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From sports drinks and protein powders to compression therapy and cupping – there is an entire industry of products and services that help us adapt to training and recover from the sport.
But does anything work? That is the question that science journalist Christie Aschwanden answered in her new book . Good to go: What the athlete in all of us can learn from the strange science of recovery.
A former high school and college athlete Aschwanden is the leading scholarly writer for site thirty-five. And was previously a health columnist for the Washington Post .
. She notes that recovery did not receive much attention in her development. Now, however, times have changed and recovery is "something you do – and almost with the same zeal as the training itself," she says.
Aschwandens book examines the physiology of various recovery methods and also provides an evaluation of their effectiveness. After all, the best form of recovery is an old-fashioned form: listening to your own body.
"The most important ability an athlete can develop is the feeling of how his body reacts to the exercise," she says, "How They Respond to Their Workouts, How They Feel, How Does it Affect When they will be recovered or underdeveloped. "
Highlights of the interview
About Sports Drinks That Have This Electrolytes
"Electrolytes" is just a scientific name for salts. These are things we get in all the foods we eat. … and so the idea is that you create these extraordinary needs while exercising and … so you have to replace those salts that you sweat out. If you sweat, you lose some salts. They lose fluids. So the idea behind sports drinks is to replace them. …
There are now products that promise to find your individual sweat rate and individual salt loss rate, but it turns out you do not need a scientist looking over your shoulder to figure out how to do it drink a lot, or how much salt you need after training. Our body has this sophisticated mechanism to help us determine that – and it's called thirst.
About the Dangers of Overhydration
This message has been given to us for so long – and so much It's marketing – this idea that … you always have to drink and have hydrates, hydrates, hydrates have to. But it turns out that this is just not true. This idea and concept that we have to drink, even if we are not thirsty, has led to this problem that can actually be fatal. It's called hyponatremia. It is also called water poisoning, but this is something where people drink too much water and eventually dilute their blood to have all sorts of problems, including the brain that can swell up. And it can be fatal. …
I do not want to make anyone feel like this: "Oh my god, I just drank a glass of water, was I really thirsty, how do I get hyponatremia and die?" We do not talk about that. And we're talking about people who drink on the order of several glasses of water per hour – especially during exercise. But if you are not thirsty, you do not need to drink. It is really that easy.
There have been several people who have died of too much alcohol in marathons. And one of the things that makes this really scary is that some of the symptoms of overhydration are similar to those we see as dehydration symptoms. For example, dizziness, confusion, tiredness like this. So in some cases you have someone who breaks down in a race, and he gets an I.V. and giving more fluids, which is exactly the wrong thing for them at this time.
About the Origin of Power Bars and What to Eat After a Workout
The idea was really to start Put together a meal that is suitable for athletes – something to eat after a workout Easy to grip, supple for the abdomen and all that. But in the years that followed, there was something to think about, that this is absolutely what you need to eat, and that there must be an important component or nutrient you really need. …
These products are fundamentally out of order – I say that only in advance. They usually have pretty good nutrients and ingredients for what you need after exercise. But there is nothing special about them except that they are practical. … You can have an energy bar or banana or a peanut butter / jam sandwich – which seems to be the food of choice in the NBA. … But the idea that you have to have something that's a packaged product simply does not hold water.
Over icing after exercise to reduce pain
The idea behind icing is that it is a solution way to reduce inflammation. If you ice something, reduce the blood flow in this area. When your limbs are getting cold, your body sends the blood to the core to try to keep you warm. During this time, when blood flow to this area is lower, you will get less circulation of those inflammatory things that are part of the inflammatory process. The idea here is that you will reduce inflammation, and that has been a good thing for a long time. …
Now thinking [in terms of icing to reduce soreness] really changes. … We have learned that inflammation is indeed a really important part of the training response. If you train in the hope of becoming fitter, faster, and stronger, you really need an infection. You need this inflammatory process. They need your immune system to inject these inflammatory things to do those repairs. The inflammatory process is actually the repair process. Without them you will not get the same adjustments that you would otherwise do.
The problem with taking ibuprofen before and after a workout
It is common for athletes to do so prophylactically. So take it before a workout or even before a race. A scenario in which it is very popular is among ultramarathoners. So these are people who run about 50 or 100 or even more miles, and they will take these medicines during or before the event.
I remember my high school days when one of my teammates banged ibuprofen before the daily workout. And now, after researching this book, I know that's a pretty bad idea. There are several reasons for this. The first is that inflammation is your friend again. When you exercise, your body repairs in this way. So there is some fascinating evidence that taking ibuprofen may affect the repair process after injury. And that's both about the type of micro-injury you get from hard training – the little damage your muscle gets into your body and fixes you, and that makes you stronger. But also to injuries like a sprained ankle and things like that. Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or taking ibuprofen may actually hinder the healing process. I do not think anyone wants to do that.
At the same time I will say that if you are in severe pain, they are really good painkillers. And that's probably a good reason to take it. But you want to restrict it and say you only want to take it when you really need this pain relief – and not [with] the expectation that you will feel pain.
Sam Briger and Mooj Zadie produced and edited the sound of this interview. Bridget Bentz and Molly Seavy-Nesper adapted it for the web.