Friday, March 31, 2006

What's the correct way to do sit-ups?

Sit-ups can strengthen your belly muscles, but doing them incorrectly can hurt your back. Sit-ups should be done while you lie on your back with your knees bent enough for the soles of your feet to touch the floor. Place both hands on your chest and slowly raise your head off the ground. Then, slowly raise your shoulders around one foot and then lower them to the ground. Do this slowly ten times, rest a few seconds and then do two more sets of ten. After a week or two, this exercise will feel easy, so do it with a light weight, wrapped in a towel, held behind your neck or on your chest. As you become stronger, you can use heavier weights.

There's no need to do more than 30 sit-ups in one workout. To strengthen your belly muscles, you increase the resistance, not the number of repetitions. Keep your knees bent to protect your back. If you do a sit-up with your legs straight, you place a great force on the iliopsoas muscles that increase the arch in your back, which can damage the ligaments and joints. If your belly muscles are weak, you are likely to arch your back excessively when you sit up and increase the chances of injury. If you are doing sit-ups to flatten your stomach, you need to raise your head only about one foot because going higher than that uses the quadriceps muscles in the front of your upper legs, not your belly muscles.

More Fitness reports

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Are we any closer to understanding the cause of prostate cancer?

Virtually all North American men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough, and a faulty diet may be the cause. Lack of vitamin D appears to increase risk of prostate cancer because it impairs the body’s ability to remove cancer cells (Journal of Clinical Oncology, November 2005). Since calcium blocks the activation of vitamin D and milk is full of calcium, even vitamin D-enriched milk increases risk for prostate cancer.

Saturated fat and high doses of zinc also increase risk. Dietary substance which appear to reduce prostate cancer risk include lycopene, carotenoids, isoflavones, polyphenols and other phytochemicals found in vegetables; vitamin E, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids found in seeds and fish. At this time, a diet to reduce risk for prostate cancer should include a wide variety of plant-based foods and seafood, the same diet recommended to prevent heart attacks – plus sunshine for vitamin D.

To help you improve your diet, read The Good Food Book -- it's free.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Is there any way to prevent painful leg cramps in the middle of the night?

Cramping during sleep is usually due to an exaggeration of a normal muscle reflex. When you turn during sleep, you contract your calf muscles and stretch their tendons. This stimulates nerve stretch receptors in the tendon and sends a message back to the spinal cord, telling the calf muscles to contract. Sometimes, the muscles remain contracted and hurt. Painful muscle cramps at night can also be caused by nerve damage such as that caused by pinching a nerve, muscle damage, a partially-obstructed flow of blood to the legs or abnormal mineral or hormone levels. If you have this problem often, check with your doctor. If you do not have a serious cause, you can often prevent night cramps by exhausting the stretch reflex before you go to bed by stretching your calf muscles with wall pushups, and applying a heating pad for 10 minutes before you go to sleep. The most common cause of leg cramps in exercisers is lack of salt.

The Food and Drug Administration has ruled that none of the over-the-counter drugs used to treat night-time leg cramps are recognized as safe or effective. The only drug that has been shown to be effective in treating night-time leg cramps is quinine. Doctors often prescribe 1 or 2 quinine pills at bedtime, but they can cause birth defects and miscarriages, so they should never be taken by a woman who may become pregnant. They can also cause ringing in the ears, headache, nausea, disturbed vision, chest pain and asthma.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Larry King's Heart Attack Saved His Life

For ten years, I told Larry King that he was a walking time bomb and should change his lifestyle before it was too late. At that time he was a radio broadcaster who smoked to stay alert while he worked day and night, and of course he ate a tremendous amounts of junk food. His blood pressure was 150/100 and his total cholesterol was 280. He suffered chest pains that were severe enough to take him to a cardiologist, but since his electrocardiogram was normal, he didn’t see any reason to change his ways. When he had his heart attack, I was the first person to see him in the emergency room. Now he eats the way I do, exercises regularly, has normal cholesterol and blood pressure, and never felt better. His heart attack saved his life.

Some people are not as lucky as Larry and don’t get a second chance. A heart attack has two components. First you lay down fatty plaques in your arteries over the years and the flow of blood slows to a trickle. Eventually a piece of plaque breaks off, travels further down the artery and forms clots, which block the flow of blood. The clots (which might have passed through a wide-open artery) block the blood supply to a part of your heart muscle, depriving it of oxygen and causing it to die. The same mechanism causes strokes, with a plaque blocking blood flow to some part of your brain.

Taking in more calories than you burn leads to plaques in arteries in susceptible people. Fats are the most concentrated sources of calories, so a diet to lower LDL cholesterol limits fats, particularly saturated fats and partially hydrogenated oils. You need some fat, but for most people, it’s hard not to eat too much fat. Fatty foods are everywhere, because manufacturers know that fat makes food taste good. Too many calories in your diet translates into too much fat in your body and in your bloodstream.

Read more about how to change your diet for heart health in The Good Food Book. It's FREE.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Should I avoid white potatoes and eat sweet potatoes instead?

Both white potatoes and sweet potatoes contain a variety of nutrients. Here’s the comparison:
7-ounce white potato with skin: 220 calories, 5g protein, 51g carbs, 20mg calcium, 115mg phosphorus, 2.8g iron, 16mg sodium, 844mg potassium, 4g fiber, .22mg thiamin, .07mg riboflavin, 3.3mg niacin, 16mg vitamin C
7-ounce sweet potato: 208 calories, 3.5g protein, 49g carbs, 56mg calcium, 110mg phosphorus, 1g iron, 20mg sodium, 693mg potassium, 5g fiber, 4350 RE vitamin A, .14mg thiamin, .13mg riboflavin, 1.2mg niacin, 49mg vitamin C.

So, as you can see, sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, and have a little more vitamin C and calcium (but less iron) than white potatoes; otherwise they're pretty much equal. We eat the potato skins as well as the flesh; the skins of many vegetables and fruits are concentrated sources of nutrients and fiber. If you’re diabetic or trying to lose weight, eat your root vegetables WITH other foods, not alone as snacks.

Here are some of Diana’s favorite recipes using sweet potatoes:

Sweet Potato Salad with Pineapple
Sweet Potato Bisque (a lovely creamy soup)
Sweet Potato Curry

For 100 healthful recipes and tips read the FREE Good Food Book

Friday, March 24, 2006

Is diabetes genetic?

You inherit a susceptibility to Type II diabetes; you do not inherit diabetes. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (October 8, 2003) shows that one of three Americans will become diabetic, with women more likely to develop diabetes than men. The authors showed that the average person who is diagnosed with diabetes at age 40 will die 11.6 year earlier than a non-diabetic and he or she will be severely incapacitated with one or more side effects of diabetes 18.6 years before a non- diabetic.

Risk factors for developing diabetes:include: a family history of diabetes; storing fat primarily in the belly; high triglycerides; low HDL (good) cholesterol; blood sugar higher than 200 thirty minutes after a meal; fasting blood sugar above 110; excess hair on the face or body (in women); or diabetes during pregnancy. A person with any of these warning signs should immediately make lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes: avoid refined carbohydrates (foods made with flour, white rice, milled corn; all added sugars and drinks that contain sugar), exercise regularly, lose weight if you are overweight, and keep your weight controlled for the rest of your life. If you do this you will be at low risk for developing diabetes, even if you have the genes that make you susceptible.

Every diabetic should read my Good Food Book -- it's free.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Should diabetics drink coffee?

A survey reported in JAMA (July 6, 2005) showed that drinking coffee reduces risk for developing type II diabetes, but two recent studies suggest that once you have diabetes, drinking coffee may be unwise.

Canadian researchers writing in Diabetes Care (March 2005) showed that caffeine significantly reduced insulin sensitivity. In the July 2005 issue of the same journal, scientists from Duke University Medical Center reported that drinking coffee could upset a diabetic’s ability to metabolize sugar.

Blood sugar levels are supposed to rise after you eat. To keep your blood sugar levels from rising too high, your pancreas releases insulin. The researchers found that taking caffeine causes blood sugar and insulin levels to rise even higher after meals. If your blood sugar rises too high, sugar sticks to cells. Once sugar is stuck on a cell membrane, it cannot be released and is converted to a poison called sorbitol which destroys that cell. High levels of insulin constrict arteries to cause heart attacks and act directly on the brain to make you hungry, on your liver to make more fat, and on the fat cells in your belly to pick up that fat. If these studies are confirmed, diabetics will be advised to restrict coffee as well as those foods that cause the highest rise in blood sugar after meals.

All diabetics should read The Good Food Book -- it's free.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How does hard-easy make me a better athlete?

You will not become a better athlete by doing the same training regimen each day. Athletes train by taking hard workouts on one day, feeling sore on the next, and not taking another hard workout until the muscles stop feeling sore.

It's called the hard-easy principle. If you want to become stronger or faster or increase your endurance, you have to exercise hard or long enough to make your muscles burn. Then your muscles will be sore for one or more days. If you try to exercise hard when your muscles are damaged, you will tear them and the muscles will weaken. If you wait for the soreness to disappear, your muscles will be stronger than they were before your workout. As you continue to take stressful workouts only after the soreness disappears, you will become progressively stronger and faster and have greater endurance. Athletes in most sports train once or twice a day in their sports, but they do not exercise intensely more often than every 48 hours.

There is a difference between the good burning of training and the bad pain of an injury. The good burning usually affects both sides of your body equally and disappears almost immediately after you stop exercising. The bad pain of an injury usually is worse on one side of your body, becomes more severe if you try to continue exercising and does not go away after you stop exercising.

Athletes need to eat right -- read The Good Food Book, FREE, with 100 recipes, food lists and more.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Are B12 injections necessary for pernicious anemia?

Most people with pernicious anemia can a cured by taking a 1000 microgram pill of vitamin B12 once a day; they usually do not need to take injections. Pernicious anemia is due to lack of vitamin B12 which results in progressive nerve damage that causes forgetfulness, loss of ability to concentrate and abnormal nerve sensations such as burning, itching or loss of feeling. However, many people with pernicious anemia do not have abnormally low blood levels of vitamin B12. One study showed that older people have lower blood levels of a chemical called homotranscobalamin II that carries vitamin B12 into the cells, so they need higher blood levels of B12 to have normal tissue levels.

The diagnosis of pernicious anemia is often made late in the course of the disease after a person has suffered permanent nerve damage. One report showed that two percent of Americans over 60 have low blood levels of vitamin B12, but the incidence of vitamin B12 deficiency causing nerve damage in older people is much higher than that, perhaps as high a 50 percent. Many older people who are diagnosed with senility actually suffer from lack of vitamin B12. Lack of vitamin B12 also can cause heart attacks, so all people over 60 should be screened for B12 deficiency. Those with normal levels of B12 who have symptoms of nerve damage or arteriosclerosis should also get a blood test called homocysteine. Low levels of B12 can be associated with stomach diseases, absorption problems and infections such as Helicobacter pylori. See my reports on Helicobacter and Celiac Sprue.

FREE recipes, food lists and more in my Good Food Book

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Should I use sea salt instead of iodized table salt?

You need to eat foods that contain iodine for your body to be able to make thyroid hormone. The best sources are iodized salt and seafood. Plants can be a good source, but only if they are grown on iodine-rich soil. A study in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism (September-October 2003) showed that vegetarians are at increased risk for iodine deficiency that causes low thyroid function.

In this study, 25 percent of vegetarians and 80 percent of vegans had low blood levels of iodine, compared to only nine percent of people who eat both meat and vegetables. While iodized table salt is a good source of iodine, sea salt often is not. If you don't use table salt or eat ocean fish or kelp, get a blood test for iodine. If your iodine level is low, you need to eat more seafood or iodized salt, or take iodine pills.

Read all about healthful eating in my FREE Good Food Book -- with 100 easy, delicious recipes

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Does Aspartame cause cancer?

Researchers in Italy recently published a study demonstrating that aspartame causes cancer in animals. It showed increased incidence of malignant tumors, lymphomas, leukemias, and cancers of the kidney and nerves (Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, November, 2005.) On the same day, the Calorie Control Council, an international non-profit association representing the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry, came out a report stating that: "Overwhelming Scientific Evidence Confirms Safety of Aspartame; Governments Recommend No Change in Dietary Practices Related to Aspartame." Whom do you believe?

More than a thousand previous studies have shown aspartame to be safe. At present, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has said they are not recommending any changes in the use of aspartame. When the Italian study was reviewed by the United Kingdom Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, the committee found aspects of study findings "implausible.” Four long-term carcinogenicity studies have found no relationship between aspartame and any form of cancer. Aspartame has been consumed for nearly a quarter of a century, and is one of the most thoroughly analyzed food ingredients, with more than 200 scientific studies concluding that it is safe.

Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, protein- building blocks called aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Both amino acids are found naturally in protein-containing foods, including meats, grains and dairy products. They are also found naturally in many foods such as fruits and vegetable and their juices. The body handles the components from aspartame in the same way it handles them when derived from other foods. I think that it is unwise to consume huge amounts of any single food or ingredient, but aspartame in small amounts appears to be safe and in my opinion, it is preferable to the refined sugars it replaces in your diet.

Learn to eat healthfully with my FREE Good Food Book, with 100 recipes

Friday, March 17, 2006

Should my toddler have ear tubes inserted to prevent ear infections?

The inner ear is full of air and is connected to the outside through the eustachian tube that opens into the back of your mouth. Young children have narrow eustachian tubes that can close and fill with fluid that causes ear pressure and pain. If your doctor sees fluid causing the ear drum to bulge outward, he knows that the eustachian tube is closed and often prescribes antibiotics and a cortisone-type nasal spray. Antihistamines do not open eustachian tubes. Doctors sometimes remove tonsils and adenoids or give allergy injections, but these treatments have an extraordinarily high failure rate.

Since the eustachian tube enlarges as a child grows, the tube usually opens by itself in time and it is rarely necessary to perform surgery. However, if the doctor feels that fluid in the drum can interfere with a child's hearing or school work or that permanent damage in possible, it is reasonable to relieve this pressure by punching a hole in the ear drum and inserting a tube to keep it open. Research shows that the buildup of fluid in the inner ear is probably caused by inactive cilia, the small hairs that line the eustachian tube and sweep fluid toward the mouth. Erythromycin antibiotics can stimulate the cilia, remove fluid from the inner ear and help to relieve the discomfort.

Healthful eating for children, teens, seniors, athletes --
Read The Good Food Book, FREE, online now

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What’s the best way for a beginning weight lifter to become stronger?

A recent study from the University of Sydney in Australia shows that you benefit either from increasing the number of sets of repetitions or from training faster, but not both. Weight lifters were divided into four groups: 1) one set fast 2) three sets fast, 3) one set slow 3) three sets slow. A control group did no lifting. A set was the heaviest weight that they could lift six to eight times in a row. They trained three times a week for six weeks (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, September 2005).

The group that did one slow set increased strength by 25 percent. Three sets produced twice the increase in strength of one set. Fast training resulted in a greater increase in strength than slow training. There was a benefit of training with three sets or fast speeds, but there was no additive benefit of training with both. So unless you are an athlete who needs speed to compete, you can follow a regimen that emphasizes increasing weight, rather than moving faster.

If you want to become strong, check with your doctor to make sure that you do not have a condition that will be aggravated by heavy exercise. Then pick several different exercises, such as a bench press, upright row, and so forth. Start out with a weight that you can lift comfortably six to ten times in a row. Do one set in each exercise, and repeat this workout three times a week. As you become comfortable with this workout, increase to three sets of 6 to 10 repetitions. When you are comfortable with this workout, increase the weight that you lift.

More on how to become strong

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Will a low carb diet help or hurt an athlete?

A recent study from South Africa shows that eating a low-carbohydrate diet slows extended sprint performance of cyclists (Journal of Applied Physiology, January 2006). Competitive bicycle racers ate a high fat or high-carbohydrate diet for six days followed by a high-carbohydrate diet for one day and completed time trials on their bikes. Then they ate the opposite diet for six days followed by a high carbohydrate diet for one day and repeated their time trial. Diets did not affect their times or power output for 100 kilometers (62 miles), but the high fat diet slowed their sprint performance over one kilometer (0.6 miles).

Muscles get their energy from sugar and fat stored in muscles or from the bloodstream. The limiting factor in how fast an endurance athlete can exercise is the time it takes to transport oxygen from the blood in the lungs to the muscles. Muscles require far more oxygen to burn fat than to burn sugar for energy. So when a muscle runs out of its stored sugar, called glycogen, it becomes less efficient, hurts, is difficult to co-ordinate and slows you down.

Many previous studies show that it doesn’t make any difference what an trained endurance athlete eats on the week before competition because the muscles of trained athletes store the most glycogen when they reduce training for several days, regardless of what they eat. Any sprint that takes less than 50 seconds is not affected by diet, because you can work up to 50 seconds anaerobically, without requiring additional oxygen. This study shows that a high-fat diet before extended sprinting hurts performance. A high fat diet causes muscles to burn a higher percentage of fat. Using fat for energy requires more oxygen than carbohydrates do, and how fast you can sprint 0.6 miles on a bicycle is limited by how rapidly you can deliver oxygen to muscles. Restricting carbohydrates before a sprint taking more than 50 seconds increases oxygen needs which slows you down.

For more on the best diet for athletes, read The Good Food Book -- it's now online, FREE, with 100 healthful recipes

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Is honey more healthful than sugar?

You may have heard that honey is better than sugar because it's a quicker source of energy, a richer source of minerals and less fattening, but actually, honey and table sugar are almost the same. Both contain two simple sugars called glucose and fructose. Table sugar has its sugar bound into one molecule, but it is split immediately in your intestine to two single sugars. Since honey and table sugar are processed the same way, honey is not a quicker source of energy.

They are equally fattening even though ounce for ounce, honey has fewer calories than sugar. Honey contains water which has no calories and refined sugar does not. A tablespoon of table sugar has 64 calories while a tablespoon of honey has 46 calories, but to obtain the same amount of sweetness you must use enough more honey to make the calories equal. Honey does contain iron and calcium while table sugar does not, but to meet your needs for iron, you would have to eat 10 cups of honey a day, and for calcium, you'd need to eat 40 cups.

Read my Good Food Book, FREE, with 100 of Diana's healthful recipes.
It's now online. Some pages are still being edited.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Are blisters inevitable when I run?

Blisters don't just happen, you'll feel pain before they appear. If you feel pain in the skin of your feet while you're exercising, take off your shoes and look for a cause. Usually, your socks will be wrinkled or your shoes won't fit properly. If it's your socks, straighten the wrinkle. If it's your shoes, take them off. Wetness causes skin to stick to anything that rubs against it. Adding powder to the toes of your socks can help to keep your feet dry. It doesn't matter whether it's corn starch, anti-fungal powder or baby powder.

If you still develop blisters, try to soften the shoe where it rubs against your skin. Dab mineral or bath oil on the spot on the shoe that rubs against your foot, and stretch the shoe. If you still develop blisters, buy a new pair of shoes. If you're too frugal to throw away shoes, try putting a piece of adhesive tape on the spot on your skin where the shoe rubs.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Do antibiotics have a place in treatment of Alzheimer’s disease?

Dr. Mark Loeb, associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, presented a study in San Diego at the meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America that shows how antibiotics may slow brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease (October 9, 2003). Patients on two antibiotics, doxycycline and rifampin, for three months had significantly less loss of mental function than those given placebos.

Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive loss of mental function and affects more than 4.5 million North Americans. So far, the drugs approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimer’s disease are barely more effective than placebos. Several studies associate Alzheimer’s disease with infections caused by the bacteria chlamydia and mycoplasma, but the vast majority of neurologists do not feel that infection causes Alzheimer’s disease. The author of this study believes that antibiotics may prevent plaques from forming in nerves. The trial found that those in the placebo group lost significantly more intellect than those on antibiotics.

There is no specific test for Alzheimer’s disease, so doctors make the diagnosis by eliminating other causes of brain damage. It is reasonable to prescribe antibiotics to Alzheimer’s disease patients because today no effective medical treatment exists. The four FDA-approved Alzheimer's drugs, Cognex, Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl, slow the rate of brain damage only a little bit and do not stop progression of brain damage.

More on Alzheimer's disease

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Should I take iron supplements?

Not unless blood tests show you have a deficiency. Several studies have shown that high blood levels of iron are associated with an increased risk of suffering heart attacks and cancers, particularly, those of the esophagus and bladder. A study from Harvard showed that it may be the meat source of iron, rather than just the iron itself, that causes the heart attacks and cancers. People who eat a lot of meat, fish and chicken have higher blood levels of iron than vegetarians. The iron in meat, fish and chicken is called heme iron, which is absorbed at a very high level, around 10-20 percent. On the other hand, the iron that you get from plants is absorbed very poorly; only one to three percent of the iron from leafy green vegetables and other plant sources of iron is absorbed.

You can find out if your iron level is too high by asking you doctor to draw blood for a test called transferrin iron binding saturation. People with a transferrin iron binding saturation of more than 60 percent are at increased risk for developing heart attacks and cancers. If your level is greater than 60 percent, you can reduce your intake of iron by restricting meat, fish, chicken and iron-supplemented foods, and you can get rid of extra iron by donating blood six or more times a year.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Does hard exercise damage the heart muscle?

To improve for athletic competition, all athletes must suffer skeletal muscle damage. Without this damage their muscles will not grow and they will not become stronger. World-class competitive bicycle racers ride at close to their maximum heart rate for five to seven hours a day. Many researchers have been concerned that this very hard riding would damage their heart muscle as well as their skeletal muscles. A study from Freiburg University in Germany shows that hard exercise does not damage a healthy heart.

When muscles are damaged, they release enzymes into the blood stream. This study shows that the heart muscle is not damaged the way that skeletal muscles are (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, October 2003). Post exercise electrocardiograms and echocardiograms were normal as were blood levels of heart-specific enzymes, creatine kinase, creatine kinase MB and myoglobin. However, older bicycle racers did have a rise in another enzyme, brain natriuretic peptide, that is associated with heart function. The authors felt that this shows that older athletes may not adequately empty their heart's ventricles during the diastolic relaxation phase, and the increased pressure stretches the heart muscles to raise blood levels of this hormone.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Should I use the special margarines to lower cholesterol?

Researchers at McGill University in Canada report that eating plant sterols and exercising lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, body fat and weight, but you don’t have to eat special plant sterol margarine. You can get plenty of plant sterols in nuts, seeds, vegetables and beans. In this study, middle-aged men ate margarine containing sterols four times a day and used stair-stepping machines and stationary bicycles three times a week for eight weeks (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2005). Down went the total cholesterol, bad low-density cholesterol, and triglycerides and up went the good HDL cholesterol. Fifty percent of deaths in North America are caused by heart attacks and strokes. Most people can prevent these catastrophes by exercising, eating lots of plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds), avoiding smoking and smokers, staying monogamous and maintaining a healthful weight.

More on cholesterol-lowering margarines

Monday, March 06, 2006

Are isometric exercises effective?

Isometric exercise means that you push against something that doesn't move, such as a wall. Thirty years ago, most weightlifters and athletes is sports requiring strength used isometric training to make themselves stronger. Athletes don't use isometric training much anymore. The strength gained through performing isometric contractions is only within 20 degrees of the angle you hold. On the other hand, when you lift weights, you become strong through a wide range of motion. Isometrics cause your blood pressure to rise higher than the other methods of strength training. If you have weak blood vessels or heart trouble, you can rupture a blood vessel or develop an irregular heart beat.

According to Dr. John D. Fair, Chairman of the Department of History at Auburn University, the popularity of isometrics was the result of the success of some weightlifters who took synthetic male hormones called anabolic steroids and then claimed that their isometric exercises made them strong. They claimed that they were doing a revolutionary new training method of pushing against bars that didn't move. The steroids made them stronger by helping them to recover faster from tough workouts so they could do more work. The only stimulus to make a muscle stronger is to exercise that muscle against resistance. You can lift heavy weights, push against special strength machines and push against something that doesn't move, such as a wall or bar attached to the ground. Isometrics are not used much any more, but the steroids are still used, even though they are banned by most sport authorities.

Are anabolic steroids worth the risk?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

How can I strengthen my legs for cycling?

An Australian research team has shown why training for strength is important for cyclists. Untrained men who were not cyclists used a hack-squat apparatus (a weight-lifting machine used to strengthen the legs and buttocks) to lift 85 percent of the heaviest weight that they could lift once, five times in a row. Then they rested and repeated the sets of five. They did this four times, in three sessions per week. They did no cycling during the strength-training period of the study. They were given cycling endurance tests before and after. The study concluded that the strength training made men far more efficient in cycling (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, July 2005.)

Efficiency is the amount of energy a person uses to perform a certain amount of work at high intensity. However, strength training did not improve the men’s aerobic capacity: the ability to use oxygen or circulate blood. So strength training did not improve heart or lung function, but it did give the participants extra power to push the pedals harder, which helped them ride faster.

Top-level competitive cyclists train for endurance by riding for three to eight hours a day. They usually cannot push heavy weights with their legs because their cycling schedule does not give them time to recover from strenuous weightlifting workouts. Since this study used untrained cyclists, it does not suggest that professional cyclists should change their training methods. Competitive cyclists gain tremendous leg muscle strength just by climbing steep hills very fast, which exerts as much force on their leg muscles as weightlifting and makes them very strong.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

How can I jump higher?

When former NBA player Kent Benson arrived at the University of Indiana he could jump only nine inches off the ground. That's an embarrassing jump for a seven-foot All- American. One year later, he was able to jump three times that high because he had a good coach.

How high you can jump is determined by the force that you can exert when you contract your leg muscles against gravity. so strengthening your muscles will help you to jump higher. However, you must exercise your muscles against resistance in the same way that you use them when you jump. You can bend your knees and hips and straighten them by performing leg presses up while lying on your back, sideways while sitting in a chair, or down against the ground when you squat in the upright position.

Basketball players who want to be able to jump higher should set up a schedule of weight training moderately on Monday, easy on Wednesday and hard on Friday. On days when your muscles feel sore or tight, skip your weight lifting workout.

More ways to improve your performance in all sports

Subscribe to my free weekly fitness and health newsletter

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Will achilles tendinitis ever heal?

Achilles tendinitis means you feel pain in the large tendon that extends from in the back of your heel to your calf muscle. It hurts most when you get up in the morning and when you start to walk or run. It will heal only if you stop running and find another sport that doesn't hurt when you do it, such as cycling, swimming, or pulling on a rowing machine.

The Achilles tendon is made up of thousands of individual fibers, like a rope with thousand of strands. The fibers can be broken if you apply a force greater than their inherent strength. No medicines hasten healing. As soon as the tendon stops hurting, doctors usually prescribe strengthening exercises, but you have to exercise against greater resistance to become strong and strong resistance prevents healing. If you want to return to running or jogging, start out by jogging very slowly daily until your tendon starts to hurt and then quit for the day. When you no longer have any pain, you can strengthen the tendon by learning how to run fast. You must stop immediately if you feel a pulling behind your heel and each intense workout will require several easy days to allow you to recover. Try to run very fast once or twice a week, never on consecutive days.

If your pain is on the bottom of your heel, read about Plantar Fasciitis