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TRIATHLON

Bozzone makes it third win in a row with victory in Mexico

in ATHLETES/BLOGS/NEW ZEALAND/SOS PRO'S/TRIATHLON/USA by

So the final race of the 3-week assault has come to an end. With another successful result I have managed to claim my 3rd win in a row at Ironman 70.3 Campeche in Mexico. 

The past week was a tough one and included; a long travel day from Argentina, having to shift from freezing conditions to super hot conditions, managing my recovery in an effective way, managing my food intake along with a couple other issues that arose through the week without getting sick or run down.

I definitely prefer racing in warmer climates, Campeche was a cool town and had some interesting history with a small number of international tourists, And as I have experienced in other Mexican and South American races, the Latin American fans are some of the best in the world and this contributed to a memorable end to a pretty historic 15days of racing.

The race start was at the Campeche country club, which was a beautiful venue. Ruby Von Burg got a small gap in the swim and I shared the load with Kevin Collington trying to limit our deficit and do some damage on some of the stronger bike/runners in the field.

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Off onto the undulating bike course I soon bridged across to Ruby at the front of the race and at Km 25 when I could see the rest of the fields time gaps I decided that a little bit more heat needed to be added. I soon found myself navigating the remainder of the bike solo. Michael Weiss of Austria who likes the heat and puts together great races in Mexico was 3minutes back with the final 30km and he would work to close this to 2 minutes coming off the bike. 

The spring in the step was not quite there and somewhat to be expected. I was hoping that it was going to be a scorcher but it was not as hot as predicted and the pace had to be a little quicker. I seemed to manage my pace well through to 10miles and the gap to Weiss had bounced between 2 minutes and 1.5minutes. My legs were still coping okay and I managed to enjoy the final 2 miles home before breaking the tape for my 3rd win over 3 weekends.

With a bit of free time this past week I accumulated some of my past results and this was a record Half Ironman victory number 32 (Ironman 70.3 number 27).

Next up – a few easy weeks and some time with the family. I am off to Kona for a couple days for an Aquasphere photoshoot and I am looking forward to visiting the island and soaking up some of the spiritual energy before the rest of the season continues…

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Second win in two weeks as Bozzone takes 70.3 victory in Argentina

in BLOGS/NEW ZEALAND/SOS PRO'S/TRIATHLON/USA by

Fresh off his win at IRONMAN New Zealand, SOS athlete Terenzo Bozzone has taken another victory – this time over the 70.3 distance in Argentina.

That was tough! Ironman 70.3 Bariloche in Argentina brought on the hardest of conditions with the start being in 7-degree air temperature and course being relentless throughout the bike and run. I was very happy to run into the town square in 1st place and absorb all the crowds’ energy, absolutely amazing!

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It has been sometime since I have competed in a cold race and it caught me way off guard. I was roaming around the other pro athletes collecting all the extra gear I could gather for race day, top this off with a hyperthermia blanket underneath my race suit and in my sidi cycling shoes and I was about right for the race.

The backdrop for the swim was incredible with the Andes mountain range across the lake. Out of the water there were 5 of us including – Igor Amoreli, TJ Tolakson, Jarred Shoemaker, Daniel Fontana and myself and the race was on to see who could get their arm warmers, gloves and extras on the fastest. This did allow for the group to split up and soon I was at the front of the race pushing the pace through the initial 20km section that included a lot of climbing and technical descents on wet roads. By 30km Igor and Kennet from the US bridged across and unfortunately TJ and the rest of the field were stuck in no mans land and isolated, all riding individually.

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The legs were okay but I definitely still had a little residual fatigue in the tank from Ironman NZ, along with the cold weather the body was just not responding like I would have liked but I was getting through it just fine. The real test would be when we started the run…

Thankfully as I kicked out of T2 I still had a spring in my step and managed to gap the other 2. It was a hard course to find any rhythm with either head wind or tail wind and not many flat sections. The crowds through town were very motivational and I grew my lead to 4minutes by the finish. Igor rolled in 2nd and Kennett in 3rd place.

I have a long trip across to Campeche, Mexico but I am definitely looking forward to some warmer climates with the forecast for next weekend to be around 36 degrees Celsius… HAHA.

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My War on Dehydration: By Tim Reed

in BLOGS/RECOVERY/SOS PRO'S/TRIATHLON by

Reflecting on 2017, I have come to terms with the following:

As much as I would love the Ironman World Championship to rotate locations like every other sport and the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, it is not going to happen any time soon. I need to adapt to the conditions in Kona or choose a different major objective to base my season around.

Amongst my gnome sub species and indeed even compared to the far larger common human, I have very high sweat and sodium losses. In very warm conditions I can lose 4-5kgs in a 2 hour run. A 7% drop in body weight due to fluid loss is not going to enable a strong final hour of a marathon irrespective how hard you are willing to push your body as most brains won’t allow you to put yourself into a state that could lead to organ damage. Although there are a few notable exceptions:

I know it’s very individual but my best races have come from ingesting far less calories then traditional sports science says I should need to compete at the highest level and consuming far more fluid and sodium then the majority of scientific sports research says I should be able to absorb, suggesting strongly  that hydration is a major limiter for me while calorie deficiency is not.

I weigh myself pre and post specific brick sessions during the hot summer months and of the many products I  experimented with since 2015, SOS was far and away the best hydration product I trialled. My losses were mitigated massively without GI distress indicating incredibly efficient fluid absorption. So I hassled them into a sponsorship arrangement.

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…of the many products I  experimented with since 2015, SOS was far and away the best hydration product I trialled. My losses were mitigated massively without GI distress indicating incredibly efficient fluid absorption.

 

One of the major reasons I think SOS works so well for me is that the dominant source of sodium in SOS is sodium chloride. Sodium chloride is how we would naturally consume salt in our diets and because of this the human brain has a terrific way of telling us when we need it and when we don’t. It tastes really good when we are salt depleted, while the chloride component is not as tasty when you don’t need salt. For example, on a Byron Bay humid summer day, I’ll drink 3-4 sachets of SOS per bottle for my hard sessions and my taste buds are dancing with pleasure.

At rest however, when my sweat is negligible, I find that if I mix 3-4 sachets per bottle then the chloride component of SOS makes the taste far too strong and my brain tells me to back it off so I’ll only do one sachet.

Given how essential salt is to human function it is really not surprising that we evolved to be pretty damn clever at balancing out how much salt to ingest through a taste feedback loop. Where many other sports drink formulas fall short is they use artificial sweeteners and/or lots of sugar and less natural, manufactured forms of salt which inhibits our normal way of regulating salt through taste.

Another major SOS drawcard is that I don’t want to be consuming lots of sugar unless I really need it to fuel very high intensity training and racing. SOS has enough glucose to facilitate fluid absorption in the small bowl via the sodium : glucose co-transport system, but not enough to lead to significant insulin spikes and certainly not enough to slow absorption as some leading sports drinks have made their formulas. The sugar content is low enough that with my overly active lifestyle I can drink as much SOS as I like guilt free.

It took me some time to work out how to compete in very hot and humid Ironman 70.3 events but through a lot of trial and error I worked out how to be successful over 4 hours in those conditions. My major challenge now as I focus on 8 hour races is staying hydrated for the back half of the Ironman marathon and  I’m really confident that SOS is going to go a long way to helping me perform much better from 6 hours onwards in races.

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Terenzo Bozzone Wins 2018 IRONMAN NZ

in ATHLETES/BLOGS/NEW ZEALAND/SOS PRO'S/TRIATHLON/USA by

Ironman New Zealand – What a day.

Written by Terenzo Bozzone (PC: IronmanNZ)

My 10th time toeing the start line down here in Taupo and I was very excited for the race. I had clear objectives of what I wanted to achieve out there, but the main excitement came from my brother Dino tackling his first Ironman.  All the pre race talk was about him and his race and my race preparation was secondary.

After a long 7-week off-season at the end of the 2017, I finally got back into training in the middle of January and with the short build up in to this race I wasn’t so sure what to expect out there. Tackling a race where I’ve had 10 years of experiences ‘not winning’ I had learned a lot and entered with a lot more patience.

The swim felt terrible, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I was so near my limit that poor Guy Crawford’s feet are probably cut up from me swimming so close to him for the entire 3.8km trying not to fall off the pace. Onto the bike, slowly my body warmed up and my legs came to the party. We had the largest group ever in this race and soon all the big hitters had bridged across including Cam Brown and Joe Skipper who I was not so keen to start the marathon with.

By the start of lap 2 a small group of 4 had broken away and we were working well. With 40km to go it was just Skipper and myself at the front pushing to grow the gap on the chasers. In the final 1km my race almost took a turn for the worse when a car turned and cut me off. I must say I was pretty impressed with my bike handling to swerve, slow down enough and save my race and a bad accident. All that training on Auckland roads was paying off!!!

Heading out into the marathon my legs felt good… I tested to see where Joe Skipper’s legs were by running the first couple km’s pretty quick, My lead started to extent quickly, but with this being Ironman who knew what awaited me around the next corner. I absorbed all the energy I could from the crowds, the spectators, the volunteers and the other athletes on the course. Alternating water and SOS at one aide station and Water and a Clif Shot at the next helped keep the energy up and stay hydrated. Heading into lap 3 (the last 14km) of the run I was using the rabbits up the road on their first lap to keep my head in the game. The closest was Dino… with his prescribed race plan of running 5minutes per kilometer I was going to catch him in no time. I think he had more interest in holding me off as long as he could, as the closing of the gap took a lot longer than anticipated. It was an amazing feeling running along side him for a kilometer as he was killing it out there. I gave him a few pointers and he gave me a second wind to get home in a new course record of 7:59:57 . 5 minutes in front of skipper and another couple in front of race legend Cameron Brown.

It felt so sweet to break the tape for the first time here at Ironman NZ and having Dino go 10hr23minutes was the icing on the cake. Hopefully he has caught the bug and we will see him at a few more races…

Off to Argentina later in the week for Bariloche 70.3 then up to Campeche 70.3 in Mexico before taking a few weeks down time. 

The hydration of choice for Terenzo Bozzone.

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Which sporting event has the most extreme energy expenditure?

in BLOGS/RECOVERY/RUNNING/TRIATHLON/Ultra-marathoning/USA by

Written By Asker Jeukendrup for mysportscience.com
Follow Asker on Twitter @Jeukendrup

It is often said that the Tour de France is perhaps the most gruelling endurance event on the planet. The same is sometimes said about Ironman. We saw in my previous blog that energy expenditure in the Tour de France averages almost 6000 kcal per day for 3 weeks (5).  It has been measured that energy expenditure can be as high as 9000 kcal per day. How does this compare to other sports? Is this really the most extreme sport? Is it Ironman… Or is there another event?

In the literature we can find energy expenditure values for a number of events and I have tried to find the highest values for energy expenditure in the literature. If someone knows of other papers that report extreme values please let me know and I will update this list.

There is a report of a male distance runner covering ∼100 km/day for 1,000 km (1), He averaged around 6,000 kcal/day.

Another report describes 2 elite cyclists averaging around 330 km/day for 10 days and expending 7,000 kcal per day (2)

There is also a report of a team of elite cyclists expending 6,500 kcal/day who covered nearly 4,900 km in 6 days during the Race across America (RAAM) (3).

Similar values were also reported in cross country skiers during intense training (6,000 kcal/day) (6).

Dr Mike Stroud, a Polar explorer and researcher, measured energy expenditure in man-haulers over several polar expeditions during the 1980s and 1990s (7). Before these studies the very high energy costs of polar travel on foot appreciated. During a modern-day, one-way expedition to the South Pole that repeated Scott’s route (“Footsteps of Scott expedition”), an average of 6,000 kcal were expended every 24 h. Mike Stroud himself together with Sir Ranulph Fiennes crossed Antarctica by foot and expended on average nearly 7,000 kcal/day.

During this crossing there was a period of approximately 10 days, while ascending to the plateau, during which they averaged nearly 11,000 kcal/day).

A recent study by Dr Brent Ruby and Colleagues (4) compared measurements at Ironman Hawaii (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26 mile run (3.8km; 180km and 42km respectively) and the Western State 100 (a 100 mile (160km) ultramarathon). Energy expenditure during the Hawaii Ironman averaged 9,040 kcal (plus or minus 1,390 kcal). In the Western State energy expenditure was as high as 16,310 kcal (plus or minus 2,960) but of course the duration of this event was more than 24 hours on average (26.8h).

It is clear that daily energy expenditure can be much higher than the reported average of 6000 kcal per day for the Tour de France cyclist. Values can be even higher than the extreme values reported during the longest and hardest days in the Tour.

What make the Tour de France unique though is that these extreme energy expenditures are achieved within 4-6 hours of racing per day and also that this is sustained over a period of 3 weeks.

Most other sports with extreme energy expenditures achieve their high numbers by exercising more hours per day at a lower intensity and sometimes by eliminating sleep.

Which is the most extreme sport? Difficult to say… would you rather do a day in the Tour than a day crossing Antartica, or running a 100 mile race in the heat without sleeping?

 

References 

1. Eden B, Abernethy P. Nutritional intake during an ultraendurance running race. International J Sports Nutr 4: 166–174, 1994.
2. Gabel K, Aldous A, Edgington C. Dietary intake of two elite male cyclists during 10-day, 2,050-mile ride. Int J Sports Nutr 5: 56–61, 1995.
3. Hulton A, Lahart I, Williams K, Godfrey R, Charlesworth S, Wilson M, Pedlar C, Whyte G. Energy expenditure in the race across america (RAAM). Int J Sports Med 31: 463–467, 2010.
4. Ruby BC, Cuddy JS, Hailes WS, Dumke CL, Slivka DR, Shriver TC, Schoeller DA Extreme endurance and the metabolic range of sustained activity is uniquely available for every human not just the elite few. Comparative Exercise Physiology, 11(1): 1-7, 2015.
5. Saris WH, van Erp-Baart MA, Brouns F, Westerterp KR, ten Hoor F. Study on food intake and energy expenditure during extreme sustained exercise: the Tour de France. Int J Sports Med;10 Suppl 1:S26-31, 1989
6. Sjodin A, Andersson A, Hogberg J, Westerterp KR. Energy balance in cross-country skiers: a study using doubly labeled water. Med Sci Sports Exercise 26: 720–724, 1994.
7. Stroud M, Coward W, Sawyer M. Measurements of energy expenditure using iso- tope-labelled water (2H218O) during an Arctic expedition. Eur J Appl Physiol 67: 375– 379, 1993

Road To Kona: Nutrition with Sarah Piampiano

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Follow professional Ironman Triathlete Sarah Piampiano on her journey to Kona.

In this video, Sarah takes us behind the scenes of how she plans and executes her nutrition plan, and explains why it her changes have been so important.

Trust the process… Trust the plan. 

Magnesium and Muscle Cramps

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Anyone who has suffered from a muscle cramp during or after exercise understands that it’s definitely something worth trying to avoid.

For those who have been lucky enough to evade them, a muscle cramp is a sudden, involuntary, painful contraction of a muscle. These symptoms generally ease off within seconds to minutes but are often accompanied by a palpable knotting of the muscle. While magnesium does play many important roles in the body, unfortunately the prevention/reduction of exercise-induced muscle cramps is not one of these. It is easy to be confused considering the heavy marketing for magnesium supplements and the prevention of cramps, but to date the scientific research suggests that there is no strong link between exercise-induced muscle cramps and magnesium supplementation.

While oral magnesium does not appear to have any beneficial effects in athletes with adequate magnesium, supplementation may improve performance in individuals with a diagnosed deficiency. Those undertaking a high volume chronic training load (e.g. long distance runners) or those with a restricted energy intake may be at risk of magnesium deficiency, although this is not common and you should always get this checked out with your GP before supplementation. It is worthwhile noting that the intestinal absorption of magnesium varies depending on how much magnesium the body needs. If there is too much magnesium, the body will only absorb as much as it needs. So how much do I need? I hear you ask. The recommendations suggest that adults consume a range between 350 and 400 mg/day as the upper limit. Most individuals who are eating a healthy well balanced diet will be acquiring the required amount of magnesium through wholefoods. Good food sources of magnesium include vegetables, legumes, fish, nuts and whole grains. For example, 30g of brazil nuts provides ~100mg, and ½ cup cooked quinoa provides ~50mg of magnesium.

1 litre of SOS Rehydrate provides 20% of the recommended daily intake of Magnesium

Ok, so what does cause cramps and what can I do to avoid them?

What we do know about cramps is that the main risk factors include; family history of cramping, previous occurrence of cramps during or after exercise, increased exercise intensity and duration, and inadequate conditioning for the activity. This explains the classic example of cramping on race day. During a race you’re typically working at a higher intensity than normal, and often over a longer duration than during training.

From a nutrition perspective, glycogen depletion (insufficient carbohydrate) or low energy availability can also contribute to fatigue and therefore cramping. This highlights the importance of getting your nutrition and fuelling plans for long sessions and races spot on.

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Food v Supplements

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We all know a fast-food competitor, the person who, despite using a drive-through burger after training as their version of quick recovery nutrition, continues to run well.

This same person is likely to take vitamins and other supplements because they know their nutrition is below average. Those who prioritise optimising their nutrition as part of their training regimen simply shake their heads at this attitude, while others might copy the practice thinking it will deliver them the same results!

What needs to be understood is that talent plays the greatest role in an athlete’s performance. Talented athletes certainly appear to get away with poor nutrition, particularly when there is little depth of talent in a field. However, the difference between winning gold or finishing a season undefeated, can come down to millimetres or milliseconds – and that kind of difference can be achieved with optimal nutrition. Professor Ron Maughan of Loughbrough University, UK says it best:

“A good diet will not make a mediocre athlete into a champion, but poor food choices can turn a champion into a mediocre athlete”.

Sports Nutrition Pyramid

The role of nutrition in exercise

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) position stand is that the use of supplements does not compensate for poor food choices and an inadequate diet”. Reinforcing this importance of food, researchers have found that athletes eating a diet rich in nitrates from vegetables (not supplements) for just 10 days were able to enhance their exercise performance, compared to when they were eating their usual diet.

It is clear that active people would benefit most from consistently eating a nourishing whole foods diet, rich in a variety of whole foods. However, there may be situations where supplements may be beneficial to complement (not replace) a good quality diet and provide a suitable option for the very active – for example players who have very high energy needs and struggle to eat enough to meet their sports nutrition needs or travelling athletes who do not have access to their usual food preferences.

For busy athletes, eating something—particularly in the recovery phase—is better than having nothing. While it is important to be careful not to double up your recovery nutrition needs and don’t dismiss whole foods in favour of sports supplements, the use of convenient prepackaged sports supplements may be helpful in achieving performance and sports nutrition goals.

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How To Boost Your Post-Ride or Run Recovery in the Café

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Cycling and running have become synonymous with a café culture that, for some, is the motivation for getting out the door in the first place.

No matter what type of rider or runner, nutrition is a hot topic of conversation rife with some of the most entertaining myths, choices, and habits. No matter who you talk to, social to elite athletes all seem to dive towards food choices they consider to be high in protein, second to their coffee order, as post-training habits.

What many don’t seem to have a grasp on is the portion size required to reach their protein needs, and the best ‘bang for buck’ items on café menus to achieve those needs.

What is recovery?

It’s true that post-training protein is important for muscle recovery after exercise. But so is carbohydrate, water, vitamins and minerals, and of course the most underestimated factor, portion size.

The rule of thumb is to aim for 20-25g protein within the first hour of finishing training with the more serious athletes able to quote it off by heart. Ask them about carbohydrate, however, and you will find a mixed response from those who avoid to those who consume it without consciously knowing it.

To help restore glycogen stores in the muscles a few ratio theories (carb:protein) exist to promote optimum recovery in the post-training hour window. They range from 2:1 up to 4:1. This means a range of carbohydrate from 40g – 80g.

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Eating to match energy needs

Depending on the intensity and duration of training, energy needs could be low to high and should be assessed for each individual.

Advice that won’t change is to select nutritious foods, lower in fat and in particular saturated fat, that are high in both carbohydrate and protein. In the first hour post-training, quickly absorbed carbohydrates (or high GI) have been associated with good recovery strategies.

Choosing from the café menu

With so much to think about when translating this into real food from café menus, here are some common options for you to see which ones fare best for optimal recovery:

Menu item Energy (kJ) Carbohydrate (g) Protein (g) Total fat (g) Saturated fat (g) Fibre (g)
Banana bread
(ave slice 85g)
1980 35 6.8 28.1 13.8 2
Raspberry/blueberry friand
(ave serve 85g, with fruit)
1370 28.6 7.1 20.1 8.8 1
Egg & bacon roll
(1 egg, bacon & BBQ sauce, Turkish bread)
2886 45.8 50.1 28 15 1.5
Berry smoothie
(no cream, reduced fat milk & natural yoghurt, 450ml cup)
1355 70 5 3 1.5 2.5
Egg on toast
(2 poached eggs on Turkish bread)
1540 27 20 15 5.7 2
Yoghurt cup with granola
(325ml cup)
1028 32 16.7 4.2 1 1.5
Regular latte coffee
(reduced fat milk)
504 12 10 2.4 0.6 0

 
And the winners are….

Poached eggs on toast with a regular latte coffee
Yoghurt cup with granola* and a regular latte coffee
Poached eggs on toast with a berry smoothie (high energy needs)

* Granola recipes vary as much as opinions on carbohydrates in cycling circles. Ask if the granola used is low fat as many can add a significant amount more energy that you may not need.

FINAL TIPS

Most cafes serve eggs on Turkish or white toast but if the option exists, wholegrain/multigrain or a seeded bread is always the more nutritious option.

The last thing to remember is spread on bread – ask to have it on the side and, where possible, go without or replace with avocado.

If there are no options that will suit for recovery, simply have a regular coffee and have breakfast as soon as you get home.

 

What Our Perspiration Reveals About Us

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We all know that we sweat when we are hot, anxious or embarrassed – it’s less well known that sweat actually carries emotional messages

In 1934, a British physician named BA McSwiney stood before his colleagues at the Royal Society of Medicine and lamented that most folks didn’t concern themselves with the chemical composition of human perspiration. Instead, they focused solely on the mechanisms by which the evaporation of sweat from the skin’s surface allowed the body to cool itself.

But McSwiney knew that there was more to sweating than just evaporative cooling. Under certain conditions “the loss of constituents of blood-plasma by continued sweating may be considerable”. In other words, other stuff leaves the body in our sweat. But what kind of stuff, and is its loss a good thing or bad?

Some substances in our sweat we probably wouldn’t want to lose. Take chlorides. These compounds – chlorine atoms, often attached to sodium ones to form salt – are important for maintaining the body’s internal pH balance, regulating the movement of fluids in and out of cells, and transmitting impulses across nerve fibres. It’s normal for some chlorides to leak out of the body as we sweat, but there are some instances in which a person might lose too many. Imagine working for several hours in a hot place, for example. Most of us would know to drink water to stay hydrated. But sweat too much and drink too much and you might start to show symptoms of water poisoning. In those circumstances the body just can’t replace the chloride lost in sweat fast enough.

(Credit: Getty Images)
Your sweat contain tiny trace amounts of metals such as zinc and magnesium (Credit: Getty Images)

Also mixed in with sweat is urea, the substance for which urine is also named. By at least one estimate, between 0.24 and 1.12 milligrams of the stuff is dissolved in every cubic centimetre of sweat. That might not sound like much, but given that a person sweats some 600 to 700 cubic centimetres worth of liquid each day, sweat is responsible for up to 7% of someone’s daily elimination of urea. (For comparison, that much sweat would just about fill up a can made for pineapple chunks.)

Then there’s ammonia, proteins, sugars, potassium and bicarbonate. Not to mention trace metals like zinc, copper, iron, nickel, cadmium, lead, and even a tiny bit of manganese. For some of those metals, sweat is an important mechanism for excreting them from inside of the body.

Not all of the things that leak out in our sweat are chemical in nature

Sweat exits the body through one of two types of glands. Apocrine glands are found in the armpits and nostrils and on the nipples, ears and parts of the genitalia. Much more common, however, are eccrine glands, millions of which are distributed over most of the rest of the human body – everywhere except the lips and the genitals. When the body and skin get too warm, thermoreceptors send a message indicating as much to the brain. There, the hypothalamus – a small cluster of cells that controls our hunger, thirst, sleep, and body temperature – sends a message to the apocrine and eccrine glands, which begin pumping out sweat.

There is also a third type of sweat gland, first discovered in 1987. It’s only been found in the same places that apocrine glands show up, but because researchers couldn’t classify them as apocrine or eccrine, they became known as apoeccrine glands. Some think that they are eccrine glands that become somehow modified during puberty.

Tool for communication

Not all of the things that leak out in our sweat are chemical in nature. Everybody has, at some point or other, started to sweat because they ate something spicy, and most people are familiar with emotional sweating due to fear, shame, anxiety, or pain. It’s no wonder that it’s the palms, forehead, and foot soles that are so commonly associated with emotional sweating: eccrine sweat glands there are clustered far more densely, up to 700 per square centimetre, than they are on, say, your back, where there are just 64 per square centimetre.

It turns out that emotion-induced sweating is an important tool for communication. In fact, the scents that we detect in sweat can tell us a lot about how others are feeling.

(Credit: Getty Images)
The scent of people in certain emotional states can also influence the feelings of those that smell them (Credit: Getty Images)

In one experiment, a quintet of Utrecht University psychologists collected sweat samples from 10 men as they watched videos designed to evoke feelings of fear (excerpts from The Shining) or disgust (excerpts from MTV’s Jackass). In order to avoid odour contamination, the volunteers agreed to forego smelly foods, alcohol, smoking, and “excessive exercise” for two days prior to their sweat donation session.

Then, 36 women were asked to see whether they could detect any emotional cues hidden in the sweat samples. The researchers found that when women were exposed to fear-derived sweat samples, their own facial expressions suggested fear as well. And when they were exposed to disgust-based sweat samples, their faces mirrored that emotion too. (Sweat collection pads that remained unused served as controls; these didn’t cause the participants to show any predictable sort of facial expression.)

People who sniffed the sweat of scared skydivers became aroused in response to angry faces

That suggested to the researchers that sweat appears to be an effective means of transmitting an emotional state from one person to another. Importantly, the facial expressions the women made while sniffing the sweat were completely independent of their subjective perceptions of the odours’ pleasantness or intensity. So they might show a look of disgust even if they reported a particular sweat sample as smelling pleasant.

Similar patterns have also been seen in other experiments. In 2006, Rice University psychologists discovered that women exposed to sweat samples collected from fearful donors (this time the sweat came from both men and women) performed better on a word association task than women exposed to sweat produced by people watching neutral videos, or by sweat pads that contained no sweat at all. The fear-related cues gave them a heightened awareness of their environment.

(Credit: iStock)
The sweat of first-time skydivers contained powerful chemical clues of their fear (Credit: iStock)

And in 2012, psychologists and psychiatrists from the State University of New York extracted sweat from the t-shirts of 64 donors. Half of the donors jumped out of an aeroplane for the first time, while the other half exercised really hard. People who sniffed the sweat of scared skydivers became aroused in response to angry faces, but also to neutral and ambiguous ones. Psychologists refer to it as vigilance; the freefall-invoked sweat induced participants to pay attention to whatever possible subtle social cues that they might otherwise have overlooked. Those who sniffed the sweat of exhausted exercisers only became more alert when viewing angry faces, as would be expected under any circumstance.

Yet another experiment conducted by German psychologists and neuroscientists found that sweat from anxious men (who participated in a high ropes course) caused women to make riskier decisions – after spending more time deliberating on their choices – in a computer game designed to assess risk-taking behaviours.

Our ancestors took advantage of the olfactory data constantly flowing into their noses

None of these studies indicate whether people are aware that other people’s sweat has altered their own cognition or behaviour, but they do suggest that sweat might, in some cases at least, communicate important information about our internal mental states. They also suggest that we use the information contained in other people’s sweat to better understand our surroundings.

Perhaps that’s not surprising. Our species may be adapted to verbal and linguistic communication, but language is a fairly new item in our social toolkit. It seems reasonable to imagine that our ancestors took advantage of the olfactory data constantly flowing into their noses – and that they passed the skill down to us.

(Credit: Getty Images)
Even the sight of sweat can reinforce the feelings of perceived emotions (Credit: Getty Images)

Indeed, people seem better able to identify emotions in virtual humans on a computer screen when the animated characters visibly perspire. And not only that, but the addition of sweat seems to allow people to perceive the intensity of a displayed emotion. Sweat, in other words, isn’t just a smelly signal, but a visual one too.

Sweat, in the end, is more than just the body’s air conditioning system. It just might be an emotional weather vane as well, a tool used for broadcasting our innermost feelings to our friends and family.

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