Testosterone And Too Much Training
The Training/Immune System
Alcohol In Moderation
Addicted To The Burn
Catching Some Zs
Does Lost Sleep Lower Performance
Aloe Vera As A Healer
Cramps: Cause and Effect
Soda May Weaken Your Bones
Muscle Cramp Update
Can I Raise HDL Level
Q: How can I stay healthy and look young when I get older?
A: The way you treat your body now is very important to your quality of
life later on. Genetic background plays a great role, but you do have
some control over the way you age. Here are some things you can do to
promote good health and prevent disease.
1. Eat a healthful, varied diet that will help you maintain a desirable
weight. Emphasizing lowfat dairy products, lean meats, plant proteins,
whole grains, plant oil, fruits and dark green and leafy vegetables is a
good place to start. Common sense should tell you to keep the fast food
to a minimum.
2. Make exercise a daily priority. Even if you're not training in a gym
or running on a track, a walk after dinner is still exercise. The goal
is to stimulate the cardiovascular system-research suggests that you
should expend about 2,000 calories per week exercising.
3. Limit your alcohol intake and don't smoke. These are obvious ways to
promote good health and prevent disease. Not smoking reduces your risk
of lung cancer. As for alcohol, you should limit your consumption to one
to two ounces per day. A 12-ounce beer, a four ounce glass of wine or a
mixed drink contains about a half ounce (15grams) of alcohol. A glass of
wine during dinner won't harm the average person's health, but an
excessive amount can have a long-term effect on your liver and kidneys.
4. Limit your stress. This lets your mind and body relax. Many things
can help reduce stress, such as time management, music, massages,
regular exercise and doing your favorite things.
5. Consult a health care professional when necessary. This is essential,
as early diagnosis is especially important for controlling many
Baryophobia is a relatively new disorder that's associated with a poor
growth rate in kids and young adults. It occurs because parents
underfeed their children in an attempt to prevent obesity and heart
disorders. Baryophobia is, literally, the fear of becoming heavy.
Many parents lead lifelong battles with the bathroom scale. With the
best of intentions they want to prevent their children from falling prey
to the same psychologically destructive battle. While a healthy, lowfat
diet is optimal for growth and development, it's important that a
child's diet contain adequate calories and protein and other nutrients
essential for growth. After the age of two children can eat a lower-fat
diet without adverse effects, but it's probably more important for
health and bodyweight regulations at this stage to limit saturated fat
intake rather than worry about total fat consumption.
By using height and weight charts, parents should be able to monitor
their children's weight to avoid symptoms of baryophobia and a lifelong
battle with food.
Many negative physiological changes occur as the result of stress and
overtraining. While a threshold level of stress is necessary to elicit
the positive changes that athletes desire from their training-for
example, increased muscle mass and power, an enhanced cardiovascular
system, increased endurance and an improved appearance-when the exercise
is too stressful, they begin to experience those undesirable changes.
Symptoms of overtraining include elevated resting heart rate, loss of
appetite, lethargy, weight loss and irritability, as well as changes in
the testosterone and hormones involved in a stress response.
Research shows that testosterone levels are temporarily decreased as a
result of overtraining, while serum cortisol levels increase. Cortisol
is a catabolic steroid hormone that's released as a result of physical
stress and is involved in the inflammatory response. In runners and
cyclists testosterone levels decreased by 50 percent and cortisol levels
increased approximately threefold after intense competition.
These changes are disadvantageous for an athlete, especially a
bodybuilder who's trying to pack on muscle mass. Bodybuilders,
therefore, should follow a more prudent training approach to avoid
crossing the line from adequate to excessive training. Keep track of
your body's signals and avoid the pitfalls that come from training too
Stretch marks generally appear on individuals who have undergone such a
rapid increase in weight or size that their skin didn't have time to
sufficiently accommodate it. While everyone knows that pregnant women
commonly experience this phenomenon, many don't realize that
bodybuilders, too, frequently develop stretch marks.
Stretch marks are genetic, and not everyone gets them. It's a
characteristic similar to complexion or skin smoothness. There are
several anecdotal remedies for avoiding or ridding oneself of these
seemingly unsightly blemishes-everything from topical creams, vitamin E
oil and aloe vera to oral nutrients and oils. New research on petroleum
jelly indicates that it may finally ease some stretch mark frustration
and at the same time provide an inexpensive, effective moisturizer for
the whole body.
Yes, the old standby Vaseline, which is pure petroleum jelly, has been
the focus of studies that show that it's not only one of the best
moisturizing agents for you skin, but it also helps speed the healing
process and recovery. The researchers at the
California at San Francisco expected the jelly to slow the healing
process and were surprised to find that it actually enhanced the
regeneration of skin cells. This shouldn't be interpreted to mean that
using a petroleum-based product on your stretch marks will make them
disappear. The healing process will be enhanced, however, and your skin
will benefit as well. In fact, most dermatologists have for many years
recommended petroleum jelly for stretch marks.
Petroleum jelly, or petrolatum, is found in varying degrees in most
moisturizers and skin-care products; the problem is, it's greasy and
messy to use. Even so, pure jelly or a product high in jelly will
definitely be less expensive and more effective than most
designer-labeled so-called moisturizers on the market.
Does training hard help keep you healthy, or does it increase your risk
of getting sick. Research shows that both intense exercise and chronic
fatigue can result in suppression of the immune system.
While intense exercise can exert a negative impact on your body's
ability to ward off disease, it's not clear exactly what that leads to
down the line. So does hard training make you sick? Research suggests
that it does not.
In studies of runners those who ran less than 15 miles per week were
found to be more susceptible to infection than those who ran more.
Scientists have also discovered that runners are less susceptible to
illness following a single major competition.
While there is a temporary drop in immune function immediately following
an intense training session, this effect doesn't last long. The
depressed immune function returns to normal within two hours. We don't
know whether the results from one training session can carry over and
last in a situation where someone is chronically overtraining. As long
as you avoid overtraining and ongoing fatigue, exercise should have a
beneficial effect on your ability to stay healthy; at the very worst it
will have no effect at all.
Q: I'm a 26
year-year-old female bodybuilder, and I'm planning to compete for the
first time in six months. As I currently use oral contraceptives, will
they affect my physique adversely?
A: Oral contraceptives probably won't adversely affect your performance.
In fact, two physiological effects of certain oral contraceptives may
prove to be a benefit-an elevated level of basal growth hormone
secretion that leads to a glycogen-sparing effect.
Growth hormone is involved in both fat breakdown and muscle growth, two
effects that would seem to offer advantages to a competitive
bodybuilder. The growth hormone response appears to be related to the
reduced ability to utilize glycogen during exercise in women who take
oral contraceptives. Since glycogen choice; so growth hormone helps to
mobilize the fat from the adipose cells.
Taking the oral contraceptives may enable you to carry a lower natural
bodyfat level. As with all mediations, however, you should consult your
personal physician if you have any questions about their use.
ALCOHOL IN MODERATION
Everyone knows that it takes more alcohol for a larger individual to
become drunk than it does for someone smaller. It's also well-known that
women and men respond differently to alcohol. Take a man and a woman of
comparable size. After they ingest similar amounts of alcohol, the woman
will have a higher blood alcohol level and will feel more drunk. Because
women have higher blood-alcohol levels, they are much quicker to develop
alcohol-related ailments, such as liver disease, than a man with a
similar drinking history.
New studies show that these differences are caused by an enzyme that is
present in the stomach of males but not females. This enzyme, alcohol-dehydrogenase,
normally present in the liver, aids in the breakdown of alcohol,
removing it from the body. Until recently the liver was thought to be
the only place where this class of enzymes resides and the only place
where alcohol is removed from the body. Since certain males possess a
large amount of this enzyme in their stomachs, only a small amount of
ingested alcohol ever reaches their bloodstream, where it affects the
boy and mind. Apparently, women do not possess this enzyme in the lining
of their stomachs, and so all of the alcohol they drink goes directly
into their bloodstream before removal begins.
The amount of this enzyme in the stomachs of males appears to vary, with
alcoholics containing the lowest amounts of the enzyme for those
individuals studied. While alcohol should be ingested only in
moderation, because of these findings we now know that moderation for a
woman is different from moderation for a man.
ADDICTED TO THE BURN
There are two kinds of addictions, positive and negative. Dr. William
Glasser is the author of a book on positive addiction in which he
defines exercise as a form of positive addiction.
Negative addictions such as drugs and alcohol relieve the pain of
failure and provide temporary pleasure but at a terrible cost in terms
of the addict's family, social and professional lives. Positive
addictions lead to psychological strength, imagination and creativity.
If taken out of proper perspective, however, they can also alter family
relationships and work performance, just as drug and alcohol abuse do.
Even so, exercise isn't likely to destroy the body and the mind.
When an addiction becomes an obsession, negative aspects arise. If you
keep it in proper perspective, though, your positive addiction can
become a form of therapy that relieves anxiety and depression.
According to Glasser, the focus of a positive addiction can be any
activity you choose, so long as it meets the following criteria:
. It is noncompetitive.
. You do it for approximately one hour per day.
. It is easy to do and does not require much mental effort.
. You can do it alone-you don't rely on others to do it.
. You believe it has some mental, physical or spiritual value.
. You believe that if you persist you will improve at it.
. You can do it without criticizing yourself.
When you are in a state of positive addiction, your mind is clear and
you are free to become more imaginative and creative. Endurance
activities are good forms of addiction; once you can perform the
exercise without fatigue for an hour, you are most likely to achieve an
Other forms of exercise also fit the criteria for positive addiction,
but most make it hard for you to maintain a tranquil mind during the
activity. It is the mindless, "timeless" state during the activity that
you should strive for. When you can achieve that state on a regular
basis, you should note positive changes in both your personality and
mood. So go out and exercise for you body and your mind.
Just how much sleep is the right amount for you? We all know people who
seem to get by on four or five hours of sleep a night, while others
appear to need 10 or 12. But what amount of sleep is best?
According to one study, men and women who slept six hours or less per
night were not as healthy as those who slept seven or eight hours; those
who slept nine hour or more were slightly below average in health. Thus,
seven to eight hours of sleep appears to be optimum, and too little
sleep is more a problem than too much.
One important phase of sleep is the rapid eye movement (REM) stage,
which is usually accompanied by dreams and which takes up about 20
percent of our sleep time. If REM sleep is continuously interrupted, we
Moderate physical activity seems to enhance the ability to fall into a
deep sleep without altering the time spent in REM sleep. Too little or
too much exercise appears to result in sleep disturbance, however, and
significant sleep loss seems to suppress the immune system.
Just how much will the loss of a night's sleep affect your performance?
Long periods of sleep deprivation are known to decrease performance, but
what happens when you've got insomnia for one night?
Research shows that subjects who are deprived of a single night's rest
experience no decrease in either strength or anaerobic performance. This
is important for athletes who lose sleep on the night before a contest
due to travel factors, excitement or nerves. Although you may feel tired
or sluggish initially, if you perform and adequate warm-up, the lack of
sleep should not adversely affect your performance.
As bodybuilders we tend to be more health-and body-conscious than the
average person. As a result we are more aware of what we put into and
onto our bodies, so we often take a more holistic approach in the hopes
of reestablishing and maintaining a more natural and healthy body. For
example, when we get a cold, we are more likely to drink more fluids and
rest. Or if we get an abrasion, we are more likely to apply vitamin E
oil or aloe vera ointment than Neosporine or Cortaid. In the case of
using aloe vera for cuts and wounds, however, the more holistic approach
turns out not to be the best method.
Aloe vera is included in ointments that are meant to heal cuts and
burns. While aloe vera is soothing and can result in immediate relief
when applied to sunburned skin, it appears to inhibit the healing of
open wounds and cuts. Recent evidence suggests that when aloe vera is
applied wounds take up to twice as long to heal, as opposed to when a
typical antiseptic is applied. So while a more holistic approach to diet
and health is often beneficial, you should be open to scientific
approaches as well.
Symptoms: Muscle spasms and cramping, low blood pressure and low blood
volume brought on by electrolyte imbalance and dehydration.
Treatment: Depending on severity, the immediate response is to stretch
and massage muscle and follow with isotonic fluid replacement. Severe
cases require hospitalization and administration of I.V. saline. Quinine
sulfate will relax muscles, which relieves cramping symptoms.
Prognosis: Recuperation is usually rapid once the cause of fluid and
electrolyte depletion has been alleviated. In severe, chronic conditions
symptoms can be fatal.
It happens without warning. A simple movement can trigger a painful
series of events leading to severe muscle cramps and excruciating pain.
We've all experienced a muscle cramp at one time in our training; the
cramp is relieved by simply stretching the muscle. When it becomes
uncontrollable, however, the pain can become severe, and no amount of
stretching or massage seems to alleviate the spasm. Such is the case
when the cramps are due to a chemical electrolyte imbalance combined
with dehydration-both common occurrences for competitive bodybuilders.
While striving for the ultimate look, we often alter our fluid and
electrolyte intakes prior to competition to lose excess subcutaneous
water and make our skin look like cellophane. At the same time we run
the risk of going over the edge into severe imbalance, which leads to
the symptoms described above.
Scene: 1988 Men's United States Bodybuilding Championships, Las Vegas,
Nevada. Renel Janvier passes out during prejudging. Paramedics
administer I.V. saline to relieve muscle cramping and acute electrolyte
imbalance and dehydration. Later that afternoon Janvier is released from
the hospital and is able to return to the night show and walk away with
the Light Heavyweight title.
Scenarios like this one are happening all too often in bodybuilding
today. In their quest to obtain optimal condition, competitors alter
their body chemistries, leading in many cases to disastrous results.
They cut down their sodium and their water intakes. Then they might take
something else-maybe even something perfectly natural, like an herbal
diuretic. Add to that a long prejudging ordeal and the cramps can start
at any time. Then maybe they drink a little distilled water, compounding
We should learn from these mistakes. Limiting water and sodium throws
off the body's chemistry, predisposing an athlete to an electrolyte
imbalance. The use of distilled water further depletes the body of other
important electrolytes, primarily calcium, chloride and potassium.
Diuretics, whether herbal or synthetic, further complicate the
situation. Combining these factors with a long prejudging under hot
lights is inevitably going to lead to muscle cramping. While the
treatments described above work, in many cases the relief comes too
late. We can only hope bodybuilders pay closer attention to proper
hydration and mineral replacement to avoid incidences like these from
happening in the future.
Athletes who smoke are dramatically limiting their exercise performance
capacities. Smoking is still widespread in our society, including the
athletic community. Even so, most endurance athletes avoid cigarettes
for fear of hindering performance with a "lull of wind."
While chronic smoking can lead to obstructive lung disorders, such
pathologic processes usually take time to develop. Thus, chronic
alterations in lung function may be minimal in terms of their effects on
the performance of young smokers. Other more acute effects of cigarette
smoking adversely affect exercise capacity. Much of this is due to an
inadequate oxygen supply resulting from an increased airway resistance
and the fact that the smoker needs more energy to breathe. Smoking
increases the energy cost of breathing by 13 to 79 percent.
In addition, there is the effect that smoking has on heart rates. In one
study heart rates measured during exercise averaged 5 to 7 percent lower
in a group of chronic smokers who abstained from cigarettes for one day.
All participants reported that they felt better while exercising when
they abstained from smoking. It appears that the increased cost of
breathing due to smoking can be substantially reversed in chronic
smokers who abstain for only one day. Thus, if an athlete is unable to
stop smoking completely, he or she should at least stop on the day of
The link between diet and disease has long been established. Limiting
fat and cholesterol will reduce your risks of cancer, diabetes, heart
disease and obesity. Increasing your intakes of fiber and calcium will
reduce the risks of certain forms of cancer and osteoporosis,
respectively. Taking in more calcium, in conjunction with a program of
weight-bearing exercise, particularly weight-training. Aids in the
development of strong bones and thereby helps prevent the debilitating
effects of osteoporosis.
It's a common practice for dieters to increase their consumption of
low-calorie sodas. This poses no risks if you drink them in limited
amounts for short periods of time. Long-term use however, may be
harmful, even for athletes.
A study of postmenopausal female athletes who drank carbonated beverages
showed that these women experienced bone fractures after the age of 40
at a rate that was 2.28 times greater than that of women who do not
drink those beverages. In fact, the results showed a significant
dose-response relationship between the amount of soda consumed and the
number of fractures. A diet that was low in dairy products also brought
an increased risk of fractures.
Diets often produce low calcium and high phosphorus levels. Apparently
the amount of phosphorus in soda beverages is a common link. A decreased
intake of milk and other dairy products and an increased intake of diet
soda may help to reduce you caloric intake, but they also create a
calcium/phosphorus imbalance and predispose you to fragile bones. When
you're on a diet, make sure you eat nonfat dairy products in limited
amounts and substitute sparkling water for carbonated sodas.
In a previous issue I discussed the use of quinine sulfate in the battle
against severe muscle cramps. Many athletes experience painful cramps
during their sleep or following exhaustive exercise. Muscles may twitch
uncontrollably, suggesting fatigue without actually going into full
contracture. It is often difficult to tell when a cramp will occur.
Athletes who perform in hot environments where they lose large amounts
of fluid through sweating are usually more prone to cramping than
others. Once a cramp arises, one five-grain quinine tablet should
effectively relieve the cramping if taken within 15 minutes of onset.
Generally, you can avoid the onset of cramps by taking in adequate
amounts of fluid and eating a balanced diet. While this is sometimes not
enough, there is new hope for those who are prone to cramps. Experiments
show that potassium appears to prevent cramps in some individuals. While
water and electrolyte-replacement fluids are only effective when you
consume huge amounts, one potassium tablet taken prior to exercise may
provide relief from cramps during the subsequent workout. One
250-milligram dose should be adequate for individuals who are prone to
muscle cramps. Mega-amounts are no more effective and are not
Q: I know that HDL cholesterol is considered to be good cholesterol. I
follow a lowfat diet and have lowered my total cholesterol level, but my
HDL level has decreased as well. What can I do to raise it?
A: While high-density-lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol is important,
it's more important that you lower your total and
low-density-lipoprotein, or LDL, levels. Since HDL is part of your total
cholesterol count, lowering your total cholesterol often results in a
reduced HDL level. Lowering your total cholesterol from 200 mg/dl to 160
mg/dl will cut your risk of heart disease in half. As for HDL levels,
for every 1 percent increase in serum HDL, the risk of heart attack
drops by 3 percent.
Research has shown that exercise elevates serum HDL levels, as do
several substances, including niacin, gemfibrozil and alcohol. Recent
preliminary studies done on animals indicate that tocotrienols, which
are chemicals derived from palm oil that are related to vitamin E, and
grape seed oil elevate HDL levels. They are the first two compounds in
foods that are known to have this beneficial effect.
Moderate-intensity exercise is an effective way to raise your HDL
levels; for example, a brisk, 45 minute walk. Probably the best advice I
can give you is that you should get started on an exercise program and
continue your reduced-fat diet. That way the changes in your cholesterol
will be in the right direction. So take a walk and do your heart some