Monthly roundup: March 2018

I’ve been reading a lot of good things this month. So much, in fact, that I might give you a bonus roundup next week.

For now, though, I have three interesting topics to share. First, we know caffeine is a performance booster but does it work for everyone? Second, who should we be modeling our running mechanics after? Third, how well do we do at monitoring our hydration during workouts?

Does caffeine work for everyone?

We’ve known for a long time that caffeine is a performance booster. I remember hearing about that back in the 90s and doing some research and a personal experiment on that. I studied up on not just why it works but correct dosages and how long before a race you should take it to get the benefit. I then used a summer road race to put this research to the test.

Things didn’t go well. I ran a horrible race, my energy was off, and I just didn’t feel like myself.

So what went wrong? Some people told me I should try it again but I never did. I guess I was just scared of a repeat performance.

So was I wrong to not try it again? Maybe not.

Some people are apparently genetically predisposed to not just not benefitting from caffeine but even performing more poorly due to it. People with one specific gene variant, in fact, performed on average 13.7% worse. That’s a big drop off.

It’s also a great reminder. Just because people, on average, improve due to something doesn’t mean everyone will. If something is supposed to help you but you try it and it doesn’t help, don’t just assume you’re doing something wrong. Consider the possibility that you’re not average and maybe it’s just not going to work for you.

Who should we be modeling our running mechanics after?

Another flashback to the 90s. I remember some people telling me I should be modeling my running form after Carl Lewis, at the time the greatest sprinter in history. I listened but was never fully sure of this advice. After all, Lewis never raced for more than a minute and was best known for races taking about 10 seconds. I never raced for less than a minute and was best at races that took over 10 minutes.

We were both running but also doing very different types of running. He was maximizing for speed and I needed, in almost all cases, to maximize for efficency and conservation of energy.

Steve Magness shared his thoughts on just this topic. In short, sprinters and distance runners have different aims. If you want to model your running form after someone, don’t think of Usain Bolt unless you’re in the last 100 meters of your race. Instead, think of Eliud Kipchoge or Mo Farah.

How good are we at monitoring our hydration?

We all probably have some method of monitoring our hydration level during a workout? Many people will try to estimate the amount they sweat and the amount they drink during a workout. They usually under estimate how much they sweat and over estimate how much they drink. As a result, they end up more dehydrated than they realize.

Now, during a workout, I would argue this isn’t as big of an issue as many people these days make it out to be. It’s OK to finish a workout a little dehydrated as long as you rehydrate as soon as possible after. The problem becomes when you assume you are more well hydrated than you actually are and, as a result, don’t drink as much as you need after the workout is over.

A simple rule of post-workout hydration: drink early and often. Drink until you need to use the restroom. Then drink normally, letting thirst guide you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *