In light of all things training and Riding, I would love to dive deeper into our mitochondria... the powerhouse cells of our bodies.
First and foremost, I want to touch base on why warming up for any ride or activity is important. It might be something we don't want to do or forget how crucial it is for preparing our bodies to rock and roll.
The importance of Warming Up:
Warming up essentially tells your body to prepare for exercise with light intensity or low impact movements. A "warmup" may help reduce the risk of injury and soreness by pushing your cardiovascular system to get your blood pumping and your body temperature higher.
In a 2008 Norwegian study, researchers studied the injury rate in a thousand female soccer athletes who warmed up before workouts compared to several hundred female soccer players who did not. They found that those who warmed up sustained fewer injuries, fewer overuse injuries, and any injuries that were endured as well — were less severe compared to the individuals who did not warm up.
Warming up and activating the muscles in your body in preparation for a workout dramatically decreased the injury rate
Warming up before you begin any physical activity is important to make sure that you're actively taking steps to reduce your likelihood of an injury and prepping your body for the upcoming stress it's about to engage in. In addition, adding a warmup to your routine can help your body ease into the upcoming workout with critical internal systems like your cardiovascular system and muscle groups that will be heavily utilized in compound movements.
In addition to reducing your risk for injury, adding a light warmup into your exercise routine can help you increase your body and muscle temperature. When you add a light warmup into your exercise routine, you're elevating your body and muscle temperature so that it's not so cold and taught from the get-go.
When you increase your muscle temperature, you're helping ensure that your body can move in certain ways and perform certain activities without causing too much strain. As your muscle temperature increases, you're helping your muscles adapt to performing while under stress and the oxygen requirements that come from performing certain activities. Over time, your muscles will begin to grow accustomed to this new state and relax over time.
Another reason that you want to include a warmup before your workout is that it will help you mentally prepare. We've all been there where we have our mindset on a hundred different things and the last thing that we have on our mind is the upcoming
you're giving body your mind and body a chance to settle in on the task that's ahead of you.
you're helping your mind get set and think about the upcoming workout. You can think about some personal goals you've set for yourself, reminders as to why you are passionate about working out, and give you a chance to think about the exercises you're about to do in a few moments. In doing so, you're not only giving your body a chance to get ready, but you're making sure that your mind is in the right space to ensure that you have a productive workout.
What Does a Warmup Do For Your Body?
Increased blood and oxygen to the muscles that are in use
Dilated blood vessels to pump blood easier
Less strain on the heart to pump blood throughout the system
Increased body temperature increases elasticity in the muscles
Increased muscle temperature which can lead to less muscle injury and strain
Activation of cooling methods so the body won’t overheat (sweating)
Hormones are released which allow fatty acids and carbohydrates to be converted into energy
Now that’s why I really like to take this time and focus on warming up here but also hitting each power zone to help get your blood flowing and get you ready for the workout. It can be a race, workout, or even just a ride. When you prepare your body putting it in each target zone, it will know how to adjust to that zone when we come to it in the future, but also again, mentally preparing you as you open your body up to the work ahead.
Ok now lets get into Our incredible Mitochondria...
What really are mitochondria?
Mitochondria are membrane-bound cell organelles (mitochondrion, singular) that generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell's biochemical reactions. Chemical energy produced by the mitochondria is stored in a small molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Mitochondria contain their own small chromosomes. Generally, mitochondria, and therefore mitochondrial DNA, are inherited only from your mother.
Mitochondria are special compartments (organelles) in our cells that are best known for their role as powerhouses, as they breakdown food molecules and turn out ATP, a molecular fuel for the rest of the cell. However, they carry out many other important biological processes and are central to the correct functioning of the human cell.
A mitochondria is merely a 4,000th to 2,000th the size of the head of a pin. Up to one-third of the volume of your skeletal or cardiac muscle cell is taken up by mitochondria.
Mitochondria are membrane-bound organelles, but they're membrane-bound with two different membranes. And that's quite unusual for an intercellular organelle. Those membranes function in the purpose of mitochondria, which is essentially to produce energy. That energy is produced by having chemicals within the cell go through pathways, in other words, be converted. And the process of that conversion produces energy in the form of ATP, because the phosphate is a high-energy bond and provides energy for other reactions within the cell. So the mitochondria's purpose is to produce that energy. Some different cells have different amounts of mitochondria because they need more energy. So for example, the muscle has a lot of mitochondria, the liver does too, the kidney as well, and to a certain extent, the brain, which lives off of the energy those mitochondria produce.
Exercise not only promotes the generation of mitochondria, but also changes the structure and function of existing ones in ways that enhance physical stamina. Research shows that the mitochondria in leg muscles of endurance-trained athletes have more inner membrane folds (called cristae) than those of people who exercise recreationally, this increases the ratio of surface to mitochondrial volume. These cristae are where important enzymes attach and pass on electrons during cellular respiration; more folds means more oxygen uptake in muscle.
The enzymes themselves can adapt to regular exercise too, becoming better organized. Adaptations such as these take time to develop — the amount and intensity of training is crucial to the quantity and quality of mitochondria. Mitochondria are critical to your training and racing success. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a pro athlete; the proper care and feeding of your mitochondria is crucial.
How Mitochondria Function to Help Produce Energy:
As athletes, we all know about oxygen and carbohydrates (sugar). The mitochondria take both of these ingredients, also called substrates, and use them to produce the energy (product) that makes your heartbeat and your muscles perform. Glucose (the form of sugar found in our blood stream) is repackaged inside the complex internal structure of the mitochondria into two key components: pyruvate and Nicotinic Adenine Dinucleotide (NADH). These two chemicals are now transported into the central part of the organelle where, in the presence of oxygen (this is of primary importance), they are used to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is a nifty little chemical that is essentially the energy currency (think money, not electricity) of the cell. This all happens via the Krebs Cycle.
that ATP helps you turn the pedals and stride the miles, let’s talk about what ATP actually does. Inside your muscle cell there are tiny little fibrils (essentially filaments of protein) called Actin and Myosin as we have mentioned in previous conversations.
Production of energy for your working muscles is an extremely complex biochemical recipe, but it can all be boiled down to the simple ingredients of sugar, oxygen, and calcium. Sugar supplies the basic building blocks (remember pyruvate and NADH) that the mitochondria use to produce ATP in the presence of oxygen (the whole process is called oxidative phosphorylation). Calcium is essential to transformation of glucose into the pyruvate and NADH as well as the interaction of the myofibrils myosin and actin
The Importance of Oxygen
This process is completely dependent on the presence of oxygen as it represents aerobic respiration inside your working muscle cells. Hopefully, this gets started thinking about your heart rate
our working muscles use glucose to produce ATP at a rate 13 times higher in the presence of oxygen than when oxygen is not readily available. If your heart rate monitor alarm is screaming because you’re exceeding your lactate threshold it won’t be long before you bonk.
exercise actually results in mitochondrial proliferation within muscle cells. What this means is that by exercising, you are essentially asking your body to provide you with more energy and it responds by revving up its own cellular machinery.
How Can You Help Mitochondria Production?
Your cellular biochemistry cannot do all the work on it’s own; it needs you to be it’s teammate in the process. How can you help your physiology to perform at it’s best? Here of some simple things you can do to optimize this process and make the best of your training and have a great race performance:
Overtraining and training without appropriate recovery damages muscles cells and the intracellular machinery. Create training programs and hire a coach if you are able.
Optimal cellular function is dependent on the right balance of water so that transport of substances occurs readily. Dehydration leads to “gunking” up of the system. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day and in training.
Feed your mitochondria a steady diet of available sugar. This means consuming carbohydrates in a manner that gives your cells readily available fuel (glucose) for training and racing and well as eating a well-balanced diet and choosing high-quality recovery snacks to boost your glycogen reserves. Additionally, muscles and mitochondria need protein to proliferate. Make sure your protein intake is adequate and high quality.
CONSTANT OXYGEN SUPPLY
Mitochondria cannot function in an anaerobic environment. Training in zone 2 is the best way to develop more mitochondria. Know your maximum heart rate and lactate threshold and use your heart monitor to keep that oxygen flowing freely to your cells.
As we discussed, calcium is integral to the biochemical process, but calcium does not exist and function in isolation. Calcium’s availability and function is inextricably tied to the levels of other electrolytes like potassium and magnesium as well as the pH of the blood. Make sure you are ingesting a balanced mix of electrolytes when training and racing.
But wait! There’s more!
Best of all, exercise creates a positive feedback loop for your mitochondria: Not only does it increase the number of mitochondria in your body, it increases the quality of those mitochondria. And the higher the quality of your mitochondria, the more efficiently they work, and the better you can perform.
Now there are morays you can help build up the mitochondria density within your body.
Ride long, often
Endurance (or aerobic) exercise is what stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis, a process that increases the number of mitochondria in your cells. In fact, mitochondrial volume density (the percentage of muscle fiber volume occupied by mitochondria) can increase by up to around 40 percent in response to endurance training. The more mitochondria you have, the more energy you can produce.
Now of course don’t train long every day. I urge you to keep a well balanced training plan like I give you all and keep it diverse. I would recommend 2-3 long training rides a week if you can and the other days are focus on recovery, active recovery, and high quality workouts.
Embrace sprint workouts
This is where I emphasize Quality workouts..you shouldn’t always ride at the same pace
Adding speed/ more intense Zone 4+ workouts can make your mitochondria more efficient, which helps them work even better. Compared to moderate continuous intensity training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), sprint interval training increased mitochondrial respiration (the oxygen-requiring metabolic reactions and processes that convert energy from foot to ATP)
Eat an antioxidant-rich diet
While your mitochondria are busy generating energy, they’re also generating highly reactive molecules called oxidants (or reactive oxygen species AKA ROS), which can be damaging to your cells. The more efficiently your mitochondria work, though, the less oxidants they produce.
a diet rich in antioxidants —most commonly found in fruits and vegetables—is the best way to keep your mitochondria on their A-game. These antioxidants can help neutralize ROS in your body
Take it to the next level with a mitochondrial booster
There are a number of micronutrients involved in mitochondrial function: B vitamins, ascorbic acid, α-tocopherol, selenium, zinc, coenzyme Q10, caffeine, melatonin, carnitine, nitrate, lipoic acid, and taurine. You should be able to get an adequate intake of these nutrients from a well-balanced diet. But if you don’t think you’re getting nutrients you need to boost your mitochondria, a supplement may help.
I always want you to try a food first approach and then target supplements because supplements can be dicey and the supplement industry isn’t necessarily regulated so its very dependent on you knowledge of the supplements you pair and what company you get your supplements from. I would aim for GMP certified and safe sport tested supplements. And also do you research or reach out to me as its one of my levels of expertise on knowing what nutrients to fid and know what you need to enhance your health.
Give yourself a good rubdown
If you want to splurge on a massage, go for it—massage promotes the growth of new mitochondria in skeletal muscle
A do it yourself (DIY) version of message is foam rolling, which research also shows could also help boost your mitochondrial health. new mitochondria were being formed, potentially due to the constant pressure on the muscle.
Now this is my ULTIMATE favorite method and one you all are familiar with. When I like to do those days of sweet spot training, there is more to it than just getting fitter and pushing adaptation to bump up your FTP.
(Sweet Spot Training) is the most efficient way to increase your mitochondrial density
So to conclude Building mitochondrial density takes time so trust the process and keep working on four main components…
1- sleep! Yes this is where you body really restores and build more that compounds the mitochondria ability to reproduce, restore and develop more of.
2- nutrition! Yes we kind of what we eat. Fuel your body with the rainbow or vegetables, healthy fats and good full proteins as best as you can. eating foods like dark green vegetables, meat and nuts. Vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins, iron and selenium are also required nutrients which can all be found in vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans/lentils, dairy products, fish and meat which are ‘fuel’ for the mitochondria.
3- keep training diverse! Yes do a mix of it all. Long endurance rides specifically at *not below Zone 2, High quality intestacy rides usually 60-90min long and focused on Zone 4 and up. And of course sweet spot. Now this is why I love to give you all a build of periodization that focuses a few weeks on each zone and adding in long weekend rides. This allows your body to really focus on building in that zone and then we continue to move on.
4- recovery! Yes take a day off a week so that good training can settle in. Do some yoga, catch up on work and really know that the day off will really make you more able to ride harder and keep up with building intensity as training goes along with a plan if you have one *from me 😉
So to that all these factors are critical to not only getting stronger, but becoming metabolically healthy and enabling well being for longevity and an overall healthy life and lifestyle physically and mentally.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns and I am happy to help you out. As I always say, Knowledge is power and I am so happy I can create a great place to get in a good workout like today but also help you all learn the WHY. Learn the science behind your incredible body’s. I love that Zwift can allow us to stay together and learn.