RESEARCH: studies reviewed this week - 3 August 2020 to 9 August 2020

TRAINING: Effects of 12 weeks of block periodization on performance and performance indices in well-trained cyclists

I shared a few different studies on periodisation before (biological background of BP; periodisation paradigms) and I'm convinced that it is a useful and viable methodology of training to have available. This study is useful because it compares block periodisation to traditional training over a 12-week period and it includes some details about how the blocks were structured:

One group of cyclists performed block periodization (BP), wherein every fourth week constituted five sessions of high-intensity aerobic training (HIT), followed by 3 weeks of one HIT session.

In comparison to the more traditional training programme (TRAD), the authors found that:

BP achieved a larger relative improvement in VO2max than TRAD and a tendency toward larger increase in power output at 2 mmol/L.
The present study suggests that BP of endurance training has superior effects on several endurance and performance indices compared with TRAD.

PRACTICAL TAKE AWAY - blocks of multiple days of high intensity training may provide a greater stimulus and response than a tradition plan. In particular, I think it's useful to consider

  • the block of 5 days of intensity in a week was followed by 3 weeks of lower intensity training.
  • this was performed by cyclists and it may be difficult to replicate as runners due to the impact and mechanical load.
  • This could be a valuable protocol for a training camp as long as it's followed with appropriate recovery.

TRAINING: In-season strength maintenance training increases well-trained cyclists' performance

I have sometimes struggled to know what is the best approach for performing strength training throughout the year. I believe in the value of doing strength training and I think it can be a useful focus area during the off-season. However, I haven't been certain about the best approach for maintaining this during the race season. Fortunately this study set out to investigate exactly that;

We investigated the effects of strength maintenance training on thigh muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), leg strength, determinants of cycling performance, and cycling performance. Well-trained cyclists completed...usual endurance training supplemented with heavy strength training twice a week during a 12-week preparatory period followed by strength maintenance training once a week during the first 13 weeks of a competition period.

The authors concluded that:

In well-trained cyclists, strength maintenance training in a competition period preserved increases in thigh muscle CSA and leg strength attained in a preceding preparatory period and further improved cycling performance determinants and performance.

PRACTICAL TAKE AWAY - keep doing strength training during the race season, but one session a week is enough.

NUTRITION: The effect of creatine supplementation upon inflammatory and muscle soreness markers after a 30km race

There are a few nutrition interventions that are known to work well and to have evidence that supports their use. The obvious example for endurance athletes is caffeine. Creatine has been shown to be beneficial for strength athletes, however, it can cause some water retention and has therefore not necessarily been studied in detail for endurance athletes (where weight is a critical performance factor). This study investigated the effect of creatine on inflammation and muscle soreness after a 30km running race.

The dosage used by the study was:

4 doses of 5g of creatine and 15g per day for 5 days.

The outcomes of the study were:

Creatine supplementation attenuated the changes observed for CK (by 19%), PGE2 and TNF-alpha (by 60.9% and 33.7%, respectively, p<0.05) and abolished the increase in LDH plasma concentration observed after running 30km.

The athletes did not present any side effects such as cramping, dehydration or diarrhea, neither during the period of supplementation, nor during the 30km race.

These results indicate that creatine supplementation reduced cell damage and inflammation after an exhaustive intense race.

PRACTICAL TAKE AWAY - creatine supplementation may be beneficial for endurance sports by limiting cell damage and inflammation. The recommended does is 5g/day for 5 days pre-race.

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