Tag Archives: crossfit

Caffeine Timing, Time of Day and Athletic Performance

Summary: athletic performance is generally better in the afternoon than in the morning.  Caffeine timing may be important.  Caffeine levels peak in the blood stream 30-60 minutes after ingestion.  Muscles are more responsive to caffeine in the afternoon over morning.  Caffeine abstinence before-hand gives stronger effect.

Compete, if possible, in the afternoon over the morning.

Caffeine timing: caffeine peaks 30-60 minutes after ingestion
Caffeine timing: caffeine peaks 30-60 minutes after ingestion. Check out the designs for WODWOMEN at WODMASTERS

Athletes perform better in the afternoon and early evening than in the morning. This is the case for weightlifting as well as for endurance exercise like running, swimming and cycling.  Even penmanship is less precise in the morning.  Possibly it’s a warm up issue.  But it looks like a circadian rhythm issue too.  The circadian rhythm is an internal clock that regulates what you do during a day.  It regulates sleeping patterns.   Also body temperature, hormones and fluid regulation. Muscle response to stimulation is stronger in late afternoon.  A 2012 study (Mora-Rodriguez et al.) looked at electrically-induced response in weight lifters.  And they looked at voluntary contraction too, comparing morning and afternoon response.  All weightlifters were men.  All were described as highly trained elite weightlifters. The weightlifters lived in a research facility and were denied caffeine for 4 days before testing.  (That must have been tough.) The study also compared voluntary and electrically induced response in the morning with and without caffeine.  If you are wondering “what is caffeine” get some coffee.  Lifters were given caffeine on a body weight basis.  Caffeine was taken 60 minutes before performance testing.

Study Details: Caffeine Timing, Weightlifting and Performance.

  • Test times were at 10:00 am and 6:00 PM.  Caffeine intake was 3mg per kg.  (if you weigh 80kg.  that’s about 240 mg or  about one 12 ounce cup of extremely strong starbucks style coffee.)  Caffeine was taken 45 minutes before lifting.
  • Morning performance vs. evening performance
  • Morning performance with Caffeine supplement vs. Placebo.

Caffeine Timing  Results

Katie of Crossfit Seven is beautiful at months.  She is sporting a WODMASTERS All-Seeing Eye Pood shirt
Katie of Crossfit Seven is beautiful at 8 months. She is sporting a WODMASTERS All-Seeing Eye Pood shirt

Strength and power output with placebo was better in the evening by 3% to 7.5% over morning strength and power output.   Caffeine in the morning increased strength and power output by 4.6% to 5.7% for squats when compared to no morning caffeine.  Electrically invoked response increased by 14.6% and nerve activation jumped 96.8%.  Squats seemed to be more caffeine dependent than bench press.  Maybe mornings are just meant to be spent drinking coffee.

If you are doing Crossfit Open competitions:

This site started as a site for Crossfit Masters Athletes, so here is the info for Crossfit readers:  For people trying to qualify for regionals or the CrossFit Games 2013 this could be important.  Do your Open CrossFit WOD’s in the afternoon.   If you can.  Caffeine in the morning will get your muscles up to the level they’d be if you did your workout in the afternoon.  So when you are competing during a morning WOD, have some coffee 45 minutes before the event.  And don’t forget the four days of abstinence before hand.Last note: caffeine peaks in your blood stream 30-60 minutes after its taken.

  • Abstain from coffee for 4 days before your event
  • Drink Coffee 30-45 minutes before you start
  • Do your event in the afternoon if possible

Note: Tablet or pure caffeine may not give the same results as coffee.

The study discussed here was of the effects of caffeine on athletic performance.  Coffee may provide additional benefits.  You can read more about the effects of coffee vs caffeine here.


Mora-Rodríguez R, García Pallarés J, López-Samanes Á, Ortega JF, & Fernández-Elías VE (2012). Caffeine ingestion reverses the circadian rhythm effects on neuromuscular performance in highly resistance-trained men. PloS one, 7 (4) PMID: 22496767

Age and Exercise-induced Muscle Damage can increase risk of heat stress.

Muscle damage and heat and age.

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
  • Being overweight
  • Various medical conditions
  • Already being under stress from lack of sleep
  • Being over-dressed
  • 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).

Heat Stress Experimental Protocol
Experimental protocol

 

Results

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.

Keeping cool.

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

CrossFit Workout and Heat Stress
CrossFit Workout At CrossFit Seven in Fort Worth, TX

 

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.
  • Heat cramps
  • Heat rash

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: 17197641 Fortes 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: 23559121 Inoue 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: 8891503 Smith 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

Honey for wounds, ripped hands, healing and pain relief

If you have tried Crossfit you have probably ripped your hands at some point.  Ripped hands can be painful.  They can also keep you from working out.  Let’s be frank: they look horrible.  Honey may help.  Honey has been used for medicinal purposes for millenia.  I would have dismissed the idea, but I’m investigating the plight of honey bees and colony collapse disorder. and came across some interesting studies of wounds, infection and pain.  There is good evidence that honey relieves pain, speeds healing and prevents or treats infection.  There is also evidence that honey provides anti-oxidants.  Let’s take a look.

Honey and wound healing

Honey may help speed wound healing by acting as an anti-inflammatory.  Application of honey reduces inflammation.  This helps reduce the amount of fluid seeping into the wound.  Reducing inflammation can also help with pain.  Part of wound pain comes from the pressure of swollen tissue on nerves.  Wound healing is also helped by preventing or treating infection.  There have been a number of studies showing faster burn healing with honey when compared to malfenide acetate, a widely used treatment for severe burns.

Honey and infection

Honey may help with infections in several different ways. Honey absorbs wound fluids that support bacteria.  However diluted honey also slows bacterial growth — so there is something else going on as well.  Honey has been found to be effective in inhibiting growth of many different types of bacteria, including MRSA microbes.  Honey is not an anti-septic.  It doesn’t kill bacteria on contact.  It seems to treat or prevent infection by inhibiting bacterial growth.  This would keep infections from developing.  Slowing bacterial growth would give the body’some help in fighting an infection too.

Honey and pain

Honey has pain-killing effects.  This has been testing in rodents.  Rodents can’t express their feelings of pain the way people can. However there should be no placebo effect.  Tests of rats show reduced pain-like behavior after pain infliction when honey was applied.  It is thought that, like other analgesics, honey . . . or something in it . . .  blocks pain receptors.  As mentioned above, honey may also reduce pain by reducing inflammation.

How to use honey for wounds

Medical grade honey is used in hospitals.  Medical grade honey is honey that has been irradiated.  Concerns have been raised about using regular honey for wounds.  This is because honey may contain chlostridium butlinum.  These are the bacteria that cause botulism.  Botulism can be fatal. The radiation kills spores without requiring heating.  Apparently heating honey can destroy some anti-bacterial properties.  Medical grade honey is available online or at some pharmacies if you are concerned about using off-the-shelf honey. Hospital protocol calls for applying honey to wound dressings and then covering the wound.  They also recommend changing the dressing twice a day, especially in the early stages of healing. While there’s a lot of interest in honey for wound treatment and it is being used in some hospitals some scientists advise against it.   Chochrane Reviews , for example advises against using honey for wound treatments because there have not been enough studies yet.  While honey has worked better than conventional dressings in some studies it may not work well under all conditions.  More research is needed to see how it stacks up against other treatments.

Does honey help on hand rips like you get in Crossfit?

This is a very good question.  I intend to try the next time I rip my hands.  Will post pictures.

Experienced As Hell WOD Masters T-Shirt
The WODMASTERS Experienced as Hell Shirt for CrossFit Masters and other tough nuts.

Blaser, G., Santos, K., Bode, U., Vetter, H., & Simon, A. (2007). Effect of medical honey on wounds colonised or infected with MRSA Journal of Wound Care, 16 (8), 325-328 DOI: 10.12968/jowc.2007.16.8.27851 Lusby PE, Coombes AL, & Wilkinson JM (2005). Bactericidal activity of different honeys against pathogenic bacteria. Archives of medical research, 36 (5), 464-7 PMID: 16099322 Owoyele BV, Oladejo RO, Ajomale K, Ahmed RO, & Mustapha A (2014). Analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of honey: the involvement of autonomic receptors. Metabolic brain disease, 29 (1), 167-73 PMID: 24318481 Comparison between topical honey and mafenide acetate in treatment of burn wounds

Crossfit Meme Generator

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.

Crossfit Meme Generator
Crossfit Meme Generator “No Burpees.” Join us. Wear the Shirt

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.

Experienced As Hell WOD Masters T-Shirt
The WODMASTERS Experienced as Hell Shirt for CrossFit Masters and other tough nuts.

Masters CrossFit Athlete John Mariotti Trains for the CrossFit Games 2014

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

crossfit shirts or kettlebell shirts for crossfit athletes
WODMASTERS Shirts for Men and the Women who think they are awesome.

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.”

John can be found at CrossFit Odyssey in Dallas, TX.

Iron Deficiency, Anemia and Athletic Performance

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.

Crossfit sports anemia Iron deficiency
A crossfit athlete trains for the games. Is iron deficiency hurting her performance?

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:

Anemia, Iron deficiency and Athletes
A crossfit athlete fatigues during the crossfit games. Fatigue increases risk of injury.
  • Increased maximal exercise performance
  • Increased VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption
  • Lower heart rate
  • Less fatigue
  • 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:

  • red meat
  • fish
  • poultry
  • beans
  • dried fruit
  • whole grains
  • chard
  • spinach
  • 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

Take Away

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 Need More Protein than Younger Athletes

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.
woman masters crossfit athlete high protein diet
Masters Crossfit Athlete competes in the Crossfit Games Open 14.1 in the 50-54 age category. She is wearing a WODMasters singlet. Check our designs.

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.

Cracked Earth Eye Pood Shirt
All Seeing Eye Pood Kettlebell Shirt for men. On request for women.

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.

Take away:

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

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