Thursday, May 31, 2012

10 Habits For Long-Term Weight Loss Maintenance

Avoid Sugar:
Keeping a food journal: 
Eating protein with every meal:
Cooking at home:
Planning ahead:
Going to bed on time:
Letting go of what others think:
Read the whole piece 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why Recovery Days?

I recently answered this question for a German magazine. It's an issue that is seldom discussed and often taken for granted--recovery.
Question: Why are recovery days so essential? What happens to the body on a recovery day? What’s the best way to plan a recovery day?
Answer: I tell athletes that the hard training days only create the potential for fitness. They don’t result in fitness improvements unless there is rest. For it’s during short-term rest that the body adapts to the stresses of exercise. Muscle strength and endurance improves. The heart’s stroke volume (amount of blood pumped per beat) increases. Capillary beds in muscles grow allowing the heart to deliver more oxygen. Aerobic enzymes increase. Blood volume increases further enhancing oxygen delivery. Glycogen stores are restocked allowing for harder workouts in the following days. And these are only some of the physical changes that result from recovery.
Recovery days come in two forms: days of complete rest ("passive" recovery) and days with light exercise ("active" recovery). Passive recovery is generally best for novices. If they take the day off from exercise the day after a workout they will improve greatly. For the pure novice any form of training may very well be too stressful. As fitness improves, the recovery days are better spent doing some very light exercise. For the novice this could be light cross training in a sport such as swimming or cycling. Novice runners should never run on a recovery day. It's simply too stressful even for somewhat advanced novices.
The advanced, experienced athlete is best advised to train lightly on a recovery day as this maintains some of the most basic gains made in previous, harder sessions, especially economy of movement and aerobic endurance. Given the advanced athlete's high level of fitness, such a light training session is not stressful. But it must be easy. Making these sessions too hard is the most common mistake in training at this level. 
Regardless of one’s level of experience or fitness, the harder the hard workouts, the easier one’s recovery days should be.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Six Surprising Foods with More Sugar than a Twinkie


By Dr. Mercola
Of all the foods capable of inflicting damage in your body, sugar is one of the most damaging of all.
Sugar, and the type of sugar known as fructose, in particular, is an extremely potent pro-inflammatory agent that creates advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and speeds up the aging process.
It also promotes the kind of dangerous growth of fat cells around your vital organs which is the hallmark of diabetes and heart disease.
Sugar also increases your insulin and leptin levels and decreases receptor sensitivity for both of these vital hormones, and this is another major factor of premature aging and age-related chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, as well as a leading cause of the climbing rates of overweight and obesity in developed countries.
That sugar is bad for your health is probably old news to you by now, but what may surprise you is just how much sugar is lurking in foods that are often passed off as "healthy."
Many supposedly "good for you" foods have more sugar than a Twinkie!

Are You Eating These Sugar-Laden "Health" Foods?

The Huffington Post recently outed several foods that are so high in sugar, you may as well be eating a candy bar.
All of these also have more sugar than a Twinkie …
  • Yogurt: Most commercial yogurt is loaded with sugar – as in, over 30 grams for 6 ounces! This, along with the fact that commercial yogurt is pasteurized (and some also contains artificial colors and flavors), is why you should walk right on by the yogurt section at your supermarket. Watch out, too, for "light" yogurt brands that boast less sugar due to toxic artificial sweeteners.
  • On the other hand, yogurt that is made from raw organic milk, and which you eat either plain or only minimally sweetened with some berries or liquid stevia, is a true health food. This is something you can easily do at home and use the healthiest raw ingredients, including organic grass-fed raw milk as the starter.
  • Tomato Sauce: A cup of tomato sauce can add up to over 20 grams of sugar, and considering that most people eat that tomato sauce on top of pasta, another carb source, this could send you into sugar overload. Watch out, specifically, for brands that contain added sweeteners. Tomato sauce is a far better choice than a candy bar, but, ideally, make your own sauce at home, and serve it over shredded spaghetti squash instead of noodles.
  • Granola Bars: Sugar is often one of the top ingredients in granola bars, and, in fact, most are not much different than a candy bar, nutritionally speaking. Even the granola is simply another form of "hidden sugar" that most people eat far too much of. Remember, sugar and dietary carbohydrates (including grains like granola, which break down into sugar) lead to excess body fat, obesity and related health issues. No amount of exercise can compensate for this damage because if you eat a lot of sugar, it could be "reprogramming" your body to become fat.
  • Fat-Free Salad Dressing: When manufacturers take the fat out of a food, sugar is often added back in as a replacement. Fat-free French or Thousand Island dressings can contain over 40 grams of sugar as a result, turning a would-be healthy salad into something more resembling a dessert. Don't be fooled by the "fat-free" label -- it's the carbs that are the culprit in weight gain and chronic disease.
  • Muffins: The high amount of carbs in most muffins will profoundly interfere with your leptin and insulin levels, and that is true even if it's a "healthy" muffin, like a bran muffin. Of course, in order to make a bran muffin palatable, it probably contains quite a bit of added sugar, on top of the grains it's made with. Many muffins are also jumbo-sized, easily packing over 30 grams of sugar, or more.
  • Canned Fruit: Fruit in and of itself can be problematic if eaten in excess, as it's a source of naturally occurring fructose. But many canned fruits are also packed in sugary syrup, loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Just one cup of canned peaches or pears can contain over 30 grams of sugar. You're far better off with a fresh piece of fruit instead, but use moderation. I recommend restricting your consumption of fructose to no more than 25 grams per day, with a maximum of 15 grams a day from fresh fruit. If you're already overweight, or have cancer, heart disease or diabetes (or are at high risk of them), then you're probably better off cutting that down to 10-15 grams per day -- fruit included. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Raw Organic Grass Fed Butter 

Butter made from raw organic grass-fed milk can be a very healthy part of your diet. (For sources of raw butter, visit  I typically have anywhere between a half a pound, to a pound of raw organic grass-fed butter per week.

It's an excellent source of high-quality nutrients, including:
 Vitamins, such as vitamin A, needed for a wide range of functions, from maintaining good vision to keeping the endocrine system in top shape, and all the other fat-soluble vitamins (D, E and K2), which are often lacking in the modern industrial diet.

 Trace minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper and selenium (a powerful antioxidant). Butter provides more selenium per gram than wheat germ or herring. It's also an excellent source of iodine.

 Healthful fats, including short- and medium-chain fats, which support immune function, boost metabolism and have anti-microbial properties, as well as the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, and arachidonic acid, which is important for brain function, skin health and prostaglandin balance.

 Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), a compound that gives excellent protection against cancer and also helps your body build muscle rather than store fat.

 Glycospingolipids, a special category of fatty acids that protect against gastrointestinal infections, especially in the very young and the elderly. 

 Wulzen Factor, a hormone-like substance that prevents arthritis and joint stiffness, ensuring that calcium in your body is put into your bones rather than your joints and other tissues. The Wulzen factor is present only in raw butter and cream; it is destroyed by pasteurization.


You can find some at Trader Joe's.........


Thursday, May 24, 2012

6 Dirty Secrets You Never Knew about Protein Powders and Supplements

They contain Heavy Metals

Arsenic, cadmium, and lead--to be exact.  It is well known that many packaged goods have a minimal tolerable limit for containing these types of toxic metals, and that is why I avoid those products. Heavy metals can lead to kidney problems, neurological disorders, and cancer. The worst part is that it takes your body 5 years on average to rid itself of these toxic elements. Remember arsenic? Yes, people use this to poison and kill other people and it is in your breakfast smoothie.

Improve your health by growing some fresh air…

We’re now in thick of the gardening and growing season across most of the country. When I think about gardening and growing different types of plants, I have to admit that I’m mostly thinking about food and what I would like to eat later (ok, ok, this is typically what I’m always thinking about). So, it was really refreshing to come across this book by Dr. B.C. Wolverton called, “How to grow fresh air.”
This book represents over 25 years of research that Dr. Wolverton conducted with folks at NASA, but it is not overly technical or heavy on the science. The premise was simple – how might one use plants to clean, purify, and improve the air in a lunar habitat? The answers came from many studies of different types of plants to identify which ones absorbed environmental toxins and how much of those toxins they could clear from the air. So, if you are someone with allergies, respiratory problems, fatigue, or headaches, this book is for you.
In the book, Dr. Wolverton rates 50 different houseplants on the dimensions of “removal of chemical vapors,” “ease of growth and maintenance,” “resistance to insect infestation,” and “transpiration rate” (how much humidity the plant can be expected to put out). He also gives each plant a numerical overall rating.
So, what are some of the things that we’ve learned so far?
  • Plants like the Boston fern and the Florist’s mum remove the most formaldehyde from the air (formaldehyde is the most common air toxin in homes – it is used in the manufacture of plywood, particle board, carpets, adhesives, fabrics, etc., etc.)
  • Plants like the Areca palm and the Dwarf date palm remove the most xylene and toluene from the air (these compounds are found in paints, adhesives, tiles, caulking, and computer equipment)
  • Plants like the Lady palm and the King of hearts remove the most ammonia from the air (a common ingredient in a number of cleaning products)
There’s lots more in this great book, such as which plants release oxygen at night and carbon dioxide during the day (the reverse of most plants), since these are the types of plants that you want providing fresh oxygen in your bedroom at night. At Dan’s Plan, we enjoy finding paths to better health in unexpected places and “How to grow fresh air“ was a pleasant surprise. So go get a few of these houseplants and improve your air!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Take DHA-Rich Fish Oil For a Healthier Gut: Make Your Brain Work Better Too
Take DHA-rich fish oil to improve your gut health and improve your brain function. Research shows that the DHA-rich omega-3 fatty acid that is found in fish oil will kill dangerous bacteria that infects the gut. Anyone whose taken my BioSignature course knows that an unhealthy gut will lead to poor brain function.

Heliobactor pylori is an unhealthy bacteria that is extremely common, infecting the gastrointestinal tract, and causing ulcers and stomach cancer. It normally requires an intense antibiotic regimen to cure, but new drug-resistant strains of H. pylori have developed, making new treatment strategies necessary. Plus, there are severe side effects from antibiotictreatment, people tend to comply poorly, the medication is expensive, and reinfection is common.

A new study shows that a large DHA-rich fish oil supplement can help cure H. pylori, while improving overall gut health. The study tested the effect of standard antibiotic therapy, DHA therapy, or a combination of the two on H. pylori infection in the gut of mice. Results showed that the combination therapy worked best, completing eradicating the bacteria The antibiotic therapy was more effective than the DHA, but just taking the DHA cured 50 percent of the mice of H. pylori.

Researchers suggest that a large DHA dose should be taken all the time because of its antibacterial properties. That way, your body will be able to kill all pathogenic bacteria before they become a problem. Simply taking DHA may not be sufficient if you already have a problem with H. pylori, but it can support the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy. Additionally, in this study, results showed that the mice treated with just DHA had less inflammation in the gut and stomach than a control group that also had H. pylori, indicating that DHA can protect gut health, while helping eradicate dangerous bacteria.

Taking DHA will also improve brain function because having bacterial pathogens in the gut will impede brain function by inhibiting the healthy production of chemical transmitters. DHA is also a natural component of the human brain and it helps maintain the structural integrity of cell membranes. If you don’t have enough DHA in your brain, cognitive function and memory will be poor, while the whole nervous system will not be able to perform at its best.
This study doesn’t suggest a DHA dose, but other studies have shown cognitive benefits from 3 grams a day. This way you’ll ensure increased blood flow to the brain and support the antibiotic effect in the gut.  It wouldn’t be a bad thing to take larger quantities—I’ve seen the most dramatic fat loss on a high fish oil dose of 1 to 1.5 grams of fish oil per percent of body fat per day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How Bad is Peanut Butter, Really?

Peanut butter is a decent source of thiamin, niacin, folate, and magnesium. It’s actually fairly rich in polyphenols, particularly when roasted (which increases the coumaric acid content considerably). Peanuts also contain small amounts of CoQ10 and resveratrol, though I’d much rather get those from beef heart, sardines, and red wine, personally.

Now, The Bad.

Why should we avoid it? What’s not to like about peanut butter? I’m not even going to discuss the soybean oil and sugar-laden garbage that passes for peanut butter, because my readers definitely aren’t asking about that stuff. They’re doing natural butter with peanuts (and salt) as likely the only ingredient.
It generally contains aflatoxins.
Aflatoxins are naturally occurring fungal toxins, or mycotoxins, produced by certain members of Aspergillus, a type of fungus found pretty much everywhere throughout the world. Aspergillus tends to colonize any monosaccharide and polysaccharide it comes across, as long as the conditions are right, but peanuts are particularly susceptible. Most crops are colonized after harvest and during storage, but since Aspergillus is found in the soil (among other places) and peanuts grow underground, peanut colonization often occurs well before harvest. The result is that peanuts are among the most contaminated crops, along with corn and cottonseed. READ MORE

How Training Affects Your Perception of Pain

Interesting new review by German researchers in the journal Pain on pain perception in athletes, aggregating the results of 15 previous studies (abstract here; press release here). Some key insights:
  • Athletes clearly have higher pain tolerance than the general population. That's a correlation, but what about causation? Does hard training increase your pain tolerance, or do naturally tough bastards tend to take up sports? There's no clear answer, but a strong hint comes from one 12-week study of non-athletes in which aerobic training significantly increased their pain tolerance. It could be a mix of both factors, though.
  • These measurements of pain tolerance aren't taken during or immediately after exercise. It's well known that exercise helps you block out pain, but these are measurements of "baseline" pain tolerance, independent of adrenaline and endorphins and so on.
  • While athletes showed increased pain tolerance, they didn't show any difference in pain threshold (the level of stimulus at which they start perceiving pain). In other words, it's not that athletes don't feel pain -- they feel it the same as everyone else, but they've learned to cope with or ignore it.
  • "[E]ndurance athletes had a moderate tolerance for pain and their scores were fairly uniform. Athletes involved in game sports had a higher tolerance for pain than other athletes, but the results varied widely, suggesting that endurance athletes are more alike in their physical and psychological profiles, while athletes involved in game sports are more diverse. "
  • The findings about pain threshold vs. pain tolerance are consistent with the literature on chronic pain management. Exercise helps pain patients improve their quality of life, but doesn't decrease the actual amount of pain they feel. They're just able to tolerate it better.
  • A final quote from the paper, which I think is on the money: "Athletes are frequently exposed to unpleasant sensory experiences during their daily physical efforts, and high physical and psychological resistances must be overcome during competitions or very exhausting activities. However, athletes are forced to develop efficient pain-coping skills because of their systematic exposure to brief periods of intense pain. Therefore, pain coping is an integral part of athletic training, and coping skills are important features in the development of athletic character."
Among the many, many benefits I feel I've derived from training over the years, the ability to tolerate temporary discomfort without getting too worked up about it has got to be right up there among the most useful.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Should You Work Out Sore?

Should I wait until my sore muscles recover before working them again?
A: “The quick answer is yes,” says Scott K. Lynn, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at California State University in Fullerton, Calif. “Having appropriate rest between workouts and work cycles is essential to accomplishing training goals — it’s during the recovery and regeneration period that your muscles heal themselves.”
It’s also crucial you get proper nutrition and sleep. “You can speed the regeneration process by doing ‘active recovery’ such as low-impact exercise and hydrotherapy [e.g., range-of-motion drills in the pool and alternating hot-cold baths],” adds Lynn. “Self-massage using foam rollers, sticks, tennis balls or golf balls can also loosen tight spots.”
Most experts recommend alternating movements and muscle groups each day to allow certain muscle groups to rest while working others. Consult with a fitness professional to create a long-term strategy.
Whole truth? I hardly ever wait until I’m no longer sore, and I’ve suffered no ill effects. But you should keep the experts’ advice in mind, and experiment to find out what gives you the best results.

Friday, May 18, 2012

96% of restaurant entrees exceed USDA limits

A whopping 96% of main entrees sold at top U.S. chain eateries exceed daily limits for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reports the 18-month study conducted by the Rand Corp. and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"If you're eating out tonight, your chances of finding an entree that's truly healthy are painfully low," says Helen Wu, assistant policy analyst at Rand who oversaw the study. It examined the nutritional content of 30,923 menu items from 245 restaurant brands across the USA. "The restaurant industry needs to make big changes to be part of the solution," she says.
     The restaurant industry is "employing a wide range" of healthier-living strategies, says Joan McGlockton, vice president of food policy at the National Restaurant Association. Among them: putting nutritional information on menus, adding more healthful items and launching a 2011 program at nearly 100 brands in more than 25,000 locations that offers children's meals in line with 2010 dietary guidelines.
Even then, the restaurant industry-supported "Healthy Dining" seal of approval is too generous on sodium, Wu says. It allows up to 2,000 milligrams of sodium for one main entree, while the USDA's daily recommended limit for most adults is 2,300 milligrams, she says.
Other highlights of the study, which is posted on Public Health Nutrition:
•Appetizers can be calorie bombs. Appetizers — while often shared — averaged 813 calories, compared with main entrees, which averaged 674 calories per serving, Wu says.
•Family restaurants fared worse than fast-food. Entrees at family-style restaurants on average have more calories, fat and sodium than fast-food restaurants. Entrees at family-style eateries posted 271 more calories, 435 more milligrams of sodium and 16 more grams of fat than fast-food restaurants, Wu says.
•Kid "specialty" drinks often aren't healthy. Many drinks offered on kids' menus have more fat and saturated fat on average than regular drinks. While regular menu drinks had a median of 360 calories, the median number of calories in kid specialty drinks, such as shakes and floats, was 430. The message to parents, Wu says: "It's the little extras you order that add up."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Study questions whether raising “good" cholesterol reduces heart attack risk


Raising levels of “good” cholesterol may not be so good for you after all. A study published Wednesday by Boston-area scientists challenges the long-held idea that HDL cholesterol actively protects against heart disease, finding that people with genes that boosted their HDL did not have a lowered risk of heart attacks.
In the study appearing in the medical journal The Lancet, a team led by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute examined the health of more than 100,000 people, some of them with genetic variations that elevated their levels of HDL, and found that those variations did not protect against heart attacks.
The results come shortly after a clinical trial of an HDL-raising drug being tested by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche was halted, only the most recent high-profile problem to surface with a potential treatment aimed at lowering heart disease risk by boosting HDL.
“What this really suggests to us is we can’t simply assume just because something raises HDL cholesterol in the blood, that risk for heart attack will be lowered,” said Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, a cardiologist at Mass. General and associate member of the Broad Institute who led the work. “It’s very important, because if you ask the average person, the average doctor when they see someone with low HDL cholesterol, their impulse is to raise it with something.”
For several decades, the medical community has been drumming into patients the importance of knowing their cholesterol readings -- many people can rattle off their levels of the “bad” LDL cholesterol and “good” HDL as easily as their Social Security number. Studies had found that higher levels of LDL were associated with increased risk for heart attacks, while the opposite was true for HDL. It’s also been clearly shown that statins, drugs that lower LDL cholesterol, decrease cardiovascular risk. But it has been unclear whether the association with HDL was analogous -- whether raising HDL levels would be protective.
To test this notion in the new study, the scientists studied a gene variation that is present in about 2.6 percent of the population and raises HDL levels, with no effect on other cardiovascular risk factors. People with that gene should have a 13 percent decreased risk of heart attack, the researchers calculated. But when they compared them with people who did not have the gene, there was no difference in heart attack risk. In a second study, researchers examined a panel of 14 genetic variations that raised HDL levels and found inheriting those variations did not confer protection against heart attacks either.
For years, epidemiological studies have found that naturally high HDL levels are associated with heart disease protection, but it has not been clear whether those high levels are themselves protective. They could, for example, simply be a marker of a healthy lifestyle.
The researchers said HDL cholesterol, combined with other factors, remains a valuable way to assess a person’s risk for a heart attack. And outside scientists said the new study does not definitely show that raising HDL fails to protect against heart attacks. For example, there may be subtypes of HDL, some of which reduce and some of which promote cardiovascular risk.
In a study published online last month in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health, found that people with a certain type of HDL had an elevated risk of heart disease. Those with high levels of a protein, called apolipoprotein C-III, attached to their HDL molecules had about a 60 percent greater risk of developing heart disease over the next 10 to 14 years compared with people with low levels of this protein.
“There’s a growing concept that maybe not all HDL is good, that maybe some is bad even,” Sacks said.
If confirmed in future studies, the finding could pave the way for more sophisticated cholesterol testing to tease out the different kinds of HDL. Physicians could use such a distinction to better determine which patients should be treated more aggressively with cholesterol-lowering statins, Sacks added, to prevent heart disease.
“It’s not a test we can order right now,” said Sacks, “but that’s where I hope we’ll go.”
Already, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the development and testing of drugs aimed at raising HDL, leading to high-profile failures.
Roche last week announced it terminated a late-stage trial of an HDL-raising drug called dalcetrapib after an independent committee found a lack of “clinically meaningful efficacy.” That followed the 2006 suspension of a trial of torcetrapib, a Pfizer drug, because there were more deaths among patients receiving the experimental drug combination than one of the drugs alone. That drug also raised blood pressure.
Other companies are still pursuing drugs aimed at raising HDL levels, including Merck and Eli Lilly and Co., said Steve Scala, a pharmaceutical industry analyst for Cowen and Co. Even if drugs still in development succeed, it may be difficult to tease out whether their success stems from raising HDL. For example, Merck’s drug anacetrapib also lowers LDL.
“We treat LDL very well, and yet people still die of heart attacks, which implies something else is going on,” Scala said. “We’re all searching for whatever that missing link is.”
Dr. Richard Karas, director of the preventive cardiology center at Tufts Medical Center, praised the Lancet study for its meticulous analysis, but said he would still recommend raising HDL levels to patients. In part, he said that’s because ways to raise HDL levels include behaviors with other benefits -- maintaining a normal body weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising. He also said in appropriate patients he suggests niacin, a B vitamin used to raise HDL.
Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, said HDL has been “a very murky area of science.”
Nissen is involved in a clinical trial testing Merck’s drug, which is expected to be completed by December. “If this drug fails and Eli Lilly’s evacetrapib fails,” Nissen said, “it will be awfully difficult to advocate for HDL-raising.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Can Runners Have ‘Too Many Miles on the Tires’?

I used to run with a guy who was unhappy with the way his performance had deteriorated over the years. In his early 20s, he said, he had been super-fast. A couple of decades later and about 20 pounds heavier, he had lost that amazing speed.
“Too many miles on the tires,” he would say. His idea was that if you start racing when you are young, you will be worse in middle age than if you started fresh when you were older.
But is it true, and if so, how does it happen? Do athletes accumulate injuries, for example, or just get mentally fatigued after competing nonstop for decades?

There are no definitive data on this question, but there are some suggestive findings, said Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon and exercise researcher at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Wright’s study of senior Olympians — athletes age 50 and older who participated in the National Senior Olympic Games, a track and field event — found what she considers a surprisingly small rate of decline in performance until age 75: just a few percent a year in their times. After that, though, the athletes slowed down considerably.
She asked the athletes when they began participating in sports. In her survey, 95 percent said they were active in sports when they were teenagers and 85 percent said they were active as young adults.
But the survey did not ask what sports they played when they were younger — the same sports or different ones from those they were competing in now — or when they began to compete (it is likely that many of the women, growing up before Title IX, did not compete when they were young). Both factors bear on whether late-blooming athletes have an advantage as they get older.
Hirofumi Tanaka, an exercise researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, has some data that bear on the question, albeit obliquely. He and his colleagues measured the maximum oxygen consumption, or VO2 max, of 153 men ages 20 to 75. Because VO2 max describes how much oxygen can get to muscles during exercise, it is measure of how well a person can perform. Sixty-four of the men in his study were sedentary, and 89 were trained endurance athletes.
The results were something of a surprise. The endurance athletes had a greater VO2 max than sedentary men of the same age, but this measure also declined more swiftly with age among the athletes. And although Dr. Wright may be right that each year performance times decline only a few percent, that steady decline year after year takes its toll.
In their 20s and 30s, the endurance athletes could run 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles, in about 36 minutes. In their 40s they were almost as fast — 38 minutes. But in their 50s, the men averaged about 44 minutes. Those older than 60 took about 53 minutes to run that distance.
If sedentary men suddenly took up an endurance sport, could they match or even surpass the longtime athletes? Without years of cumulative injuries, the inevitable price of any long-term and rigorous exercise program, might the newer athletes have the edge?
“This is a good question that nobody has addressed in the past,” Dr. Tanaka said. But, he added, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that older elite athletes often were not athletes when they were young.
Kozo Haraguchi, a former world record holder in the 100-meter sprint, ran it in 22.04 seconds when he was 95 years old. Mr. Haraguchi broke his own record two months later, with a time of 21.69 seconds. Yet this astonishing sprinter did not even start jogging until he was 65. He did not start sprinting until he was 76.
“Most of the masters distance runners who compete at a high level are also slow starters,” Dr. Tanaka said. In his study of endurance athletes and sedentary men, the average age at which the distance runners who were older than 60 had taken up the sport was around 40.
But might this simply reflect the fact that so many longtime athletes retire when they are still young, before they stop winning races, leaving the field to novices? If elite athletes like the swimmer Dara Torres, 45, and the marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson, 55, choose to stay in the game, to continue to train hard and compete, then maybe it will turn out that long years of competition hold a big advantage for older athletes.
Or maybe not.
At this point, Dr. Tanaka said, “nobody has the answer.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Mighty Achilles


Achilles was a Greek hero, the greatest warrior, and according to Plato, the most handsome, similar to our modern day superstar athletes who garner both fame and fortune. Legend has it that Achilles was invincible, except for his heel where a small wound resulted in his death. So the term Achilles' heel has come to mean a person's principal weakness. More specifically, the Achilles tendon is the thickest tendon in the body, a cord that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone (calcaneus), dictating every interaction with the ground. Over the past few years, we have seen some of the greatest athletes suffer tears in this region, a very painful rupture that generally requires surgery and months of sport absence. Yet how do these injuries begin and what can be done to avoid and heal such a crucial structure?

To further emphasize the importance of the Achilles tendon, we must address the major concept behind human locomotion; the Spring-Mass model. The mass represents the weight of the body and the spring being the behavior of the leg.

For example, during running when an athlete’ foot contacts the ground, the spring (leg) is compressed and pushes back with a force proportional to the distance of compression. This amount of force, divided by the compression distance, is stiffness. As we previously discussed (see Sparta Point 8/30/11), we must differentiate the subjective and English definition of stiffness (“I feel tight, sore, etc.) from biomechanics (mentioned above, which is muscle force/length). As you can see, stiffness is a good thing, allowing the leg to return momentum back to the body to avoid losing energy, to be more efficient and more explosive.

The primary determinant of leg stiffness occurs at the ankle joint (see Sparta Point 1/7/09). In fact, leg stiffness is relatively unchanged by the alterations of hip and knee stiffness, because these larger structures provide a higher level, leaving the least stiff spring (ankle) to have the greatest overall effect.

In April 2012, Dr Javier Maquirriain out of Argentina’s High Performance National Sports Center examined the effects of the Achilles tendon injuries on leg stiffness. Because athletic movements do not occur in isolation, the study measured ground reaction force (GRF) during jumping. Specifically the study compared athletes’ healthy legs with the other leg, which was diagnosed with Achilles tendinopathy. Tendinopathy, is a more global term for tendonitis, an overuse syndrome of the tendon characterized by pain, swelling, and decreased performance. Think of tendinopathy as a stepping stone to Achilles ruptures.

The author found that the athletes’ legs with tendinopathy had reduced stiffness, or increased compliance at the ankle joint (see Sparta Point 4/13/11). A similar study even found that 75% of pain-free athletes had reduced leg stiffness from underlying Achilles injuries.

Our force plate analysis shows Achilles risk in athletes with a higher first peak, as shown to the right, indicating an inability to return energy, seen as an absent mid or second peak of Force generation . The solution is FUNCTION; to teach the Achilles tendon how to absorb and return this energy or Force at ground contact. And there is nothing better for these stiffness improvements than jumping, so we use an alternation of jumps in the drill below to allow both short and long stretch shortening cycles to be trained.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Train Hard and Sweat to Detoxify the Body and Prevent Disease

Train hard and make sure you do some serious sweating to detoxify the body and prevent disease. Research shows  that people who perform regular intense exercise detoxify more heavy metals through a variety of mechanisms than the less active population, and sweating is one of the best ways to regularly remove toxins.

Recent media reports have incorrectly suggested that helping the body to detoxify is not necessary, and that sweating won’t remove toxins. They’re wrong. The bad news is that everyone must support the body’s natural detoxification by any reasonable means because we are constantly and overwhelmingly exposed to heavy metals, petrochemical toxins, and pollutants that mimic hormones. The good news is that if you eat right, train hard, and make sure you sweat regularly, you can significantly improve the detox process.

When sweating, the body eliminates minerals, toxins, and heavy metals from the blood and the skin tissue. Just as you lose the beneficial electrolytes magnesium, potassium, and sodium through sweat, you also cleanse the body of cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, and other metals. All these heavy metals are confirmed carcinogens that can cause significant damage to the body including the central nervous system, endocrine, cardiovascular, and immunological systems. Toxic overload affects brain function and in children, it has been linked to a lower IQ and dysfunctional behavior.

A new analysis in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health looked at all the data to date regarding the removal of the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in sweat. There is abundant evidence that all four of these metals are excreted when we sweat, and in some cases sweating is a more effective method for removal than via the urine.

This is important because urinary detoxification of heavy metals is complex, puts stress on the liver, and requires an abundance of various compounds. For example, zinc and vitamin E are necessary to remove arsenic via the urine. Therefore, regular heavy sweating from exercise or a sauna can take the load off the liver.

The benefit of using an intense sweating practice is supported by reports that it will enhance excretion of other dangerous toxins such as persistent flame retardants and BPA.  For example, sweating was used to help New York City rescue workers detox following the 9/11 disaster when they were exposed to high levels of pollutants and heavy metals. 

Researchers note that with greater toxic exposure, the heat regulatory mechanisms of the nervous system are affected, resulting a failure to sweat readily.  They suggest a “detox” diet, supplementing with nutrients that boost the body’s natural detox system, taking niacin to assist with vasodilatation, brushing the skin to encourage excretion of toxins, and exercise prior to sauna use. Ample hydration is necessary, but with persistence, “patients do eventually start to sweat,” which is a sign that the nervous system is beginning to improve and the body has started to detoxify.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Who Doesn't Like Talking Chocolate



#1: Alter Eco Dark Blackout 85% Chocolate Bar

Organic • GMO-Free • Sustainable • Fair trade
Number one on our list is Alter Eco Dark Blackout 85% Chocolate  bar. This chocolate bar is known for its smoothness and deep, rich flavor. Alter Eco prides itself on the quality of its ingredients and their environmental non-impact; making this chocolate bar not only deeply satisfying but a great choice for the conscious eater.

#2: Endangered Species Organic Dark 70% Chocolate Bar 

Organic • GMO-Free • Sustainable • Fair trade
Coming in a very close second is Endangered Species Organic Dark 70% Chocolate  bar. This bar has great “mass appeal” due to its lighter flavor, sweeter taste and commitment to charitable donations: 10 % of Endangered Species profits go to charity. Normally, we’d encourage you to opt for 80% dark chocolate or greater – but this one’s flavor and commitment to charity won us over.

#3: Organic Panama Extra Dark 80% Chocolate Bar

Organic  • Sustainable • Fair trade
Third place goes to Organic Panama Extra Dark 80% Chocolate bar. The perfect balance of bitter and sweet may be attributed to the organic Vanilla Beans used in this bar. Equal Exchange is a big supporter of small farmer co-ops and has visions of a food system that empowers the consumer.

#4: Madecasse Strong and Complex 80% Chocolate Bar

Sustainable • Fair trade
Even though Madecasse Strong and Complex 80% Chocolate bar comes in fourth on the list, don’t count it out! This chocolate bar should come with a warning – “Be advised: you will not be able to eat just one square.” Madecasse is one of the few fine chocolates made from scratch, from bean to bar; and it all takes place within Madagascar. Uniquely, the company was started by Peace Corps volunteers who wanted to do more to help their cause. Very cool!

#5: TAZA  87% Chocolate Bar

Organic  • Sustainable
Rounding out our chocolate obsessions is the Taza 87% Chocolate bar. Taza uses wooden boxes and banana leaves for the fermentation process of the cacao beans. This fermentation is what gives Taza chocolate a bright, bold flavor. The stone-ground chocolate gives this bar its great texture.

Cocoa and chocolate have been studied extensively for their impact on human health and disease; and the results have shown desirable effects in the reduction of blood pressure, antioxidant capacity, inflammation reduction, and even a boost in mood. Chocolate is, in fact, an ancestral food once held in high regard for its healing properties! As part of a nutrient-dense, ancestral-style diet, chocolate definitely has earned its place!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Salts to Know

  by gourmettenyc

From religion and folklore to wars and economics, salt has played a vital role in human history. (Mark Kurlansky dedicated an entire book to this subject.) An ancient mineral cultivated for thousands of years from the northern province of Shanxi, China to the medieval town of Guérande in Bretagne, France, salt is an essential part of our diets.
With so many different types of salt, knowing how and when to use each one can be a bit daunting. There are baking salts, cooking salts and finishing salts. There are rock salts and sea salts, and salts that have been smoked or seasoned. And, of course, there is the much revered Kosher salt.
Here, we take a look at 10 salts you're likely to encounter in recipes and at the grocery store. Once you're done reading, head over to the shop to round out your salt tool box with both everyday and special occasion salts from The Meadow. For a more extensive guide on salts, check out Mark Bitterman's book Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes.

Himalayan Salt: Hand-mined from ancient sea salt deposits from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, Himalayan salt is rich in minerals and believed to be one of the purest salts available -- hence its frequent use in spa treatments. It ranges in color from pure white to shades of pink and deep red. Hand cut into slabs, Himalayan salt is frequently used as a surface for serving food. Due to their ability to hold a specific temperature for an extended period of time, these slabs can be used for anything from serving cold ice cream to cooking fish, meats, and vegetables. Himalayan salt can also be used as a cooking or finishing salt. Or use it to rim the edge of a glass for a warm-weather

 Seasoned Salt: Salt can be seasoned with a variety of different flavorings, including truffles, lemon, herbs and more. Truffles impart an earthiness to sea salt, making it an ideal flavoring for risottos, red meats, and egg dishes. A seasoned salt such as lemon flake salt, on the other hand, is great for cocktails or grilled vegetables

Table Salt: Refined salt mined from underground salt deposits, table salt contains more sodium chloride (97% to 99%) than sea salt. This is what you usually find in salt shakers at dining tables and at restaurants. Most table salts contain additives such as anticaking agents and iodine, an essential nutrient.

Kosher Salt: Kosher salt, which originates from either the sea or the earth, is so named for its use in the preparation of meat according to Jewish dietary guidelines. However, not all Kosher salt is certified Kosher. Kosher salt dissolves easily and quickly, making it a good all-purpose salt. Popular brands include Morton and Diamond Crystal.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wired To Run'


Endurance athletes sometimes say they're "addicted" to exercise. In fact, scientists have shown that rhythmic, continuous exercise — aerobic exercise — can in fact produce narcoticlike chemicals in the body.
Now researchers suggest that those chemicals may have helped turn humans, as well as other animals, into long-distance runners.
The man behind the research is University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlen, a runner himself. He does about 25 miles a week.
Being human, Raichlin has some tools that help — short toes that don't get in the way, for example, and big joints in the legs to absorb shock. But he thinks humans are also "wired to run."
"Wired to run, meaning that our brains are probably, have been sort of rewired from an evolutionary sense to encourage these running and high aerobic-activity behaviors," Raichlen says.
Many anthropologists think early humans learned to run long distances to chase down and exhaust prey, like antelopes.
Meat is one payoff for runners. But Raichlen thinks there may have been another reward: a runner's high. He designed an experiment to test this idea.
But first, let's take a look at this thing they call runner's high. I caught up with Christina Morganti to learn more. She's an orthopedic surgeon at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Maryland, and a longtime competitive runner.
She runs races, but not for medals. "To be honest," she says as she starts a morning run on a sunny spring day, "I don't really care that much about the competition as much as that feeling you get when you're in shape. That's what I'm looking for."
She starts slowly. "You know, when you first start, you feel a little stiff, a little logey, but then once you get started, everything loosens up."
As a doctor, Morganti knows what regular running does for her body. "Your heart gets stronger. It gets bigger. The amount of blood your heart can pump is more." That's called "stroke volume." Oxygen metabolism gets more efficient, as well. "That means your blood vessels and muscles absorb more oxygen," she says. "Running also builds new bone."
But when I ask her about "runner's high," she lights up. "Oh, it's really like an empowerment. And zen at the same time. You feel strong and light, and you feel relaxed."
Morganti injured herself running two years ago and had to stop running. "And everything else fell apart," she admits. "My ability to cope with the stresses of life, my organizational skills juggling your job and motherhood, everything like that, wasn't as acute as it was when I was able to run and be fit."
About 3 miles into the run, Morganti is getting her rhythm but also feels some pain.
"I'm actually a little bit tired," she says. "I have a hamstring injury; I'm starting to feel that a little bit now. But I'm feeling like, 'What a beautiful day. How nice to be out here,' and I don't care about that."
That's actually a problem — her not caring. Morganti treats runners for injuries, and she says they're the worst patients. "The treatment is to stop running," she says. "They won't. They don't want to. A lot of the behavior is not unlike the patients we have who are seeking drugs. It's really similar. It's an addiction."
A drug addiction. And that's where we return to David Raichlen's experiment.
When people exercise aerobically, their bodies can actually make drugs — cannabinoids, the same kind of chemicals in marijuana. Raichlen wondered if other distance-running animals also produced those drugs. If so, maybe runner's high is not some peculiar thing with humans. Maybe it's an evolutionary payoff for doing something hard and painful, that also helps them survive better, be healthier, hunt better or have more offspring.
So he put dogs — also distance runners — on a treadmill. Also ferrets, but ferrets are not long-distance runners. The dogs produced the drug, but the ferrets did not. Says Raichlen: "It suggests some level of aerobic exercise was encouraged by natural selection, and it may be fairly deep in our evolutionary roots."
Raichlen published his research in the Journal of Experimental Biology. He says it's not conclusive, and he needs to test a lot more animals. Some anthropologists say it's actually walking we evolved to do, and that running is just incidental.
But don't tell that to Christina Morganti. She has just finished her run. And she's happy. "It's almost like a little tingle you get for several hours after, and then a calming you have the rest of the day, and then you sleep well that night, and then the next day you're ready to go again."
Even without an antelope to chase down