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Ronald J. Maughan, Susan M. Shirreffs and Alan Vernec

The use of dietary supplements is widespread among athletes in all sports and at all levels of competition, as it is in the general population. For the athlete training at the limits of what is sustainable, or for those seeking a shortcut to achieving their aims, supplements offer the prospect of bridging the gap between success and failure. Surveys show, however, that this is often not an informed choice and that the knowledge level among consumers is often low and that they are often influenced in their decisions by individuals with an equally inadequate understanding of the issues at stake. Supplement use may do more harm than good, unless it is based on a sound analysis of the evidence. Where a deficiency of an essential nutrient has been established by appropriate investigations, supplementation can provide a rapid and effective correction of the problem. Supplements can also provide a convenient and time-efficient solution to achieving the necessary intake of key nutrients such as protein and carbohydrate. Athletes contemplating the use of supplements should consider the potential for both positive and negative outcomes. Some ergogenic supplements may be of benefit to some athletes in some specific contexts, but many are less effective than is claimed. Some may be harmful to health of performance and some may contain agents prohibited by anti-doping regulations. Athletes should make informed choices that maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks.

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Ana Sousa, Pedro Figueiredo, David Pendergast, Per-Ludvik Kjendlie, João P. Vilas-Boas and Ricardo J. Fernandes

Swimming has become an important area of sport science research since the 1970s, with the bioenergetic factors assuming a fundamental performance-influencing role. The purpose of this study was to conduct a critical evaluation of the literature concerning oxygen-uptake (VO2) assessment in swimming, by describing the equipment and methods used and emphasizing the recent works conducted in ecological conditions. Particularly in swimming, due to the inherent technical constraints imposed by swimming in a water environment, assessment of VO2max was not accomplished until the 1960s. Later, the development of automated portable measurement devices allowed VO2max to be assessed more easily, even in ecological swimming conditions, but few studies have been conducted in swimming-pool conditions with portable breath-by-breath telemetric systems. An inverse relationship exists between the velocity corresponding to VO2max and the time a swimmer can sustain it at this velocity. The energy cost of swimming varies according to its association with velocity variability. As, in the end, the supply of oxygen (whose limitation may be due to central—O2 delivery and transportation to the working muscles—or peripheral factors—O2 diffusion and utilization in the muscles) is one of the critical factors that determine swimming performance, VO2 kinetics and its maximal values are critical in understanding swimmers’ behavior in competition and to develop efficient training programs.

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Eliseo Iglesias-Soler, Eduardo Carballeira, Tania Sánchez-Otero, Xian Mayo and Miguel Fernández-del-Olmo

Purpose:

To analyze performance during the execution of a maximum number of repetitions (MNR) in a cluster-set configuration.

Method:

Nine judokas performed 2 sessions of parallel squats with a load corresponding to 4-repetition maximum (4RM) with a traditional-training (TT) and cluster-training (CT) set configuration. The TT consisted of 3 sets of repetitions leading to failure and 3 min of rest between sets. In the CT the MNR was performed with a rest interval between repetitions (45.44 ± 11.89 s). The work-to-rest ratio was similar for CT and TT.

Results:

MNR in CT was 45.5 ± 32 repetitions and was 9.33 ± 1.87 times the volume in TT. There was a tendency for the average mean propulsive velocity (MPV) to be higher in CT (0.39 ± 0.04 vs 0.36 ± 0.04 m/s for CT and TT, respectively, P = .054, standardized mean difference [d] = 0.57). The average MPV was higher in CT for a similar number of repetitions (0.44 ± 0.08 vs 0.36 ± 0.04 m/s for CT and TT, respectively, P = .006, d = 1.33). The number of repetitions in TT was correlated with absolute 4RM load (r = –.719, P = .031) but not in CT (r = –.273, P = .477).

Conclusions:

A cluster-set configuration allows for a higher number of repetitions and improved sustainability of mechanical performance. CT, unlike TT, was not affected by absolute load, suggesting an improvement of training volume with high absolute loads.

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Veronika Leichtfried, Friedrich Hanser, Andrea Griesmacher, Markus Canazei and Wolfgang Schobersberger

Context:

Demands on concentrative and cognitive performance are high in sport shooting and vary in a circadian pattern, aroused by internal and external stimuli. The most prominent external stimulus is light. Bright light (BL) has been shown to have a certain impact on cognitive and physical performance.

Purpose:

To evaluate the impact of a single half hour of BL exposure in the morning hours on physical and cognitive performance in 15 sport shooters. In addition, courses of sulfateoxymelatonin (aMT6s), tryptophan (TRP), and kynurenine (KYN) were monitored.

Methods:

In a crossover design, 15 sport shooters were exposed to 30 min of BL and dim light (DL) in the early-morning hours. Shooting performance, balance, visuomotor performance, and courses of aMT6s, TRP, and KYN were evaluated.

Results:

Shooting performance was 365.4 (349.7–381.0) and 368.5 (353.9–383.1), identical in both light setups. Numbers of right reactions (sustained attention) and deviations from the horizontal plane (balance-related measure) were higher after BL. TRP concentrations decreased from 77.5 (73.5–81.4) to 66.9 (60.7–67.0) in the DL setup only.

Conclusions:

The 2 light conditions generated heterogeneous visuomotor and physiological effects in sport shooters. The authors therefore suggest that a single half hour of BL exposure is effective in improving cognitive aspects of performance, but not physical performance. Further research is needed to evaluate BL’s impact on biochemical parameters.

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Martin D. Hoffman and Carol A. Parise

Purpose:

This work longitudinally assesses the influence of aging and experience on time to complete 161-km ultramarathons.

Methods:

From 29,331 finishes by 4066 runners who had completed 3 or more 161-km ultramarathons in North America from 1974 through 2010, independent cohorts of men (n = 3,092), women (n = 717), and top-performing men (n = 257) based on age-group finish place were identified. Linear mixed-effects regression was used to assess the effects of aging and previous 161-km finish number on finish time adjusted for the random effects of runner, event, and year.

Results:

Men and women up to 38 y of age slowed by 0.05–0.06 h/y with advancing age. Men slowed 0.17 h/y from 38 through 50 y and 0.23 h/y after 50 y. Women slowed 0.20–0.23 h/y with advancing age from 38 y. Top-performing men under 38 y did not slow with increasing age but slowed by 0.26 and 0.39 h/y from 38 through 50 y and after 50 y, respectively. Finish number was inversely associated with finish time for all 3 cohorts. A 10th or higher finish was 1.3, 1.7, and almost 3 h faster than a first finish for men, women, and top-performing men, respectively.

Conclusions:

High-level performances in 161-km ultramarathoners can be sustained late into the 4th decade of life, but subsequent aging is associated with declines in performance. Nevertheless, the adverse effects of aging on performance can be offset by greater experience in these events.

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Jonathan Esteve-Lanao, Eneko Larumbe-Zabala, Anouar Dabab, Alberto Alcocer-Gamboa and Facundo Ahumada

The aim of this study was to describe the pacing distribution during 6 editions of the world cross-country championships.

Methods:

Data from the 768 male runners participating from 2007 to 2013 were considered for this study. Blocks of 10 participants according to final position (eg, 1st to 10th, 11 to 20th, etc) were considered.

Results:

Taking data from all editions together, the effect of years was found to be significant (F 5,266 = 3078.69, P < .001, ω2 = 0.31), as well as the effect of blocks of runners by final position (F 4,266 = 957.62, P < .001, ω2 = 0.08). A significant general decrease in speed by lap was also found (F 5,1330 = 2344.02, P < .001, ω2 = 0.29). Post hoc analyses were conducted for every edition where several pacing patterns were found. All correlations between the lap times and the total time were significant. However, each lap might show different predicting capacity over the individual outcome.

Discussion:

Top athletes seem to display different strategies, which allow them to sustain an optimal speed and/or kick as needed during the critical moments and succeed. After the first group (block) of runners, subsequent blocks always displayed a positive pacing pattern (fast to slow speed). Consequently, a much more stable pacing pattern should be considered to maximize final position.

Conclusions:

Top-10 finishers in the world cross-country championships tend to display a more even pace than the rest of the finishers, whose general behavior shows a positive (fast-to-slow) pattern.

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Jeanne Dekerle and James Paterson

Purpose:

To examine muscle fatigue of the shoulder internal rotators alongside swimming biomechanics during long-duration submaximal swimming sets performed in 2 different speed domains.

Methods:

Eight trained swimmers (mean ± SD 20.5 ± 0.9 y, 173 ± 10 cm, 71.3 ± 10.0 kg) raced over 3 distances (200-, 400-, 800-m races) for determination of critical speed (CS; slope of the distance–time relationship). After a familiarization with muscle isokinetic testing, they subsequently randomly performed 2 constant-speed efforts (6 × 5-min blocks, 2.5-min recovery) 5% above (T105) and 5% below CS (T95) with maximal voluntary contractions recorded between swimming blocks.

Results:

Capillary blood lactate concentration ([La]), rating of perceived exertion (RPE), peak torque, stroke length, and stroke rate were maintained throughout T95 (P < .05). [La], RPE, and stroke rate increased alongside concomitant decreases in maximal torque and stroke length during T105 (P < .05) with incapacity of the swimmers to maintain the pace for longer than ~20 min. For T105, changes in maximal torque (35.0 ± 14.9 to 25.8 ± 12.1 Nm) and stroke length (2.66 ± 0.36 to 2.23 ± 0.24 m/cycle) were significantly correlated (r = .47, P < .05).

Conclusion:

While both muscle fatigue (shoulder internal rotators) and task failure occur when swimming at a pace greater than CS, the 2.5-min recovery period during the sub-CS set possibly alleviated the development of muscle fatigue for the pace to be sustainable for 6 × 5 min at 95% of CS. A causal relationship between reduction in stroke length and loss of muscle strength should be considered very cautiously in swimming.

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Michael L. Newell, Angus M. Hunter, Claire Lawrence, Kevin D. Tipton and Stuart D. R. Galloway

In an investigator-blind, randomized cross-over design, male cyclists (mean± SD) age 34.0 (± 10.2) years, body mass 74.6 (±7.9) kg, stature 178.3 (±8.0) cm, peak power output (PPO) 393 (±36) W, and VO2max 62 (±9) ml·kg−1min−1 training for more than 6 hr/wk for more than 3y (n = 20) completed four experimental trials. Each trial consisted of a 2-hr constant load ride at 95% of lactate threshold (185 ± 25W) then a work-matched time trial task (~30min at 70% of PPO). Three commercially available carbohydrate (CHO) beverages, plus a control (water), were administered during the 2-hr ride providing 0, 20, 39, or 64g·hr−1 of CHO at a fluid intake rate of 1L·hr−1. Performance was assessed by time to complete the time trial task, mean power output sustained, and pacing strategy used. Mean task completion time (min:sec ± SD) for 39g·hr−1 (34:19.5 ± 03:07.1, p = .006) and 64g·hr−1 (34:11.3 ± 03:08.5 p = .004) of CHO were significantly faster than control (37:01.9 ± 05:35.0). The mean percentage improvement from control was −6.1% (95% CI: −11.3 to −1.0) and −6.5% (95% CI: −11.7 to −1.4) in the 39 and 64g·hr−1 trials respectively. The 20g·hr−1 (35:17.6 ± 04:16.3) treatment did not reach statistical significance compared with control (p = .126) despite a mean improvement of −3.7% (95% CI −8.8−1.5%). No further differences between CHO trials were reported. No interaction between CHO dose and pacing strategy occurred. 39 and 64g·hr−1 of CHO were similarly effective at improving endurance cycling performance compared with a 0g·hr−1 control in our trained cyclists.

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Jason D. Vescovi and Jaci L. VanHeest

This observational case study examined the association of inter- and intraday energy intake and exercise energy expenditure with bone health, menstrual status and hematological factors in a female triathlete. The study spanned 7 months whereby energy intake and exercise energy expenditure were monitored three times (13 d); 16 blood samples were taken, urinary hormones were assessed for 3 months, and bone mineral density was measured twice. Energy availability tended to be sustained below 30 kcal/kg FFM/d and intraday energy intake patterns were often “back-loaded” with approximately 46% of energy consumed after 6 p.m. Most triiodothyronine values were low (1.1–1.2nmol/L) and supportive of reduced energy availability. The athlete had suppressed estradiol (105.1 ± 71.7pmol/L) and progesterone (1.79 ±1.19nmol/L) concentrations as well as urinary sex-steroid metabolites during the entire monitoring period. Lumbar spine (L1-L4) bone mineral density was low (age-matched Z-score −1.4 to −1.5). Despite these health related maladies the athlete was able to perform typical weekly training loads (swim: 30–40 km, bike: 120–300 km, run 45–70 km) and was competitive as indicated by her continued improvement in ITU World Ranking during and beyond the assessment period. There is a delicate balance between health and performance that can become blurred especially for endurance athletes. Education (athletes, coaches, parents) and continued monitoring of specific indicators will enable evidence-based recommendations to be provided and help reduced the risk of health related issues while maximizing performance gains. Future research needs to longitudinally examine how performance on standardized tests in each discipline (e.g., 800-m swim, 20-km time trial, 5-km run) is impacted when aspects of the female athlete triad are present.

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Stephen A. Ingham, Barry W. Fudge, Jamie S. Pringle and Andrew M. Jones

Prior high-intensity exercise increases the oxidative energy contribution to subsequent exercise and may enhance exercise tolerance. The potential impact of a high-intensity warm-up on competitive performance, however, has not been investigated.

Purpose:

To test the hypothesis that a high-intensity warm-up would speed VO2 kinetics and enhance 800-m running performance in well-trained athletes.

Methods:

Eleven highly trained middle-distance runners completed two 800-m time trials on separate days on an indoor track, preceded by 2 different warm-up procedures. The 800-m time trials were preceded by a 10-min self-paced jog and standardized mobility drills, followed by either 6 × 50-m strides (control [CON]) or 2 × 50-m strides and a continuous high-intensity 200-m run (HWU) at race pace. Blood [La] was measured before the time trials, and VO2 was measured breath by breath throughout exercise.

Results:

800-m time-trial performance was significantly faster after HWU (124.5 ± 8.3 vs CON, 125.7 ± 8.7 s, P < .05). Blood [La] was greater after HWU (3.6 ± 1.9 vs CON, 1.7 ± 0.8 mM; P < .01). The mean response time for VO2 was not different between conditions (HWU, 27 ± 6 vs CON, 28 ± 7 s), but total O2 consumed (HWU, 119 ± 18 vs CON, 109 ± 28 ml/kg, P = .05) and peak VO2 attained (HWU, 4.21 ± 0.85 vs CON, 3.91 ± 0.63 L/min; P = .08) tended to be greater after HWU.

Conclusions:

These data indicate that a sustained high-intensity warm-up enhances 800-m time-trial performance in trained athletes.