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New Theory on Recovery from Workouts

The soreness that you feel 8 to 24 hours after an intense workout is caused by a tearing of the muscle fibers. The fastest way to get muscles to heal is to have your body produce lots of insulin and also provide a supply of protein to repair the damaged tissue. We have known for a long time that insulin drives sugar into cells for energy. Now we know that it also drives protein building blocks called amino acids into the muscle cells to help them heal faster. A study from New Zealand shows that protein loading immediately after exercise helps cyclists recover faster so they can ride harder for several days after an intense workout (Physiologie Appliquée, Nutrition et Métabolisme, February 2008).

On the surface of muscle cell membranes are little hooks called insulin receptors. Before insulin can do its job of driving sugar and protein into cells, it must first attach to these receptors. Hard exercise markedly increases insulin's ability to attach to insulin receptors and therefore makes insulin more effective. However, this increased response of insulin to exercise lasts only during exercise and for perhaps half an hour after exercise. An hour after you finish exercising, you have lost this added sensitivity of insulin receptors to insulin. So to help muscles recover faster, you need to take a carbohydrate source during a hard workout and immediately after you finish. Any source of carbohydrates will be broken down into simple sugars that call out insulin. Then, as soon as possible after your workout, you should eat any source of protein to supply the amino acids needed to heal damaged muscle tissue.

Entrepreneurs will probably use this information to promote various protein drinks and supplements, but you will get the same results with any sugared drink and any food or drink that contains protein. Soda and cheese or your favorite sports drink and shrimp or nuts will work just fine.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What is the best temperature for exercising?

For comfort, the ideal temperature during exercise is 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, you feel cold. Above that, you need to keep your body temperature from rising too high. A problem with exercise is that almost 80 percent of the energy used to power muscles is lost as heat. Less than 22 percent drives muscles. So the body has to work very hard to prevent your temperature from rising too high. Of course, this is not a problem in cold weather. However, when the temperature rises above 80 degrees, the body loses tremendous amounts of salt and water in an effort to keep body temperature from rising too high. The ideal temperature for competition is 55 to 60. When it is warmer than that, you need to pay attention to the signs of overheating and replace salt and water throughout a long competition.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I'm not overweight; how can I lose the fat in my hips and thighs?

First, realize that people who are shaped like pears live longer than those who are shaped like apples (storing fat primarily in their bellies). "Pears" are less likely to develop diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and many types of cancers. As you have already found out, diets are of not of much value to people who are generically programmed to store fat in their hips. For a diet to get rid of your hip fat, you would have to be hungry all the time. Exercise will work, but you may need to exercise more than three hours a day to get rid of hip fat. However, you might not have time for a job or your family.

Have you noticed that most female athletes have large buttocks? People who store fat in the buttocks are often genetically programmed to be gifted athletes. If you can double or triple your workout schedule, you would lose fat. Try competing in cycling, running or weightlifting. The odds are that you will be very successful.

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Recipe of the Week

Artichoke-Chickpea Soup

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

June 25th, 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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