More caffeine: it kills pain, even in habitual users

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

***

A new study from the University of Illinois finds yet another way that caffeine boosts performance. Twenty-five cyclists performed intense half-hour exercise sessions, after consuming either a caffeine pill or a placebo; the caffeine group experienced less pain in their quadriceps. Interesting, but not earth-shattering, since we already knew that caffeine is probably the most versatile and powerful legal performance enhancer out there.

What’s most notable is this:

“What we saw is something we didn’t expect: caffeine-na├»ve individuals and habitual users have the same amount of reduction in pain during exercise after caffeine (consumption),” [said lead researcher Robert Motl].

This is the phenomenon discussed last week: even if you drink several cups of coffee a day, you’ll still get the same performance boost from a caffeine pill that a complete abstainer will. (And it may even work better for you, since you won’t be knocked off-balance by caffeine’s effects.) Nobody’s really sure why it works this way, but the Illinois study provides more evidence that it’s true.

Exercise decline and aging: chickens and eggs

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

***

I just noticed a new paper in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology by University of Ottawa prof Bradley Young and his collaborators, who have produced a series of interesting studies on masters athletes. In this case, they were looking at the lifetime training of competitive 10-kilometre runners between the ages of 40-59, exploring the following idea:

Researchers have contended that patterns of age-related decline are not necessarily due to age, but rather to disuse, or declining practice.

In other words, everyone knows we get slower (and weaker and feebler and so on) as we get older. But how much of this is directly due to aging, and how much is simply because we’re less active than we were in our salad days? Continue reading “Exercise decline and aging: chickens and eggs”

Follow-up: “supplements” v. “sports supplements”

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

***

After Friday’s column on probiotics, vitamin D and ZMA, I received a very interesting e-mail from Reinhold Vieth, a University of Toronto professor who is one of the world’s leading experts on vitamin D, and who has also conducted research on probiotics. It’s never good news to get an e-mail from a respected researcher who says that, on the topics on which he is an expert, “I came to verdicts opposite to yours today.” Continue reading “Follow-up: “supplements” v. “sports supplements””

Supplements, part two

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

***

The second part of the Jockology series on supplements is now up on the Globe and Mail site, taking a look at probiotics, vitamin D and ZMA. I expect to get some disagreement on this one — ZMA, in particular, has a very strong following, and vitamin D is the hottest supplement on the planet these days. In both cases, it seems clear that correcting deficiencies can have an enormous effect, both on performance and on health in general. But the existing research hasn’t convinced me that athletes need more than anyone else.

That being said, these questions are far more complex than the “true” or “false” labels that appear in the newspaper column. So if you think I’ve missed some key information or gotten it wrong, let me know!

Bonus supplement: coenzyme Q10

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

***

The supplement: Coenzyme Q10.

Used for: Endurance, power.

The evidence: Coenzyme Q10 is one of those supplements that has been lingering for decades, with no one quite able to prove or disprove its benefits. It’s a vitamin-like substance that we produce naturally, found in every cell in the body, and it has several key roles including fighting free radicals (i.e. it’s an antioxidant) and producing ATP, the essential cellular fuel. There are studies dating back to the 1980s claiming that CoQ10 improves everything from anaerobic threshold to aerobic power — but there are as many or more studies, using similar dosages and protocols, that didn’t find any benefit at all.

Generally, if it’s that hard to prove an effect, it means the benefits probably aren’t that great. But a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition last year proposed an interesting alternative. Researchers from Baylor University suggested that the problem is that most oral CoQ10 supplements simply aren’t bioavailable enough to be taken up in the muscles. So they tried a new “fast-melt” version of the supplement (whose manufacturer, it should be noted, funded the study), and they monitored CoQ10 levels both in the blood and in the muscle cells of their subjects, during a double-blind trial. Continue reading “Bonus supplement: coenzyme Q10”