Caffeine is one of the most performance enhancing drugs available to athletes, with research demonstrating that it has ergogenic effects on a range of exercise types, including aerobic endurance, strength, and repeated anaerobic activities. Athletes are of course aware of this, and research tends to suggest that around three-quarters of athletes utilise caffeine either immediately before or during competitions. But new research indicates that the effects are not as general as you may think, and could have no effect or even harm performances for some athletes.
Entries by Craig Pickering
There is an arms race in today’s sporting environment. Teams, athletes, coaches and support staff aren’t just fighting for the best facilities and talent, they’re also seeing who can collect the most numbers. This is the era of big data, and the past decade has seen an unrivaled amount of information available in sports from a wide variety of methods, including the use of GPS systems, electronic timing gates, force platforms, blood testing, and general wellness questionnaires. The richness and vastness of information available, however, can also be seen as a curse; both teams and individuals can feel like they have to collect more and more data, in the hope that they can gain an edge over their competitors, and better enhance athletic performance. As with many things, we need to shift the focus on data from quantity to quality.
In the January Sports Science Monthly we kick off the year by looking at some new and old topics. We start by looking at how simply communicating information can impact physiology, wearable resistance, and calf strength. We also touch on recurring topics like sleep, quantifying the effects of caffeine, and much more.
Standing at 8,848m (29,029 feet), Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain, making it a target for daredevils and adventurers to attempt to summit. Despite not being an especially challenging technical climb – you can essentially “just” walk up large sections of it – summiting Everest is dangerous for many reasons, including high winds, fatiguing conditions, and the high altitude, which can induce altitude sickness leading to pulmonary and cerebral edema. Historically, it has been estimated that one person dies for every 4 who summit. As a result, around 300 people have died on the mountain, and, given the logistical issues associated with recovering a body under such dangerous conditions, many of these people remain on Everest.
I’m an introvert, and so, ever since I was a kid, I’ve been much happier with my nose in a book than taking part in more social behaviors. To this day, I still enjoy reading, and I try to make time to read for around an hour each night before bed, along with added bursts when on holiday or traveling on planes. This year, I “read” 59 books. I started a subscription to an audiobook service, which helped boost my number slightly—although I have to be careful not to zone out when listening—and I also got much better at giving up on books that I didn’t find interesting after around 50 pages. Here, I’ll share with you what I read, and which I enjoyed the most; I do this not to boast, but because I find it interesting to get an idea of what other people read – perhaps you’ll find this equally as interesting!
Lots of new topics in the December edition of Sports Science Monthly. Our first study looks at the role of genetics in endurance programming. We also look at research on whether athletes eat enough, monitoring acute:chronic training loads, biomarkers, acceleration performance, and some interesting new research on tactical periodization.
Whilst athletes and coaches have long focused on the physical aspects of performance enhancement, such as training program design and exercise selection, it is only relatively recently that we have started to pay attention to how stress and sleep might also influence both the magnitude of adaptations seen following a training program, and competition performance. Based on this recent research, we have an increased understanding of the need to account for psychological stress, including, in the case of younger athletes, academic work load, when developing optimal training programs.
At the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London, the IAAF and Leeds Beckett University collaborated on a wide-ranging and expansive biomechanics project, with the aim of giving us further insights into the biomechanical underpinnings of elite performance. Of interest to me was, of course, the data from the 100-meter dash, given my history in that event. Immediately following the final, the IAAF released some rough and ready data, which I analyzed at the time for HMMRMedia. Then, in July this year, they released the extended report, including great coaching commentary from PJ Vazel. There are a few interesting facets of the study which I hope to shed light on here.
We cover a wide range of topics in the November edition of Sports Science Monthly. Our first report looks at new research providing some interesting insights into reaction times of Olympic sprinters. We also look at research on several supplements including creatine and caffeine, the connection between testing and performance in team sports, as well as deceleration and injury prevention.
More it more it seems like we are surrounded by craziness, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I recently read It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the two founders of the project management software company Basecamp. The main point of the book is, as the title suggests, work doesn’t have to be, and indeed shouldn’t be, crazy.