Archive for Fitness and Health

High Fructose Corn Syrup

This stuff gets a lot of bad press and it is true that like all sugars it has plenty of downsides. Read Dr Mirkin’s expert opininion and better yet the Doc is a bike rider.

Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should I avoid high fructose corn syrup? 

Sixty percent of North Americans believe that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is more unhealthful than other sugars even though the number of calories, the amount of fructose and the sweetness is virtually the same as table sugar.  They think incorrectly that HFCS-sweetened drinks cause obesity more than drinks sweetened with table sugar or fruit sugars.

Table sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beets, while HFCS is made from corn starch.  HFCS is cheaper than beet or cane sugar, so it is a major source for calories for Americans today.
ALL sugared drinks (including fruit juice) increase risk for diabetes, metabolic syndrome (prediabetes) and heart attacks (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 13, 2010).  This study shows that the more sugared drinks you take, the larger your waist circumference, and the higher your bad LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.  The only safe time to take sugared drinks is during or immediately after exercise. HFCS is not more harmful than any other sugared drink.

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Rehydration and salty sweat

During a visit to my endospecialist (don’t ask) I picked up a copy of Triathlon magazine that contained an article about the science of hydration by Andy Blow. Andy is described as one of Britain’s finest tri coaches who includes Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso among his clients. Blow writes that loss of sodium is unpredictable and is determined by genetics. He adds that losses in sweat in a normal population can vary eight fold from 230mg/l to 1700mg/l The problem can be further increased if the athlete is a heavy sweater.

Now this didn’t seem likely to me. I believe that the body is a smart organism that has most of the bases covered. Think of two cavemen building an extension to their cave in Southern Africa. One is a heavy sweater with a very high sodium concentration. He could be losing 1700mg of sodium an hour. His buddy is a light sweater with a low sodium concentration so he is losing 115mg of sodium an hour. If you believe Blow this unhappy situation is down to chance. Now in Blow’s world the first caveman just takes in more salt, maybe he necks two Gatorades every hour! In reality these two guys will have similar salt consumption and in all likelyhood will not be able to vary it.

As one of the many oldsters with borderline hypertension I have a passing interest in sodium chloride and I recalled that I had read something about this very topic. As long ago as 1949 Dr Jerome Conn of the University of Michigan medical school carried out research on men carrying out work in an hot environment. He found that the sodium content of sweat varied from 40mg/l to  400mg/l. He found similar differences in the sodium content of urine.

So far so good, Blow and Conn are in agreement. But Conn discovered why there is such a massive variation in sodium content of sweat, In short the more sodium in your diet the more sodium in your sweat. This is the bodies more or less successful attempt to keep the sodium level constant. And isn’t that just what you would expect? Why would the body sweat out sodium leaving the body with a deficiency that could result in cramps and much worse.

My recommendation is to add half a cup of orange juice for the potassium content to a bottle of water. if you expect to sweat very heavily by all means add a quarter teaspoon of table salt just in case. This is based on the presumption that as a cyclist you care about your health and you are already on a low salt diet.

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Flemish cycling surge continues

Membership of the Flemish Cycling Union (VWB) has continued its remarkable increase from 28,485 in 2007, 40,508 in 2008 followed by a 48 % increase to 60,132 in 2009. With a doubling of membership in just two years the VWB is the fastest growing sports federation in Belgium.

Werner Ingelgem of the VWB commented “Cycling in recent years become a lifestyle phenomenon. Everyone wants to stay slim and healthy and wants a young, sporty image and cycling is eminently suitable. For ladies and seniors the social relationships during and after the bike ride are important and younger men enjoy the flexibility.”

Perhaps taking his cue from Harriet Harperson he continued ” the working class has remained but we now have many VIPs, politicians and businessmen as members. Furthermore the word “Flandrien” is an honorary epithet that inspires many. Or as Gordon Brown would put it a sport for the many not the few!

As De Ronde fever mounts it is impossible not to be infected. This year the race will be particularly poignant as it will be held on the sixth anniversary of the death of “The last of the Flandriens” “Iron” Brik Schotte. With such a history it is perhaps not surprising that Flandriens are getting on their bikes in record numbers.

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Mice fed sunflower oil can run faster

As my cardiovascular health isn’t all that it could be I avoid sunflower oil like poison instead using rapeseed oil in the probably mistaken belief that it is healthier for the old ticker.

Today I read that mice fed sunflower oil that is higher in polyunsaturates quickly turn in to champion runners. I knew there must be a reason why the Forty Plus cycling club, probably the slowest bunch of cyclists ever gathered together, can drop me on every climb. I have been cooking my chips in the wrong sort of fat!

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Latest training tip:get your sperm frozen!

It has been suggested to the conference of the Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in Amsterdam that the heat and friction from the bike saddle can damage sperm. This is, of course, nothing new we have been having these scares for years. What seems to be new is the belief that the problem is so serious that it could be necessary to freeze riders’ sperm before they start serious training if they plan to have children.

Among men who regularly cycle 180 miles a week less than four in one hundred sperm are considered to be normal. Swimmers and runners have normal sperm in the 15% to 20% range. Dr Allan Pacey a senior lecturer in andrology says it is all bollocks quoting the post-war baby boom at a time when cycling was more popular as evidence.

My only contribution to the debate is to recall winter training rides when I was so cold that my sperm may well have frozen in situ and the only risk to my fertility was my ice-cold knob dropping off!

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Obree right again

What is it about that guy, he seems like a total flake but he is right time after time. He invented a new position that looked really stupid but was clearly faster than any other. In fact it was so fast that the UCI banned it so he invented the “superman” position that was just as fast and looked just as weird as the original crouch. The UCI banned that as well but not before Chris Boardman used it to take the Hour record.

It was at his Hour record attempt, in Norway I think, that Obree introduced his other secret weapon, a bowl of cornflakes! How we laughed, all those scientific drinks out there and the crazy Scotsman was stuffing his face with rubbish from ASDA!

It seems that researchers at the University of Texas thought Obree was on to something  as they recruited twelve trained cyclists and got them to ride for two hours. Exercise physiologist Lynne Kammer who led the study said that glycogen replenishment was just as good after wheat cereal and milk as with sports drinks and that lactic acid levels were actually lower.

International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings: Vol. 2 : Iss. 2 , Article 25.

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Drinking green tea may help to burn fat.

I drink green tea for its claimed cardiovascular benefits so it was a bonus to learn that it could help to burn fat. The tea was tested on two groups of cyclists who took part in a time trial at 60% of vo2max. The men who were given a capsule of green tea extract equal to 3.5 cups of tea burnt fat at a 17% higher rate than those given a placebo. The research was carried out at the Human Performance Laboratory, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, The University of Birmingham and reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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