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For December 11, 2018

  • Will caffeine help me run faster?
    Will caffeine help me run faster?

    A few years ago it was popular for runners to drink a cup of coffee before a race because caffeine will stimulate the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream. The athletes were counting on using the fatty acids for fuel, rather than glucose, "saving" the glucose for later in the race when it might give them a second wind. There is also a study based on athletes who were given 330 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent to two to three strong cups of coffee or seven caffeinated soft drinks) one hour before exercising. The athletes were able to perform moderate aerobic activity 15 minutes longer than their "decaffeinated" control group.

    330 milligrams of caffeine is a lot of caffeine. For most people, the adverse effects of consuming that much caffeine would far outweigh the possibility of enhanced performance. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can cause headaches, insomnia, and abnormal heart rhythms. It contributes to irritability--the last thing you need if you already have pre-race jitters. And, the effects on the colon combined with irritability often results in diarrhea.

    Caffeine is also a diuretic--the description for drugs that promote water loss from the body. Having to step behind a tree in the middle of a race increases race time as much as the fatty acids released by the caffeine may decrease it.

    A cup of coffee contains approximately 50 to 150 milligrams of caffeine, tea about 10 to 50 milligrams, and caffeinated soft drinks about 50 milligrams. It's also hidden in chocolate and many over the counter prescription drugs.

    Caffeine may increase your endurance but it doesn't make you run faster. Bottom line is the negative effects of its use far outweigh the positive so you're better off to make water your pre-game beverage.

  • Self-Confidence Tied To Exercise 'high'
    Self-Confidence Tied To Exercise 'high'


    NEW YORK, May 13 (Reuters Health) -- Part of the well-being or 'high' some people feel after a good exercise workout may be related to their sense of mastery over their exercise routines, report researchers in the May issue of the journal Health Psychology.

    The findings suggest that increasing people's self-confidence about exercise may encourage them to stick to exercise regimens, the investigators conclude.

    Edward McAuley, professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues recruited 46 women undergraduates and divided them into two random groups. None of the young women exercised more than once a week and all were categorized as 'low-active.'

    All were given individual fitness tests on a stationary bicycle. Regardless of how they actually performed, women in one group were told that their test results were excellent, while the other group was told that their performance was below average.

    Several days later, the women were asked to exercise again, and each woman was reminded of how well or poorly she had done previously. At intervals during the 20-minute workout on the Stairmaster, researchers asked how the study participants felt.

    McAuley's team found that women who believed they had performed well the first time responded far more positively than the women who had been told they had performed poorly.

    The findings suggest that the exercise experience can be improved by providing information that enhances self-confidence, say the researchers -- and this may help people stick to an exercise program. 'That becomes important particularly if the enjoyment, the emotions that are expericenced in exercise, are implicated in getting people to do it again,' McAuley said in a statement.

    SOURCE: Health Psychology 1999;18:1-7.

  • Lighter training regimens best for immune system
    Lighter training regimens best for immune system

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Aerobic exercise three times per week may be of greater benefit to the immune system than heavier regimens of five or more times per week, researchers report.

    "From the viewpoint of immune function, the optimal training regimen is of low volume," reports Dr. Roy Shephard and colleagues at the University of Toronto in Canada. Their findings are published in a recent issue of the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

    Previous research has suggested that an excess of athletic activity can actually depress immune function. "According to this viewpoint, light training is supposed to enhance the immune response," the Canadian researchers explain, "but larger volumes of training have a depressant effect, leaving the individual temporarily more vulnerable to viral infections."

    The investigators asked 33 healthy but generally inactive men between 19 to 29 years of age to take part in one of two 12-week exercise programs -- 40 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging or cycling) performed either 3 or 5 days per week.

    Blood tests taken before, during, and soon after exercise revealed that levels of "killer" CD16 cells rose by 27% in the light training group (3 days/week) compared with just 21% in the moderate-training (5 days/week) group.

    Levels of antibody-producing immune B cells dropped by 33% after moderate training, the researchers add, while light training "had no effect on B cell count."

    The investigators conclude that for "the sedentary young adult, it does appear that any (immune-) protective advantage of physical activity can be obtained from a light training programme."

    Moderate training did have benefits unrelated to immune function, however. The authors note that only those involved in the moderate exercise program lost weight and fat over the 12-week period. Overweight and obesity have long been associated with an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

    Source: Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 1999;39:1-11.

  • Why Good People Eat Bad Food
    Why Good People Eat Bad Food
    Boston Globe

    Americans aren't stupid.
    They've known for years that the fast food they're eating probably isn't good for them. Back in 1988, 60 percent of fast food diners told Consumer Reports that they were "worried" about the nutrient value of fast food, and only four percent felt the food deserved top health marks.

    The worriers had reason to fret. Although McDonald's and other fast food chains have added salads, grilled chicken, and other healthful entrees in recent years, today's menus are still full of foods that are bad for the heart, such as Burger King's Double Whopper with cheese, which contains a whole day's fat allowance under one wrapper.

    But that doesn't stop Americans from spending one in every seven food dollars on fast food, as the lure of quick and inexpensive meals outweighs their health concerns. In fact, more than three quarters of fast food eaters believe they're getting good value for their money, according to a recent survey by the National Restaurant Assocation.

    Now, health researchers warn that many fast foods may be more hazardous than previously believed because so many contain "trans unsaturated fatty acids" or so-called transfats, a particularly hazardous type of fat that doesn't appear on food labels. Many fast-food french fries and other products are cooked in transfats, used to harden the vegetable oils restaurants now use instead of animal fat.

    Walter C. Willett, chairman of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, has called on the US Food and Drug Administration to require transfat labelling on fast foods as part of the agency's new transfat labelling regulations, arguing that consumers are confused by "deceptive labels such as "cholesterol-free' or "cooked in vegetable oil.' "

    But, even if the FDA agrees with Willett, few expect transfats to spur a revolution among fast food diners. McDonald's officials thought the anti-fat revolution was at hand once before, in the early 1990s when they trotted out a hamburger with half the fat of normal burgers. By 1997, with sales languishing, the McLean Deluxe was cancelled.

    "It was launched with high hopes and seeming demand, but . . . there wasn't really very much consumer interest in it," said McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker.

    However, for those who want to eat healthfully, there are plenty of choices at fast food restaurants, partly because chains know that vegetarians or people on diets can veto the choice of restaurant for an entire group of diners if there is nothing on the menu that they want to eat.

    In addition, the fast-growing Subway restaurant chain is going directly after health-conscious diners with a national advertising campaign that stresses the low-fat content of their sandwiches. The menu features seven submarine sandwiches containing less than six grams of fat; among hamburgers, only a vegetarian "garden burger" can beat that.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of guides to help consumers navigate the world of fast food from books such as "The Fast Food Freeway Guide: A Map to Lower Fat and Calories at Fast Food Restaurants," to Internet sites.

    With a few clicks on Cyberdiet.com's "Fast Food Quest" section, users can compare fat, salt, cholesterol, calories, and other nutrition issues among hundreds of fast foods, comparing individual restaurants directly or seeking out the healthiest foods from all of them. The fast food chains often have nutritional information on-line as well.

    In the end, Americans' food choices are a contradictory matter in which health and nutrition are just one concern. People consume less fat and more fruit juice than they did 20 years ago, but at the same time they consume far more soda and about 35 percent more calories than the 2,000 recommended by the FDA. And so, they continue to line up to place their orders for such menu items such as the "supersize" Big Mac dinner - all 1,410 calories of it.

    Copyright 2000 The Boston Globe. All rights reserved.
  • 12 Ways to Restart Stalled Weight Loss
    12 Ways to Restart Stalled Weight Loss

    What to do When the Scale is Stuck

    (From Prevention, Nov 1997; 49(11), By Marisa Fox)

    Reaching a plateau in weight loss when dieting is common but it can be overcome. The problem is caused when the diet is no longer burning enough calories for the new lower weight. Tips include: monitoring portion size, eating more whole foods, drinking more water, and burning more calories.

    So you're still doing the same things that peeled off the first 5, 10, or 50 pounds. You've kept up the daily walk, and you're a role model for low-fat eating. So why does it seem that your scale is stuck?

    You're on a plateau. Join the club. It happens to people losing weight all the time. "Plateaus can happen when you're doing the same thing as you always were, diet and exercisewise," says Terri Brownlee, R.D., dietitian at the Duke University Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, NC.

    What's changed is you.

    The smaller you are, the fewer calories you require. So the diet and exercise program that helped you get from 190 pounds down to 160 may not be burning enough calories to get you to your goal of 145. This doesn't mean you have to swear off satisfying meals or walk to the other side of the state and back to get rid of more pounds. You just need to stop for a minute and grab a pencil.

    Keep a Positive Attitude

    "Instead of getting down on yourself, try to understand what's not working and rethink your strategy," is the advice for dieters given by Cathy Nonas, R.D., administrative director of the Theodore B. VanItallie Center for Nutrition and Weight Management at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.

    That's what Cathy Upchurch did when she hit a two-month plateau after losing 70 pounds. "I kept on giving myself pep talks and refused to give up," says this 45-year-old Colorado work-at-home woman. "I kept telling myself that I was an athletic person underneath it all and that there were all these fun things I wanted to do." Cathy eventually lost another 70 pounds and has kept it all off for eight years. Like Cathy, thousands of people have come up against plateaus and been victorious. You can too! As important as a positive attitude is, you need specific and careful evaluation as well. "Once you see what the problems are, you can get back on track," says Pamela Walker, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. "It shifts the focus from 'something is wrong with me' to problem solving."

    The first thing you want to take a look at is what you've been eating and doing:

    • Have your portions expanded as your waistline has shrunk? "Many people who experience success start getting overconfident and complacent," Dr. Walker says. "Portions start creeping up, and sweets are slowly added again."
    • Has your exercise routine taken a backseat to less strenuous activity? Exercise is always one of the first things to go. Walks get shorter or get skipped.

    Careful examination of eating and exercise logs can pinpoint areas where your guard may be down. Skipping your evening workout in favor of drinks with friends or indulging your sweet tooth more frequently? No time to pack a healthy lunch, so you're resorting to the vending machines?

    "It makes you accountable to yourself, and frequently you're shocked to see that you did start eating more and exercising less," Dr. Walker says.

    Get Calories Under Control

    No matter how you got on the plateau, the answer to blasting off it is to shake things up. You need to start burning more calories than you're taking in. But don't despair. That's not as hard as it sounds. Here's how to get going:

    1. Measure your portions. Arm yourself with measuring devices like scales or cups, so you don't have to rely on your eyes (or your stomach), says Nonas. Once you're familiar with what your portion sizes should be, you need only measure from time to time to make sure you're still on track. Keep portions reasonable. (But don't put limits on plain veggies -- raw or cooked. And try for three to five servings of fruit a day.)

    2. Shortcut portion control. Stock up on prepackaged low-fat meals. Food labels make it easy to know exactly what you're getting -- and you save yourself the job of measuring portions.

    3. Try a meal substitute. Liquid meals can be helpful, especially when you're on the run. This shouldn't become a long-term strategy, but it can help break a plateau.

    4. Fill up on whole foods. Bananas, carrots, and air-popped popcorn pack more fiber and fewer calories than reduced-fat cakes or cookies. Result: You feel full on less food.

    5. Postpone dinner. Eating half an hour or even an hour later than usual may be just what you need to take the edge off late-night munchies.

    6. Drink up. "Put a liter of water on your desk, and make sure you drink it by the end of the day," says Nonas. Filling up on water during the day can help make portion control easier at meals.

    7. Limit mealtimes. So you stuck to your portion, but then you ate your kids' leftovers, and before you knew it, you were noshing ad infinitum. "It's important to do things that signal the end of the meal, like brushing your teeth," says Nonas. "Or set a timer when you sit down to dinner, and when it goes off, you're out of the kitchen or dining room."

    Burn More Calories

    1. Add a minute. "Gradually extend the length of your workouts," says J.P. Slovak, fitness director at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas. A few extra minutes here and there can go along way toward producing real results.

    2. Lift some weights. To combat the decrease in metabolism that often comes with weight loss, increase your muscle mass. Muscles burn more calories than fat, even when you're sleeping. And they take up less space, so you look slimmer.

    3. Try something new. You're not the only one who gets bored on the stationary bike -- your muscles do too. If you always work the same muscles in the same way, they become very efficient and then won't burn as many calories as when you first started doing the activity, explains Tedd Mitchell, M.D., medical director at the Cooper Wellness Program in Dallas. If you want to shake up your metabolism, work your muscles in new ways by cross-training. If you're walking, try swimming. If you're running, try boxing. No one activity should ever get to be too easy.

    4. Add some intervals. Invigorate your routine with short blasts of very intense exercise. "Try not to mosey along at the same pace," says Dr. Mitchell. "Sprint for an interval if you're running. Pedal really fast on the bike if you're cycling." Intervals not only make working out more exciting and challenging, they help burn extra calories.

    5. Go the long way. "You don't need to have gym clothes on to get exercise," says Kyle McInnis, Ph.D., a professor in the department of human performance and fitness at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Use the second-floor bathroom or the copier down the hall. "Accumulating physical activity throughout the day, such as walking more and taking the stairs, adds up," he says.

    A Veteran's Advice

    "The important thing is to realize how far you've come and to remind yourself of your goals," says weight-loss success Cathy Upchurch.

    And that's exactly what Cathy did. She celebrated her victories, didn't dwell on what the scale said, and reevaluated her exercise regime. When she added biking to her daily 1-hour walk and water walking in the pool, the weight started to come off. Today Cathy climbs mountains, mountain bikes, and even snowboards. She's every inch the athlete she always wanted to be.

    Is it really a plateau -- or your ideal weight?

    If you're still 70 pounds more than what most weight tables recommend for your height, chances are you're just on a plateau. If you're merely 10 pounds more, then it might be time to accept your weight. In between? That's a gray area.

    Ideal weight varies among individuals. But the term has become a statistical figure generated by insurance people who are telling you what to weight to live the longest based on averages. "That's something very different," says David Levitsky, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

    So if you're in that gray area, here are some things to consider when deciding if you should lose more weight:

    • Are you weight training? Muscle weighs more than fat but looks a heck of a lot better.
    • Where's the weight? If those stubborn pounds are around your middle, they could be increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even some types of cancer. Waist measurements greater than 39 inches for men and premenopausal women younger than 40, greater than 35 inches for men and women 40 or older, and greater than 33 inches for postmenopausal women pose greater health risks.
    • Do you have any signs of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or high blood glucose? These may be the first clues that your weight is affecting your health.
    • Is it realistic to eat any less or exercise any more?

    "You can't diet forever," Dr. Levitsky says. "It's better to choose a lifestyle that encourages healthy weight -- in which exercise and healthy eating are a regular part of the program -- than to obsess over a few pounds.

    Balancing Act

    The slimmer you get, the less effective your current weight-loss plan will be. Here's why:

    If you were 190 pounds and sedentary when you started, you burned 2,280 calories a day to maintain that weight. (Men burn slightly more.) If you ate 2,280 calories and burned 344 calories in a 1-hour walk, you burned 344 calories more than your body needed to maintain that weight -- so you lost weight.

    Say you reach 160 pounds. Now, you need only 1,920 calories to stay at your current weight. But you're still eating 2,280 calories and going for a 1-hour walk. Since you're lighter, your walk burns 292 calories. Now you're eating more -- 68 calories -- than you're burning. Keep it up, and the scale will start moving in the wrong direction. Here's how it adds up:

    If you weigh 190 and:

    • You eat: +2,280 calories
    • You burn*: -2,280 calories
    • You exercise: - 344 calories

    Result: -344 calories a day and weight loss

    If you weigh 160 and:

    • You eat: +2,280 calories
    • You burn*: -1,920 calories
    • You exercise: - 292 calories

    Result: +68 calories a day

    This means a plateau, even though your eating and exercising habits haven't changed. Over time, you'll regain some weight unless you shift the balance.

    *to maintain your current weight if you're sedentary

  • The anti-aging effects of blueberries
    The anti-aging effects of blueberries

    The secret to eternal youth may already be atop your cereal. A recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that eating blueberries can reverse age-related loss of memory and motor skills. Nineteen-month-old rats (equivalent in age to 65-year-old humans) that were fed strawberry or spinach or blueberry extracts -- foods high in antioxidants -- all showed improved memory, but rats that ate the blueberry extract regained balance and coordination as well. This discovery comes on the heels of earlier findings that antioxidant-rich foods can prevent neurological degeneration associated with aging.

    Blueberries, like the other foods tested, contain flavonoids, potent antioxidants which are believed to reduce free-radical damage, but researchers are uncertain of what it is that makes the berries in particular so effective. Regardless, says the study's lead author, Dr. James A. Joseph, "nothing bad has happened from eating blue-berries, and nobody's ever OD'd."

    From Mensjournal.com by Emma Sussman Starr

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