Summary: Intense sports training may be good for the body, but it might not always be so good for the mind. Researchers found the more intense a training session is, the lower both mood and heart rate variability are the next day.
To build fitness, athletes must apply stress to the body, and then through recovery, the body adapts and is able to accommodate greater stress in the next round of training. Controlling the adequate amounts of stress and recovery is essential to ameliorate the performance of athletes, as well as to prevent injuries and problems associated with overtraining.
Researchers from the Laboratory of Sport Psychology and the Sport Research Institute at the UAB have studied the effects training intensity has on road cyclists in terms of mood states and their capacity to adapt to greater training loads, assessed using heart rate variability (HRV).
The research, published in the journal PeerJ, was conducted through a six-week analysis of the answers five amateur road cyclists gave of the physical stress they endured during training. Once completed, the cyclists also responded to questionnaires on how they had perceived the physical exertion of their training. The following morning they measured their HRV and recorded their mood state.
The researchers argue that a change in mood and/or HRV—measured using the HFnu (normalized high frequency band) parameter—in athletes the day after training could serve as indicator of training intensity, signaling whether the training had been adequate or too intense for the physical state of the athlete.
The study observed that the more intense the training, the lower the mood on the following day, and also the lower the HRV. In contrast, high HFnu was associated with an improvement in the mood of athletes, which indicated that there is a relationship between HRV and mood states.
“The objective of the research was to explore the relation among three aspects: training, heart rate variability and mood,” explains researcher of the UAB Department of Basic Psychology Carla Alfonso.
“With this study we aimed to know when an athlete must rest, because their system is saturated, and when an athlete can train, with more or less intensity, because their body is ready to assimilate the training load.”
The results obtained are a first step in “setting up a monitoring system which takes into account both internal and external training loads, in addition to mood state and heart rate variability of the athlete, with the aim of helping them adapt to their training and prevent injuries that may come with overtraining,” concludes Professor Lluís Capdevila of the UAB Department of Basic, Developmental and Educational Psychology, and co-author of the study.
Heart rate variability, mood and performance: a pilot study on the interrelation of these variables in amateur road cyclists
The present study seeks to explore the relationship between measures of cycling training on a given day and the heart rate variability (HRV) and mood states obtained the following morning. The association between HRV and mood state is also studied, as is the relationship between internal and external measures of training.
During a 6-week period, five recreational road cyclists collected 123 recordings of morning HRV and morning mood, and 66 recordings of training power and rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Training power was used as an external measure of performance and RPE as an internal measure of performance. The HRV parameters used in the study were the mean of RR intervals (mean RR) and the standard deviation of all RR intervals (SDNN) as time domain analysis, and the normalized high frequency band (HFnu), normalized low frequency band (LFnu) and the ratio between low and high frequency bands, as frequency domain analysis. Mood was measured using a 10-point cognitive scale.
It was found that the higher the training power on a given day, the lower the HFnu and the higher LF/HF were on the following morning. At the same time, results showed an inverse relationship between training and mood, so the tougher a training session, the lower the mood the following day. A relationship between morning HRV and mood was also found, so that the higher mean RR and HFnu, the more positive the mood (r = 0.497 and r = 0.420 respectively; p < 0.001). Finally, RPE correlated positively with external power load variables (IF: r = 0.545; p < 0.001).
Altogether, the results indicate a relationship between training of cyclists on a given day and their morning HRV and mood state on the following day. Mood and HRV also seem positively related. It is argued that developing a monitoring system that considers external and internal training loads, together with morning mood, could help understand the state of the individual, enabling feedback to athletes to facilitate the adaptation to training and to prevent problems associated with overtraining. However, more research is needed to further understand the association between the different variables considered.
About this exercise and mood research news
Original Research: Open access.
“Heart rate variability, mood and performance: a pilot study on the interrelation of these variables in amateur road cyclists” by Carla Alfonso et al. PeerJ