5 of the latest sports science research stories

1) A meta-analysis of nine studies revealed that cold-water immersion is more effective at reducing muscle soreness than passive recovery (where you exercise at a low intensity to flush out exercise-induced toxins). The therapy is said to constrict blood vessels, helping to reduce swelling and tissue breakdown. Prof Aryane Machado and his team also concluded that water temperature between 11°C and 15°C is optimum for 11-15mins. But be warned: some say reducing soreness is a sign the muscle isn’t adapting effectively to the workout. 


2) The last 40 years has seen an explosion in running. But a review by biomechanics expert Benno Nigg shows that, despite purported advancements in run-shoe technology, injury rates haven’t dropped. Nigg suggested not choosing run shoes based on gait analysis, such as pronation and impact forces (whether you land on your heel or ball of your foot). Instead, he observed that your body naturally runs to its ‘preferred movement path’, whatever shoes you’re wearing, which their research showed was usually the most comfortable pair. 

3)  Rotator cuff strain, patellar tendonitis, shin splints… even the strongest triathlete can suffer multisport injuries. Rest, recuperation and, according to Prof Kevin Tipton of Stirling University, a change in nutrition strategy helps recovery. A long spell off can reduce muscle mass so Tipton suggests eating more protein (2-2.5g/kg/day). Creatine, used by bodybuilders, can also stave off muscular reductions, while there’s a case for upping omega-3 intakes, too. The fatty acid reduces inflammation, though Tipton says swelling aids healing.

4) Looking to lose weight after the Christmas binge? Turn to skimmed milk. Dr Penny Rumbold of Northumbria University had nine female recreational exercisers drink either 600ml of skimmed milk or 600ml of orange juice after 30mins of exercise followed by a pasta dish 60mins later. The milk group consumed 25% less calories than the orange group, proposing that the higher-protein drink satiated appetite more than the vitamin-C-rich juice. It’s down to elevated levels of the hormones cholecystokinin and glucagon-like peptide-1, used in insulin control. 

5) The past few years have seen a rise in athletes basing their training on heart-rate variability (HRV), most notably via the Omegawave training tool. HRV gives information about the status of the cardiac-autonomic nervous system, the strength and balance of which conveys how resilient an athlete will be.

A recent study from Scandinavia aimed to determine whether HRV values can accurately provide information about subsequent exercise intensity and volume. Thirty-seven endurance athletes were split into two groups. One followed a high-volume eight-week programme, the other high-intensity for eight weeks. Before and after the eight-week plan, subjects undertook a treadmill test to measure running speed.

The results proved interesting. Subjects with low baseline HRV readings didn’t respond well to high-intensity training but did in the high-volume group. Vice versa, a high baseline HRV resulted in significant improvements in subjects undertaking high-intensity exercise but not in the high-volume group. Researchers concluded that measuring HRV when you rise is a good way to determine the intensity and volume of your training that day.


References: 1. Sports Medicine, 2015 Nov, Epub ahead of print; 2. Brit J Sports Med, 2015, volume 49, pages  1,290-1,294; 3. Sports Med, 2015 Nov, Epub ahead of print; 4. Nutrients, 2015 Jan, volume 7, pages 293-305 5 Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (Impact Factor: 2.9). 08/2015; DOI: 10.1111/sms.12530

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