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Muscles and Protein

Many body builders and weight lifters are overly concerned about what they eat and what food supplements they take. If you want to grow larger and stronger muscles, it helps to understand how food can help your training program. Just exercising does not grow large muscles. If volume of exercise made you strong, marathon runners would have the largest muscles. The only stimulus to make muscles larger and stronger is to stretch them while they contract against resistance. When you lift a heavy weight, your muscles start to stretch before they start to contract. This tears the muscle and causes soreness on the next day. If you rest and let the muscle heal, it will be stronger than before you stretched it. You improve by taking hard workouts so your muscles can grow and heal while you recover on your easy days.

Anything that helps you recover faster from a hard workout will allow you to do more work to make you stronger. Scientists have known for years that you recover faster by eating immediately after you finish your hard workout. Now we know that eating extra protein helps you recover even faster. Muscles are made primarily from protein building blocks called amino acids. Muscles heal from a hard workout when amino acids and other nutrients travel from your bloodstream into the muscles. Eating any food, particularly foods with plenty of protein, immediately after you finish your workout helps your muscles heal faster so you can do more work. The sooner you eat protein after you finish your hard workout, the quicker you will recover.

However, you don't need to take expensive supplements; ordinary foods provide high-quality protein and taste better. Remember, your body cannot store extra protein. If you don't need all of the protein you have eaten, it is broken down into ammonia and organic acids, which are used for energy. Any excess is stored as fat.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What can I do to prevent wrinkles as I get older?

Unfortunately, there may not be much you can do; a study from Denmark shows that skin wrinkling and aging are influenced heavily by genetic factors (Age and Aging, January 2006). However, this doesn’t mean that you can smoke or spend many hours in the sun, two behaviors that are known to increase wrinkling. The authors studied twins to show that skin aging is associated equally between genetic and environmental factors. They also found that looking older with severely wrinkled skin is associated with dying earlier. You increase your chances of having aged, wrinkled skin by smoking, exposing your skin frequently to sunlight or being very thin.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will eating nuts lower my risk for diabetes?

Risk for type 2 diabetes in women who eat nuts at least five times per week is 30 percent lower than those who rarely or never eat nuts. Nuts contain lots of fat, but most fats in nuts are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are good for insulin sensitivity and serum cholesterol. Before the bad LDL cholesterol can damage arteries, it must first be converted to oxidized LDL. Monounsaturated fats form LDL cholesterol that resists oxidation and therefore protects arteries. Nuts are also rich in antioxidant vitamins, minerals, plant protein and dietary fiber.

However, nuts are concentrated sources of calories, so rather than adding nuts to your current diet, substitute them for less healthful foods such as bread or red meats. It’s easier to control your portion size if you sprinkle nuts into a salad or your cereal rather than eating them by the handful as snacks.


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Recipe of the Week

Quick Shrimp Curry

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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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