Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rigors of competing

If you’re a serious athlete it's essential to build strength in the winter if you intend to compete at consistent levels throughout the season. Another words don't waist the winter if you plan to compete in endurance sports. Due to the rigors of racing and muscle-catabolism for energy, you lose strength as the season progresses. Come late Aug.-Sept it’s not uncommon to have only 75 - 80% of the strength you had at the beginning of the season. It mostly depends upon the weight-loss you experience, most serious athletes end up losing about 2-5lbs of muscle during the course of a season. This is especially true if you do a lot of long distance running events or compete in cycling events in the 75 - 100 mile+ range. It might not be that noticeable because you don't utilize max-strength often, but the percentage of max determines the efficiency. Early in the season, you may only be using 30-40% of max-strength during most of a race. By the end of the season, to maintain that kind of speed, you have to use 50-60% of max-strength. This won't be as efficient and will consume more oxygen for the same power-output and muscle fatigue will set in faster as well.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ammonia buildup and fatigue

All athletes long to be their best whether it's for personal goals or driven by competition. Sometimes correcting small details in training and nutrition can make a surprisingly big difference. Currently, ammonia buildup during workouts or competing is getting more attention these days. High ammonia levels are a toxic by-product that accumulates during intense exercise and is a primary factor in fatigue.

All anaerobic and endurance exercise produces ammonia, from an endurance standpoint the longer you exercise the more ammonia you produce. Science still doesn’t understand how much it contributes to fatigue, but it does know that the higher your blood ammonia the more it affects your performance. Ammonia inhibits the energy cycle by affecting the formation of glycogen. It also affects brain function and interferes with your focus.

Many individuals take in levels of protein prior to workouts but many proteins contain glutamine including whey protein. Glutamine, while an excellent ammonia scavenger, should be only taken after workouts not prior or during. Glutamine will initially elevate ammonia when metabolized but then scavenges it to a lower level. It could take 3 or more hours for this process to occur. You don't want to elevate ammonia levels at all when exercising, so watch your proteins prior to training. You should note if your working out for over 90 - 120 minutes you need to add some protein into the fuel mix, as up to 15% of you energy needs comes from protein. Just make sure it does not have any added glutamine, and if it does use it after exercise for recovery. Another nutrient called OKG (ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate) is getting serious attention by professionals in sports nutrition these days. While the actual biochemistry is complicated OKG provides a rapid, non-ammonia-producing source of glutamine in the body and is a very effective ammonia scavenger. It is anti-catabolic, a good source of arginine and supports the immune system.

I've always been somewhat skeptical of supplement claims because of the profit incentive of some companies but I've been using OKG for over a year now. I have no real concrete evidence to prove anything; all I can say is how I felt using it, compared to not using it. On the days that I’ve used it I seem to have a strong second, then third wind of endurance. It's proven to be very consistent in my findings. More companies are including it in their supplement line such as Hammer nutrition and GU's new version of Roctane. 2 companies I do respect for their products. As for side effects, it's been taken in levels of 10g per day for as long as six weeks without reported side effects. The only side effect that has been reported is diarrhea in dosages above 15g per day.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thoughts on Cramping

There's really no solid one reason why we sometimes cramp when training, most are just theories. The 2 most popular are dehydration or electrolyte imbalances and just pushing oneself beyond your fitness level until training allows your body to adapt to the stress. These arguments make sense as cramps seem more common in the heat when body fluid levels decrease.

I'd like to throw out 2 other reasons that seem to have some merit. One is the result of burning protein for fuel in the absence of available sugar. Some research in this area confirms that subjects with the highest levels of ammonia release during exercise were more likely to experience cramps. High Ammonia levels indicate that higher levels of protein are being used as fuel. Ingesting whey protein before exercise can elevate these ammonia levels. Second, poor patterns of movement during say running or cycling might be causing activation of the Golgi tendon organs. The Golgi tendon reflex protects the skeletal muscle from excessively loads by causing the muscle to relax. These "strain gauges" are built into the tendons to prevent muscle tears. There could be something upsetting the Golgi organs that sets off a cramping pattern.

The only way to deal with a cramp coming on is slow down or try to stretch the muscle out which can be difficult depending if your competing. Of course the other option is pinching your upper lip which some athletes swear by, Odd, but true.