Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fast Male Distance Runners Get All The Girls?

Hmmm, who's the fastest and strongest? Picture by richseow from Flickr
Here's what a new study showed, men who are good at long distance running may have more desirable sex genes.

Some background into this. Prior to farming, hunting may be an important way for males to demonstrate resourcefulness. And it has been well documented that females place high priority on male ability to acquire resources especially in the caveman/ hunter-gatherer era.

You may laugh at this but this is what researchers at University of Cambridge aimed to investigate when they studied runners (439 male, 103 female) racing a half marathon race in Nottingham, England.

They recorded each runner's finish time while also measuring the length of each person's index and ring fingers.

Why you may ask? Well, don't laugh, previous research has shown that having a long ring finger compared to the index finger is a sign of being exposed to more prenatal testosterone. This is an indicator for better sex drive and higher sperm count in men as adults.

What's more surprising was that 10 percent of the male runners studied with the longest ring fingers (compared to index) averaged 24:33 minutes faster in the half marathon than those with a smaller digit ratio.

There was a similar (albeit smaller) correlation in the female runners. Those with the highest finger ratio ran 12 minutes faster!

The researchers suggested that although testosterone exposure in the womb is just a small part of making a runner faster. Other genetics and training (of course) are also important. They however, suggested that their findings do fall in line with evolutionary advantages for men when it comes to procreating.

These suggests that women in our caveman/ hunter-gatherer past were able to observe running as a signal for a good breeding partner.


Longman D, Wells JCK et al (2015). Can Persistence Hunting Signal Male Quality? A Test Considering Digit Ratio In Endurance Athletes. PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121560.

Read the article here.

How do I measure up?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Real Food Alternatives To Gels

Annie's Cheddar bunnies - "stolen" from my son
Last week I wrote about how latest published research show that fast food from McDonald's is just as good for recovery compared to Gatorade, Cytomax and PowerBars etc.

But what about your long exercise sessions or when you race half marathon distances and longer? You definitely will require some nutrition along the way or you'll risk hitting the dreaded wall.

No way you can or should wolf down fries, hamburgers daily while training since it is not nutritionally sound long term.

Gels, PowerBars, Sport Beans are not exactly my thing. So now that I'm not racing anymore, I can share with you what I eat when I've had enough of the gels, PowerBars etc.

Let me discuss some whole food alternatives you can use to fuel yourself in your longer training sessions or races.

Firstly, they should fuel well you without making you bloated or make you wanna go to the toilet. For me, I find that simple carbohydrates, less protein and fat with low fibre work best.

Well, everyone's system is different and others may be tolerate more fibre, but not me. I'll end up running to the nearest petrol station toilet or bushes if I can't find a toilet when I consume too much fibre before running.

The food you train/ race with should be easy to transport. No chance of you eating spaghetti while out riding with your regular cycling group right?

Last point, to be able to fuel yourself sufficiently, you'll need between 30-60 grams of carbohydrate every hour (depending on how hard you train and how much you weigh). You can of course mix your "real food" with a sports drink, gel or bar if you like too.

Here's my list of real food that works - for me anyway. I always carry a large banana with me on long bike rides (probably tough to bring on a run though).

On a long run, I find that raisins and cashew nuts (it has higher fat content though) work well for me. I'll put them in a zip lock bag or wrap them in some aluminium foil. I love zip lock bags! Even my wallet is a zip lock bag. Waterproof- great if you're caught in a thunderstorm. I find that sliced apples work well for me too.

I've been using a zip lock bag as my wallet since 1997.
Sometimes I take a packet of my son's Snackimals. They all taste much better than gels and bars.

Snacikmals- my son's favourite
Hope I gave you ideas for some other real food options.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fast Food Just As Good For Recovery As Sport Supplements

Picture by Mike Prosser from Flickr
I'm not saying you should pig out after your race or exercise session at McDonald's with their fries, hot cakes, hash brown or even a Coke etc, but a newly published study found that fast food from McDonald's is just as good for recovery and subsequent performance as sport supplements.

In the study, athletes performed two separate tests on a stationary bike. After finishing a 90-minute bike session that included some tough intervals, the subjects underwent muscle biopsies to measure their (depleted) levels of glycogen.

For the next four hours, they rested in a chair while consuming either of two meals - fast food or sports food supplements. After doing another leg biopsy, they did a 20 km time trial to confirm that their muscles were replenished.

The fast food consists of Hotcakes, fries, hash brown, a hamburger, orange juice and a Coke from McDonald's. Total calories was 1330.

The sports food consists of Gatorade (20 oz), Kit's Organic PB bar, Clif Shot, Cytomax (10 oz), PowerBar and PowerBar energy chews. Total calories was 1303.

A week later, the subjects repeated the tests while eating fast food if they ate the sports food the first time and vice versa. Subjects were informed about the the two types of meals and could see the packaging and labels etc.

The meals were similar in carbohydrates, protein, fats and calories, about 70 percent carbohydrate and 10 percent protein.

Both protocols produced similar levels of glycogen resynthesis (recovery), glucose and insulin response and time trial performance.

The researchers were most surprised to find nearly identical blood data, and nearly identical time trial results regardless of whether they consumed fast food or so called sports supplements.

They concluded that fast food in the right amounts can be just as good (and much cheaper) for recovery as compared to sports nutrition products/ supplements which costs a lot more.

I guess this is similar to the drink chocolate milk for recovery post I wrote a while ago showing that chocolate milk is as good for recovery as Gatorade and superior to Endurox which is much more expensive.

I don't know about you, I prefer real food any time.


Cramer MJ, Dumke CL et al. (2015). Post-exercise Glycogen Recovery And Exercise Performance Is Not Significantly Different Between Fast Food And Sport Supplements. Int J Sp Nutr Exer Metab. DOI:

Fries - my favorite for recovery- but frowned upon by my wife 
Picture by xioubin low from Flickr

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Low Carb Or Low Fat?

Picture by USDA from Flickr
Which diet is more effective at losing weight? Low carb or low fat? There is so much written recently on losing weight so how do you sift through all that information presented?

Well, let me sum up a gold standard study done recently for you. This is probably a one of its kind of study done in a controlled environment where all subjects lived in a metabolic ward for six days during the study which allowed the researchers to strictly control their diets.

There was no exercise done during the study but all the subjects participated in both parts of the dietary trials after a cooling off period between the diets. The 19 subjects were young, obese but healthy men and women who followed a 30 per cent carb/ 49 per cent fat or 72 per cent carb/ 7 percent fat diet.

On their normal diets, the subjects consumed about 2720 calories a day. During this study, this dropped to 1920 calories. This is identical for each participant regardless of whether they were on the low carb or low fat diet.

The results were split. The low carb diet yielded greater weight loss, but the low fat diet yielded greater loss of body fat, which is considered the more important outcome.

If you like analysing numbers, the low carb eaters lost 4.8 pounds, including 8.32 ounces of body fat while the low fat eaters lost 2.86 pounds but lost 13.9 ounces of body fat. To sum up, the low carb eaters lost 46 per cent more body weight, but the low fat eaters lost 67 per cent more body fat.

As with previous studies, this study confirms that low carb diets show rapid results. This may be due to large amounts of water lost from the body when carbohydrates are limited. This loss may not represent a true change in body tissue. If not maintained, this low carb weight loss advantage generally disappears after six to twelve months.

The researchers reported that their data suggest that the greater fat imbalance is likely to persist with the low fat diet leading to more long term body fat loss than the low carb diet.

Most weight loss and metabolism researchers suggest that the goal of a weight loss program should be to maximise body fat levels while minimising muscle loss. Why you will probably ask? Body fat (especially belly fat) releases hormones and enzymes that lead to negative health consequences. Muscles on the other hand releases health enhancing hormones. And exercise excels at this.

More reason for you to lose that beer belly.


Hall KD, Bemis T, Brychta RJ rt al (2015). Is A Calorie A Calorie? Metabolic Fat Balance Following Selective Isocaloric Restriction Of Dietary Carbohydrate Vs Fat In Obese Adults. Abstact from 2015 Endocrine's Society 95th Annual Meeting and Expo. Poster Board THR-553. Session THR 549-580. Thursday March 5, 2015.