Hot or Cold: How Temperature Affects Sports

Fig2CrespoWe are always interested in knowing how hot or cold our day is going to be so we can plan for the day ahead of us. No matter what activities we plan, we want to accomplish them without unnecessary distress. Different ambient temperatures might encourage us to engage in outdoor activities, such as practicing sports, or postponing them for another time. Since any type of exercise produces heat as by-product, accumulation of too much heat in excessively high ambient temperatures can compromise athletic performance. This detriment to athletic performance can also arise when ambient temperatures are excessively low. Our bodies cope with changes in temperature through different thermoregulatory processes. However, without taking proper precautions prior to and after exercising, this regulation of body temperature might not be enough, and cannot only make us feel uncomfortable, but also put our health at risk.

Learn the basics of temperature and sports or read the more technical explanation.

Articles by Jose G. Crespo.

Timing of Eating and Exercise (Basic)

Introduction

An important area in the realm of sports nutrition is the timing of food and fluid consumption around exercise. In general, nutrition guidelines for athletes for each of the macronutrients are as follows: 6-10 grams carbohydrate per kilogram body weight per day, 1.2- 1.7 grams protein per kilogram body weight per day, and 20%-30% of total daily energy from fat (Rodriguez et. al 2009). The specific recommendations for each time frame surrounding exercise are detailed below.

Before Exercise

Eating before exercise has been shown to improve exercise performance when compared to exercising in a fasted state (Maffucci and McMurray 2000, Jentjens et al. 2003, Mosely et al. 2003). In regard to the composition of the pre-exercise meal or snack, it is recommended that it be high in carbohydrates, low in fat, moderate in protein, low in fiber, provide adequate fluid, and be familiar to the athlete (Rodriguez et. al 2009).

In general, larger meals can be consumed when there is a greater time gap between eating and exercise, whereas smaller amounts should be consumed if eating and exercise are in close proximity. In terms of carbohydrate, it is recommended that 1-4 grams carbohydrate per kilogram body weight be consumed 1-4 hours prior to exercise (Sugiura and Kobayashi 1998). For fluid needs, at least four hours prior to exercise it is recommended that water or a sports drink be consumed in the amount of approximately 5-7 milliliters per kilogram body weight (Rodriguez et. al 2009).

During Exercise

Fueling during exercise is of greatest importance during prolonged exercise. For exercise bouts lasting less than 45-60 minutes, water is generally sufficient. However, endurance performance has been shown to be benefited with drinking sports beverages that contain 6-8% carbohydrate during exercise (Coggan and Coyle 1991, Nicholas et al. 1995, Jeukendrup et al. 1997). For events lasting longer than one hour it is recommended that carbohydrate intake be in the range of 30-60 grams carbohydrate per hour, or 0.7 grams carbohydrate per kilogram body weight per hour (McConell et al. 1996, Currell and Jeukendrup 2008). Carbohydrates may be obtained from food, gels, or sports beverages, the latter option also providing needed fluid.

In regard to fluid intake during exercise, specific general recommendations for fluid replacement during exercise have not been established, as these general guides would likely be inappropriate for many situations (Sawka et al. 2007). Thus, fluid intake should be determined for each athlete individually based on the length of exercise, sweat rate, and opportunities to drink (Rodriguez et. al 2009).

After Exercise

The period immediately following exercise is a time when the body is best positioned to restore glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates in the body) at the highest rate (Sugiura and Kobayashi 1998). It is recommended that carbohydrates be consumed within 30 minutes after exercise and that 1.5 grams carbohydrate per kilogram be consumed in the first hour following exercise (Ivy et al. 1988, Sugiura and Kobayashi 1998). Adding protein as part of a meal after exercise may be beneficial in regard to muscle protein synthesis and repair (Rodriguez et al. 2007, van Loon et al. 2013). In regard to specific amounts or time frames for protein ingestion surrounding exercise, additional research is needed (van Loon et al. 2013).

If recovery time is not limited, normal meals, snacks, and water intake should be sufficient to replenish fluids lost. In situations where recovery time is limited, or there is excess dehydration, 1.5 liters of fluid for each kilogram of body weight lost should be consumed (Sawka et al. 2007).

Conclusion

When attempting to meet nutrition needs, the timing of eating surrounding exercise is an important consideration. Appropriate meal timing and composition before, during, and after exercise can assist in improving athletic performance.

By: Jamie Saunders, University of Utah

Read the more technical details of timing your food intake around exercise.

Literature Cited

Coggan, A. R., and E. F. Coyle. 1991. Carbohydrate ingestion during prolonged exercise: Effects on metabolism and performance. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 19:1-40.

Currell, K., and A. E. Jeukendrup. 2008. Superior endurance performance with ingestion of multiple transportable carbohydrates. Med Sci Sport Exerc 40:275-281.

Ivy, J. L., A. L. Katz, C. L. Cutler, W. M. Sherman, and E. F. Coyle. 1988. Muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise: Effect of time of carbohydrate ingestion. J Appl Physiol 64:1480-1485.

Jentjens R. L., C. Cale, C. Gutch, and A. E. Jeukendrup. 2003. Effects of pre-exercise ingestion of differing amounts of carbohydrate on subsequent metabolism and cycling performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 88:444-452.

Jeukendrup, A., F. Grouns, A. J. Wagenmakers, and W. H. Saris. 1997. Carbohydrate-electrolyte feedings improve1 h time trial cycling performance. Int J Sports Med 18:125-129.

Maffucci, D. M., and R. G. McMurray. 2000. Towards optimizing the timing of the pre-exercise meal. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 10(2):103-113.

McConell, G., K. Kloot, and M. Hargreaves. 1996. Effect of timing of carbohydrate ingestion on endurance exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 28:1300-1304.

Moseley L., G. I. Lancaster, and A. E. Jeukendrup. 2003. Effects of timing of pre-exercise ingestion of carbohydrate on subsequent metabolism and cycling performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 88:453-458.

Nicholas, C. W., C. Williams, H. K. Lakomy, G. Phillips, and A. Nowitz. 1995. Influence of ingesting a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution on endurance capacity during intermittent, high-intensity shuttle running. J Sports Sci 13:283-290.

Rodriguez, N. R., L. M. Vislocky, and P. C. Gaine. 2007. Dietary protein, endurance, exercise, and human skeletal-muscle protein turnover. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 10:40-45.

Rodriquez, N. R., N. M. DiMarco, L. Langley, American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, & the American College of Sports Medicine. 2009. Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109(3): 509-527.

Sawka, M. N., L. M. Burke, E. R. Eichner, R. J. Maughan, S. J. Montain, and N. S. Stachenfeld. 2007. American college of sports medicine position stand: Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 39:377-390.

Sugiura K., and K. Kobayashi. 1998. Effect of carbohydrate ingestion on sprint performance following continuous and intermittent exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 30:1624-1630.

van Loon, L. J. C., T. D. Tipton KD, and L. J. C. van Loon (eds). 2013. Role of dietary protein in post-exercise muscle reconditioning. Nutritional Coaching Strategy to Modulate Training Efficiency. Nestlé Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. Nestec Ltd. Vevey/S. Karger AG Basel 75:73-83.

Timing of Eating and Exercise (Technical)

The role of nutrition in regard to physical activity and athletic performance is of high importance for all athletes. There are many aspects to consider in the realm of sports nutrition, and an important area is the timing of food and fluid consumption around exercise. The research in this area points to several specific guidelines to assist athletes in optimizing their performance by not only consuming the proper nutrients, but also consuming them in the appropriate time frame around exercise.

In general, nutrition guidelines for athletes for each of the macronutrients are as follows: 6-10 grams carbohydrate per kilogram body weight per day, 1.2- 1.7 grams protein per kilogram body weight per day, and 20% to 30% of total daily energy from fat (Rodriguez et al. 2009). For maximum benefit, spacing the consumption of each of these nutrients appropriately is essential. Each of these nutrients plays a specific role in regard to physical activity.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, and consumption of carbohydrates is beneficial in supporting activity. Ingesting carbohydrates assists with the maintenance of blood glucose levels during exercise, and also replenishes muscle glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates in the body; Dunford and Doyle 2012). The specific recommendations for total daily carbohydrate intake based on training load and type of exercise are shown in Table 1 (Nutrition Booklet 2010).

Table 1.

Training Load Type of Exercise Carbohydrate Intake Targets (g/kg body mass)
Light Low intensity or skill-based activities 3-5 g/kg/d
Moderate Moderate exercise program (i.e. ~1 hour per day) 5-7 g/kg/d
High Endurance program (e.g. 1-3 hours per day of mod-high-intensity exercise) 6-10 g/kg/d
Very High Extreme commitment (i.e., at least 4-5 hours per day of mod-high intensity exercise) 8-12 g/kg/d

Protein has many unique functions in the body, however protein can only be used for these important roles when there is sufficient caloric intake from carbohydrates and fat (Dunford and Doyle 2012). Though the body can use protein for energy, consuming sufficient carbohydrates will provide a protein-sparing effect. This means that protein will not be converted to energy, and can instead be used to carry out its other important functions in the body, such as tissue maintenance and repair, nutrient transport, muscle protein synthesis, and so forth (Gropper et al. 2008).

Fat is a necessary nutrient for athletes, and together with carbohydrate acts as an important energy source for moderate-intensity exercise. Fat provides essential fatty acids, and allows absorption of fat soluble vitamins (Mahan and Escott-Stump 2008). Careful consideration is required to allow sufficient but not excessive fat intake. Of particular concern is that fat slows gastric emptying and takes longer to digest than either carbohydrates or protein, so the timing of fat intake around exercise is a key factor to consider in meal planning (Dunford and Doyle 2012).

As has been demonstrated, each macronutrient plays a key role in exercise performance, and the timing of intake for each of these nutrients is an important consideration. The specific recommendations for food and fluid intake within each time frame surrounding exercise are detailed below.

Before Exercise

In sports nutrition, the recommendations for nutrition prior to exercise generally refers to the time frame approximately four hours before exercise begins (Dunford and Doyle 2012). Though overall nutrition status plays a role in athletic performance, this time frame has the most immediate impact on the upcoming bout of exercise. Fueling before exercise is important as improvement in exercise performance has been shown when food is ingested prior to exercise, as compared to exercising in a fasted state (Maffucci and McMurray 2000, Jentjens et al. 2003, Mosely et al. 2003).

There are several purposes to fueling the body appropriately before exercise. Though maximizing performance is the key benefit, avoiding gastrointestinal distress during exercise, maintaining blood glucose levels, and avoiding excessive or inadequate hydration are other purposes for fueling properly prior to exercise. Though fatigue during exercise cannot be prevented, the onset of fatigue can be delayed with proper fueling before exercise (Dunford and Doyle 2012). In order to accomplish these purposes, it is recommended that the pre-exercise meal or snack should be of a particular composition. In regard to macronutrients, it should be high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and moderate in protein. Other important considerations include low fiber options and adequate fluid consumption (Rodriguez et al. 2009).

The total amount of food consumed before exercise will be determined by the time between eating and the onset of exercise. The general guide is that larger meals can be consumed when there is a greater time gap between eating and exercise, whereas smaller amounts of food should be consumed if eating and exercise are in close proximity. In terms of carbohydrate, it is often recommended that 1-4 grams carbohydrate per kilogram body weight be consumed 1-4 hours prior to exercise (1 gram per kilogram if 1 hour prior, 2 grams per kilogram if 2 hours prior, etc.; Dunford and Doyle 2012). The key to pre-exercise feedings is that the athlete should start the exercise bout without feeling hungry, but also without food in the stomach that is undigested. As each athlete will tolerate various foods differently, the most important consideration with pre-exercise meals is that they should be familiar to the athlete, and new foods should be tried during training sessions before being used in competition settings (Rodriguez et al. 2009).

Considerations in regard to fluid intake include achieving sufficient hydration, while allowing sufficient time for fluid voiding prior to exercise. At least four hours prior to exercise it is recommended that water or a sports drink be consumed in the amount of approximately 5 to 7 milliliters per kilogram body weight (Rodriguez et al. 2009).

4673-clocks-81During Exercise

The ingestion of nutrients during exercise becomes of greatest importance during prolonged exercise. The purposes of fueling during exercise include maximizing performance, delaying fatigue, managing fluid and electrolyte balance, and avoiding gastrointestinal distress (Dunford and Doyle 2012). The composition and timing of the pre-exercise meal contributes to the determination of proper fueling during exercise. Of the body of research available, the two aspects of most importance for consumption during exercise include fluid and carbohydrate replacement.  For exercise bouts lasting less than 45-60 minutes, water is generally sufficient. However, endurance performance has been shown to be benefited with sports beverages that contain 6-8 percent carbohydrate, and this composition is appropriate for ingestion during exercise (Nicholas et al. 1995, Jeunjendrup et al. 1997, Sugiura and Kobayashi 1998). For events lasting longer than one hour it is recommended that carbohydrate intake be in the range of 30-60 grams carbohydrate per hour, or 0.7 grams carbohydrate per kilogram body weight per hour (Coggan and Coyle 1991, Currell and Jeukendrup 2008).

Though total carbohydrate ingestion is important, the type of carbohydrate consumed is another relevant consideration. Evidence suggests that fructose alone may not be tolerated or used as effectively as other forms of carbohydrate, such as mixtures of glucose and fructose, other simple sugars, and maltodextrins (Coggan and Coyle 1991). Carbohydrates may be obtained from food, gels, or sports beverages, the latter option also providing needed fluid. If carbohydrates are consumed from food or gels, water should also be consumed to maintain hydration status during exercise.

It is beneficial to begin carbohydrate ingestion shortly after beginning exercise, rather than waiting until later in the exercise bout. Additionally, the timing of carbohydrate consumption during exercise has been shown to be more effective when ingested every 15 to 20 minutes throughout activity rather than as a single bolus (McConell et al. 1996, Rodriguez et al. 2009).

In regard to fluid intake during exercise, the goal is to prevent dehydration, particularly fluid losses in excess of two percent of body weight. The regimen for fluid replacement should be determined based on individual sweat rate, environmental conditions, opportunities to drink, and the duration and intensity of exercise (Sawka et al. 2007). The American College of Sports Medicine has not established specific general recommendations for fluid replacement during exercise, as these general guides would likely be inappropriate for many situations and could lead to significant under- or over-consumption of fluid, which could have detrimental effects (Sawka et al. 2007).

After Exercise

The significance of the post-exercise meal is determined largely by the length of time until the next exercise bout, as well as the duration and intensity of activity. The purpose of the meal after exercise is to replenish glycogen stores, repair muscle protein, replace fluid and electrolyte losses, and aid in overall recovery (Dunford and Doyle 2012).

The timing of the post-exercise meal in regard to replenishing glycogen stores is of most importance if the next exercise bout will occur in twelve hours or less, however the period immediately following exercise is a time frame when the body is best positioned to restore glycogen stores at the highest rate (Dunford and Doyle 2012). Delaying carbohydrate intake can significantly reduce glycogen synthesis (Ivy 1998). In light of this, it is generally recommended that carbohydrates be consumed within 30 minutes after exercise and that 1.5 grams carbohydrate per kilogram be consumed in the first hour following exercise (Ivy et al. 1998, Dunford and Doyle 2012). In regard to the type of carbohydrate, fructose alone is less effective than either glucose or sucrose (Blom et al. 1987).

Other macronutrient considerations do not necessarily impact the rate of glycogen synthesis, however they may have other benefits. Adding protein as part of a meal after exercise may be beneficial in regard to muscle protein repair (Rodriguez et al. 2007). In order to increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis after exercise, it is requisite to consume protein in the period following exercise (van Loon et al. 2013). In regard to specific amounts of protein and a specific time frame for protein ingestion surrounding exercise, additional research is required in this area (van Loon et al. 2013).

In regard to fluid needs post-exercise, recovery time is once again the key. If recovery time is not limited normal meals, snacks, and water intake should be sufficient to replenish fluid that has been lost. In situations where recovery time is limited, or there is excess dehydration, 1.5 liters of fluid for each kilogram of body weight lost should be consumed (Sawka et al. 2007). Body weight lost can be determined using pre- and post-exercise weighing. It is preferable to drink the recommended amount over time rather than as a larger bolus to assist in rehydration(Wong et al. 1998, Kovacs et al. 2002).

Though post-exercise nutrition recommendations may be difficult to implement due to other demands and factors (sleep due to fatigue, returning to school or work after training, decreased appetite, etc.), this is a critical time to replenish nutrient stores and set up properly for the next bout of exercise (Dunford and Doyle 2012).

Conclusion

In sum, when attempting to meet nutrition needs the timing of eating surrounding exercise is an important consideration. Appropriate meal timing and composition before, during, and after exercise can assist in improving athletic performance. 

By: Jamie Saunders, University of Utah
Jamie Saunders has always been interested in the area of nutrition and wellness. Saunders graduated from Southern Utah University with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Nutrition, and from the University of Utah’s Coordinated Master’s Program in Dietetics, with an emphasis in Sports Dietetics. She is a Registered Dietitian and currently works as the Outpatient Dietitian for the University Health Care’s South Jordan Health Center.

Literature Cited

Blom, P. C., A. T. Hostmark, O. Vaage, K. R. Kardel, and S. Maehlum. 1987. Effect of different post-exercise sugar diets on the rate of muscle glycogen synthesis. Med Sci Sports Exerc 19:491-496.

Coggan, A. R., and E. F. Coyle. 1991. Carbohydrate ingestion during prolonged exercise: Effects on metabolism and performance. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 19:1-40.

Currell, K.,  and A. E. Jeukendrup. 2008. Superior endurance performance with ingestion of multiple transportable carbohydrates. Med Sci Sport Exerc 40:275-281.

Dunford, M., and J. A. Doyle. 2012. Nutrition for sport and exercise 2nd edition. Wadsworth, Belmont, California, USA.

Gropper, S. S., J. L. Smith, and J. L. Grogg. 2008. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 5th Edition. Thompson Wadsworth, Belmont, California, USA.

Ivy, J. L. 1998. Glycogen resynthesis after exercise: Effect of carbohydrate intake. International Journal of Sports Medicine 19(Suppl.2),S142-S145.

Ivy, J. L., A. L. Katz, C. L. Cutler, W. M. Sherman, and E. F. Coyle. 1988. Muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise: Effect of time of carbohydrate ingestion. J Appl Physiol 64:1480-1485.

Jentjens R. L., C. Cale, C. Gutch, and A. E. Jeukendrup. 2003. Effects of pre-exercise ingestion of differing amounts of carbohydrate on subsequent metabolism and cycling performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 88:444-452.

Jeukendrup, A., F. Grouns, A. J. Wagenmakers, and W. H. Saris. 1997. Carbohydrate-electrolyte feedings improve1 h time trial cycling performance. Int J Sports Med 18:125-129.

Kovacs, E. M., R. M. Schmahl, J. M. Senden, and F. Brouns. 2002. Effect of high and low rates of fluid intake on post-exercise rehydration. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 12:14-23.

Maffucci, D. M., and R. G. McMurray. 2000. Towards optimizing the timing of the pre-exercise meal. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 10(2):103-113.

Mahan, L. K., and S. Escott-Stump. 2008. Krause’s food and nutrition therapy 12th edition. Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

McConell, G., K. Kloot, and M. Hargreaves. 1996. Effect of timing of carbohydrate ingestion on endurance exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 28:1300-1304.

Moseley L., G. I. Lancaster, and A. E. Jeukendrup. 2003. Effects of timing of pre-exercise ingestion of carbohydrate on subsequent metabolism and cycling performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 88:453-458.

Nicholas, C. W., C. Williams, H. K. Lakomy, G. Phillips, and A. Nowitz. 1995. Influence of ingesting a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution on endurance capacity during intermittent, high-intensity shuttle running. J Sports Sci 13:283-290.

Nutrition Booklet: Nutrition for Athletes- A practical guide to eating for health and performance. International Olympic Committee Documents. 2009. 2:36. Based on: Maughan RG, Shirreffs SM. IOC Consensus Conference on Nutrition in Sport, 25–27 October 2010, International Olympic Committee, Lausanne, Switzerland. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2011;29:sup1.

Rodriguez, N. R., L. M. Vislocky, and P. C. Gaine. 2007. Dietary protein, endurance, exercise, and human skeletal-muscle protein turnover. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 10:40-45.

Rodriquez, N. R., N. M. DiMarco, L. Langley, American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, & the American College of Sports Medicine. 2009. Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109(3): 509-527.

Sawka, M. N., L. M. Burke, E. R. Eichner, R. J. Maughan, S. J. Montain, and N. S. Stachenfeld. 2007. American college of sports medicine position stand: Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 39:377-390.

Sugiura K., and K. Kobayashi. 1998. Effect of carbohydrate ingestion on sprint performance following continuous and intermittent exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 30:1624-1630.

van Loon, L. J. C., T. D. Tipton KD, and L. J. C. van Loon (eds). 2013. Role of dietary protein in post-exercise muscle reconditioning. Nutritional Coaching Strategy to Modulate Training Efficiency. Nestlé Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. Nestec Ltd. Vevey/S. Karger AG Basel 75:73-83.

Wong, S. H., C. Williams, M. Simpson, and T. Ogaki. 1998. Influence of fluid intake pattern on short-term recovery from prolonged, submaximal running and subsequent exercise capacity. J. Sports Sci 16:143-152.

 

The Psychology of Individual and Team Sports (Technical)

LACityThere is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but what if you’re only playing for yourself? Many factors beyond basic physical conditioning work together to contribute to athletic performance, but what about the nature of the sport itself? In the vast array of competitive sports played by athletes, a key difference could have a major effect on the psychological aspects of athletic performance—whether the sport is individual or team-based. This attribute plays a role in all stages of performance, from basic motivation and preparation to in-competition functioning.

Perhaps the most prominent difference between team and individual sports would be sources of motivation. In solo activities, such as long-distance running, the athlete is responsible for the training and strategy required to ensure his or her own success, whereas in a group sport like football, team members must work together toward victory. In its most general sense, motivation refers to the reasoning that leads to a behavior or absence thereof (Keegan et al. 2011). Most people are familiar with the concept of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, with intrinsic motivation referring to the drive to perform an activity for its own sake without requiring any external impetus (Deci 1975). Extrinsic motivation would be the opposite—engaging in an activity not for its own sake but as a means to an end which involves expected outcomes not inherent to the activity itself (Vallerand 2007).

Several theories of motivation that draw upon this concept have been established in psychological literature, one of the most prominent of which in the field of sports psychology is Deci and Ryan’s (2000) Self-Determination Theory (SDT). This theory expands upon intrinsic motivation, stating that such behavior is prompted by the satisfaction of three psychological needs, all of which turn out to have social implications: competence, relatedness, and autonomy. Competence refers to the ability to effectively interact with one’s social environment, relatedness would be the desire to feel connection with other individuals, and autonomy is the basic need to see one’s own behavior as freely chosen. It seems that all three of these factors would influence the motivational aspects of athletes involved in both individual and team sports. A 2008 study by Gillet and Rosner investigated just that. They hypothesized that athletes involved in individual sports would exhibit more self-determined behavior. Athletes in the study were asked to complete a series of questionnaires measuring different types of motivation in relation to their sport. The data collected revealed that athletes involved in individual sports did indeed experience greater feelings of autonomy than their team-based counterparts. This could be due to the greater freedom to make decisions provided to individual athletes, such as a tennis player choosing when and where to register for competitions (Gillet and Rosner 2008).

Individual athletes may exhibit higher levels of intrinsic motivation in terms of autonomy, but team athletes could have an advantage in terms of relatedness. In addition, extrinsic motivation is an effective and not necessarily negative phenomenon. Deci and Ryan (1985) expand upon Self-Determination Theory to address extrinsic motivation, some types of which still involve varying levels of autonomy. The first type, arguably the most classic example of extrinsic motivation and also the least autonomous, would be external regulation, which is motivation on the basis of external factors such as rewards or punishment. This would be the grade school student who joins the softball team in order to earn a trip to Disneyland that her fitness-conscious mother promised to reward that behavior. The next type of extrinsic motivation is introjected regulation, which is prompted by pressure imposed upon the individual by his or her own volition, such as the risk of guilt or anxiety if he or she does not attend a practice. The third type, identified regulation, is more autonomous and involves freely  choosing a behavior because it will be beneficial in the long run even though it is not inherently pleasant. An example of identified regulation would be a football player who dislikes eating vegetables, but does anyway because he knows a balanced diet will improve his performance. The last described type of extrinsic motivation, also with a fair amount of autonomy, is integrated regulation, which involves making choices to balance various aspects of the self, such as a swimmer who postpones a late-night movie with friends in order to perform well at her swim meet the next morning (Vallerand 2007).

As described, different types of motivation play significant roles across the board among both individual and team athletes. It may be easier for members of individual sports to experience autonomy thanks to the greater capacity for decision-making in their chosen sports, but all athletes perform extrinsically to some level, such as during uncomfortable practice sessions and lifestyle choices.

In addition to motivation, several other factors could contribute to different experiences between individual and team athletes. Participating in a team sport comes with its own set of challenges. Team members each play an individual role, yet they have to successfully meld their responsibilities and talents in order to create success for the group. When successful, this works quite well, but it also creates an additional opportunity for failure that individual athletes do not experience—the team will fail if members do not effectively synchronize their efforts, in addition to the standard threat of failure due to athlete inability. However, the flip side of this conundrum is that particularly stellar team members can help mediate the shortcomings of team members with lower ability levels.

Another variable affecting team performance is the need for a large amount of coordination in a dynamic environment. Especially in the realm of professional sports, team members must cope with managers and stakeholders who often have contradictory agendas, as well as sometimes function as a ‘virtual team,’ wherein all members are not centrally located. Next, leadership plays a critical role in the success or failure of a team. Regardless of the natural ability and coordination among team members, it is up to the leader to make the necessary goals and judgment calls that lead to success (Zaccaro et al. 2002). Among these responsibilities of the coach is the need to individualize training for team members. Regardless of the nature of the sport, not all athletes are the same, and each team member needs a specific training plan that is applicable to his or her role within the team and ability level. Although athletes in all sports have important relationships with coaches, research has found that empathic accuracy among coaches of individual sports was higher than team sports (Lorimer and Jowett 2009). Individualized attention from coaches in team settings is important- as prescribing the same training plan to all team members could result in detraining of the athletes in less active roles, and overtraining for those who receive larger amounts of playing time (Hoffman 2014).

Overtraining, defined as an increase in volume or intensity of physical activity that is met with inadequate recovery (Hoffman 2014), is a widespread problem among athletes from all sports. Success in endurance activities relies on progressive training increases, and it is generally accepted that some level of overtraining is a prerequisite for peak performance (Morgan et al. 1987). Intense training sessions will naturally produce a state of acute fatigue that dissipates within a day or two. However, overtraining can lead to chronic fatigue and subsequent underperformance, often referred to as a state of physical ‘staleness’ (Morgan et al. 1987). Staleness is a risk among all athletes, though research has found that its incidence is higher among participants in individual sports. A 2001 study of Swedish athletes by Kentta, Hassmen, and Raglin found that 48% of study participants involved in individual sports reported staleness as opposed to 30% of the team athletes. This could be attributed to individual athletes’ greater levels of autonomy in developing their training plans, resulting in overambitious goals and higher incidences of overtraining.

Differences between individual and team athletes are apparent when it comes to motivation and training, but does the nature of a sport affect performance during competition? A good indicator of this would be how often athletes enter ‘the zone,’ or a state of psychological flow. Flow is described as an optimal psychological state in which the perceived challenge of a given activity is balanced with an individual’s ability, which involves complete absorption and focus in the activity (Csikszentmihalyi 1990).  Research indicates the positive relationship between athletes’ experience of psychological flow and optimal performance (Jackson et al. 2001). Nine factors have been found to help facilitate flow in athletic performance: pre-competition preparation plans such as repeated rituals, confidence and positive thinking, physical preparation, good performance during warmups, focus, optimal environmental conditions, positive coach/team relationships, optimal pre-competition arousal, and motivation (Jackson 1995). Several studies have investigated the effect of sport type on achieving a state of flow among athletes. It is possible that factors more likely to be experienced by athletes in team sports, such as lower levels of intrinsic motivation and negative interactions with coaches and team members, could be more likely to disrupt flow and subsequent performance. In spite of this possibility, research indicates that the experience of flow is universal among athletes regardless of what sport they play (Young and Pain 1999). Additionally, a specific analysis of flow state in college athletes in team and individual sports failed to indicate a statistically significant relationship between type of sport and occurrence of flow state (Russell 2001).

Research in the field of sports psychology has yielded some significant differences between athletes in individual and team sports, especially in terms of sources of motivation, coaching, and training. However, in terms of overall enjoyment and experience of optimum psychological state, the type of sport does not appear to have an effect on an athlete’s output during performance itself. Satisfaction from a particular type of sport would depend on the personal preferences and experiences of each athlete.  For the rest of us trying to decide if one type is better than another, it really depends on whether you ask a runner or a football player.
By Alycia Parnell
Alycia Parnell holds degrees in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Utah. She lives, works, and writes in Salt Lake City.

Literature Cited 

Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1990. Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. Harper & Row, New York, NY, USA

Deci, E. L. 1975. Intrinsic motivation. Plenum, New York, NY, USA

Deci, E.L., and R. M. Ryan. 1985. Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. Plenum, New York, NY, USA

Gillet, N., and E. Rosnet. 2008. Basic need satisfaction and motivation in sport. The Online Journal of Sport Psychology 10.

Hoffman, J. 2014. Physiological aspects of sport training and performance-2nd edition. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, USA

Jackson, S. A. 1995. Factors influencing the occurrence of flow in elite athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 7: 138-166.

Jackson, S. A., P. R. Thomas, H.W. Marsh, and C.J. Smethurst. 2001. Relationships between flow, self-concept, psychological skills, and performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 13: 129-153.

Keegan, R., C. Harwood, C. Spray, and D. Lavallee. 2011. From ‘motivational climate’ to ‘motivational atmosphere’: a review of research examining the social and environmental influences on athlete motivation in sport. Pages 1-55 in B.D. Geranto, editor. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY, USA.

Kentta, G., P. Hassmen, and J.S. Raglin. 2001. Training practices and overtraining syndrome in Swedish age-group athletes. International Journal of Sports Medicine 22: 460-465.

Lorimer, R., and S. Jowett. 2009. Empathic accuracy in coach–athlete dyads who participate in team and individual sports. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 10: 152-158.

Morgan, W. P., D. R. Brown, J. S. Raglin, P. J. O’connor, and K. A. Ellickson. 1987. Psychological monitoring of overtraining and staleness. British Journal of Sports Medicine 21: 107-114.

Russell, W. D. 2001. An examination of flow state occurrence in college athletes. Journal of Sport Behavior 24: 83-107.

Ryan, R. M., and E. L. Deci. 2000. Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist 55: 68-78.

Vallerand, R. J. 2007. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in sport and physical activity. Handbook of Sport Psychology 3: 59-83.

Young, J. A., and M. D. Pain. 1999. The zone: evidence of a universal phenomenon for athletes across sports. Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sport Psychology 1: 21-30.

Zaccaro, S. J., A. L. Rittman, and M. A. Marks. 2002. Team leadership. The Leadership Quarterly 12: 451-483.

The Psychology of Individual and Team Sports (Basic)

LACityThere is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but what if you’re only playing for yourself? Many factors beyond basic physical conditioning work together to contribute to athletic performance, but one could have a major effect on the psychological aspects of athletic performance—whether the sport is individual or team-based.

Perhaps the biggest difference between team and individual sports is what motivates athletes. In solo activities, such as long-distance running, the athlete is responsible for the training and strategy required to ensure his or her own success, whereas in a group sport like football, team members must work together toward victory. Most people are familiar with the concept of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the drive to do something for its own sake (Deci 1975), and extrinsic would be the opposite—doing something as a means to an end, like a reward or punishment (Vallerand 2007). One theory of motivation, Self-Determination Theory, expands upon intrinsic motivation, stating that it aims to satisfy the three psychological needs of competence, relatedness, and autonomy (Ryan and Deci 2000). One study found that athletes involved in individual sports experienced greater feelings of autonomy than their team-based counterparts, possibly due to greater freedom to make decisions (Gillet and Rosner 2008).

In addition to potentially lower levels of intrinsic motivation, members of team sports face a number of challenges, such as the need for a large amount of coordination in an ever-changing environment. Next, leadership plays a critical role. It is up to the leader to make goals and judgment calls, as well as individualizing training for team members (Zaccaro et al. 2002). Research has found that empathic accuracy, or the ability to accurately gauge the thoughts of another person, among coaches of individual sports is higher than in team sports (Lorimer and Jowett 2009). This could affect individual attention from coaches in team settings, which is incredibly important, as prescribing the same training plan to all team members could result in detraining of athletes in less active roles, and overtraining for those who receive larger amounts of playing time.

Overtraining, defined as an increase in amount or intensity of physical activity combined with inadequate recovery, is a widespread problem (Hoffman 2014). It is generally accepted that some level of overtraining is a prerequisite for peak performance, but pushing too hard can lead to chronic fatigue and underperformance, often referred to as a state of physical ‘staleness’ (Morgan et al. 1987). The incidence of staleness has been found to be higher among participants in individual sports (Kentta et al. 2001). This could be attributed to individual athletes’ greater autonomy resulting in overambitious goals.

Differences between individual and team athletes are apparent when it comes to motivation and training, but what about performance mid-competition? A good indicator of this would be how often athletes enter ‘the zone,’ or a state of psychological flow. Flow is described as an optimal state in which an individual’s ability matches the challenge of an activity, which involves complete absorption and focus (Csikszentmihalyi 1990). Research indicates the positive relationship between athletes’ experience of psychological flow and optimal performance (Jackson et al. 2001). Several studies have investigated the effect of sport type on achieving a state of flow among athletes, but it seems that flow is universal among athletes regardless of what sport they play (Young and Pain 1999, Russell 2001)

Sports psychology research has yielded significant differences between athletes in individual and team sports in terms of motivation, coaching, and training. However, when it comes to overall enjoyment and reaching an optimal psychological state, the type of sport does not appear to have an effect. Satisfaction would depend on the personal experiences of each athlete.  For the rest of us trying to decide if one type is better than another, it really depends whether you ask a runner or a football player.

By Alicia Parnell
Alycia Parnell holds degrees in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Utah. She lives, works, and writes in Salt Lake City.

Read the more technical psychological aspects of team and individual sports.

Literature Cited

Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1990. Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. Harper & Row, New York, NY, USA

Deci, E. L. 1975. Intrinsic motivation. Plenum, New York, NY, USA

Deci, E.L., and R. M. Ryan. 1985. Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. Plenum, New York, NY, USA

Gillet, N., and E. Rosnet. 2008. Basic need satisfaction and motivation in sport. The Online Journal of Sport Psychology 10.

Hoffman, J. 2014. Physiological aspects of sport training and performance-2nd edition. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, USA

Jackson, S. A. 1995. Factors influencing the occurrence of flow in elite athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 7: 138-166.

Jackson, S. A., P. R. Thomas, H.W. Marsh, and C.J. Smethurst. 2001. Relationships between flow, self-concept, psychological skills, and performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 13: 129-153.

Keegan, R., C. Harwood, C. Spray, and D. Lavallee. 2011. From ‘motivational climate’ to ‘motivational atmosphere’: a review of research examining the social and environmental influences on athlete motivation in sport. Pages 1-55 in B.D. Geranto, editor. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY, USA.

Kentta, G., P. Hassmen, and J.S. Raglin. 2001. Training practices and overtraining syndrome in Swedish age-group athletes. International Journal of Sports Medicine 22: 460-465.

Lorimer, R., and S. Jowett. 2009. Empathic accuracy in coach–athlete dyads who participate in team and individual sports. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 10: 152-158.

Morgan, W. P., D. R. Brown, J. S. Raglin, P. J. O’connor, and K. A. Ellickson. 1987. Psychological monitoring of overtraining and staleness. British Journal of Sports Medicine 21: 107-114.

Russell, W. D. 2001. An examination of flow state occurrence in college athletes. Journal of Sport Behavior 24: 83-107.

Ryan, R. M., and E. L. Deci. 2000. Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist 55: 68-78.

Vallerand, R. J. 2007. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in sport and physical activity. Handbook of Sport Psychology 3: 59-83.

Young, J. A., and M. D. Pain. 1999. The zone: evidence of a universal phenomenon for athletes across sports. Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sport Psychology 1: 21-30.

Zaccaro, S. J., A. L. Rittman, and M. A. Marks. 2002. Team leadership. The Leadership Quarterly 12: 451-483.

The Physiology Behind Performance-Enhancing Drugs (Basic)

Thomas Hicks

In 668 BC, Charmis won the Olympic 200-yard running race after eating a preparation of dried figs (Yesalis and Bahrke 2002). In 1904, Thomas Hicks ate strychnine, brandy and five eggs to increase his endurance and help him win the Olympic marathon (Jones 2012). Since the beginning of organized competitive sports, professional athletes have experimented with ways to increase their athletic potential.

Today, this process is termed doping, or using performance-enhancing substances to increase athletic ability. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was created to level the playing field between athletes and assist sport organizers in combatting the problem of doping (World Anti-Doping Agency 2012b). Every year, WADA publishes a list of prohibited substances; testosterone and other anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are at the top of the list (World Anti-Doping Agency 2012b). In 2010, testosterone and AAS were found in 60% of the blood and urine samples that tested positive for containing an illegal substance (World Anti-Doping Agency 2010).

Testosterone is an androgen, a hormone that is normally found in the body.  It controls the development of sexual organs and secondary sex characteristics that occur in puberty.  It is also involved in muscle development. Testosterone, by binding to the androgen receptor, controls expression of the genes responsible for these changes (Deroo and Korach 2006). With doping, athletes take advantage of this natural process and try to find ways to increase the levels of testosterone in their body to enhance their muscle development (Storer et al. 2003).

However, changing the natural balance of testosterone also leads to the development of several medical conditions.  Men using high doses of AAS can have estrogen levels as high as women during a normal menstrual cycle, leading to breast development (Wilson 1988). Women develop facial hair but lose scalp hair.  Both sexes develop higher levels of cholesterol in their blood, leading to blockage of the arteries and heart attacks (Shahidi 2001). In athletes from the former East Germany, these effects have even been transferred on to the athletes’ children who suffer from asthma, allergies and crippled feet or legs (World Anti-Doping Agency 2012a).

While some athletes think abusing testosterone is worth the risk, doping is like playing a game of Russian roulette. Eventually, an athlete is going to lose. Although much is known about hormonal regulation, androgen receptors are expressed in many different types of cells, so many of the long term effects of testosterone abuse are unknown. Also, athletes caught doping can be disqualified, banned from future competitions, or stripped of their medals (International Olympic Committee 2012). What’s the point of being an athlete if you can’t compete?

Learn more technical details about performance-enhancing drugs.

By: Kirstin Roundy, University of Utah
Kirstin Roundy holds a M.S. in Laboratory Medicine and Biomedical Science from the University of Utah. She spent 14 years working as a biomedical researcher studying the gene regulation in B cell development. She enjoys acquiring knowledge and takes random, non-credit classes just so she can learn something new. Her favorite sport is soccer.

References

Bowers, L. D. 2009. The international antidoping system and why it works. Clin Chem. 55:1456–61.

Deroo, B. J. and K. S. Korach. 2006. Estrogen receptors and human disease. J Clin Invest. 116:561-70.

International Olympic Committee. 2012. Anti-Doping Rules. Retrieved from http://www.olympic.org/fight-against-doping/documents-reports-studies-publications

Jones, D. S. 2012. Olympic Medicine. N Engl J Med. 367:289-92

Shahidi, N. T. 2001. A review of the chemistry, biological action, and clinical applications of anabolic-androgenic steroids. Clin Ther.  23:1355-90.

Storer, T. W., L. Magliano, L. Woodhouse, M. L. Lee, C. Dzekov, J. Dzekov, R. Casaburi, S. Bhasin. 2003. Testosterone dose-dependently increases maximal voluntary strength and leg power, but does not affect fatigability or specific tension. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 88:1478–85.

Wilson, J. D. 1988. Androgen abuse by athletes. Endocr. Rev. 9:181–99.

World Anti-Doping Agency. 2010. Adverse Analytical Findings and Atypical Findings, Reported by Accredited Laboratories. Retrieved from http://www.wada-ama.org/en/Science-Medicine/Anti-Doping-Laboratories/Laboratory-Statistics

World Anti-Doping Agency. 2012a. Sport Physicians Tool Kit. Retrieved from http://www.wada-ama.org/en/Education-Awareness/Tools/For-Sport-Physicians

World Anti-Doping Agency. 2012b. The 2012 Prohibited List. Retrieved from http://www.wada-ama.org/en/Science-Medicine/Prohibited-List

Yesalis, C. E. and M. S. Bahrke. 2002. History of doping in sport. Pages 1-20 Performance-enhancing substances in sport and exercise, 1st edn, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, USA.

Putting Protein in Its Place

newfoodpyramid_largeProtein powders, bars, and drinks are often touted as the key to enhancing muscle growth, increasing energy, and losing excess body fat. Nutrition science indicates that excess protein intake can cause a decrease in the intake of other essential macronutrients. It can also saturate the body’s protein supply and result in depleted calcium stores, adversely affected kidney function, and damage to other critical systems of the body, including the cardiovascular system. Scientists recommend meeting the majority of nutritional needs from a nutrient-rich diet that balances the intake of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

Learn the basics of how protein affects your performance or read the more technical explanation.

Articles by Jamie Saunders

Hydration and Sport Beverages

sports-drinks-athleteAthletes have many factors to consider when it comes to improving their performance, and one of these critical aspects is maintaining proper water levels, or hydration. Water makes up about 60 percent of the human body, and is critical to transport nutrients and maintain body temperature, among other physiological processes.

Numerous beverages and sports drinks have been promoted as being beneficial for fluid replacement or retention in athletes. For moderate exercise (less than two hours), water should be sufficient to meet hydration needs. For longer periods, sports beverages, drinks, or gels can help replace electrolytes lost in sweat. Some products are also recommended after exercise to replace the proteins and carbohydrates consumed. It is important for athletes to have proper hydration and nutrient levels before, during, and after exercise for both performance and overall health, and specialized products can help fulfill these needs.

Learn the basics of staying hydrated or read the more technical explanation.

Articles by Jamie Saunders

How Much Do Genes Affect Your Athletic Potential?

Human genetics can play a major role in determining an athlete’s potential. Genetic information is passed from parent to child and is stored within human cells in the form of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). An individual’s DNA influences attributes such as height and weight and can help to determine if an individual has a predisposition towards athleticism. Genes play a major role in body type and athletic ability, but an athlete must also work hard to realize his/her potential.

Learn the basics of genes and athletic potential or read the more technical biological background.

Aerodynamics and Cycling

Cycling has undergone immense changes since its early days.  As science has opened our understanding of aerodynamics, it has driven changes in bicycle composition and design, the clothing worn by the cyclist, and even the positioning of the rider on the bicycle.

These three factors directly correlate to the amount of drag experienced by the cyclist.  In fact, researcher L. Brownlie reported that some styles of baggy clothes cost cyclists 1.17% of their finishing time in a 100-meter race.  Serious cyclists utilize this knowledge by dressing in sleek, close-fitting clothing to optimize their aerodynamics.

How much of a role do aerodynamics play? Learn the basics or read the more technical explanation.

Articles by Cristian Clavijo