What‘s Up, Doc? What’s New In Sport Science

Nicklaus Kruger 28 February 2021

Sports aren’t just about being sporty (though they are that, obviously). True sports fans know that it isn’t just about the brawn – it’s about the brains as well. And all over the world, thousands of brains are working on sport- and exercise-related research, uncovering new wisdom, confirming old truths, and letting us know that things aren’t quite as simple as we always thought. 

Here’s a bit of what these sporty scientists have found out recently…

Less Pain, More Gain: How To Recover From Muscle Soreness

Remember how you felt on the first of January, 2021? You’d gotten yourself together, shrugged off your New Year’s hangover, dusted off your resolutions, and gotten yourself to the gym/weights/track/whatever, and you were exhausted, but happy to be exercising again.

Athletic man suffering from shoulder pain

And now remember how you felt on 2 January 2021: every muscle in your body was on fire, and it felt like you were going to die, and you started to question why you ever made that stupid resolution in the first place.

Well, that’s up to you and your conscience. But a little delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is unavoidable, and necessary to cause muscle tissue to strengthen and adapt. And there are ways to manage that, according to researchers at La Trobe University

Some of the more common recovery strategies that do seem to work include ice baths, massage, foam rollers and compression garments. Other techniques like recovery boots or sleeves, float tanks and cryotherapy chambers, aren’t as well-tested yet – but if they make you feel better, go for it.

But the best recovery methods? Adequate sleep and optimal nutrition.

“When it comes to nutrition, the exact strategy will vary from person to person and you should always seek out nutrition advice from a qualified professional, but remember the three R’s: refuel (replacing carbohydrates after exercise); rebuild (protein intake will aid in the muscle repair and rebuilding); and rehydrate (keep your fluid intake up, especially in these summer months!).”

So take it slow, eat right, drink (water, we mean), and get some rest. Yeah, right… 

Jump Around: Physical Activity Can Help You Not Die

Look, we all know it’s important to stay active if we want to be healthy. And we all know that becomes even more important as we get older. But how important is it, exactly?

A team of researchers looked more carefully at the relationship between death and physical exercise among older adults in Brazil (where the number of older adults grew 40 percent between 2002 and 2012). Their study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, drew on information from the “COMO VAI?” study. Which saw researchers conduct home interviews with 1,451 adults older than 60. Of these, 971 participants were given wrist monitors to measure their physical activity. Researchers also asked participants about their smoking habits and how they would rate their health and their ability to perform daily activities, and learned about their chronic health conditions.

Not surprisingly, the researchers learned that people who had the lowest levels of physical activity had higher rates of death compared to people who had higher levels of activity, no matter what a person’s level of health was. 

Time to get moving…

Counting Calories Correctly: Quantity, Not Quality

Okay, so the warm glow of the fresh start has started to fade, and some of us are desperately trying to stick to our New Year’s resolutions (or Lent resolutions, even). 

And for many of us, that means we’re going to be trying to avoid putting on weight by consuming fewer calories. And naturally, we’re probably going to fail. But it’s not because we’re lazy, or greedy – we’re just bad at counting calories.

A plate of almonds next to a plate of a smaller quantity of chocolate-covered almonds

There are two main ways of evaluating the caloric content of foods: try to estimate numerical counts in food portions, or simply think in qualitative terms about high- and low-calorie foods (chocolate cake = high; cauliflower = low).

Researchers from Cornell University and the University of Pittsburgh conducted  a series of studies on how participants estimated and compared calories across dishes and quantities – from almonds to turkeys to chocolatey treats and cheeseburgers.

Turns out the qualitative thinkers were worse at guessing calories – because they were looking at the foods, and not the amount of it (33g of roasted almonds has more calories than 20g of chocolate-covered almonds, after all). But they could improve their guesswork by judging portion sizes rather than (or better yet, in addition to) food type.

So basically…Healthier doesn’t always mean fewer calories. More is more. And when in doubt, do the maths.

Now go forth and celebrate – in moderation, of course…


So…did we miss anything? Of course we did – so why not let us know at info@capeat6sport.co.za?  And if you want to see more sports science, feel free to check out the first 2021 issue of the Cape At 6 magazine. Edutainment guaranteed!