Archive for the ‘Tennis’ Category

WESTCHESTER, Ill. – Athletes who get an extra amount of sleep are more likely to improve their performance in a game, according to a research abstract presented at the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, authored by Cheri Mah of Stanford University, was conducted on six healthy students on the Stanford men’s basketball team, who maintained their typical sleep-wake patterns for a two-week baseline followed by an extended sleep period in which they obtained as much extra sleep as possible. To assess improvements in athletic performance, the students were judged based on their sprint time and shooting percentages.

Significant improvements in athletic performance were observed, including faster sprint time and increased free-throws. Athletes also reported increased energy and improved mood during practices and games, as well as a decreased level of fatigue.

“Although much research has established the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive function, mood and performance, relatively little research has investigated the effects of extra sleep over multiple nights on these variables, and even less on the specific relationship between extra sleep and athletic performance. This study illuminated this latter relationship and showed that obtaining extra sleep was associated with improvements in indicators of athletic performance and mood among members of the men’s basketball team.”

The amount of sleep a person gets affects his or her physical health, emotional well-being, mental abilities, productivity and performance. Recent studies associate lack of sleep with serious health problems such as an increased risk of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Jim Arcuri
American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

Experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night to maintain good health and optimum performance.

Persons who think they might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician, who will refer them to a sleep specialist.

The annual SLEEP meeting brings together an international body of 5,000 leading researchers and clinicians in the field of sleep medicine to present and discuss new findings and medical developments related to sleep and sleep disorders.

More than 1,000 research abstracts will be presented at the SLEEP meeting, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. The four-day scientific meeting will bring to light new findings that enhance the understanding of the processes of sleep and aid the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say that practicing even small doses of daily meditation may improve focus and performance.

Meditation, according to Penn neuroscientist Amishi Jha and Michael Baime, director of Penn’s Stress Management Program, is an active and effortful process that literally changes the way the brain works. Their study is the first to examine how meditation may modify the three subcomponents of attention, including the ability to prioritize and manage tasks and goals, the ability to voluntarily focus on specific information and the ability to stay alert to the environment.

In the Penn study, subjects were split into two categories. Those new to meditation, or “mindfulness training,” took part in an eight-week course that included up to 30 minutes of daily meditation. The second group was more experienced with meditation and attended an intensive full-time, one-month retreat.

Researchers found that even for those new to the practice, meditation enhanced performance and the ability to focus attention. Performance-based measures of cognitive function demonstrated improvements in a matter of weeks. The study, published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, suggests a new, non-medical means for improving focus and cognitive ability among disparate populations and has implications for workplace performance and learning.

Participants performed tasks at a computer that measured response speeds and accuracy. At the outset, retreat participants who were experienced in meditation demonstrated better executive functioning skills, the cognitive ability to voluntarily focus, manage tasks and prioritize goals. Upon completion of the eight-week training, participants new to meditation had greater improvement in their ability to quickly and accurately move and focus attention, a process known as “orienting.” After the one-month intensive retreat, participants also improved their ability to keep attention “at the ready.”

The results suggest that meditation, even as little as 30 minutes daily, may improve attention and focus for those with heavy demands on their time. While practicing meditation may itself may not be relaxing or restful, the attention-performance improvements that come with practice may paradoxically allow us to be more relaxed.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Jordan Reese
University of Pennsylvania

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Penn Stress Management Program.

Energy bars, touted for improving athletic performance while providing the right combination of essential nutrients, may not always give endurance athletes the boost they expect.An Ohio State University researcher compared two popular energy bars and found that one of the bars didn’t give the moderate increase in blood sugar known to enhance performance in endurance athletes. Instead, its effect was much like a candy bar – giving a big rush of sugar to the blood, followed by a sharp decline.

“Theoretically, energy bars produce more moderate increases and decreases in blood sugar levels than a typical candy bar,” said Steve Hertzler, an associate professor of medical dietetics at Ohio State. “But these claims aren’t necessarily valid.” His study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Hertzler wanted to know how energy bars affected blood glucose levels. Glucose is a sugar that provides energy to the body’s cells – for example, red-blood cells and most parts of the brain derive most of their energy from glucose.

“Athletes – especially those involved in endurance sports – want to enhance performance, and energy bars claim to help keep blood sugar levels at a moderate level,” Hertzler said.

Volunteers had to fast for at least 12 hours before taking part in each of four experiments. Then, they ate one of four experimental “meals” consisting of either four slices of white bread; a Snickers bar; an Ironman PR Bar; or a PowerBar. Each experimental meal provided the same amount of carbohydrates (50 grams.)

Hertzler then tested the effects these foods had on blood glucose levels at 15-minute intervals for up to two hours after each experimental meal. The volunteers had to wait at least 24 hours between each experimental meal.

Hertzler measured each subject’s blood samples for glucose levels, to determine which food most raised blood sugar levels.

Both energy bars caused blood glucose levels to peak at 30 minutes, while levels peaked at 45 minutes after the bread and candy bar were consumed. Blood glucose levels declined steadily throughout the duration of testing for all foods but the Ironman PR Bar. This bar caused blood glucose rates to remain fairly steady, probably because of the moderate carbohydrate level of the bar, according to Hertzler.

“Though blood glucose rates peaked at 30 minutes with both bars, the high-carbohydrate energy bar – the PowerBar – caused a much sharper decline,” Hertzler said. “In fact, the decline was sharper than with the candy bar.” Much of the energy derived from the bread and the candy bar came from carbohydrate and the same was true for the PowerBar. While the bar is low in protein and fat, more than 70 percent of it is made up of carbohydrate (such as high-fructose corn syrup; oat bran; and brown rice). In contrast, 40 percent of the Ironman PR is comprised of carbohydrate (high fructose corn syrup and fructose.) The rest of the bar was comprised of 30 percent fat and 30 percent protein.

“The composition of this bar may have been responsible for the diminished blood glucose response,” Hertzler said. “Athletes involved in short-duration events who want a quick energy boost should eat a high-carbohydrate energy bar or a candy bar,” he suggests. “However, endurance athletes would do well to consume an energy bar with a moderate carbohydrate level.”

Hertzler conducted this study while at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He is continuing similar research at Ohio State.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Steve Hertzler
Ohio State University

Editor’s note: This research was funded by a grant from Kent State University. The researcher received no funding from either energy bar manufacturer.

Although bottled water is perceived as a healthier, safer choice over tap water in consumer surveys, that is not necessarily always true, says sports nutritionist Cynthia Sass, R.D., C.S.S.D

In a presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 11th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition in Dallas, Texas, Sass outlined the basics of water consumption, comparing bottled and tap varieties.

“Twenty-five percent of all bottled water is actually repackaged tap water,” said Sass.  ““The more a consumer knows about the realities of bottled and tap water, the savvier they can be about selecting water based on costs, preferences and accessibility.”

Is Bottled Best?
In a recent Gallop survey, most consumers indicated they drink bottled water based on their perception it is safer and purer than tap water.  Taste was the second leading reason, while bottled water’s convenience was also a factor.

Bottled water is considered a food, and thus regulated by Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Tap water is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Both varieties are subject to testing for contaminants, although Sass points out there is no perfect system – both bottled and tap may contain contaminates such as bacteria, arsenic, lead or pesticides.  Independent tests by groups such as the National Resources Defense Council have found:

• Sixty to 70 percent of all bottled water in the United States is packaged and sold within the same state, which exempts it from FDA regulation.  One in five states do not regulate that bottled water.
• While most cities meet the standards for tap water, some tap water in the 19 U.S. cities tested was found to contain arsenic, lead, and pesticides.
• In 1,000 bottles of 103 different brands of bottled water, 22 percent contained synthetic chemicals, bacteria and arsenic.

Most healthy adults can tolerate trace amounts of these contaminates if exposed, but Sass notes some people are more vulnerable and should be more aware of their water source.  These people include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, patients who are HIV+ positive or recovering from a transplant or major surgery, and pregnant women, children, and elderly adults. 

For them especially, Sass recommends bottled water treated with reverse osmosis, municipal tap water with a filtering system certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or distilled water.  (Most packaging on certified filter devices bear the NSF seal.)

“Bottled” Facts
According to Sass, other selection criteria for consumers may include:

Cost:  Bottled water can cost approximately $1 for a gallon jug, while tap water costs pennies on the dollar.  Distilled water or water treated with reverse osmosis (water captured into vapor so that all solids are left behind and then recaptured into fluid) are purer and considered safe, but are also more expensive.

Packaging:  Sass says a filtering system for tap water may be a better consideration for the environment.  She also pointed out that over time, plastic containers can leak chemicals into the water.  Consumers should look for an expiration date, and store water in cool, dark place.  For this reason, water bottles are not meant to be re-used.

Marketing:  Fitness and specialty waters do not contribute to an athletic advantage or edge.  In fact, vitamin-fortified waters, which provide high daily-value percentages per cup, may pose a risk for oversupplementation.  “Think of your one-a-day vitamin,” says Sass.  “Some of these waters are multi-vitamins in a bottle, so read the label and compare with the rest of your daily intake, including food.”

“Bottled water doesn’t deserve the nutritional halo that most people give it for being pure,” she says.  “If you’re not an exclusive bottled water drinker, you may find it worthwhile to check into filtering your tap water to save money.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Communications and Public Information
American College of Sports Medicine

Don’t drink alcohol. Take vitamins. Avoid eating eggs. We’ve heard these pieces of nutritional advice for years – but are they accurate?

Not necessarily, say two exercise physiologists who presented at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 11th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition in Dallas, Texas. Wendy Repovich, Ph.D., FACSM, and Janet Peterson, Dr.P.H., FACSM, set out to debunk the “Top 10 Nutrition Myths.”

According to Repovich and Peterson, these nutrition myths are:

10. Eating carbohydrates makes you fat. Cutting carbs from your diet may have short-term weight loss benefits due to water loss from a decrease in carbohydrate stores, but eating carbs in moderation does not directly lead to weight gain. The body uses carbs for energy, and going too long without them can cause lethargy.

9. Drink eight, 8-oz. glasses of water per day. You should replace water lost through breathing, excrement and sweating each day – but that doesn’t necessarily total 64 ounces of water. It’s hard to measure the exact amount of water you have consumed daily in food and drink, but if your urine is pale yellow, you’re doing a good job. If it’s a darker yellow, drink more H2O.

8. Brown grain products are whole grain products. Brown dyes and additives can give foods the deceiving appearance of whole grain. Read labels to be sure a food is whole grain, and try to get three-ounce equivalents of whole grains per day to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

7. Eating eggs will raise your cholesterol. This myth began because egg yolks have the most concentrated amount of cholesterol of any food. However, there’s not enough cholesterol there to pose health risks if eggs are eaten in moderation. Studies suggest that eating one egg per day will not raise cholesterol levels and that eggs are actually a great source of nutrients.

6. All alcohol is bad for you. Again, moderation is key. Six ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer are considered moderate amounts, and should not pose any adverse health effects to the average healthy adult. All alcohol is an anticoagulant and red wine also contains antioxidants, so drinking a small amount daily can be beneficial.

5. Vitamin supplements are necessary for everyone. If you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with moderate amounts of a variety of low-fat dairy and protein and the right quantity of calories, you don’t need to supplement. Most Americans do not, so a multi-vitamin might be good. Special vitamin supplements are also recommended for people who are pregnant or have nutritional disorders.

4. Consuming extra protein is necessary to build muscle mass. Contrary to claims of some protein supplement companies, consuming extra protein does nothing to bulk up muscle unless you are also doing significant weight training at the same time. Even then the increased requirement can easily come from food. A potential problem with supplements is the body has to work overtime to get rid of excess protein, and can become distressed as a result.

3. Eating fiber causes problems if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber can cause problems in IBS sufferers; soluble fiber, however, is more easily absorbed by the body and helps prevent constipation for those with IBS. Soluble fiber is found in most grains.

2. Eating immediately after a workout will improve recovery. Endurance athletes need to take in carbohydrates immediately after a workout to replace glycogen stores, and a small amount of protein with the drink enhances the effect. Drinking low-fat chocolate milk or a carbohydrate drink, like Gatorade, is better for the body, as they replace glycogen stores lost during exercise. Protein is not going to help build muscle, so strength athletes do not need to eat immediately following their workout.

1. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by eating foods low on the glycemic index. High levels of glucose are not what “cause” diabetes; the disease is caused by the body’s resistance to insulin. Foods high on the glycemic index can cause glucose levels to spike, but this is just an indicator of the presence of diabetes, not the root cause.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Communications and Public Information
American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 International, National and Regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health and quality of life.

Lower muscle mass and an increase in body fat are common consequences of growing older.

While exercise is a proven way to prevent the loss of muscle mass, a new study led by McMaster researcher Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky shows that taking a combination of creatine monohydrate (CrM) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in addition to resistance exercise training provides even greater benefits.

The study to be published on Oct. 3 in PLoS One, an international, peer-reviewed online journal of the Public Library of Science, involved 19 men and 20 women who were 65 years or older and took part in a six-month program of regular resistance exercise training.

In the randomized double blind trial, some of the participants were given a daily supplement of creatine (a naturally produced compound that supplies energy to muscles) and linoleic acid (a naturally occurring fatty acid), while others were given a placebo. All participants took part in the same exercise program.

The exercise training resulted in improvements of functional ability and strength in all participants, but those taking the CrM and CLA showed even greater gains in muscle endurance, an increase in fat-free mass and a decrease in the percentage of body fat.

“This data confirms that supervised resistance exercise training is safe and effective for increasing strength and function in older adults and that a combination of CrM and CLA can enhance some of the beneficial effects of training over a six month period,” said Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine.

This study provides functional outcomes that build on an earlier mechanistic study co-led by Tarnopolsky and Dr. S. Melov at the Buck Institute of Age Research, published in PLoS One this year, which provided evidence that six months of resistance exercise reversed some of the muscle gene expression abnormalities associated with the aging process.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Veronica McGuire
McMaster University

Although it’s too soon to recommend dropping by Starbucks before hitting the gym, a new study suggests that caffeine can help reduce the post-workout soreness that discourages some people from exercising.In a study to be published in the February issue of The Journal of Pain, a team of University of Georgia researchers finds that moderate doses of caffeine, roughly equivalent to two cups of coffee, cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48 percent in a small sample of volunteers.

Lead author Victor Maridakis, a researcher in the department of kinesiology at the UGA College of Education, said the findings may be particularly relevant to people new to exercise, since they tend to experience the most soreness.

“If you can use caffeine to reduce the pain, it may make it easier to transition from that first week into a much longer exercise program,” he said.

Maridakis and his colleagues studied nine female college students who were not regular caffeine users and did not engage in regular resistance training. One and two days after an exercise session that caused moderate muscle soreness, the volunteers took either caffeine or a placebo and performed two different quadriceps (thigh) exercises, one designed to produce a maximal force, the other designed to generate a sub-maximal force. Those that consumed caffeine one-hour before the maximum force test had a 48 percent reduction in pain compared to the placebo group, while those that took caffeine before the sub-maximal test reported a 26 percent reduction in pain.

Caffeine has long been known to increase alertness and endurance, and a 2003 study led by UGA professor Patrick O’Connor found that caffeine reduces thigh pain during moderate-intensity cycling. O’Connor, who along with professors Kevin McCully and the late Gary Dudley co-authored the current study, explained that caffeine likely works by blocking the body’s receptors for adenosine, a chemical released in response to inflammation.

Despite the positive findings in the study, the researchers say there are some caveats. First, the results may not be applicable to regular caffeine users, since they may be less sensitive to caffeine’s effect. The researchers chose to study women to get a definitive answer in at least one sex, but men may respond differently to caffeine. And the small sample size of nine volunteers means that the study will have to be replicated with a larger study.

O’Connor said that despite these limitations, caffeine appears to be more effective in relieving post-workout muscle pain than several commonly used drugs. Previous studies have found that the pain reliever naproxen (the active ingredient in Aleve) produced a 30 percent reduction in soreness. Aspirin produced a 25 percent reduction, and ibuprofen has produced inconsistent results.

“A lot of times what people use for muscle pain is aspirin or ibuprofen, but caffeine seems to work better than those drugs, at least among women whose daily caffeine consumption is low,” O’Connor said.

Still, the researchers recommend that people use caution when using caffeine before a workout. For some people, too much caffeine can produce side effects such as jitteriness, heart palpitations and sleep disturbances.

“It can reduce pain,” Maridakis said, “but you have to apply some common sense and not go overboard.”

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Sam Fahmy
University of Georgia

Peak athletic performance may be related to time of day, suggests a University of Chicago study being presented to the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, ENDO 2001, in Denver, Colorado, on June 22, 2001. The study shows that the response of the systems regulating energy metabolism and some hormones differs according to when in the day exercise is performed.

Subjects who exercised at night had much larger drops in glucose levels in response to exercise than at other times of day. Exercise in the evening and at night elicited large increases in the levels of two hormones important for energy metabolism, cortisol and thyrotropin. Exercise at other times of day had much smaller effects on these hormones. In contrast, marked increases in growth hormone levels in response to exercise were not effected by the time of day.

“The effects of exercise we observed may explain how some times of day could be better than others for regular exercise or athletic performance, as we might expect from anectdotally reported variations in peak athletic performance,” said Orfeu Buxton, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in endocrinology at the University of Chicago. “We found strong evidence for substantial changes in glucose metabolism and an array of hormonal responses to 1-hour, high-intensity exercise, dependent on the timing of the exercise. Circadian rhythms, generated by our 24-hour internal clock, appear to play an important role in the complex response to exercise.”

For the study, conducted in the Clinical Research Center of the University of Chicago, 40 healthy men, between the ages of 20 and 30, were divided into five groups. Four groups exercised vigorously for one hour on a stair-stepper in the morning, afternoon, evening or night. A control group did not exercise. A standard marker, the timing of melatonin secretion, was used to determine the timing of each individual’s daily rhythm, his circadian “clock time.”

When not exercising, the subjects rested in bed with constant glucose infusion to avoid fluctuation in their blood sugar levels caused by intermittent meals. Blood levels of the “circadian hormones,” melatonin, cortisol and thyrotropin, and the levels of growth hormone and glucose were compared to blood levels for the same time of day in the resting control subjects.

The importance of timing for hormonal secretion and energy metabolism is demonstrated by the distinct 24-hour patterns of secretion for each hormonal system. One hormone may be actively secreted in a complex pulsating pattern while another may be in a resting phase.

Many circadian rhythms, such as heart rate, oxygen consumption, and cardio-pulmonary function play a role in athletic performance. Rhythmic patterns of hormonal secretion provide internal temporal organization essential to the coordination of physiological processes. Physical exercise is associated with marked metabolic changes and can elicit a variety of neuroendocrine responses. Although these metabolic and hormonal responses to morning exercise are well-documented, few studies have examined the effects of exercise at other times of day.

“Our study covers new ground, demonstrating variation in the effects of exercise at four different times of day, with circadian time precisely quantified, with a practical duration of exercise, and with a high intensity designed to elicit maximal effects” said Buxton.

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Jeanne Galatzer-Levy
University of Chicago Medical Center

Co-authors on the study include, André J. Scheen, M.D., Division of Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolic Disorders, University of Liége, Belgium; Mireille L’Hermite-Balériaux, Ph.D., Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., Department of Medicine, University of Chicago.

This work was supported by grants from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and from the Department of Defense. The University of Chicago Clinical Research Center is supported by a National Institutes of Health grant.

When it comes to coaching, the pep talk is better than the locker room tirade, University of Florida researchers have found.In a project that applied methods previously used only in classroom settings, a team headed by Professor Robert Singer found that changing people’s attributions, or how they think about themselves, influenced their performance in sports tasks they sought to learn.

“How we think about how we will do and how we’ve just done can very much affect our persistence, our attitudes and our achievements,” said Singer, chair of UF’s department of exercise and sport sciences. “It’s not only a belief in what you can do, it’s also an understanding of thinking more objectively.”

The technique is known as attribution training, which involves using people’s self-perceptions and the extent to which they feel they can control their own behavior to help them succeed at various tasks. Those who believe they can control and change how they feel about themselves are said to have constructive attributions.

In the study, scheduled to be published in March in The Sport Psychologist, Singer and UF colleague Iris Orbach divided 35 college-age beginning tennis players into three groups, each of which was given different instructions regarding personal failure. The first was told they could control their attributions and effort and could change their performance. The second was told their failures were due to a lack of innate ability. The third group was told nothing.

In four trials, the first group scored consistently better in performance, expectation, success perception and emotional control, Singer said. For example, on a test to measure feelings of personal control over behavior, the first group scored twice as high as the control group, while the second group scored below the control group.

In a related study in 1997 that focused on basketball time trials, the first group improved their final time between the first and fourth trials more than twice as much as the control group and more than nine times as much as the second group did.

“When it comes down to it, the primary thing is that you really have to understand what helps you to achieve and what’s under your control,” Singer said. “What has been observed is that those individuals who tend to have more constructive attributions tend to persist longer and tend to achieve more than those who do not have constructive attributions.”

Most studies associated with attribution training techniques have been conducted in the area of education, with the goal of raising the standards for children who are underachievers in the classroom. Singer and Orbach were among the first in the world to apply the techniques to sports.

“Why not try this in a sports setting?” Singer said. “The typical design is to train one group with an attributional orientation that reflects that if you try harder and you try smarter, you’ll have a greater chance of doing well. You’ll learn the skills better and think better things will happen.”

Although it is a common perception that believing in yourself can lead you to success, Singer said his study could have a significant impact on the way people teach and learn athletic activities.

“A lot of times in sports, there’s a negative attitude and a lot of criticism that goes on,” he said. “Probably many athletes and coaches don’t realize the significance of what we’re talking about and the relevance of how people think … I believe that if there’s a better understanding by coaches as to the kind of feedback they give to athletes and how stuff is delivered to them, it could make a difference.”

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Kristin Harmel
University of Florida

Female athletes often lose their menstrual cycle when training strenuously, but researchers have long speculated on whether this infertility was due to low body fat, low weight or exercise itself. Now, researchers have shown that the cause of athletic amenorrhea is more likely a negative energy balance caused by increasing exercise without increasing food intake.”A growing proportion of women are susceptible to losing their menstrual cycle when exercising strenuously,” says Dr. Nancy I. Williams, assistant professor of kineseology and physiology at Penn State. “If women go six to 12 months without having a menstrual cycle, they could show bone loss. Bone densities in some long distance runners who have gone for a prolonged time period without having normal menstrual cycles can be very low.”

In studies done with monkeys, which show menstrual cyclicity much like women, researchers showed that low energy availability associated with strenuous exercise training plays an important role in causing exercise-induced amenorrhea. These researchers, working at the University of Pittsburgh, published findings in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showing that exercise-induced amenorrhea was reversible in the monkeys by increasing food intake while the monkeys still exercised.

Williams worked with Judy L. Cameron, associate professor of psychiatry and cell biology and physiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dana L. Helmreich and David B. Parfitt, then graduate students, and Anne Caston-Balderrama, at that time a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, were also part of the research team. The researchers decided to look at an animal model to understand the causes of exercise-induced amenorrhea because it is difficult to closely control factors, such as eating habits and exercise, when studying humans. They chose cynomolgus monkeys because, like humans, they have a menstrual cycle of 28 days, ovulate in mid-cycle and show monthly periods of menses.

“It is difficult to obtain rigorous control in human studies, short of locking people up,” says Williams.

Previous cross-sectional studies and short-term studies in humans had shown a correlation between changes in energy availability and changes in the menstrual cycle, but those studies were not definitive.

There was also some indication that metabolic states experienced by strenuously exercising women were similar to those in chronically calorie restricted people. However, whether the increased energy utilization which occurs with exercise or some other effect of exercise caused exercise-induced reproductive dysfunction was unknown.

“The idea that exercise or something about exercise is harmful to females was not definitively ruled out,” says Williams. “That exercise itself is harmful would be a dangerous message to put out there. We needed to look at what it was about exercise that caused amenorrhea, what it was that suppresses ovulation. To do that, we needed a carefully controlled study.”

After the researchers monitored normal menstrual cycles in eight monkeys for a few months, they trained the monkeys to run on treadmills, slowly increasing their daily training schedule to about six miles per day. Throughout the training period the amount of food provided remained the standard amount for a normal 4.5 to 7.5 pound monkey, although the researchers note that some monkeys did not finish all of their food all of the time.

The researchers found that during the study “there were no significant changes in body weight or caloric intake over the course of training and the development of amenorrhea.” While body weight did not change, there were indications of an adaptation in energy expenditure. That is, the monkeys’ metabolic hormones also changed, with a 20 percent drop in circulating thyroid hormone, suggesting that the suppression of ovulation is more closely related to negative energy balance than to a decrease in body weight.

To seal the conclusion that a negative energy balance was the key to exercise-induced amenorrhea, the researchers took four of the previous eight monkeys and, while keeping them on the same exercise program, provided them with more food than they were used to. All the monkeys eventually resumed normal menstrual cycles. However, those monkeys who increased their food consumption most rapidly and consumed the most additional food, resumed ovulation within as little as 12 to 16 days while those who increased their caloric intake more slowly, took almost two months to resume ovulation.

Williams is now conducting studies on women who agree to exercise and eat according to a prescribed regimen for four to six months. She is concerned because recreational exercisers have the first signs of ovulatory suppression and may easily be thrust into amenorrhea if energy availability declines. Many women that exercise also restrict their calories, consciously or unconsciously.

“Our goal is to test whether practical guidelines can be developed regarding the optimal balance between calories of food taken in and calories expended through exercise in order to maintain ovulation and regular menstrual cycles,” says Williams. “This would then ensure that estrogen levels were also maintained at healthy levels. This is important because estrogen is a key hormone in the body for many physiological systems, influencing bone strength and cardiovascular health, not just reproduction.”

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: A’ndrea Elyse Messer
Penn State