Leucine for recovery and endurance vs. speed

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I’m writing this before heading out for a camping trip. I’ll be packing up my tent for the return trip home when this appears so sorry if I seem a little short this week.

Leucine

We all know by now that taking in a protein/carbohydrate combination as soon as possible after a run will improve our recovery, right?

Well, now we know that leucine also plays a role.

First, what is leucine? In short, it’s an essential amino acid that the human body can’t produce so we have to get it from our diet. For more, see this Wikipedia article on it.

The good news? The super recovery drink known as chocolate milk has some leucine in it. Not quite at the levels used in the study but it’s there at some levels. Other options would be soybeans (chocolate soy milk?) and peanuts (some people like peanut butter as part of a post-run recovery meal). Again, you can see the Wikipedia article for more sources.

Endurance vs. speed

The eternal debate: how much endurance training do we need and how much speed training? It’s all about finding the right balance. Unfortunately, in today’s world, too many people want debates to be far more polarized. So we end up hearing that the best way to improve your aerobic capacity is HIIT training and you don’t need to train with long, easy or moderate workouts if you just do your HIIT training.

Steve Magness, one of my favorite bloggers, explored this in the context of the recent World Cup. Not surprisingly, he came to the conclusion that it’s all about finding the right balance.

Fascia, drafting as a placebo, dangers of tapering

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Another interesting batch of links this week in my opinion. Let’s jump right in.

Fascia

Most of us probably don’t think about our fascia short of that one well known part of it that runs along the bottom of our feet. However, it is extremely abundant throughout our bodies and important in so many ways.

Running Times had a good primer on it that I came across this week. I’d consider this a must read. I’m partly including it here so I can reference it myself and read it again.

Is drafting a placebo?

That’s the question Alex Hutchinson asked in one of his Sweat Science blog posts from this past week.

As usual, I think Hutchinson has a great point when he says there is a difference between placebo and avoiding mental fatigue. Just because something may not be measurable doesn’t mean it isn’t real. We may not notice a difference in wind resistance but that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits, as he points out, in terms of mental fatigue in drafting. I found myself thinking the same thing he wrote as I was reading the paragraph before he wrote it.

Of course, then I also found myself thinking the same thing he was about to write moments later. Sometimes, with some personality types, a runner may experience less mental fatigue by leading than by following. It all depends on the type of runner you are. Once again, know yourself and you’ll be able to decide the better strategy but we can’t overlook the benefit of pacers who make our jobs easier. Expending less mental energy worrying about pace early can mean having more mental energy later to push through the physical fatigue or to strategize.

Dangers of tapering

Most of us know the taper is quite possibly the most difficult part of a training plan there is. I probably spend more time thinking about the taper than I do anything else. What to do to get things just right? How to make sure you find that balance of enough rest without going stale from resting too much?

Well, Steve Magness has some thoughts on this. I always like Magness’s writings because he does such a good job of balancing the science of sports physiology with the art of coaching. This post is no exception.

So what’s his answer to what’s the right taper? As with most things, the answer is it depends.

Find what type of athlete you are and remember what event you are training for. Do you need the psychology of the routine? Do you need more speed/power? Are you more FT or ST orientated? What event are you tapering for?

These questions and more will hopefully help you solve the conundrum of tapering.

Good thoughts as always. Definitely worth a read.

Seeing blue, keep your arteries healthy and marathon battle of the sexes

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I read a lot of interesting things this week but much didn’t really seem to fit into a blog post well. Here are three that I thought might be interesting for the blog.

Seeing blue

I’ve long been a fan of the color blue. I think it shows in this site.

Well, maybe my next pair of sunglasses should have lenses that match my blue HillRunner.com gear.

The findings of this research suggest that exposure to the color blue improves performance of a muscular endurance based task. Such a simple and inexpensive performance enhancement warrants further investigation to explore different exercise modalities as well as effects of different colored lenses, and the mechanisms as to how color affects performance.

Red had no effect in this study.

I agree with the conclusion. Further study is warranted. Am I rushing out to buy a pair of sunglasses with blue lenses? Heck no. However, I will probably be in the market soon and will this cross my mind if a pair I’m considering has blue lenses? Along with the thought of how they would look with my HillRunner.com gear, sure.

Keep your arteries healthy

We all know the importance of being healthy. However, how could not being healthy affect our performance? There’s a lot of question about that, though I’ve always believed being unhealthy should obviously not be good for your performance.

Well, here’s some evidence of that.

Arterial health appears to be an important determinant of muscle oxygenation during exercise. In turn, the muscle oxygenation during exercise is strongly related to the V˙O2peak. Developing training modalities to prioritise arterial health outcomes may be a useful way of improving V˙O2peak in this population.

Now, this was sedentary middle-aged individuals (ages generally in the 50s). Maybe not a lot of carry over to highly active athletes in their 20s but why not? I’d love to see some studies on arterial health and how it affects well trained athletes at all ages.

Marathon battle of the sexes

Battle of the sexes. I love these. It’s interesting in how many ways we can find women are smarter than men. If we check who slows more in the second half, what do you think the results will show?

Men slow more than women in marathons. D’oh!

The sex difference in pacing is robust. It may reflect sex differences in physiology, decision making, or both.

I have my suspicions. In my experience, it’s the men who are far more likely to set unreasonable goals and refuse to give up on them until they begin walking at 20 miles. Women are more conservative in their goal setting and more willing to adjust their goals if unforeseen circumstances arise.

Heat, stretching and warmups

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

In an ironic twist, a day after my post on summer running went live I came across a study on what about the heat affects us. Also this week, pre-exercise static stretching and a better way to warm up?

First, what is it about the heat that affects our running? For the longest time, we’ve been told it’s that our core temperature rises to near dangerous levels and our bodies shut down to protect themselves.

Well, what if that’s not the case?

There were no group differences in core temperature and heart rate response during the exercise trials.

This capacity difference appears to result from a magnified core to skin gradient via an environmental temperature advantageous to convective heat loss, and in part from an increased sweat rate.

In short, the study had runners running in temperatures of roughly 64, 79, 93 and 108 degrees farenheit. It found no statistically significant difference in core body temperature or heart rate between runners running at these different temperatures. What it did find was that the difference between core temperature and skin temperature was lower and sweat rate was higher in the higher temperatures. The suggested conclusion is that these factors, not core body temperature, are what actually affect our performance in the heat.

Of course, this is just one study. It would be nice to see some follow up to see if others can produce the same results.

Assuming these results can be reproduced, though, how might we act on this? Well, I’ve always been a fan of pouring cups of water over your head and/or body at aid stations when racing in the heat. That would help cool your skin, which according to this would help your performance. Anything else you can do to help cool your skin would, presumably, do the same. This is probably the mechanism by which those chill vests some elite athletes use before warm weather races work.

Second, does static stretching affect our performance

The going concern over pre-exercise static stretching is that our power output is reduced. Well, it is…in some cases.

Basically, this goes back to something I have been seeing a lot of recently. If you static stretch a muscle for more than 45 seconds, its power output is reduced. If you static stretch for less, no reduction in power output.

So, if you feel like you need static stretching pre-run, do it. Just don’t hold it for too long. Personally, I’ve always felt better in races when I did some stretching pre-race but I don’t hold the stretches for long. So my takeaway from this is keep doing what I’ve been doing. That’s probably the takeaway most runners should get from this.

Finally, make sure you do some harder running in your warmups

I’ve long been a fan of warmups that increase in intensity. Start very easy, build up over time and finish with some strides at or slightly faster than race pace shortly before the start of the race. It’s just the way I’ve been taught to do my warmups and it makes intuitive sense. You’re preparing yourself to run hard so why wouldn’t you run hard as part of that preparation?

Scott Douglas writes about a study to delve into this a little deeper with some interesting results.

In short, runners did some strides and moderately paced running as part of warmups twice. In once case, they wore weighted vests during the strides. In the other case, they did not. After wearing the weighted vests, their running economy and peak speed improved.

What to make of this? Should we all go out and buy weighted vests? One interesting idea that comes to mind for me is using skipping exercises for exaggerated power output. Another is doing something like Jay Johnson’s lunge matrix, which I know he has mentioned as a good pre-race routine.

Cramps and Gatorade, Grit, taking in carbs during training

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Because I didn’t post on Monday last week due to a weekend trip with the family, I have two weeks worth of reading to catch up on. Hopefully, that means what I’m picking will be the best of the best. Twice as good? We can hope.

Cramps and Gatorade

I never thought I’d be linking to Deadspin but here you go (warning: some use of "adult" language included).

Here’s the thing: We actually don’t know for sure what causes a muscle cramp, despite what you may have heard from your high school football coach, or your half-marathoning buddy, or your gym-rat friend, or a sports-drink commercial. And the reason we don’t know has a lot to do with Gatorade and the "science" of hydration.

This summarizes what we know about cramping pretty well. I often thought, if cramping were all about hydration or electrolyte levels, why do runners get hamstring cramps, not biceps cramps? Well, this explains why not, given the current knowledge.

It also takes an interesting side trip into the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) and points out some shortcomings. Most notably, ask yourself if GSSI is about expanding our knowledge of sports science so Gatorade can make a better product, why as Gatorade remained essentially unchanged for decades? Is their job to improve the product or improve the marketing?

Grit

The title says it all: How Much Grit Have You Got?

…individuals who believe that frustration and confusion are signs that they should quit what they are doing may be taught that these emotions are common during the learning process. Likewise, individuals who believe that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs may be taught that the most effective form of practice …entails tackling challenges beyond one’s current skill level.

I just love that quote. Obviously, grit is very important for success at anything. I would say this is especially true in running. You need to sustain that long term interest mentioned in this article and you need to have those long term goals and not give up on them. I strongly believe we can train our grit. We can become grittier individuals. It takes a lot of hard work but it can be done.

Taking in carbs during training

Finally, a topic I’ve been interested in for some time. I am a strong believer in the idea that you have to train while fueled sometimes and while not fueled sometimes. For runners, this means taking in calories on some long runs and not on others, maybe even not taking in calories before or during some long runs. Those fueled long runs will help your body become more efficient at processing the calories you’re ingesting and using them. The unfueled long runs will help your body become more efficient at burning fat and teach your body to use more fat early on, even when glycogen is still ready available. In addition, they will stimulate changes that will help the body store more glycogen.

Well, here’s a review that backs up that idea.

Finally, athletes should practise ‘train-low’ workouts in conjunction with sessions undertaken with normal or high CHO availability so that their capacity to oxidise CHO is not blunted on race day.

Have fun, static stretching and a miracle hamstring exercise?

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

It appears I’m borrowing heavily from the New York Times Well blog this week. No conspiracy, it just happened to have a couple very interesting things in it that I’d like to share and, for the first, expand on.

Have Fun!

First, some comments on Losing Weight May Require Some Serious Fun:

In that pursuit, the researchers first recruited 56 healthy, adult women, the majority of them overweight. The women were given maps detailing the same one-mile outdoor course and told that they would spend the next half-hour walking there, with lunch to follow.

Half of the women were told that their walk was meant to be exercise, and they were encouraged to view it as such, monitoring their exertion throughout. The other women were told that their 30-minute outing would be a walk purely for pleasure; they would be listening to music through headphones and rating the sound quality, but mostly the researchers wanted them to enjoy themselves.

Those women who’d been formally exercising reported feeling more fatigued and grumpy than the other women, although the two groups’ estimates of mileage and calories burned were almost identical. More telling, when the women sat down to a pasta lunch, with water or sugary soda to drink, and applesauce or chocolate pudding for dessert, the women in the exercise group loaded up on the soda and pudding, consuming significantly more calories from these sweets than the women who’d thought that they were walking for pleasure.

In other words, if you’re doing a chore, you are more tired, grumpy and likely to "reward" yourself by eating unhealthy "treats". If you’re out for a pleasure walk, the exact opposite.

This goes along with something I’ve said for a long time. We’re all better off if we do something we enjoy. Personally, I love running. It’s a release for me. It’s a joy to be out running. Can you believe, though, that I’ve actually encouraged some people to quit running and try something else? It’s true. I’ve had several instances where people have told me they dread running, they hate it but they want to keep running to stay healthy. Then they ask me how to keep at it. My answer is, if you don’t love running, don’t do it. Try bicycling, rollerblading, hiking, pick-up basketball, volleyball, touch football. Find something to do but make it something you enjoy.

Why do I tell people to quit running? Because it just makes intuitive sense. If you don’t like something, if you consider it a chore, two things are likely to happen.

First, you need to reward yourself for doing the chore. For those of us who love running, the run itself is the reward. For others, it’s very likely that bad habits like eating junk food will be the reward.

Second, you’re much less likely to keep doing it. Running is such a pleasure for me that I’ve never had trouble continuing to do it. Sure, I sometimes have trouble keeping the hard training going but my day isn’t right if I don’t at least get out the door for something. I have more trouble taking time away from running, even if it’s a single day, than I do getting out because my run is one of the best parts of my day. If running isn’t that for you, though, you’re not going to keep at it. I’d rather see you quit running right now and find something else you like to do instead than try to keep running and end up quitting in frustration and not picking up something else you might like more.

So keep running…if it’s what you like to do. If not, find something you do like to do and keep doing that.

Static stretching

Static stretching has been a hot topic of debate for some time now. Does it reduce or increase injury risk (answer: depends)? Does pre-run static stretching reduce running economy (answer: not likely unless you’re holding the stretches for unusually long periods of time)?

Well, this study takes a look at how it affects pacing in a 3K time trial. The results?

The overall running time did not change with condition (SS 11:35+/-00:31 s; control 11:28+/-00:41 s, p = 0.304), but the first 100 m was completed at a significantly lower velocity after SS. Surprisingly, SS did not modify the running economy, but the iEMG for the BF (+22.6%, p = 0.031), stride duration (+2.1%, p = 0.053) and range of motion (+11.1%, p = 0.0001) were significantly modified. Drop jump height decreased following SS (9.2%, p = 0.001).

I found it a little disturbing that they so soundly bought into the theory that static stretching affects running economy but I’m glad they pointed out that they didn’t find that in their study. The evidence is out there. This isn’t the first study to find these results.

That said, the results are interesting. You start slower over the first 100 meters after static stretching but there is no statistically significant difference in finish time. What does this tell us? I’m not sure. But it is another piece of evidence that pre-run static stretching does not in fact affect running economy. The evidence now suggests you’d have to hold your stretches for well over 30 seconds to do that. As I mentioned, the evidence is there. We need to get people paying attention to it.

A miracle hamstring exercise?

A hamstring exercise that can result in 70% fewer hamstring injuries?

In a 2011 study, 942 Danish soccer players were randomly assigned to either an off-season program of the Nordic exercise or normal training. In the subsequent season, those following the Nordic exercise program experienced 70 percent fewer injuries than the control-group athletes. Players who had previously suffered hamstring damage saw 85 percent fewer injuries.

The article notes that, according to "at least" a half dozen studies, injury rates may decrease by almost two-thirds with the use of this exercise.

This almost seems too good to be true but a half dozen studies suggests there is more here than just random chance. I’m still not completely sure what to do with this but, if I had a history of hamstring injuries, I think I’d be trying this exercise right now. I actually did pass this along to a runner I coach with a history of hamstring problems as soon as I finished reading it and I hope she considers trying this.

More coming Thursday. I started writing a post sharing a couple links and I realized it quickly was turning into too much to combine with my "have fun" comments into one single post.

Exercise: Good for your brain, not bad for your body

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I read three interesting articles over the past couple of weeks pointing out the value of exercise for keeping your brain in good shape. Add to that an article pointing out that "extreme" exercise isn’t bad for the body and the message is clear: keep running!

I think the benefit of exercise for the brain is a very fascinating topic. Given that we used to think brain decline was inevitable as we age, it’s fascinating to see that we can improve our brains as we age – and the key is exercise.

First up, from Runner’s World, Masters Athletes Have Superior Brain Function:

The results suggest that older athletes have a lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to Tseng. But he emphasizes the key message here is the extraordinary benefits of long-term exercise – and that it’s never too late to start.

"Brain plasticity [changes] can happen even later in life and that’s an important message from the study," he says, noting that some of the athletes began running in their 40s and 50s.

Next, from Science Magazine, How Exercise Beefs Up the Brain.

In short, exercise stimulates the production of proteins that are very good for the brain.

Finally, from the Washington Post, Need a brain boost? Exercise.

According to recent research, a single workout can immediately boost higher-order thinking skills, making you more productive and efficient as you slog through your workday. When you exercise your legs, you also exercise your brain; this means that a lunchtime workout can improve your cognitive performance, thanks to blood flow and brain food. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, is a protein that facilitates the growth of neurons and nourishes existing ones. It improves executive function, a type of higher-order thinking that allows people to formulate arguments, develop strategies, creatively solve problems and synthesize information. BDNF sits idly at the synapses of your brain neurons and crosses the synapses only with the increased blood flow that comes with exercise.

Hey, BDNF is that same good protein from the prior article. What to take from these two combined? That BDNF that is produced through exercise is good for both short term boosts and long term brain development/maintenance.

On to what exercise does to the body, we have ScienceNordic weighing in with Debunked: extreme exercise isn’t harmful:

One conclusion was that mortality rates did not increase more than usually compared to the normal population. It’s been proven on more than one occasion that exercise has a positive effect on life span.

"There’s no basis in the literature to say extreme exercisers risk dying younger," says Overgaard. "But we don’t know what happens if you continue past your prime." Exercise doesn’t automatically mean a free pass to a long life, he adds; there’s still the risk of illness and diseases.

So it’s not a silver bullet but those who claim we’re killing ourselves off are just plain wrong.

So keep running. You’re doing your brain a favor and not harming your body.

Muscle memory, protein and muscles & strong hips make happy knees

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Wow, did I get to read a lot of great things this past week! So many, in fact, that my Thursday post may be a second installment of this type of post. Here are four of my favorites on three very interesting topics.

Muscle memory

For many years, I’ve believed it’s always easier to get back to a level of fitness once you’ve been there than it is to get there the first time. I remember talking about this idea with teammates in high school and college.

Now, we know at least part of why that may be physiologically.

As far as the muscles go, there are structural changes within your muscles (more nuclei) that occur as a result of training and do not seem to be lost when not training. This gives the formerly fit a head start on those who have never been fit.

This study was specifically about muscle strength. While muscle strength does give a runner an advantage, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if similar things happen in relation to aerobic conditioning. No research I’m aware of on that idea yet, though.

Protein and muscles

Two very interesting reads on this topic this week:

First, from Alex Hutchinson at the Runner’s World Sweat Science blog, a post on the basics of protein and muscle.

Second, from Science Daily, a full serving of protein at each meal is better for muscles than the typical American diet of a small amount of protein at breakfast, a moderately small amount at lunch, then a massive amount at dinner.

I actually read the Science Daily article first and, as I was reading it, I recalled something from a long time ago that I wanted to look up. Then the Sweat Science blog post covered it. Thanks for coordinating so well!

What I wanted to look up was the largest useful dose of protein. Hutchinson states this is 20-25 grams for a typical healthy adult, up to 40 grams for older adults.

In this case, it makes perfect sense that aiming for 30 grams per meal will be better for the muscles than 10 at breakfast, 15 at lunch and 65 at dinner. After all, depending on the individual, somewhere around half of those 65 grams at dinner are wasted and likely converted into fat.

The moral of the story: balance your protein intake. That probably means increase it at breakfast and lunch and drastically reduce it at dinner.

Strong hips make happy knees

This was a review of research on treating Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (aka Runner’s Knee).

I’ve found myself often saying recently, when something hurts, look up for the root cause. If your ankle or foot hurts, look toward the calf. If your IT band hurts, look toward the hips. Well, if your knee hurts, look toward the hips also. Including hip strengthening exercises in a treatment regimen for Runner’s Knee appears to make the regimen much more successful.

I consider this another reminder that we need to look at our bodies not as a series of individual, unconnected parts. Instead, we need to look at them as the interconnected, interdependent linkages they are. If one body part hurts, it often means a strength imbalance or lack of flexibility somewhere else. Treat the symptoms but also find and deal with the root cause or you’ll be facing a constant battle.

Polarized training and the benefits of having a coach and teammates

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Sorry beet juice fans but no news on beets or juice derived from them this week. I hope you don’t mind.

What I do have is still interesting, though.

Olympic speed skaters and polarized training

I’ve often talked about making your easy days sufficiently easy so your hard days can be sufficiently hard. Ed is probably sick of this topic and I’m sure others are ready for me to stop harping on it also.

Well, here’s a review of the training programs for Olympic speed skaters over a 38 year period. The main factor in performance isn’t time spent training or time spent on skates. In fact, there seemed to be no relation (of course, Olympic speed skaters are all spending a lot of time training obviously). The difference in times at that level was most closely correlated to how polarized their training was.

When they discuss polarized training, they are basically discussing the idea of keeping your easy days easy and your hard days hard. The easier your easy days are and the harder your hard days are, the more polarized your training is. As this research suggests, the more polarized your training is, the faster you are.

Of course, this is looking at speed skaters but it’s a good indication of what works. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find the same in distance runners. I’d love to see this kind of review done with distance runners.

The benefits of having a coach and teammates

It should be no surprise that I’d argue there are a lot of benefits to having a coach. I’d argue the same of teammates. In a coach, you should have someone who is committed to your success and should be capable of guiding you down the right path. In addition, though, both a coach and teammates can give you people you feel accountable to. You don’t want to let down your coach or your teammates.

Well, that seems to be the case for masters swimmers.

In short, the swimmers were more committed to their training, whether doing it individually or in a team setting, when they had the support of a coach and teammates. Of note, though (emphasis added by me):

The findings suggest that in order to increase participation in masters swimming teams and reduce non-supervised training, coach and teammates should exhibit a supportive attitude and avoid over expectation.

None of this "old school" tough guy coaching. Your coach and teammates should be supportive and not place the burden of expectation too high. I’d agree with this. I don’t like the "old school" philosophy. It’s never made sense to me. Your coach should build you up and fill you with confidence, not beat you down.

Injuries, antioxidants and more on beets

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

To think, by Friday morning I was worried that I might not have anything to post this week. Then I got flooded Friday and Saturday morning with some interesting research.

First, a couple studies on injuries:

This meta-analysis of studies on the effectiveness of different kinds of exercises to prevent sports injuries had some interesting results.

In general, physical activity was shown to effectively reduce sports injuries. Stretching proved no beneficial effect, whereas multiple exposure programmes, proprioception training, and strength training, in that order, showed a tendency towards increasing effect. Strength training reduced sports injuries to less than one-third. We advocate that multiple exposure interventions should be constructed on the basis of well-proven single exposures and that further research into single exposures, particularly strength training, remains crucial. Both acute and overuse injuries could be significantly reduced, overuse injuries by almost a half. Apart from a few outlying studies, consistently favourable estimates were obtained for all injury prevention measures except for stretching.

In short, stretching doesn’t appear to be helpful in preventing injury but strength training and proprioception (balance) exercises have very positive effects.

That doesn’t mean that you should stop stretching if you already do so and it feels good. Personally, when I don’t stretch after a run, I feel it during the rest of the day and the next day. That said, don’t just assume it will make you injury free. Better to focus on strength and coordination for injury prevention. What I’m taking home from this is that the proprioception exercises I do sporadically should be a more consistent part of my auxiliary training routine and I should probably be stressing both them and a basic strength routine (something I’ve already been thinking a lot about) more with the runners I coach.

This review of studies (which I found via Running Research Junkie) looks at the causes of injuries. The conclusion kind of speaks for itself:

The main risk factor identified in this review was previous injury in the last 12 months, although many risk factors had been investigated in the literature. Relatively few prospective studies were identified in this review, reducing the overall ability to detect risk factors. This highlights the need for more, well designed prospective studies in order to fully appreciate the risk factors associated with running.

As many of us have surmised for quite some time, the greatest risk factor for injury is prior injury. This is one of the reasons why one of the first questions I always ask a runner I’m new to coaching is about their injury history. I would love to see a deeper dive into why prior injury is such a great risk factor. I have a couple suspicions. First, people tend to rush back too quickly after an injury and re-injure themselves. Second, people often treat the symptoms and not the causes. This results in the underlying cause of the injury still being present when the runner begins running again and the injury recurs.

Other causes mentioned are frequency and volume of running. To me, this isn’t a great surprise. The more you run, the more you risk something happening. Just like the more you walk, the more you risk tripping over your own feet (especially if you have my coordination).

Of note, gender was not associated with higher injury risk in most studies.

On to antioxidants:

This study investigated oxidative stress in cyclists and the effects of antioxidant supplementation.

The data suggest that well-trained athletes with suitable ultra-endurance training volume and intensity do not require antioxidant vitamin supplements to adapt their endogenous antioxidant defenses to exercise-induced ROS.

That pretty much sums it up. Another study that says antioxidant supplementation is unnecessary.

More on beets:

Last week, in my first post of this style, I mentioned beet juice and how it seemed to not help most well trained middle distance runners.

Consider this a follow-up on the topic. This study took an interesting look at nitrate (beet juice extract) supplemtation.

In the study, they took untrained men and had them supplement with beet juice concentrate and a placebo. They then tested these participants for voluntary and involuntary (initiated by electrodes) muscle contraction.

Voluntary contraction force production was statistically similar but involuntary contraction force production, depending on intensity, was either 5-10% greater (at sub-maximal intensities) or 3-15% greater (at maximal intensities).

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it suggests that there is a physiological benefit, at least for untrained individuals, of nitrate. Second, it suggests the central nervous system may somehow counter that so your real world results will not be as greatly enhanced.

Shortly after I read through this, Alex Hutchinson at the Runner’s World Sweat Science blog posted on it and had some interesting insights. Very much worth a read.

It would be very interesting in my opinion to see this kind of test, with voluntary and involuntary force production, done with trained individuals.

Finally, if you see anything interesting, I’d encourage you to comment here with it. Maybe I’ll blog on it next week. If not, at the very least, we can discuss it in the comments.