Sunday, March 30, 2014

Caffeine and sports performance

I'm not promoting the use of caffeine as a sports stimulant just presenting a summary of research behind the use of it for endurance athletes. For me personally, I'm kind of a coffee afficionado and have found its use beneficial in training.

Caffeine optimizes muscle fuel
Science has shown that caffeine causes your body to burn a higher percent of fat which is really a secondary energy fuel. When doing so it's sparing a small percentage of glycogen stores in your muscles. If you’re preserving some of your glycogen stores, your body is less likely to fatigue when training or competing anaerobically or at high intensities. The sparing effect is believed to occur during the first 12 - 20 minutes of the exercise. If you’re sparing glycogen early it can be utilized in the later stages of exercise in theory extending your endurance.

Caffeine and pain sensation
We're all very aware that endurance sports can be associated with a high level of stress on the body. Athletes are constantly trying to mentally and physically manage the pain brought on by the intensity of high level endurance sports. Caffeine is believed to stimulate an endorphin like release which aids in decreasing pain perception. It also seems to lower an athlete’s perception of effort for the same amount of actual physical output.

Elevates adrenaline
Research indicates that caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands to release adrenaline into your system, providing a rapid physical boost.  Strength and speed can elevate for a limited period of time, while the body’s ability to sense pain decreases.

How much
Caffeine is certainly a case of more is NOT better. High levels can actually have dramatic setbacks. The levels of Caffeine that are beneficial are dependent on factors such as weight and your regular intake as you can build a resistance to the stimulation. Virtually all research has concluded that moderate amounts are best for performance enhancement. Extended events such as an Ironman or ultra-races have a greater risk of dehydration, nausea and abdominal cramps making it very important to consider the side effects of caffeine as it's a mild diuretic. Be aware though that not everyone benefits from caffeine and some will experience side effects even at moderate doses. Like all sports nutrition strategies make sure you try caffeine in training before using it in a race situation.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Shimano SH R260 road shoes

It's no secret that over time your feet widen and lengthen especially if you’re a runner or cyclist. Mine are no exception, the constant pressure applied to my feet after years of endurance sports and gym time have no doubt changed my paws. High end cycling shoes that I purchased just over a year ago are now causing some numbness and hot spots due to metatarsal compression. The slight widening of my forefoot eventually pushes my toes against the sides of the shoe and it's only a matter of time before the pain and numbness set in.  I've been researching as many shoes as I possibly can for a replacement and decided to go the Shimano route. The new upper end Shimano road shoes now have a slightly larger toe box compared to their previous models. The top of the line R320 is only available in white in the US and I'm not a white shoe kind of guy, cool looking but not my preference. New for 2014 is the R260 just below the R320 and come in black and are almost identical except for a few minor items. The adjustable features with these Shimano’s is what attracted me. The soles are heat moldable with a selection of 3 arch pad configurations. First, you can use no arch insert or a mid (yellow) arch insert and lastly a (red) high arch insert. The inserts slip into a pocket in the sole, very simple. With the correct arch insert you can custom tune the bottom of your foot to have more contact area resulting in even pressure along the whole sole lessening "hot spots". If there's a space under your arch and then it flattens as you apply pressure, the ball of your foot and heal will have excess pressure placed upon them leading to issues. On the underside of the sole there is a metatarsal button that you can leave on or off depending on your feel. All in all there are five different elements of adjustment just on the soles alone.

The shoes themselves are heat moldable. They're placed in a shimano oven then placed on your feet. A vacuum bag is placed over the shoes causing the shoes to mold to the exact shape of your foot. The vacuum unit is also a shimano product so a shimano dealer with the oven needs to do the shoe molding if it's needed. I haven't done any heat molding as the shoes feel comfortable as is but that being said I've only been on the trainer as of yet. I will say these are the most comfortable shoes I've ever used to this point but it's still early. I did go with the wide version in size 44. The standard width fit well but I like a little extra in the toe box, just a personal preference. And when trying on shoes remember your feet are going to expand when riding especially in the heat. If they feel perfect in the store you might want to size up a half size. The best cycling shoes are the ones you never think about.

One of the differences with the R320 is that it has a silicon anti-slip heel-gripping liner while the 260 uses a standard cloth heel liner but I can't detect any slipping at all. Heel retention is excellent. Both shoes utilize the new +11mm longer cleat-adjustment range that allows more optimum foot, pedal, and shoe area of adjustment. Nice feature as I do run my cleats back a little further which takes pressure off the Achilles and calf muscle and places a higher level on the quadriceps. The R260's use Shimano’s new offset strap system that's designed to eliminate pressure points at the highest point of your foot where pressure tends to be the highest. Non-offset straps will sometimes ‘pinch’ the top of the foot which restricts the blood flow to the forefoot and pinches the nerves at the top of the foot. The Shimano offset straps cinch-down to the left and right of this sensitive area. The cooling vents are massive, the front vents look like air intakes on a jet aircraft. There is also plenty of vented material included in various parts of the shoe so if you use these in colder weather you'll really need shoe covers.

Both shoes have full carbon soles and the R260's are approx $80 less than the R320's. They weigh in at (size 40 per shimano website) 496 grams for the R260's and 470 for the R320's. Right now the shoes feel great but I’ll post an update after I put them through boot camp.
Good looking shoes and from my count 6 adjustable features, plus
you can heat mold the shoes and soles up to 3 times.

Arch inserts slip into a pocket or you can leave them out.
Yellow is mid and red is for a high arch.
Sole is heat moldable also.

Air intakes are monsterous

Full carbon sole. You have an additional 11 mm of cleat
adjustment if you need it. Great feature.

To loosen the ratchet just press the black tab

The optional Metatarsal pad sticks on.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Adapting to hot conditions

Personally, training hard in the heat equals a zen experience I can't really explain but I love it. When most cyclists would be indoors I'd be out on the baking asphalt using that time to understand how the heat would affect me and how I would deal with it. I've always acclimated well to those conditions but I always allowed myself to do it gradually.

The process starts in the first few days you’re exposed to higher temperatures, so long as you're training in hotter conditions for at least an hour a day over the duration of 3 to 5 days strait. Be sure your workout intensity and duration is gradually increased over those 3 or 5 days, gradual is the key here. Increased sodium intake may be necessary during the first 3 to 5 days since initially you'll experience more sodium loss.  After 7 to 14 days positive adaptations should have your sweat rate up, sodium loss down, blood plasma or volume level up and your perceived exertion level should feel easier. As your sweat rate goes up after 7 to14 days of being exposed to the heat, higher fluid intake is needed after you acclimate. Don’t' forget, pre - hydrating is a must due to the increased sweat rates you'll experience if your training for over a few hours. Even though sweat rates are up sodium absorption into the cells becomes higher.

Calories in the heat
As your body works harder due to the heat you burn more calories and calorie absorption is lessened so forcing yourself to eat enough becomes essential. From my own experience my appetite decreases in the heat while my fluid intake increases. Sweet tasting calories are less appealing in very hot conditions than in milder temperatures. In high temps combined with a high heart rate sweet stuff is just tough getting down. This seems to be a general theme with most endurance athletes. Many athletes will alter the foods they consume in very hot conditions so if you’re going to change your foods in hotter weather you need to experiment prior to any racing.

Friday, March 7, 2014

NYU School of Medicine

In March I'm enrolled in a course at NYU School of Medicine entitled "A mulitdisciplinary approach to treating the multisport and endurance athlete across age, gender and injury". It should provide some very qualified insight on training issues. Here is the course description;
Many studies are looking at swimming, cycling and running economy in the endurance athlete and how it translates to overall performance. Do certain biomechanical patterns lead to certain injuries and can modifying those patterns decrease the incidence of injury? With advanced technology and the use of more sophisticated tools for assessment and treatment of these athletes, aberrant patterns are becoming easier to identify. In addition, since multisport events are becoming more popular, more research in this area is being done and a better understanding of the medical, musculoskeletal, nutritional and physiological considerations are being reported. This conference will address medical emergencies, immunodepression and other considerations, cardiac complications, the new female triad, nutritional considerations, swimming, cycling and running biomechanics and injury rehabilitation and barefoot running in the multisport athlete.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Eccentric training

If your a runner, especially if your a runner you should consider adding to your winter training program eccentric movements in the gym. When we land while running we are landing at 2 to 4 times our body weight and our primary protection system is our muscles acting as shock absorbers or contracting eccentrically. The sudden jolt of landing is offset by the sudden contraction of the muscle bracing the landing. The opposite of an eccentric contraction is a concentric contraction in which the muscles propel the body foward or when the foot pushes off from the ground. Concentric movements are used heavily in the sport of cycling where there is no landing phase of movement just propelling. In running both are used though in cycling the concentric contractions are generally longer and deeper. Eccentric training can best be described as the lowering phase of a weight training movement. An example of a preventive injury movement for running is slowly doing heel drops for your calfs. Eccentric weakness in the calf muscles can contribute to Achilles tendinitis, an injury that can sideline your running for months. By simply performing eccentic movements in the off season your reinforcing your "shock absorbing" system.  Your muscluar system will become more reactive to impact also creating more stabilty thus improving your running performance as well.