Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How to get very strong in 30 minutes a week

Some body builders lift weights for more than six hours a day, but you don't have to waste that much time to become very strong. Training for weight lifting is done in sets. A set of ten means that you lift and lower a heavy weight ten times continuously before you rest. If you repeat these sets of ten three times with a rest period between each set, you have done three sets of ten.

Pick 6 to 10 weight-machine exercises and do them in three sessions a week. In each exercise, try to lift the heaviest weight that you can lift comfortably ten times in a row without hurting yourself. When an exercise becomes easy, increase the weight. In five months, you should be able to increase your strength significantly and be proud of your larger muscles.

You now decide that you want to become even stronger. Would you increase your strength more by increasing the number of repetitions or by increasing the weight that you lift? For example, should you try to do three sets of ten for each exercise or stay at one set of ten, just try to lift a heavier weight once a week? Dr. Michael Pollock of the University of Florida in Gainesville divided recreational weight lifters into two groups. In one group, they tried to do three sets of 10 three times a week. In the other group, they did just one set of 10 three times a week, but tried to lift progressively heavier weights. Those who did one set of ten with heavier weights three times week were stronger than those who did three sets of ten without increasing the weight.

The single stimulus to make muscles larger and stronger is to stretch them while they contract. When you try to lift a heavy weight, your muscles stretch before the weight starts to move. The greater the stretch, the greater the damage to the muscle fibers and when they heal after a few days, the greater the gain in strength. The results of this study give a clear message. You become stronger by lifting heavier weights, not by exercising more. If you do too much work, you can't lift very heavy weights and you do not become stronger. When it comes to becoming very strong, less is more.

Most competitive bodybuilders spend hours trying to do many sets over and over again. You don't need to do that. Various studies show that you can gain up to 80 percent of your maximum strength by picking out four to eight specific lifts, lifting one set of ten of the heaviest weight in each, and repeating your program twice a week. The reduced workload causes fewer injuries and leaves you with a lot of extra time to do other things.

Lowering a weight slowly, called negative lifting,is a greater stimulus to make you stronger than raising it. You can lower much heavier weights than you can lift. As you raise a weight, you have to slow down because gravity works against you so that the weight feels heavier as you continue to raise it. On the other hand, when you lower a weight, you tend to move faster as gravity works with you and the weight feels lighter.

This negative lifting workout should be done only by experienced lifters not more often than once a week. Pick 10 to 15 lifts that you do regularly. Start out by lifting the heaviest weight that you can lift ten times in a row. You will struggle to get through the last three or four lifts. Then add five to 15 pounds, which may be too heavy for you to lift. Two spotters should lift the weight for you and you try to lower it six times. You'll really hurt and you may want to quit. Add another ten pounds and try to lower the weight three times. Then pick your arms off the floor, replace them on your shoulders and take at least two days off.

Lifting weights enlarges your muscles and makes you stronger, but it does not make you fit. Fitness refers to your heart and is gained by exercising in an activity where you move continuously, such as running, cycling, skating, dancing, walking or swimming. A complete exercise program should include lifting weights two or three times a week and doing a continuous sport three times a week. Alternating your activities gives your muscles a chance to recover and helps to prevent injuries.

What foods help you recover from a hard workout?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Does creatine build large muscles, as the label claims?

Creatine can help to strengthen muscles, but athletes who take these supplements need to know how much they can take safely before they harm themselves. When you exercise and your muscles get as much oxygen as they need, they burn carbohydrates, fats and protein for energy. When you exercise so intensely that you cannot get all the oxygen you need, your muscles use creatine and ATP. So when you exercise so intensely that you can't get enough oxygen, you can delay fatigue by taking creatine and it allows you to do more work, which makes you stronger.

The body of a 160 pound man contains 120 grams of creatine and he takes in and uses about two grams a day. No good studies have been done to show what amounts are safe to take beyond what your own body makes, so let the buyer beware. Creatine may allow you to lift more weights and make you stronger, but it may harm you. Taking too much creatine can cause weight gain, increased insulin production and possibly kidney damage. High levels of insulin constrict arteries to cause heart attacks and affect the brain and liver to make you fat. The chemical process of extracting creatine in the laboratory forms toxic contaminants called dicyandiamide and dihydrotriazines, that have to be removed before humans can take them safely. The industry that distributes creatine is unregulated and you have no way to know what you are actually buying.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Is it normal to need a nap in the afternoon?

I think naps are good for you, and I nap every day. Napping may even make you smarter. One study compared a people’s ability to learn after no sleep, a 30-minute nap, or a 60- minute nap. Those who had a 30-minute nap did better than those who didn’t nap, while those who took a 60-minute nap did far better than those who took only a 30-minute nap.

When you start a nap, your eyes are kept still, called non-rapid-eye-movement sleep. You drop down from stage one sleep into a deeper stage two, then a deeper stage three, and then your eyes start to move rapidly back and forth. This is called Rapid Eye Movement sleep, or REM sleep. This study shows that you learn better if you wake up right after non-REM sleep (stage two), and you get more non-REM sleep in a 60-minute nap than a 30-minute nap.

If you feel tired most afternoons, you are normal. In many parts of the world it is traditional to take an afternoon nap or siesta. Studies of office workers and school children show that people work best in the early morning. As the morning progresses, they lose their ability to concentrate. Then they go out to lunch and function way below their capacity for the rest of the day. It gets worse as you age. Tiredness is a signal that your brain needs a rest. Find a quiet place to lie down and take a nap.

Also read my report on sleep apnea, a more serious cause of daytime sleepiness.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

What's the best way to warm up before exercising?

Warming up before you exercise helps to prevent injuries and lets you jump higher, run faster, lift heavier or throw further. Your warm-up should involve the same muscles and motions you plan to use in your sport. For example, before you start to run very fast, do a series of runs of gradually-increasing intensity to increase the circulation of blood to the muscles you will be using.

Muscles are made up of millions of individual fibers, just like a rope made from many threads. When you start to exercise at a very slow pace, you increase the blood flow to muscle fibers, increase their temperature, and bring in more oxygen, so the muscles are more pliable and resistant to injury. When you contract a muscle for the first time, you use less than one percent of your muscle fibers. The second time you bring in more fibers, and you keep on increasing the number of muscle fibers used in each contraction for several minutes of using that muscle. It’s called recruitment. When you are able to contract more muscle fibers, there is less force on each individual fiber to help protect them from injury. Usually you are warmed up when you start to sweat.

The same principle applies to your heart. Angina is a condition in which the blood vessels leading to the heart are partially blocked so the person has no pain at rest, but during exercise, the blocked arteries don't permit enough blood to get through to the heart muscles, causing pain. If people with angina exercise very slowly before they pick up the pace, they are able to exercise longer and more intensely before they felt heart pain. Always check with your doctor if you feel any heart pain during exercise.

Competitive athletes in sports requiring speed and endurance perform better after they warm up with increasing intensity. Warming up slowly does not increase the maximum amount of oxygen that you can bring to muscles that you need during competition. If you are a runner, skier, cyclist, or an athlete in any sport that requires endurance, warm up at a gradually increasing pace. Use a series of increasingly intense repetitions of 10 to 30 seconds duration, with short recoveries, until you are near your maximum pace. This type of warm-up increases endurance because intensity increases the maximum amount of oxygen that you can bring to your muscles, as you continue to compete, and lets your muscles contract with greater force as you begin to fatigue. You will then be able to bring in more oxygen to your muscles than you could have done without the intense warm-up.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Should I start a weight training program?

Almost everyone should lift weights. Weight lifting strengthens bones, muscles ligaments and tendons, increases coordination for tasks requiring strength, and gives confidence and mobility to disabled people. Just exercising doesn't do much to strengthen muscles. If it did, marathon runners would have the largest muscles. To become strong, you have to exercise your muscles against progressively greater resistance, such as lifting heavier weights.

Just exercising doesn't strengthen bones either. Female marathon runners sometimes stop menstruating and lose tremendous amounts of bone, even though they may run more than 100 miles a week. To regain bone, they have to eat more food which will usually start them menstruating again, or they may need to take estrogen.

People with muscle and nerve diseases can also benefit from lifting weights. They may be unable to work out as long or as hard as a healthy person and they take longer to recover from their workouts. However, if they stop exercising when their muscles feel heavy or hurt and they take off when their muscles feel sore, they can make dramatic increases in strength.

Anyone starting a weight training program should be guided by an experienced instructor. Exercise with machines two or three times a week, never on consecutive days. On each exercise, use the heaviest weight you can lift comfortably eight or ten times in a row. Then allow at least 48 hours for your muscles to recover. Do not lift if they feel sore.

Also see: How to become very strong

Friday, November 25, 2005

How can I tell if I have polycystic ovary syndrome, and how is it treated?

The symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are fat stored in the belly, dark facial and body hair, infertility, acne and irregular periods. A woman is born with about 4 million eggs. Each month one egg ripens and pops off the ovary into the uterus. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have eggs that remain on the ovary to form cysts. PCOS is diagnosed with a sonogram of the ovaries. The symptoms are caused by high blood insulin levels.

Your pancreas releases insulin when your blood sugar level rises. Anything that prevents blood sugar levels from rising too high lowers insulin and treats PCOS. When these women are given metformin (Glucophage), a diabetic medication, and placed on a diabetic diet, their periods become regular, they lose weight, their acne and facial hair disappear and they become fertile. Women with PCOS should avoid refined carbohydrates (any foods made with flour, white rice or milled corn) and added sugars. Don’t avoid fruits or root vegetables, but eat them only with other foods to slow the rise in blood sugar. If you think you may have PCOS, take this information to your doctor.

More on PCOS

Thursday, November 24, 2005

What are the best foods to eat before an important race?

It doesn’t make much difference what you eat before athletic competition, as long as it’s not in your stomach when you start. It takes about half an hour to empty your stomach after a meal, so you should eat about one to three hours before your event.

Your brain gets almost all its energy from sugar in your bloodstream, but there is only enough sugar there to last three minutes, so your liver has to constantly release sugar from its cells to keep you alert. Your liver fills with sugar after you eat and releases sugar afterward. If you start an athletic competition more than three hours after you eat, your liver will have used up much of its stored energy to tire you earlier during exercise.

Scientists used to recommend avoiding sugar within three hours before competition because they thought that it would cause a rise in blood sugar, to raise blood insulin high enough to cause a low blood sugar and tire you earlier. This does not happen to athletes. Now we know that it doesn’t make any difference whether you eat fat, protein or sugar before your competition.

Also see Eat to Recover

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Why do I sweat more after I stop exercising?

It's normal to sweat more after you finish exercising than you do while you exercise. Your body temperature varies throughout the day, going from around 97 degrees in the early morning to about 99 degrees in the early evening. Exercise raises body temperature considerably. When you exercise, more than 70 percent of the energy that powers your muscles is lost as heat. Less than 30 percent drives your muscles. Athletic competition can drive temperatures as high as 105 degrees without harming the athletes.

To keep your body temperature from rising too high, your heart pumps large amounts of heat in the blood from your hot muscles to your skin and you sweat. The sweat evaporates and cools your body. The amount of sweat that your body produces depends on the temperature of the blood that flows through your brain. When the temperature of the blood rises, you sweat more. During exercise, your heart beats rapidly to pump blood to bring oxygen to your muscles and to pump the hot blood from the muscles to the skin where the heat can be dissipated. When you stop exercising, your heart slows down also, pumping less blood to the skin. The heat accumulates in your muscles, causing blood temperature to rise higher, so you sweat more right after you finish exercising than during exercise.

MORE on sweating and body odor

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Are breakfast cereals fortified with gingko biloba worth the extra cost?

I hope that you will not be fooled by the unbelievable advertising on some food packages. For example, labels on ginseng tea and gingko-fortified cereal both claim they will promote sharp thinking. There is no solid evidence that either ginseng or gingko improve thinking, but for this discussion, let’s assume they do. Ginseng is a stimulant just like an amphetamine. If you were to take too much ginseng, you would get diarrhea and a headache; a massive overdose could raise your blood pressure, cause a stroke and even death. If the correct dose of ginseng is contained in one cup of the tea, that means that you are taking a drug when you drink a cupful; two cups can give you a headache and five may kill you.

It’s the dose that makes a poison. If a substance is to cause a health benefit, you have to eat an exact dose. If you take less, you don’t receive any benefit. If you take too much, you can suffer unpleasant side effects or even die. Drugs and supplements specify the dose on the bottle; if you take a whole bottle-full instead of one pill and die of an overdose, the manufacturer will not be held responsible. But nobody measures exact portions of food. What happens if you drink the ginseng tea all day to quench your thirst?

The same applies to gingko-fortified cereals. How much cereal do you have to eat to improve your mind? What happens if your child likes the flavor and eats the whole box? Foods that truly contain medicines would harm you if you ate too much. Of course the food manufacturers are not stupid, so they put in so little of the substance that it cannot possibly harm you in any amount – and therefore, of course, cannot have any benefit. This is deceptive advertising at its worst. Save your money.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I’ve started a walking program. Is there a way to increase my speed without getting injured?

Walking is one of the safest and most effective sports for fitness, but to become fit, you have to move fairly fast. You should exercise vigorously enough to increase your heart rate at least 20 beats a minute more than when you rest. Walking at a leisurely pace will not raise your heart rate very much. You can increase your speed by taking longer steps or by moving your feet at a faster rate.

To lengthen your stride, swivel your hips so that you reach out further forward with your feet. This causes you to twist your body from side to side, which forces your toes to point to the outside when your feet touch the ground. By pointing your feet forward after your heel strikes the ground, you will gain a few inches. To move your feet at a faster rate, you have to move your arms at a faster rate also. Every time one leg moves forward, the arm on the same side moves back and the arm on the other side moves forward. For every step forward, there is an equal number of arm movements forward. To move your arms faster, you have to keep your elbows bent. The fulcrum of your arm swing is at your shoulder. The straighter your elbows, the longer your arms swing as a pendulum from your shoulder, reducing the frequency of arm swings. Bending your elbows shortens the swing and allows you to move faster.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Is it normal for my muscles to ache all the time?

Regular exercisers should expect their muscles to feel sore on the day after they exercise intensely, but if the soreness doesn't go away, they need a medical evaluation. When you exercise vigorously, your muscles are injured. Muscle biopsies taken on the day after intense exercise show bleeding into the muscle fibers and disruption of the Z-bands that hold muscle fiber filaments together as they slide by each other. The soreness you feel should usually disappear within 48 hours, and even with the most severe workouts, it should disappear within a week or two.

If the soreness remains after a few weeks, you should check with your doctor. You may have an infection anywhere in your body, an autoimmune disease or other treatable condition. Doctors may call your chronic muscle soreness fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or multiple chemical sensitivities. These diagnoses are an admission by the physician that he hasn't the foggiest idea of the cause. There are reports of people with muscle pain and normal liver tests who are then found to have hepatitis C, which can be effectively treated. If you have urinary tract symptoms in addition to your muscle pain, you may be infected with mycoplasma or other bacteria which can be treated with antibiotics. You could have Lyme disease or some type of reactive arthritis. Don't accept a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia until you have a thorough evaluation for a hidden infection or other treatable causes.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Does chocolate prevent heart attacks?

Will a chocolate bar a day keep heart attacks away?

The candy industry keeps trying to convince us that chocolate is a health food by sponsoring and publicizing studies. The latest, in the medical journal Hypertension (July, 2005), shows that eating dark chocolate lowers high blood pressure. Jeffrey B. Blumberg, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, gave 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate per day for 15 days to 20 people with high blood pressure. Their systolic blood pressure dropped by an average of 11mm.

Cocoa beans are loaded with flavonoids, the antioxidants found in all fruits, vegetables whole grains, beans and other seeds, and antioxidants do lower blood pressure. However, dark chocolate by itself is bitter, so candy makers add lots of sugar and fat to make it taste good. Sugar raises blood sugar to damage cells in diabetics, and one third of Americans are or will become diabetic. Fat is a dense source of calories that makes fat people fatter. So the old adage: "If it tastes good, it must be bad." still holds for most of us. Chocolate tastes good because of the added sugar and fat.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Is exercise harmful for a person with varicose veins?

No; in fact, a regular exercise program may be the most effective treatment for varicose veins. Veins are supposed to contain valves that keep blood from backing up. When the valves cannot close properly, veins become varicose, blood backs up and causes the veins to widen and look like blue snakes underneath the skin. Since varicose veins swell because blood pools in them, the best treatment is to empty blood from the veins. When you exercise, your leg muscles alternately contract and relax, squeezing blood toward the heart. Running, walking, cycling, skiing, skating and dancing are ideal treatments, while standing or sitting increase blood pooling and widen the veins. People with varicose veins should not stand around for a long time. You should wear support hose when you stand or walk slowly, but you don't need them when you exercise.

Varicose veins are caused by a genetic weakness in the valves or an obstruction of blood flow, which may be caused by obesity, pregnancy, tumors, clots or heart disease. Superficial varicose veins that you can see can cause a feeling of heaviness or aching, but they are rarely painful. If you hate the way large veins look, a surgeon can remove them, but most varicose veins are best left alone. Special injections and laser burning remove only small veins.

Monday, November 14, 2005

What’s the best sport for overall fitness?

The best sports for fitness are the ones in which you exercise continuously, those that are least likely to injure you and the ones you enjoy the most. You become fit by exercising vigorously enough to increase the circulation of blood. It makes no difference to your heart how you increase your circulation. The best sports for fitness use your legs because the blood vessels in your legs are so much larger that you can circulate far more blood with your leg muscles. Furthermore, arm exercises tire you earlier because most people have weaker arms.

Some sports require a great level of fitness just to start. For example, to jump rope, you must spin the rope more than 80 times a minute to keep it from tangling. Many people can't jump 80 times a minute. The safest sports are low-impact aerobics, walking, swimming and pedaling a stationary bicycle. Running causes lots of injuries, because the force of your foot striking the ground can be three times your body weight, which can damage muscles and bones.

You are most likely to continue a lifelong fitness program if you pick an activity that you enjoy. However, sports that don’t keep you moving may be fun, but they won’t make you fit. Most tennis players spend about 80 percent of their playing time waiting for the ball; and golfers are often required to ride in carts, even if they would prefer to walk.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Why is my nose is always stuffed up?

A large percentage of people with constant stuffy noses carry the bacteria, staph aureus, in their noses. Some carriers have no nasal symptoms at all. People who carry staph aureus in their noses are at increased risk for not healing when they cut themselves or have surgery, having sore nipples when they breast feed, and being unable to control skin diseases such as eczema or psoriasis. Surgeons who have staph aureus in their noses are usually not allowed to operate because the germ can get into surgical wounds and delay healing.

Doctors usually treat skin infections with antibiotic pills and injections, which readily clear germs from the skin, but oral and injected antibiotics rarely clear staph aureus from the nose. After treatment, staph aureus returns to your skin to start another infection. Most of the time, you can clear staph aureus from your nose by applying an antibiotic ointment in your nose at bedtime for several weeks. You can buy inexpensive bacitracin or neosporin ointment without a prescription (in the first-aid section of your pharmacy or supermarket) and apply a small amount inside your nostrils for several weeks. Some people need to apply an antibiotic ointment into their noses for five days each month for a year to be cured. If you have a resistant staph aureus that does not respond after a year, your doctor can do a culture to tell you what antibiotic to use.

More on staph aureus

Saturday, November 12, 2005

How many miles should I run each week?

When I trained seriously for marathon running, I thought that the runner who ran the most miles would be the best. I didn't become a great runner, but I did become an expert on injuries. My patients seldom come to me with a running injury that I haven't had.

Many top runners run more than 100 miles a week because their bodies have the genetic ability to withstand such abuse, but the vast majority of runners will never be able to run 100 miles a week without being injured frequently. Furthermore, running a lot of miles slowly will slow you in races. The ability to run fast in races depends more on how fast you run in practice than on how many miles you run each week. However, every time you run fast, your muscles are damaged and feel sore on the next day, and it takes at least 48 hours for your muscles to heal enough to allow you to run comfortably again at a very-fast pace. After every workout in which you run very fast, take the next day off or run at a much slower pace. Most top athletes plan their workouts so they run very fast only two days a week. The same principles apply to any endurance sport.

How to run faster

Friday, November 11, 2005

Are oral hyaluronic acid supplements effective for treating joint pain?

The only approved use of hyaluronic acid is for injections into a joint. They coat the inner joint and offer some "padding". The hyaluronic acid disappears in five to nine months and symptoms return. The next time hyaluronic acid is injected, it lasts only about three months. There are no good studies showing that hyaluronic acid taken orally or in any other form treats anything. More on hyaluronic acid (Synvisc) injections

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Is there any relation between high cholesterol and cancer?

A team from Boston's Children Hospital found that high cholesterol levels cause prostate cancer cells in mice to grow and that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs inhibit prostate cancer growth. Researchers injected human prostate cancer cells into mice. Animals fed high cholesterol diets had cholesterol accumulate in the outer membranes of tumors. Six weeks after tumor cells were injected, mice on the high-cholesterol diet had larger tumors and twice as many of them compared to those on a low- cholesterol diet. When mice on a high-cholesterol diet were given statin drugs to lower cholesterol, the tumors stopped growing.

We do not know if these results apply to humans, but this study suggests one more reason to control your cholesterol.

Journal of Clinical Investigation, March 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Can I still expect to live longer than my parents did?

A team of scientists supported by the National Institute on Aging report that over the next few decades, life expectancy for the average American could decline by as much as five years. This would be the first sustained drop in life expectancy in the United States in the modern era, and the most likely cause is obesity.

Obesity in U.S. adults has increased 50 percent per decade since 1980. The severely obese live an average of 20 years less than the non-obese. More than 20 other developed nations, including France, Japan, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, have a higher average life expectancy than the U.S. The people who are most likely to maintain a healthful weight are those who exercise and control their calorie intake by limiting fatty foods and refined carbohydrates.

New England Journal of Medicine, March 17, 2005

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Is it safe for a child to lift weights?

The best time for future Olympic athletes to start training is before they reach puberty. Having large strong muscles makes you a better athlete, and starting training before puberty enlarges the bones that are used primarily in that sport. Muscles growth is limited by the size of the bones on which they attach. The larger the bone, the stronger the muscle. Children who start to play tennis before they go into puberty have larger bones in the arm that holds the racquet. They also have larger bones in their tennis arm than those who start to play tennis later in life. The larger and stronger your muscles, the harder you can hit a tennis ball.

Lifting weights during growth does not prevent children from growing to their full potential height. Bones grow from growth centers that are weakest part of bone, but strength training during growth does not damage these growth centers and children who lift weights in programs with experienced supervision do not suffer more injuries than adults. There used to be concern that growing large muscles would make people musclebound and interfere with coordination, but this is not true. With increased strength comes increased speed and increased coordination in movements requiring strength. The best time for future Olympians to start training is while their bones are still growing.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Do flat feet cause problems?

In previous generations flat feet kept many men out of the army. Now we know that flat feet are usually an asset; they help you run faster and jump higher. Most people with flat feet have normal arches. Their arches appear to be flat because during running and walking, their feet roll inward so far that they touch the ground and you can't see them. During running, your foot strikes the ground with a force equal to more than three times body weight. Landing flat footed transmits this force up your leg to damage muscles, bones and joints.

Feet are supposed to be shock absorbers. Instead of landing on the whole bottom of your foot, you land on the outside bottom of your foot and roll inward toward your arch. This is called pronation, which helps to prevent injuries by dissipating the force of your footstrike and keeping it from being directed at any one part of your leg or foot. The more you roll in, the harder you foot hits the ground to drive you forward with greater force and help you run faster. Almost all sprinters and halfbacks have pronated flat feet.

More foot health reports by Gabe Mirkin, M.D. and Gene Mirkin, DPM

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Is it OK to eat right before exercising?

If you are going to exercise for more than an hour, you need to eat before you exercise or your muscles and liver will run out of sugar and you will tire earlier. Your brain gets more than 98 percent of its energy from sugar in your bloodstream. But there is only enough sugar in your bloodstream to last three minutes. So you liver has to constantly release sugar from its cells into your bloodstream. There is only enough sugar in your liver to last maybe an hour when you exercise vigorously. Eating before exercising can help you to exercise longer.

Whenever your stomach fills with food, its muscles contract and require large amounts of blood. When you exercise vigorously, your heart pumps large amounts of blood to your skeletal muscles. If your heart is not strong enough to pump blood to both your stomach and your skeletal muscles, blood is shunted from your stomach muscles, the muscles lack oxygen, lactic acid builds up in muscles and they start to hurt. However, most people can exercise after eating without suffering cramps because their hearts are strong enough to pump blood to both their exercising muscles and their stomach muscles.

Some researchers believe that you shouldn't eat sugar before you exercise because it will cause your blood sugar level to rise and your pancreas to release insulin, which will cause your blood sugar to drop too low so you will feel tired during exercise. However, the major cause of tiredness that you feel in your muscles during exercise is lack of stored sugar in muscles. Taking any extra calories before and during exercise helps to preserve the sugar that is stored in muscles and help you to exercise longer. If you are going to exercise for more than an hour, eat or drink anything you like before and during your exercise. Most people will not get stomach cramps while exercising, no matter what or when they eat.

Related article: Sports Drinks

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Is food more fattening at night than in the morning?

Probably. For four to six hours after you finish eating a meal, your body produces a lot of energy to help digest, absorb and process the food. This extra energy produces heat and uses up extra calories that otherwise may have ended up stored in your body as fat. When you exercise, your body produces extra heat because more than 70 percent of the energy use to power your muscles is lost as heat. Your temperature continues to stay elevated and you to burn more calories for several hours after you finish excising.

If you are active after you eat, your body burns more calories than if you are inactive after you eat, so most people are far more active after they eat breakfast than after eating supper and therefore the food that you eat in the morning is less fattening than what you eat in the evening

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How can I get the most out of my jogging program?

Most runners should train the same way that competitive runners do, even if they jog only for fitness. Here's a program that you can follow even if you do not plan to compete. First get a physical exam to assure that you are healthy. Then start out by running every other day until your legs feel tired or hurt. Gradually work up to the point where you can run for thirty continuous minutes.

Then start your training program. Plan one fast and one long workout a week. The other workouts should be at a slower pace and can be skipped if you feel tired. Your fast run can be on Wednesday and your long run on Sunday. Wednesdays, start out slowly and gradually increase the pace until you start to feel uncomfortable as you breathe hard and your muscles start to hurt. Slow down until you recover and gradually pick up the pace again. Repeat until your legs start to feel heavy.

Each week try to improve by spending more time running fast and less time running slow. Take the next day, Thursday, off because your legs will be sore. On Friday and Saturday, jog slowly a short distance. On Sunday, try to run for 30 minutes, and each week, extend the time running until you can stay out for 60 to 90 minutes or more of brisk running. Take the next day off. Then jog slowly on Tuesday and try to run fast again on Wednesday. The same principles can be applied to any endurance sport you use for fitness, such as cycling, rowing or swimming.

For more ideas to help you maximize your exercise program visit