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Study Finds EPO Has Cognitive Benefits September 11, 2008

Posted by Matt Brown in Endurance, Human Enhancement.
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Josh over at Human Enhancement and Biopolitics has recently commented on a rather interesting development concerning EPO.  EPO, or erythropoietin, is a hormone in the body that regulates red blood cell production.  While naturally occuring in the body, it is also a favorite drug of endurance athletes the world over for its ability to increase the body’s production of red blood cells and thus increase submaximal endurance.  However, new studies have shown that EPO also has beneficial neurological effects.  Doctors had noticed that patients given EPO to treat kidney failure also gained an increase in cognitive abilities.  To quantify these affects researchers than conducted a study whereby rats were given injections of EPO every other day for three weeks.  At the end of the trial mice given the drug had better memory in some situations than those fed a placebo, with the cognitive benefits lasting up to four weeks after the last injection.

While all the above is interesting, the best part is why EPO triggered these effects.  When I first read this I assumed that that increases in memory could be attributed to the increased red blood cell count.  Keep in mind that more RBC’s means more oxygen making it’s way to the brain allowing the brain to produce more energy and thus do more work.  Instead, it seems that EPO is actually directly affecting the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory and learning, by increasing the plasticity of the neurons found there.  In essence, it is making the neurons more efficient at transmitting nerve impulses.

All of this has some very exciting implications.  EPO’s well documented physical effects already make it a wonder drug for athletes, these new fidings could make it popular with the population at large.  Just as steroids are popular with average people trying to mold a more physically attrative body so EPO could soon become popular with those trying to get a advantage at work or in business, and unlike steroids the dangers of EPO (too many RBC’s can be dangerous) can be rather easily kept in check with regular blood tests to ensure a healthy level of RBC’s.  It is possible that as more people accept the benefits of EPO, acceptance of other enhancement technologies will also rise, helping to bring the beneftis of these technologies to more and more people.


Interval Training August 27, 2007

Posted by Matt Brown in Endurance.

Do you want to experience great gains in endurance without the hassel of running alot?  Then interval training is for you! I say that with tongue firmly in cheek, but interval training is one of the most efficient ways to increase cardiovascular endurance.  Intervals are nothing new. Serious athletes have known about them for over a hundred years, but they still remain an incredibly effective way to train.

How do you do them?  As the name implies, interval training involves running in intervals; short periods of sprinting followed by moderate periods of jogging/ walking.  The distance and time for each are up to the runner, depending on current fitness level, but some examples are sprinting for 10 to 15 seconds than walking for 2 minutes, or sprinting 400 m than walking 200 m.  The most important thing to consider is that you give yourself just long enough to rest, as too much or too little rest will result in an inferior workout.  Give yourself enough time to catch your breath, but no more. 

Traditionally, long distance running has been thought of as the most efficient way to improve endurance, but studies have shown that high intensity interval training can lead to similar if not greater improvements in VO2 max and stroke volume than moderate intensity long distance running. (1) (2) Another benefit of intervals is that the take significantly less time.  Depending on the distance, long distance running can take an hour or more, where as a session of interval training can be acomplished in less than 15 minutes.

Long distance running is and will continue to be a staple of endurance training, but if your looking for a quick, dirty, and effective method to increase your endurance, give intervals a try.

(1) Aerobic High-Intensity Intervals Improve VO2max More Than Moderate Training. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Apr 2007: Vol. 39 Issue 4. p. 665-671 7p.

(2) Short-term sprint interval versus traditional endurance training: Similar initial adaptations in human skeletal muscle and exercise performance J Physiol 575: 901–911, 2006