ATHLETE x SCIENCE
ATHLETE x SCIENCE
Running economy is not an innate ability but must be developed through coordination skills and then refined by more advanced training. Over time, a functional coordination pattern replaces the generalized one, the number of muscles activated decreases to only the necessities, and energy cost reduces. Beginner endurance athletes initially have a steep adaptation curve as they acquire general fitness just by putting in miles, often regardless of how those miles are structured. When a non-athlete first begins a training program, significant neuromuscular adaptations occur to create basic coordination which lays the foundation for biomechanical efficiency (running economy).
Running economy is defined as “the steady-state oxygen consumption at a given running velocity.” (Bonnacci, et al. 2009). In other words, better running economy equates to a more efficient use and recycling of oxygen during a workout. There is a direct correlation between running economy and performance; improving economy through training has a positive effect on performance. To develop the most efficient mechanics possible, we must create optimal muscle recruitment patterns. This conserves the greatest amount of energy used per stride. Well-trained, advanced runners have extremely refined muscle recruitment patterns compared to novice athletes. Positive adaptations to training are a function of a learned response where the body acquires specific movement patterns linked with ideal task completion.
As a runner masters the skill in practice through repetition, they experience an observable decrease in muscle activation, recruitment of synergists, and variation in movement. In other words, even the most complex skill will form the simplest, most efficient muscle activation pattern.
To learn about training adaptation in the realm of triathlon, read more at https://simplifaster.com/articles/adaptations-to-training-for-runners-and-triathletes/
Intense physical exercise creates an inflammatory stress reaction within the body, which can produce both adaptive and maladaptive physiologic responses. It has be undetermined by prior research, whether or not antioxidant supplementation during training may encourage the adaptive state (Slattery et al., 2015). If reactive oxygen species accumulate in excess, athletes may experience the symptoms of overtraining such as chronic fatigue. Uncontrolled oxidation of molecules can result in lipid, protein, and DNA damage, which results in diminished cellular function (Slattery et al., 2015). DNA damage is caused by an alteration in the pathways of transcription and can interfere with the positive outcomes generated for DNA adaptation to exercise-induced stress (Slattery et al., 2015). Disturbances in homeostatic balance can affect the function of other systems as well, such as metabolic, neuroendocrinologic, oxidative, physiological, psychological, and immunologic. Both antioxidants and branched-chain amino acids can help combat the effects of exercise induced oxidative stress.
Antioxidants and Inflammation
Antioxidants work by converting reactive oxygen species to less reactive molecules to eliminate additional stress. There is an endogenous mechanism for which combats the build-up of oxidative species during exercise. A low dietary intake of antioxidants can result in a decreased ability to utilize this endogenous reduction mechanism (Slattery et al., 2015). An excessive intake of antioxidants can cause an opposing reaction, suppressing the redox signaling process at a cellular level, hindering the beneficial effects of exercise at this level (Slattery et al., 2015). Consequentially, the exogenous antioxidant intake can prevent adaptive exercise processes from occurring during and after exercise. One study showed that administering 1,000IU of Vitamin C and 400IU of Vitamin E inhibits training-induced increases in skeletal muscle protein (Slattery et al., 2015).
Antioxidants have been shown to improve the exercise-induced inflammatory state that occurs as a result of musculoskeletal insult. Supplements such as Co-enzyme Q10, tart cherry juice and pomegranate juice can accelerate recovery by reducing inflammatory damage (Slattery et al., 2015). Most studies consist of an acute bout of exercise to induce drastic muscular damage for the purpose of testing, and then supplementation is compared against a control for immediate study (Slattery et al., 2015). Prolonged supplementation of these antioxidants can potentially have the same negative redox effects as mentioned above, however there are no long-term studies on this in particular (Slattery et al., 2015). It seems as though there is an optimal dosage of antioxidants that can create an adaptive, anabolic, regenerative, and enhanced state of performance and recovery, as seen in the figure below. Further research needs to be done to solidify that reference range for the various antioxidant supplements available to athletes.
Continue reading the full article and other sport science research at https://simplifaster.com/articles/supplements-combat-exercise-induced-inflammation-oxidative-stress/
There is a fine line between a healthy habit and an addictive obsession. The phrase ‘healthy obsession’ is really an oxymoron, since obsession is arguably a pathological, diseased state of the mind, and therefore not healthy. Definitions for obsession range from ‘compelling motivation’ to ‘compulsive preoccupation’. However you want to label it, obsession relates to an altered state of consciousness in which the need or compulsion to do a certain act overpowers all else, becoming a priority over all other needs and obligations in a person’s life.
When exercise becomes the obsession, the risk of dependence is lurking like an obsequious servant. You may have heard of the so called, ‘runner’s high,’ which presents as a euphoria from the natural opioid-like chemicals, called endorphins, released in the brain during exercise (Freimuth, Moniz, & Kim, 2011). Another theory proposed to explain the euphoric mechanism has to do with catecholamine release, which directly improves mood, attention, movement, and the body’s endocrine/cardiovascular responses to stress (Freimuth et al., 2011).
For a habitual runner, the “high” comes further and further into the run as tolerance is built. The desire to reach euphoria creates an internal drive and self-motivating factor that increases pain tolerance in order achieve this elevated state with every workout. The reward is greater with every level breached and a dependency on the feeling of euphoria is created, much like a drug addiction. Addiction is most likely to occur when the behavior is the primary or sole means of coping with internal distress (Freimuth et al., 2011), or at least the only successful outlet. Dependency requires that the person commit to the exercise no matter the cost, through injury and illness alike.
According to Modolo et al. (2011), compulsive athletes report four components of addiction: 1) feeling euphoria, 2) the need to increase the dose of exercise to obtain feelings of well-being (tolerance), 3) difficulties in the performance of professional or social activities (rearrangement of priorities) and 4) symptoms of the absence or need, including depression, irritability, and anxiety, when unable to engage in the activity (withdrawal). This study also found a direct relationship between the intensity of exercise and the severity of withdrawal symptoms (Modolo et al., 2011). The time spent preparing for, engaging in, and recovering from workouts and the continuance despite exacerbating physical, psychological, and/or interpersonal problems are two more signs that a healthy habit has turned into a neurotic addiction (Freimuth et al., 2011). More negative characteristics include low self-esteem, the use of exercise as management or manipulation of psychological states, increasing body dissatisfaction, and chronic vulnerability to overtraining injuries (Gapin, Etnier, & Tucker, 2009).
The physical manifestations of exercise dependence have been most documented in distance runners; persistent soft tissue injuries (sprains and strains), stress fractures, pressure sores, gastrointestinal blood loss and iron-deficiency anemia just name a few of the damaging side effects observed in this population (DeCoverly Veale, 1987).
From a genetic standpoint, asymmetry in the brain has been correlated to negative emotions and psychological dysfunction. One study in particular found a relationship between frontal lobe brain asymmetry and exercise addiction, implying that exercise directly activates and alters the part of the frontal lobe responsible for affect and mood, thereby improving negative emotions (Gapin, Etnier, & Tucker, 2009). There are often feelings of guilt associated with the absence of or inability to exercise for even one day, and dieting to improve performance is common (DeCoverly Veale, 1987). It should be noted that there is a strong risk and link between eating disorders and excessive exercise, since it is often the primary means of weight loss (DeCoverly Veale, 1987). It is important to distinguish one from the other, usually by analyzing the motive for exercise and other associated symptoms that may point toward the diagnosis of an eating disorder.
Some of the most serious athletes in the world walk this fine line of obsession and addiction with every training run. Coaches need to be aware of both the psychological and physical warning signs that an athlete is falling into this trap. It is much more difficult to reverse the psychology after breaching the point of exercise addiction, and professional intervention may be required. It is the coach’s responsibility to create a healthy mindset and training atmosphere whilst keeping the training intensity high enough for performance gains.
Ensuring that an athlete takes rest seriously and recovers on “easy” days without deviating from an “easy” pace, are two simple ways to keeping an overly driven athlete in check. For those self-coached athletes, it is even more imperative to take a step back from yourself and do a self-assessment, asking your own body from an objective standpoint and answering honestly. It’s important to remember that a healthy athlete, both mentally and physically, will have a more sustainable, successful athletic career without sacrificing other needs and obligations in life.
DeCoverly Veale, D. M. W. (1987). Exercise dependence. British Journal of Addiction, 82(7), 735-40.
Freimuth, M., Moniz, S., & Kim, S. R. (2011). Clarifying exercise addiction: Differential diagnosis, co-occurring disorders, and phases of addiction. Int. Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8, 4069-81.
Gapin, J., Etnier, J. L., & Tucker, D. (2009). The relationship between frontal brain asymmetry and exercise addiction. Journal of Psychophysiology, 23(3), 135-42.
Modolo, V.B., Antunes, H. K. M., deGimenez, P. R. B., Santiago, M. L. D., Tufik, S., & deMello, M. T. (2011). Negative addiction to exercise: Are there differences between genders. Clinics, 66(2), 255-60.