Sunday, December 8, 2013

Are You Overtraining? Two Scientifically Proven Methods to Test Yourself - Method 2: ABEL Sport Test. Plus: 54 Item Questionnaire + 8 Additional Clues to Identify Overtraining

Theoretically it's already available for everyone. Costs are yet not the only thing you should keep in mind before you buy into Knight Scientific's overtraining analysis system
I've got plenty of positive, skeptic and euphoric feedback in response to last week's first installment of this two-part series on "proven" methods to test for overtraining syndrome (OTS). Before I tackle method number two in today's second installment, I do thus want to briefly remind you that the HRV method is not going to work, when you are chronically overtrained, already. It's also questionable, whether it will be able to identify parasympathetic overtraining syndrome (POTS). The latter is associated with marked decreases, not increases in the ratio of high / low frequency component (Portier. 2001). In people who train intense and with a high volume this effect can even mask the early increase in sympathetic tone and would thus render the HRV method basically useless.
You can learn more about overtraining at the SuppVersity

Heart Rate Variablity (HRV)

ABEL Sports Test + More

Overtraining & Undereating

Calculate your Energy Intake!

There Are No Magic Macros!

Reinvent Your Training!
More alternative tests / indicators of overtraining:
  • increased sensitivity of 5HT receptors ➯ early fatigue (Budgett. 2010)
  • free testosterone and testosterone/cortisol ratio higher than 30% (Cunha. 2006)
  • increasing serum urea and decreased ammonia at rest w/ identical protein intake, indicative of higher gluconeogenesis from protein (Urhausen. 2002)
  • low urinary catecholamines, esp. during night and w/ parasympathetic overtraining (Lehmann. 1992) and low ACTH and/or GH response to maximal exercise (~adrenal fatique; cf. Urhausen. 2002)
  • inverse ‘iceberg profile’ in Profile of Mood State (POMS) scale (Morgan. 1987) and messed up sleep (Urhausen. 1998)
  • decreased glucose & increased fat oxidation during high intensity exercise (Urhausen. 2002)
None of these markers can serve as a sole marker of overtraining. They can however support conclusions you make based on questionnaires, performance data and HRV analyses.
For method number two, so-called ABEL-Sport Test, these interferences between symathetic (~intensity, short(er) term) and parasympathetic (~volume, long(er) term) overtraining shouldn't be a problem. The test is easy, but it's not free. You will after all have to buy a portable luminometer to measure the optical properties of your blog. In other words, the ...
"[...] test does not measure a single biomarker of OTS [overtraining syndrome] but instead utilises hidden information acquired by circulating leucocytes as they patrol the body spotting pathogens, responding to markers of inflammation (cytokines and chemokines) and other changes in the blood that occur after strenuous exercise." (Knight. 2013)
As J Knight, M Wakeman, J Reeves, who have a vested interest in research into their own products, which have been used by elite and amateur athletes in many different fields and were "successfully used" by Skandia Team GB for two years prior to and in the final run up to the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, when Britain’s squad topped the medal table in the Olympic sailing competition, point out, the test is designed to elicit this "hidden information from the cells" (and I should add "hidden information that requires interpretation"!).

The technology relies on the bioluminescent protein Pholasin. It emits light, when it gets in contact with reactive oxygen specimen (ROS). To test the amount of leucocytes in a 5-20µL sample your blood you do thus just have to react it with Pholasin, activate the ROS response of the leukocytes and measure the light response (Roberts. 1985, 1987; Knight. 1999). By superimposing the results on a set of reference sample curve, Knight et al. are then (that's at least the claim) able to identify various responses during training, "indicating if the athlete is heading towards OTS and identifying infections, superimposed on training curves." (Knight. 2013)
With score way beyond 25 (15 is the first signal of OT), it's usually a good idea to take some time off and re-start your training at a saner intensity / volume - irrespective of ABEL or HRV results.
Stay skeptic! Despite the fact that a very similar technology has already been used in the analyses of the effects of foods and cosmetics, there is as of yet no independent comparison of the accuracy of the interpretation of the leukocyte ROS responsible on which Knight et al. base their assessments of the training status.

The word "interpretation" should have made you sit up: Even if the scientists are able to provide a cost-effective solution for individual hobby athletes, it is not guaranteed that the results are actually going to help you control your training load. Before the beneficial real-world effects Knight et al. observed in sailors, footballers and other athletes are confirmed in a well-controlled study by an independent team of researchers, I would thus suggest you rely on the traditional rules of thumb, your personal training experience, the HRV method and the overtraining questionnaire on the right of this "bottom line".
  • Budgett, R., Hiscock, N., Arida, R., & Castell, L. M. (2010). The effects of the 5-HT2C agonist m-chlorophenylpiperazine on elite athletes with unexplained underperformance syndrome (overtraining). British journal of sports medicine, 44(4), 280-283. 
  • Cunha, G. D. S., Ribeiro, J. L., & Oliveira, A. R. D. (2006). Overtraining: theories, diagnosis and markers. Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte, 12(5), 297-302.
  • Knight, J. (1999). Rapid, simple and sensitive blood biocompatibility tests with the light emitting protein Pholasin®. Proceedings of the TechMed/Medical Device Technology Conference. Advanstar Communications UK Ltd, Chester, 3-17.  
  • Knight, J., Wakeman, M., & Reeves, J. (2013). Abel-Sport™ Test For Assessing Over Training Syndrome And Detecting Infection. British journal of sports medicine, 47(17), e4-e4.
  • Lehmann, M., Gastmann, U., Petersen, K. G., Bachl, N., Seidel, A., Khalaf, A. N., ... & Keul, J. (1992). Training-overtraining: performance, and hormone levels, after a defined increase in training volume versus intensity in experienced middle-and long-distance runners. British journal of sports medicine, 26(4), 233-242.
  • Morgan, W. P., Brown, D. R., Raglin, J. S., O'connor, P. J., & Ellickson, K. A. (1987). Psychological monitoring of overtraining and staleness. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 21(3), 107-114.
  • Portier H, Louisy F, Laude D, Berthelot M, Guézennec CY (2001). Intense endurance training on heart rate and blood pressure variability in runners. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 33(7), 1120-1125.
  • Roberts, P. A., Knight, J., & Campbell, A. K. (1985). Pholasin®: a new bioluminescent indicator for cell activation. Biochem. Soc. Trans. 1140, 1139-1140. 
  • Roberts, P. A., Knight, J., & Campbell, A. K. (1987). Pholasin®: a bioluminescent indicator for detecting activation of single neutrophils. Anal. Biochem. 160, 139-148.
  • Urhausen, A., Gabriel, H. H. W., Weiler, B., & Kindermann, W. (1998). Ergometric and psychological findings during overtraining: a long-term follow-up study in endurance athletes. International journal of sports medicine, 19(2), 114-120.
  • Urhausen, A., & Kindermann, W. (2002). Diagnosis of overtraining. Sports medicine, 32(2), 95-102.