5 of the latest sports science news that will help you perform better

Five new research studies, from afternoon napping benefits to why it's worth resisting the urge to spin, that will help you perform better and race faster




Recent research suggests that to increase your cycling strength you should pedal with a low cadence against a high resistance. Exercise physiologists had seven well-trained cyclists ride at 125% of their functional threshold power for 40secs with 20secs rest for 10 sets. They did this three times at 70, 90 and 110rpm. The subjects reported no change in perceived exertion, but creatine kinase levels (a hormone associated with muscle repair) was greater at 70rpm. Just remember that session-derived muscle breakdown should be followed by an easy day of training.


Looking to drop a few pounds for the tri season? It’s time to train high. Chinese researchers put groups of rodents through their paces for four weeks, having them scurry around at sea level or in a hypoxic atmosphere of 13.6% oxygen, equating to 3,500m altitude. The rodents’ fat content was higher in the rats who trained at sea level compared to the altitude group. This is partly due to the levels of leptin, the satiety hormone, surging at altitude while grehlin, the hunger hormone, remained unchanged. But 1,800m is recommended for humans.


Research from Edge Hill University suggests that moderate-intensity exercise improves your short-term memory. When asked to remember a list of structural terms, including roof, door and wall, people who hadn’t completed a 30min cycle before the memory test were more likely to ‘remember’ associated words that weren’t on the list, such as window. Those who’d exercised, however, remembered more words and didn’t include false memories. The reason for this is reportedly down to exercise dissipating stress that’s been physiologically shown to impact upon memory.


Nick Littlehales, the author of the recent best-seller Sleep, is a fan of afternoon naps, especially for athletes, and the practice has been given another boost by a new study. Thirty-one pro rugby players used fitness monitors during a 13-day pre-season camp to measure their sleep. The players who undertook daytime naps enjoyed an average 33mins more sleep each day and 30mins ‘better sleep’. The result: greater training benefits. If you can squeeze in even 10mins shut-eye each afternoon, you’ll improve your training efficiency without affecting sleep quality at night.


Most of us find it hard to squeeze in all our swim, bike and run training, let alone make time for recovery or anything else. But that’s a big mistake, reports Ben Raysmith, leading physio at the Australian Institute of Sport. Thirty-three track-and-field athletes were followed across five competition seasons, and Raysmith noted that the likelihood of one of the athletes achieving a performance goal increased seven-fold if they completed more than 80% of their planned sessions. Failure to do so, due to injury or illness, dramatically reduced their chances of success.


That’s why reducing your swim, bike and run time to accommodate injury-prevention work – think pilates or strength and conditioning – and getting sufficient rest and good nutrition is essential to maximise your triathlon performance. The Aussie team also observed that the majority of new injuries happened within the first month of the preparatory phase of training; in other words, start your 2017 campaign gently. Furthermore, the majority of illnesses occurred two months prior to an athlete’s goal event, suggesting that strategies to alleviate stress should play a part in your programme.