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The Real Science of Sport Podcast

Watt The FTP?

Season 2, Ep. 7

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is one of the most popular terms in endurance sport and used by both professional and amateur racers. Take a deep dive into the what, how and use of FTP, what it really means in the world of sports science and why it's often misunderstood as a training tool. Essential listening for anyone who loves a little heavy breathing.

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  • Spotlight 6: How Pro Cyclists Use Carbon Monoxide / Pogacar's Superhuman Numbers

    43:14
    In a recent article on the Escape Collective, claims were made that Tour de France cyclists are using carbon monoxide to enhance their performance. But is it really that big a deal or is there more to this story? Mike and Ross break down how carbon monoxide is used and potentially abused as cyclists looked for any means to get an advantage. The team also break down some the incredible numbers being pushed out by Tadej Pogacar at Le Tour and ask the question on everyone's lips: Can we believe it?SHOW NOTES:Carbon monoxide use:The original Carbon monoxide article A paper on how Hb Mass is related closely to VO2max One of the first published studies that describes how breathing CO might unlock performance enhancement. In this study, college student football players also breathed in 1ml per kilogram body weight before all sessions. It drove an increase in EPO, haemoglobin levels and VO2max.Another study, by Schmidt, where moderately trained subjects inhaled CO five times a day. Haemoglobin mass increased, they made more reticulocytes, and VO2max increased (though not significantly)Some sources for power output estimates at the Tour de France:Ammatti on TwitterThe detailed analysis of the Plateau du Beille stage, and comparison against historical performances
  • Science of Sport Spotlight 5: The Research Studies That Shaped Sports Science Knowledge

    45:52
    The spotlight falls on the most influential sports science research ever published. A recent paper produced a list of the 100 most influential sports science papers of the last 100 years. Gareth and Ross choose a handful of them, discussing what they found, what their authors didn't know at the time (and got wrong), and what it means today. We discover that the arc of sports science knowledge runs through all these studies, connecting people from AV Hill to Noakes, and themes including oxygen debt, lactate, altitude, pacing strategies, fatigue, and even the 2-hour marathon !Show notesBecome a Patron here, and then join the discussion on on Discourse CommunityStanding on the Shoulders of Giants: The paper that inspired the episode, a collection of 100 influential sports science articlesThe AV Hill Paper on muscular exertion, oxygen and 'lactic acid'. The OG of sports scienceGeorge Brooks proposes the Lactate ShuttleNoakes, St Clair Gibson and Lambert explain the concept of complex regulation. This is the summary and conclusion paper. The more detailed papers are:Why the "catastrophic model for fatigue" fails to explain real-world performance physiologyEvidence for complex systems integration and regulation of muscle activityHow fatigue and performance help control homeostasis during exercisede Koning and Foster explain how pacing is regulated during exercise, using the RPE and duration remainingMichael Joyner applies his physiological determinants of the marathon to the sub-2 hour questionLundby's review questioning the performance benefits of altitude trainingA more recent review on altitude training that covers how periodization, managing training, repeat visits and smarter nutrition may help create and increase the effectA more detailed paper on the role of nutrition when at altitude
  • 17. Paris 2024: How to Make an Olympic Athlete

    01:25:32
    Mark Coogan has been there, done that and got the t-shirt. As a former track athlete, sub-4 minute miler, Olympic marathoner and author of the book 'Personal Best Running', Coogan is passing on his wealth of talent to some of America's top track and field stars with much success. In this discussion, Coogan talks candidly about the process of developing Olympic-level elite athletes, how to spot elite-level talent, what makes a champion athlete, how to train athletes for events as important as the controversial American Trials and the Olympic Games and whether the sport is in a good place globally. Coogan works in the engine room of top-class athletics and his insights will inspire all levels of sports people.Follow MarkInstagram & X @mark_coogan
  • Science of Sport Spotlight 4: Shining a Tour de France Light On Exercise In The Heat

    35:41
    In this Spotlight, the team discuss exercise in the heat, using the challenging conditions and travails of Mark Cavendish and others in the Tour de France's first two stages as the catalyst. We explore why athletes 'fail' in the heat, and how the brain pulls a physiological ripcord to protect us when we either don't pace ourselves appropriately, or can't lose the heat we need to in order to avoid critical hyperthermia. We also briefly assess the state of the Tour's yellow jersey battle, where the first shots were landed by Pogacar on the Galibier in yesterday's Stage 4. But will they be decisive, and how likely is Vingegaard to bounce back and improve as the race progresses?Show notesBecome a Patron and join the Discourse communitySome papers on heat stroke and limiting hyperthermiaA position statement on heatstroke, including details on risk factors and pathology. Find out about "leaky guts" here!One of the Danish studies that shows how the hot brain just stops activating muscle and causes us to fail at exerciseAnother paper showing that perceived exertion is altered by hyperthermia during exercise in the heatTour de France insightsThis is the best podcast you'll listen to on the Tour, in my opinion. That is, if you really like a deep technical dive into the tactics of the raceThe analysis of Pogacar's record climb of the Galibier yesterday. Note that it was a hard stage, and so a real test of durabilityThe record was also broken on San Luca on Stage 2. Here's that analysis and power estimateThe Olympic Sport bracket that Gareth mentioned on the show - will road cycling bounce back and beat the marathon in the popularity stakes?
  • Science of Sport Spotlight 3: TDF 2024 Preview

    28:02
    The Tour de France begins Saturday and in this Spotlight, Ross and Gareth gaze into their crystal balls to discuss whether Jonas Vingegaard, the two-time defending champ, can recover from his April accident to challenge race favourite Tadej Pogacar? They explore how his injuries will have set back his preparation, and the challenges he'll have faced to balance recovery with adapting for the demands of a Grand Tour. They also explain how his 'durability' may be compromised, and how Pogacar may look to exploit this tactically, to kill the contest in Week 1. Add in some speculation and predictions we both hope are proven incorrect, and you have a TDF teed up for discussion and debate!Become a Patron and join the Discourse communityOur TDF Fantasy League is open - here are the detailsThe physiology of the Grand ToursWhat happens to the hormone levels during a Grand tour?Review of the physiology of the Tour, with some high level overviews of the requirements to race a Grand TourPerformance requirements of racing a Grand Tour, with some nice power data from the very best cyclistsDurability in cycling, as discussed on the showA field study of durability in elite cyclists, showing a 3% (average) drop in 20 min TT power after a fatiguing bout. Note that the fatiguing bout used (10 kJ/kg/hr) is equivalent to an easy-to-moderate mountain day in the Tour. UAE will want rivals to do a LOT more work than this before attacking in the final 20 minutesA nice study looking at how fatigue affects the power-duration curve in elite cyclists. This shows that World Tour riders are more "durable" than Pro Tour riders, and that the greater the work before "the test", the greater the decline. Again, a cue for a rider who wants to win the Tour to put his rivals under pressure before the final climbResource for power estimates in the TourPogacar's best climb of the Giro, because of the work done before it, and the altitudeCrazy high numbers from Switzerland on the short 43km stage where fatigue was not a factorRoglic's best Dauphine performance, contextualized against Pogacar at the Giro - just a few percent off where it needs to be to match Pogacar
  • 16. The Real Science Of Hydration During Exercise

    01:19:29
    Dr Tamara Hew-Butler is the Queen of Hyponatremia (@hyponaqueen on X). What's hyponatremia, you may be wondering? It is a condition that is far more dangerous than dehydration, and which can develop when we drink too much fluid during exercise, with potentially lethal and often tragic consequences. We have been conditioned to fear the health and performance risks of dehydration during exercise, to believe that we cannot afford to lose fluid, and that by the time we are thirsty, it's too late. But Hew Butler, a world authority on fluid requirements during exercise, is here to set the record straight, to explain how exquisitely our bodies regulate our sodium and fluid levels, and why we can and should trust our physiology instead of the marketing messages of sports drinks and water companies. This is an episode that will challenge beliefs, and set the record straight on exercise hydration.Show notesBecome a Patron and join the Discourse communityLinks to articles on the subject matter of the podcastTami is lead author on a series of consensus statements on Exercise Associated Hyponatremia. This is the most recent version of that consensusThe Men's Health article mentioned on the show, discussing overhydration and quoting TamiA review article by Tami, published in 2017, with details on the physiology, treatment and prevention of hyponatremiaA 2022 paper by Tami, on the Physiology, Psychology and pathophysiology of overhydrationA study Tami was involved in looking at soldiers doing a 40km march, showing that drinking to thirst avoided the dangers of both hyponatremia and dehydrationIn the show, we spoke about research we did at the Comrades Ultramarathon. Here is one of the papers from those studies in the medical tentTwo papers on what typically happens during ultra-endurance exercise, first in Ironman athletes, by Sharwood et alA second paper describing over 2000 endurance athletes and the changes in body weight, sodium levels and hydration statusThe first case series of hyponatremic athlete in the Comrades, going all the way back to the 1980sTami's X handle: @hyponaqueen
  • Science of Sport Spotlight 2: Kenya's doping induced credibility crisis

    28:43
    Kenyan athletes are being banned, literally, by the hundreds. The country that produces many of the world's outstanding distance performers has a huge credibility crisis. It is clear that doping is widespread, but frustratingly, despite dozens of athletes being caught and banned every month, we are no closer to identifying how what have been described as "sophisticated doping regimes" are being managed and delivered to many of the best Kenyan athletes. In this Spotlight, the second episode of the Series, Ross and Gareth talk about the extent of the problem, the challenges faced by authorities who are casting their own spotlight on Kenyan running, and the shadow that sadly looms over Kenyan medals and records.Show notesSign up to become a Patron of the show and join the conversationThe latest AIU list of banned Kenyan runners, as at 1 June 2024. This list has since grown by about 30 namesA year ago, Kenyan government pledged to fight the doping problem with a significant investment. The bans now may be the result, but is it the solution?Rhonex Kipruto is one of the biggest Kenyan names banned to date. Here is the AIU Reasoned Decision describing the ban, including the results and graphs discussed by Ross and Gareth on the showOlympic surveys:Here is the survey we have created for you to rate every Olympic sport's "athleticism" and attributesHere is the "bracket", where you choose your favourite Olympic sport in a series of Head-to-Head battles. We are now in Round 2
  • 15. The Science and Art of Good Running

    02:04:46
    Dr Geoff Burns lives and breaths running. From his own accomplishments as an elite-level ultra racer, Burns has spent years researching the biomechanics of running, the science behind what makes great runners and the impact of the new super shoes in this new age of running. Burns has a PhD in Sports Science, is a physiologist with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and is a researcher and engineer with a special interest in running.SHOW NOTESFollow Geoff on TwitterThe paper that describes the relationship between calf circumference and running economy The Japanese study comparing the tendon function of Kenyans to Japanese runnersA paper that looked at cerebral oxygenation in Kenyan runners, another where the effect of being a good runner is hard to tease out from being a Kenyan effectGeoff and ROSS collaborated on this paper, as discussed on the show, looking at barefoot vs shod running in elite vs recreational runnerswww.geoffreyburns.com/stream
  • Science of Sport Spotlight 1: Lia Thomas loses case against World Aquatics

    14:19
    Today we introduce the Science of Sport Spotlight, a category of podcast that we intend to use to round up all the big sports stories with a sports science angle, and then share those insights with you. Today, we discuss the news that transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has lost a case brought against World Aquatics' transgender guidelines at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But it's not entirely as it seems - the case was dismissed because Thomas is not eligible to bring the case as Thomas is no longer a member of US Swimming. In this Spotlight episode, Professor Ross Tucker explains why that is frustrating for World Aquatics and other sports, and why the Thomas case would have made an interesting test in the court.Notes:Sean ingle's article on the decisionThe research paper by Senefeld that analysis Thomas' performance changes with testosterone suppression, alluded to in the showAnother research paper, on which I am a co-author, which explains why the IOC Guideline on the trans issue is so misguidedPatrons only: The discourse thread that mentions the Ultra cycling race won by a trans woman this past weekendYou can join the ongoing sports science conversation, and support our work, by becoming a Patron member at this link.That Patron membership gives you access to our Discourse channels, where like-minded enthusiasts discuss sports science and news