RESEARCH: studies reviewed this week - 4 May 2020 to 10 May 2020

NUTRITION: Significant Effect of a Pre-Exercise High-Fat Meal after a 3-Day High-Carbohydrate Diet on Endurance Performance

In this study the authors tested the difference between a pre-race meal that is high in carbohydrate versus a pre-race meal that was high in fat. The base condition of this test was that the subjects had completed a 3-day CHO loading strategy prior to the race. The idea that they were testing was that the glycogen stores may already be full from the loading protocol, that more CHO pre-race would not improve glycogen levels, and that a high FAT meal may promote fat oxidation during the endurance exercise.

In addition to high FAT meal consumed 4 hours before the test, the athletes consumed either a placebo or a maltodextrin source of energy 3' prior to the test.

The results showed that following a 3-day loading period, the high FAT pre-race meal 4 hours before the test and consuming maltodextrin jelly just before the test resulted in the best performance:

These results suggest that ingestion of a HFM prior to exercise is more favorable for endurance performance than HCM. In addition, HFM and maltodextrin ingestion following 3 days of carbohydrate loading enhances endurance running performance.

PRACTICAL TAKE-AWAY - a potential optimal pre-race nutrition strategy:

  • Final 3 days before the race: CHO loading protocol of ~2500 kcal/day with 70% carbohydrates, 20% fat, and 10% protein.
  • 4 hours before the race: high FAT meal of ~1000 kcal with 30% carbohydrates, 55% fat, and 15% protein.
  • 3 minutes before the race: CHO intake (maltodextrin) of ~400 kcal.

Important considerations:

  • A full 3-day CHO loading protocol may not be necessary. Raúl Celdrán pointed out that a 36-48 hour loading protocol may be sufficient to full glycogen stores.
  • The CHO intake immediately prior to the race should be low GI in order not to spike insulin levels. ie the maltodextrin jelly was optimal rather than a gel. Thanks to Alan Couzens for pointing this out.

TRAINING: Biological Background of Block Periodized Endurance Training

Block periodization is a well known and established methodology of organizing training. This paper looks at the biological processes that allow for the adaptation and physical development from following this type of approach:

Specifically, voluminous extensive accumulation blocks stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis and protein synthesis in slow-twitch muscle fibres, whereas lower-volume intense workloads of the transmutation blocks evoke adaptive modifications in fast-twitch glycolytic and oxidative-glycolytic muscle fibers.

TRAINING: Polarized and pyramidal training intensity distribution

This study compared the two types of training intensity distribution of polarized training and pyramidal training. What makes it particularly interesting for endurance athletes is that it applies to a half-ironman performance whereas most of the work showing the benefit of polarized training looks at shorter events. The details of the two training protocols were a distribution into three zones (VT2) as follows:

  • Polarized training: 84,5%, 4,2% and 11,3%
  • Pyramidal training: 77,9%, 18,8% and 3,3%

The results of the studies showed benefits from both training intensity distributions, with pyramidal being more effective for running:

Both training distributions showed a significant positive effect on the performance of the triathletes in the three segments. The only difference between groups was in running. PYR group showed a statistically significant improvement in the speed associated at VT2 and MAS in running and in POL this improvement was not statistically significant.

PRACTICAL TAKE-AWAY - selecting your training distribution:

  • The majority of training should be at low intensity, ~80% below VT1 or in Z1 and Z2 of a 5-zone model.
  • Most higher intensity training should be at a similar intensity to race pace - this will be much slower than typical high intensity interval sessions for endurance athletes.
  • There is less benefit from training at a very high intensity for an endurance compared to training at close to race pace.

ATHLETES: Developmental Biographies of Olympic SuperElite and Elite Athletes: A Multidisciplinary Pattern Recognition Analysis

I'm always interested in learning what differentiates the best from the rest. This paper tries to identify the factors that differentiates Olympic Gold medal athletes from the rest. There are fortunately some useful points that all athletes can think about:

  • Super-Elite athletes resembled Elite athletes in their practice, competitions, and performance development up to early adulthood, and only contrasted with them during adulthood.
  • Super-Elite athletes’ engagement was also characterized by greater efficacy of sport-specific practice within adulthood, in that they engaged in comparable annual training volumes but continued to improve in performance at a very high level over more years.
  • Super-Elite athletes developed a psychological make-up that may have been particularly suitable to provide an elevated sense of control (Bandura, 1986). Besides extensive practice, this included a strong mastery focus and endeavor addressing performance under pressure.

PRACTICAL TAKE-AWAY - there are steps you can take to emulate the best:

  • Ensure that you are deliberate and focused in the training you do - efficacy is vital if you're already doing the same hours as your competitors.
  • Develop your psychological skills to have a strong joint focus on mastery and outcome.

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