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Nutrition for Recovery in Aquatic Sports

Louise M. Burke and Inigo Mujika

Postexercise recovery is an important topic among aquatic athletes and involves interest in the quality, quantity, and timing of intake of food and fluids after workouts or competitive events to optimize processes such as refueling, rehydration, repair, and adaptation. Recovery processes that help to minimize the risk of illness and injury are also important but are less well documented. Recovery between workouts or competitive events may have two separate goals: (a) restoration of body losses and changes caused by the first session to restore performance for the next and (b) maximization of the adaptive responses to the stress provided by the session to gradually make the body become better at the features of exercise that are important for performance. In some cases, effective recovery occurs only when nutrients are supplied, and an early supply of nutrients may also be valuable in situations in which the period immediately after exercise provides an enhanced stimulus for recovery. This review summarizes contemporary knowledge of nutritional strategies to promote glycogen resynthesis, restoration of fluid balance, and protein synthesis after different types of exercise stimuli. It notes that some scenarios benefit from a proactive approach to recovery eating, whereas others may not need such attention. In fact, in some situations it may actually be beneficial to withhold nutritional support immediately after exercise. Each athlete should use a cost–benefit analysis of the approaches to recovery after different types of workouts or competitive events and then periodize different recovery strategies into their training or competition programs.

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Physiology and Training of a World-Champion Paratriathlete

Iñigo Mujika, Javier Orbañanos, and Hugo Salazar

Paratriathlon will debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, but research documenting the physiological attributes and training practices of elite paratriathletes is lacking. This case study reports on the physiology and training of a long-distance worldchampion male paratriathlete (below-the-knee amputee) over 19 mo. His body mass and skinfolds declined respectively by ~4 kg and 30% in 2 mo and remained relatively constant thereafter. His swim test velocity increased by 4.4% over 6 mo but declined back to baseline thereafter. His absolute and relative cycling maximal aerobic power improved progressively by 21.8% and 32.6%, respectively. His power output at the individual lactate threshold (ILT) improved by 39.5% and 51.6%, and his power output at the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA), by 59.7% and 73.4%. His maximal running aerobic velocity improved by 12.8%, and his velocity at ILT and OBLA increased by 38.9% and 44.9%, respectively. Over 84 wk he performed 813 training sessions (248 swim, 229 bike, 216 run, 120 strength), ie, 10 ± 3 sessions/week (mean ± SD). Swim, bike, and run volumes were 709 km (8 ± 3 km/wk), 519 h (6 ± 4 h/wk), and 164 h (2 ± 1 h/wk), respectively. Training at intensities below ILT, between ILT and OBLA, and above OBLA for swim were 82% ± 3%, 14% ± 1%, 4.4% ± 0.4%; for bike, 91% ± 3%, 6.2% ± 0.5%, 3.3% ± 0.3%; and for run, 88% ± 1%, 8.0% ± 0.3%, 3.5% ± 0.1%. The training volume for each discipline was lower than previously reported for competitive able-bodied Olympic-distance triathletes. He won the long-distance world championship in 8 h 14 min 47 s, nearly 30 min faster than his nearest competitor.

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Moving on in Sport Science

Iñigo Mujika and David B. Pyne

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Concurrent Training for Sports Performance: The 2 Sides of the Medal

Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika, and Laurent Bosquet

The classical work by Robert C. Hickson showed in 1980 that the addition of a resistance-training protocol to a predominantly aerobic program could lead to impaired leg-strength adaptations in comparison with a resistance-only training regimen. This interference phenomenon was later highlighted in many reports, including a meta-analysis. However, it seems that the interference effect has not been consistently reported, probably because of the complex interactions between training variables and methodological issues. On the other side of the medal, Dr Hickson et al subsequently (1986) reported that a strength-training mesocycle could be beneficial for endurance performance in running and cycling. In recent meta-analyses and review articles, it was demonstrated that such a training strategy could improve middle- and long-distance performance in many disciplines (running, cycling, cross-country skiing, and swimming). Notably, it appears that improvements in the energy cost of locomotion could be associated with these performance enhancements. Despite these benefits, it was also reported that strength training could represent a detrimental stimulus for endurance performance if an inappropriate training plan has been prepared. Taken together, these observations suggest that coaches and athletes should be careful when concurrent training seems imperative to meet the complex physiological requirements of their sport. This brief review presents a practical appraisal of concurrent training for sports performance. In addition, recommendations are provided so that practitioners can adapt their interventions based on the training objectives.

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Sport Science on Women, Women in Sport Science

Iñigo Mujika and Ritva S. Taipale

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Nutrition and Training Adaptations in Aquatic Sports

Iñigo Mujika, Trent Stellingwerff, and Kevin Tipton

The adaptive response to training is determined by the combination of the intensity, volume, and frequency of the training. Various periodized approaches to training are used by aquatic sports athletes to achieve performance peaks. Nutritional support to optimize training adaptations should take periodization into consideration; that is, nutrition should also be periodized to optimally support training and facilitate adaptations. Moreover, other aspects of training (e.g., overload training, tapering and detraining) should be considered when making nutrition recommendations for aquatic athletes. There is evidence, albeit not in aquatic sports, that restricting carbohydrate availability may enhance some training adaptations. More research needs to be performed, particularly in aquatic sports, to determine the optimal strategy for periodizing carbohydrate intake to optimize adaptations. Protein nutrition is an important consideration for optimal training adaptations. Factors other than the total amount of daily protein intake should be considered. For instance, the type of protein, timing and pattern of protein intake and the amount of protein ingested at any one time influence the metabolic response to protein ingestion. Body mass and composition are important for aquatic sport athletes in relation to power-to-mass and for aesthetic reasons. Protein may be particularly important for athletes desiring to maintain muscle while losing body mass. Nutritional supplements, such as b-alanine and sodium bicarbonate, may have particular usefulness for aquatic athletes’ training adaptation.

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Hemoglobin Mass and Blood Volume in Swimming: A Comparison Between Highly Trained, Elite, and World-Class Swimmers

Iñigo Mujika, Grégoire P. Millet, Irina Zelenkova, and Nicolas Bourdillon

Purpose: Total hemoglobin mass (tHbmass) and blood volume (BV) are important determinants of maximal oxygen uptake and endurance capacity. Higher-caliber endurance athletes usually possess higher tHbmass and BV values. This study aimed to compare tHbmass and BV among swimmers of diverse competitive calibers and distances. Methods: Thirty swimmers (16 female and 14 male) participated in the study: 3 were tier 5, world class (869 [59] FINA points); 15 were tier 4, elite/international (853 [38] points); and 12 were tier 3, highly trained/national (808 [35] points). They specialized in competition distances ranging from 200 m to open-water 10 km. Between February 2019 and February 2020, all swimmers had their tHbmass and BV measured by carbon monoxide rebreathing 1 to 6 times and participated in multiple competitions and race events. Results: Relative tHbmass and BV were not different (P > .05) between tiers among women or among men (pooled tHbmass values 14.5 [0.5], 12.5 [1.5], 12.6 [2.3] g/kg for tier 5, tier 4, and tier 3, respectively). No differences were observed in relative tHbmass (P = .215) and BV (P = .458) between pool and open-water swimmers or between 200-, 400-, and 1500-m specialists (P > .05). No significant correlations were found between the highest measured absolute or relative tHbmass and BV and the highest FINA points scored over the follow-up period (R = −.42–.17, P = .256–.833), irrespective of competition distance. Conclusion: tHbmass and BV values did not differ between swimmers of different calibers or among competition distances. Furthermore, these values did not correlate with FINA points, either in males or in females. The present results indicate that hematological characteristics may have a lesser impact on swimming performance than on land-based endurance sports.

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Improving the Value of Fitness Testing for Football

David B. Pyne, Matt Spencer, and Iñigo Mujika

One of the challenges for sports scientists working in football is to balance the needs for routine fitness testing with daily fatigue and well-being monitoring to best manage the physical preparation of players. In this commentary, the authors examine contemporary issues of fitness testing in football to identify ways of improving the value of routine testing and monitoring. A testing program must be well planned and organized to ensure that the results are useful. Different tests can be employed for younger and older players. A rigorous approach to analysis and interpretation of results is desirable, and database management must address both short- and long-term requirements of players, staff, and programs.

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Effects of a New Evaporative Cooling Solution During Rowing in a Warm Environment

Iñigo Mujika, Rafa González De Txabarri, and David Pyne

Energicer is a new solution which purportedly increases evaporative cooling during exercise in the heat.


To evaluate the effect of Energicer on performance during indoor rowing in a warm environment.


Eighteen highly trained rowers (age 23.3 ± 6.7 y, height 181.3 ± 6.0 cm, mass 76.7 ± 5.0 kg, peak aerobic power (PAP) 322.1 ± 24.3 W; mean ± SD) performed two indoor rowing trials at 25.0°C and 65.0% relative humidity. Each trial consisted of 10 min at 55% PAP, 5 min of rest, 10 min at 70% PAP, 10 min of rest, and 2000 m time trial. Subjects were randomly assigned to an experimental (COOL) or a placebo (PLA) condition, using a double-blind, crossover design. During COOL, subjects wore sweatbands soaked in Energicer on both forearms; during PLA, they wore identical sweatbands soaked in cool water. Physiological measures and rowing performance were analyzed in a post-test-only crossover design. Magnitude of the difference between treatments was interpreted using the Cohen’s effect statistic.


No substantial differences were observed in heart rate, blood lactate and RPE between treatments during the submaximal row (COOL 163 ± 10 bpm, 4.3 ± 1.0 mM, 14.5 ± 1.8; PLA 165 ± 11 bpm, 4.8 ± 1.4 mM, 14.6 ± 1.6) and the time trial (COOL 179 ± 9 bpm, 10.7 ± 2.3 mM, 20 ± 0; PLA 179 ± 10 bpm, 11.1 ± 2.2 mM, 20 ± 0). Time (419 ± 11 vs 420 ± 12 s), mean power (305 ± 24 vs 304 ± 26 W), sweat loss (1013 ± 186 vs 981 ± 161 mL) and pacing strategy during the time trial were similar in COOL and PLA. The magnitude of differences between treatments was trivial for all measured variables.


Energicer failed to provide a substantial benefit during indoor rowing in a warm environment. Whether Energicer is beneficial during more prolonged exercise and/or under more stressful environmental conditions remains to be elucidated.

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Acute Creatine Supplementation and Performance during a Field Test Simulating Match Play in Elite Female Soccer Players

Greg Cox, Iñigo Mujika, Douglas Tumilty, and Louise Burke

This study investigated the effects of acute creatine (Cr) supplementation on the performance of elite female soccer players undertaking an exercise protocol simulating match play. On two occasions, 7 days apart, 12 players performed 5 X 11-min exercise testing blocks interspersed with 1 min of rest. Each block consisted of 11 all-out 20-m running sprints, 2 agility runs, and 1 precision ball-kicking drill, separated by recovery 20-m walks, jogs, and runs. After the initial testing session, subjects were assigned to either a CREATINE (5 g of Cr, 4 times per day for 6 days) or a PLACEBO group (same dosage of a glucose polymer) using a double-blind research design. Body mass (BM) increased (61.7 ± 8.9 to 62.5 ± 8.9 kg, p < .01) in the CREATINE group; however, no change was observed in the PLACEBO group (63.4 ± 2.9 kg to 63.7 ± 2.5 kg). No overall change in 20-m sprint times and agility run times were observed, although the CREATINE group achieved faster post-supplementation times in sprints 11, 13, 14, 16, 21, 23, 25, 32, and 39 (p < .05), and agility runs3,5,and8 (p < .05). The accuracy of shooting was unaffected in both groups. In conclusion, acute Cr supplementation improved performance of some repeated sprint and agility tasks simulating soccer match play, despite an increase in BM.