Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Something Fishy for Fighters....

This fascinating scientific tidbit below comes from my good friend at High Performance Nutrition

I have previously discussed here on the Combat Sport Psychology site, some of the hazards associated with recurrent concussions (see "Watch Your Head"), a phenomenon not at all uncommon among amateur and professional combat sport athletes (and among drunks, the ill-tempered, and those whose mouths regularly write checks that their other ends' cannot cash) .  Here - however- is some potential good news.  (RB)

Fighters may be able to reduce their risk of developing brain damage by taking fish oil supplements. According to an animal study by American neurologists, brain cells recover more quickly from head trauma when given DHA, a fatty acid in fish oil.

The researchers, working at West Virginia University, wanted to know whether the brains of people with head injuries recovered more quickly or better when given fish oil supplements. The brain contains relatively high amounts of DHA, the fatty acid found in fish oil. This substance stimulates the growth of brain cells and protects them against damage and stress too.

The researchers gave a group of rats concussion of the same degree and then let the animals recuperate for 30 days. Some of the rats were given a standard diet, some were given 10 mg DHA per kg bodyweight daily, and yet another group were given 40 mg DHA per kg bodyweight per day on top of their standard food.

At the end of the 30 days the researchers examined the rats' brain cells. They were looking for precursors of beta-amyloid precursor protein [APP] in the axons, the long protrusions at the end of nerve cells. Beta-amyloid peptides form plaques in the brains of people who have Alzheimer's or dementia, but they probably also do this in the brains of people who have received severe blows to the head.

Sham = rats not given concussion.

If cells become so damaged that they cannot repair themselves, they kill themselves. When this happens, the synthesis of the suicide enzyme caspase-3 rises. This is what happened in the brain cells of the rats that had been given a blow – but it happened considerably less in the rats that had been given DHA.

If you convert the doses used into the amount needed for a human weighing 100 kg [for the sake of easy maths] and take into account the fact that humans' metabolism is slower than that of rats, you arrive at a dose of somewhere between 100 and 400 mg per day. Most of the cheap kinds of fish oil contain 10-15 percent of DHA. That means you need to take 1-4 of the big one-gram capsules a day.

It's not clear whether other omega-3 fatty acids work as well as DHA, but of all the omega-3 fatty acid molecules in the brain, 97 percent of them are DHA.

J Neurotrauma. 2010 Sep; 27(9): 1617-24.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Short Documentary on Astoria Boxing Club

Astoria -- short documentary from Alex Poutiainen on Vimeo.

Here is a short documentary shot this past Spring at Astoria Boxing Club, one of the oldest clubs in Canada. The film short is directed, and edited and by Alex Poutiainen, a filmaking student at University of British Columbia.

You can vote for it to be made into a TV series at THIS LINK

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Anger and Fighting in Competition

Editor’s Note: This blog has been a bit dormant for a while, but apparently some people are still discovering and finding it useful. I thank you for your kind comments. Despite our low activity, we were recently named among the “Top Martial Arts Sites” by The MMA Zone. I was grateful and honored by the recognition and thought I would try to revive the site - if only temporarily– until reality sets in again. So, here goes… Paddles…. CLEAR … BEEEEEEP…

Optimal arousal (heh, heh… you said “arousal”, heh, heh) is a key to performing effectively in competition. But what is “optimal”? Excellent question. Some of you might remember the old “Inverted U” hypothesis. In psychology books, it is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law. The basic idea is that anxiety (or physiological arousal, more generally) in small to moderate doses tends to help competitive performance by accelerating your drive and energy. But at a certain point, arousal becomes too high and it begins to impair performance. When arousal is working for you, that’s being in “the zone.” Crank it up past that point, and the upward line in the upside down “U” begins to turn downward. Pretty basic.

But if you watch combat sport athletes, you’ve probably noticed an incredible range in emotional intensity – even among the winners. That seems to defy the idea that there is one optimal point for everyone.

An alternative to the Inverted U is the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning -or IZOF model. The IZOF model suggests that “the zone” of optimal emotional and physiological intensity varies for each individual athlete. One of the areas where I’ve seen this most clearly with fighters specifically is in how they handle or use anger.

Anger generally tends to charge your arousal level. Your thoughts are racing. Your body is revved up. And your emotions are running high. Is that a good thing? That depends. It depends on who you are and how you handle it. I remember chatting with one young fighter – a super nice guy who was not naturally aggressive - saying how he was trying to work himself up to “hate the guy” who he was opposing in the cage. He thought that he needed hate and anger to tap into his inner barbarian .. or something like that.

Anger can sometimes generate drive and energy. But it can also sometimes drain it. And it will often overshadow the part of your brain responsible for anticipation, planning and strategy. So there can be a steep cost as well.

Recently, researchers in Finland took a look at how anger affected the performance of 20 high-level (international) competitive karate athletes. They measured the athlete’s expression of anger and asked them to recall their best and worst competitive performance – before during and after. As the IZOF model would predict, responses were all over the map. Just over half had low anger in their best and their worst performances. For these competitors, anger was neither a handy tool nor an impediment.

Another group tended to notice a rise in anger intensity in their worst performances – more so in the pre- and post-fight situations than in the competition itself. What did seem to make a difference was the athlete’s ability to regulate or control his or her level of anger intensity and perceiving that he or she had enough coping resources to deal with the stress and frustrations of competitive adversity.

Here’s one way to look at these results: When you can selectively summon and carefully control your anger, you can use it as an energizing resource. But when anger is prompted by an opponent, it may signal to your brain that you are in trouble making it worry that you don’t have enough resources to cope. Becoming angry may be different than allowing an opponent to make you angry. When you react with anger you give up a measure self-control. You may get a boost of intensity, but you may also be more prone to tactical and strategic mistakes. Know yourself.

ResearchBlogging.orgRuiz, M., & Hanin, Y. (2011). Perceived impact of anger on performance of skilled karate athletes Psychology of Sport and Exercise DOI: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2011.01.005