Male athlete runner training

Are your muscles genetically fortified for marathons?

Running and jogging are beneficial for your health and many studies have shown us how.

But running a marathon is completely different from running or jogging and can cause damage to the body. It requires intensive training and an enormous physiological commitment from various systems of the body. The respiratory, cardiovascular and muscular systems are severely tested.

So how much damage actually occurs and is this damage less intense in some people?

Running a marathon places a huge demand on the muscles of the body requiring 30,000 strides, while the legs absorb 1.3 to 3 times the body weight during each step while running.

There are many athletes who show low levels of muscle deterioration after a race but there are others who have serious muscle pain even though there is no difference in their training.

The continuous prolonged contraction of the leg muscles during the marathon causes progressive wear and tear of the muscles fibres.

This causes the muscle to lose strength, which is vital for runners after they complete the race and can cause faintness after the depletion of reserves.

This loss of strength in the muscles is related to the “wall” which is defined as a space in marathon running when things transition from being hard to being very hard  and when your body and your mind are simultaneously tested.

The proteins of the injured muscles are released in the blood and this can be quantified by measuring the amount of creatine Kinase or myoglobin with just one blood sample.

If there is a higher plasma concentration of these proteins then it indicates greater damage of the muscle fibres. This means more fatigue.

However, there could also be other serious implications such as kidney injury due to the accumulation of muscle proteins in the renal tubes.

There are many athletes who show low levels of muscle deterioration after a race but there are others who have serious muscle pain even though there is no difference in their training.

Researchers at Exercise Physiology Laboratory of the Camilo José Cela University conducted a study to determine the influence of genetics on muscle damage and conducted a test to investigate.

71 experienced runners, age between 18 and 65 years participated in this study. They were free of any history of muscle, cardiac or kidney disorders, and had running experience of at least 3 years.

Blood tests were taken of the runners before and after the competition including measurements of the power of vertical jump and muscle perception after the race.

All participants competed in the 2015 edition of the Rock’n’Roll Madrid Marathon with no information given to them about pacing or nutritional strategies for this competition.

The scientists focused on seven genes which are related to muscle function and each gene was assigned a score where 0 indicated that the polymorphism of this gene did not create a muscular advantage for running a marathon, 1 meant a standard level and 2 indicated that the polymorphism of the gene had a positive advantage for bearing this effort through muscles.

The highest score of 14 indicates that the runner has good muscle genetics to bear the muscle demands of the marathon while a low score meant the opposite.

The researchers found that runners who had a higher genetic score had lower levels of creatine kinase and myogloblin in their blood. This meant less damage to the muscle fibres compared to those runners with a lower genetic score.

This study has important implications for the use of genetics in training. In the future, athletes may be able to measure their genetic profile and know how to prepare for marathons.

The findings of this study show not put off those with low genetic scores from running in marathons. Instead it helps them make informed decisions about specific training they need to do to prepare their muscles to face such strenuous conditions.

So if marathons is what you want to do, go for it.

Source: Plos One

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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