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How Does Fatigue Affect Your Strength?

It's the ninth inning, your team leads by one run and your starting pitcher, who usually has very good control, has just walked the first two batters. That means it's probably time to bring in a relief pitcher. The old one has pitched nine innings and prolonged exercise has weakened his muscles. Fatigue has already reduced the pitcher's power and accuracy. The same principle applies to all team sports. Teams that substitute freely early in a game have fresher players late in a game. That's why the best professional and college teams usually have the largest rosters.

There's a physiologic reason why tiredness weakens muscles. Muscles are made up of thousands of fibers. Each fiber stores sugar. and when it runs out of its stored sugar, it cannot contract effectively. So, as you tire, your muscles have fewer fibers to contract and you become weaker and less coordinated. That means that a pitcher who is warmed up and fresh will have more active fibers in his muscles and be able to throw more accurately and faster than when he is tired. A fresh football player can kick further and more accurately than when he is tired. The same principle applies to boxers and wrestlers who are weaker towards the end of bouts. You lose both accuracy and strength as you become tired. So, when you compete in a sport that requires endurance and you cannot use a substitute, take it easy early in your competition.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Are monoglycerides and diglycerides the same as trans fats?

No. Most of the fats in food are triglycerides; their chemical structure has three fatty acids. Less than one percent are mono- or diglycerides, which have one or two fatty acids. These fats are added in very small amounts to foods to make them taste smooth and keep oil from separating out. They contribute an insignificant amount of fat to your diet and appear to be harmless. Trans fats are produced when vegetable oils such as soybean oil are chemically altered to make them more solid at room temperature and more stable. This process is called partial hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils increase risk for heart attacks and strokes, and may be linked to certain cancers. I recommend that you avoid them and am pleased to see that many major food processors are finally starting to remove them from their popular brands. Check the list of ingredients on all of the packaged foods you buy; if you see the words "partially hydrogenated", put that food back on the shelf and look for another brand.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: All my friends are dieting, but I'm too skinny. How can I gain weight?

Weight gain should always be in the form of muscle, not fat. To build muscle, start an exercise program where you work against increasing resistance. Go to a gym and learn how to do the weight training circuit. It only takes 15 extra grams of protein a day to build a pound of muscle a week -- so you really won't need to eat a lot more. Muscle weighs more than fat. Once you are exercising regularly and gaining muscle, your appetite will probably increase and you will eat more without any conscious effort. Most muscular people and heavy exercisers will eat plenty to meet their calorie needs. The training tables for football teams are piled high with every kind of food.

It's never too late to start a weight training program. Underweight older people look and feel frail because they have lost most of their muscles, not because of lack of fat. If you are inactive, you lose muscle mass to the point where you are unable to carry out daily activities , such as climbing stairs or getting out of a chair, because your muscles are not strong enough to move the weight of your own body. Don't try to add fat to a weak body. Overweight older people often have the double burden of weak muscles AND 20, 40 or more extra pounds to lug around with them every day.

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Recipe of the Week:
Summer Couscous

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

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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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