By Matt Kasten

In the modern sports world, the emphasis placed on proper training, nutrition, and recovery has never been greater. The days of Ruthian-esque preparation have been deemed obsolete for decades, and while the pregame consumption of hot dogs and beer until near unconsciousness may have worked at one point, sport organizations around the globe now press for the most researched and technologically advanced methods to increase athletic performance. In this market, innovation is vital.

While we promote “innovation” repeatedly at SportTechie, there have been few breakthroughs that we have seen with as much potential as the glycogen-measuring technology developed by MuscleSound. Thanks to this team of innovators, athletes are now able to instantly monitor their physical energy levels and receive nutrition and performance-based recommendations to optimize the power of their bodies.

Energy is no longer a personal feeling, a relative estimation, or a value produced by an MRI, but a visual measurement displayed for an athlete’s own benefit in real time.

It is common knowledge that carbohydrates provide the human body with fuel–fuel to walk, fuel to run, and fuel to get about our daily lives, but what the body is actually utilizing as energy during a session of intense physical exertion is glycogen, the storage form of glucose and carbohydrates (CHO).

During a casual exercise routine, the body primarily relies on stored fat to generate ATP (high-energy molecules), but as the rigor of our workout increases, the body must increase glucose oxidation (that is, the burning of glycogen) to supply the body with ATP at a faster rate.

The good news is that roughly 80% of our glucose-carbohydrate storage (450-500 grams) is preserved in our skeletal muscle and liver to use during exercise. The bad news is that glycogen consists of only 1-2% of a human’s total energy stores, and our reserves are rapidly depleted during high-intensity workouts. In short, glycogen is an incredibly efficient source of energy, essential to the optimization of athletic performance, but a lack of bodily storage creates issues as our reservoir dwindles after a short period of time.

Consequently, it is very difficult for even the most experienced and nutritionally knowledgeable athletes to maintain sufficient glycogen levels during repeated practice sessions, and such deficiency has been proven to cause accidental overtraining.

Overtraining occurs when the body must utilize proteins and amino acids to oxidize glucose as a result of low glycogen in the liver and skeletal muscle–sometimes causing muscle damage. This function can harm an athlete if the workout is extreme enough to force the amino acids into a catabolic situation, the process of muscle breakdown. During a catabolic situation, the muscle enters a damaging cycle in which it “eats” itself to supply itself with energy. A scary, but generally avoidable, situation.

Granted, overtraining is a nearly inevitable occurrence sometime in every athlete’s career, but it is key to avoid chronic muscle breakdowns or suffer from long-lasting muscle damage. When muscles suffer repeated damage, their ability to store and synthesize glycogen declines, and athletes may see their performance decrease.

Previously, monitoring glycogen levels was restricted to lengthy, inconvenient processes involving either an MRI or a muscle biopsy; both of these procedures require medical professionals and a variety of expensive equipment. Furthermore, these treatments are typically only administered by a healthcare provider in a hospital or other medical facility.

It is important to note that MRIs and muscle biopsies are invasive medical procedures, meaning that both require some degree of instrumental insertion into the body–more specifically, a needle (an MRI is not classified as invasive but still requires an invasive IV). In relation to glycogen measurement, the setback of invasive procedures is not an athletic epidemic of needle phobia, but the fact that such methods require surgical care and bring increased risks of infection and other health complications.

Today, we take a look at MuscleSound and their newly developed, glycogen monitoring technology that is both non-invasive and remarkably simple. Using ultrasound, MuscleSound technology scans certain indicator muscles and provides a user-specific glycogen data report in less than sixty seconds. At the same time, innovative MuscleSound software generates an individualized nutrition plan outlining the recommended carbohydrate intake for that athlete to recover and restore their energy for their next game or workout.

MuscleSound can also be used pre-workout or pre-game to allow athletes time to prepare their bodies in advance. Utilizing this tech before and after performance allows athletes to gage their energy usage for any given exercise or activity. After three to five scans, specific glycogen trends can be identified through MuscleSound, and trainers can begin to determine the unique glycogen storage capabilities, reactions to nutrition plans, and the overall muscular health of an athlete.

If a MuscleSound scan reveals that an athlete has low glycogen levels and may be subject to overtraining, a trainer is then able to administer a nutrition plan that can restore his or her glycogen to the prime level in approximately one hour. Thus, an athlete has a better means to avoid fatigue, prevent muscle breakdown, and hone their focus on the task before them.

Recently, we had the opportunity to learn more about MuscleSound from Chief Operating Officer, Julie Manthey. She provides an extensive look at the process and inspiration for this groundbreaking athletic technology:

SportTechie: Why was it previously so difficult and invasive to record and analyze an athlete’s glycogen levels and why was MuscleSound able to improve this problem so drastically?

Julie Manthey: Until recently, muscle glycogen content could only be measured through muscle biopsy or Nuclear Maganetic Resonance (NMR or MRI). Therefore, the regular assessment of glycogen content has been impractical for field use and during training by teams and athletes due to the cost, difficult application and invasive nature of both measurement modalities.

The MuscleSound patented software technology and methodology has made non-invasive, real-time measurement of muscle glycogen content a reality. Using standard ultrasound technology, MuscleSound measures muscle glycogen content in seconds. The MuscleSound methodology delivers prompt and precise data, allowing for proactive performance-based recommendations instead of reactive injury management to effectively optimize overall readiness, recovery and injury prevention.

SportTechie: When does a team’s training staff use MuscleSound and how often?

Manthey: We encourage a team’s training staff to use our system as much as possible, but particularly pre-workout/competition for readiness and post-workout/competition for recovery and injury prevention. MuscleSound delivers pre-performance data enabling immediate personalized nutritional and performance-based recommendations to enhance overall readiness. The MuscleSound system also identifies early warning signs of muscle fatigue, muscle damage and over training from post-workout data and trends, allowing for proactive and personalized decisions to assist in recovery and prevent long-term injuries.

SportTechie: Where did the inspiration come from to create the MuscleSound product?

Manthey: The inspiration to create the MuscleSound system came our founders, Dr. John Hill and Dr. Inigo San Millan. While working with professional athletes in Europe, they discovered the ability to see change in glycogen using ultrasound. In just a short time we have been able to transform this discovery into an easy to use system beneficial to both trainers and athletes.

SportTechie: Why did the Colorado Rockies and Dallas Mavericks feel that MuscleSound would be a good edition to their pre-existing fitness repertoire?

Manthey: Here’s a quote directly from Keith Dugger, Head Athletic Trainer, Colorado Rockies:

“Before I started using MuscleSound, I was never able to truly have a blueprint of each of my players’ fuel levels at various times during the day and competition. By use of MuscleSound, I have sound evidence that the players and administrators could understand and correlate their scores to our own verbal cues regarding nutrition. The graphs and charts MuscleSound provides show detailed measurements of energy fluctuations during games that could directly hinder our players’ peak performance”.

SportTechie: How many pro and college sports teams consistently measure the glycogen levels of their players?

Manthey: The science of glycogen is decades old and therefore athletic trainers, sports scientists and nutritionists are very knowledgeable about it. Most trainers and nutritionists regularly speak to their athletes about the importance of carbohydrates and the necessity to maintain appropriate glycogen levels. Until now, there has not been a practical means to measure glycogen.

During the past 50 years, research has consistently shown a correlation between glycogen content and optimal athletic performance. Athletes without optimal pre-performance glycogen content levels often experience the effects of muscle glycogen depletion since they lack sufficient glycogen content to meet the demands of their muscles. Low glycogen levels can be the cause of soft tissue (non-contact) injuries.

With the scientific history of glycogen research and now the means to measure it, we believe MuscleSound’s technology will become widely used.

Recently, both the Dallas Mavericks and the Colorado Rockies have forged a partnership with MuscleSound, and as the word spreads, expect to MuscleSound equipment in sports medicine departments across the nation.

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