Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The New Cause of Muscle Fatigue: Calcium Leakage & How to Manage Cramps

The causes of muscle fatigue are elusive. For more than 80 years, physiologists blamed lactic acid, which is produced during exercise and which they believed interfered with muscles' contractile proteins. That's what we've all been told, right?....But in the early 2000s, researchers found that at realistic body temperatures, very little acid accumulates inside muscle cells--and the bit that does may even improve endurance. Physiologist Andrew Marks of Columbia University has completed a study suggesting overdoing it may temporarily sap muscles of calcium and strength. The findings might do more than explain why muscles need rest after intense training. Marks' team put mice on an intense training regimen that included scampering along a treadmill. During high-intensity exercise, the mice's muscles leaked calcium, and when that happened, the mice's muscle endurance nose-dived. Their muscle strength recovered with three days of rest. Humans showed similar changes. When the team analyzed the calcium-channel structure in muscle samples from 12 elite athletes before and after a series of intense cycling sessions, their calcium channels had begun to undergo changes that were "totally parallel" to what had happened in the mice, Marks says. "exhausting exercise, such as that performed by a marathon runner results in significant muscle damage and can impair task performance for days or weeks." Here's a more comprehensive read on the same study, and the New York Times has also written about the study here. On a similar note Jane Clarke, a nutritionist gave the most comprehensive insight on how to manage cramps I've read in a while and explains why you commonly see Bananas being served at races after the event, and offered to runners by fans during marathons, it goes beyond potassium too. She says, " cramps can be hugely debilitating. It is also not uncommon for cramps to ease up and then return several times before going away entirely. Many fitness experts think cramps are related to poor flexibility, muscle fatigue or doing a new activity. Other factors include exercising in extreme heat, dehydration and electrolyte depletion. Electrolytes are nutrients such as sodium or salt, potassium, magnesium and calcium, which are sweated out during exercise. When levels of these nutrients - important for everything from muscle movement to blood pressure - drop, you suffer more muscle spasms. Sipping water (or an electrolyte-filled sports drink) is therefore vital throughout a training session. Again, the causes are not fully understood, however certain conditions such as iron deficiency, anaemia, smoking, hormone imbalances, varicose veins, arthritis, even atherosclerosis (blocked arteries) can all result in cramping and tend to be more prevalent in older people. Medication such as diuretic drugs for high-blood pressure or heart disorders can cause cramps, as can poor circulation, so see your doctor to ensure everything is OK. But if none of the above applies to you, your cramps could be down to an imbalance in the body's electrolytes - magnesium, calcium and potassium - and/or deficiency of vitamin E. To boost magnesium levels, try including more pulses, tofu, nuts, potatoes and oatmeal in your diet. Lack of calcium can also aggravate night cramps. Ordinary calcium sources include leafy green vegetables, small-boned fish such as sardines, orange juice, cereals and nuts. To boost your potassium intake, eat bananas, pulses, garlic and onions, and fruit and vegetables in general. Make sure your diet is rich in vitamin E - this includes vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, avocados and sweet potatoes. On that note I'm going out to try and clock 5 miles in the snow - assuming the roads are not too icy...have a great day!

3 comments:

broselam67 said...

jeez, can you imagine what kind of headaches something like this would present for the anti-doping police? This would make growth hormone, steroids, etc look like childs play, especially for endurance athletes.

Lance said...

....and in that linked article, "calstabin bind more tightly to calcium channels. When the team gave the drug to the rodents, the high-exercise mice could run 10% to 20% longer on a treadmill than controls could, the researchers report, even after 3 weeks of extreme exercise".
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yup - most people think of the benefits of drug enhancement on race day - while though true, it's the training period where the gains are manifested. being able to train further, recover faster, and continue that cycle day after day. physiolocigal processing efficiency of glucose, circulating oxygen, etc. and V02 max, it all goes through the roof and on race day you're primed to roar.

in all honesty i read this and wondered if i had any GNC calcium supplements in my medicine cabinet....lol.

Lightning Tiger said...

Actually, in my opinion, the scientists should focus on drugs to recover faster from fatigue and exhaustion. The purpose of calcium leak is to promote more enzymes which break down the muscle cells in order to build new and better ones. This is true purpose behind how we grow in strength and skills. Also, fatigue toughen mental condition. I predict that if we just use anti-fatigue, there will be severe side-effect such as stunted growth or something because we skipped the natural cycle of cellular death and rebirth. So the scientists should focus on rejuvenation so we can recover faster and better from the fatigue and exhaustion during sleep so we will be in prime condition when we wake up and ready to start next practice. Recovery is the key to growth, not the fatigue.

Though, the drugs for fatigue should be tweak for more effective scaling to assist in recovery cycle. Like learning how to perfect the fatigue and recovery cycle.