May 4, 2023

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Pooping for performance (Yes, there’s a scientific study)

This article falls into one of my favorite categories: “Didn’t see it coming.” Also: “I knew it felt good, I but didn’t know why.”

Researchers tested a group of elite triathletes after “rectal defecation” (pooping) vs no rectal defecation. A good poop decreased systolic blood pressure, increased blood supply in the prefrontal brain, and increased “sub navel oxygen consumption” (oxygen pickup of the leg muscles, a good thing.) Most importantly: “Pre-exercise defecation significantly improved high-intensity endurance performance.”

Conclusion: “This study demonstrated a performance enhancing effect of defecation for elite triathletes.” I think race directors might have to increase their Porta Potty orders. More at J of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (free full text).

A hot debate: Should every runner try the marathon?

Here’s an intriguing question that many runners have found themselves facing. The Forum questioner says he/she is happy and healthy running half marathons. But of course it’s impossible not to think about the marathon distance. Is the full 26.2 worth trying? 

Some respondents argue, essentially: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That is, if you’re happy doing what you're doing (nothing longer than a half marathon), there’s no reason to change your habit. Makes sense, right? Hard to argue against this perspective.

Of course, some do. And I like what they say: “Marathons aren’t the only game in town, but I can tell you they are very rewarding, and bring something different to the table.” Also: “You should definitely continue to do things in running that scare you a little or that you’re uncomfortable with.” 

This is one reason ultra running has grown so popular. Many runners are curious, adventurous, and willing to explore the unknown and challenge themselves--all excellent qualities. More at Reddit/Advanced Running.


Females (especially) take note: A plant-based diet could increase bone injuries

The relationship between eating disorders and possible bone injuries has become one of the most investigated and most important in endurance sports. It started decades ago with the Female Athlete Triad and has more recently turned to male eating disorders, especially in sports where low weight might confer a performance advantage such as running and cycling. 

A big question: Do females have greater risk than males? Here are several recent studies that increase our understanding of bones and vigorous exercise.

This “critically appraised” review of the topic found “low-moderate evidence” of a link between eating disorders and bone injuries in female athletes. Less is known about males. More at J of Sport Rehabilitation.

“Bone stress injuries have plagued the military for over 150 years,” afflicting up to 10 percent of new recruits. The primary risk factor is “too much training, too soon.” Women have about twice the bone injuries of men. Good nutrition can help but also “exposure to stress, sleep loss, and medication is likely harmful to bone.” More at J of Science & Medicine in Sport (free full text).

A study of 16,000+ U.S. adults from 2005 to 2018 found “hidden dangers” to a plant-based diet on bone health. Specifically, plant-based diets, which are often recommended for their potential health and environmental benefits, are “associated with decreased bone mineral density in a nationally representative population of U.S. adults.” The most protective foods are: vegetables, refined grains [yeah, I don’t get it either; but that’s what they reported], animal fat, eggs, and meat. More at Nutrients

Here’s a super deep dive into sacral bone stress injuries in runners with specific advice on training and diet errors that might be causative factors. As well as solid, healthy guidance on getting back onto the road. More at Pogo Physio.

Lastly, a group of world-renowned exercise nutritionists have concluded that consuming sufficient carbs, even more than total calories, is the key to maintaining strong bones in endurance exercisers. In a 6-day study with elite race walkers on a low-calorie diet, they found that: “Carbohydrate may be key for maintaining bone formation during prolonged exercise, but both overall energy and carbohydrate are necessary to support bone formation at rest and limit exercise-related bone resorption.” More at J of Bone & Mineral Research (free full text).

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Run for the future: More and more shoes and running fitness apparel are made from recycled and sustainable materials.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. Amby

NOTE: If you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text version of RLRH for $4/month, you would also have received new articles about:

# Do super shoes change the 180 strides/min rule?

# The truth about exercise and better brain function

# 3 ways to strengthen your tendons and ligaments

# How to carbo-load like an expert

# Drinking these 3 liquids will help you live longer

# High schoolers who over specialize in one sport get more injuries

# The multiple benefits of outdoor running (vs treadmill)

# An inspirational quote from Mark Twain about pursuing goals

Click here for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”