A Little Known Secret: Help Athletes Achieve Endurance, Agility - Wellness Sultana

Saturday, 3 March 2012

A Little Known Secret: Help Athletes Achieve Endurance, Agility

Scientists have found that “brain carbohydrate-loading” can make the difference between an ordinary workout session and an extraordinary, sustained workout program. Athletes for example, who perform prolonged rigorous exercises, rapidly become hypoglycemic, depleting circulating blood glucose levels and glycogen stores in the muscles and brain; these changes are  linked to early fatigue. If an athlete were to simply load up on a small, healthy dose of carbs, in between workouts they would perform at a higher cognitive level, achieving longer endurance, and agility.

In part 1 of a new experiment, published last year in The Journal of Physiology, scientists revealed just how counter-productive depleted brain glycogen stores are to persons who engage in strenuous exercises for a living. Problems such as muscle injury, early fatigue, and reduced cognitive functions are detrimental terms to athletes.

Brain glycogen, the storage form of glucose that feeds neurons in the brain during exhaustive exercises, is a critical energy source for sports competitors “when the glucose supply from the blood is inadequate.”

By “using [their] clever glycogen detection methods, they [scientists] discovered that prolonged exercise significantly lowered the brain’s stores of energy, and that the losses were especially noticeable  in certain areas of the brain, like the frontal cortex and the hippocampus, that are involved in thinking and memory, as well as in the mechanics of moving.”

The good news is that part 2 follow-up experiment, showed that after a bout of exhaustive exercise, rest, then feeding, brain levels of glycogen in lab mice, surpassed its normal storage level by as much as 60 percent. This “overcompensation” resulted in a kind of brain carbo-loading, specific to areas of the brain responsible for higher learning and movement. The study appears in this month’s issue of The Journal of Physiology.

The spike in brain glycogen lasted 24 hours, and then returned to normal. But, in a fascinating twist in results, when consistent high intensity workout is maintained over time, the brain “super-compensated” becoming a super storage site as the new norm over baseline levels of glycogen. Again, these brain carbo-loading occurred in-between sessions of intense workout, in areas known as the “seats of higher learning,” which is the cortex, in addition to the hippocampus, for the development of a better sharper brain.

The implications of these experiments are far reaching. They reveal that a brain, with more fuel reserves, is potentially a higher functioning brain that can sustain and direct movements longer.  It opens up a whole new realm in sports where contenders can fuel their own super-compensating brain in between competitions by having a wholesome form of glucose (not sugary sports drink) such as chocolate milk, bananas, or fruit shakes to rev up their performance.

A highly functioning brain is one that is capable of achieving phenomenal feats. Athletes can achieve these feats through brain carbo-loading, a scientific term that refers to creating fuel reserves in the brain in between exercises, for peak performance.

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