Category Archives: Performance

Can reducing ammonia production during exercise improve performance?

Ammonia may be a central player in fatigue and exhaustion.  Exercise releases of ammonia into the blood stream.  Once in the blood stream it travels to the brain where it can accumulate if the pace of entry is faster than the body’s ability to metabolize it.   Athletes in studies who had the hardest time completing an intense exercise task also had the highest ammonia levels.(Nybo 2005).

The brain gets rid of extra ammonia by combining it with glutamate to produce glutamine.  If the brain is using glutamate to get rid of ammonia it is possible that glutamate levels decrease.    Decreased brain glutamate can impair function and may contribute to some of the wonky feelings of exhaustion.  Glutamate is an important neurotransmitter.  It is an excitatory neurotransmitter.  Glutamate makes it easier for nerves to fire and transmit information.  Without glutamate brain function may slow.  This is a very simplified picture.  However, it may help explain a bit of what is going on with fatigue.  Brain uptake of ammonia has been demonstrated in a number of studies.  One thing that has been noted is that there may be a lot of variation in the amount of ammonia produced.  This was found in a study of highly trained endurance athletes.  Athletes were:

  • young men
  • very similar weight
  • similar height
  • similar VO2max
  • living in Denmark (Nybo 2005).

Is it possible that variability in ammonia levels helps some people go longer or harder than others?  Is it less ammonia production or better brain clearance?  What causes it: genetics, diet, differences in training?

Reducing Ammonia:  Is it possible? Would it help for competition or training? Would it hurt?

There have been several studies that have looked at reducing blood ammonia levels.  Much of this comes from research on people with liver disease.  People with liver disease tend to produce a lot of ammonia.  They may also suffer a lot of muscle loss and brain dysfunction.  Their situation though is quite different from that of an athlete.

Is there any research on reducing ammonia levels during exercise?

Yes. Apparently glucose does.  Subjects (Nybo 2005) who were given glucose supplement had only about a third of the ammonia level as did subjects who did not.  A 2008 paper found that giving professional football players 100 mg per kg of glutamine prior to training reduced ammonia in blood.  Lastly, walnuts.  A study of walnut extracts showed less ammonia in blood of mice after they were subjected to a forced swim test.  Mice receiving walnut extract were able to swim quite a bit longer than those who did not (see reference for details.)  One of the things that was particularly interesting is that mice were subjected to several tests over several weeks.  Performance improved in the Walnut-Extract Mice from week 1 to week 2 to week 3 and then tapered off.  They never dropped to the level of No-Walnut mice.  Here is a link to the graph: Link.  The researchers suggested that Walnuts may reduce ammonia and fatigue through their anti-oxidant properties.

Should I eat walnuts, glucose and glutamine during training?

There is no evidence that walnuts, glucose or gluamine will improve your performance over the long term.  In fact, trying to lessen your ammonia production during training may hurt.  In the Nybo study the athletes with the highest levels of  ammonia in plasma and brain were the athletes who did not get glucose AND had the lowest VO2 max.  VO2 max is a marker of aerobic conditioning.  It is possible that the body gets more efficient in dealing with ammonia produced during exercise.  If that is the case, minimizing ammonia production might also minimize your ability to deal with it.  Its too early to know.

What about walnuts, glucose and/or glutamine for competition?

Hard to say too.  But . . . an ability to reduce ammonia might reduce fatigue and let you go longer or faster.  It might give a competitive edge.  Keep in mind some people may simply be better at metabolizing ammonia.  It might be genetic.  Or it might be from hard training.  For an overview of amino acid metabolism:

 

Masters Crossfit training
One of the world’s top-ranked masters CrossFit athletes trains for the CrossFit games at The Black Box in Fort Worth

Qiu J, Tsien C, Thapalaya S, Narayanan A, Weihl CC, Ching JK, Eghtesad B, Singh K, Fu X, Dubyak G, McDonald C, Almasan A, Hazen SL, Naga Prasad SV, & Dasarathy S (2012). Hyperammonemia-mediated autophagy in skeletal muscle contributes to sarcopenia of cirrhosis. American journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism, 303 (8) PMID: 22895779

Nybo L, Dalsgaard MK, Steensberg A, Møller K, & Secher NH (2005). Cerebral ammonia uptake and accumulation during prolonged exercise in humans. The Journal of physiology, 563 (Pt 1), 285-90 PMID: 15611036

Snow RJ, Carey MF, Stathis CG, Febbraio MA, & Hargreaves M (2000). Effect of carbohydrate ingestion on ammonia metabolism during exercise in humans. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 88 (5), 1576-80 PMID: 10797115

Bassini-Cameron, A., Monteiro, A., Gomes, A., Werneck-de-Castro, J., & Cameron, L. (2008). Glutamine protects against increases in blood ammonia in football players in an exercise intensity-dependent way British Journal of Sports Medicine, 42 (4), 260-266 DOI: 10.1136/bjsm.2007.040378

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

Vitamin C may help reduce pain of exertion during intense exercise

The Pain of CrossFit WODs

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Knowing you look awesome can help make workouts easier too.

The agony of a CrossFit WOD may be worse than the agony of any other sport. There are many little voices to that big voice telling you to slow down. Let’s not dwell on that voice. Let’s dissect it a little. Two things pushing you to ring the quit bell are core temperature and insufficient oxygen. Read this article for more information. Another thing is pain. Some research has been done on the discomfort side of exercise. Researchers measure “perceived level of exertion.” Research on intake of Vitamin C and “perceived level of exertion” indicates taking vitamin C supplements (500 mg/day) results in a lower rating of how hard the workout was. Taking vitamin C once a day also lowered heart rates compared to people who took a placebo during a 4 week exercise program. That is interesting.

Should I take Vitamin C before a CrossFit WOD?

Crossfit back squat during a crossfit wod .  Lots of crossfit pain here
Encouragement improves performance possibly by making it too embarrassing to slow down.  Our friend and model would look better in a WODMASTERS Shirt.  Check out shop.

It might be worth trying during CrossFit WOD competitions. Low vitamin C intake is associated with higher levels of fatigue. Taking a supplement if your vitamin C intake from diet is good might not help. It hasn’t been studied yet. Vitamin C has a history of being touted as a cure-all. Cure-alls are things we should be suspicious of. Along with writers who don’t know that a preposition is not something one ends a sentence with.  There is also some evidence that taking vitamin C before a challenging workout can block the body’s production of its own anti-oxidants, which might not be good.

In the meantime Vitamin C may be helpful for CrossFit WOD competitors for whom every rep counts. It should not be taken before every workout. Exercise causes the body to produce its own anti-oxidants. And these may be very important in the falling dominos of our physiology. Tweaking one thing may tweak that which is better left untweaked. As an example, taking vitamin C may result in your body synthesizing less of its own anti-oxidants.  Best to eat a good diet with lots of vegetables and fruit.

Huck CJ, Johnston CS, Beezhold BL, & Swan PD (2013). Vitamin C status and perception of effort during exercise in obese adults adhering to a calorie-reduced diet. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 29 (1), 42-5 PMID: 22677357

 

Physiology of Fatigue: What are we fighting when we try to push through a challenging workout?

Why are workouts so hard?

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We are fighting a lot when we push ourselves through workouts that are challenging. There are times we may be fighting a bad attitude, discouragement, lack of confidence, drive or our own personalities, but we are, at times, also fighting a very complex regulatory system designed to protect us from severe self-induced damage.

Fatigue and Temperature

Fatigue can be defined as reaching a point where the body seeks to slow down or stop. Exhaustion is that point where a person (or animal) is unable to continue. The most important factor driving suppression of motor activity is believed to be brain temperature. In an untrained person, exhaustion may occur when core body temperature reaches 100 to 102F(~38 to 39C) while a highly trained person may not reach exhaustion until body temperature has reached 104F (~40C).

crossfit shirt rhino crossfit masters
Stiff, Inflexible, Invincible WODMasters shirt for the Masters CrossFit Athlete. And for other people who may also be stiff and inflexible.

Interestingly, it’s not only humans who are stopped at these temperatures. Internal temperatures of ~104 oF will stop other animals whether sprinters (Cheetahs) or the generally more placid and possibly endurance-oriented (Goats) (Taylor and Rowntree 1973). And yes, I’m sure you’re wondering: temperatures were measured rectally, and the animals ran on a treadmill while wearing masks so oxygen and carbon dioxide levels could be assessed. The research team also cranked the heat up. Cheetahs ran for shorter periods when the room was hot. The authors of this paper concluded that the duration of a Cheetah’s sprint is limited by core temperature, which is influenced by air temperature. Keep this in mind when you are working out in the summer with no air-conditioning. There are other factors that are also thought to play roles in regulation of intense physical output. Working muscles send feedback to the brain, and in most of us, they are not yelling “Go! Go! Go!” At first they are saying things like “we need more oxygen over here” and “pump the heart faster.” Unfortunately you maximum output can only go on for as long as you have the necessary materials to keep the system running. Your maximum obtainable heart rate will matter. That may be one you cannot make “just do it.” although you can improve your ability to pump blood with training.

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Strong Woman Shirt with All-Seeing Kettlebell. Awesome Power and exceptional femininity

Blood concentrations of important factors or metabolites, and depletion of working materials, are also monitored by the brain. Changes in concentrations and availability of neurotransmitters, endorphins, cytokines, along with a build-up of ammonia in the brain, occur during continued intense exercise. Cerebral energy use increases requiring more oxygen, while blood flow will decrease by about 20% due to constriction of brain arterioles. Low oxygen, loss of neurotransmitters, and accumulation of waste products can cause a problem that is truly “all in your head” but a real problem none the less. An increased need for oxygen and fuel in the brain may be part of what causes someone to want to slow down or stop.

Another strong woman shirt for strong women.  Be fit and wear an awesome shirt.  For strong women who love art, irony and kettlebells
Another strong woman shirt for strong women. Be fit and wear an awesome shirt. For strong women who love art, irony and kettlebells

Practice improves physiology and performance.

Increasing oxygen intake may improve performance not necessarily by providing muscles with additional oxygen, but in providing the brain with what it needs to keep the system running. Depletion of brain glycogen and excessive use of lactate as an alternative brain fuel may also signal fatigue. This may happen faster in untrained athletes. Physical training is, after all, about much more than simple strength and endurance. It includes getting all systems, including subtler aspects of physiology like the ability to dissipate heat, produce lactate, carry oxygen and oxygenate the brain, to work as efficiently as possible. We can reach our limits, but our brains rarely stupid enough to allow us to go beyond them and recklessly run our bodies off the edge of a cliff. The brain also likes to know what’s going on and practice (going through the motions) and rehearsal are important to performance. Rehearsing movements before a WOD may be as important as traditional warming up. It preps your system for what it is about to do and lets it know what is coming. Even imagining movements may help improve strength output and performance (Jeukendrup et al. 1996).

CrossFit training, rational mental toughness.

Womens crossfit shirt by WODMASTERS with Mona Lisa and her Kettlebells
Mona Lisa and Her Kettlebells bring quiet dignity to the toughest workout.

We can improve performance intelligently rather than fight what we imagine to be a lack of mental toughness, or allow ourselves be discouraged. We can keep cool and well-hydrated. We can be patient enough to recognize that our physiological and biochemical systems are becoming more efficient as we train, even if our speed or strength has plateaued, and not give up on long-term goals. Finally, encouragement and cheers can help people achieve their maximal level of oxygen consumption (Nybo & Secher 2004) and maximum performance. This may be especially true if they are new to Crossfit and have type A personalities. New Crossfitters may be putting superhuman efforts into their workouts and should be congratulated and admired for these as much as our seasoned champions.

Taylor CR, & Rowntree VJ (1973). Temperature regulation and heat balance in running cheetahs: a strategy for sprinters? The American journal of physiology, 224 (4), 848-51 PMID: 4698801

JEUKENDRUP, A., SARIS, W., BROUNS, F., & KESTER, A. (1996). A new validated endurance performance test Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 28 (2), 266-270 DOI: 10.1097/00005768-199602000-00017

Nybo, L., & Secher, N. (2004). Cerebral perturbations provoked by prolonged exercise Progress in Neurobiology, 72 (4), 223-261 DOI: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2004.03.005

Taylor CR, & Rowntree VJ (1973). Temperature regulation and heat balance in running cheetahs: a strategy for sprinters? The American journal of physiology, 224 (4), 848-51 PMID: 4698801 Nybo, L., & Secher, N. (2004). Cerebral perturbations provoked by prolonged exercise Progress in Neurobiology, 72 (4), 223-261 DOI: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2004.03.005ResearchBlogging.org

What causes fatigue? Why is it different in CrossFit?

What causes fatigue? And why is it sometimes so hard to push through it?

Few people enjoy the sensations of fatigue and pain that accompany intense exercise.  While endurance athletes may get a “runners’ high” that feeling of elation is not common during a CrossFit WOD or in other forms of intense physical output.  The runners high is thought to be caused by feel-good chemicals produced by the brain that blunt pain and allow people (and animals) to run for long distances.  You can read up on these chemicals (endocannabinoids) here.  Without them you will feel very differently.  There are several thoughts on what causes fatigue.  Possibilities are:

Kelly and Squared
CrossFit WOD Open Competition Athlete and Judge

 

  • Build-up of metabolic by-products
  • Signals produced by the brain that try to tell you “that’s enough”
  • Production of inflammatory cytokines
  • Signals from the body that enter the brain to tell it “stop.”

Is buildup of Ammonia a factor in Fatigue?

It may be.  Ammonia builds up in blood just a little during moderate intensity exercise.  But it increases rapidly when levels of effort are heavily ramped up.  And it increases during prolonged (over an hour) sub-maximal efforts.  The buildup of ammonia may be caused by the breakdown of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s).  When ammonia builds up in the blood it can enter the brain and cause problems.  Including stupor.  Maybe this is part of what happens to marathon runners.

Caffeine, Amino Acids and Escaping Fatigue

Caffeine has been shown to reduce fatigue and improve athletic performance.  Caffeine also changes the manner in which amino acids (and BCAA’s) are metabolized during exercise.  Perhaps one of the ways caffeine helps workouts is by reducing the amount of ammonia build up.   Meanwhile, it seems that supplementation with glutamine suppresses fatigue and ammonia build-up.  Glutamin is considered a non-essential amino acid, but there is growing evidence that it might be particularly important under intense exercise.  Good sources of glutamine include beef, chicken etc. as well as wheat.  This is not the same thing as MSG (mono-sodium glutamate) which can trigger nasty headaches in many people.  Supplementation with branched-chain amino acids may also suppress build-up of ammonia as well.  We’ll see what comes up in the next few years.

 

Bassini A, Magalhães-Neto AM, Sweet E, Bottino A, Veiga C, Tozzi MB, Pickard MB, & Cameron LC (2013). Caffeine Decreases Systemic Urea in Elite Soccer Players during Intermittent Exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 45 (4), 683-690 PMID: 23135367
Wilkinson DJ, Smeeton NJ, & Watt PW (2010). Ammonia metabolism, the brain and fatigue; revisiting the link. Progress in neurobiology, 91 (3), 200-19 PMID: 20138956

Bassini-Cameron, A., Monteiro, A., Gomes, A., Werneck-de-Castro, J., & Cameron, L. (2008). Glutamine protects against increases in blood ammonia in football players in an exercise intensity-dependent way British Journal of Sports Medicine, 42 (4), 260-266 DOI: 10.1136/bjsm.2007.040378

The importance of moderate intensity aerobic exercise.

Crossfit aerobic training and running.  You have probably heard that exercise improves mood, memory and brain function.  And that it may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.  Former runners who have turned to CrossFit may remember their runner’s high.  It was that wonderful feeling of peace and well-being.  CrossFit is a great fitness program.  For many people it has become a way of life.  But it does not seem to produce the “high” that many people get from running.  Combining CrossFit running is something to think about.

 

Running.  The moderate stuff matters.

The “runner’s high” is thought to be caused by chemicals called endocannabinoids.  These chemicals are produced in the brain (and possibly in other areas).  They reduce feelings of pain and increase feelings of well-being.  Endocannabinoids are also involved in appetite suppression and synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity refers to the ability of neurons to adapt and change.  An area where Synaptic plasticity is important is in learning and memory formation.   New research (April 2013) on endocannabinoids shows that moderate aerobic exercise increases production.  Low intensity exercise (like walking) does not.  High intensity exercise does not seem to increase endocannabinoids either.  CrossFit is very high intensity exercise.  Including moderate intensity running with CrossFit (CrossFit running) is probably a good idea. If you are interested in preserving cognitive function.  Or if you are interested in improving cognitive function.  Some of us are just trying to keep from losing ground.  CrossFit is fun.  And great for full-body fitness.  But it may be that a relaxing run, bike or swim is just as important.  If not more.

CrossFit and Running
A couple discusses crossfit running during a tender moment post wod.

 

Raichlen DA, Foster AD, Seillier A, Giuffrida A, & Gerdeman GL (2013). Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity. European journal of applied physiology, 113 (4), 869-75 PMID: 22990628

 

CrossFit Games Competition: Recovery between WODs

CrossFit Games Competition and New Research.

There have been several new papers out on recovery from repeated sets of resistance exercise.  These may be important for people headed to the CrossFit Games Regional Competitions.  For those who don’t know, the CrossFit Games regional competitions last for several days and involve multiple WODs per day.  (note: WOD stands for WorkOut of the Day and is the term used for CrossFit workouts.)The same is true for the big CrossFit Games.  In CrossFit every “rep” counts.  Recovery between WODs and recovery between days may determine who moves from regional competition to The CrossFit Games 2013.  This is very different from the CrossFit Open Competition where CrossFit Games competitors may have up to a week before the next WOD.

Ice Between CrossFit WODs

Apply ice to stressed muscles between WODs when possible.  A lot of people will apply ice if they have injured themselves during a competition.  Or if they feel pain.  Applying ice to uninjured muscles during rests may also let an athlete do more sets.  A study published last May (2012) examined the effects of icing on trained rock climbers.  Those who iced their arms and shoulders were able to more pull-ups on the second and third sets than those who rested without ice.  Some things to note: The pull-ups were open hand, which is important to rock climbers.   Closed hand holds are pretty uncommon on rock.

 

Should muscles be iced after the CrossFit Open WODs?

Maybe.  If you find that you are still in pain three days after a WOD you may benefit from applying ice the next go around.  Its uncertain how this works.  It might work by slowing production of enzymes that are involved in producing molecules that cause pain and inflammation.  The pain, tenderness and inflammation  show up about 24 hours after an intense workout is known as delayed onset muscle soreness.  Cold slows down enzyme rates and may slow the onset of pain.  Or may reduce its intensity.

Bacon NT, Wingo JE, Richardson MT, Ryan GA, Pangallo TC, & Bishop PA (2012). Effect of two recovery methods on repeated closed-handed and open-handed weight-assisted pull-ups. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 26 (5), 1348-52 PMID: 22516908

CrossFit, The Paleo Diet, Alcohol and Vodka

CrossFit, Paleo Diet, alcohol and athletes.

Main points:

  1. alcohol slows recovery from training and exercise
  2. alcohol increases decline in muscle performance
  3. alcohol impairs nerve response to training and exercise.

About alcohol and athletes and the paleolthic diet (the paleo diet): a lot of athletes follow it.   Especially CrossFit athletes.  And I’ve been hearing a lot about alcohol in the CrossFit community.  Questions floating around have been:  Is Vodka the best drink for people following a paleo diet?  And Is Vodka best for CrossFit?  I’m not sure why these questions are coming up so often.  I would attribute it to geekery.  People with geeky tendencies spend a lot of energy tweeking and micro-adjusting.  You can see this a lot in the Paleo diet community and among CrossFit people as well.  This tendency seems to come with the drive for perfection.

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I was asked an interesting question by a teenager who has cut milk and juice out of his diet because they are “unhealthy”.  He follows the paleo diet.  You don’t need juice or milk to have a healthy diet.  But the question was not about that.  The young person asked if he should drink Vodka because he had read that it was “the healthiest drink.”

Is drinking alcohol good for athletes?

That was funny.  You might think “good try bud.”  But it wasn’t all funny because he is sincere in wanting to be healthy.  And sincere in following the paleo diet.  I mentioned the story to an adult friend who is also follows the paleo diet and received “funny” and authoritative response.  “That is actually true.”  Where is this idea about vodka coming from?  I thought “maybe Mark’s Daily Apple?”  But Mark is pretty good about outlining the good and the bad.  Alcohol can be quite dangerous when used recklessly.  It can also be dangerous when used in ignorance.  Are there other teens out there who think they should be downing vodka after weighlifting?  Other adults?  Is alcohol bad for athletes? Is alcohol Paleo?

A young boy rests between lifts at CrossFit Seven in Fort Worth, TX.  This is not the kid who asked about Vodka

Looking at alcohol and athletics from current research: athletes should not drink alcohol after training.  Even moderate amounts slow recovery.  And even moderate mounts reduce strength (Barnes et al. 2010).  Alcohol also seems to impair activation of muscle contraction. (Barnes et al. 2012).  For a current (2010) review of what’s known and what still needs work the Vella paper is a good place to start.  You can read it free here.

Research so far, and a lot of anecdotal evidence, indicates that alcohol (ethanol) is not good for athletic performance.  And that alcohol is not good strength gain.  Feel free and comfortable telling this to any teens who ask about alcohol and health.  Or about alcohol and athletes.  As for the “is alcohol paleo?” question one could think about evolution and selective pressure.

Is Alcohol Paleo?

Since the Paleo Diet is an attempt to follow a pre-agricultural diet we’ll have to use our imaginations to answer that question.  Were paleolithic people (or monkeys or australopithecus) who drank alcohol more likely to reproduce and pass along their genes?  Let’s guess yes on reproduction.  Survival of offspring  . . . might depend on how drunk, how often.  Let’s guess the occasional handful of fermented berries would have given best odds.

Barnes MJ, Mündel T, & Stannard SR (2010). Acute alcohol consumption aggravates the decline in muscle performance following strenuous eccentric exercise. Journal of science and medicine in sport / Sports Medicine Australia, 13 (1), 189-93 PMID: 19230764

Barnes MJ, Mündel T, & Stannard SR (2012). The effects of acute alcohol consumption and eccentric muscle damage on neuromuscular function. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 37 (1), 63-71 PMID: 22185621

Vella LD, & Cameron-Smith D (2010). Alcohol, athletic performance and recovery. Nutrients, 2 (8), 781-9 PMID: 22254055 Barnes MJ, Mündel T, & Stannard SR (2010). Acute alcohol consumption aggravates the decline in muscle performance following strenuous eccentric exercise. Journal of science and medicine in sport / Sports Medicine Australia, 13 (1), 189-93 PMID: 19230764

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.

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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

CrossFit Research: Endurance, Resistance or Alternating Workouts?

Two athletes talk about nutrition and fitness
Two Paleo CrossFit-ters discuss something at CrossFit Seven in Ft. Worth.

Research for CrossFit

There has been very little research specifically on CrossFit.  However there is a lot to learn from studies that have focused on resistance and strength.  And on Endurance and Strength.

Which is better?  Should you do endurance exercise first and then resistance?  Or resistance training and then endurance?  It looks like alternating your routine gives the best results in terms of performance.  New research published this month reports on the effectiveness of mixed exercise routines in women.  Groups of untrained women were asked to do one of the following:

1. Run on a treadmill for 30 minutes, then do resistance training
2. Do resistance training, then run on a treadmill for 30 minutes
3. Spent 10 minutes on a treadmill then do a set of resistance exercises.  Repeat 3 times so the total endurance exercise was 30 minutes, and 3 sets of weights were done.

Results for alternating workouts (like CrossFit workouts).

Women in the third group put out greater energy expenditure, greater oxygen consumption, greater rate of ventilation and exhaled less oxygen than women in groups 1 and 2.  The results might hold true for men.  Will will assume they do until someone reports otherwise.  This would mean running before weight training, and then switching to weight training followed by running (or swimming, cycling, etc).  People ask about this a lot.  For most people doing endurance before lifting feels more natural. That is probably because it is easier.

This does sound like a CrossFit study.  And it also sounds like a CrossFit approach to fitness is really harder (and more effective) than other approaches.  If you are wondering: “what is CrossFit?” click the link.  The new study also reports that women perceive their level of exertion as greater when they lifted before running.  Exertion is often uncomfortable and most people will try to minimize the discomfort they feel during exercise.  However, if you trying to improve your overall fitness (as CrossFit does) you would do well to vary your routine (Di Blasio et al. 2012.)  This is something Cross Fit advocates as a general principle.  You will get better at what you work at.  If you only work at one thing, you will only be trained for one thing.

CrossFit SouthCentral athletes prepare for CrossFit games at CrossFit Seven.

How to deal with workout discomfort.

Looking for a way to reduce horrible feeling you get when pushing through a challenging workout? Try caffeine. Caffeine may help blunt sensations of pain and allow to do more reps or go harder and faster (Green et al. 2007.) Stop if you feel you have injured yourself or are feeling pain in the chest or along the arm. Dealing with burn is one thing. Being foolish is another.

  

Di Blasio A, Gemello E, Di Iorio A, Di Giacinto G, Celso T, Di Renzo D, Sablone A, Ripari P. 2012. Order effects of concurrent endurance and resistance training on post-exercise response of non-trained women. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 11: 393-399.

Green JM, Wickwire PJ, McLester JR, Gendle S, Hudson G, Pritchett RC, & Laurent CM (2007). Effects of caffeine on repetitions to failure and ratings of perceived exertion during resistance training. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 2 (3), 250-9 PMID: 19168925