Friday, May 28, 2010

clarification and addition

in an earlier post this evening, i referred to a study mentioned in the Tufts Nutrition Letter re calcium supplements not being beneficial to prevent heart disease. however, a Swedish study did show that calcium intake did correlate with reduced risk of heart disease in men. it was a very large epidemiological study which gives it lots of oomph. in fact, those eating the most calcium products were 25% less likely to die of all causes, cancer included. my correction, however, is to the issue of supplements - which do help manage bone loss - but, again, do not reduce heart disease risk. i wanted to make that clear. the study did show, however, that vitamin D supplements did improve one's risk against said disease.

and for you coffee addicts, many studies have lately come out showing its benefits. four new ones came out recently to show its benefits in controlling blood sugar. most interestingly, a French study found that only coffee at LUNCH really made a difference. another study also found that contrary to popular belief, 4 or more coffees a day - not sweetened, mind you - may actually reduce heart rhythm disturbances.

this is why i love to read up on this stuff. it's always surprising....

on matters pertaining to food

one of the many hang ups our society...of people and of trainers, is food. supplements have always been with us ever since the days primitive warriors ate the hearts of their victims to garner their strength and prowess. fortunately, it's only the supplement industry that's eating our hearts...and wallets, but caveat emptor is the phrase of choice.

now, how should we eat? what should we eat? how much should we eat? when should we eat? hell....why should we eat what we eat when we eat it? confusing but science, sports and medical science alike, are homing in on the answers to many of these questions. nonetheless, tomorrow another article will come out displacing everything we believed yesterday and it's time to start anew.

for example, there is a lot of noise coming out about a major study in europe - a meta-analysis, where data from several similar studies is compiled to give greater impact to the results - that showed that fruits and veggies do NOT confer resistance to cancer. something like 2 servings/day reduces your risk of a variety of cancers by 3% only. that means even the rx of 5-9 servings would only give you about 15% reduction of risk. that's a lot but statistically not much. what with all the studies showing that vitamins or even antioxidants don't confer any risk reductions, it almost makes sense to avoid supplements. esp since fruits and veggies do show great value in reducing your risk of cardiac problems. is it the fruits and veggies...or the healthy lifestyle those who eat fruits and veggies tend to live? hmmmmm

another new research in ACSM's flagship journal, MSSE, had 20 women do a wt training program for 12 weeks. half drank a glass of skim milk after their workouts and an hour later another serving. the other 10 drank equal calories of carbs. both drinks were flavored to taste similar to avoid any placebo effect of knowing which drink was which. at the end of the study, milkers were stronger in the upper body and had lost more fat despite both groups not having changed total body mass. moral of story: as we've said before, drink milk after your workouts - it enhances protein accretion. little did we know, tho, that it also helps you lose body fat.

the june issue of the Tufts Nutrition letter headlines an article, a repeat of others i've seen, that suggest calcium from pills is pretty useless when it comes to longevity (not bone density.) calcium in the diet, on the other hand, does have protective benefits for the heart.

finally, annual hi-dose vitamin D, oft recommended for post menopausal women as a way to ensure adherence to D requirements, actually INCREASED the rate of fractures and somehow even falls. in other words, if you're going to take D, take it in frequent and smaller doses.

what's this all mean? well, nearly everything i read on health and diet suggests that eating real food - and i've not heard much legit research to say that organic is more real than mass-farmed - is the way to go for health benefits. the other thing that keeps cropping up is that only ONE lifestyle choice, done right, benefits not just bones, muscles, heart, and over -all health, not to mention brain and mental function, but has very few if any negative side effects: EXERCISE. and even there, the dosages are now being reduced to smaller and less intense measures making it almost inexcusable to avoid exercise...unless you're reading this entire blog. get outa here....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

aging skin

yesterday i met a once/yr client, a 50+ very fit, self-motivated to do cardio and resistance training (RT) on her own, who takes great pride in her petite, toned shape. she calls in every so oft for a new regimen, a new program, usually to get to her legs w/o building them up. her wt has been steady for years upon years. but now, hormones changing and hormone replacements being manipulated, she has discovered some - OMG - belly tissue. i hesitate to refer to the extra as fat as her subcutaneous skinfold, which i tested and will share with you, was 5 - slightly better than 99% of people, even male athletes. (confession: when i was in my best of shape, at about 3% fat, i had a 4 mm read there.) also, she's concerned that her legs, which she'd built up again with a great video routine she'd been doing, were now flabby since she scaled back. why did she scale back? to get into her size 0. what to do????

ok, so i did check her body fat after discussing aging skin. she knew about aging muscle but felt she'd stayed ahead of the curve on that. her body fat - for those who've done skinfolds, you know how some women can be hard to pinch; well she was a charpe (sp?) dog, easy to peel, even at the thigh - was 17.9%. i showed her a chart that compared athlete types, male and female, and she ranks better than most college athletes, and in some sports, better than male athletes. in other words, her belly fat, and her thigh wobble, was really nothing more than whatever fat she may have plus sagging skin.

today, while helping the woman whose house i'm keeping get the pool ready for summer, i got a question: ok, irv, what can i do to prevent...and then she showed me....her skin from sagging? hence i felt i was getting a universal message, deal with sag.

we have several types of collagen in our bodies - a molecule that is tough, elastic, and when all is right in the world, lined up in parallel to ensure smoothness, as in muscle fibers. as we age, however, the collagen that makes up most of our skin changes to another type that is less elastic, less tough. hence, older people - you pick the age but generally over 65, 70 - have thinner skin that droops more when lined up perpendicular to gravity. now, what does that mean?

well, stand up and look in the mirror. if you think your face is saggy now, try placing a mirror on the bathroom counter top and lean forward for a few seconds - it sags even more...toward the floor, i.e. perpendicular to gravity's pull. thus, when you raise your upper arm- in abduction - and flex the elbow - a la making a biceps muscle - the back of your arm is perpendicular to gravity...and, unless you're young, muscular, and lean - helps to be a male - your triceps sag. that's life....

so, what can i tell folks who are concerned about sag? well, for one thing, don't make love on top....ok, you might be appalled by the idea but you should see what the person on the bottom sees! likewise, expect the skin on your belly to pooch, esp while doing push ups or planks, even if your abs are totally flat; you could suck in but the skin will eventually sag. don't raise your arms and wave - teachers learn this early on but blackboards force the situation; computer writing will help their self esteem. finally, unless you want to get fatter - which essentially fills the void of lean tissue and skin - or are able to build bigger muscle -which is what i told my client for her legs - as you age, your skin will sag.

anecdotally, i've seen this more in WASP-y people than in darker skinned, esp olive skinned, people. for those who have reached that magic age, for whom it's too late to have avoided sunlight (remember, boomers, being tanned was healthy in our youth), and for those who've either lost tons of wt or have less ability to bulk up with lean tissue, your skin will sag as you age. gravity, i always say, will win, til you are flat on your back- in the coffin - but for now, you must learn to get comfortable in your, yes, your sagging skin. so keep doing RT and cardio for health and function, but it's too late to order new grandparents. sorry.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

aging fitness

yesterday i met with a 61 y/o attorney with whom i'd met two years ago to help with his knee problems. he stays active and is fit tho a bit paunchier than he'd like to be...because he also enjoys drinking a few in the evening. so, while his wt hasn't really changed, and he does exercise vigorously several times a week, he is now recognizing that he needs to take care of his body better, and more efficiently. hence, he came to see me again.

several years ago, a wise gentleman in his late 60s with whom i was training at least once/wk but who was actively training at home, requested that i provide him a de minimus workout - one that he could do quick and easy anywhere that would keep him healthy enough to be able to do anything and any activities with a reduced risk of pain or injury. so i gave him about a 7-10 min workout, with some core exercises and basic upper and lower body exercises, virtually all body wt, some with tubes. he still does many of these after all these years.

now, could or should anyone do more? yes, in an ideal world, we are physically active more hours/day than we are sedentary. but that world is third, and we live in a modern, industrialized, mechanized, computerized, sedentary world. so how much do we need, and of what?

for the fellow who came to see me yesterday, with a bad left shoulder and knee, much of what i offered him was a deletion of unnecessary if not dangerous exercises, plus a few compressions of unnecessary amounts of particular exercises- like the 10 minute planks he was doing in a class environment, plus a few rehab type exercises so that he could get his shoulder in a place where he could do more safely. i offered that he start doing a few days/wk of tabata sprints - 20 sec work/10 sec recovery x 4, building up to 8; two sets, interspersed with a few minutes of gentle recovery; making up a total of less than 20 mins of cardio that would give him significant aerobic, anaerobic, and metabolic benefits.

and he was happy.

my point is, one could work out long, hard, or long, easy, or not at all. but the long is the killer - it's the main excuse for not doing anything fitness-wise: time. so coming up with short, hard for those who are fit, or short, easy for those who are not, should be the aim of all fitness pros. after all, aging is tough enough. why waste valuable time trying to fight it when in fact it may actually hasten it.