Eat beets, drink tart cherry juice & 4 other stay-healthy tips

Written by: on Monday, July 16th, 2012

Want to be healthy—and have enough energy to power you through sports and your daily activities? Follow these tips:

fresh organic beets with greens

Beets are packed with disease-busting antioxidants—and are high in folate and fiber.

1.) Eat beets…as well as rhubarb and arugala. They’re rich sources of dietary nitrates, a compound that gets converted into nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, and allows a person to exercise using less oxygen. In one study, cyclists consumed pre-ride beets and then three hours later (when nitric oxide peaks), they rode in a time trial. Every cyclist improved (on average, 2.8%) as compared to the time trial with no beets. Impressive! The amount of nitrates in 7 ounces (200 grams) beets is an effective dose. How about enjoying  beets—or a bowl of borchst—in your next pre-game meal?

bowl of red cherries

Tart cherries contain substances called anthocyanins, which help reduce inflammation and may even reduce tumor growth.

2.) Drink tart cherry juice. Tart cherries (the kind used in baking pies, not the sweet cherries enjoyed as snacks) have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, trained athletes consumed two 10.5-oz. bottles per day of tart cherry juice the week before an excruciating exercise test. They recovered faster and lost only 4% of their pre-test strength, compared with 22% loss in the group without cherry juice.

woman's feet running up stairs

You exercise every day—but you still need to stay active the rest of the time (e.g. always take the stairs instead of the elevator).

Tart cherries can help not only athletes but also individuals who suffer from the pain and inflammation associated with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Consuming tart cherry juice (two 10.5-ounce bottles/day for 10 days) reduced the muscle soreness associated with “fibro-flares” and enhanced recovery rate. Similar findings occurred in people suffering from osteoarthritis; drinking tart cherry juice for three weeks reduced arthritis pain.

Research to date has studied the effects of drinking 21 ounces of tart cherry juice per day for 1 to 3 weeks. (That’s the equivalent of eating 90 tart cherries/day). More research will determine the most effective dose and time-course. Because 21 ounces of tart cherry juice adds 260 calories to one’s energy intake, athletes will need to reduce other fruits or foods to make space for this addition to their daily intake.

3) Sit less, move more. While sleeping used to be our most common “activity,” today it is sitting. The average person sits for 9 hours a day. Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for heart disease and creates health problems, including deep vein thrombosis  (as can happen on planes). Athletes who exercise for one or two hours each day still need do more daily activity and not just sit in front of a screen all day.

athletic woman leaping in air

Get enough sleep and you'll not only feel more powerful—you'll be more powerful in any activity you undertake.

4) Get some sleep. While we may be sitting more than in past years, we’re sleeping less: 80% of teens report getting less than the recommended nine hours of sleep; nearly 30% of adults report sleeping less than 6 hours each day. Not good. Sleep is a biological necessity. It is restorative and helps align our circadian rhythms.

Sleep deprivation (less than five hours/night) erodes well being, has detrimental effects on health, and contributes to fat gain. When we become tired, grehlin—a hormone that makes us feel hungry—becomes more active and we can easily overeat. Sleep deprivation is also linked with Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Sleep deprivation is common among athletes who travel through time zones. This can impact performance by disrupting their circadian rhythms and causing undue fatigue and reduced motivation. In comparison, extending sleep can enhance performance. A study involving basketball players indicates they shot more baskets and completed more free throws when they were well rested versus sleep deprived. For top performance, make sleep a priority!

couple walking together

Doing activities with other people is one factor that may help you live a longer life.

5) Enhance your life. In a few communities in the world, an usually high number of people live to be older than 100 years. What happens in those communities that contributes to the longer life? Some factors include choosing a plant-based diet, rarely overeating, having a life filled with purpose and meaning, connecting with others in the community, moving naturally and/or socially (as in bike commuting and walking with family and friends), enjoying alcohol socially (in moderation), and not smoking. If you want to join the centenarians, take steps to re-create those life-enhancing practices!

Creating that life-extending culture has been done, to a certain extent, in Albert Lea, MN. The “Blue Zone” project included improving sidewalks and building walking paths around a lake. Restaurants supported the program by not bringing a bread basket automatically to customers, and not serving French fries (unless requested) with meals. These and many other environmental changes contributed to a healthier lifestyle that resulted in a 40% drop in the city employee healthcare costs over two years. Impressive, eh?

6) Appreciate your body. Athletes, as well as those who aren’t athletes, commonly struggle with the belief their body is not “good enough.” This struggle gets too little attention from health care providers who focus more on the medical concerns of heart disease, cancer, and hypertension. Yet, whether you are lean or obese, having poor body image often coincides with having low self-esteem. This combination generates poor self-care.

Image with I am beautiful written in mirror

If you have to, write notes to yourself to remind yourself just how amazing you (and your body) are.

In a five-year study of teens, low body satisfaction stimulated extreme and destructive dieting behaviors that led to weight gain, not weight loss. The same pattern is typical among many seemingly “healthy” athletes. If you want help finding peace with your body, please seek help from a sports dietitian. Use the referral network of Sports & Cardiovascular Nutritionists (SCAN)—SCANdpg.org—to help you find someone local. What are you waiting for…?

 

Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD, May 2012

 

Looking for a way to get fit quickly? Read this….

Written by: on Friday, July 15th, 2011

 

Man sprinting on treadmill

Hate the treadmill? There's new reason to jump on...

By Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD

 

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is effective, though it’s hard work! Once you are fit, you can then reduce the exercise intensity to a more enjoyable (sustainable) level. Dr. Martin Gibala of McMaster University in Ontario does not believe HIIT is a heart attack waiting to happen, but recommends untrained people first get a proper medical check-up. Here are some HIIT pointers:

HIIT can be an effective part of a weight reduction program. Overweight men who did twenty minutes of HIIT (8-second sprints with 12 seconds recovery) 3 times per week for 12 weeks achieved a 7% drop in body fat. In another study with untrained, slightly overweight women ages 30-45, those who did high intensity exercise lost more weight and body fat than those who did lower intensity training. One benefit of high intensity exercise is it can suppress the appetite (temporarily) compared to lower intensity exercise.

HIIT can create a significant afterburn. Men who expended roughly 500 calories during 47 minutes of vigorous exercise continued to burn 225 extra calories in the next 18.5 hours.

This was just some of the research presented at the annual meeting—in Denver, May 31-June 4, 2011—of The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the world’s largest organization of sports medicine and exercise science professionals. Over 6,000 exercise scientists, sports dietitians, physicians and other health professionals gathered to share their research. Other interesting research:

Why do women struggle harder than men to lose undesired body fat? Perhaps because they are women! In the animal kingdom, female animals generate less body beat after overfeeding compared to the males. Research with humans suggests similar energy conservation. When four men and four women were overfed ice cream for three days (150% of energy balance needs), the men burned off some of the extra calories while the women conserved energy.

 

Calorie/heart rate panel on cardio machine

You may not be able to trust the calories burned on your cardio machine's program display.

Should you believe the calorie estimates displayed on exercise machines? Doubtful. The Precor EFX556i overestimated energy expenditure, particularly with women.

 

When athletes lose weight, they lose muscle as well as fat. For example, soldiers during nine weeks of combat training lost 9 lbs (4.2 kg) body weight, of which one-third was muscle loss and two-thirds fat loss. They consumed about 15% fewer calories than required to maintain weight.

Even bodybuilders and figure competitors do not lose just body fat when they “lean out.” In the 12 weeks pre-competition, male bodybuilders lost about 4 lbs (1.8 kg) lean body mass and 11.5 lbs (5.2 kg) body fat. The female figure competitors lost about 5.5 lbs (2.6 kg) lean and about 6.4 lbs (2.9 kg) fat.

 

Sitting on stability ball at a desk

Swap out your chair at the office, burn more calories!

One way to burn a few extra calories is to sit on a stability ball while you are at work. At a call center (where 90% of the time is spent sitting), the employees who sat on the stability ball for five hours during the workday burned about 260 more calories per eight-hour shift. Theoretically, that could lead to loss of 26 pounds in a year! They burned about half a calorie more per minute sitting on a stability ball than sitting in a chair. The biggest barrier to using stability balls: aggravation of pre-existing back pain.

 

Trained cyclists who consumed equal calories of either a sports drink or banana chunks during a 75-kilometer cycling time trial performed similarly. The banana, however, offered a beneficial anti-inflammatory response. Natural foods generally offer more benefits than engineered sports foods.

Chocolate milk is a popular recovery food that contains carbohydrates to refuel muscles and high quality protein to build and repair muscles. Both full-fat and skimmed chocolate milk offer similar recovery benefits.

 

tall glass of beer

Non-alcoholic beer: a great drink for athletes?

Beer is a plant-based beverage that offers both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Marathoners who drank 1 to 1.5 liters of non-alcoholic beer per day for three weeks prior to a marathon and two weeks after the marathon experienced less post-race inflammation and fewer colds. Non-alcoholic beer offers a wise way to enjoy the natural high of exercise along with positive health benefits.

 

Have you ever wondered how much elite endurance athletes consume during an event? A post-event survey of Ironman triathletes, marathoners, long-distance cyclists, and professional bike racers suggests the Ironmen consumed about 70 grams (280 calories) of carbohydrate per hour; the cyclists, 53 grams (212 calories) and the marathoners, 35 grams (140 calories). The endurance athletes who consumed the most energy had the best performances.

How common are intestinal problems during endurance events? About 31% of the Ironman competitors reported GI serious problems, compared to 14% of the half-Ironman competitors, 4% of the cyclists, and 4% of the marathoners. Those with a history of GI distress reported the most symptoms, as well as those who exercised in higher heat.

If you are going to be competing in the heat, you might want to pre-cool your body. One way to do that is to enjoy an ice slurry. Runners who consumed about 14-ounces of ice slurry before they exercised in the heat were able to run about 1% faster during a 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) race.

Female athletes commonly restrict their food intake. Among 44 female high school cross-country runners (16 years old):

— 39% restricted food, thinking being lighter would help them perform better.

— 42% reported missed or absent menstrual periods in the past year, a sign of being under-fueled.

—They were eight times more likely to believe missing multiple periods was a sign they were in better shape.

These young women need to be educated about the medical problems associated with missed menstrual periods!

To resume menses, amenorrheic women need to correct the energy deficit. Those who drank a 360-calorie carbohydrate-protein supplement resumed menses, on average, in about 2.5 months (±2 months). The longer they had been amenorrheic, the longer they needed to resume menses.

(More ACSM highlights are available at www.acsm.org [click on “news releases”].)

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Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD July 2011. Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes. Her office is at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill, MA (617-795-1875). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners offer additional information. They are available at nancyclarkrd.com. See also sportsnutritionworkshop.com.