So, it is that time of year again when St. Nikolas is preparing to make his high speed by ultra-endurance trip of the year. As he is completing this in one-night, do we as sports scientists have some strategies that could help him undertake this feat?
Let us first use pacing strategies to make sure he completes the event and on time (Renfree et al 2014). Luckily though Santa will not have to make any decisions about his finishing position!
Secondly let us use sports nutrition to support him. It is common for children to leave Santa a mince pie and small tiple (e.g., brandy/ whiskey etc.), which based upon global population of 2-billion children, can only be described as a binge.
Assuming Santa is inactive for 364 days of the year and due to his age (>1700 yrs), he likely has sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass in older adults) and a loss of bone mineral density. Therefore, high protein foods to promote muscle protein synthesis which also contribute to his calcium intake could be beneficial. However, because of the northern latitude location of his home, he is also likely to be deficient in vitamin D, therefore this should also be considered. Maybe glass of milk with some oily fish are better dietary choices!
Due to the speeds, he will have to travel in the short time frame (you can do the speed, distance/ time calculation!) strategies that support high intensity exercise are also going to be useful to him. Therefore, this should start with a high carbohydrate diet to support the duration and intensity of his travels (Jeukendrup 2014). We might also want to consider some of the more recent supplements that could support him. Blackcurrant is high in polyphenols that will contribute to many aspects of his health. What is more, they have also been shown to improve exercise performance in time-trials (Cook et al 2015) which might just him across the line in time for the 25th! However, I’m not sure many of them grow in Lapland!
Happy Christmas from the Sport and Exercise Team at the University of Worcester!
Dr Matthew Cook is a lecturer is sport and exercise science specialising in sports nutrition and exercise physiology. He is an accredited sport and exercise scientist by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. His research interests are in the physiological effects of dietary supplements and muscle damage from exercise.
Cook, M.D., Myers, S.D., Blacker, S.D. and Willems, M.E.T (2015). New Zealand Blackcurrant Extract Improves Cycling Performance and Fat Oxidation in Cyclists. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 115(11), 2357-65
Jeukendrup, A. (2014). A step towards personalized sports nutrition: carbohydrate intake during exercise. Sports Medicine, 44(1), 25-33
Renfree, A., Martin, L., Micklewright, D. and St Clair Gibson, A. (2014). Application of decision-making theory to the regulation of muscular work rate during self-paced competitive endurance activity, Sports Medicine, 44(2), 147-58