Supplement

Improve Your Cold Weather Running

cold-weather-running

It is always easy to comment on traditions and customs as an outsider to a particular sport. I just assume people know and understand why I shave my legs as a cyclist. But I must admit I am perplexed by one particular running custom – wearing shorts in cold weather. Runners, it would seem, are the only endurance athletes that when it turns cold, insist on wearing the same gear as when it’s 70 degrees and sunny. Is it simply because it’s customary? Does it have to do with ergonomics and not wanting one's legs feeling “restricted?” Is it a toughness thing?

It has been demonstrated numerous times in scientific research that muscle performance decreases in the cold. Power output, force production, and muscle velocity are all diminished when the temperature drops (<50°F). Maximum heart rate is also lower. Granted, for most of us the winter months are about building a base and maintaining our fitness, but why sacrifice the quality of this training by not dressing properly? The better your muscles can function, the better your training becomes.

The reason(s) for running in shorts in the cold is certainly different for every runner, but after reviewing the scientific literature on cold weather and human performance it may be a custom worth rethinking. Since I had so wisely decided to pick up running again right before winter started I for one won't be showing any skin!

There are no hard-and-fast rules about what to wear based on exact temperatures. Over dressing can be just as bad when the weather drops below freezing because being wet with sweat can quickly lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Here is a good review by one winter runner of what to wear.

Stay warm!

 

The Top 7 Probiotic Myths

All probiotic supplements are basically the same...

Probiotic supplements can differ in a variety of ways including: the amount of probiotics, the types of strains, the need for refrigeration, as well as the addition of other ingredients like prebiotics. While there isn't a maximum dose that is recommended, most studies are done with at least 1 billion CFU. The majority of studies done on athletes used amounts between 10 and 25 billion CFU. An appropriate amount ensures efficacy of the product. 

It doesn't matter which probiotic strains I take...

It most definitely does matter! There are many different strains of probiotics, and research has shown that they don't all have the same effects. Depending upon why you are taking the probiotics any old product may not be helpful for you. Probiotic studies have focused on athletes, depression, obesity, and multiple other medical conditions and populations, but the probiotic strains that were studied were certainly not all the same. Make sure you are taking one that is right for your needs. If you're an athlete, well, you've found the right place!

I should take as many probiotics as possible...

Consuming a high amount of probiotics doesn't necessarily improve efficacy. While research has yet to determine the ideal amount for any given condition or population, we do know an effective range. When choosing a probiotic it would be our recommendation to find one that has at least 10 billion CFU. 

It's enough to eat fermented food or yogurt...

While we fully support eating a variety of fermented foods (homemade kimchi anyone!?), food may not be the best source of probiotics for someone looking to take advantage of their specific effects. Few foods quantify the amount of probiotics in them, so you don't know how many and what types of probiotics you are consuming. As you learned above, knowing this information is really important if you are using a probiotic supplement for a specific reason. For example, you cannot expect the same benefit from a cup of yogurt as you would from a probiotic supplement designed for athletes.

FOS (fructo-oligosaccharide) is an ideal prebiotic to add to a probiotic supplement...

FOS is a prebiotic commonly used in supplements. However, higher amounts are needed, 4-8 grams per day, for any benefit. That's pretty hard to fit in a capsule! Arguably, the most important reason not to use FOS is that it can cause a lot of flatulence.

Probiotic supplements require refrigeration...

Probiotics are living organisms and die off in time. Recent advances in their production have led to the ability for them to survive longer without refrigeration. However, this isn't a practice for every manufacturer. If not needing refrigeration is important for you, make sure the supplement states that it is not required. The bottom line is this: refrigerating the bottle, although not necessary, will make them last longer, but if it isn't needed you should feel confident your little bugs will be safe outside a cold environment. Also, look for a probiotic supplement with an expiration date rather than "CFU counts are guaranteed at time of manufacture." 

Probiotics should have an enteric coating...

Enteric coatings like those used for aspirin and other drugs do not work with probiotics. For one thing the common polyacrylamide “super glue” coatings, besides having potential carcinogenic activity, actually destabilize the shelf life of probiotics because they cause moisture retention within the product.

There are now new generation delivery systems that employ polymeric carbohydrates such as alginates or pectin. But these are not enteric coatings, they are complex formulations that actually “turn on” once they contact stomach acid. This makes a big difference in the effectiveness of the probiotic supplement. 

 

Foolproof Recovery Tips for Athletes

recovery-tips

When you're not training or racing, you’re recovering. Optimizing your recovery is just as important as how hard you push yourself in training and competition. Described below are some of the best ways athletes can enhance their recovery.

Compression socks

If spandex weren't demeaning enough we subject ourselves to becoming a running and cycling LiteBrite when dawning compression socks. I’m still waiting for a 80’s style tube-sock version (hint hint 2XU!). Compression socks have been around for a long time in the medical community where they are used for treating venous insufficiency and preventing blood clots.

More recently the athletic community started using compression garments to improve recovery. It is thought that they improve oxygen delivery to the muscle tissues. Studies have shown effects on perceived leg soreness and muscle function as well as blood lactate clearance. However, the ideal strength of compression is not clear (ie, pressure - mmHg) nor how long an athlete needs to wear them for the most benefit. In the meantime, rock on with your glow stick self!

Nutrition & Hydration

Of all the methods of improving recovery on this list, nutrition is the most important. Thankfully it is pretty straight forward because it’s done by the numbers:

For a 70kg athlete running 1.5- 2hrs or cycling 2.5-3hrs at moderate intensity:

Within 30min of completing your workout consume 1.0 g of carbohydrates per kg body weight and 0.3 of protein per kg of body weight. However, the amount will vary depending upon intensity and duration (0.5-1.5g for carbs and 0.3-0.4 g for protein).

Eat a meal (ie, real food!) with a similar ratio of carbohydrates and proteins within the next 1-1.5 hours.

Keep your water intake up, especially after an intense workout. The easiest way to determine how much water you need to drink is to weigh yourself before and after a workout (16oz = 1lb).

Unfortunately, alcohol is not good for muscle recovery, so save the Pappy Van Winkle for celebrating your podium placement.

Massage

You may not have a personal saugnier to give you a massage after every ride or run, but I've found that scheduling a massage after my especially intense rides and races works well – my muscles get a massage when it’s most needed.

Sleep

Once upon a time I could work a 30 hour shift (ie, medical residency, ie, forced labor) and then go ride 60 miles, but that was neither sustainable nor ideal for recovery. If I hoped to still function at my job as well as perform well as an athlete I needed to sleep first.

Every person has a specific amount of time they need to sleep. For most people it’s about 8 hours. Research has shown that when you don’t get enough sleep athletic performance decreases and immunity is impaired.

Pro tip! Better quality sleep occurs with cooler ambient temperatures as well. So make sure to get your 8hrs and keep the A/C on or the window open.

Foam roller

Who doesn't love the foam roller!? Sure, it hurts, but as John Mellencamp said “make it hurt so good.” Foam rolling is thought to work by repairing the myofascial tissue as well as improving circulation. Make using it a routine – after making yourself a recovery drink, spend 10-15 minutes hurting a bit more on the foam roller.

Electric Muscle Stimulation

Though the research remains equivocal, many athletes swear by it. I’ve tried it myself and found it helped some significant muscle cramping I was having in my right hamstring. However, the stim units are not cheap! But they make for a fun party trick at the very least. If you've exhausted every other means of improving your recovery they are certainly worth a try.  

Ice baths

Athletes have a masochistic streak, but plunging yourself into ice water after a hard workout takes it to the next level. It sure as hell isn't as fun as Lebron James and Dwyane Wade make it look standing in an ice bath tweeting to their fans. Like, electric stimulation the jury is still on its efficacy, but cryotherapy has been used for years in athletes and again most swear by it.

I don’t fill the bathtub up with ice often, but I do find it beneficial after a hard workout on hot days. An ice bath cools my engine down quicker, which is especially helpful for those late in the day workouts when you, in turn have trouble sleeping.

Probiotics

Probiotics improve immunity. Improved immunity means better recovery and less sick days. The effects of probiotics are strain specific so you’re not going to get any benefit as an athlete consuming a container of yogurt or taking a probiotic designed for the general population. Probiotics exemplify the understanding that what goes on off the track, out of the pool, and off the bike is just as important – you're an athlete 24/7.

Improving how you recover is not an optional activity. If you want to perform at your best you must take advantage of every opportunity to optimize recovery.

 

Top Probiotic Foods for Athletes

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Kimchi

Kimchi is pickled cabbage with a strong vinegar and red pepper taste. I’m still waiting for Gu to make a kimchi flavor. Ok, maybe I don't love kimchi that much, but this traditional Korean dish is one of my favorite things to make. Aside from probiotics, kimchi also also contains a healthy dose of calcium, iron, beta-carotene, and B-vitamins. Try putting it on brown rice or glass noodles, or like me, just eating it with a pair of chopsticks from the mason jar.

Sauerkraut

Although, I wouldn't endorse getting your probiotics from sauerkraut while accompanied by corned beef and thousand island dressing I have found several new brands, like Farmhouse Culture, that make it a tasty snack. Making your own sauerkraut is easy too. Try adding it to a tempeh reuben or lentil soup, and it pairs well with roast pork too.

Miso

A traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans, you have most likely had miso in soups. It is high in protein and rich with vitamins and minerals, but it also comes with a healthy dose of the probiotic, Lactobacillus.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea. You have likely seen more and more brands of the drink popping up in your local markets due to its increasing popularity not only because of the refreshing taste, but its health benefits as well. The fermentation process creates the probiotics found in the tea, helping to maintain ideal gut health.

Yogurt

Do I really have to mention yogurt?

Although, eating foods that contain probiotics is helpful it isn't enough for athletes because the effects of probiotics are strain specific. Certain probiotics have been found to be beneficial in the athletic population, so consuming those specific strains will be your best bet for staying healthy and keeping you training hard.