.   In the meanwhile, keep working out.  And keep encouraging the people you care about.  Details of the study are available in the link below.

Smith AJ, Phipps WR, Thomas W, Schmitz KH, & Kurzer MS (2013). The effects of aerobic exercise on estrogen metabolism in healthy premenopausal women. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 22 (5), 756-64 PMID: 23652373

 

Strength, Masters Athletes and Finger length ratios.

Masters Athletes are markedly different than other athletes. Loss of muscle mass may begin as early as the Mid-20s. And the rate of loss increases once a person passes the age of 60 or 65. Good news is that resistance training and exercise increase muscle anabolic response. Even for older people. Muscle maintenance or increase in muscle mass may be aided by additional protein intake. Especially in Masters athletes and older people in general.

Masters Athletes and Finger length ratios.

Masters Athletes. As with most things, people vary.  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) an individual was exposed to before birth (Halil et al. 2013). There is not much that can be done about this now. Other than to keep working out and eating well.  But it might help to know if you needed to keep more of an eye out. And take steps to protect yourself by maintaining strength and fitness. There are plenty of Masters athletes, CrossFit and otherwise, out there. We will be keeping an eye out for masters athletes during the upcoming CrossFit Games. Hopefully someone is collecting all that data.

How to tell if you are likely to lose strength or stay strong.

The ratio of the index finger to the ring finger is used as a marker for 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 is in proportion to your index 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. People with longer ring fingers are more likely to be varsity athletes in college and are more likely to find success in sumo wrestling (Tamiya et al. 2012).

CrossFit workouts for people with long index fingers

If you have relatively long index fingers, don’t panic. There’s no point worrying about something you can’t change. But you can continue to do CrossFit workouts. And keep weight lifting. And being active. Resistance exercise is probably the best thing you can do.

 

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

Halil M, Gurel EI, Kuyumcu ME, Karaismailoglu S, Yesil Y, Ozturk ZA, Yavuz BB, Cankurtaran M, & Ariogul 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), 358-63 PMID: 23219021

Crossfit Training: Women require different rest strategies for strength and competition.

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CrossFit women and men may differ in need for rest after WODs.  Or strength training. This may be important as athletes prepare for the CrossFit Games. Women lose strength faster than men when they take time off.  Muscle mass seems to stay the same for both when athletes reduce training for 7 days. The responsiveness of rested muscle fibers to electrical stimulation also seems to stay the same. However, women still lose more strength than men during rest periods. Rest periods are sometimes referred to as “unloading.” A new paper on why this happens suggests its nerves.  Not muscle tissue. The study looked at 7 and 14 day unloading periods. This is a long rest period for CrossFit athletes. But common among weightlifters.  Many athletes will be unloading prior to The Games. Weight training causes changes in muscle tissue. That is pretty obvious.  However, it also produces changes in nerve function. Nerves adapt and become more efficient. They become better able to recruit cells and coordinate their actions.  And make a trained person able to lift more weight.   Or a CrossFit athlete better able to do a WOD.  The larger loss of strength in women seems to be rooted in the central nervous system.   Women’s neurons may be quicker to let down their guard. This may mean that women should take shorter rest periods than men in order to maintain strength. And shorter rests before competitions.

What about Masters CrossFit and Masters Athletes?

Most studies are done using young volunteers.  There are usually a lot of them hanging around Universities.  And someone needs to collect and analyze the data.  This is often left to middle-age and older academics.  This means there is a lot less information for Masters athletes.  There is very good evidence though that neuro-muscular function improves with training in middle and older age.  It looks the same for men and women.  So keep at it.

The Take-Away: Women may need shorter unloading periods before competition than men.

Masters Athletes:  Use your judgement.

Deschenes MR, McCoy RW, & Mangis KA (2012). Factors relating to gender specificity of unloading-induced declines in strength. Muscle & nerve, 46 (2), 210-7 PMID: 22806370

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