Yes, if you’re over 40 and looking to achieve new personal bests in rowing, there’s lots of good news. Apart from being a good healthy thing to do, the right kind of training balanced with optimum recovery can and will help to cheat the aging process and perform well beyond the level that chronological age alone might lead you to expect.
Of course, as the years roll by, there are some inevitable physical and biochemical changes that take place in the sporting body. Because of this, when maximum performance is the goal, older athletes need to adopt a different approach and train smart.
Maintaining strength is particularly important for older athletes – but the natural changes in the human body make this more difficult over time. Simply put it’s harder, the older you get, to maintain muscle strength and size.
But, as recent sports science research reveals, there are some smart ways to counter the ageing process – and boost your sports performance.
You see weight training (and exercise in general) has both outward and inward training effects. As a coach or athlete you may tend to think only of the former, i.e. the production of greater power producing muscles, and not the latter. However, the design of a weight-training programme can have significant hormonal effects, which in turn can significantly affect the amount of lean muscle gains.
How to Maximise Your Performance focussing on the production of Growth Hormone (GH), and how this can be leveraged to best effect.
Growth hormone (GH) is released from the anterior pituitary gland in the brain soon after exercise commences; however, the precise effects of this GH release seems to be relative to the age of the exerciser. GH is often regarded as the ‘sport hormone’ because it is involved in numerous anabolic functions relating to cell proliferation and division throughout the body.
Specifically, GH stimulates bone, cartilage and muscle growth and can play a very significant role in lean muscle mass and fat deterioration/accumulation. This explains why it has been used as an illegal ergogenic aid.
GH release via exercise is also augmented by a further chemical reaction. Basically, hormones that would otherwise act to blunt GH production (eg somatostatin) are suppressed by the production of other chemicals produced during exercise (endogenous opiates). In short, GH’s ergogenic, training-induced effect can contribute toward creating a leaner, stronger, more powerful athlete.
Now, sports scientists have discovered that a certain amino acid – naturally produced by the body – may well play a similar role because of its ability, in certain conditions, to stimulate the natural release of Growth Hormone (GH).
As mentioned earlier, GH is one of the key players in muscle repair and growth following exercise. It is a large protein molecule that is synthesised, stored, and secreted by specialised cells within the anterior pituitary gland in the brain.
In the body, GH has a number of biological functions, but of particular interest to older athletes is the fact that it increases protein synthesis and promotes fat burning, increases calcium retention and therefore strengthens and increases bone mineralisation, and it also stimulates the immune system.
However, the problem for older athletes (as mentioned earlier) is that GH secretion tends to fall away with age; anything that can counteract this tendency could therefore be of benefit.
In adults, GH is not secreted steadily, but in discrete bursts resulting in about five large pulses or peaks of GH release each day. These peaks last from about 10-30 minutes and the most predictable of these peaks occurs roughly an hour after the onset of sleep. However, another extremely powerful GH release stimulus is exercise, particularly high-intensity exercise such as resistance training or high-intensity anaerobic training.
Given that GH promotes muscular growth and repair, and also stimulates fat burning, it’s not surprising that some athletes have been tempted to resort to GH abuse in order to accelerate recovery from training, increase strength and maintain low body fat levels. However, not only is this illegal, GH abuse is a potentially risky business, leading to potential health complications such as high blood pressure and heart damage.
If you want to maximise natural GH release and create an anabolic environment, intense exercise and adequate sleep are vital. But new sport science findings suggest that there are a couple of nutritional ‘tricks’ you can use to further enhance GH secretion’
In essence, the investigators discovered that taking the appropriate amount of a particular amino acid could massively increase levels of Growth Hormone – up to three or four times as much GH secretion in some people.
The key to success in older rowers is maximising the efficiency of the aerobic system. Performance is determined by how close to the maximum oxygen uptake level (VO2max) a rower is able to maintain performance throughout a rowing session, and by the economy of the performance (how much of the oxygen consumed by the rower’s body is actually converted into performance).