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Recovery Times Do Not Decrease with Age

Many older athletes notice that their muscles weaken with aging, even though their recovery times from hard workouts are the same as when they were younger. A study from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia confirms this (Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, September 2006). Two groups of experienced cyclists raced in 30-minute time trials on three consecutive days. The first group had an average age of 24 while the second group's average age was 45.

Both groups maintained their average power during the three trials. They had the same amount of muscle damage, measured by the release of a muscle enzyme called CPK. Both groups had a drop in their maximal heart rate of three beats per minute during their third time trial. The maximal voluntary isometric contractions of the quadriceps muscle were the same for both groups. The authors concluded that "high-intensity endurance performance is maintained in both well-trained young cyclists and veteran cyclists following three consecutive days of maximal 30-minute time trials."

Every muscle is made up of millions of individual fibers, as a rope is made of many threads. Each muscle fiber is innervated by a single nerve fiber. The non-preventable result of aging is loss of nerve fibers. With the loss of each nerve fiber during aging, you lose its associated muscle fiber. So aging causes you to have increasingly fewer muscle fibers, which makes you weaker. However, the remaining muscle fibers function as well as those of a younger person.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I'm trying to lose weight; should I skip snacks during long bicycle rides?

You will need to eat food or drink sugared beverages to be able to ride long enough to burn significant calories and lose weight. Your muscles need a constant supply of sugar to keep you going. Cyclists who do not eat run out of their stored muscle sugar in about two hours. When you run out of stored muscles sugar, your muscles hurt and you lose coordination You will not be able to ride fast because when your muscles run out of their stored sugar, they use fat for energy. Fat is not an efficient source of energy for exercising intensely. You will ride much faster when your muscles are full of sugar. Intense exercise helps you to burn extra calories after you finish your ride. Taking food or sugared drinks during a ride will allow you to exercise intensely enough to increase your metabolism so you will burn extra calories for several hours after you finish your ride.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Has anyone explained the claims for health benefits of alcohol?

Various studies have concluded that moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages may improve health and prolong life. However, nobody really knows why this may be true or what doses of alcohol may prevent disease. One possible explanation is given by a study from The University of Sydney in Australia that shows alcoholic beverages help to prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high after meals (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007). This means that alcohol could help to prevent the damage caused by high blood sugar levels.

When food reaches the stomach, the pyloric valve closes and does not allow food to enter the intestines until it is turned into a soupy liquid. Anything that keeps food in the stomach longer will help to lower the rise in blood sugar levels. Foods that cause the highest rise in blood sugar include those made with flour or sugar, but when these foods are eaten with fatty foods, they are held in the stomach longer so the rise in blood sugar is blunted. This study shows that alcohol delays the rise in blood sugar in the same way, lowering rise in blood sugar following eating by 16 to 37 percent. This could be the mechanism by which moderate alcohol consumption promotes health. More

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Recipe of the Week:

Tri-Color Salsa or Dip

How to cook whole grains

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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