The week’s biggest health research paired with expert insight
Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help us to better understand our bodies so we can craft healthier lifestyles, workouts, and recovery plans.
In our first installment of this new weekly news series, we ran some of the most recent fitness research and trending topics by Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute. Below, his beyond-the-headlines thoughts on issues like sweat, sex, and the role gear plays in breaking the two-hour marathon time.
What’s the Best Way to Cool Down on a Hot Run?
The science:According to a new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, cooling down mid-race (with a cold facial spray and cooling mouth wash) helped endurance exercisers working out in the heat boost performance. Cooling off pre-race (with a cold-water immersion and an ice slurry) didn’t impact performance much at all (if any).
Expert EQX insight: “To me, one of the more interesting elements of the research results lie in how perceptions can help to shape performance. During the activity, the cooling efforts helped to either manage or negate the sensation of heat and overheating and as a result could maintain the drive to push further. Look at how many people in marathons prefer to take the cup of water at the aid station and dump it on their head versus drinking it. Hydration is absolutely important but so is maintaining external body temperature.”
Is There a Sweatier Sex?
The science:Previous research has suggested that sweat levels vary between the sexes and that, perhaps because of testosterone, men wind up sweatier than women post-workout. But a new study in Experimental Physiology finds that fluctuations in heat loss have more to do with size than sex. Bigger people—men or women—sweat more than smaller people.
Expert EQX insight: “This makes sense and likely addresses issues with prior research. More often than not, the bodily response of men and women is compared with the only differentiating factors being their gender or fitness status. On average, men tend to be larger than women, requiring potentially different strategies to help cool the body. This study matched participant response size for size. This is important because it can help guide recommendations on hydration during exercise. It can also help to alleviate the myth that women shouldn’t or don’t sweat during exercise. We are all humans and have the same physiological need to maintain a stable core body temperature. Sweating is key to that need.”
Can Exercise Lower Men’s Libidos?
The science:High performers in the world of exercise might struggle to perform just as well in the bedroom: Endurance exercisers who work out hard might have lower libidos than those who take it easier in the gym, finds a studypublished in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Expert EQX insight: “Chronic, high-intensity or high-volume exercise (which is often the case with serious endurance training) has been associated with lower testosterone levels. One hypothesis is that it is due to an increase in other hormones as a result of the chronic stress of training, specifically cortisol. When someone puts in day after day of grueling training, they aren’t allowing their body the time to recover. That coupled with the stress of daily life means cortisol remains elevated, which has been shown to be associated with a negative effect on total testosterone, which is linked to sex drive in men. For me, the big takeaway here is an increased importance on recovery and regeneration. At its root, training is simply stimulus and response. If the stimulus is more than the body can manage, it will lead to negative outcomes, sometimes that means injury or, in this case, reduced sex drive. The good news, to put a silver lining here, is that it is reversible. If you allow your body to recover and focus on purposeful regeneration in your training, you can still reach high levels of performance both in the gym and at home.”
Is The Right Shoe the Ticket to a 2-Hour Marathon?
The science: Nike and Adidas are in a heated race to become the first to break the two-hour time in the marathon. Nike announced the plan—called Breaking2—in December, stating that they were training three elite distance runners to complete the task. Now, Adidas has debuted a 3.5-ounce sneaker, the Adidas Adizero Sub2 aimed at completing the task. Can the shoe help?
Expert EQX insight: “In my opinion the answer is yes and no. To start with no first, there is an obvious ‘sea’ of other more important factors that need to be addressed in pursuit of the sub two-hour marathon: training program, recovery strategies, nutrition program, mental preparedness, and motivation. But the right shoe could help in finally breaking the barrier.”