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Speed up Recovery with Food

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that eating any source of protein and sugar immediately after finishing a workout helps athletes grow larger and stronger muscles (November 2006). Athletes train by taking a very hard workout that damages muscles. They can tell that their muscles are damaged by the delayed onset muscle soreness that starts 8 to 24 hours after they finish a workout. They then take easy workouts for as many days as it takes for their muscle to heal. They can tell their muscles are healed when the soreness goes away and they are able to take another very hard workout. Anything that helps them recover faster will allow them to do another hard workout sooner and they will become much stronger.

Extensive research shows that muscles healing occurs when protein building blocks called amino acids move into muscles cells and repair the damaged muscle protein. Healed muscles are stronger than they were before the damaging workout. To hasten recovery, you need both amino acids and insulin to drive the amino acids into cells. When your blood sugar rises after eating, your pancreas releases large amounts of insulin. So eating foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar (high-glycemic-index foods) along with foods that are good sources of amino acids will help muscles recover faster. Many athletes are encouraged to take protein supplements and sugar gels, but any food sources of protein and sugar or flour will work just as well. Food tastes better than supplements and usually is less expensive. Good protein sources would be seafood, nuts, peanut butter, dairy products, or any combination of beans and whole grains. High-glycemic-index foods include fruits, fruit juices, potatoes and bakery products.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does exercise increase my chances of having osteoarthritis?

Exercise can exert a lot of force on your joints. The ends of your bones are soft. If they rubbed against each other at the joint, the bones would be ground away and disappear. To prevent this from happening, the ends of bones are covered with a thick, tough white gristle called cartilage. Cartilage is dynamic tissue with cells that are constantly being removed and replaced. Lack of activity speeds up the rate that cartilage is removed, so it gets weaker. Exercise speeds the rate that cartilage is replaced and makes it stronger. Exercise strengthens cartilage, provided that you don't damage it.

Once you break cartilage, it can never repair itself. A high school football player who breaks the cartilage in his knee can expect to develop arthritis of his knee later in life. The attitude that gets athletes to keep on exercising when they hurt can make them champions, but it also can set them up for permanent injury and osteoarthritis. A person who exercises regularly and stops when he feels pain can expect to strengthen his bones and joints. But if the exercise injures the cartilage in the joints, it will cause arthritis later in life. More

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can lack of vitamin D increase cancer risk?

Vitamin D does far more than help keep your bones strong. It is also a necessary component in your immune system's ability to kill germs. Each day your body makes millions of cancer cells. Your immunity is supposed to search out and kill these cells. People with weak immunities cannot kill cancer cells as readily and therefore have increased risk for certain cancers.

The Health Professionals Follow-up Study from Harvard Medical School found that African-American men were 1.3 times more likely to suffer from cancer than Caucasians and 1.89 times more likely to die from these cancers (Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, December 2006). Studies from McGill University in Montreal show that sunlight activates vitamin D, which causes the body to produce cathelicidin, a chemical that kills bacteria, viruses and fungi. Many previous studies show that lack of vitamin D impairs your immunity so that you are at increased risk for prostate cancer and many other cancers, and for various infections such as influenza. Since dark skin blocks ultraviolet sun rays that cause the skin to make vitamin D, this may explain why African Americans are at high risk for prostate cancer, while Africans living closer to the equator are not. Skin pigment blocking sunlight may be the answer.

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Recipe of the Week

Mother's Spinach Salad

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

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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