MindBody Fitness

The fitness and medical communities are finally aligning to support the fact that strength training not only can be a positive experience for all ages – building muscle, burning fat, improving our posture and strengthening our bone structure, but it also provides us with amazing mind, body and spiritual benefits that include enhanced cardiovascular and neurological functioning, stronger resistance to chronic illnesses, and a more flexible and resilient mind. The real beauty of strength training is that 15-20 minutes 2-3 times per week is enough to produce significant strength gains!

Let’s examine some these benefits:

1. Fighting Off Chronic Ilness – improving muscular strength has been proven to provide a measurable protection against heart disease, cancer, hypertension, obesity and metabolic syndrome, including  type 2 diabetes. Strength training enhances the delivery of more oxygenated blood through your system. This helps our body detox and deliver vital nutrients. It also aids the body and mind in stress reduction and management.

2.  Enhancing Longevity  and Slowing Down The Aging Process  – studies show that strength combined with high intensity and interval training not only helps build a stronger body but also a more resilient mind. BDNF protein in the brain is elevated which has also been shown to reduce beta amyloid plaguing associated with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, increases in  neurogenesis and neuroplastcity have also been measured –  specifically, neural activity and brain volume. Additionally, a pronounce loss of muscle mass ( sarcopenia) especially the larger fast twitch fibers which are responsible for strength and power can really affect the senior population. Some muscle loss is unavoidable as we age – due to diminished levels of muscle-building hormones and the capacity to convert energy from food into muscle.

3.  A Stronger Mind and Body Helps You Sleep Better – restorative sleep and removal of brain and body toxins are critical to our overall health and longevity. Also, if you feel better about yourself and your appearance you will naturally lower your stress levels as you build self-confidence and sleep more soundly.

4. Strength Training Balances Hormones- the best medicine for your hormones is strength training – by creating hormonal changes that help both men and women burn fat while building muscle. Human growth hormone is released that aids in this process and also increases insulin sensitivity ( helping control blood sugar and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes). Strength training also helps regulate testosterone and estrogen – which are vital as we age.

5. Strength Training Keeps You Lean – muscle tissue is the engine that drives fat loss. Additionally, the anaerobic effects also contribute to the fat burning through a process called Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC – increased calorie burning and elevated metabolic function which can last up to 3 days post workout. The best and most effective method for building muscle and a strong body is to perform compound exercises ( ex: squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, rows) that involve the participation of 2 or more joints.

6. Brain Benefits – much research has been done to prove the correlation between strength training and brain health, reversing or slowing  down the effects of cognitive decline and depression. Additionally, studies have shown the  the more challenging the strength workout the greater impact on brain function. Some neuroscientists believe that strength training helps stimulate the release of insulin-like growth factor 1 ( IGF-1) a protein that helps promote neuronal growth. Also changes in cardiovascular and metabolic function can effect brain health.

Intuitive Rest – Based Interval Training 

High intensity interval training (HIIT) has become very popular recently. Whether it’s knocking out sprint intervals on the track or cycling or strength and resistance training circuits that feature built-in rest periods are great for burning fat while building strength, power, endurance and cardiovascular health.

Truthfully, they are challenging and can lead to injuries and over training if not approached correctly.
A great alternative is rest-based interval training. But rather than watching a timer you actually tune into your body. It is more individually tailored and you rest according to how you feel not what a clock says. As opposed to HIIT you rest between circuits or sets as needed.

Bottom Line: Workout until you cannot and then rest until you can. This approach builds fitness and stamina witnout leaving you trashed.

For more info on this type of training contact me through my website
http://www.mindbodyfitness.us

Over Training – What’s too much ?

 

Having been in the fitness and wellness business for a long time in addition to being  an Ironman triathlete I have come to understand not only the benefits of being an endurance athlete, but more importantly, the perils and downside of over training. If you are wired to indulge and pursue endurance sports, it’s vital to understand when you have gone beyond your limits and are setting yourself up for real health problems.

Signs of Overtraining

– insomnia

– irritability and mood swings

– immune dysfunction ( frequent colds, bad or worsening allergies, gut issues, joint / soft tissue problems, migraines)

– cognitive impairment ( attention deficit, poor concentration, problems with memory and recall)

– fatigue and lack of energy and drive.

– training through injuries or sickness

  • significant changes to training metrics  ( HR, HRV, power output, etc.)

– loss of appetite or intense sugar cravings

– excessive muscle soreness

– loss of interest in social activities and when your training takes precedent over work or family obligations

– sexual dysfunction
Strategies to Overcome Over Training
– proper nutrition ( reduced intake of refined sugars, adequate high quality protein for recovery, higher consumption of healthy fats -making sure your ratio of omega 6/ omega 3< 6:1 by adding in more coconut oil, flax seeds, avocado, grass fed beef, wild caught fish, organic full fat dairy)

– take  a high quality antioxidant that addresses oxidative stress such as Protandim ( nrf1 and nrf2 pathway activators)

– get blood work done if needed to check for magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin D levels, hormone levels and any pro-inflammatory markers.

– plenty of recovery between hard training sessions. Take time off if needed and come back when your mind and body are rested and refreshed.

– monitor your sleep and mode changes

HIIT Training 

Much discussion has evolved around the subject of how much exercise is needed to yield health and weight loss benefits. Athletes are looking for a  performance edge and we are looking for how we can fit exercise and our favorite training into a busy schedule.

Research out of McMaster University has looked at how HIIT training ( high intensity interval training) vs more traditional, longer, moderate – intensity cardio exercise stacked up on cardiovascular benefits. The researchers were most interested in  how the 2 types of exercises impacted cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity. The sprint- interval group’s total exercise session lasted just 10 minutes ( 2 minute warmup, several 20 second all out cycle sprints followed by a 2 minute recovery spin and 3 minute cool down). The moderate exercise group featured 45 minutes of continuous cycling.

When examining cardiovascular fitness and blood sugar control improvements, the high intensity group results were nearly identical to the moderate exercise group. Furthermore, HIIT which features short burts of high intensity training, with slow recovery phases repeated in one session may hold the key to other benefits.

Promotes greater oxygen uptake as measured by VO2 Max testing. This is the best indicator of cardiovascular endurance.

–  Triggers an excess post exercise oxygen ( EPOC) effect. This aids in recovery and repair ( hormonal support, glucose regulation  and muscle tissue). Additionally, after EPOC,  fatty acids become oxidized and are used by the body for energy.

– New ATP ( body’s fuel source) is also synthesized.

1. Anti-Aging: HIIT has an epigenetic effect on aging genes – by deactivating specific genes that are involved in accelerating the aging process. 

2. According to research out of the U.K. it helps regulate certain hunger hormones ( leptin and ghrelin) that is essential to weight control and management. 

3. HIIT has also proven to be very effective in metabolizing excess body fat. 

4. HIIT can be implemented cycling, running, jump rope, jumping jacks, upper and lower body – weight training ( push ups, squats, squat- jumps, ploy- jumps, etc.

So if you are pressed for time or simply cannot get motivated to workout for 45 minutes or more, you now have the green light to embrace fitness and reap the same benefits. Furthermore, extended training that is often associated with endurance training is often linked to overuse and over- training injuries and chronic elevated cortisol levels which increase your risk for inflammation and many diseases. It has been also pointed out that more research is needed to see if HIIT is beneficial to brain health – stay tuned. 

Keep Moving 

The body is designed to move. In fact, just because you have worked out to start your day, your body still needs to move and be stimulated throughout the day. A recent study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that “prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity.” In essence, to reach and maintain optimal health you need to move and move more often. 

Katy Bowman, a noted biomechanist writes: ” Your body requires low-grade movement throughout the entire day for basic biological function. It has almost nothing to do with athletic performance – it has to do with your body’s circulation and feeding its cells.”

Most of us put so much energy into our thinking and our mental game and need to transfer some of that to moving our bodies more.  Here are some strategies that may help enhance mobility. 

1. Walk and use stairs instead of the elevator or escalators. 

2. Don’t sit for more than 60 minutes at a time.  Try body squats, planks, and even push-ups.

3. Perform small movements and stretches throughout the day.

4. Use a fit bit or wearable activity tracker that can be programmed to remind you to move at desired time intervals.

5. Engage others in walking meetings.

6. The more you change your body’s geometry and position the healthier you will be. 

7. Just because you have an ergonomic chair doesn’t mean you should stay seated for long periods of time. 

8. GET UP AND MOVE!

Making Time for Fitness

Over the 30 years that I have been in the fitness industry one thing I have heard countless times is: ” I have no time to workout” or I have too many obligations and something has to give” Time is a precious commodity. We all have busy schedules and commitments that occupy our time.  Making time for fitness requires an understanding how important it truly is. We give priority to things that we feel are important. This may require that you re-program your thinking and beliefs. Working out does not come naturally to those who have never been fit or have played sports. We are a product of our environment and up-bringing. As we get older and acquire more responsibilities, we often put our personal needs and concerns aside.  Our career and families tend to occupy a lot of our time.  Well, I am here to tell you it is time to change!!

I hear so often “I don’t have the time or at least I cannot find an hour to workout”.  We are all so conditioned to focus on our families and careers. Days get full from the time we wake to the time we go to bed.  So, how it is possible with a packed schedule to make time to workout?   Below are some suggestions and some facts that may help you to re-program your thinking and facilitate a change.

1. You need to schedule your workout in your day. Write it down in your calendar.

2. Workouts DO NOT have to last an hour!!!  Research indicates that even 15-20 min of exercise is very beneficial in helping to fight disease and aging. Varying the workouts ( strength, cardio, yoga, circuit training, pilates or some creative combo of any of these) make it fun and stimulating.

3. If morning does not work try mid-day or evening. There is always some time to workout – you just need to make the time!!

4. Train with a partner, work with  a trainer or join a small group to build accountability and commitment.

5. Get the kids involved. Walk or run with baby joggers and if they are old enough have them ride a bike along side.

6.  Understand that making fitness a priority has so many benefits – it will give you the energy and stamina to do all the things that are so important to you – your family, your work and any sports that you may participate in.

7. Our bodies like regularity. We are creatures of habit. Once exercise becomes habit, you will not want to miss it. It takes about 30 days to form a new habit so be patient but stay focused on making this happen.

8. Do not get stressed and feel guilty if you miss your workouts. Simply, re-boot and re-commit!!

9. If you absolutely have work that needs to be done or you want to catch up on the news then perhaps you can combine them with working out ( ride a bike / walk on a treadmill).

10. Make it fun!!  The more pleasure that you associate with working out the more you will stick with it.

The Psoas Major Facts

The psoas major ( aka hip flexor) has an active role in hip flexion but also plays a more important role in vertebral stabilization ( keeping the vertebrae from rotating in the frontal plane) than in generating leg motions.  The psoas attaches at many locations, passes over multiple joints and entraps a major neurological network, which explains why so many injuries can be attributed to one misbehaving muscle.  These many attachments make it extremely important that the psoas can lengthen enough to allow the spine, pelvis and hips to articulate and move naturally for a pain-free and injury-free body.

Sitting Issues:

Sitting for hours on end ( desk, driving in car, etc..) tightens the psoas   affecting our ability to walk upright, by inhibiting the psoas’s ability to fully lengthen and thus allowing for the hips to extend. Moving from this tight psoas position and moving right to any activity or exercise it’s no wonder why we are seeing so many injuries to the low back, pelvis and hips. In other words prolonged periods of hip flexion ( sitting ) lead to injuries. The key is to get the body into hip extension and reinforce those proper body mechanics.

Try to reduce time in hip flexion by:

1. Using standing workstations instead of desk sitting.

2. Reduce treadmill and bicycle workouts and weight machines and increase outdoor walking /running, in-line skating and body movements that encourage more extension such yoga exercises ( warrior or lunge poses).

3. Pay attention to rib-thrust. Rib-thrusting during these exercises reduces their effectiveness in lengthening the psoas. Cue: lower the bottom ribs until they line up over the pelvis, to keep the muscular attachments in check.

4. Psoas stretching and hip/back extension exercises.

Psoas and the Treadmill:

The treadmill changes our natural gait pattern from hip extension to greater hip flexion, which leads to greater psoas tension. Our body needs to push back in order for it to go forward. Because the treadmill belt moves backwards, our feet meet little to no resistance when they push off. Hence, we lift our legs in front of us and then fall forward. Treadmill mechanics recruit and reinforce an already too-tight psoas.

Take away:  Get outside and walk or run!!

Exercise Your Happiness

” Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”

– Preamble to the Constitution of

The World Health Organization,

1946.

Our quality of life, health and longevity is highly correlated to our emotional state, specifically happiness.  The wellness movement has triggered a strong interest in examining the impact that our emotional and mental states have on the human body.  It has become quite evident that our thoughts and beliefs have a direct effect on our physiology ( immune system, metabolism, neurology, energy systems, cardiology, etc..).  We are what we think and believe!! Therefore,  both self-actualization and self-direction impact the compass that directs our lives and longevity.

The  health and fitness industry is now embracing wellness concepts and interconnectedness of mind and body – shifting from the body’s core strength to a person’s core values as we begin to examine the role of well-being in achieving optimal health.  This broader and more transformative approach is helping our clients to facilitate change by helping them to become more resourceful, creative and whole.  Our role as facilitators is to teach our clients about self-responsibility and how their thoughts, beliefs and emotions impact their health and longevity.  Positive thinking and happiness can create new neural pathways and  a positive biochemical state in the brain.  It is important to understand that benefiting from this new state requires time and practice as the new patterns of thinking take time to develop.

New research  ( Diener, 2011) supports a growing body of evidence that happiness is beneficial for  morbidity ( risk of illness), survival of illness and longevity.  It has been proven that negative emotions such as fear or sustained stress can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes; that chronic anxiety and anger can facilitate atherosclorosis and elevated systematic inflammation; and that early-childhood ” toxic-stress” from neglect or abuse has a direct impact on the brain and other organ systems (Rimer and Drexler, 2012).  Furthermore , they claim that happiness has a positive health benefit absent mental health conditions (i.e. Alzheimers).  In addition, studies show that optimism is a significant predictor of positive physical health outcomes related to mortality, survival, cardiovascular outcomes, immune function, cancer, and outcomes related to pregnancy and pain health.

So, if health is so impacted by positive thinking  it stands to reason that longevity is also affected.  One study supports this fact:  People in their 20’s who wrote positive autobiographies tended to outlive those who wrote more negative accounts. Moods and emotions are consistently associated with certain bio markers such as blood pressure, cortisol and inflammation, as well as disease indicators such as arteriosclorosis (Diener and Chan, 2011).  Also, individuals who exhibit more positive emotions develop fewer colds and less likely to get the flu.

Diener and Chan suggest the current health recommendations which focus on avoiding obesity, eating correctly, abstinence from smoking and exercising should also include positive well-being to the list.  They point out while happiness is not a “magic bullet”, and,  in and of itself may not prevent or cure disease, it does increase your odds  of avoiding certain disease and dying young.

Martin Seligman, widely recognized as the father of positive psychology notes:  “All studies of optimism and cardiovascular disease converge on the conclusion that optimism is strongly related to protection from cardiovascular disease.”  The impact on cancer however is not as clear.  Seligman  suggests that “highly optimistic people may have a lower risk of developing cancer and that positive well-being  may have beneficial effects for cancer patients when the disease is not very severe.”  It has been proven however that positive thinking can improve immune function which in turn can improve the chances that your body can better fight off cancer or other auto-immune disease.

Older adults may see significant health changes related to happiness.   Findings support that positive feelings broaden one’s horizons and build social, physical and intellectual skills.   Sonya Lyubomirsky notes in her book ” The How of Happiness:  A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want”  that by-products of happiness and positive well-being include:  higher income, better work outcomes and productivity,  more satisfying social rewards, longer marriages, greater number of friends, stronger social support, better energy and better physical health ( bolstered immune system, lower stress levels and less pain) and longer life.

How is happiness measured?

1. Biological measures:  brain imaging, hormones levels, brain biochemistry.

2. Self-reporting:  journaling and recalling daily thoughts, feelings and events.

Diener defines happiness  “not as a goal but as process that requires positive attitudes about life and continuing with innovative and creative involvement with activities.”  She continues:  ” A life full of meaning and values, supportive social relationships and rewarding work is the framework for a happy life.  The presence of happiness within that framework requires positive attitudes, spiritual emotions such as love and gratitude and material sufficiency.”

Robert Holden (2009) describes  happiness as  ” the journey from the ego-mind to the heart of your unconditional self.”  He continues:  ” happiness is your true nature, who you are, what you experience when you accept yourself.”  He suggests conducting a “happiness interview.”

–  What is definition of true happiness?

– Are you living it?

– Who is the happiest person you know?

– What has this person taught you?

Happiness and feelings of  positive well-being come from within. It is our perception of events and of others that generate our state of mind and emotions.  People don’t make us happy or sad, but rather it is  our reaction to them that determines our emotional state.

Lyubomirsky explains that about 40% of our happiness is within our power to change through the ways we act and think.  Another 50% can be attributed to a genetic ” set point” or baseline that is similar to the set point theory in weight management.  Only about 10% of our happiness is associated with life circumstances  ( i.e. money, health, marriage, etc..)  Diener points out that this means that many changes we create in our lives can make us only 10% happier at most!!

Lyubomirsky says: ” It is in our power to achieve real and lasting happiness. It is something inside of us ( not outside) – a way of perceiving and approaching the world we live in.”  One thing the research shows is that it takes diligence and work.

She lists five characteristics that determine the effectiveness or sustainability of happiness strategies:

1.  Frequency of positive emotions.

2.  Optimal timing and variety ( keep strategies fresh and find timing that works for you – such as every night or morning).

3.  Social support ( buddies, mentors, support groups).

4.  Motivation, effort and commitment, as with pursuing any goal.

5.  Development of new habits that become easier to maintain.

Happiness – Enhancing Strategies ( Lyubomirsky 2007)

1.  Express gratitude through journaling or sharing your appreciation with others.

2.  Cultivate optimism – write about what a  positive life looks like.

3.  Avoid over thinking and over analyzing.

4.  Practice random acts of kindness.

5.  Develop nurturing relationships.

6.  Engage in new activities and projects.

7.  Set and commit to new goals.

8.  Develop strategies for coping with stress.

9.  Learn to forgive.

10. Exercise regularly and develop a healthy nutrition plan.

Fitness Myths

MYTH #1:  Stretching Prevents Injuries and Improves Performance.

TRUTH: It could negatively impact your running times.

Research indicates that static stretching should be avoided before endurance events. When you elongate muscle fibers you cause  a” neuromuscular inhibitory response” – this protective counter-response in the nervous system, which tightens the muscle to prevent it from overstretching, leaves you less powerful. Static stretching in fact does not reduce incidence of common overuse injuries such as Achilles tendonitis and knee issues. Instead try doing a dynamic warmup which incorporates body movements that mimic the actual sport that you are preparing for. For example:

1. Jumping jacks  (set of 20)

2. Multi-directional lunges ( front, lateral, back   3 x 8)

3. High -leg marches ( 60 seconds)

4. Butt kicks ( hop on one leg while kicking the other leg backward , touching buttocks ( 10 x per leg)

MYTH #2: Barefoot Running is Better for Everyone

TRUTH: It all  depends on body type and discipline.

Barefoot running requires that you are biomechanically sound and land lightly on your forefoot. Most people’s bodies, and more specifically, their muscular structure have developed over the years with shoes and our feet have become accustomed to their support. Most people are heel strikers and need some cushioning to dissipate the impact stresses. Landing near the forefoot, as adept barefoot runners do, can be beneficial but is no guarantee against injury.

Biomechanics research shows that forefoot striking sends shock waves up your leg, too, but in a different pattern than when you heel-strike. These forces move mostly through the leg’s soft tissue instead of the bone, meaning a lower probability of a stress fracture – but higher risk for an Achilles injury. Either way, your body sustains quite a pounding barefoot or not!

Going barefoot can be right for you, but depends on your susceptibility to specific injuries and how you make the transition. Experts suggest if you are going to give it try to start slowly  and gradually increase the barefoot running. Start with shoes on and preferably find a softer surface ( grass) to test the experience. Concentrate on form: land lightly, don’t overstride and avoid heel-striking.

Sore knees: Worth a try.

Achilles tendon problems: Probably not a good idea – forefoot striking increases stress on the Achilles.

Heel pain or Plantar Fasciitis: No

Sprained ankle: After the ankle heels. Going barefoot can improve the body’s proprioception, or spatial awareness, reducing risk of further ankle sprains

MYTH#3:  Focusing on Core Strength Makes You a Better Athlete.

TRUTH: Core strength is overrated and you risk injury by focusing too specifically on it.

Several studies indicate that a supercharged core does not translate into better sports performance. Proper core strength does help the body to stabilize and  help maintain balance when fatigue sets in.  Common routines like squats, deadlifts, kettlebells, planks, side planks and TRX add plenty of core strength.  Some new studies indicate that running does in fact activate the core. Most experts believe that if you train your sport correctly, core strength will develop.

MYTH#4: Consuming Water and Electrolytes Before a Race Prevents Cramps:

TRUTH:  Water and electrolytes have little to do with cramping.

For years we have been urged to load up on bananas or consume electrolyte loaded sports drinks before or during workouts.  Research indicates that cramping is not caused by dehydration, rather muscle cramps are due to  exertion, fatigue, and a cascade of accompanying biochemical processes.  Stretching tight muscles ( after you train) , strengthening muscle imbalances and reducing your speed might be the best antidote.

MYTH#5: Taking Ibuprofen Before a Hard Workout Prevents Post Workout Soreness.

TRUTH: It actually does more harm than good.

Research indicates that athletes competing in endurance events that consume ibuprofen before racing were just as sore as those who hadn’t. They also displayed more blood markers of inflammation than other competitors, even though ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory. Other studies indicate that frequent use of painkillers can blunt the ability of muscles to adapt to exercise.

Take away: Don’t use ibuprofen unless you have a  legitimate injury. Muscle pain and soreness is a natural part of the body’s training response.

MYTH#6: Dehydration Hurts Race Performance:

TRUTH: Overhydrating is potentially more harmful.

Hydrating to excess can cause hyponatremia – intoxication caused by consuming too much water ( without adequate electrolyte balance), a potentially fatal condition in which cells swell with excess fluid. Research indicates that marathon runners who’s weight loss was measured against their finishing times – the runners who lost the most water weight were actually the fastest. The top times correlated to an average 3 percent loss in body weight due to sweating.

Take away: Drink when you feel thirsty. The experts suggest that: ” Thirst is an exquisitely fine tuned indicator of your body’s actual hydration status.” Listen to it.

MYTH#7: Ice Baths Speed Recovery

TRUTH: The benefits are purely psychological.

Many elite athletes from distance runners to baseball pitchers use ice as a way to promote healing. Studies looking at runners post workout creatine kinase levels ( a hallmark of muscle damage) after they iced were no different than those who had not iced. Other studies examining post-strength training muscle soreness after performing leg extension exercises indicated no difference between one group that iced and a control group that did not. One use for ice treatments are immediately after a joint injury such as a sprained ankle. The ice can promote faster healing

Take away: The benefits for recovery after a workout ( minus injury) are purely psychological.

MYTH#8: Long and Slow is The Best Way to Burn Calories.

TRUTH: Pump up the intensity.

For years it had been assumed that optimal fat burning was best accomplished while training in low heart rate zones – exercising between 65 and 80 % of your maximum heart rate. It was believed that low intensity exercise allowed the body to fuel itself from abdominal fat rather than from readily available food calories. More recent research shows that strenuous exercise burns more calories per minute than lower intensity bouts. Furthermore, these studies determined that intense exercise increases your metabolism for up to 14 hours afterward.

Take away:  Start adding in interval training ( faster efforts ) into you running, swimming, cycling training. If you can access a testing lab find out your heart rate zones, VO2 max and lactate threshold. Make certain that you are well warmed up and can monitor your efforts. Allow for adequate recovery time between and after doing the intervals. interval training should be done 1-2 times per week after you have built up a good aerobic base first.

MYTH#9: Fructose is a Performance Killer

TRUTH: Fructose can be a performance superfuel.

Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit. High- fructose corn syrup should be avoided – especially if you are inactive. Athletes on the other hand can benefit from this carbohydrate when competing or training for 45 -60 minutes. Fructose and glucose ( a simple sugar such as maltodextrin) are taken up in the intestine by different transport proteins.  According to experts – ” This allows for a more rapid uptake of carbohydrates from the gut.” This increases the availability of calories if you eat or drink carbohydrates containing fructose.

The concerns regarding high-fructose corn syrup have more to do the highly processed foods they often show up in rather than the intrinsic characteristics of the sugar. The ideal ratio of glucose to fructose for athletes is 2:1 ( not 1:1 found in corn syrups).  Unfortunately, there are few sports drinks on the market that provide that perfect mix. One example available is Powerbar’s Ironman Performance drink .

MYTH#10: Supplements Take Performance to the Next Level.

TRUTH: No magic pill exits.

Antioxidants:

Conventional Wisdom- They destroy free radicals, molecules created during exercise that are believed to cause cell damage.

Science Says- Some free radicals appear to trigger chemical reactions that actually help strengthen muscles after exercise and improve health.  So , taking antioxidants in “excess” may curb the benefits of exercise.

Creatine:

Conventional Wisdom- A very popular supplement that athletes insist helps build muscle strength and size

Science Says – It does help football players build strength and helps sprinter ran faster. The endurance athlete’s performance, however,  is actually hindered since creatine draws extra water into cells leading to dehydration and cramping.

DHEA:

Conventional Wisdom- DHEA raises testosterone levels and helps build muscle and increase power.

Science Says- Yes and No. DHEA is a naturally occurring hormone that affects the body’s ability to produce testosterone. However, a study proved that ” daily doses in men with normal levels did not increase muscle strength.”

Exercise and the Brain

The brain is amazingly dynamic. It is is not a fixed organ and, as such, it is pliable and plastic. New research indicates that there is in fact a real connection between exercise and brain health and in turn, life long learning. Neuro-plasticity indicates that the brain is not hard-wired. The brain responds to exercise much the way the body ( heart, lungs and muscles) does. The brain actually changes its structure and function by building new neurons, creating new connections between neurons ( synapses) and also creating brand new blood vessels.

Physical activity ( endurance, strength and skill training) changes the neuro-chemistry, structure and function of the brain:

– Motor skill training builds synapses.
– Endurance training builds blood vessels.
– Strength training builds synapses.

These changes in the brain impact our cognitive, sensory, motor and emotional behaviors.
Furthermore, the neuro-biological changes can help treat and possibly prevent a number of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety and neurological disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise Improves Cognitive Function:

Research indicates that aerobic training improves cognitive performance in both children ( better verbal, perceptual and mathematical test scores) and adults ( decreasing age -related risks for cognitive impairment and dementia). Exercise increases the supply of glucose and oxygen that brain neurons require for function and longevity. Neuro-chemicals known as “growth factors” increase in the brain in both number and size during exercise. These growth factors keep neurons healthy and reduce their susceptibility to cell death – combating the onset of certain neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise Changes Brain Function:

Active individuals show greater baseline levels of cortical activity and more activity in various brain regions when performing cognitive tests ( cerebral cortex).
Brain areas that are engaged during movement are also affected ( motor cortex).

Exercise Changes Brain Structure:

Research indicates that exercise boosts overall brain volume ( both grey and white matter).
Also aerobic exercise increases neuro-genesis ( generation of new neurons) within the hippocampus ( involved with memory formation and processing emotions) at many developmental stages – neonatal, juvenile, adult. The enhanced neuro-genesis benefit of exercise may be the neuro-biological mechanism by which regular exercise reduces depression.