If you ask Dr. Elaine Lee where the human body's limit are, it's immediately clear you've asked her the wrong question.
“Maybe the question to ask is not where's the limit," the UConn Human Performance Laboratory Director says, "it's just let's keep going. Right? How far can we go?"
There's a good chance it's a lot farther, thanks to the cutting research at the top-rated lab, where Dr. Lee and her team are on a quest to understand how people bounce back after exposure to stress.
“I'm so curious about psychologically, emotionally and physically resilient people," the former UConn athlete and now associate professor says. "What makes them that way? How can we do that? How can we achieve that? How can we all strive for that? Are there things that are manipulable that we can do to achieve what we're seeing at the Olympics every night?"
One of the innovations helping athletes achieve even more than ever before is personalization.
Lee says the future in sports training is figuring out exactly what an athlete needs to eat, or drink, and when. That, combined with monitoring a person's biochemistry in real-time to know when they're ready to train and when they need to rest could bring about a performance revolution.
Thanks to high-tech wearable devices being developed with the help of biomedical engineers it may all be possible thanks to something as low tech as sweat.
“Uconn is really at the cutting edge of that and saying 'hey, let's take another look at sweat' and there are teams that have approached us to say 'we can do this with sweat?' and our answer is yes."
Lee adds the lab also has an exclusive contract with an unnamed NFL team this season.
The hope is fine-tuning every aspect of training, nutrition, and recovery will ultimately lead to fewer injuries, longer careers, and more record-breaking performances.
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Exercise produces oxidative stress in the body, so the lab is also studying antioxidants like aronia berry and blackcurrant. It turns out, Lee says, there are results showing promise for improving bone density in older women, which means athletes are not the only ones who stand to benefit from the innovations being developed in Storrs.