Failure training can provide hands on experience with muscle fatigue. At a certain point, whatever muscle group you’re working can’t complete a full rep. But when you feel like collapsing to the floor after an especially demanding workout, that’s central fatigue telling you it’s time to hit the showers. An interesting study published online at ScienceDaily.com helps explain the mechanism involved.
The neurotransmitter serotonin is released during exercise, which helps you keep going. But when serotonin builds up to a certain level, your brain puts the brakes on the feel good effect by shutting down signals to muscles so they won’t continue working. Basically, your brain rewards hard work but protects you from taking it too far. Listen to your body.
Creatine is an organic acid naturally produced in your body by amino acids. It supplies energy to all cells, especially muscle cells where it increases the formation of ATP. Protein is also composed of amino acids, and a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition looks at the safety of creatine supplementation while adhering to a high-protein diet.
Subjects loaded creatine or a placebo by consuming 20 grams per day for 5 days followed by a 5 gram daily maintenance dose. They continued this supplementation routine for 12 weeks while sticking to a high-protein diet. Assessments of kidney function before, during and after the program revealed no significant differences.
True Strength Moment: This study adds to a mountain of research conducted over several decades. Creatine monohydrate ranks as one of the most studied sports supplements. It has consistently been shown to safely enhance muscle size, strength and power while assisting with exercise recovery.
There’s at least one type of completion where muscle mass holds back your performance. Even with greater strength and more muscle, sprinters can’t win a distance race against marathon-trained athletes. According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these athletes are separated by a protein called PGC-1alpha.
Aerobic endurance-trained effort is fueled by oxygen. Anaerobic exercises like weight lifting and sprinting let muscle produce energy without oxygen. This leads to the buildup of lactate which results in fatigue. Endurance training stimulates the production of the PGC-1alpha protein which alters enzyme composition to reduce lactate production.
True Strength Moment: Both competitive and recreational athletes tend to plan their training around performance in a single sport. This research illustrates the metabolic changes training can produce. Of course, there’s nothing that says a sprinter can do some distance work. Marathoners might have something to gain in the weight room. Rounding our deficits in physical ability won’t hurt your performance.
Everyone’s favorite choice for energy is caffeine. Your options include coffee, tea, soda and performance beverages formulated for pre-workout use. Nutrient savvy athletes recognize carbohydrates as a reliable source of lasting energy, especially if you go with slowly digested complex carbs from sources like sweet potato, asparagus and brown rice. A study published in the journalSLEEP explored the impact of fats on energy.
According to researchers, protein didn’t affect energy levels, but fat consumption can decrease energy and alertness regardless of your age, gender, amount of daily caloric intake or body weight. A study of 31 healthy subjects aged 18 to 65 showed that fat consumption can weigh heavily on sleepiness even if you enjoyed a solid 8 hours of sound slumber the night before. Of course, your body needs healthy fats for a variety of functions. The trick is to avoid over-consumption.
You’ve got plenty of options for cardio day. There’s treadmill and trail running, stationary bike and road cycling, lap swimming and jumping ropes. If you’ve got rhythm and a set of drums, a study published in theInternational Journal of Sports Medicine suggests playing rock star can burn a significant amount of calories.
Researchers had 22 young men with drumming experience complete a test that compared rock concert drumming to pedaling a stationary bike. Drumming burned about 623 calories per hour while cycling burned between 20% to 25% fewer calories. Heart rate while drumming averaged 186 beats per minute. For comparison, normal rested heart rate for adults in their 20s is about 100 beats per minute.
True Strength Moment: You wouldn’t perform the exact same weight training routine for longer than 6 to 8 weeks, because you understand that your muscles will have completely adapted to the stress by that point. To make further gains, you need to change up a stale routine and force your muscles to adapt to more sets and reps, greater resistance, a different order of exercises or whatever. Maybe it’s time to apply the same rules to cardio day.
If the empty calories and carbonation of soft drinks are holding you back in the gym, a study published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, will give you something else to consider. Researchers suggest that consuming just one, or one extra, sugar-sweetened soft drink per day can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 18% to 22%.
One study involved 350,000 subjects from 8 European countries while another looked at the diets of 12,403 individuals with type 2 diabetes. One extra drink was defined as a 12 ounce soda more than someone who drank one per day, so the increased risk of between 18% and 22% was the same for someone who had 2 sodas per day compared to someone who held intake to just one. The range of this increase fell slightly when caloric intake and body-mass index was factored in. Good thing you have plenty of other options for boosting energy and alertness.
The time you spend sleeping is also the longest your body goes without nutrition. This potentially catabolic situation is best handled with a slow digesting protein before bed and a high-protein meal in the morning to break this fast.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone produced in response to stress, including intense exercise, and it can decrease amino acid uptake by muscle tissue. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research offers tips on controlling morning cortisol levels before competition.
Eleven swimmers had their cortisol levels measured upon waking on the day of an actual swim meet, and also on a pre-determined day with no competition scheduled. Although levels weren’t all that different day to day, cortisol tended to increase with feelings of tension and anxiety.
True Strength Moment: If you’re facing the best of the best, it’s only natural that you’ll feel some pressure in the build-up to competition. Athletes who train themselves to effectively control their emotions might also be able to dodge any potential side effects that elevated cortisol might add. Winning isn’t all in your head, but it takes more than muscle to succeed at the elite levels of any sport.
What bodybuilders have known for decades is now common knowledge: Increasing the amount of protein in your diet can support weight loss and weight maintenance. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior reports that 43% of the women surveyed from a nationally representative sample of 1,824 participants consumed protein to help prevent weight gain. Those who said they lost weight consumed an amount of protein roughly equal to what’s recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
True Strength Moment: The committee’s report, which was produced by the USDA in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends 0.80 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. So a 140 pound person should try to consume 51 grams of high-quality proteins daily. One way to reach that goal is to start the day with a medium sized egg (5 grams of protein), have a tuna salad for lunch (24 grams per can) and a post-workout shake providing 22 grams of rapidly-digesting whey protein. Prepare your meals using skinless chicken breast or salmon the next day.
After you’ve been stuck at a plateau for a while, you might be tempted to cheat your way to the next level. While you’ll probably be able to manage greater resistance and/or more reps per set by shortening the range of motion, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Researchsuggests you’d be better off getting in the habit of maintaining form.
Recreationally active college aged males were asked to lift weights for 8 weeks, followed by 4 weeks of detraining. Some performed the full range of motion while others shortened the range of each rep. Not only did the full range of motion produce the biggest gains in muscle size and strength, subjects who did shortened reps experienced a greater loss of strength during the detraining phase.
True Strength Moment: While a shorter range of motion can help you change up a stale routine and possibly load the bar with enough weight to blast past a sticking point, this study suggests the technique should be applied sparingly. Sticking with it for 8 weeks didn’t work out very well for these research volunteers.