June 30, 2022

THIS WEEK: 5 strategies for summer heat-running (Plus a global health concern). Don’t rush into hard-day workouts. What we don’t understand about bone stress injuries--a lot! Train your tendons. Diet Wars: Carbs top keto in this round. SLit happens (sleep loss), but don’t worry too much. WebMD joins the Beet It crowd. Is standing on one leg a marker for longevity? 8 new rules of no-rule nutrition. And much more.

Summer’s here: How to run in the heat

Here comes July 4th when many races are called the “Firecracker XYZ,” but your running pace is more a fizzle than explosively fast. What to do? Jared Ward is about as smart a runner as you’ll find, and he uses summer for shorter, faster runs. “It’s a fun way to break up training for me,” he says. Then he feels fit and fast when he launches into his fall marathon training. Dr. Stacey Sims notes that women adapt slower to the heat than men, due to lower body water supplies, and can be helped by a dose of beta alanine before a tough workout or race. Don’t worry about caffeine in the summer. It won’t cause dehydration problems, only a trivial increase in your body temp, says a systematic review and meta analysis. This heat roundup article covers all the basic questions, and reminds you to pay attention to electrolytes as well as water intake. Runners from Houston report they have to slow down by 1 minute to 2 minutes per mile during summer. Some use heart rate as a guide. Some don’t even look at their watches because it’s too “disheartening.” 

And there are bigger concerns than our slowed running pace. Global health researchers warn that climate change will increase heart disease risks. They reviewed 266 studies, finding that each 1 degree Centigrade increase in temperature produces a 2.1 percent increase in deaths related to cardiovascular disease. A warmer climate doesn’t just slow you down; it could stop you. Risks are higher in women and those over 65. More at The Lancet.

Hard workouts: When in doubt, wait a day

Here’s a piece of training advice that I’d rank as an essential Rule of Running. It couldn’t be simpler. (Maybe that’s why you don’t hear it too often.) Or more important. (Which is why I’m including it here today.) It comes from veteran coach Pete Rea, and it works like this: You’ve got a big training session coming up. Maybe it’s a hard long run Saturday morning. Maybe it’s a handful of quick 800s on the track Tuesday evening. Anyway, it’s a big deal, and you want to nail it. Only … you’re feeling a bit out of sorts--tired, stressed, sore muscles. 

Here’s what to do: Put off the big workout until the next day. Just one day. It can make a huge difference in how you feel and perform. And it doesn’t mean you’re “mentally weak.” It means you’re smart. Which is the way you should run every day. More at Fan Hub TF.

First male-female study of ultra runners reports more bone injuries among women

I noted this paper a year ago, but it has come out in a new format, and its subjects were plucked from the just-completed Western States 100, so I’d like to take another look. Why? Because it deals with possibly the most important health risk facing runners, especially women runners.

Here, researchers looked at eating disorders, BMI, bone mineral density, and bone stress injuries, expecting to find a fairly simple, direct link between them. Only they didn’t. Plenty of runners had “disordered eating,” but this was “not associated with either low BMI or low bone mineral density.” This means that the researchers, an absolutely top-notch team, will have to dig deeper into issues relating to diet, menstrual irregularities, hormones, and genetics.

Here are the basic outcome numbers of the study, women (first) vs men, with women runners showing consistently higher risks except for low BMD Z score. Disordered eating: 62.5% vs 44.5 percent. Low Vitamin D: 58% vs 0%. History of bone stress injuries: 37.5% vs 20.5%. BMD Z score <1: 16.7% vs 30.1%. Low body mass index: 15% vs 0%. Triad Cumulative Risk Assessment, moderate or high: 66.7% vs 34.8%.

Conclusion: “These results highlight the need for a better understanding of risk factors for BSI in this unique population of athletes.” I’ve got a problem with this statement, because it seems to be pointing a finger at ultra runners.

But that’s not the big issue. Quite the opposite. More than anyone else, high school and college runners require particular guidance. They need to optimize bone health in their early years to prevent osteoporosis, fragility, and serious bone breaks later in life. Sure, males have eating disorders, weak bones, and stress fractures. But girls likely face more risks. Let’s keep the focus on them. More at Clinical J of Sports Medicine.

Train your tendons

Tendons were once thought to be inert, untrainable, and therefore not very interesting. That has changed big time. In fact, “Interest on tendon adaptation and its link to sports performance and injury reduction has increased substantially over the last 5-10 years.”

Research indicates that running with more leg stiffness, produced by muscles and tendons, can increase running economy. In this case, “stiffness” equates with “energy return.” Best of all, tendons don’t consume oxygen. They provide a sort of “free” propulsion.

So… can we increase our tendon stiffness? The answer appears to be Yes, according to several in depth articles that focus on strength training and plyometrics. More at Sportsmith.

Diet wars: This round to carbs over keto

A German research team completed the first study to compare endurance performance by subjects on A) a keto diet, B) a high carb, low glycemic index diet, and C) a high carb, high glycemic index diet. (The glycemic index ranks how much a given food raises blood sugar.) The keto diet had a “positive impact on submaximal performance,” but couldn’t match the other diets “for an enhanced performance in both submaximal and maximal exercise intensities.” Comparing all three diets, “the high-carb, low glycemic diet in this study seemed to be advantageous.” It’s the best way to raise glycogen supplies without disrupting the glucose-insulin process. More at Int J of Food Sciences & Nutrition.

Another team performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of keto and carb diets on performance and body composition. All subjects were trained and fit. The carb diet led to “more favorable effects” on time trial performance by cyclists. The keto diet produced more weight loss and fat loss. Hence, the keto diet “can be a useful strategy for total and fat body losses,” but “was not suitable for enhancing strength or high-intensity cycle performance.” More at Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition.

Web MD joins the Beet It crowd

You’ve probably heard about beets or beet roots (or even beet powder), and their supposed impact on health and endurance. Now here’s a simple overview from the well respected consumer site, Web MD. It lists the three big arguments for beets: improved athletic performance, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar. All good. I’ve got only one disagreement here. “Sprinkle beet powder over oatmeal or yogurt.” Nah, that ain’t gonna happen--not when I’ve got frozen blueberries and cherries for my oatmeal and yogurt. More at Web MD.

Is standing on one leg a marker for longevity?

A lot of people were fascinated--or maybe “spooked”--by last week’s report that your ability to stand on one foot is linked to aging and mortality. Everyone I know started testing themselves, and many found the exercise surprisingly difficult. It’s definitely not one of my talents. I’m not too worried, however. There are other, better tests--like the trend in your 5k times. Here’s a good explanatory article with appropriate context, and also a link to the original paper. More at New Scientist.

8 new rules of no rule nutrition

Obesity rates and junk-food consumption keep rising, so nutrition experts are trying new approaches, since the old ones obviously aren’t working. They nudge us away from old attitudes and “rules” which often demonized certain foods--carbs, fats--and towards a more relaxed “make peace with food” view. In this list of 8, I particularly like “No detox diets” and “Appreciate all macros.” In other words, don’t eliminate important food groups. Eat appropriate amounts of each at appropriate times. More at Tonal.

SLit happens--sleep loss, that is. Don’t worry too much

We all know that regular sleep hours are important for general health, optimizing fitness gains, and improving recovery from workouts. Of course, knowing this doesn’t mean we always follow a perfect sleep pattern. SLit happens (Sleep Loss). So researchers conducted a systematic review and meta analysis to see what it means. Results: The negative effects of a bad night’s sleep build throughout the day, having more impact in the afternoon, but less in the morning (when your big races probably start.) So you can rest easy (ha ha) on that front. Still, it’s always smart to incorporate “lifestyle behaviors/strategies that limit the likelihood of sleep loss.” More at Sports Medicine.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Female runners should spread protein consumption across the day. (Probably men too.) 

>>> Blood flow restriction sessions (while you lie on your back, resting) seem to reduce stress of subsequent marathon.

>>> U.S. Preventive Services says: 1) Avoid beta carotene supplements; 2) No evidence of lower cancer or heart disease from Vit E; and 3) No evidence of multivitamin benefit.

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“All great achievements require time.”Maya Angelou

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next week. Amby