Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Athletic Enhancement - Legalized Doping?

MCT Triathlon Coaching Caffeine Coffee Athletic Performance Enhancement Doping

Effects of Caffeine in Athletic Performance
Caffeine is a globally widespread drug that can enhance the body’s chemical processes.  When most people think of caffeine, a picture of a mornin’ cup a joe pops into their mind.  When most think of the use of caffeine, so often it is a substance to get jolt of energy in the sleepy time morning or mid-afternoon.

Athletic Performance
But what about caffeine use in athletic performance?  Can it be used efficiently?  Is it a necessity?  Is the use That effective?  Yes, Yes, and YES!  Major studies have been done on the effects of caffeine on athletic performance and these are some results from

“The average improvement in performance is about 12 percent, with more benefits noticed during endurance exercise than with shorter exercise (eight to 20 minutes) and a negligible amount for sprinters. More benefits are also noticed in athletes who rarely drink coffee, hence are not tolerant to its stimulant effect.”
Caffeine can not only be an effective tool in athletic performance, but athletic recovery as well.  Because caffeine speeds up chemical body processes, it inherently speeds up the time it takes for the body to repair itself from previous workouts.  Additionally, Caffeine can increase the effects of carbo-loading for race weeks.  Read Caffeine used as a Recovery agent for a more in-depth analysis. 

But is this legal in triathlon?  Again, Yes!  In the ITU and USAT rules it explicitly states that Caffeine is NOT a banned substance and can be used in competition.

How about ethically?  Is it wrong?  This is a matter of opinion but I believe it is not wrong.  Caffeine is widespread, available to everyone, and is not entirely harmful (extra high doses can trigger anxiety attacks and such).   

According to the New York Times, “Caffeine, which is legal under International Olympic Committee rules, is the most popular drug in sports. More than two-thirds of about 20,680 Olympic athletes studied for a recent report had caffeine in their urine, with use highest among triathletes, cyclists and rowers.”

So what is the proper “dosage” of this drug?  Studies show that fewer than 2mg of Caffeine per kg of body weight has no athletic enhancing effect while over 6mg of Caffeine per kg of body weight actually hurts athletic performance.

Where to get it?  Your first thought is probably “coffee.”  While this is easily the quickest and cheapest way to obtain caffeine, studies show that caffeine in coffee may not be utilized as effectively as other sources.  While this may be true, other options include eating 1000 calories of 90% dark chocolate (I love chocolate but let’s not get carried away), Tea, or caffeine pills.  Personally,  I’ll take a few more ounces of the joe’ to compensate. 

How to use caffeine efficiently?
When used on a regular basis, the effects of drugs on the human body tend to diminish over time.  This is no different for the use of caffeine.  Those who use it as a wakeup call every morning are going to see less pronounced effects. 

While I haven’t found any studies pertaining to the tolerance effect of caffeine, I recommend scheduling it’s use sparingly (not daily) based on trial and error experience.  I find that the athletic enhancements of caffeine diminish greatly after using the drug three or more days a week.  Use caffeine twice a week on Lactate/Aerobic Threshold and VO2 Max days to enhance training performance.  Three weeks before an “A” race, use is cut down to once a week to break tolerance levels so there is a greater effect during race week.

Schedule caffeine use on days with higher carbohydrate intakes for maximal carbo-loading.  A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology (July 2008) found that glycogen levels were substantially higher with carb/caffeine ingestion as opposed to just carb ingestion.  Most endurance athletes would call this glycogen storage “carboloading.” 

Example for a Build week in Triathlon
90min Ride

90min Swim
2 Hour
VO2Max Run
90min Run

90min Swim
2.5 Hour
LT Ride
(Long Sets)
90min Ride

60min Swim
60min Swim
2 Hour
Weighted Run



Stayed Tuned for another post in the MCT TriathlonTraining Log:
A Guide to a Quick, Cheap, and Fun Iced Coffee Fix!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Benefits of Stretching + Video Special!

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Stretching is an active recovery technique that can help the muscles become stronger, longer, and more relaxed.  While it has been debated whether or not stretching helps prevent injury (or even creates injury), there are several benefits of stretching on a daily basis.

Increase Flexibility
Whether you are swimming, biking, or running, most of us can use some help with flexibility.  Flexibility can be useful to increase athletic performance, especially on the bike using the aero position.  The more flexible you are, the farther down you can be positioned on your aero bars, the more aerodynamic you will be, and therefore the faster and efficient you will be.  In swimming, Ankle flexibility is very important but difficult to do.  It should be mentioned that stretching your ankles can be risky for injury and should be preceded cautiously.
Improve Circulation
Not only will stretching your muscles improve circulation, but the actual ACT of stretching is a low level aerobic activity that will improve circulation as well.  This will increase recovery and hopefully performance in subsequent workouts. 

Stretching can be a great way to relax and wind down at the end of the day.  If you suffer from mild cases of certain insomnias (like having difficulties falling asleep) you may want to include a quiet stretching routine before you head to bed.

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When to Stretch
  • ·        At the end of a day
  • ·        On an off/recovery day
  • ·        When you feel very tight
When NOT to Stretch (static)
  • ·        When muscles are seriously sore
  • ·        Before any workout
  • ·        Immediately after difficult/long workouts
Stretching when the body has already stretched itself out or is already damaged is a sure way to damage the body more.  Also, stretching before workouts decrease the potential power production those muscles can create.  Take a look at MCT Triathlon’s Video Stretching Special below for a great daily head to toe routine!


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Eating Healthy is LAME! : Nutritional Series

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Nutrition, like exercise, is considered by many as a lifestyle, not a task to an end.  What’s great about, Lifestyle is it can shift, but only in small increments.  The human body craves nutritious and healthy food and good quality exercise.  Yet because the way we have evolved, it is easy to be self-destructive with the foods and activity patterns of modern society.  I would like you as the reader, not to be defensive towards the ideas listed here.  Read them, learn them, and even apply them if you wish.  
I have been living a low sugar/carb, natural diet for a few years now.  I stay away from most processed and high sugar foods.  Though last week I visited my Aunt’s house in long island and fell away from my normal diet.  She makes the Greatest chocolate chip cookies known to man and just like Crack-Cocaine, the high of getting one, is all about getting more.  After eating about 12 cookies, I became nauseous (like I usually do) and felt sluggish for the next 2 days.  It's easy to realize how un-healthy certain things are when you don’t have them often.  But how can you move to a healthier lifestyle?  It’s not as easy as a magical transformation or going cold turkey from all un-healthy foods… It’s about small lifestyle changes.  

Below is a screen shot of a healthy lifestyle presentation I made for increasing athletic performance.  The graph stresses the importance of taking small steps to change your lifestyle.  While, you will notice you become stressed when your lifestyle shifts to an “un-healthier” state, you also become stressed (temporarily) when your lifestyle shifts to a healthier state.  Only when this new stress disappates and becomes part of your normal lifestyle should you include another healthy habit and stress the lifestyle again.  (Athletes, does this sound familiar?  Stress the body, rest, stress the body, rest)

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MCT Triathlon Eating Healthy Being Healthy Lifestyle Shifts Presentation

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How to: Try using the following steps to make small lifestyle changes healthier and happier living!

The LAME Method
Limit – Every 2-3 weeks, Limit intakes of damaging nutrition.  Find one “un-healthy” staple of your diet and greatly limit your intake.  Some examples would be Soda, Fast-food, or other processed foods such as high added sugars, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils.  This goes for activity as well, possibly limit TV to two hours instead of three.
Add – Every 2-3 weeks, add intakes of healthy nutrition.  Find a healthier food to try to regularly add to your diet.  These can include fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, olive oil, eggs, or even daily goals.  Goals could be shown as “eating a fresh vegetable/fruit at every meal,” or eating a healthy non-sugar/carb breakfast every day.  You can devote to add a 15-30 minute slow walk around the neighborhood after meals.  These smalls decisions will add up over the weeks and months and slowly develop your lifestyle without stress.
Maintain – After 2-3 weeks ends and a new cycle begins, try to continue with the small lifestyle changes you had made recently and try to incorporate another cycles of changes with those.  If you haven’t become completely accustomed to the new changes that were made, don’t incorporate anything new but take another week or two and get used to what you changed.  It’s not perfect, but what lifestyle is? 
Enjoy – You may find that over time you can’t imagine how you lived without the new changes.  Your changes hopefully become routine and easy to remember over time.  Just remember, it’s just a series of small, slow steps to healthier living.  But the most important factor is to ENJOY what you are doing.  If you don’t like tofu, try eggs, if you don’t like zucchini, try a cucumber instead.  Tastes, preferences, and abilities all vary and there are endless possibilities to living healthy!  Eat, Exercise, Enjoy!

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Forth of July Traveling Workouts Special!

Imagine, it's July 4th, 7am, and you're getting ready for a 2 hour ride to the lake... Boat rides, grilling, family, fireworks, swimming, and another 2 hour ride back home.  After unpacking, getting ready for bed, and work the following day, you're left with no room to get in a good workout.  The day sounds very exciting but you may be left with anxiety to get in a good workout.

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The car (on the highway) is a Great place to get in a good workout to feel accomplished and anxiety free.  You'll even feel amazing by the time you reach your destination.  The small exercises you can do while traveling limber anyone up and keep the blood moving.  Take a look at the July 4th Video Special on Traveling Workouts!

Check out the workout below for exceptional ideas to keeping limber during a long trip.

An Example Traveling Workout (From the MCT Triathlon Training Log)

  • 2x2min Wall Sits w/ min r (Lift your butt and keep your back on the seat)
  • 1x1min Front Shoulder Hang (Lift ankle weights hands down)
  • 1x1min Reversed Front Shoulder Hang (Lift ankle weights hands up)
  • 1x1min Twisted Front Shoulder Hang (Lift ankle weight thumbs down)
  • 1x1min Tricep Extensions (Theraband or behind head w/ weight)
  • 2x2min Leg Circles w/ min rest (Lift legs and rotate in circular motion)
  • 1x1min Hamstring Hold (switch with both legs) (place heel into floor with one leg and basically do a wall sit)
  • 1x2min Calve Raises (Lift your Calves)
  • 1x2min Shin Raises (Lift your toes)
  • 1x1min Seated Crunches (Contract your abs)
  • 1x1min Seat Press (Connect Resistance Band around seat and use bench press movement)