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Drop in Performance? Common Causes

1) The most common cause of a drop in performance in cycling, or any other sport, is overtraining: going hard when you should go easy. Hard-and- easy refers to intensity (speed and pressure on the pedals), not to total mileage. On one day, you ride very fast with your group, feel sore on the next day and go slowly for as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away. When the soreness goes away, you ride fast again. If you take hard workouts while your muscles are still sore you can cause chronic muscle soreness.

2) A second cause is a low-salt syndrome caused by sweat loss. The only mineral that you need in large amounts is sodium, common table salt. All athletes have to salt food heavily and use lots of salt. Your doctor can check for low-salt syndrome by having you take a very hard workout on one day, replenish your fluids, and then draw blood for sodium and chloride on the next morning. If you are worried about developing high blood pressure, check your blood pressure frequently.

3) The third most common cause is lack of vitamin D. Blood levels of vitamin D3 below 75 nmol/L can cause muscles to feel sore, particularly in the wintertime.

4) You can also fail to recover adequately from intense workouts if you do not carbohydrate- and protein-load within a half hour after you finish a workout. Your muscles are maximally sensitive to insulin during exercise and for up to a half hour after you finish exercising. Sugar taken within a half hour after you finish your intense workout will raise your blood sugar level enough to increase insulin levels. Insulin then drives protein into cells to help you recover faster.

5) Another cause of muscle soreness is not getting off your feet after intense workouts. Muscles recover fastest when they are not used. After intense workouts, lie down instead of sitting, standing or walking.

If you have had a marked drop in performance in your sport and none of these causes applies to you, you may need a medical evaluation.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Can deep massage help you recover faster from hard exercise?

It may; a study from Chukyo University in Japan shows that a deep massage technique called Petrissage improves cycle ergometer pedaling performance, recovery from muscle stiffness and perceived lower limb tiredness (British Journal of Sports Medicine, October 2008).

Petrissage is done by applying great pressure deep into the muscles, with kneading, wringing, skin rolling and pick-up-and- squeezing movements performed with the padded palmar surface of the hand, fingers and thumbs.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Anything new for treatment of joint pain?

Two recent reports show that an extract from the inner membrane of an eggshell helps to control the pain and flexibility of muscles and joints in people suffering from osteoarthritis (Clinical Interventions in Aging, May 19, 2009; Clinical Rheumatology, April 2009).

Glucosamine and chondroitin are extracts from cartilage that have been shown to help control muscle and joint pain. The inner membrane of egg shells contains glycosaminoglycans that are similar to these cartilaginous extracts. Egg shell membrane may help to control pain and suffering, but I am skeptical until further studies demonstrate safety and effectiveness. The products are already on the market before we have adequate data, and the studies are associated with the company that sells the products.

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Recipe of the Week:

Sweet Potato Salad with Pineapple

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

June 22nd, 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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