Thursday, July 24, 2014

Muscle mass extends life expectancy

If you do heavy physical work or weight training, you'll not only make your body more muscled and stronger, but you'll also make it last longer. Muscle mass extends life expectancy write researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine in the American Journal of Medicine. 

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Training, Recovery, and Nutrition for the 40+ Runner

As a runner in my mid-forties, I’m beginning to notice a slight decline in my recovery ability and a more pronounced awareness of general muscle and joint pain. This time last year I felt as good as I did in my thirties (or at least I think I did), but now I feel that more visits to my massage therapist are in order.
The effects of aging on muscle function are different for each person, depending on other factors relative to your lifestyle, as well as genetics. But medical research has shown that in general a gradual loss of muscle function occurs, due to a decrease in both the number and size of muscle fibers. These changes may directly affect our ability to run by decreasing our endurance capacity and our overall strength and balance. The good news is that we can minimize the rate of decline by continuing to run (in a modified manner) and by giving our regular training routine and lifestyle a bit of an overhaul.

Switch to a Quality Over Quantity Mentality

Consider reducing the amount of time you spend running and then add value to your workouts by making each one purposeful. In other words, don’t just run to add miles to your weekly training log, but ascribe to each run a specific objective.  
For example, include in your weekly run schedule one HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout, one easy-paced mid-distance run, one tempo run, and one long run. You can also take advantage of the various pace calculators available online and use them to determine specific training paces for any upcoming race goals you might have. Here are a couple of pace calculators you can use:

Learn to Love Strength Training

One of the bonuses of reducing your overall mileage is that it opens up extra windows of time to dedicate toward strength training. Too few runners give credence to the value of strength training and then wonder why they repeatedly suffer from injuries.
Doing a few strength exercises two or three times a week will help to keep injuries at bay by avoiding imbalances in overall muscle strength. Furthermore, stronger muscles improve running efficiency by enabling you to maintain good form when the body starts to fatigue. And of course, greater muscle strength may help you to run faster and longer. A few strength-training resources you might find useful are:

Do Exercises in All Three Planes of Movement

There are three planes of movement: sagittal, frontal, and transverse. Movements in the sagittal plane are back and forth, while movements in the frontal plane are side to side, and movements in the transverse plane are rotational. Runners tend to spend a lot of time exercising in the sagittal plane but neglect to do any exercises in the other two planes. This often results in muscle imbalances that can weaken your ability to move and run.  
One of the best warm-up routines I’ve seen, which incorporates dynamic movements in all three planes, is Gary Gray’s lunge matrix. It is demonstrated in the following video clip by coach Jay Johnson:

Monday, July 21, 2014


by Alex Hutchinson

There are lots of interesting theories out there about how to train better and race faster; I write about them on a regular basis. But it's important not to get so wound up in theoretical discussions that we forget to take a look at what the most successful athletes are actually doing in real life. There's been a push recently from sports scientists to get more field data from top athletes published and into the public domain, which is a great development. Along those lines, there's an interesting new study from Norwegian researchers in PLoS ONE that analyzes the training of 11 Olympic and World Championship gold medalists in XC skiing and biathlon. Specifically, they look at exactly one year of training for each athlete, culminating in that athlete's greatest triumph. In other words, it's a study of exactly what those athletes did when they got everything right.
There's a ton of interesting stuff in the paper, which is freely accessible to read – it's worth a look if you're interested in how to plan and periodize endurance training. Some of the details are specific to skiing – e.g. on average, the 11 athletes trained for 800 hours in 500 sessions in the year leading up to their championship race. That's a detail that can't be readily transferred to other sports with different muscular demands: as the study notes, top runners tend to train "only" ~500 to 600 hours per year. Interestingly, there was a trend over time suggesting that athletes are training harder (or at least more) than they used to. The subjects won their gold medals between 1985 and 2011; the more recent the championship year, the greater the training volume they were likely to do (but in the same number of sessions).
Another pattern: about 90% of the training time was below lactate threshold, while 10% was above. This is fairly consistent with previous studies of elite athletes, which tend to show around an 80/20 split.
The most interesting contrast between training theory and practice is in the taper. There have been lots of studies on how to taper, and several common pieces of advice emerge from those studies: taper for about two weeks; drop your volume by 40-60%; maintain training frequency and intensity; and so on. In practice, here's what the tapers looked like:

The key difference is that these athletes weren't able to focus all their attention on tapering for a single race. Instead, they had to bring down their volume by 24% (on average) six weeks before the championships in order to compete in key World Cup races. From there, in the final two weeks before the championship, they only dropped another 9%. This is the reality of competing on the circuit. Is it optimal? Who knows, but when coaches are planning training they have to take these scheduling issues into account.
There are some other interesting points that emerge when you look more closely at the taper (which you can see in Figure 7 of the original paper). For example, many athletes took a rest day between 12 and 6 days before the championship, but only 3 of the 11 athletes took a rest day in the last five days before the race. In contrast, 10 of the 11 athletes did a high-intensity interval session within 48 hours of the championship final. The picture that emerges (which, as it happens, is consistent with theoretical models of how to taper) is that you get maximally rested up a week or so before the competition, rather than right before the competition, then ramp your training back up in the final few days to make sure you're in the rhythm and not rusty.
Anyway, those are a few highlights – as I said, if you're interested in this stuff, it's worth checking out the original paper. After all, these are the people who got it right.

Friday, July 18, 2014

9 Signs You Need to Eat More Fat

By now, we all basically agree that fat is an essential nutrient. Certain fats, like linoleic acid and alpha linolenic acid, are physiologically essential because our bodies cannot produce them. Other fats, like those found in extra virgin olive oil and grass-fed butter, are culinarily essential because they make food taste really good (they’re not so bad in the nutrition department, either). And others are conditionally essential, meaning they become extremely helpful and even critical in certain situations. But how much is enough? How do we know when to increase our intake of specific fats?
There are a few indicators that you might need more fat. If any of the following issues are giving you trouble or sound familiar, consider increasing your intake of fat. It may very well help solve your problem.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top Ten Benefits of Zinc


Improve all aspects of your health and well-being by making sure you get enough zinc in your diet. Many people know about zinc for its immune boosting properties, but this mineral is actually a wonder of health benefits. Researchers write that “zinc is such a critical element in human health that even a small deficiency is a disaster.”

Zinc is so important because it is found in every tissue in the body and is directly involved in cell division. It is a powerful antioxidant, helping to prevent cancer, but zinc also is directly involved in proper endocrine function and the maintenance of ideal hormone levels.

Zinc deficiency makes both men and women infertile and causes low libido. Low zinc also exacerbates the effects of stress on the body and accelerates aging.  Additionally, adequate zinc is necessary for optimal physical performance, energy levels, and body composition. Zinc affects protein synthesis and is required for proper function of red and white blood cells. It is highly concentrated in our bones, the pancreas, kidneys, liver, and retina.

This article will give you the top ten reasons why you should attend to your zinc levels and ensure your loved ones are doing so as well. Be aware that zinc deficiency is not only prevalent in malnourished individuals or developing countries. Rather, it is widespread in the U.S. and the UK, and it is particularly common in areas where the population eats a large amount of cereal and grain proteins. Low zinc is common in men, women, and children, and I’ve found that over 90 percent of my clients and athletes are zinc deficient.

Groups At Greatest Risk of Low Zinc
Zinc deficiency occurs from not eating enough zinc-rich foods. Zinc is found in large concentrations in meat, some seafood—oysters contain the largest concentration of all known foods—and dairy. Whole grains and legumes contain zinc, but it is bound to phytates in these plant-based foods, making the zinc inaccessible by the body. Vegetarians are at greatest risk of zinc deficiency, but alcoholics and people with digestive issues and poor stomach acid are also highly susceptible. Taking medications may produce zinc deficiency and low levels of almost all essential nutrients. Women on the birth control pill or on hormone replacement therapy are at greater risk of deficiency.

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Low zinc will produce an altered sense of taste leading to cravings of saltier, sweeter food. Deficiency can also be indicated by diarrhea, low energy, chronic fatigue, infertility, poor immunity, bad memory,  inability to focus, ADD symptoms, slow wound healing, nerve dysfunction, and ringing in the ears. Take note that symptoms may be present, but because they are so diverse and associated with other health conditions, it’s often hard to make the link to zinc deficiency without a test. A guide is provided at the end of this article on how to test your zinc level.

#1 Improve Athletic Performance and Strength
Adequate zinc directly affects athletic performance and strength development from training because it plays a primary role in anabolic hormone production.  Research shows having ample zinc available in the body allows for a more robust release of the three most important anabolic hormones, testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Without these, you’ll miss out on muscle and strength development from your hard work in the gym.

Tumar /
A recent study in the journal Biological Trace Element Research highlights the boost that raising zinc levels can give to testosterone production following exercise. Researchers found that giving trained athletes a zinc supplement for four weeks prior to an exhaustive exercise test resulted in a greater post-workout testosterone response than a placebo. Taking zinc produced higher testosterone levels in the athletes than taking a selenium supplement (a powerful antioxidant that minimizes oxidative stress in the testis). Researchers note that zinc enhances the conversion rate of androstenedione to testosterone, and that paired with high-intensity exercise, it allows the body to produce testosterone at an even higher rate.

Male and female athletes will benefit from adequate zinc since this mineral ensures healthy release of growth hormone and IGF-1, which are essential for performance and muscle development in both sexes. Plus, the boost to testosterone post-workout can improve strength gains recovery in men. And, as you’ll see below, having enough zinc will give you more energy and improve metabolism.

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