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Pain, Endurance and The Art of Suffering

Pain, Endurance and The Art of Suffering

One study that Hutchinson cites, highlighting how differently people can process the same painful stimulus, was published by Wolfgang Freund in 2013. Participants were asked to hold their hands in ice water for three minutes and rate the pain they felt as the trial concluded. A group of ultrarunners completed the protocol and their average pain rating was six out of ten. Contrast this with the non-athlete control group who averaged 96 seconds before removing their hands as their pain maxed out at 10. Only three of the control group lasted the full three minutes. It must be noted that the ultrarunners tested were running the gruelling TransEurope Footrace which covers 2,789 miles in 64 days: athletes with an especially insatiable appetite for suffering.

Similar findings came up in a study by Karel Gijsbers, looking at Scottish swimmers and their tolerance of pain. The test protocol involved inflating a blood pressure cuff around the subject’s arm to cease circulation to the limb, followed by repeated clenching of the fist once per second, for as long as the subject could bear. Thirty elite (national level) swimmers were compared with thirty club swimmers and a non-athlete control group. The implications of Gijsbers’ findings are enormous.

The results show that the pain threshold was very similar for the three groups, with most participants beginning to report painful sensations at around 50 contractions. Athletes are not insensitive and feel pain like everyone else. What sets them apart lies elsewhere: there were stark differences in the pain tolerance exhibited by the three groups. The control group averaged 70 contractions before throwing in the towel (only ~20 beyond when they started to feel pain), club-level swimmers averaged 89, and the elite averaged 132, almost double the control group!

Why Running Alone Feels Harder – Explained

Why Running Alone Feels Harder – Explained

COVID-19 has changed a lot in the world of 2020. But one notable difference for runners is the absence of group training in the last few months. Has anyone else noticed that a solo workout just feels worse than when you’re running with others? The effort may feel just as hard, coming up with the motivation to finish the set may be taking an unusually high toll, and the splits you’re running may not reflect what you’re normally capable of when running with training partners.

Alex Hutchinson of Sweat Science just published an article analysing a recent study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, which provides some really interesting insight into why this may be the case. The study takes a close look at affective feelings and how they may alter performance in either a solo time trial effort, or an effort run with others. As Alex puts it, affect essentially means how much pleasure or displeasure you’re experience, and it is very tightly correlated with mood.

Conducted by researchers in São Paolo, the protocol was to have 14 runners complete a pair of 10km efforts, one alone on a track, and the other competing against the other participants of the study (with at least a week between the efforts). No prizes for guessing which trial saw faster results, the group run resulted in an average time almost one minute faster than the solo effort (39:32 vs 40:28).

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 2)

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 2)

It’s interesting that despite studies suggesting that the (already elevated) recommendations for protein intake by endurance athletes may be too low – failing to optimise performance – there are many top endurance athletes who controvert this. An interesting study looked at the dietary habits of elite runners in Kenya.

The athletes were consuming a diet very high in carbohydrates (76.5%, 10.4 g/kg of body mass per day) and low in fat (13.4%). Protein intake represented 10.1% of their total calories which worked out to be 1.3 g/kg per day, which matches the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine mentioned above. Another interesting point is that the estimated energy intake of the athletes (2987 ± 293 kcal) was lower than energy expenditure (3605 ± 119 kcal).

This aligns with what we witnessed whilst training with Kipchoge and other elites in Kenya. Coming in from a long run, there was no sign of protein shakes. The snacks of choice were bananas, white bread and milky tea saturated with sugar. The authors of this study also noted that fluid intake by the Kenyan athletes studied was modest, mainly in the form of water (1113 ± 269 mL) and tea (1243 ± 348 mL). Their conclusions: “Although the diet met most recommendations for endurance athletes for macronutrient intake, it remains to be determined if modifying energy balance and fluid intake will enhance the performance of elite Kenyan runners.”
Here we take a look at some of the research and recommendations on how much protein athletes should be consuming, and the reasons why. There’s no universal answer but I hope this will provide some interesting points to consider when making dietary choices. Protein is obviously of significance – playing a key role in myriad bodily functions – but figuring out how much, what type and when you should be consuming protein is really quite a confusing undertaking. It’s by no means as simple as protein = gains. I mean, firstly, what is protein?

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 1)

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 1)

Protein! A hype word like no other in the health and fitness world. Endless tomes of information and misinformation on the subject lurk out there on the internet, with mud-slinging fights aplenty in any forum you care to look at. There is likely no other dietary component that inspires as much debate, insofar as athletes are concerned, as protein. This article isn’t being published to add more fuel to the fire, and I must warn you that there’s no magical solution proffered in the conclusion. Nutrition is something that different bodies react to in different ways and if someone is trying to bludgeon you with a concrete opinion, it’s probably worth questioning their motives.

Here we take a look at some of the research and recommendations on how much protein athletes should be consuming, and the reasons why. There’s no universal answer but I hope this will provide some interesting points to consider when making dietary choices. Protein is obviously of significance – playing a key role in myriad bodily functions – but figuring out how much, what type and when you should be consuming protein is really quite a confusing undertaking. It’s by no means as simple as protein = gains. I mean, firstly, what is protein?

Kenenisa Bekele – Training Before Berlin Marathon 2019 (2:01:41)

Kenenisa Bekele – Training Before Berlin Marathon 2019 (2:01:41)

Wed Aug 21
AM: Track. 2 Sets of (3km in 9:00, 2km in 5:55, 1km in 2:55, 500m in 1:13). Recovery: 2.5min.
PM: 50min easy (4:20/km > 4:10/km)

Thu Aug 22
AM: 1hr easy (4:20/km > 4:10/km). 10x100m (16sec).
PM: 6km easy. Gym (general strength, corrective workout).

Fri Aug 23
AM: Fartlek (road): 20x1min (1min jog recovery), 20x30sec (30sec jog recovery), 5min recovery between sets. Reps at 2:40-2:45/km.
PM: 6km easy. Gym (general strength, corrective workout).

Diet of Ethiopian Athletes

Diet of Ethiopian Athletes

Interestingly, meat consumption seemed to have a positive correlation with the stature of the athlete. For athletes who were not under management and hadn’t won many races, meat was an expensive luxury, and they ate a diet much more grounded in vegetables and grains. Whereas athletes who had been more successful and had a higher income, much higher levels of meat were consumed. Eating whole plates of goat meat was a status symbol and eating the finest cuts of raw steak was reserved for celebrations: Kenenisa Bekele’s coach treated us, along with some of his other athletes, to raw meat on Ethiopian Christmas Day.

So, what is it that they are mainly eating? There are several staples which most meals seem to revolve around….

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