Saturday, July 31, 2010

Calcium supplements: too much, too late?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N

A lot of women are wondering whether to continue taking their calcium supplements today. A new study shows that taking calcium may increase your risk of a heart attack by 20 to 30 percent. What's worse, it may not be doing all that much to strengthen your bones.

In my opinion, the way we take calcium supplements today could best be described as "too much, too late."

Too much, too late

Kids and adolescents aren't getting nearly enough calcium during these years when the body is most actively laying down bone tissue. Then, in our 30s, 40s, and beyond, we try to make up for lost time by taking large doses of supplemental calcium. This news may be as hard to swallow as one of those calcium horse-pills, but once you're in your 30s, your bone-building years are largely behind you.

People taking calcium supplements also tend to take too much, in my opinion. The recommended intake for adults is 1,000 to 1,500 mg. And that's the dosage that women who take calcium supplements usually take. However, they may already be getting 250 to 1000 mg of calcium from their diets.

The average diet provides 250 mg of calcium not counting dairy products. Every serving of milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese provides another 200-300 mg. Another 1,500 mg in a supplement is clearly overkill. One theory about the recent finding is that overloading the body with too much calcium can lead to an increase in the amount of calcium in the blood (and sadly, not the bones), where it can contribute to hardening of the arteries.

So, what should you do? Every situation is a little different and I think this is something you want to talk about with your physician, who can help you weigh the pros and cons based on your health history and other risk factors. But as a general rule, my advice for calcium is similar to my advice on other nutrients: food should be your primary source.

If you do take a calcium supplement, I suggest that you take only as much as you need to fill the gap between what your diet normally provides and the recommended intake. For a lot of people, that may only be 250 to 500mg.

And, should you still be in the bone-building years under 30, make hay while the sun shines. This is your chance to build strong bones for a lifetime. Don't squander it by sitting in front of the computer and drinking diet sodas. Eat a nutritious diet and get plenty of exercise!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Yankee 10 Miler

I returned to the Yankee homecoming after last year's meltdown at this race. I had that in the back of my head the whole time.Chris , Sarah, and Naomi were also racing up there. Brandon(a friend from the gym)and I walk up to the start line get in line for some strange everyone else got behind us. We are in the front row with all the elites..... I wanted to move back but there was a wall of people no where to go..The race starts the first couple of miles are on a slight decline. I kept telling myself to relax and get into a rhythm. It was hot but humidity on the low side. I had a plan water early and often..The 1st mile 7 mins felt alot slower. The next 3-4 miles hitting 7's feeling good. The bridge at Route 1 means the fun and the crowds are over ..There's about a 10k left on back road and some hills. The 5 mile mark 35'ish .This is where the meltdown started last year..I see Erin (bunny-ears) from Somerville just ahead of me. I notice I'm running closer to 7:15 now on the back stretch. Crossing Rt 95, there's 2 miles left but its feels like forever. Its long straight way that feels like it goes on forever. Hit mile 9 I'm feeling the effect but I get a short lived surge for about 400 meters but I still have 1200 to go. I'm hanging on by a tread. I can't see the turn , where is it,,,,,,probably said that 100 times..Finally get to the turn 200 to go the crowds are back and there going crazy....Finished up with a 1.11.45ish they didn't record my time.........I worn my new shoes.They were a huge hit with the Somerville Road Runners...They match there gear.....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why Flax Seeds Aren’t As Good As They’re Claimed To Be

Flax is commonly touted as a good way for everyone to get their omega-3 fatty acids. Add some to your cereal. Grind it on your toast. Add the oil to your salad dressing. Bad news for vegetarians today: I’m dispelling the rumor that flax is a good way to get your omega-3s.

Here is the simple reason that adding flax seeds or oil doesn’t work the way you’d like it to: flax contributes an omega-3 known as Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The problem with ALA is that it’s a short-chain fatty acid, only 18 carbons long, while the body needs the long-chain fatty acids known as Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Just remember the acronyms, there’s no reason to memorize those names.

So the body converts the short-chain ALA to the long-chain EPA and DHA. Unfortunately, this process is very inefficient, on the order of 5-10%. Ironically, the higher your intake of saturated fat, the more efficient this process is. But most people that are taking flax are very health-conscious and avoid saturated fat like the plague (that is a gross generalization, no source for that).
Converting ALA To EPA & DHA
Technically, flax is a good source of omega-3; it’s just the wrong form of it. So from a purely logical standpoint, it makes sense to focus on getting the EPA and DHA that the body uses directly rather than taking a precursor and hoping for the best.

And the best sources of EPA and DHA are animal products, specifically fish and grass-fed meats. The best sources are (in order) cold water fish, grass-fed meat, and eggs (properly raised eggs!). However, I find that to get a nice high intake of omega-3, supplementation is required, specifically supplementation with cod liver oil and fish oil. I use Carlson’s Very Finest lemon flavored oil and take a tbsp of both cod liver and fish oils per day for a total of 3g of DHA and 3.5g of EPA, give or take. The cod liver oil also contributes 2100-3600 IU of naturally-occurring vitamin A and 1200 IU of vitamin D.
Dealing With Inflammation

But here’s another kicker. One of the big benefits of omega-3s is their anti-inflammatory properties. Since we want to keep inflammation low, it makes sense to first avoid foods, activities, and lifestyle factors that cause inflammation and then to supplement our body to help it fight off the remaining inflammation. There appears to be conflicting information on whether supplementing with flax oil increases the amount of inflammation. Some studies say it increases inflammation, some say it does nothing, others say it decreases inflammation.

If you really need justification for increasing your omega-3 intake, omega-3s have been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, help with depression, possibly stave off Alzheimer’s, and keep Type I Diabetes at bay. The list goes on and on; search PubMed for “fish oil” and any disease/condition you want to learn about. I bet you’ll find some way that omega-3s help. Fatty acid deficiencies are associated with declines in cognitive function (see Alzheimer’s above), increases in ADD, dry skin, allergies, fatigue, and decreased immunity.
The Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio Is More Important

Most important though is the omega-6/omega-3 ratio. The typical American’s ratio is around 20:1, but it should be more in the range of 2:1 to 1:1. So along with increasing the amount of omega-3 you take in, you need to reduce the amount of omega-6 that you take in.

Major sources of omega-6 are the very foods that we’ve been told to eat lots of: vegetable oils and grains. A high omega-6 intake actually inhibits the body’s ability to use omega-3s because they occupy several of the same pathways.

Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory; optimally, they should balance. And finally, omega-6s promote tumor growth (like of the prostate), along with inflammatory and auto-immune disorders, all of which have taken off in the last half of the century.
Eat Foods Your Body Recognizes

I’m going to say the opposite: avoid vegetable oils and grains. They are unnatural substances that have no place in a healthful hunter-gatherer diet. If you’re eating a proper diet of meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, fruits, and tubers, you’re probably doing just fine. A little grain won’t hurt you, but a lot of grain will. And vegetable oils are quite likely rancid by the time you use them since polyunsaturated fats are so unstable, so ditch the corn and peanut oil and stick to olive, coconut, palm, and grass-fed animal fats.

It’s your call ..............

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ritz"it doesn't seem that hard to run 4:55 per mile and I hit the wall big-time"

Four years ago, Ritzenhein made a much-hyped debut in New York and received what was one of the largest, if not the largest, appearance fees for an American athlete in marathoning history.

The results were far from spectacular. His 2:14.01, 11th-place showing was far from an utter disaster, but certainly wasn't what he or American distance running fans wanted. The next three years resulted in more of the same, as Ritzenhein failed to make his mark internationally on the track or in the marathon, although his 9th-place showing in the Olympic marathon wasn't too shabby.

Still, ninth in the Olympics certainly was far from what was hoped for from "Ritz" - a guy who in high school absolutely dominated American record holders Ryan Hall and Alan Webb at the Foot Locker high school championships and earned a bronze medal at the junior World Cross-Country Championships.

However, after last year's coaching change to Alberto Salazar, which quickly resulted in a 12:56 American record at 5,000, as well as a bronze medal at the World Half Marathon Championships, Ritzenhein feels he is ready once again to tackle the 26.2 miles of of the ING New York City Marathon.

Ritzenhein later added, "I think with my first marathon in 2006, I went into with a pretty arrogant attitude as how easy it would be. I was 23 and it doesn't seem that hard to run 4:55 per mile and I hit the wall big-time there. The biggest lesson I learned from it was from the nutritional side. (Since then) I haven't hit the wall like I did there, running out of muscle glycogen where I was struggling to run 6:30 miles."

As for what the expectations are for New York, Ritzenhein didn't specially address that question, but it was clear from the opening of the call that the goal is simple - to win.

Salazar, himself a 3-time winner in New York, joined the teleconference a few minutes late after finishing up supervising the end of a workout involving Galen Rupp and Alan Webb on the Nike campus. Salazar was clearly excited as to what he thinks the future holds for Ritzenhein, as for the first time since college (when Ritzenhein started to be troubled by foot pain), Salazar thinks the issue has been figured out.

Foot Problems A Thing Of The Past?
"Things are going well. Obviously last year, Dathan had a breakout year. Of course, this winter, things didn't go well," said Salazar. "Dathan continued to have some foot problems that he's had for years and I thought by keeping him on soft surfaces and making sure that he was fully recovered that this would be taken care of, but he continued to have metatarsal problems."

"About six weeks ago, his training had been going very well. He'd been training very well for a couple of months - averaging about 90 miles a week. Then the metatarsal problems came up again and we finally started to do some in-depth studies on it."

Current Fitness Is Good
"He is in good shape now," said Salazar. "Over the last 3 months, he probably averaged about 85 miles per week. That;s a great base phase. (Plus) he;s done a lot of weight training, flexibility training."

"I feel his form is a lot better than it was even a year ago when he ran his American record in the 5k. I like what I see in terms of his biomechanics. The only thing is he hasn't had a chance to race and have fun. It's pretty boring to just be training all the time."

"I think New York is a great race for Dathan because he's a great cross-country runner," said Salazar. "It seems like good cross-country runners do well in New York."

When followed up with a question as to whether or not Salazar had confidence that Ritzenhein would ultimately be a top-notch marathoner, given the fact his 5k and 10k PRs convert to better than Ritz's 2:10:00 marathon best, Salazar said that he feels Ritz has both the form and psychology of a marathoner.

"Obviously, he's got the aerobic capacity to run a 2:07 or faster if you take his current 5k PRr. Then I look at what type of runner he is (and) I think he's got a great stride for the marathon. It's very efficient and not too bouncy. (And) he's now much more efficient in his arm carriage as we've done some form changes. I think form-wise he's very suited for it."

"I mean this morning Alan (Webb) and Galen (Rupp) were running a workout and we were talking about how those guys' ability to really push each other is going to help (them), and Dathan said to me, 'I wish I had someone to push me all those years.' And my comment to him was, 'Yeah, but you didn't and that's what has made you so tough as you had to push yourself.'"

"The only question one could have about Dathan is physically can he do the training and not come down with an injury?"

The next 16 weeks will prove whether Salazar is correct, but if he is, Ritz fans as well as American distance fans will be very excited on November 7th when the gun goes off to start the 2010 ING New York City marathon.

Editor's Addition: Ritz also said a few other interesting things in the teleconference that weren't really related to the upcoming marathon.

1. Ritz revealed that he didn't watch his American record fall in the 5,000 and he's never watched the race replay. Ritz says he was busy lifting weights at the time. "I recorded it but I never ended up watching it. I was anxiously awaiting the results. I knew everybody would let me know. It's really exciting that we've had four guys run under 12:58 (in the last year). That one record stood for 13 years. I knew I was just opening the floodgates and that it was a real mental barrier."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Form Running

Have you ever watched offensive and defensive linemen do so called “form running’ drills? It is the most nonathletic disjointed looking activity you could imagine, certainly the epitome of mindless exercise for this population. I think the players just go through the motions because they intuitively know it has nothing to do with the ability to play their position, it is another task they must complete before they get to the stuff that matters. Various permutations of from running including high knee skips, high knee running and pawing are predicated on having time in the air to recover the leg through in the step cycle – this is the opposite of what a lineman wants, for that matter virtually any athlete who has to change direction wants to do. To be effective they need to play with their feet close to ground in order to optimize their ability to change direction and keep their center of gravity over and inside their base of support. If you are using these types of drills for anyone besides a sprinter, jumper or hurdler in track and field you are probably wasting your time. I have heard the argument that they are good for hip mobility, yes they are, but there are better drills that have positive carry over to change of direction sports.

So what should you do? Jump rope, do ladder drills with short ladders, in short drills that emphasize getting the feet back to the ground with the hips over the base of support. Be creative and imaginative; devise drills that emphasize quickness in three to five second bursts. Drills that promote triple flexion of the ankle/knee/hip – the key to playing low. Playing low is rewarded in multidirectional sports.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why You Should Care About Resting Heart Rate

by Jesper Bondo Medhus

Resting heart rate is a simple tool that can be really helpful in several situations. I recommend all athletes to measure their resting heart rates once in while get a picture of their normal resting heart rates. It can help you to follow your body’s reaction to training, stress and environment.

When you have a good feeling of your normal beats per minute, it’s easier for you to discover illness, dehydration or lack of recovery.

The most common way to measure resting heart rate is to put on your heart rate monitor when you wake up in the morning. Stay in bed for a few minutes and then watch your heart rate.
Should you measure resting heart rate when you sleep?

Some people actually sleep with their strap around the chest to investigate their rhytms during the night and maybe catch an even lower resting heart rate when they sleep.

Even though sleeping with the transmitter sounds more correct, measuring the whole night does not tell you much more than measuring a few minutes in the morning. For practical implications the morning routine while be just fine. Your heart rate might have been three beats lower earlier in the morning but that doesn’t matter.

Don’t make things too complicated. Measure your resting heart rate in the morning and don’t worry about your absolute lowest heart rate during the night. The morning resting heart rate works very well for practical implications. It’s not rocket science, it’s just a hint about things you probably already have a clue about.
Why is your resting heart rate higher than normal?

Illness – If you have fever, you’re heart rate accelerates with 10-15 beats for every degree your temperature goes up. When you have fever: Don’t train.

Lack of recovery – If you’ve performed a hard training session the days before, it’s very likely that your resting heart rate is 4-to 8 beats higher than normal. This is a part of the response to intensive training. It does not mean that you’ve trained too hard, but it gives you an important hint that your body need some extra recovery time before new hard training session.

Dehydration – If you’re dehydrated your total blood volume goes down and forces your heart to beat faster. Read more about central adaptations to endurance training. If you go to a hotter climate, your body will have to acclimatize to higher temperatures and humidity.
Why is your resting heart rate lower than normal?

Overtraining – This is not so common, but it can happen when you’ve been overtrained for a longer period.

Progress – This is probably a trend you will discover over months rather than over night. You will probably already have noticed that your resting heart is lower when you are in good shape. This is because of a larger stroke volume or more correctly a bigger parasympathic drive on the sinus node.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Core

We’ve all heard about the core, and how it’s important for everything from back pain to sexy abs. But what is it, exactly?

You think you know? Name all the muscles that are part of the core.

Abdominal muscles– rectus abdominis (the six pack), transverse abdominis (muscle underneath the six pack), obliques; internal & external (muscles on either side of the six pack)
Lower back muscles – back extensors and quadratus lumborum
Upper back muscles – latissumus dorsi (lats)
Psoas muscle – muscle that runs from the front of the back to the upper leg

The quadratus lumborum (QL) is probably the most important muscle for back health you don’t know about. It’s attached to each the vertebra of your lower back (lumbar vertabra), your rib cage, and your hip (pelvis) and it’s involved in bending your body to the side (lateral flexion), but for the most part doesn’t change in length too much. By being attached to every vertebra, the QL provides support to each vertebral joint and seems to have a unique ability to stabilize the lower back.

The core acts as a support system to your spine. When we move, all the muscles of the core contract at the same time (co-contraction) to buttress (Dr. McGill’s word) the spine.

Traditional crunches – these stress discs of the back and don’t activate the core properly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What's in your bowl? New report fingers the least--nutritious cereals

The worst offenders (nutrition wise) of the cereal aisle, according to a report released today from Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity include:

* Reese's Puffs
* Corn Pops
* Lucky Charms
* Cinnamon Toast Crunch
* Cap'n Crunch
* Trix
* Froot Loops
* Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles
* Cocoa Puffs
* Cookie Crisp

The fact that Lucky Charms is among the least nutritious cereals on the market should surprise no one. (What's in those purple horseshoes anyway?) But it may shock you to know just how much moola cereal companies sink into selling your tot sugar. The average preschooler sees 642 cereal ads per year on television alone, almost all for cereals with the worst nutrition rankings, notes the report. The price tag for those spots? $156 million.

The exhaustive findings are chock full of shame-on-cereal-maker stats, such as the fact that children's cereals contain 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber and 60% more sodium than cereals aimed at adults. "The large cereal companies have chosen to aggressively market only their least nutritious products directly to children," assail the authors.

Marion Nestle, PhD, a professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University and author of several books, including Food Politics, has dutifully tracked this subject for years—she collects cereal boxes that make egregious health claims—and covers the report in her blog. Most troubling, she writes, is the "dual marketing." "Advertising aimed at kids pushes sugar. Advertising aimed at parents uses health claims..."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

11 Uses for Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a staple in my kitchen, bathroom and even the first aide kit. Virgin coconut oil is known over the world for it's anti-inflammatory, hydrating and even antimicrobial properties. This article is about using coconut oil for beauty, first aid and to calm the occasional upset tummy.

There are major differences in coconut oil. When you are ready to buy coconut oil make sure you get Virgin Coconut Oil, not the kind used in tanning oils etc. This is my favorite coconut oil from Dr. Mercola.

Ten ways to use coconut oil for beauty....

1. Moisturizer.... Rub into hands, feet, and legs for a soft glow and silky smooth skin. I like to use it on damp skin and always right after shaving my legs. It does take a little bit of time for your skin to absorb the oil but it is never greasy feeling!

2. For a natural lip balm.... Use a small dab on lips to keep them soft and supple.

3. For nails.... Use on your fingernails to give a hydrating seal that helps stop brittle nails and hangnails.

4. Deodorant...Coconut oil will deodorize anything it comes in contact with. Rub some on your feet and even underarms to prevent body odor.

5. Acne help... Dab coconut oil on breakouts and let the oil's lauric acid heal acne without the drying effect of chemicals.

6. Stomach aches... Drink hot coconut tea, add one or two tablespoons of coconut oil to hot water or tea. Coconut oil has antimicrobial acids that help stop indigestion causing bacteria and/or parasites.

7. Facial scrub... For a natural skin scrub add a teaspoon of sugar to about a tablespoon or two of coconut oil. Massage onto to skin and rinse for a glowing look and beautiful skin.

8. Anti-itch lotion...Use coconut oil on bug bites or rashes. The oil has anti-inflammatory agents that soothe the skin and stop the itch.

9. Hair tamer... Add a tiny bit of coconut oil to fizzy hair to tame and control. Just a TINY bit goes a long way to seal the cuticle.

10. Lubricant... Coconut oil is great for all hydrating and soothing dry skin,

11. And you can cook with it,,,,,,,,,

The 3rd Fastest 800 of All Time

Kenya's David Rudisha ran a 1:41.51 on Saturday evening at the KBC Nacht meet in Heusden (Netherlands) to become just the 4th man in history under 1:42-flat. Rudisha, whose previous PR was 1:42.01 from Rieti last September, now is the 2nd-fastest 800 man in history as he moved past both Seb Coe (1:41.73) and Joaquim Cruz (1:41.77) on the all-time list.
1:41.11 - Wilson Kipketer - August 24, 1997
1:41.24 - Wilson Kipketer - August 13, 1997
1:41.51 - David Rudisha - July 10, 2010
1:41.73 - Seb Coe - June 10, 1981
1:41.73 - Wilson Kipketer - July 7 1997
1:41.77 - Joaquim Cruz - August 26, 1984
1:41.83 - Wilson Kikpeter - September 1, 1996

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Staying Fast After 40

by Matt Fitzgerald

Endurance athletes who start competing in their teens or early 20s usually hit their lifetime performance peak somewhere around age 30. They typically maintain that peak for several years and then, sometime between 35 and 40, they start to slow down. Want to buck that trend? Here are five ways to stay fast after 40.

1. Evaluate Your Endurance Sports Nutrition Plan

Many endurance athletes in their 20s and 30s seem to suffer no obvious dips in performance due to poor eating habits. But the older we get, the more we are slowed down by dietary missteps like eating too many sweets and not enough vegetables. So whether your current diet is bad, average, or pretty good, moving it a step closer to perfect will give you a competitive advantage against your younger self. It’s never too late to start giving your muscles better fuel.

2. Try Technology to Boost Your Marathon Training or Triathlon Training

There are various kinds of technology that can elevate your performance level. For example, investing in a speed and distance device or power meter can help you train more effectively in running or cycling, respectively, while investing in an altitude tent can give you a quick boost in VO2max.

Such technologies are available to younger and older athletes alike, of course, but older athletes often have an easier time affording them. Speaking for myself, I’ve been able to invest more in performance-enhancing technologies as I’ve gotten older, and it has paid off. Last year, for example, I bought an altitude tent and a high-end indoor bike trainer. Using them brought my cycling performance to a higher level than ever at age 38.

3. Take Muscle Recovery Seriously

Along with a dip in top-end speed, an important effect of aging on training that most endurance athletes notice early on is a loss of recovery capacity. While you’re still able to do more or less the same workouts you’ve done in the past, you start to notice that you just don’t bounce back from them quite as quickly.

To limit the negative effects of not being able to perform hard marathon training runs or triathlon training rides as often, you need to take your recovery very seriously. Religiously practice all of the measures that can help you speed muscle recovery after a workout, including post-workout nutrition, ice baths, massage, and wearing compression socks. In addition, listen to your body and adapt by spacing out your key sessions a little more in your training. This is a concession to aging that will actually reduce the effects of aging on your race performances compared to what would happen if you tried to train like the younger you.

4. Stretch and Strength Train

Our muscles and joint tissues lose elasticity as we age, and our muscles also shrink and lose strength. Therefore, it’s important to increase your commitment to stretching and strength training after age 35 to stave off these effects of growing older. Since most younger endurance athletes take their strength and flexibility for granted and do little strength training and stretching, you can actually reverse the aging process to some degree for a while by doing these things and maintain peak performance to age 40 and beyond.

5. Customize Your 10K Training or Half-Marathon Training

Because each athlete’s body responds to training in a unique way, each athlete has an ideal training formula that is a little different from any other athlete’s. And the more years you invest in your training, the easier it becomes to discover that ideal training formula. Sure, you may lose a bit of speed each year after age 35, but you can make up the difference in performance for a while by applying a little more of what you’ve learned about your body to each year’s training.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The 7 Rules of Good Nutrition

By Dr. John M Berardi, Ph.D.

Here’s my take on it. I call these principles, "The 7 Rules of Good Nutrition."

These aren’t the newest techniques from the latest cutting-edge plan. Rather, they are simple, time-tested, no nonsense habits that you need to get into when designing a good eating program.

1. Eat every 2-3 hours, no matter what. You should eat between 5-8 meals per day.

2. Eat complete (containing all the essential amino acids), lean protein with each meal.

3. Eat fruits and/or vegetables with each food meal.

4. Ensure that your carbohydrate intake comes from fruits and vegetables. Exception: workout and post-workout drinks and meals.

5. Ensure that 25-35% of your energy intake comes from fat, with your fat intake split equally between saturates (e.g. animal fat), monounsaturates (e.g., olive oil), and polyunsaturates (e.g. flax oil, salmon oil).

6. Drink only non-calorie containing beverages, the best choices being water and green tea.

7. Eat mostly whole foods (except workout and post-workout drinks).
So what about calories, or macronutrient ratios, or any number of other things that I’ve covered in other articles? The short answer is that if you aren’t already practicing the above-mentioned habits, and by practicing them I mean putting them to use over 90% of the time (i.e., no more than 4 meals out of an average 42 meals per week violate any of those rules), everything else is pretty pointless.

Moreover, many people can achieve the health and the body composition they desire following these 7 rules alone. No kidding! In fact, with some of my clients I spend the first few months just supervising their adherence to these 7 rules—an effective but costly way to learn them.

If you’ve reached the 90% threshold, you may need a bit more individualization beyond the 7 rules. If so, search around on this site. Many of these little tricks can be found in my many articles published right here. But before looking for them, before assuming you’re ready for individualization; make sure you’ve truly mastered the 7 rules. Then, while keeping the 7 rules as the consistent foundation, tweak away.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

Why Are You Still Drinking Gatorade?

By Dr. John M Berardi, Ph.D.

Carb drinks during and after training are good - athletes shouldn’t be stopping with carbs – they should be adding protein. Oh, I know, I know. Gatorade and Powerade have convinced you that carbs alone are the way to go. They’ve also told ya that the extra protein is either useless of will build bulky muscles.

Well, frankly, that’s nonsense.

What you’re witnessing are the attempts of companies selling carb-only drinks to justify their existence. The longer they keep the wool over your eyes, the more profits they can make from inferior carb-only drinks before their product becomes obsolete. After all, the writing is on the wall. Enlightened athletes are starting to realize that if they want to really supercharge their nutrition and recovery, they need to go the next step. And the next step is using targeted workout and post workout recovery drinks that include both carbohydrate and protein.

Why protein? Well check out this list of benefits:

-Increased muscle protein synthesis

-Better and faster recovery from endurance, strength, & interval training

-Reduced muscle soreness and perception of fatigue

-Decreased muscle protein breakdown

-Further enhanced glycogen resynthesis vs carbohydrate alone

-Further enhanced immune function vs carbohydrate alone

-Increased use of fat for energy at rest as well as during training and competition

Now, at this point, we’re talking about athletes with more muscle strength, less body fat, an even stronger immune system, and the ability to train at higher intensities, more frequently. If you can’t see the benefits associated with this approach, you’d better get your head examined.

So if you’re an athlete, let me pose this question to you – what are you drinking during and after training?

And coaches, the same question applies – what are your athletes drinking during and after training?

If it’s either water-only or water plus carbs, let me ask the next question – how long is going to take before you realize that the addition of protein to your traditional carb drink can absolutely supercharge performance while improving recovery and training adaptation curves?

Sure, there are a lot of both strength/power and endurance athletes out there that know the recommendations – they know that they should be taking in some carbohydrate during and/or after training. However, even the ones diligent enough to take their carbs are often using the wrong ones, in the wrong amounts, and at the wrong times.

For example, when I talk to my athletes about workout nutrition, the ones who actually do use glucose electrolyte drinks often have absolutely no idea how much carbohydrate or how many calories they’re taking in per drink or per training session. All they know is that they drink a bottle of Gatorade or similar drink during training. Whether that Gatorade has 10g of carbohydrate or 100g, they don’t know.

They also don’t know the following:

-Whether that Gatorade has any protein in it

-Whether to drink the Gatorade before, during, or after training

-How many grams of carbohydrate and protein they’re getting/hour of training

-How to adjust their carbohydrate and protein intake based on body type

-How to adjust their carbohydrate and protein intake based on duration or intensity of effort

And, truth be told, these are all huge problems – especially for elite athletes – both of the endurance and the strength/power persuasion.

Practical Workout Nutrition

At this point, I’d like to share with you some of the workout nutrition protocols I use and find most effective with my strength/power and endurance athletes. (Remember, when I use athlete in this context, I’m talking about competitive athletes who train a few hours per day). That’s right, here’s where it gets really practical.

Workout Nutrition - Baseline

As a baseline, start by ingesting 30g carbohydrate and 15g protein (in 500ml water) per hour of training. This means if you’re training for one total hour, you’re sipping your 30g carb and 15g protein drink during that hour. And if you’re training for two hours, you’re sipping your first 30g carb and 15g protein drink during the first hour and your second 30g carb and 15g protein drink during the second hour. And so on…

Then, once your workout is done, you’ll have a whole food meal within an hour or two of training.

Workout Nutrition - Customization

For most athletes, the baseline recommendations above should do the trick. However, there are a few situations that may require special attention:

First, if you’re an athlete who naturally has a very ectomorphic body type and tends to have a very difficult time maintaining body mass during high volume and/or high intensity training blocks or during competition periods (World Cups, etc), follow the strategy above and then, immediately after your workout, add another drink containing 30g of carbohydrate and 15g protein. After this drink, within 1-2 hours post exercise, have a whole food meal.

Further, if you’re this type of athlete and you still need more recovery power and total dietary energy (after trying the above strategy), add an additional 15g of carbohydrate per training hour. This means each of your drinks would contain 45g carbohydrate and 15g protein per hour of training.

Second, if you’re an athlete who naturally has more of an endomorphic body type and tends to gain weight easily or tends to gain fat during competition periods (World Cups, etc) when eating a higher carbohydrate diet, you’ll want to half the recommendation above by ingesting 30g carbohydrate and 15g protein for every 2 hours of training. Therefore you’d be averaging 15g carbohydrate and 7.5g protein for every hour of training.

In addition to this, you’d add BCAA(branched chain amino acids) into your workout drink at a rate of 5g BCAA per hour of training. Therefore you’d end up with 15g carbohydrate, 7.5g protein, and 5g BCAA for every hour of training.

Of course, all of these strategies work best as part of an all-round good nutritional plan. So don’t take these suggestions in isolation and think they alone are going to revolutionize your recovery. Sure, they’ll help. But you’ve gotta make sure you’re feeding well during the other 20+ hours of the day. And for more info on how you can do this, check out the Precision Nutrition program here.

At this point, one question I’m often asked is this:

“Can’t we just have a big post-exercise recovery drink? Why recommend a certain amount of workout drink per hour of training?”

The answer to the first question is no. The answer to the second is below.

First of all, having high blood concentrations of glucose (from the carbohydrate) and amino acids (from protein) during exercise is advantageous as the blood flow to working muscles is highest at this time. So, with a lot of nutrient-rich blood flowing to your working muscles, those nutrients will be best used for performance enhancement and recovery. Simply put, carbohydrate protein drinks are more effective when ingested during exercise vs after exercise.

In addition to the physiological reasons above, there’s a very practical reason for recommending a certain amount of workout nutrition per hour of training – this recommendation helps you easily and efficiently regulate your daily energy intake such that it mirrors your training volume.

For example, if you’re training 1 hour per day, you’ll need less total dietary energy than if you’re training 4 hours per day – but more dietary energy than if you didn’t train at all. So rather than trying to tinker around with your staple meals on a day-by-day basis, trying to eat “bigger” meals when you’re training more and “smaller” meals when you’re training less (these strategies being imprecise and difficult to objectively apply), all you have to do is have a few more or a few less workout drinks and your daily calorie intake upregulates or downregulates. Watch how this works:

Training Volume*
Energy From Workout Drinks**

0 hours of training (day off)
Baseline intake + 0 extra calories

1 hour of training
Baseline intake + 180 extra calories

2 hours of training
Baseline intake + 360 extra calories

3 hours of training
Baseline intake + 540 extra calories

4 hours of training
Baseline intake + 720 extra calories

*Of course, intensity of training can also be taken into account, however this is beyond the scope of this article and, to be honest, this level of detail isn’t necessary for a large percentage of my athletes.

**These calorie calculations assume the athlete is using the baseline recommendation of 30g carbs and 15g protein per hour of training.

Finally, another question I’m often asked is this:

“This applies only to strength and power athletes, right? After all, everyone knows endurance athletes shouldn’t eat all that protein.”

Once again, nonsense. This information is applicable to all types of hard training high performance athletes. In fact, these recommendations were derived from a combination of a) my PhD studies, done with endurance cyclists and triathletes, b) my early coaching work with the Canadian National Cross Country Ski Team, and c) my early coaching work with the US National Bobsled Team. And these recommendations continue to work with all my athletes – from short burst, speed/power athletes (the Spike Cycling Team and Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton) to intermittent, anaerobic athletes (The Toronto Maple Leafs), to long duration cyclists and skiers (Cross Country Canada).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thoughts on Middle Distance & Distance Training

From Functional Path Training

Here are some of my thoughts on training middle distance and distance runners. I continue to be amazed at the things that I see going on in training. We have been down this path so many times before I am amazed that the same questions are being asked and the same mistakes are repeated. In my 41 year coaching career I have been fortunate to work with some great middle distance and distance athletes (male & female) and some great coaches. Here are some of the things I have learned.

Anyone can run miles – It is what you put into the miles that count. More miles can make you tired, but they do not necessarily make you better.

Stop slogging – Slow running and shuffling are poor foot strikes that just reinforce poor biomechanics.

Work on race distribution not race pace. Races are never run at even pace. Learn to change gears. Learn your race and how you best need to run that race and train accordingly.

Become race “hardened” – Learn how to race. The only way you can learn how to race is race, race over your race distance and under your race distance. If you are an 800 or 1500 meter runner try to run the second or third leg in a 4 x 400 relay as much as possible.

ALWAYS include an element of speed in training at all times of the year. If you are waiting to start speed work you are waiting to get beat.

Running strength comes from an accumulation of training over time.

Progress in your volume by adding training sessions, not by adding more to a session. If you are running once a day add two morning sessions a week. If you are running five days a week add a day. Progress gradually, never compromise good mechanics or quality.

Strength training must be an integral part of the runner’s preparation during all phases of the year. You must train leg strength. Strength is the basis for speed and injury prevention. A good comprehensive functional strength training program will help with postural integrity, joint integrity and shock absorption.

Use Bowerman’s axiom of a hard day followed by an easy day. Make hard/easy your mantra.

Read Run, Run, Run by Fred Wilt and Modern Training for Running by Ken Doherty. Both were written more than forty years ago. I know you will think I am living in the past, but both these books are spot on with clear messages and information that today’s coaches need. They are not confused by scientific gobbledygook, just good coaching information.