Time Passes on... Things change...

The year is 2015. A year and a bit out from the Rio Olympics. We’ve been immersed in high performance life for 5-6 years now. And living the life we do, means we care, pretty passionately, about certain issues. We want to get it right. Doing so means we increase the chance of success for the athletes and coaches we work with. And in the pursuit of trying to get things right, one thing we’ve noticed over the years in our field, is how viewpoints/opinions can change. It never feels like it as you're working through that change of course. Lots of examples out there, but Prof will kick off with the first one…. Prof: One research topic I’ve been pretty involved with is the area of “hydration”. That is, what should you do around drinking fluid, before, during and after exercise to maximize performance? I’m rolling my eyes at the moment because the answer is really pretty simple; but hasn’t always been so. Ten years ago, I started getting interested in the topic. I’d finished my PhD in Australia and was employed as a Lecturer in Perth. As it works in the uni business (and it is a real business folks, make no mistake about that), I’d been handed the lecture notes from the last guy who’d taught the 3rd year exercise physiology course, and the topic was “exercise in the heat”. One of the fundamental principles at that time was this issue around maintaining your body weight by drinking to match your sweat losses, or drinking the maximal rate tolerable (I.e., as much as you can). If you didn’t, your performance would suffer proportionately on a linearly progressing level. Slide below from the Wilmore and Costill textbook as an example. This is what we learned. And this is what I taught to the masses in my first year as a lecturer. Apologies to any I influenced at the time - I was very wrong.

I can remember learning about much of this topic through my studies, and attending conferences (1999-2004). Each time I’d attend a conference, the Gatorade Sport Science Institute (GSSI) would be there to hand out their wares (leaflets that looked like journal articles, written by respected scientists and physicians). These guys have to be some of the cleverest marketers in the world. Because conveniently, the laboratory-study findings, with data collected in still air heat chambers, were aligning perfectly towards the building of the thermoregulatory-hydration fatigue model that continues to this day (how many conversations with colleagues about athletes do I hear where hydration gets mentioned as a plausible factor for performance decrement or whatever). The GSSI continues to build its trust and reputation, hiring some of the most sought after researchers in the business to be its spokespersons.

When it changed for me My passion is the sport I come from; triathlon. I’m an old Ironman hack that had the passion, but either not quite enough talent or whatever to develop appropriately. But still, to this day, keenly interested and curious about what happens during long distance Ironman performance. So when this new device came to the market that could measure your core temperature by swallowing a pill, I was all over trying to use it to find out what happened to temperature during a race.

So living in Perth Western Australia, I got a group of us together to check out what happened to core temperature during the Bussleton Ironman. Check out the photos of us running around trying to capture core temp with this pill-receiver system. It was a mild day for our event (23 degrees C), so not that hot, but regardless, it was some of the first field-based data to show temperature during racing.

What did we find?

We found that our results were at odds with a couple things we thought were truths at the time. First, the triathletes had lost a couple kg's of mass (3%), but that amount wasn't related much to finishing time, core temp or hydration markers we thought were important. In short, hydration level, at least in terms of the body mass decline, didn't really seem to matter. We tried to publish our results in the Gatorade-funded journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, but was rejected and eventually accepted in BJSM. But it was those findings that really got me interested in the topic. I wondered if this was a really unique finding in the world of science, or if our findings were inconvenient relative to some key points that scientists were claiming as facts? Potentially with other motives involved?

In my next post, I'll describe some of the dirty tactics I discovered being played by industry...


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