Snap, Crack, Pop
As prominent athletes tout the healing powers of sports-medicine procedures, the tools used by the pros and their doctors are trickling down to weekend warriors. But what really works, and what’s nothing more than hype? A look at the front lines of sports medicine in Colorado.
FITNESS: Gut Check
How the University of Colorado’s Human Performance Laboratory is changing the way we think about endurance training—and chronic diseases like Type II diabetes.
When it comes to obesity in America, “epidemic” is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Get used to it. “We’re getting to the point where parents are going to outlive their children,” says Dr. Iñigo San Millán. “Or they might live as long, but with very high morbidity. And the primary reason for that is physical inactivity and poor nutrition.”
San Millán would know. As director of the University of Colorado’s Human Performance Lab (which became part of the new Colorado Center for Health and Wellness last month), he’s been working for the past three years on applying the lessons he and his team have learned from studying the physiology of elite endurance athletes to that of everyday people, including weekend warriors and those suffering from obesity and diseases like Type II diabetes.
The Human Performance Lab opened in 2009 on the premise that if ordinary people—anyone can use the lab—have access to the kind of scientific analysis and data professional athletes take for granted, they’d perform better in their marathons, century bike rides, or half Ironmans.
The lab starts with what it calls a “comprehensive physiological and metabolic test,” which includes an assessment of maximal oxygen consumption, lactate threshold and lactate metabolism, fat and carbohydrate metabolism during exercise, metabolic efficiency, and body composition. (The test costs $250—similar to the cost of an online coach or training program—and is not covered by insurance.) Based on the metrics from the testing, the lab can design an individualized exercise program, which includes nutrition tips.
San Millán, who’s worked with some of the top endurance athletes in the world, including Boulder’s Garmin-Barracuda Pro Cycling Team, is pretty sure he can help you set your personal record in your next marathon or triathlon. But it’s the application of the research on how endurance athletes’ bodies work against health issues like obesity that excites him. “Endurance athletes have no metabolic diseases, like Type II diabetes,” he says. “What we’ll be doing at the Center for Health and Wellness is looking at what they’re doing and using that in a preventative way, without drugs, for regular people. There are very few places like this in the country—or the world.”
> Colorado Center for Health and Wellness; 12348 E. Montview Blvd., Aurora; coloradocenter.com