Thursday, 27 August 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Scoop on Supplement Safety and Regulations


More and more people are turning to supplements as a way to fill in the gaps in their diets. The elderly rely on nutritional supplementation to keep their bones strong and minds sharp. Bodybuilders and weightlifters have turned off the steroids and turned on to natural supplementation to increase muscle and reach training goals. There are nutritional drinks available for children to keep their recommended daily allowances at a positive level.

With so much reliance on supplementation, it’s a good idea to answer a few of the questions that are brought up on a regular basis: Are supplements safe? Are supplements regulated? What do they do?

Supplement Safety

The safety of supplements has long been in question since the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not actively regulate supplements. In fact, there is little interference by the FDA unless gross negligence is found to be present — and even then what items are pulled is arbitrary.

The USDA also has no say when it comes to supplements. When it comes to choosing a supplement, it is best to choose a name brand and a company that has been around for a while and deals with nothing but supplements. These companies are built on their reputation and integrity — if they lose either, they lose their company altogether. This may not seem like the greatest way to choose, but it is better than finding out your supplement is made by a company that also makes tires.

Supplement Regulation

Supplements are not required to meet the same safety and effectiveness guidelines as drugs because they are considered a “food.” FDA approval is not required in order for a dietary supplement to be sold, but there are some governing groups that do sift through the imposters and put their stamp of approval on proven supplements.

The United States Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International and United National Products Alliance are groups that can help distinguish the good from the bad. You’ll find at least one of these seals of approval on supplements that are legitimate and pure.

A lot of supplements sold cheaply worldwide are often found to have completely worthless substances in them and usually not a speck of the supplement you are purchasing. The next step is to do some research. There’s a lot of information at your disposal online, and it’s worth your time to discover what is legitimate and what isn’t. A third option is to check with the Better Business Bureau and look at other sites to check for complaints about the company or manufacturer.
Ingredients, Side Effects and Allergies

Reading the label will sometimes give you a very good idea of what you are getting. It only takes a minute, but it can be the difference between buying a pure product and bogus one.

Not all supplements will list their ingredients — that’s a red flag. Ingredients are listed in the order of most to least. If you buy a protein powder and whey is number seven or eight (or last) on the list, you are getting powdered filler with a dash of whey protein. That’s not worth your time or money and will do nothing for your health.

In early 2015 in a crackdown on misleading labels, GNC agreed to strict testing regulations after New York’s attorney general alleged that 80 percent of herbal products sold by GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart didn’t actually contain any of the herbs listed on the product labels.

Be diligent and don’t be swayed by “deals,” because you may end up with something that will do absolutely nothing for you. You will also need to check the label for possible side effects and/or allergic reactions. If a supplement has a filler with a milk base, a person who is lactose intolerant may react to it. If you’re on prescription medications, checking with your physician is important to rule out any possible drug interactions.

What About Muscle-Building Supplements?

Weightlifting is an important part of so many people’s lives — it’s no longer just the 20-something men trying to build up their bodies. Women, teens and the over-50 crowd have all begun to seek the benefits of weightlifting. You don’t have to supplement to lift weights, but muscle mass, form, strength, agility and recovery will be greatly enhanced by using an all-natural supplement.

Pure whey protein or 100 percent creatine and amino acids are all excellent supplements that have science, years of testing and results to back them; the improvements made with these supplements is undeniable. So if weightlifting is part of your fitness routine, taking a supplement is more helpful than not taking one at all.

Considering all these issues may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Bottom line: Do your research and talk to your health care providers and you’ll be able to reap the many benefits of supplements.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Common Cause of Running Injuries Most People Overlook

It may sound counterintuitive, but the best long-distance runners didn't get so good from running alone. To run harder, better, faster, stronger, they supplement their runs with other forms of exercise like cross-training, strength training, and interval running. Studies show these are all important elements in any training plan to become a better runner .

But many runners still neglect one crucial component of training: improving their balance. Research shows balance training can be used to prevent and treat acute ankle sprains, and reduce the chances of ankle injuries in the future .

After all, the last sound any runner wants to hear while running is a Rice Krispies-style snap, crackle, or pop signaling the dreaded ankle sprain. Depending on its severity, a sprained ankle can disrupt even the most carefully planned training schedules and take anywhere from four weeks to a seemingly endless 12 months to fully heal. Ain't nobody got time for that.
The Source of the Sprain

Unlike repetitive stress injuries—like shin splints or runner’s knee—traditional ankle sprains are acute, trauma-related injuries from rolling an ankle on uneven terrain. This stretches or tears one or more main ligaments that connect the ankle to the foot, creating swelling and bruising at the site of injury. And it's even more common than you may think: An estimated 25,000 people suffer an ankle sprain every day in the U.S.

But you don’t have to twist your ankle on a trail or an uneven sidewalk to experience a bothersome feeling in your lower leg. Moderate (rather than trauma-related) ankle or foot pain can also affect runners. "A large percentage of runners tend to overstride or pace improperly, which can lead to ankle soreness,” says Chris Johnson, a physical therapist, All-American triathlete, and triathlon coach.

Another reason why runners get the short end of the ankle-sprain stick: Running is a plyometric activity, and bounding from one leg to the next with relatively short contact times puts considerable demand on a runner’s muscles and joints, which can lead to injury, Johnson explains.

And that's where balance training comes in: “If a runner has difficulty balancing on one leg on solid ground, running will be that much more difficult due to the increased forces and dynamic nature of the sport,” Johnson says. 

Need more convincing to improve your balance? Check out these four reasons:

1. You'll develop Herculean ankle strength.

"Balancing exercises can strengthen the ankle and surrounding musculature that provide stability while running," Fitzgerald says. One study found that athletes with chronic ankle instability demonstrated significant improvements in their ankle strength after completing a four-week balance training programs .

2. You'll improve your sense of awareness.

A neuromuscular component of balance known as proprioception (try saying that 10 times fast), or your sense of where your limbs are positioned in space, becomes impaired during an ankle sprain. Single-legged exercises train the brain to anticipate and coordinate movements in one’s leg muscles, making athletes less prone to recurrent ankle sprains . That's also why strength training, with a focus on improving balance and proprioception, can help runners (especially trail runners) skirt around surprise bumps and obstaces on the ground by heightening their awareness of where either foot will land, relative to other objects .

3. It helps you balance on one leg (a.k.a. run).

“When you run, there’s a period of time when you’re completely in the air—unlike walking, when one foot is always in contact with the ground,” Fitzgerald says. “In this sense, running can be considered a very coordinated series of one-legged hops.” Single-leg exercises (like the ones we highlight below) can improve running-specific strength and limit any imbalances that might occur.

4. It requires little to no equipment.

Balance training can be done literally anywhere, at any time. Most single-leg rehab exercises fit easily into any routine, allowing injured runners to multitask like a boss.

Your Action Plan

So you've twisted your ankle—now what? First, it’s important to keep pressure off of the injured leg (remember RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Next up: See a doctor who can recommend the best course of treatment, which may or may not involve an ankle brace to maximize ankle protection and minimize swelling.

Whatever you do, don't run. Running too soon after a sprain may inflict permanent damage. In fact, people who have already had an ankle injury are five times more likely to have another ankle issue in the future . “Too often, I find that injured runners who seek physical therapy services are in denial,“ Johnson says. “They make the situation worse or prolong it by trying to run through it.” Chronic ankle instability from an incompletely rehabilitated ankle sprain can lead to further impairments and dysfunction, he adds.

A better plan of attack: Focus on low-impact activities, like swimming, cycling, or rowing, which don’t require sharp, sudden ankle motions. As athletes gradually ease themselves back into the groove of running, Johnson recommends safeguarding against injury by not increasing their mileage more than 30 percent each week. (Other pros suggest following the 10 percent rule as an even more moderate plan for increasing mileage.)

Finally, improve ankle strength and minimize the risk of re-injury with simple balancing exercises. These five moves are easy enough to do anywhere, anytime—even while brushing your teeth—to fortify injured ankles.

1. Single-Leg Balance

"Simply balancing on one leg without shoes is a great first step for most runners,” Fitzgerald says. Begin by balancing on the injured leg with a stable object nearby, such as a desk or a table. Perform the exercise without shoes, standing on a flat, stable surface. Count to 10, then rest. Eventually, work up to 60-second holds. Try to do three 60-second sets twice a day.

2. Single-Leg Balance with Additions

For an added challenge, balance on your injured leg with crossed arms, then with closed eyes. Finally, attempt to stand with the injured leg on a cushion (but build up to this slowly). Each of these additions will destabilize the body, making the single legged balance more difficult to perform. For each, count to 10, then rest. Eventually, work up to 60-second holds. Try to do three 60-second sets twice a day.

3. Single-Leg Alphabet Drawing

Once balancing on one leg becomes easy, Fitzgerald recommends dynamic balancing exercises. Stand on one leg, tracing the letters of the alphabet in the air with the elevated foot. “This dynamic motion requires the ankle to work much harder to stabilize the body,” he says. Complete the alphabet on one leg, then switch. Complete three sets on each leg.

4. Single-Leg Squat

Single-leg strength exercises such as pistol squats are very specific to limiting asymmetries and improving running strength, Fitzgerald says. To perform a single-legged squat, begin by standing on one leg, arms extended straight in front of the body. Slowly lower the body so that the standing leg almost makes a 90-degree angle with the ground. Return to the starting position slowly, controlling the movement as you rise. For added ankle strength, perform these exercises barefoot. Work up to 10 reps on each leg.

5. Slow-Motion Marching Drills

To further recuperate functional ankle instability and correct gait imbalances, Johnson recommends dynamic slow motion marching drills. March forward in a slow motion, keeping the thigh and knee flexed at a 90-degree angle. Perform the exercises barefoot with relaxed toes. First, attempt to march wobble-free for 30 seconds. To master the exercise, march wobble-free for 60 seconds.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Weightlifting, sprints and high-fat diets. The rise of the superfit 60s

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Fitness trainer Joe Friel, 71 Brandon Sullivan / The Times
  • Fitness trainer Joe Friel, 71 Brandon Sullivan / The Times
As America’s leading endurance sports coach, Joe Friel, 71, has many reasons to be interested in the toll that ageing takes on fitness. He is an elite triathlon and cycling instructor, has coached sportspeople of all ages and abilities, and is the author of more than a dozen books for athletes including the bestselling Training Bible series. His curiosity about whether people can extend their sporting activities into the decades beyond middle age also has personal resonance. “I was approaching my 70th birthday and I was wondering what to expect. The number was scary because of the drop in fitness and performance that’s supposed to happen,” he says.
For the fitness enthusiast, growing old can be particularly tough. After a lifetime of being active, suddenly he or she is told to avoid strenuous exercise or risk broken bones and heart attacks. Cyclists, runners, swimmers, skiers, rowers and triathletes do not want to be told that they should potter around in the garden or do a bit of gentle swimming, says Friel. Though reluctant to take it easy, they acknowledge that their bodies are changing. They are slower to recover after workouts, for example, and want to know how to address these changes. This week, research reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine from studies monitoring a group of over-60s for ten years, showed the importance of exercise. Even those who exercised but failed to meet the recommended target of at least 20 minutes a day still were 22 per cent less likely to die during the study period than those who did no exercise. Those who did manage the recommended target were 28 per cent less likely to die. Six months before his big 7-0, Arizona-based Friel set out to look at all the research on ageing and sport. He wanted to pin down why some older athletes are regarded as “legends” by younger athletes for their continued fitness, while others appear to age quickly and see significant drops in performance. Is there an athletic fountain of youth? In his latest book, Fast After 50: How to Race Strong for the Rest of Your Life, Friel explains that vigorous exercise is possible well into your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. “We’re capable of achieving far more than we are currently accomplishing if we learn what’s happening to the ageing body and gently coax it to greater fitness,” he says. Where fitness is concerned, the three main downsides of ageing are as follows: firstly, decreasing aerobic capacity because the maximum amount of oxygen consumption measured during exercise declines at the rate of ten per cent or more per decade — and muscles need oxygen to work. Secondly, body fat will increase because the basic metabolic rate slows down, often resulting in weight gain — mostly fat. Lastly, muscle shrinkage: muscle mass decline begins during your 40s but decreases more rapidly after the age of 50, due largely to a decrease in anabolic or tissue-building hormones. There are other consequences too, such as reduced bone density and joint motion, which can lead to an increased risk of injury and a weakened immune system. Friel acknowledges that while these signs of ageing sound depressing, most of what we know about the process is based on “normal” subjects — sedentary old people like our parents or grandparents who saw their later years as a time to take it easy and snooze in armchairs. With baby boomers now in their 50s and 60s there is more positive research about ageing, thanks to people who push their physical and mental limits. “It appears that about half the loss is due to a sedentary lifestyle, not ageing per se,” says Friel. Therefore, though genetics play a part in ageing well, many of what we consider to be inevitable changes are in fact things that we have some control over. As we get older there can be a tendency to lighten the training load. Friel, who trains 15 hours a week on his bike, said he experienced this. “From my mid-60s I was doing less weight training, more long, slow, distance runs and fewer high-intensity workouts,” he says. “It wasn’t an intended change, it just kind of crept up on me.” Plus, he had the beginnings of a belly that he found harder to shift because of his changed workouts and the hormonal changes brought on by ageing. A daily diet of easy workouts “won’t get the job done”, the American coach declares in his book, and he sets out the four areas of training to focus on in later life:
Workout intensity
In any sport, as we age there is the tendency to increase duration of workouts at the expense of intensity, Friel says. Workouts become longer and slower. And yet you should be doing just the opposite. “Research shows that with athletes who maintain high intensity training, their decline is slowed by about 50 per cent compared with athletes who do lots of long, slow, distance training. There’s considerable evidence that supports this conclusion.” Training should be two or three times a week with an emphasis on muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance and sprint power.
Muscular endurance involves long workouts — for example running or cycling for a long period of time. Anaerobic endurance involves working out above the anaerobic threshold (where your body starts to produce lactic acid) for shorter intervals — running or cycling hard for a minute at 80 per cent of your maximum heart rate then recovering. Sprint power involves high-intensity workouts at maximum power for very short periods of time.
These workouts help to maintain muscle mass and stimulate testosterone release (this hormone, which aids muscle growth, is produced by both men and women, though women produce less, and its production declines as we age).
Strength training
Lifting weights is one of the best ways to build bone density while also stimulating testosterone release to maintain muscle mass. An alternative for the cyclist or swimmer who prefers not to use heavy weights on their legs in the gym is walking or running for several miles each week. This type of training should be done regularly and frequently, depending on your individual level of fitness. “Research suggests that you can rebuild bone and muscle no matter how old you are,” says Friel. Over-50s athletes should be cautious about introducing intervals and weight training to avoid injuries, he continues, but when practised safely and increased gradually, the regimen is the surest way to stay strong and competitive.
Older people cannot afford to burn the candle at both ends. Friel writes that the purpose of sleep is the growth and rejuvenation of the body — the muscular, skeletal, immune, nervous systems. Several studies have found that the amount of sleep people get is closely associated with not only health but living longer. Short sleep durations can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Aim for six to seven hours per night. “Sleep is critical to sport success,” says Friel. “The standard I use to determine if someone is getting enough sleep is [whether] they have to use an alarm clock in the morning. [If they do] they haven’t had enough sleep. Go to bed earlier.”
Protein plays an important and unique role in recovery. “The research shows that, as we get older, we need more protein in our diet. We need to replace carbohydrates with protein, which is anabolic and promotes muscle growth,” says Friel. Overdoing carbohydrates is likely to lead to an increase in body fat because insulin secretion interacts with another chemical in the body, lipoprotein lipase (LPL), to store fat, he writes in Fast After 50. “When we are younger, testosterone keeps LPL in check, allowing us to eat lots of carbs without increasing fat, but that changes with age because testosterone decreases in both women and men.” Dietary needs also change with physical shifts, and Friel says he has changed his diet at two pivotal times in his life. “The first was in 1994, shortly after my 50th birthday, when I was eating a lot of carbs because I was an endurance athlete. A friend tried to convince me to cut back on the refined carbs and eat more vegetables, fruit and animal products.” For the first three weeks of the new diet he felt terrible, he remembers, and then he started to feel better and to recover from workouts more quickly. His friend, Loren Cordain, with whom he later wrote The Paleo Diet for Athletes, explained that his immune system had been weak due to an inadequate intake of the micronutrients in vegetables, fruit and animal protein. At the age of 68, Friel switched his diet again when he noticed that his formerly flat belly was plump. His weight had been stable for most of his life at 154lb (11st / 70kg), the same weight he was in high school, but went up to 166lb. On the advice of Dr Timothy Noakes, author of Lore of Running, Friel switched to a low-carb, high-fat diet, cutting back on the five servings of fruit he ate daily, which were high in carbohydrates because of naturally occurring sugars, and eating more high-fat foods such as avocado, nuts, nut butters, eggs, bacon, olive oil and fish. “I’m back to 154lb, which has been my standard weight for most of my life,” says Friel. “I’m lean and that makes me happy.” While researching his book, Friel began to incorporate changes into his own fitness regimen, ditching the long slow workouts that his ageing body had become accustomed to and going for a pattern of high-intensity workouts interspersed with periods of moderate or easy workouts. What worked for him was three vigorous workouts within a nine-day period — on the other days he did easy workouts. This can be adjusted for the individual, he says. Some people may benefit from three vigorous workouts interspersed with three moderate and three easy ones. This intensity, coupled with vital rest periods in between, is, he says, the key to maintaining performance with ageing. Soon, he said, he saw improvements and measured a 7 per cent increase in his fitness in a short space of time. “If you currently have a relatively high level of fitness, there’s a great deal to lose by becoming sedentary or even just cutting back on intensity. It’s use it or lose it,” he says. A month after his 70th birthday, in January 2014, Friel had a serious crash on his bike. “I’d thought about not riding at all that day because the wind gusts were really strong, but I went out anyway and an exceptionally strong gust came from my left side and blew me into a kerb, where I landed on my head and shoulder, and did a lot of damage,” he remembers. He broke seven bones, had concussion and was in hospital for six days. He developed blood clots in both legs and both lungs and was on blood-thinning medication for six months. Though he returned to cycling three weeks after the crash, Friel’s long recovery continues. “A major issue is that my body is not coming back as fast as when I was younger, and it has had a tremendous impact on my performance. So my focus now is just on health and enjoying whatever exercise I’m capable of.” Not even an athlete can out-run or out-cycle the ravages of time, Friel says, and athletes don’t only have to deal with the wear and tear caused by years of training. They also have to battle the psychological effects of being in an ageing body, and remembering their body at its best. Being respectful of the physiological changes that occur with age and adapting accordingly, he continues, there is no need to settle down into a sedentary old age. Friel still travels the world advising athletes. “When people start losing their performance they think ‘I probably shouldn’t expect to race so well or be as fit as I was years ago’, but that’s just an excuse. Ageing is first and foremost an attitude. If you decide you’re over the hill, you are.”

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Does Working Out in the Rain Make You Sick?

It's a common medical myth that being outside in the rain or cold makes you sick. So, it's natural to assume that, by the same logic, working out in the rain or cold -- or both -- makes you sick. Neither, of course, is true. Being in rainy or cold conditions during exercise is not a direct cause of viruses like cold or flu. You must come into contact with a virus to contract these illnesses.

Why the Myth Endures

The myth endures because it appears to people as if rainy or cold weather contributes to illness. Certainly there is a strong correlation between rainy or cold weather and viruses like cold or influenza. This is because more people are infected with these viruses during cold and/or rainy months. Plus, being outside in cold rain can cause temporary flu-like symptoms, like shivering or a runny nose. But in these cases, correlation does not imply causation. Viruses cause these illnesses, not weather patterns.

Being Indoors with People

Cold and flu viruses tend to spike any time cold or rainy weather keeps people indoors more often than usual. During these times, people tend to be in closer proximity to one another as well. When you inhale the virus particles that a person breathes or coughs into the air, you can be infected. Whether to exercise indoors or outdoors is not the issue.

Body Temperature Drop

When you get wet outdoors, your body temperature drops. This is offset somewhat by exercise, which increases your body temperature. Even so, especially cold rainy conditions may cool the body enough to cause hypothermia, particularly if your clothes are drenched in water. Hypothermia strains the body, including the immune system, and this may heighten your chances of becoming infected with a virus. In such cases, rain may aggravate your immune system, but it is not the direct cause of illness.

Immunity Benefits of Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise helps boost the function of the immune system. This is true regardless of weather conditions. In other words, your immune system function will improve whether you choose to exercise indoors or outdoors during a cold rain. This can make you less likely to contract a cold or flu virus.


Exercise common sense when carrying out your exercise plan in the rain. recommends staying indoors if the outside windchill reaches zero degrees F or lower. By the same token, it's probably unwise to exercise outdoors in freezing rain, in which quick accumulation can make you more prone to falls and injury. If you have asthma or any other chronic illness, consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.