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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Review: Good to Go

Good to Go is a book about sports recovery. There are lots of books about training. Some of them even emphasize recovery, but there are no books covering recovery in a scientific, systematic matter. Good to Go starts off great: the author, a formal elite cross-country skiier, tries to perform an experiment to determine whether alcoholic beer is good for recovery, and gets a statistically significant result: it's works if you're a woman but not if you're a man. Then she realizes that her sample size was too small, the experiment construction was shoddy, and that you couldn't really draw any conclusions from it. Then she goes off and discovers that the entire field of sports recovery is like that: the study sizes are too small, the methods questionable, and the researchers are funded by the companies that are pushing the products.

The author goes and knocks down one after another favorite recovery/buffering technique that you might have heard of:

  • Ibuprofen is actually harmful to long term performance: reducing inflammation also reduces the supercompensation response!
  • Drinking should be done to thirst, not on a program, because drinking too much leads to hyponatremia,  while there's no evidence that drinking too little leads to heat stroke and there's never been a single case of dehydration injury in events like marathon
  • Forget the fancy recovery drinks. Unless you need to perform again right away (which is the case in the middle of a bike tour), there's no time window during which your body is especially sensitive to food/nutrition/glycogen absorption. So just eat what you like when you like (up to a point, of course --- you still need all your usual nutrients etc)
  • Fancy massage, stretching, cupping, etc all do next to nothing. They don't seem to do any harm, so if it makes you feel better do it.
  • Sleep is under-rated. Extending sleep time to 10 hours seems to make dramatic improvement to response time and other related performance indicators for athletes.
  • Sensory deprivation tanks force you to relax, but otherwise don't do anything else, but are good for forcing those type-A personalities to actually do nothing so their bodies can recover. So if you have a type-A personality, that might be a good way to force yourself to rest!
  • None of the fancy metrics/sports watches/sleep meters/hrms are as good as listening to your body and tracking your mood when you get up. Learning to listen to your body turns out to be much more effective than all the fancy data collection you can do. The problem appears to be getting type-A athletes to back off their training and rest more!
There. I've summarized the whole book so you don't have to read it. Nevertheless, it's a short, easy read that emphasizes how little we actually know about how the body recovers (but also that our brains are actually more effective than our "smart" watches and phones), and that you should juset learn to listen to your body.

That's a message I can agree with and recommend to anyone.

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