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Monitoring Readiness to Train and Perform in Female Football: Current Evidence and Recommendations for Practitioners

Marco Beato, Esben Elholm Madsen, Jo Clubb, Stacey Emmonds, and Peter Krustrup

Purpose: Monitoring player readiness to train and perform is an important practical concept in football. Despite an abundance of research in this area in the male game, to date, research is limited in female football. The aims of this study were, first, to summarize the current literature on the monitoring of readiness in female football; second, to summarize the current evidence regarding the monitoring of the menstrual cycle and its potential impact on physical preparation and performance in female footballers; and third, to offer practical recommendations based on the current evidence for practitioners working with female football players. Conclusions: Practitioners should include both objective (eg, heart rate and countermovement jump) and subjective measures (eg, athlete-reported outcome measures) in their monitoring practices. This would allow them to have a better picture of female players’ readiness. Practitioners should assess the reliability of their monitoring (objective and subjective) tools before adopting them with their players. The use of athlete-reported outcome measures could play a key role in contexts where technology is not available (eg, in semiprofessional and amateur clubs); however, practitioners need to be aware that many single-item athlete-reported outcome measures instruments have not been properly validated. Finally, tracking the menstrual cycle can identify menstrual dysfunction (eg, infrequent or irregular menstruation) that can indicate a state of low energy availability or an underlying gynecological issue, both of which warrant further investigation by medical practitioners.

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Validity and Reliability of Finger-Strength Testing in 6 Common Grip Techniques for the Assessment of Bouldering Ability in Men

Karl Söderqvist, Fredrik Identeg, Jonas Zimmerman, Eric Hamrin Senorski, Mikael Sansone, and Henrik Hedelin

Objective: To determine the criterion validity and test–retest reliability of isometric finger-strength testing in 6 differentiated grip techniques for the assessment of bouldering ability among male climbers. Methods: We recruited participants at climbing gyms in Sweden and through online advertisements. We included climbers over 15 years of age with a minimum bouldering performance level of 17 International Rock Climbing and Research Association (IRCRA) for men and 15 IRCRA for women. We tested unilateral, maximal isometric peak finger strength in the front 3 drag, half crimp, closed crimp, 35 sloper, 45 × 90-mm, and 90 × 90-mm pinch through maximal force deloaded of a force plate. We analyzed criterion validity, test–retest reliability, and capacity to determine bouldering performance ability using a stepwise multivariable regression model. Results: Women were excluded from the analysis due to insufficient sample size (n = 16). Thirty-two male participants were included in the primary analysis. The median (interquartile range) age in the advanced and elite group was 27 (25; 35) and 23 (22; 32) years, respectively. The half crimp for the participants’ weak and strong hand displayed the highest ability to determine bouldering grade performance, explaining 48% to 58% of the variance. In the stepwise regression, maximal strength in the half crimp and the front 3 drag collectively explained 66% of the variance for performance. Conclusion: Strength in the half crimp proved the most important performance indicator. The results of this study provide a reliable and valid framework for maximal isometric peak finger-strength testing in advanced and elite male boulderers.

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Abstracts From the 2023 International Sport + Exercise Nutrition Conference

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Effects of Load and Focus of Attention on Mechanical Parameters During Bench-Press Throw in Resistance-Trained Men

Olaf Prieske, Vidar Andersen, Tom A. Moberg Johansen, and Atle H. Saeterbakken

Purpose: Power output is dependent on the load used during exercise such as bench-press throw (BPT). Attentional focus (external [EXT] vs internal [INT]) during exercise significantly modulates power performance. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of load and attentional focus on mechanical parameters during BPT. Methods: In a crossover study, 31 resistance-trained men (mean age 23.5 [3.0] y) performed BPT at 30% (light), 50% (moderate), and 70% (heavy) of 1-repetition maximum (1-RM) using an INT or EXT focus of attention in randomized order. A linear encoder was used to identify barbell vertical displacement, throw time, peak/average velocity, force, and power during the concentric lifting phase. Results: Statistical analysis revealed significant load × focus interaction effects for velocity and vertical displacement (P ≤ .045; 0.66 ≤ d ≤ 0.89). Post hoc analyses indicated significantly larger velocities and displacements at 30% and 70% of 1-RM in favor of EXT (P ≤ .038; 0.79 ≤ d ≤ 1.13) but similar values at 50% of 1-RM (P > .05). Furthermore, significant main effects of load were found for throw time, force, and power (P < .001; 4.20 ≤ d ≤ 14.0). While time and force gradually increased with higher loads (P < .001; 1.45 ≤ d ≤ 14.0), power output was larger at 50% compared with 30% and 70% 1-RM (P < .001; 3.09 ≤ d ≤ 7.07), irrespective of attentional focus. Conclusions: The present findings indicated that practitioners may use EXT over INT attentional focus to enhance velocity and vertical displacement during BPT at light and heavy loads (ie, 30% and 70% 1-RM). At moderate loads (ie, 50% 1-RM), mechanical bench-press parameters appear to be less affected by attentional focus.

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Energy Expenditure of Elite Male and Female Professional Tennis Players During Habitual Training

Daniel G. Ellis, James P. Morton, Graeme L. Close, and Tim F. Donovan

Understanding the daily energy expenditure of athletes during training is important to support recovery, adaptation, and the maintenance of performance. The aim of the current research was to assess the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and the acute energy expenditure (EE) of tennis training sessions during habitual training of elite tennis players. Using a cohort study design, 27 (n = 10, male; age; 22.3 ± 3.2 years and n = 17, female; age: 23.8 ± 3.5 years) elite singles tennis players were assessed for TDEE and tennis training EE. Using Actiheart activity monitors during a 2- to 5-day training period, male players were analyzed for 26 days and 33 (1.3 ± 0.5 sessions/day) tennis training sessions, and female players for 43 days and 58 (1.2 ± 0.4 sessions/day) tennis training sessions. Male TDEE (4,708 ± 583 kcal/day) was significantly higher than female (3,639 ± 305 kcal/day). Male absolute and relative tennis training EEs (10.2 ± 2.3 kcal/min and 7.9 ± 1.4 kcal·hr−1·kg−1) were significantly higher than those of females (7.6 ± 1.0 kcal/min and 6.8 ± 0.9 kcal·hr−1·kg−1). The resting metabolic rate was assessed via indirect calorimetry. The physical activity level for both groups was 2.3 AU. The TDEE of male and female players during habitual training now highlights the continual cycle of high energy demands experienced by the elite tennis player. The broad ranges of TDEE and EE reported here suggest individual assessment and nutritional planning be prioritized, with a particular focus on carbohydrate requirements.

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Caffeine Does Not Alter Performance, Perceptual Responses, and Oxidative Stress After Short Sprint Interval Training

Mauro F. Bernardo, Alysson Enes, Elisangela F. Rezende, Alexandre R. Okuyama, Ragami C. Alves, Murilo de Andrade, Ana Carolina G. Macedo, Marcelo Paes de Barros, Darren G. Candow, Scott C. Forbes, and Tácito P. Souza-Junior

Despite the abundance of research investigating the efficacy of caffeine supplementation on exercise performance, the physiological and biochemical responses to caffeine supplementation during intermittent activities are less evident. This study investigated the acute effects of caffeine supplementation on measures of exercise performance, ratings of perceived exertion, and biomarkers of oxidative stress induced by an acute bout of sprint interval training. In a randomized crossover design, 12 healthy males (age: 26 ± 4 years, height: 177.5 ± 6 cm, body mass: 80.7 ± 7.6 kg) ingested 6 mg/kg of caffeine or placebo 60 min prior to performing sprint interval training (12 × 6 s “all-out sprints” interspersed by 60 s of rest). Performance scores and ratings of perceived exertion were assessed after every sprint. Blood samples were collected before supplementation, prior to and following each sprint, and 5 and 60 min after the last sprint. Caffeine had no effect on any performance measures, ratings of perceived exertion, or biomarkers of oxidative stress (p > .05). In conclusion, caffeine supplementation does not improve performance or decrease oxidative stress after an acute bout of sprint interval training.

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Relationship Between Objective and Subjective Markers of Muscle Recovery in Professional Handball Players

Alexander-Stephan Henze, Lynn Matits, Jochen Huth, and Frieder Mauch

Purpose: To evaluate the relationship between items of the Short Recovery and Stress Scale (SRSS) related to physical stress and recovery and the biomarker creatine kinase (CK) in professional handball. Methods: CK and SRSS items (physical performance capability, overall recovery, muscular stress, and overall stress) were assessed in an observational study of 16 adult male professional handball players from a team in the highest German league during the 2019–20 preseason. Their preseason training schedule included several microcycles, each consisting of 3 consecutive days of intense training followed by a rest day. On 5 of these rest days, when players were classified as nonrested, and the 5 immediately following days, when players were classified as rested, players completed the SRSS between 8:00 and 9:00 AM, followed by blood sampling. Correlations between SRSS items were performed using Kendall τ. The relationship between each SRSS item and CK levels over time was examined using a mixed-effects model with a random intercept. Results: CK levels and SRSS stress items were significantly higher and SRSS recovery items were significantly lower in nonrested players. SRSS items were significantly positively or negatively correlated (all items: P < .001) and showed a significant effect indicating lower CK levels in rested players (all items: P ≤ .001; η p 2 = .1 .32 ). Conclusions: The investigated SRSS items may be a viable option for assessing muscle recovery in adult male professional handball players in a cost-effective and noninvasive manner. They can be used as a single monitoring tool or as part of a multimodal approach.

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Timing of Caffeine Ingestion Does Not Improve Three-Point Shooting Accuracy in College Basketball Players

Zhi Sen Tan, Rachelle Yahn Yee Sim, Masato Kawabata, Dorrain Yanwen Low, Yulan Wang, and Stephen F. Burns

This study investigated the effects of the timing of caffeine (3 mg/kg body mass) ingestion on three-point shooting accuracy and other performance parameters during a basketball exercise simulation test (BEST). Eighteen college basketball players (mean ± SD: age = 24.4 ± 1.5 years, height = 181.7 ± 9.5 cm, body mass = 80.9 ± 13.2 kg) underwent one familiarization trial and three main conditions in a randomized order: (a) placebo (maltodextrin) and placebo, (b) caffeine and placebo, and (c) placebo and caffeine. Participants ingested either the placebo or caffeine pill 75 and 15 min before performing four quarters of the BEST and a three-point shooting protocol. During each quarter, participants completed 16 rounds of the BEST and ten three-point shots. Vertical jump height, 6 m sprint timing, BEST completion timing, three-point shooting accuracy, heart rate, rate of perceived exertion, blood glucose, blood lactate, and psychological measures pertaining to performance were measured. The BEST completion timing differed among conditions (placebo and placebo = 26.4 ± 2.0 s, caffeine and placebo = 25.8 ± 2.0 s, placebo and caffeine = 25.9 ± 2.1 s; p = .031) but not three-point shooting accuracy (placebo and placebo = 12.33 ± 4.10; caffeine and placebo = 12.61 ± 2.81; placebo and caffeine = 11.67 ± 3.77; p = .648), vertical jump height, or sprint times. Manipulating ingestion timing of caffeine did not improve three-point shooting accuracy, vertical jump height, or 6 m sprint timings, but caffeine can improve performance times during simulated basketball exercise irrespective of ingestion timing.

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Sleep Quality in Team USA Olympic and Paralympic Athletes

Travis Anderson, Natalia Galan-Lopez, Lee Taylor, Eric G. Post, Jonathan T. Finnoff, and William M. Adams

Adequate sleep is crucial for elite athletes’ recovery, performance readiness, and immune response. Establishing reference ranges for elite athletes enables appropriate contextualization for designing and targeting sleep interventions. Purpose: To establish sleep-quality reference ranges for Olympic and Paralympic cohorts using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and explore differences based on sex and sport types. Methods: Team USA athletes (men = 805, women = 798) completed the PSQI as part of a health-history questionnaire. Descriptive statistics were used to create reference ranges and linear models, and χ 2 test of independence determined differences in PSQI global and component scores between sex, games, season, and participation. Results: Six hundred thirty-two (39.43%) athletes reported poor sleep (PSQIGlobal ≥ 5). Men displayed later bedtimes (P = .006), better global PSQI scores, shorter sleep latency, less sleep disturbance, and less use of sleep medication than women (all P < .001). Winter Games participants had later bedtime (P = .036) and sleep offset time (P = .028) compared with Summer Games athletes. Team-sport athletes woke earlier than individual-sport athletes (P < .001). Individual-sport athletes were more likely to have low (P = .005) and mild (P = .045) risk for reduced sleep duration than team-sport athletes. Conclusion: These data provide PSQI-specific reference ranges to identify groups at greatest risk for poor sleep, who may benefit most from targeted sleep interventions.

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Acute Beetroot Juice Supplementation Has No Effect on Upper- and Lower-Body Maximal Isokinetic Strength and Muscular Endurance in International-Level Male Gymnasts

Ozcan Esen, Joseph Fox, Raci Karayigit, and Ian Walshe

Nitrate ( NO 3 ) has properties that can improve muscle function, leading to improvements in metabolic cost of exercise as well as enhance force production. Gymnastics is a whole-body sport, involving events that demand a high level of strength and fatigue resistance. However, the effect of NO 3 supplementation on both upper- and lower-body function in gymnasts is unknown. This study examined the effect of acute beetroot juice (BRJ) supplementation on isokinetic strength and endurance of the upper- and lower-body in highly trained international-level male gymnasts. In a double-blind, randomized crossover design, 10 international-level male gymnasts completed two acute supplementation periods, consuming either 2 × 70 ml NO 3 -rich (∼12.8 mmol/L of NO 3 ) or NO 3 -depleted (PLA) BRJ. Maximal strength of the upper-leg and upper-arm at 60°/s, 120°/s, 180°/s, and 300°/s, and muscular endurance (50 repeated isokinetic contractions at 180°/s) were assessed. Plasma NO 3 (BRJ: 663 ± 164 μM, PLA: 89 ± 48 μM) and nitrite ( NO 2 ) concentrations (BRJ: 410 ± 137 nmol/L, PLA: 125 ± 36 nmol/L) were elevated following BRJ compared to PLA (both p < .001). Maximal strength of knee and elbow extensors and flexors did not differ between supplements (p > .05 for all velocities). Similarly, fatigue index of knee and elbow extension and flexion was not different between supplements (all p > .05). Acute BRJ supplementation, containing ∼12.8 mmol/L of NO 3 , increased plasma NO 3 and NO 2 concentrations, but did not enhance isokinetic strength or fatigue resistance of either upper or lower extremities in international-level male gymnasts.