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For September 21, 2017

  • The Perfect Pill
    The Perfect Pill

    How the humble aspirin came to be so hallowed

    It can halt a heart attack and stop a stroke. It may prevent certain types of cancer. Down two tablets after a foolish game of tackle football, and you'll probably be able to get out of bed in the morning.

    Although the active chemical in aspirin, salicylic acid, has been in use since Homer wrote The Iliad, the familiar white stuff has been around for only a little more than 100 years, ever since the German chemist Felix Hoffmann synthesized the substance into acetylsalicylic acid, to help ease his father's arthritis pain. When he saw that the drug also relieved headaches and reduced fevers, Hoffmann passed the word along to his boss, Friedrich Bayer, who soon started selling "aspirin," first as a powder, then as a pill.

    "Aspirin is as close to a wonder drug as you'll find in medicine today, but you'd never know it," says Dr. Charles Hennekens, a visiting professor of epidemiology at the University of Miami in Florida and one of the country's foremost aspirin researchers. "For the longest time, no one took it seriously because it was so common. My colleagues and I used to say that if aspirin were a prescription drug, cost twice as much, and were half as effective, it probably would have gotten more respect."

    Now, however, aspirin is getting its due. New research has identified a wealth of health benefits you can reap for a bit more than a penny per pill. Some of the ailments aspirin affects:

    ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE
    Preliminary studies on the elderly suggest that those who took aspirin regularly (four times a week or more) "have lower rates of cognitive loss and dementia," says Hennekens.

    ARTHRITIS
    Aspirin's famed anti-inflammatory properties shrink joints and tissue swollen by osteoarthritis or the more painful rheumatoid arthritis.

    CANCER
    Research has shown aspirin to inhibit the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like fatty acids that scientists believe may play a role in tumor growth. A long-term study of 90,000 nurses in the United States between 1976 and 1995 showed that those who took four to six aspirins a week were less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who took fewer. Other research suggests that taking a standard 325-milligram aspirin tablet daily may lower your risk of dying from colorectal cancer by up to 50 percent. Also, preliminary findings associate aspirin use with reducing the risk of esophageal cancer by as much as 90 percent.

    FLU
    Aspirin is a tried-and-true fever reducer. What's not well known is that the drug can slow the development of all flu symptoms, especially achiness. "We're finding now that aspirin may have some important immune-boosting properties," says Hennekens.

    GALLSTONES
    Research done at India's Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences has shown that taking 350 milligrams of aspirin daily can improve gallbladder function and impede stone formation in people with gallstone disease.

    HEADACHE/MUSCLE ACHE
    Tension and migraine headaches and muscle injuries trigger the release of prostaglandins, which cause inflammation. Aspirin eases pain by blocking the production of these substances.

    HEART ATTACK AND STROKE
    Since the 1970s, doctors have known that aspirin can shrink inflamed blood vessels and act as an anticoagulant to help prevent the blood clots that trigger most heart attacks and strokes. If you have a history of coronary disease, the American Heart Association suggests you take an aspirin a day to ward off a heart attack (talk to your doctor first). Although no medical organization recommends that healthy people take aspirin as insurance against cardiac problems, there's good reason to think that such advice may be coming soon: In the U.S. Physicians Health Study, an ongoing survey of 22,000 male doctors, Harvard University researchers found that respondents who took an aspirin tablet daily reduced their risk of ever having a heart attack by 44 percent.

    Aspirin can even help save your life if a heart attack is in progress: At the first signs -- dizziness, shortness of breath, pain or heaviness in the chest, or pain that radiates to your neck or arms -- chew and swallow a regular aspirin tablet. Chewing the pill first helps speed the medication's absorption into your bloodstream, where it may stop a clot from forming or even help break up an existing one, says Hennekens. If you are unable to swallow, putting an aspirin under your tongue will have the same effect.

    By: Stephen C. George
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  • Exercise, eating, and fat loss.
    Exercise, eating, and fat loss.

    Most people who exercise and decrease caloric intake can expect to see decreases in body fat. However, health and fitness professionals are becoming aware that this isn't always the case.

    Research has shown that the body has an internal control mechanism that drives it to maintain a particular level of body fat. The term used to describe this phenomena is "set point."

    The set point mechanism acts much like a thermostat, turning energy expenditure up or down to avoid either weight gain or weight loss. So when you restrict caloric intake, the body attempts to maintain its weight and fat by lowering the metabolic rate. Conversely, the body will lose weight gained in excess of its internally regulated point by increasing metabolism. This may explain why some people have to exercise quite a bit in order not to gain weight.

    Until recently we were told that the most efficient way of manipulating the set-point was by increasing exercise, thereby programming the body to store less fat. Now we know that after a certain amount of time this is no longer true. That internal control mechanism wants to maintain the equilibrium defined by your genes. So, although you can exercise your way to a leaner body than your parents, at a certain point it becomes counter productive.

    Most people who claim to be exercising more and eating less without seeing changes in body composition feel desperate. Consequently, they exercise more and eat less. In fact, the "cure" for a damaged set point is to drop back on your exercise program and increase the nutrient density of your diet. Since this flies in the face of everything you have heard it's a difficult task that can only be managed with daily support and dealing with body image issues that normally cause problems at this stage.

    Stress is another well recognized cause for the inability to decrease body fat despite a physically active lifestyle and low calorie diet. Experts now acknowledge there is a relationship between stress and weight gain. They even suggest that it has to do with the fight or flight mechanism that encourages the body to store fat under stress. However, there is no significant research to explain this phenomena.

    If you are exercising more and eating less and still not able to lose weight, you should seek professional help with a credited dietitian and/or nutritionist.

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  • How Your Body Responds To Exercise
    How Your Body Responds To Exercise
    When you lace up your exercise shoes and head out the door for your morning walk � or push off from the wall of your favorite swimming pool � you're responding to the orders of your conscious brain to move your muscles in a more vigorous way. As soon as those movements begin, however, a number of rapid, automatic changes also occur throughout your body.

    Your working muscles immediately start to burn more energy to fuel their contractions. They do this by stepping up the conversion of oxygen and nutrients into ATP (the fuel that all cells run on) inside each individual muscle cell.

    During sustained, aerobic activity, like a brisk walk or steady running, your working muscles might use 15 to 25 times more energy than they do at rest � burning carbohydrates and stored fat in about a 50-50 mix. During an intense, short anaerobic effort, such as running a 100-yard dash or sprinting the length of the swimming pool, your muscles may require up to 120 times more energy than at rest!

    Your heart immediately begins to beat faster in order to pump more blood to your muscles and other body tissues. During vigorous exercise, your heartbeat may rise to 150 beats per minute or more (compared with 70 or 80 heartbeats per minute at rest, for the average person).

    Why this happens: As soon you start a physical activity, nerve receptors in your blood vessels, muscles and joints signal your sympathetic nervous system to release epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) into your bloodstream. These quickly act to speed up your heartbeat. The brain's cortex also contributes to this speeding up � in fact, scientists have found that people's heartbeats begin to beat faster even before they start to exercise, as the brain anticipates what's about to happen.

    Whereas the average heart pumps about five liters of blood per minute at rest, the amount may increase to 20 liters per minute during vigorous exercise. (The hearts of trained endurance athletes have been measured to pump as much as 40 liters in a minute!)

    Your blood vessels also go through rapid changes when you start exercising. Stimulated by nerve and chemical signals, the walls of the arteries leading to your working muscles relax, causing the arteries to widen. At the same time, peripheral veins constrict, forcing more blood into your central circulation. The smaller arterioles leading to your muscle fibers also widen, and millions of dormant capillaries (which feed blood directly to the fibers) open up. (At rest, only about one in every 30 capillaries is open.)

    The result of all these changes is a vastly increased flow of blood (along with the all-important oxygen and nutrients it carries) to your exercising muscles � including your heart muscle, which receives several times more blood flow than it does at rest. This blood flow is maximized when each muscle relaxes, and then stops as it contracts, creating a "milking" action that helps pump blood throughout your body as you move.

    Increased blood flow to the skin during light and moderate exercise provides an enhanced cooling effect (you'll start sweating more heavily, as well). Meanwhile, blood flow is temporarily shunted away from the kidneys, liver, digestive system and other organs not directly involved in exercise.

    Your lungs also begin breathing faster and more deeply, supplying your body with more oxygen. This response results from a wide array of stimuli, including a rise in blood carbon dioxide (the by-product of utilizing more oxygen), increased body temperature and messages sent from chemoreceptors in your body's periphery.

    At rest, about 12 pints of air pass in and out of the average person's lungs every minute. During vigorous exercise, this rate may increase to as much as 200 pints per minute.

    Your metabolic rate,which depends on how many calories you're burning, goes up anywhere from four to 20 times your resting metabolic rate, depending on how hard you exercise.
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  • Sports Bras: Getting Some Visibility
    Sports Bras: Getting Some Visibility

    You probably know that sports bras have become highly visible lately.

    This is because Brandi Chastain, exuberant over making the winning kick for the United States recently in women�s World Cup soccer competition, tore off her blouse and exposed a black sports bra.

    It turns out that Chastain helped design the $40 sports bra, which all the women on the USA team wear. Apparently, this has resulted in a lot of interest in the specially-designed bras that give firm support to reduce bouncing of the breasts while running.

    As more women become more serious about exercising, manufacturers are appealing to them by pointing out that properly fitted bras for exercising can control breast motion, feel comfortable and look good.

    And there are some other issues involved. Without motion-controlling support, some women start lactating when engaged in strenuous exercise. Nipple irritation can occur using flimsy leotards for support.

    And, of course, if women are more comfortable while they exercise, they are probably going to exercise more often.

    In one of the few studies I�ve seen on the subject, 27 women marathon runners were mostly pleased with wearing commercial bras, although they did report some chafing.

    But its questionable how much this trend has caught on. Among women athletes at the University of Washington, only 10 percent reported wearing a sports bra, according to a report in The Physician and Sportsmedicine.

    I would say this is a choice best left up to the woman involved, since some sports are more rigorous than others. In volleyball, for example, some players wear front-latched bras to prevent scratches or pain from repeated diving and rolling on the floor.

    There is some evidence that breast injuries can be avoided by strong support, including wrapping elastic bandages around the breasts.

    Use your best judgement here. A blend of comfort, support and style would make the most sense � especially if you tend to rip your blouse off when winning a contest.

    Source: The Physician and Sportsmedicine, Vol. 10, No. 11.

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  • Supplement Review: Pyruvate
    Supplement Review: Pyruvate

    By I.S.S.A.

    Pyruvate is a chemical product of sugar metabolism. A company called Med-Pro Industries owns the patent on pyruvate (does anyone else find the trend of pharmaceutical and supplement companies actually patenting naturally occurring substances disturbing?). Med-Pro licenses out the use of pyruvate to a handful of companies, most notably Twinlab who produce, you guessed it, "Pyruvate Fuel."

    Pyruvate is marketed, overmarketed if you ask me, as a dietary supplement with claims that it will increase fat and weight loss. This is reportedly accomplished through an increase in metabolic rate, brought on by supplementing with pyruvate, and a coinciding increase in fat utilization.

    While I would agree with those commentators (like Bill) who have called for more research to be done on pyruvate before such bold claims are put forward, I would actually go a step further and advise you to be very skeptical about this supplement. Here's why:

    The hype being pushed by the makers and distributors of pyruvate are based on claims that stem from some very dubious studies.

    The main human study that pyruvate's fat and weight loss claims are derived from has significant limitations. First, the studies exclusively involved women classified as morbidly obese who were isolated in hospital wards for 3 weeks, virtually confined to their beds, and on a liquid only diet.

    While the group taking pyruvate (in very large doses I might add, about 10 times the daily dose people using the supplement get) did lose 48% more fat than the group not taking pyruvate, that 48% was only less than 3 pounds of actual weight (2.86). Remember, these were extremely obese individuals on a liquid diet, not people who are training on a regular basis.

    I find the other marketing claims associated with pyruvate to be equally misleading. All in all, I just don't like the way the makers and marketers of pyruvate distort the very limited and inconclusive research that has been done on the product; I'm offended by it.

    And to make matters worse, pyruvate is pushed particularly hard on the web and via email marketing. Fitness and the Web are two key elements of my life and my business, so I get a little peeved about things like this. There are a handful of good supplements available that will help you to drop those extra pounds and promote fat loss. I'm convinced that pyruvate is not one of them.

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  • The Role Of Pyruvate In Weight Loss
    The Role Of Pyruvate In Weight Loss

    By DENNIS R. SPARKMAN, PH.D.

    Pyruvate is the last metabolite in the breakdown of glucose (glycolysis). In the past several years it has become available as a dietary supplement and nine well-controlled human studies have not only demonstrated that it is a safe dietary supplement, but that it has a host of functions that are beneficial to the human body. Among these are enhanced weight loss and fat loss, reduced weight and fat regain following a calorie restricted diet, increased exercise endurance, decreased perceived exertion. The problem with these studies was that they used pyruvate in amounts that ranged from 31 to 100 grams per day, which are impractical outside of a research setting. Now a study has looked at what the minimum amount of pyruvate that is necessary to achieve these results.

    Fifty-three individuals took part in a study where one group took 6 grams of pyruvate per day for six weeks and two other groups took either a placebo or nothing, respectively. Each group exercised for 30 minutes five times per week. Although there was no change in their absolute bodyweight, those who supplemented with pyruvate had a 12% decrease in percent bodyfat, lost 4.8 pounds of fat, gained 3.4 pounds of muscle, and had a 2.2% increase in basal metabolic rates. Additionally, they reported a 17.7% increase in vigor and 71% decrease in fatigue.

    According to previous studies in animals, scientists have been able to estimate that the minimum effective daily dose of pyruvate in humans is between three and six grams. Although the six grams per day used in this study is far less that the amounts used in previous studies, it is effective in helping to reduce bodyfat, increase lean muscle mass, as well as increasing vigor and decreasing fatigue during exercise.

    Colker C, Stark R, Kaiman D, et al. The effects of a pyruvate based dietary supplement on weight loss, body composition, and perceived vigor and fatigue levels in mildly overfat individuals. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 (in press).

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