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Choose Your Cycling Foot Position

Many experienced cyclists do not know whether it is best to point their feet upward, downward, or straight as they cycle. A recent study from San Diego State University shows that you should hold your ankle in whichever position is most comfortable for you (European Journal of Applied Physiology, April 2007).

Eleven trained cyclists participated in three six-minute cycling bouts at approximately 80 percent of maximal capacity. They were told to try to hold their ankles so their feet were in an upward position in one trial, and then to hold their ankles in whatever position was comfortable for them. When they bent their ankles to raise the front part of their feet, they had to hold their calf muscles in contraction for longer periods of time. This forced them to use more oxygen and become less efficient and tire earlier. So the most efficient way to pedal is with your ankle held with a little movement, but not to lock your ankle in a position that forces your toes to be above your heels. Many racers hold their feet below their ankles, but others hold their feet straight or slightly above their ankles.

Some bicycle riders think that they are supposed to bend the ankle up and down with each pedal stroke. This technique is called "ankling", and sooner or later, virtually all serious cyclists learn that it is inefficient. You pedal with your hips and knees, bending and straightening them with every rotation. If you also try to bend and straighten your ankle joint with each stroke, you will tire quickly without gaining any significant power.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why would nuts help to prevent diabetes?

One third of Americans will become diabetic, regardless of their country of origin. Most doctors feel that a person's diet has a lot to do with whether he or she becomes diabetic, and the most likely cause is foods that cause a high rise in blood a sugar after you eat them. A study from the University of Toronto shows that pistachio (and probably most other nuts) help to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high after eating meals that normally cause a high rise in blood sugar (reported at the Experimental Biology meeting, Washington DC, May 2007).

The Glycemic Index is a listing how much specific foods raise blood sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index are supposed to be off limits to diabetics, and perhaps they should be restricted by people who are likely to become diabetic. Not all doctors accept this theory because the glycemic index of foods can vary from person to person and even vary in the same person at different times. For example, the only places that you can store extra sugar in your body are in your muscles, liver and bloodstream. When you exercise, your muscle are empty of their stored sugar supply. Sugar passes from your intestines into your bloodstream and then directly into your muscles, so your blood sugar levels do not rise too high. However, when you are not exercising, your muscles are full of sugar and the sugar in your bloodstream has no place to go, so blood sugar levels rise and stay elevated.

If you want to prevent diabetes, reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates such as sugared water, sugared foods and flour. When you do eat refined carbohydrates, eat them with something that contains fat, such as nuts, to cause the sugar to remain in your stomach longer. Exercise every day to empty your muscles of sugar, so blood sugar will have a place to go and not rise to the high levels that can cause cell damage.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will I burn more calories when I exercise in hot weather?

Yes; the hotter it is, the more extra work your heart has to do to prevent you from overheating. More than 70 percent of the energy produced by your muscles during exercise is lost as heat. So the harder you exercise, the hotter your muscles become. In hot weather, not only must your heart pump extra blood to bring oxygen to your muscles, it must also pump hot blood from your heated muscles to your skin where heat can be dissipated.

In colder weather, your heart only has to pump blood to your muscles and very little extra blood to your skin to dissipate heat. Your muscles produce so much heat during exercise that your body does not need to produce more heat to keep you warm. So your heart works harder and you burn more calories in hot weather. This information should not discourage you from exercising when it's cold, because staying in shape is a year- round proposition. However, it may help to explain why so many people find the pounds creeping on in the wintertime, even when they stay active.

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Recipe of the Week:

Southwestern Bean Salad

Diana has updated her lists of Favorite Kitchen Tools and Recommended Cookbooks

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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