Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Taper Continues - Three New Studies: Cold Liquids, Beetroot, and Echinacea on Running Performance

Taper Continues - Three New Studies

As the taper continues for this weekends race, a couple new studies popped up on my radar. The first one concerns the use of an ice slurry (cold, cold drink) and impact on performance of runners prior to a 10K race. The authors gave one group an ice slurry and another group an ambient temperature drink prior to a 10K race. They then looked at gastrointestinal temperature of both groups prior and during the race. They found that those that ingested the ice slurry had a cooler gastrointestinal temperature prior to, and during the first 1-2K of the race. After that, both groups appeared to be the same in terms of gastrointestinal temperature. The authors conclude that ingesting a very cold, icy drink prior to a race, especially in hot and humid environments, can improve race performance. This makes sense, as you will want to start off as cool as possible prior to a running race - in heat or otherwise. However, as I noted in an earlier post, once the race has started, you actually want to switch to hot or ambient temperature drinks to allow for maximal dispersal of heat storage. So, cold drinks before the race, then hot or ambient temperature drinks during the race.

The second study looks at the consumption of beetroot and running performance. The reason the authors did this study was because it is a known scientific fact that consumption of nitrates can improve running and endurance performance, but only when the nitrates are consumed in their natural form from vegetables. Nitrates found in other products, such as meats or as a supplement, can actually be dangerous to one's health. So, the authors wanted to know if eating beetroot, which is full of nitrates, would improve running performance. They found that it did, but a striking 5% in terms of running velocity, as well as in perceived exertion. This could be quite an advantage, not only in shorter races between 5K and 10K, but also for longer ultras or trail races where perceived exertion can play an important role in one's performance. Now, just to find some beetroot... or alternatively, to make sure you get enough veggies in your diet to maximize your intake of natural nitrates.

The third study, which is really interesting, examined running economy and maximal oxygen consumption after a 4 week trial of oral echinacea supplementation. Yep, echinacea, that flower found all over Colorado in people's yards and used as a natural immune booster. Here though the results are very interesting, as the authors found that after just 4 weeks of taking echinacea running economy significantly improved! Likewise, they also found that for those runners taking echinacea, their VO2max and EPO (erythropoietin) also improved! So, not only did runners improve their running economy, but their red blood cell numbers went up as a result of increased EPO, and their ability to take in more oxygen also improved because their VO2max increased. For trail runners, ultra runners, or even shorter distance runners, this study might be of great interest. EPO and VO2max are critical when it comes to running, and the greater one's VO2max and EPO, the better their ability to run faster, harder, and farther. Now, the study didn't look at whether these levels were sustained in the runners after the study period, but taking echinacea for the 4 weeks prior to a race may be an idea to gain a little (legal) advantage. Besides, it will also help keep you healthy prior to the race as well!

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