Masters Athletes NOT Using Recovery Methods but Should!!

Introduction 

Using recovery strategies after training and racing means we bounce back quicker for the next training session. Young high performance athletes eat and drink straight after races and training, they get massages and use the methods science has shown work, such as compression garments or ice baths. My masters athlete research team at CQUniversity have just completed an online survey of Queensland veteran cyclists because we wanted to learn about their current training and recovery practices. The results relating to recovery practices shocked us. Very few vet cyclists use recovery strategies!

The Research

We surveyed 212 male and female veteran cyclists aged 35-82 years. To our surprise, 47% of both male and female veteran cyclists do not using any form of recovery strategy after racing or training.  The percentage of users did not differ between male and female.  In order of use, the following recovery methods were used by the veteran cyclists as a group:

  1. Stretching (40% of riders)
  2. Carbohydrate-protein mix (38%)
  3. Active recovery (35%)
  4. High glycemic index foods within 30 minutes of exercise (29%)
  5. Massage (25%)
  6. Compression garments (25%)
  7. Hot-cold showers (19%)
  8. Ice baths (7%)
  9. Pool running (6%)
  10. Spa baths (5%)

Other strategies were used including ‘beers’, hot baths and one response that we can all relate to at times –  3 double-shot lattes, a lay down on the couch and hoping not to cramp-up!!

The So What?

Our research strongly suggests that both male and female veteran cyclists are poor users of recovery strategies following both training and competition. Using these scientifically-proven methods of recovery is critical to enable us to bounce back between training days or between races on the same or subsequent days.

A few years ago, the chief recovery scientist at at the Australian Institute of Sport, Dr Shona Halson, undertook a research project examining the common recovery strategies used by the world’s leading athletes, coaches and sport scientists. She rated the majority of the strategies into categories based on the then research evidence and what these coaches, athletes and sport scientists practiced. The table below shows the ratings of the strategies that work.

Table 1: Ratings (High and Medium-High) of commonly used recovery strategies.

High

Medium-High
Contrast water treatment Active recovery
Compression garments Water therapy (e.g. spas)
Ice Massage
Stretching Pool work
Nutrition

Sleep

The bottom line is we need to use what science says work, not waste valuable family, work, leisure and training time on strategies that waste our time or even worse, no strategy at all!! Get to it fellow masters athletes – recover hard and recover smart!

For specific details (e.g. water temperatures, times to hold stretches or have hot/cold showers, what specific foods to eat etc etc) on how to recover using all the methods outlined above, see chapter 15 of my book The Masters Athlete. Now available in pdf format as  whole book with individual chapters such as the recovery chapter also available as a pdf.

Tapering for Competition – Whats’ the Latest?

Introduction

Ah the art of tapering or peaking for an event! Those last few weeks or days before a major event where we hope that all those weeks, months or years of training, commitment and sacrifice come together to maximise our performance on the big day! Part science, part art, and part experience, a recent review published in a respected peer-reviewed journal has looked at all the studies conducted on tapering to give us the latest on what science says works when it comes to the taper.

One of the world’s leading sport scientists in the area of tapering and co-author of this paper is Inigo Mujika. He defines a taper as: a progressive, nonlinear reduction of the training load during a variable amount of time that is intended to reduce the physiological and psychological stress of daily training and optimise sport performance.

Training load is reduced by manipulating training intensity (how hard you train), training volume (eg k’s per week), training frequency (times per week), the pattern of the taper, the duration of the taper, and the training load leading into the taper. Here is what the research has found in relation to these variables:

  1. Intensity of training: Conclusively, intensity of training needs to be maintained throughout the taper for all sports and events. Intensityshould not be reduced or increased when dropping training load during the taper.
  2. Volume: In 2007, a major analysis of all tapering studies available at that time showed that the greatest improvements in sports performance took place when training volume (eg. k’s per week) was reduced by 41-60% (about 50%) of pretaper values. Moreover, the same research showed that this drop in training volume should be done by reducing each training sessions duration, not how often you train.
  3. Frequency of training: Decreasing training frequency has not been shown by research to improve performance. The research suggest that training frequency be maintained during the taper.
  4. Pattern of the taper: The figure to the right shows four of the common types of taper undertaken by coaches and athletes. The fast decay method with a large drop in training volume initially that tapers off closer to the event appears to be the most effective.
  5. Duration of taper: A taper of between 8 to 14 days is suggested by the research to be the range shown to be most effective for athletes. Any longer and the effects of a drop in training volume start to appear and any shorter the effects of fatigue may result. The taper duration may be influenced by the training load leading into the taper with the greater loads meaning longer tapers. Each athlete should input to what length of taper may work best for them.
  6. Pretaper tarining load: Some research has suggested that boosting training load by 20% in the 28 days leading into the taper improves performance over normal training loads leading into taper. Research we conducted in our own laboratory supports this. We found that 4 weeks of overloaded training followed by 2 weeks of taper lead to greater performance (improvemenst of 7% in 3k run time trial) in team players than those players who did the same taper after normal training loads.

Recent research has also identified a number of other factors that may enhance tapers. These include:

  • Light massage to reduce muscle fatigue, particularly when combined with wearing compression garments.
  • Compression garments following training and during long-haul flights or car travel.
  • Cold water immersion following training
  • Sleep in a dark, calming and cool environment preceded by a warm shower.
  • Short naps no longer than 20-30 minutes.
  • Maintaining hydration status during taper and particularly in the 48 hours before the major event.
  • Carbohydrate loading, particularly in the three days prior to the event.

Hope these tips help. For more on tapering and the specific of the recovery strategies above, see Chapters 10 (Periodisation and peaking for the masters athlete) and 15 (Recovery strategies for the masters athlete) of my book The Masters Athlete

Source: Le Meur, Y, Hausswirth, C., and Mujika, I. (2012). Tapering for competition: A review. Science and Sports, 27(2): 77-87.

Chocolate Milk for Recovery? – I Like That Idea!

Introduction

There has been a lot written about the importance of recovery nutrition in athletes young and old. Historically, it was all about taking in high glycemic index food or fluids within 30 minutes of finishing training or racing. Then sport science found that adding protein in a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio enhanced recovery and muscle repair. Big business jumped in and developed new products to make it easier for athletes to enhance their recovery and make it easier to back up for training or racing the next day or even the same day. Now some recent recent research is suggesting commercially-available flavoured milk might just do the trick.

The Research

After determing their cycling VO2max and 40 k cycling time trial performance, ten (5 male, 5 female) trained cyclists and triathletes aged 18-39 years visited the lab on three separate occasions  after an overnight fast. On each of the three visist they cycled at 70% of their VO2max for 90 minutes (hard work) then 10  minutes of alternating one-minute  intervals at 40% of VO2max then 90% of VO2max. This protocol was designed to deplete their muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores. They then recovered in the lab for 4 hrs and received one of three treatments immediately after the glycogen-depleting bike ride and then again 2 hrs into the 4 hr recovery.  Muscle biopsies were taken immediately after the glycogen depleting ride and at 45 and 240 minutes into recovery. The three types of recovery drinks (see table below) were a commercially-available chocolate milk, a carbohydrate drink matched for energy content, and a placebo drink made up of some artifical sweetener and flavouring.

Table 1: Energy and composition of recovery drinks (per 100 mL)

Ingredient Chocolate Milk Carbohydrate Drink Placebo
Carbohydrate (grams) 11.5 15.2 0
Protein (grams) 3.7 0 0
Fat (grams) 2.1 2.1 0
Energy (Calories) 79.1 79.1 0
Ratio Carb : Protein 3.12 : 1

They then did a 40k time trial on the bike to see which recovery drink improved 40k time trial performance the best.

The Results

The 40 k time trial was faster after using the chocolate milk recovery drink (79.4±2.1 min) than the carbohydrate (85.7±3.4 min) or placebo (86.9±3.3 min) drinks. Muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) resynthesis after the four hour recovery was higher in both the chocolate milk and carbohydrate compared to the placebo condition but not different between the two carbohydrate drinks. Crucially, the cholcolate milk containing the protein and carbohydrate increased protein synthesis markers (suggesting muscle recovery) to higher levels than both the carbohydrate and placebo drinks at 45 minutes into recovery.

So What?

The results of this study strongly suggest that taking a carbohydrate-protein drink after hard training or racing can improve subsequent performance and provide a greater stimulus for muscle repair and adaptation compared to carbohydrate drinks alone or plain water. This is why I use products such as Accelerade or PureSport after hard training or racing. They work, particularly when combined with all the other recovery strategies discussed in detail in Chapter 15 of  my book The Masters Athlete.

Source: Ferguson-Stegall, L. and others (2011). Postexercise carbohydrate-protein supplementation improves subsequent exercise performance and intracellular signaling for protein synthesis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(5): 1210-1224.

Getting more sleep improves performance

Introduction

Sometimes it’s just not easy to get a good nights sleep. Maybe it is stress of work, family or relationships, training too hard, something we ate or drank earlier that day that keeps the mind racing. Whatever it is, you just toss and turn and always wake up feeling tired and below par when trying to train. So how important is sleep for sports performance? While little research has been conducted on sleep and it’s relationship to sports performance, here is some recent American research that says more sleep improves performance.

The Research

Eleven healthy students on the Stanford University (USA) men’s basketball team (mean age 19.4 ± 1.4 years) maintained their normal (470 ± 66 minutes a night) sleep-wake schedule for a 2-4 week baseline period followed by a 5-7 week sleep extension period. During the extra sleep extension block, the athletes obtained as much nocturnal sleep  (624 ± 68 minutes a night) as possible with a minimum goal of 10 hours in bed each night. Measures of athletic performance specific to basketball were recorded after every practice including a timed court sprint and shooting accuracy (free throws out of 10, three-point field goals) . Reaction time, levels of daytime sleepiness, and mood were also monitored.

The Results

Total nightly sleep time increased significantly during sleep extension compared to baseline by 110.9 ± 79.7 minutes. The athletes demonstrated a faster timed sprint following sleep extension (16.2 ± 0.61 sec at baseline vs. 15.5 ± 0.54 sec at end of sleep extension). Shooting accuracy improved significantly with free throw percentage increasing by 9% and 3-point field goal percentage increasing by 9.2%. Mean reaction time and the Sleepiness Scale scores decreased following sleep extension and the basketballer mood state scores improved with increased vigor and decreased fatigue subscales. Subjects also reported improved overall ratings of physical and mental well-being during practices and games.

So What?

This unique study highlights the importance of quality sleep in maximising both training and playing performance – at least in young basketball players. As highlighted in Chapter 15 (Recovery Strategies for the Masters Athlete) of my book The Masters Athletesleep is crucial for recovery, performance, and maximising the immune system in older athletes. The same chapter lists the actual key strategies for getting a good night’s sleep and highlights which recovery strategies science says work and how to use them. Indeed, from a health perspective, research has shown that getting between 7-9 hours sleep a night is crucial for longevity and prevention of some chronic diseases. Click here to read more.

Source: Mah, C. and others (2011). The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep, 34(7): 943-950.

Yoga – Does it Benefit Physical Fitness?

The IntroductionYoga Class

Interest in yoga is growing, especially among older adults. But does it positively affect fitness is the question. More importantly, what affect might it have on the various factors of fitness including strength, flexibility, balance, and body composition or endurance capacity? This review critically summarized the current literature to investigate whether physical fitness and function benefits happen through the practice of yoga in older adults. It suggests yoga will benefit balance, flexibility, lower body strengthand weight loss but not aerobic fitness in older adults.

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