Co-authored by Becky Hodgson, personal trainer at Hall Training Systems.
Another month, another load of fitness research. We've sifted through it all again to cherry pick the very best bits of information you can apply to your training straight away. From caffeine use to the right balance of carbohydrates, we've got it covered!
1. Lower body exercises are best for improving athletic ability
When people are trying to improve their athletic ability, they often put a lot of focus on fast weight lifting exercise such as the hang clean, jump squat and push press. We already know that resistance training can improve athletic ability, but not all exercises were created equal. When comparing the jump squat and the push press, a recent study found that the jump squat saw an improvement in short sprint speed and vertical jump height. This improvement wasn't seen in those who practiced the push press.
Exercises which focus on lower body pulling (hang clean) rather than upper body pushing (push press) have more impact on athletic ability. If you're looking to increase power output and speed, get these exercises in your programme!
2. Caffeine won't always help wake you up
A new study has shown that after just three nights of five hours or less of sleep, caffeine had little to no effect on feelings of wakefulness and preventing performance decline. So, if you're using caffeine to prop you up after a few nights without sleep, it may not actually help! Go for longer in bed instead.
3. Compression socks - it's all in your head
If you head over to your local running club, you'll be sure to see somebody running in ridiculously long socks. Sadly, this is not fancy dress. These socks are actually considered a very useful part of running performance. They are meant to improve blood flow to the calves and feet over long distances, supposedly decreasing post running muscle soreness and numbness in the feet. However, a recent 5k test found that the socks had no impact on race time, muscle soreness or heart rate... So they may not be the magic pill they are made out to be! However, those who wore the socks didn't feel like they were working as hard as those without the socks, so there could well be some mental benefit to wearing them. We'll leave it up to you whether you can risk being seen in them, and decide whether they are nifty or naff!
4. Caffeine could improve your fat loss efforts
Now, caffeine on its own won't make you into the lean machine you've been dreaming of, but it may well help give you an extra calorie burn during your workout. We all know that caffeine increases your heart rate and alertness (unless you've not slept enough!) and has been shown to improve performance, but we now know there are extra benefits to taking it pre-workout. A recent study found that taking caffeine before a 30 minute sprit interval sessions improved overall energy expenditure by 2 per cent. Although there was no improvement in performance, the caffeine did seem to induce a higher thermogenic response, boosting fat loss efforts. So remember - caffeine pre-workout, not post-workout if you're looking to lose fat!
5. Carbs are friends for endurance runners
Carbohydrates have been shown to improve exercise performance on numerous occasions, particularly when exercise lasts 60 minutes or more. But which form of carbohydrates will give you the biggest boost, carbs found in glucose (cereals, baked goods), or fructose (fruit, honey, maple syrup)? Well, a mixture of the two is the most beneficial. This is because the carbs are absorbed by two intestinal transporters as opposed to one. High intake rates of 70g of glucose and fructose combined, during an hour of exercise, can improve moderate exercise by eight per cent over one hour of endurance exercise. If you're an endurance athlete or a marathon runner, this is certainly something to bare in mind!
Watch this space to see what we learn next month! How many of these points have you already covered in your training?