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Endurance Cyclists Must Strengthen Their Legs

An Australian research team has shown why training for strength is important for cyclists. Untrained men who were not cyclists used a hack-squat apparatus (a weight-lifting machine used to strengthen the legs and buttocks) to lift 85 percent of the heaviest weight that they could lift once, five times in a row. Then they rested and repeated the sets of five. They did this four times, in three sessions per week. They did no cycling during the strength-training period of the study. They were given cycling endurance tests before and after. The study concluded that the strength training made men far more efficient in cycling (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, July 2005.)

Efficiency is the amount of energy a person uses to perform a certain amount of work at high intensity. However, strength training did not improve the men’s aerobic capacity: the ability to use oxygen or circulate blood. So strength training did not improve heart or lung function, but it did give the participants extra power to push the pedals harder, which helped them ride faster.

Top-level competitive cyclists train for endurance by riding for three to eight hours a day. They usually cannot push heavy weights with their legs because their cycling schedule does not give them time to recover from strenuous weightlifting workouts. Since this study used untrained cyclists, it does not suggest that professional cyclists should change their training methods. Competitive cyclists gain tremendous leg muscle strength just by climbing steep hills very fast, which exerts as much force on their leg muscles as weightlifting and makes them very strong.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Can I lower my LDL cholesterol too far?

The current guidelines for preventing heart attacks recommend that healthy people get their blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol below 100, and that those who have had heart attacks get their LDL below 70. However, cholesterol is a necessary part of surface membranes in your body and also functions in making many different chemicals in your body, so there is a theoretical concern whether you can drive your LDL cholesterol low enough to harm you. You lower LDL cholesterol by taking certain drugs or eating a diet that restricts saturated and partially hydrogenated fats and refined carbohydrates. A study from Harvard Medical School shows that most people should try to get blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol as low as possible (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, October 2005.) The participants who lowered their LDL cholesterol the most had the fewest heart attacks and strokes and did not suffer any obvious bad side effects.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I read that aspartame causes cancer; should I stop using it?

Researchers in Italy recently published a study demonstrating that aspartame causes cancer in animals. It showed increased incidence of malignant tumors, lymphomas, leukemias, and cancers of the kidney and nerves (Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, November, 2005.) On the same day, the Calorie Control Council, an international non-profit association representing the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry, came out a report stating that: "Overwhelming Scientific Evidence Confirms Safety of Aspartame; Governments Recommend No Change in Dietary Practices Related to Aspartame." Whom do you believe?

More than a thousand previous studies have shown aspartame to be safe. At present, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has said they are not recommending any changes in the use of aspartame. When the Italian study was reviewed by the United Kingdom Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, the committee found aspects of study findings "implausible.” Four long-term carcinogenicity studies have found no relationship between aspartame and any form of cancer. Aspartame has been consumed for nearly a quarter of a century, and is one of the most thoroughly analyzed food ingredients, with more than 200 scientific studies concluding that it is safe.

Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, protein- building blocks called aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Both amino acids are found naturally in protein-containing foods, including meats, grains and dairy products. They are also found naturally in many foods such as fruits and vegetable and their juices. The body handles the components from aspartame in the same way it handles them when derived from other foods. I think that it is unwise to consume huge amounts of any single food or ingredient, but aspartame in small amounts appears to be safe and in my opinion, it is preferable to the refined sugars it replaces in your diet.

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Have you made a pot of lentil soup lately?
Try these quick and easy recipes, or invent your own variations.
Golden Lentil Soup
Italian Lentil Soup
Lemony Lentil-Spinach Soup
French Lentil Soup

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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