September 6, 2020

Body-Weight Exercises for Arms, Legs, Core, and More and More…

In today’s digest we bring you articles on Body-Weight Exercises for Arms, Legs, Core, and More, The Performance-Enhancing Power of Caffeine – Women’s Running, Are You Sure You’re Doing Push Ups Properly ? – Fitness and Power and The Science Behind How Stress Affects Your Gut Function. Hope you enjoy them…

Body-Weight Exercises for Arms, Legs, Core, and More

Body-weight exercises are ones that use only your body weight as resistance. That means no dumbbells or fancy gym equipment are required — and you can knock out a workout wherever you are. That convenience factor is a major perk. Body-weight exercises are great for boosting your fitness, metabolism, and endurance, according to the Mayo […]

Body-weight exercises are ones that use only your body weight as resistance. That means no dumbbells or fancy gym equipment are required — and you can knock out a workout wherever you are. That convenience factor is a major perk.

Body-weight exercises are great for boosting your fitness, metabolism, and endurance, according to the Mayo Clinic. And an article published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal found that using only body-weight moves during high-intensity circuit training is an efficient way to decrease body fat, improve insulin sensitivity, and improve maximal aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and muscular fitness. A small study published in Physiology & Behavior in October 2016 confirmed that muscle growth can happen even if external resistance isn’t applied.

Depending on your current fitness level, your ability to build bulky muscles may be limited, says Rondel King, CSCS, a corrective exercise specialist and personal trainer in New York City.

“If you do body-weight exercises, you won’t necessarily develop large amounts of muscle tissue,” King says. Your body weight alone likely isn’t going to place enough stress on the body to fuel substantial muscle growth if you’re a regular exerciser already, he explains — but these exercises can go a long way toward building up strength for athletic activity, preventing injury, getting toned-looking muscles, and promoting healthy functioning for daily living.

Body-weight workouts are also a great starting point if you’re new to exercise. Body-weight exercises help you build an understanding of correct form and movement first, and get stronger in the process, explains CJ Hammond, a NASM-certified personal trainer with RSP Nutrition in Los Angeles. “Before one can start adding resistance with weights and bands, you must master body-weight movements.”

“You should gain control of your body and go through body-weight exercises and make sure you can do that without resistance before you start adding weight,” King says.

How to Complete a Body-Weight Workout

Combine a few of these exercises to create your own at-home workout, or add them to an existing workout. Ideally, you want to work each muscle group at least twice a week, Hammond says. Here, he recommends the best body-weight moves for each muscle group.

These exercises can be adapted for people of all fitness levels. Hammond recommends doing four sets of each of the exercises below. If you’re a beginner, start with two sets of 15 reps and increase the number of sets as you get stronger. And if you have an injury or illness that may limit your ability to safely exercise, check with your doctor before starting any new workout program.

Note: Some of these moves suggest using a yoga mat. If you don’t have one, try using a folded towel or completing the exercises on carpet to lessen the impact on your hands or knees.


1. Push-Up

Body-Weight Exercises for Arms, Legs, Core, and More was originally published at LINK

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The Performance-Enhancing Power of Caffeine – Women’s Running

Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. In fact, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the world pours about 1.4 billion cups of joe a day. Despite the negative connotations of the word drug, however, caffeine is by and large a benign and even beneficial substance for humans. “Acute caffeine consumption”—the scientific […]

Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. In fact, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the world pours about 1.4 billion cups of joe a day. Despite the negative connotations of the word drug, however, caffeine is by and large a benign and even beneficial substance for humans. “Acute caffeine consumption”—the scientific term for drinking a cup of coffee—has been shown to enhance mental alertness and mood state and is also known to boost athletic performance.  “Chronic caffeine consumption”—the scientific term for drinking a cup of coffee every morning—has been associated with a reduced risk for a number of disorders including type 2 diabetes, gallstones, and Parkinson’s disease. Not too shabby.

While moderate caffeine consumption is deemed best, even fairly high levels of regular caffeine use are not associated with any significant health risks. That said, it certainly is possible to consume too much caffeine, and some caffeine-sensitive individuals react poorly to even small amounts of the stimulant. But the bottom line is that caffeine can be a boon to a runner before, during, and after a workout or race.

Caffeine Before Exercise

Above shot of coffee in mug with fresh bubbles

Photo: Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

Research has shown that pre-exercise caffeine enhances performance in sprints, in all-out efforts lasting four to five minutes, and in prolonged endurance activities. In shorter events, caffeine apparently increases muscle recruitment, which ultimately boosts performance. In longer events, it delays fatigue by reducing the athlete’s perception of effort. Caffeine does this by increasing the concentration of hormone-like substances in the brain called ß-endorphins during exercise. The endorphins affect mood state, reduce the perception of pain, and create a sense of well-being.

Three important questions about caffeine use before exercise have not yet been definitively answered by science:

1) Is it performance-enhancing for every athlete, or just some?
2) Is the performance boost associated with pre-exercise caffeine intake greatest in individuals who normally don’t use it (or have taken a break from it)?
3) What is the optimal dosage, and does this also vary between individuals?

In recent years, there has been some research indicating that individuals carrying certain variations of the CYP1A2 gene might not gain a performance benefit from pre-exercise caffeine intake, and in some cases may even be slowed down by it. The latest evidence, however, suggests that the number of “non-responders” within this subpopulation (which itself represents only a fraction of the overall athlete population) is quite small. In the absence of direct evidence to the contrary, therefore, it’s safe to assume that caffeine is performance-enhancing for you.

Genetics aside, another, more controllable factor that may affect whether or how much pre-exercise caffeine intake elevates your running performance is the role of caffeine in your daily life. Science has gone back and forth on this question, with the most recent research suggesting that caffeine is most effective in athletes who do not habitually drink coffee or consume other caffeine sources, or who have at least taken a break from caffeine prior to using it as an ergogenic aid. A study led by Juan Del Coso of Camilo José Cela University in Spain and published in PLoS One in 2019 compared cycling performance in subjects during two, 20-day periods, one with daily caffeine intake and the other without. They found that the performance boost resulting from caffeine all but disappeared after six days. It’s important to note that the subjects chosen for this study were all light caffeine users normally, and further research is still needed to nail down whether habitual caffeine users need to lay off the coffee for a while to benefit from caffeine pre-exercise ingestion. In the meantime, it’s best to assume you do. Speaking from personal experience, I can say I certainly feel the effects of caffeine more strongly after several days without it. 

As for dosage, a recent, comprehensive scientific review and meta-analysis by New Zealand researchers reported that doses in the range of 3 to 6 grams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight yield maximum performance benefits in a majority of athletes, with 6 g/kg seldom offering any more of a boost than 3 g/kg, although some individuals do better at the lower end of this range and others at the higher end. Lower doses (in the range of 200 mg) are hit-or-miss, aiding some athletes and not others.

You may want to try a little informal experimentation to find out whether caffeine aids your running, and how much is optimal for you. One way to do this is to choose a harder workout type (hill repetitions, tempo runs, speed intervals) that you do regularly in your training and switch up your pre-workout caffeine regimen each time you repeat it. Specifically, try cycling through options ranging between 0 mg and 6 mg (or whatever upper limit you’re comfortable with) in random order. Obviously, there are a variety of factors that affect how you feel and perform in training on any given day, so you’ll need to try each option more than once to identify patterns and tease out the regimen that seems to work best.

Caffeine During Exercise

A 2008 study, conducted at the University of Birmingham in England, looked at a completely different benefit of caffeine. It studied the effect the stimulant had during exercise on exogenous carbohydrate oxidation—which is the rate at which consumed carbs are burned.

Cyclists received either a 6% glucose solution, a 6% glucose solution plus caffeine, or plain water during a two-hour indoor cycling test. The researchers found that the rate at which the consumed carbohydrates were burned was 26% higher in the cyclists receiving carbs with caffeine than in those receiving carbs without caffeine. The study’s authors concluded that caffeine may have increased the rate of glucose absorption in the intestine, providing fuel to the working muscles more quickly. The likely effect on performance is the ability to work harder for a longer period of time without becoming fatigued.

Based on these results, athletes might want to consider consuming caffeine along with a sports drink or chew on caffeine-laced gum during races or long training sessions instead of dosing up beforehand. Taking in caffeine both before and during a race or workout would be excessive and could lead to nervousness, anxiety, and stomach upset.

Caffeine After Exercise

Here we’re not talking about consuming caffeine after exercise to produce a benefit outside of the happiness found in a cozy post-run coffee, but rather how taking in caffeine before a workout may make you feel better after the workout. A 2007 study from the University of Georgia found that pre-exercise caffeine intake reduced post-exercise muscle soreness by 50%. This is another effect that is unlikely to be felt by regular caffeine users, however. So again, wean yourself off caffeine for one week before big races or an important marathon training run, dose up that morning, and expect to not only perform better but also to experience faster muscle recovery afterward.

The Performance-Enhancing Power of Caffeine – Women’s Running was originally published at LINK

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Are You Sure You’re Doing Push Ups Properly ? – Fitness and Power

Although the push-up has been a cornerstone of almost every fitness program, many people don’t perform it the correct way. When performed properly, the push-ups can be extremely taxing for your body, challenging the strength of even the fittest individuals. Try performing a proper push-up using the form as described in the article bellow to […]

Although the push-up has been a cornerstone of almost every fitness program, many people don’t perform it the correct way. When performed properly, the push-ups can be extremely taxing for your body, challenging the strength of even the fittest individuals.

Try performing a proper push-up using the form as described in the article bellow to prove our point. In addition, make one pause at the top a second pause at the bottom of the movement. This reduces the risk of cheating as you cannot rely on momentum. But before we get into specifics, let’s get back to square one.

The push-up is not a newbie exercise

Although many people and trainers think otherwise, the push-up is not an exercise for beginners.  It’s not some move that should be used for building your foundation, instead, it should be used only after you’ve laid down some of the core foundation. The truth is that push-ups are highly advanced and challenging exercise. Of course, only when done properly.

Most people are not even aware that they are cheating during their execution, thus performing a ton of faulty reps that lead nowhere. When performed with proper form, even the fittest of the fit can find it difficult to perform them. It takes a great amount of strength, coordination, stability, kinetic awareness.

When you are performing the push-up correctly, you press up 70% of your total bodyweight. At the same time, this move requires you to invest significant energy into coordinating total body motor skills. Not many trainers would consider making a beginner use the same load numbers when performing reps with free weights. Learning the proper form with these numbers would be an impossible task.

In this text we try to identify the most common training mistakes, and describe the proper technique for performing push-ups.

Push-ups Involve Rotational Movement

It’s crucial to have in mind that the movement of the push-up is rotational, rather than linear. Your whole body rotates around a pivot point created by your feet. This results with a sort of semi-circular movement of the whole body, instead of bobbing it in a linear movement.


Keeping A Straight Line

One of the things that most people agree on is that the proper push-up technique positions your body in a relatively straight line. Although this is absolutely true, many people wrongly assume that the top of the glutes is one of the points of alignment together with the ankles, knees and shoulders.

Avoid making that mistake. The straight line of proper push-up is formed with the following five points of alignment: ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and head. In fact, aligning the hips with the other four joint points would take the glutes slightly above the rest of the body.

Maintain the Natural Curve

You should maintain the natural curve of the spine, especially in the lumbar region. Using emphatically flat position of your back will place your hips below the other points of alignment.

The proper push-up pose is in fact very similar to the proper standing posture, with natural curve in the lumbar spine.

In order to reduce all chances for anterior pelvic tilt and excessive lorodosis (inward lumbar curve), you should pull the abdominal muscles in and keep the hips up. Avoid letting you stomach hang down below the torso.

Contract Your Quads Instead of Squeezing Your Glutes

Many trainers would tell you that by squeezing your glutes you reduce the risk of cheating. Well, while squeezing the glutes is certainly a beneficial feature for some exercises, it should not be applied to all exercises in general. In fact, when performing the push-ups it is completely wrong.

In this case it would be much better to contract your quads.

This provides much better form of activation by firing up the hip flexors and hitting the core muscles. By contracting the quads you provide direct resistance to the extension forces of your spine and hips. The quads and hip flexors, together with the core, act as stabilizing force of your spine. This is especially emphasized in the plank. As you contract the quads you also squeeze out greater involvement of the hip flexors, balancing the extension forces. This is especially helpful when performing the push-ups with weights. Another benefit of quads contraction is that they help you to resist flexing your knees under the force of gravity that tends to pull them down.

Keep Your Hips Up

Considering the positioning of your hips, it’s always wiser to keep them high, instead of low. When the hips are positioned higher they trigger greater activation of extension resisting forces. Mind you, this is not some tip that will make the push-up easier. On the contrary, it adds difficulty to the movement.  And although the position is far from ideal, at least it poses little risk to your spinal health.

In opposition to this, positioning the hips too low will reduce the activation of the required muscles, shifting the focus to the spine. This positioning of the body results in great shortening the range of motion of the push-up, making easy to cheat on the execution. And although you’ll probably end up doing greater number of push-ups, they will surely be with poor quality.

Proper Head and Neck Positioning

Another item on the list of most common mistake that people make when performing push-ups is packing their head and chin. You’d like to avoid that, because it shortens the cervical spine. The result of this compression is diminished neural signaling, poor alignment and shoulder function. Keep your head and neck in neutral position, creating a straight line with your spine.

Continues on next page…

Are You Sure You’re Doing Push Ups Properly ? – Fitness and Power was originally published at LINK

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The Science Behind How Stress Affects Your Gut Function

Member Exclusive Become a member to unlock this story and receive other great perks. One of the most powerful ways that exercise affects your digestive tract is by constricting gut blood flow. Both intense and prolonged exercise result in a profound shift in blood flow away from your gut, toward your skeletal muscles and—especially in […]

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One of the most powerful ways that exercise affects your digestive tract is by constricting gut blood flow. Both intense and prolonged exercise result in a profound shift in blood flow away from your gut, toward your skeletal muscles and—especially in hot and humid environments—toward your skin. As it turns out, psychological stress can also redirect blood flow away from your gut. (Although if it’s only mild in nature, stress has little impact on gut blood flow.)

Over the past few decades, advancements in ultrasound technology have allowed scientists to noninvasively probe how gut blood flow changes with a variety of stressors, including those that are psychological in nature. However, you might be surprised to learn that these shifts in gut blood flow were documented almost two hundred years ago. In 1822, a Canadian fur trader named Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot with a musket, resulting in a hand-sized wound that, once healed, still left an opening large enough that a person could see directly inside St. Martin’s stomach. William Beaumont—the physician stationed at the site of the accident—initially treated St. Martin but didn’t think he would survive. St. Martin did manage to pull through, and Beaumont saw an extraordinary opportunity to study what had long been out of the reach of scientists: the inner workings of human digestion.

Of course, Beaumont’s dreams of studying the mysteries of digestion and becoming a world-renowned gastric physiologist hinged on St. Martin’s willingness to serve as more or less a human guinea pig. Fortunately for Beaumont, St. Martin was unable to pay his hospital bills and agreed to work and live in Beaumont’s home as an indentured laborer. As a part of this Odd Couple–like arrangement, St. Martin allowed Beaumont to conduct more than two hundred gastral experiments on him over roughly a decade. Among other things, Beaumont inserted and extracted small muslin bags filled with various foods into and from St. Martin’s stomach and even stuck his tongue inside the hole in St. Martin’s side. (How else would you figure out how the inner coating of the stomach tastes?) Beaumont’s mini-studies—the results of which were published in his book Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion—were pioneering in that few others had successfully probed the process of digestion in humans. Beaumont’s book paints St. Martin as somewhat of a cantankerous figure, although if you keep in mind that he was subjected to hundreds of mildly unpleasant experiments, you can hardly blame St. Martin for his irritability. This may also help explain why St. Martin was prone to overindulging in alcoholic beverages on occasion. In one entry, Beaumont writes:

St. Martin has been in the woods all day picking whortleberries… Stomach full of berries and chymifying ailment, frothing and foaming like fermenting beer or cider; appears to have been drinking liquor too freely.

Among the discoveries that arose from his experimentation on St. Martin, one of Beaumont’s most interesting revelations was that a person’s psychological state influences how much blood flows to their stomach. Specifically, Beaumont observed that “fear, anger, or whatever depresses or disturbs the nervous system—the villous coat becomes red and dry, at other times, pale and moist.” These changes in appearance from red to pale (and vice versa) were almost certainly the result of alterations in blood flow to St. Martin’s visceral organs. In St. Martin, Beaumont had, quite literally, a gastric window into the man’s state of mind.

Over the next 150 years, other cases of patients with permanent openings into their digestive tracts corroborated Beaumont’s observation that mood state impacts gut blood flow. One such patient, a man known as Tom Little, had an artificial opening into his stomach surgically created after his esophagus was permanently damaged from swallowing scalding hot clam chowder at the age of 9. In 1941, a pair of physicians, Stewart Wolf and Harold Wolff, convinced the then 56-year-old Little to serve as a subject in a series of tests focusing on psychosomatic changes and gastric function. Stewart Wolf later recalled the following about their experimentations on Tom Little:

The exposed gastric mucosa of Tom made it possible to observe the vascularity of the stomach… In Tom and in other fistulous subjects… we found that fright, depression, and attitudes of being overwhelmed were associated with pallor of the mucosa.

When you pair the information gleaned from historical cases like Alexis St. Martin and Tom Little with the revelations from contemporary studies, it’s impossible to deny that an individual’s psychological state influences blood flow to the gut.

Aside from its effects on gut blood flow, psychological stress can also influence smooth muscle activity in the gut, otherwise known as motility. In particular, stress can tone down stomach motility, and one of the first scientists to document these alterations was Walter Bradford Cannon, a leading American physiologist of the early 20th century. During some of his experiments, Cannon noticed that young male cats were restive when restrained while older female cats remained mellow, and that these differences in temperament corresponded to differences in stomach activity. He further observed that “by covering the cat’s mouth and nose… until a slight distress of breathing is produced, the stomach contractions can be stopped at will.” In an experiment conducted years later, Cannon went so far as to place a barking dog near a restrained cat and then proceeded to take blood samples from the cat to see what effect the “excited blood” had on a strip of intestinal muscle. (It caused a relaxation, or a reduction in motility.) As it relates to athletes, attenuated stomach motility could exacerbate upper gut problems like nausea, fullness, bloating, and reflux, especially when they’re trying to consume sizeable quantities of food or fluid in and around the time of competition.

In contrast to the dampening of stomach activity, stress can result in a livelier colon. Early experiments undertaken by physician Thomas Almy at New York Hospital in the 1940s and 1950s documented that simply discussing emotional topics could abruptly throw the colon into spasm. In a 1949 article, Almy describes measuring colon motility in patients as the researchers led them through discussions of unsettling life events. Almy used a latex balloon placed in the colon to measure pressure changes, which gave him an indication of muscle activity. In a constipated German housewife, for instance, colon contractions intensified when, as the researchers put it, she “expressed resentment over her husband’s ability to have regular bowel movements.” (Of all the things you could take umbrage at your spouse for, focusing on his propensity to defecate seems peculiar.) In another case, the colon of a 26-year-old man went into a frenzy after he revealed that a woman he had been seeing “humiliated and scorned him for his inability to satisfy her sexually.”

In another article, Almy and his colleagues describe going to even greater lengths to manipulate colon function in an unlucky medical student referred to simply as L. L. After positioning a proctoscope in L. L.’s lower colon, the researchers carried out an elaborate deception to make him believe he had a potentially cancerous lesion. The researchers told L. L. that they had to take a biopsy (even though they never took one), and during this time the motility of L. L.’s colon became progressively more intense. After 20 minutes of dupery, the researchers finally fessed up and told L. L. the procedure was fake. In the associated paper, Almy and his coauthors state that L. L. accepted their reassurances that nothing was truly wrong and that L. L. held no “resentment for the . . .anguish he had been through.” Despite Almy’s proclamation, something tells me L. L. wasn’t completely bitter-free about this skullduggery.

The effects of stress on colon motility observed in Almy’s eccentric experiments have largely been confirmed in more contemporary studies. To put it plainly, psychological stress can make the colon go wild. It’s somewhat puzzling, then, that the symptoms arising from a more active colon vary drastically. In many cases, cramping and urges to go numero dos are stimulated. In others, constipation and bloating are more prevalent. Thinking about it logically, one would assume that frequent and strong contractions of smooth muscle would translate to a heightened urge to poo, but it really depends on whether those contractions are coordinated and propulsive or of a spastic variety. (Experiencing spastic, uncoordinated smooth muscle contractions in your colon could mean you’re headed for constipationville.) That said, anecdotes about having to defecate before stressful competition seem to be reported with more regularity than constipation.

Interestingly, humans have the power to consciously override nerve-induced urges to poop in many situations, but animals that are of a less-inhibited nature are much less capable. As it turns out, rats are particularly inclined to poo when stressed, and, anecdotally, exposing a rat to a new environment (such as a maze or a living space) is a good way to get said rat to empty its bowels. If you’re not big on anecdotal evidence, you’re in luck, as an experiment carried out in the 1930s found strong correlations between rats’ emotional responses (measured via their willingness to eat in a strange enclosure) and their proclivities for defecating. Much like rats in a cage, the psychological stress and anxiety experienced by athletes before endurance races is undoubtedly one reason lines for Porta-Johns are often as long as those for the latest and greatest ride at Disney World. Unlike rats, though, humans can usually keep it in long enough to avoid making a public mess.

There are a few physiological explanations for why reduced stomach motility and amplified colon activity accompany acute psychological stress. One of the most consistent scientific findings is that a hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) contributes to the ebbs and flows of gut activity. Your body responds to stress by secreting CRF from your hypothalamus; CRF then binds with receptors in your brain that modify the activity of your autonomic nervous system, the primarily unconscious part of your peripheral nervous system that helps control gut function. Across a variety of studies, directly administering CRF to animals dampens gastric motility and acid secretion while it also spurs colon motility. The role of CRF in provoking gut symptoms with psychological stress is presented in the figure below.

Illustration on how acute stress affects the gut
Moderate-to-severe acute stress triggers the release of CRF from the hypothalamus, which modifies gut activity through the fibers of the autonomic nervous system. Illustration: Andrew J. Nilsen

During times of extreme psychological stress, these motility changes and their associated symptoms become commonplace. Few situations are as stressful as what soldiers experience during combat; in contrast to the run-of-the-mill pre-competition jitters experienced by many athletes, absolute fear is the emotion soldiers often feel before and during combat. In some cases, this fear is associated with spontaneous defecation; in an article in a long tome titled Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict, the authors report that one-quarter of World War II veterans admitted to defecating in their pants during combat. In these situations, CRF secretion almost certainly contributes to a colon and rectum that are—to put it in layman’s terms—massively overstimulated.

Urgent impulses to poo and the nervous shits are common manifestations of acute severe stress. With respect to the other end of the gut, nausea represents an equally troublesome stress-invoked symptom. The secretion of CRF plays a role in triggering said nausea, but there’s another hormonal response that may be as equally influential: the release of catecholamines. High-intensity exercise, altitude, and—most directly—injecting catecholamines all increase blood catecholamine levels and can provoke nausea. Acute psychological stress is also a source of catecholamine secretion. Many studies have demonstrated psychological stress’s effect on catecholamine secretion, but I’ll focus on one that used what’s called the Trier Social Stress Test, a task that’s become the gold standard for examining psychosocial stress in the lab. Though variations exist, the Trier Social Stress Test typically subjects participants to a mock presentation in front of a panel (often presented as a job interview), followed by a challenging arithmetic task (e.g., counting backward from a large number by increments of 13). In the example study I’m focusing on, participants had plasma levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) measured before and after the Trier Social Stress Test, and as expected, norepinephrine levels shot up, with levels ending up about twice as high as they were beforehand.

The Trier Social Stress Test is a reliable method of inducing stress in a laboratory, but it’s sometimes criticized because it doesn’t reflect the diversity of tense and trying situations that people encounter in everyday life. With this in mind, researchers have assessed the catecholamine response to stress in more naturalistic situations—academic exams, a visit to the dentist’s office, even skydiving. Specific to sports, a slew of investigations have evaluated stress responses to real-life competition. Take for example a study that contrasted the stress responses of elite German tennis players under practice and tournament conditions; urine epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) levels were about twice as high two hours before a tournament than in practice.

Despite the fact that elevations in catecholamines are nearly ubiquitous in stressful situations, not all athletes experience nausea before competition. Although the stress response to athletic competition isn’t usually potent enough to induce nausea and vomiting in most athletes, there will always be exceptions. And of course, the bigger the stage, the more likely an athlete will experience stress severe enough to trigger nauseousness. In Without Limits, the definitive running biopic about legendary runner Steve Prefontaine, there’s a notable scene in which Prefontaine pukes under the bleachers before the 3-mile race at the 1974 Hayward Field Restoration Meet, which was renamed the Prefontaine Classic after his tragic death. In the scene, Prefontaine laments that he doesn’t think he can hang with the likes of Frank Shorter and Gerry Lindgren anymore, even as the crowd chants his name. The scene perfectly sums up what countless athletes have felt in the moments leading up to their biggest competitions.

If you do happen to perpetually suffer from stress-induced nausea, you could consider implementing the following strategies to dial down the magnitude of catecholamine release in the hours leading up to competition:

  • Shun caffeine and other stimulants.
  • Avoid dehydration and hypoglycemia by consuming adequate amounts of fluid and carbohydrate beforehand.
  • Consult with a sports psychologist or other qualified mental health professional, as they can help you implement a variety of strategies—from breathing exercises to meditation to cognitive behavioral therapy—that could blunt catecholamine release prior to competition.

I want to be clear that these strategies are based primarily on indirect evidence. Even so, there are probably minimal risks in trying them. On a final note, one other gut function change that can stem from psychological stress is heightened gut permeability. While it’s transient and relatively harmless in many situations, gut leakiness may, in some cases, contribute to heat illness during and after prolonged exercise. Psychological stress increases gut leakiness via the actions of stress hormones like CRF as well as through its actions on various components of the immune system. Much like with stress-induced nausea, it’s conceivable that interventions such as deep breathing and meditation could blunt the stress response to competition and subsequent onset of gut leakiness, though I’m not aware of research that’s documented those effects specifically.

Adapted from The Athlete’s Gut by Patrick Wilson with permission of VeloPress.

The Athlete’s Gut

The Science Behind How Stress Affects Your Gut Function was originally published at LINK