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For December 12, 2017

  • Will caffeine help me run faster?
    Will caffeine help me run faster?

    A few years ago it was popular for runners to drink a cup of coffee before a race because caffeine will stimulate the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream. The athletes were counting on using the fatty acids for fuel, rather than glucose, "saving" the glucose for later in the race when it might give them a second wind. There is also a study based on athletes who were given 330 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent to two to three strong cups of coffee or seven caffeinated soft drinks) one hour before exercising. The athletes were able to perform moderate aerobic activity 15 minutes longer than their "decaffeinated" control group.

    330 milligrams of caffeine is a lot of caffeine. For most people, the adverse effects of consuming that much caffeine would far outweigh the possibility of enhanced performance. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can cause headaches, insomnia, and abnormal heart rhythms. It contributes to irritability--the last thing you need if you already have pre-race jitters. And, the effects on the colon combined with irritability often results in diarrhea.

    Caffeine is also a diuretic--the description for drugs that promote water loss from the body. Having to step behind a tree in the middle of a race increases race time as much as the fatty acids released by the caffeine may decrease it.

    A cup of coffee contains approximately 50 to 150 milligrams of caffeine, tea about 10 to 50 milligrams, and caffeinated soft drinks about 50 milligrams. It's also hidden in chocolate and many over the counter prescription drugs.

    Caffeine may increase your endurance but it doesn't make you run faster. Bottom line is the negative effects of its use far outweigh the positive so you're better off to make water your pre-game beverage.

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  • Pill shows promise in preventing influenza infection
    Pill shows promise in preventing influenza infection

    TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) - A new pill expected to be available soon appears to reduce the chances of catching influenza by about three-quarters if taken daily during flu season.

    Oseltamivir, to be marketed as Tamiflu, was given in 75-milligram doses once or twice daily to 520 people for the first six weeks of the 1997-98 flu season.

    Just 1 percent of them got the flu, compared with nearly 5 percent of a comparison group that took dummy pills.

    The pill worked against both A and B flu viruses, the two major types Americans catch, researchers at the University of Virginia and five other sites concluded. Their work was funded by the pill's manufacturer, Hoffmann-La Roche.

    The Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon allow Hoffmann-La Roche to sell the drug, which would be the second of its kind approved this year.

    In July, FDA approved Relenza, a powder spray inhaled through the mouth. It has been shown to slightly reduce the duration of a flu bout and reduce chances of catching the flu from an ill relative by 79 percent.

    Doctors believe getting an annual flu vaccine is still best for most people. The researchers said Tamiflu could be useful for people who are allergic to or won't get a flu shot, as extra protection for vaccinated residents of nursing homes, or for family members exposed when someone brings the flu home from school or work.

    The research appears in Thursday's edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, along with an editorial by two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts. They wrote that Tamiflu could be a useful weapon during likely future flu epidemics, partly because two older flu drugs have significant side effects, only fight type A flu and can't attack virus strains already resistant to the drugs.

    Another recent study found Tamiflu cut the duration and severity of flu symptoms by about half in 80 adults who didn't get a vaccine.

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  • Dan Wirth - Part 2: Simple Guidelines for Effective Weight Training
    Dan Wirth - Part 2: Simple Guidelines for Effective Weight Training

    This is Part 2 of a 2 Part article. Part 1 ran on August 1st.

    What is weight training? - Machine or free weight implements that are pushed, pulled or lifted for the isolation of specific muscle groups. Machine exercises generally have a pre-set range of motion and require less balance and control so learning is faster. Free weights (dumbbell, barbells) are usually more advanced forms of training where virtually any movement can be done for overall development.

    Fundamental Guidelines

    • Frequency - 2 to 6 times per week
    • Duration - 20 to 130 minutes
    • 1RM - One repetition with maximum weight
    • Intensity - Relationship of weight used to your maximum strength level
    • Volume - Number of sets and repetitions performed

    Intensity and Volume Guidelines

    Phase Sets Reps Intensity of 1-Rep-Max (1RM)
    Endurance 2-4 15+ 50% or less
    Hypertrophy 3-5 8-12 60% to 70%
    Base Strength 3-5 6-8 70% to 80%
    Strength and Power 3-6 4-6 80% to 90%
    Max Power and Strength 3-6 1-3 90% to 100%

    Each Phase of training has a corresponding intensity and volume range. Training for endurance is much different than training for maximum power! You should spend the most time in the phase of training that most closely matches your goals. However, you will always want to spend some time in the other phases of training so that your progress doesn�t stagnate from a lack of variation. This is what periodization is all about! All Fitrex.com programs will follow a specific periodization �map� depending upon the emphasis of the program that you choose!

    Dan Wirth M.A., C.S.C.S.
    Fitness Director (Fitrex.com)
    Director of Strength and Conditioning
    The University of Arizona
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  • Dan Wirth - Flat vs. Incline Bench, Which Will Make You Stronger?
    Dan Wirth - Flat vs. Incline Bench, Which Will Make You Stronger?

    This article was written in response to the following question: Dan, how do you feel about the Incline Bench compared to the Bench Press when it comes to developing great upper body strength?

    Ah, the infamous Incline Bench Press. The great and almighty 45 degree sports specific force producer! Seriously, the Incline Bench is a great exercise, but, not one that should use a full periodization schedule. Meaning, it is not my "major stimulator" or Primary Strength Exercise (PSE) for the upper body.

    PSE�s are complex movements that utilize more than one muscle group. They are the exercises that will use a full periodization schedule working from higher volume and lower intensity phases into maximal strength and power phases. This would be in contrast to a Secondary Strength Exercise (SSE) like the Incline Bench, or an Assistive Strength Exercise (ASE) like a Dumbbell Curl that would not use a full periodization schedule and would not work into maximal strength and power phases!

    By major stimulator, I am simply talking about exercises that you can inherently lift the most weight with therefore creating the highest neuromuscular or contraction activity in the muscle groups being used (notice the plural use of the word �groups�, the Bench is not just a chest exercise, but more on that later!)

    FLAT BENCH IS KING

    The Bench Press is inherently set up so that you should be able to push more weight than you could with an Incline bench (barring any injuries or biomechanical problems). If you took one thousand athletes or fitness buffs and tested them on the Bench Press and the Incline Bench Press, about 97% of them, not all but most, would be able to Bench Press more than they could Incline Bench. This is especially true for the 35-45 degree Incline Bench Press which is pretty close to the optimal angle of release for a shot putter and a close representation of the pushing angle after the initial contact phase of a football lineman.

    It is for this reason, and this reason only, that the Bench Press is my upper body Primary Strength Exercise. The angle of the Incline Bench is what makes it a great exercise but it is also what keeps it away from PSE status. PSE�s for me are the Power Clean, Squat, and "Flat" Bench in athletic based programs. And, I substitute the Deadlift exercise for the Power Clean in programs for people who want to develop great strength.

    BIG GAINS WITH PSEs

    We could use the Power Clean and the Squat as further examples of Primary Strength Exercises. In most strength and conditioning programs, in sports where strength and power output are vitally important, the Squat exercise is the major stimulator as opposed to the Front Squat, or the Barbell Step Up. The same thing applies with the Power Clean versus the Power Snatch for example. This is not taking anything away from the Incline Bench, Power Snatch, and Front Squat exercises. Many times I emphasize these lifts in my strength and power programs, but, when I am focusing on absolute strength and power increases during certain training cycles it is the Power Clean, Squat and Bench that I use.

    When I mentioned neuromuscular activity levels earlier, many research buffs would like to bring to my attention an occasionally found research example of the Decline Bench exercise having a higher neuromuscular activity than the Bench Press (found through EMG testing). I would say yes, this is true in some cases. However, the Decline Bench has some problems with it�s limited range of motion. But, that�s another story.

    Now, this brings me to a very important point: The Bench Press is not just a chest oriented exercise. It is a Chest, Shoulder, and Triceps exercise. And, this is precisely the reason why most people can lift a heavier poundage with this exercise! The strength of those three muscle groups combined is ultimately stronger than a lift like the Decline Bench which is primarily only a chest developer or the Incline Bench which activates the shoulders even more than the chest.

    Finally, my upper body strength philosophy is pretty simple. Use the Bench Press as your PSE for the upper body. And use the Incline Bench as your SSE on heavier upper body days, or use the Dumbbell Incline Bench as an ASE on lighter upper body days.

    One final note about anyone doing heavy pressing movements: You have to consistently work the posterior head of the deltoid along with performing stabilization exercises such as external rotators in order to keep the shoulder joint healthy. This will ensure you can keep on benching injury free!

    Dan Wirth M.A., C.S.C.S.
    Fitness Director (Fitrex.com)
    Director of Strength and Conditioning
    The University of Arizona
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  • Doze Control: Eat Right and You'll Sleep Like a Baby
    Doze Control: Eat Right and You'll Sleep Like a Baby

    By Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.) - Do you toss and turn during the night instead of sleeping soundly? If so, your battle with insomnia might start at the dining table, not in the bedroom.

    A cup of coffee or tea or a glass of cola are quick pick-me-ups that might undermine your sleep. Even small amounts of caffeine (like the amount in a chocolate doughnut) can affect your sleep, especially if you are sensitive to caffeine. Try eliminating all caffeine-containing beverages. If you feel and sleep better after two weeks of being caffeine-free, then avoid caffeine permanently. You can try adding back one or two cups after the two-week trial, but cut back if sleep problems reappear.

    As for alcohol, a nightcap might make you sleepy at first, but in the end you'll sleep less soundly and wake up more tired. Alcohol and other depressants suppress a phase of sleeping called REM (rapid eye movement) during which most of your dreaming occurs. Less REM is associated with more night awakenings and restless sleep. One glass of wine with dinner probably won't hurt, but avoid drinking any alcohol within two hours of bedtime. And never mix alcohol with sleeping pills!

    Sleep-Friendly Table Tactics

    Big dinners make you temporarily drowsy but prolong digestion, which interferes with a good night's sleep. It's best to eat your biggest meal before midafternoon and have a light evening meal of 500 calories or less. Include some chicken, extra-lean meat or fish at dinner to help curb middle-of-the-night snack attacks.

    Spicy foods can contribute to sleep problems: Dishes seasoned with garlic, chilies, cayenne or other hot spices can cause nagging heartburn or indigestion. Avoid spicy foods at dinner. Gas-forming foods and hurried eating also cause abdominal discomfort, which in turn interferes with sound sleep. Limit your intake of gas-forming foods to the morning hours, and thoroughly chew food to avoid gulping air.

    Bedtime Snacks: a Great Alternative to Sleeping Pills

    A high-carbohydrate snack, such as crackers and fruit or toast and jam, triggers the release of a brain chemical called serotonin, which aids sleep. And although the traditional glass of warm milk, a protein-rich beverage, probably doesn't affect serotonin levels, the warm liquid soothes and relaxes you and makes you feel full, which might help facilitate sleep.

    A new product on the market called 5-Hydroxy-L-tryptophan, or 5-HTP, is touted as a building block for serotonin, which is a mood elevator, brain stimulant and sleep enhancer. However, since its safety is questionable and no optimal dose has been established, you're better off raising serotonin levels naturally with high-carbohydrate snacks.

    Curbing the Midnight Snack Attack

    Do you awaken in the middle of the night, unable to fall back to sleep unless you eat something? These midnight snack cravings may be triggered by hunger, or they may just be habit. In either case, your best bet is to break the cycle. Try eating more during the day, and stop rewarding your stomach by feeding it every time it wakes you up. Instead, read a book, drink a glass of water or ignore the craving. It takes up to two weeks to break a midnight snack habit.

    Exercising to Relieve Stress

    Stress is a common cause of insomnia. Often, relieving tensions and anxieties eliminates sleep problems. One tension reliever is exercise. In a study from Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, healthy adults with mild sleep problems who exercised twice a week for at least 40 minutes per session fell asleep faster and slept about 45 minutes longer than people who didn't exercise. Physical activity also helps you cope with daily stress and tires the body so it is ready to sleep at night. Vigorous exercise should be done no closer to bedtime than six hours; mild exercise should be done no closer to bedtime than four hours.

    In short, sleeping pills are a temporary fix, but a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes could do wonders for your long-term snooze control.

    Copyright � 1999 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • Exercise guards against physical effects of stress article
    Exercise guards against physical effects of stress article

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Long known to help stave off heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer, regular exercise can also help protect against the physical effects of daily stress, according to a report in the November issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

    In the study of 135 college students, those who exercised on a regular basis were more likely to take life's daily stresses in stride, compared with their less physically active counterparts.

    Previous studies have shown that mental stress takes a toll on physical health, causing such problems as increases in blood sugar levels among diabetics, worsening of joint pain in people with arthritis, and symptoms of psychological distress such as anxiety and depression.

    Study participants filled out questionnaires assessing the daily hassles they encountered during the past week -- such as car trouble, running late for appointments, or arguments with co-workers -- as well as questionnaires on major life events, mood, physical activity, and overall health.

    "Minor, everyday stress contributes to the development and exacerbation of physical and mental health problems, However, people experiencing minor stress develop different degrees of symptoms, depending on their level of physical activity," explained lead researcher Dr. Cindy L. Carmack of the University of Texas M.D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, in a written press release.

    During periods of high stress, those who reported exercising less frequently had 37% more physical symptoms than their counterparts who exercised more often. In addition, highly stressed students who engage in less exercise report 21% more anxiety than students who exercise more frequently, the investigators add.

    Exercise helps people get their mind off of stressors -- "providing a time-out period." This "allows for a temporary escape from the pressure of stressors and thus acts as a kind of 'rejuvenation' process," Carmack and colleagues conclude.

    Source: Annals of Behavioral Medicine November 1999.

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