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Muscles Recover Faster in the Morning

A study from France shows that it takes longer to recover from hard exercise in the evening than in the morning (International Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 27, 2006). Cyclists performed ten six-second bouts of all out effort, with 30-second rest periods while the researchers measured peak power output, total mechanical work, peak pedaling rate, and peak efficient torque. The same group of cyclists performed these workouts in the morning on one day, and in the evening on another day. They found that the short-term recovery patterns were slower in the evening than in the morning.

While the researchers offered no explanation, decreased muscle performance late in the day may have a lot to do with brain function. Each muscle is made up of millions of individual muscle fibers. Each muscle fiber is instructed to contract by a single nerve fiber that receives messages from the brain. Your brain is far more alert after sleeping and napping than after being active for many hours. For example, students score higher in exams taken shortly after waking up than later in the day, and telephone operators answer more calls in the morning than in the afternoon. Late-day mental performance improves after napping, and the same may be true of muscle function.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does eating before exercise cause cramps?

If you are going to exercise vigorously for more than an hour, you need to eat before you exercise or your muscles and liver will run out of sugar and you will tire earlier. Your brain gets more than 98 percent of its energy from sugar in your bloodstream. But there is only enough sugar in your bloodstream to last three minutes. So you liver has to constantly release sugar from its cells into your bloodstream. There is only enough sugar in your liver to last about an hour when you exercise vigorously. Eating before exercising can help you to exercise longer. If you do not eat before you exercise for more than an hour, and during exercise that lasts more than two hours, your liver will probably run out of sugar. Your blood sugar level can drop, and you will feel terrible fatigue and tiredness.

Whenever your stomach fills with food, its muscles contract and require large amounts of blood. When you exercise vigorously, your heart pumps large amounts of blood to your skeletal muscles. If your heart is not strong enough to pump blood to both your stomach and your skeletal muscles, blood is shunted from your stomach muscles, the muscles lack oxygen, lactic acid builds up in muscles and they start to hurt. However, most people can exercise after eating without suffering stomach cramps because their hearts are strong enough to pump blood to both their exercising muscles and their stomach muscles.

Another theoretical concern is that eating sugar before you exercise will cause your blood sugar level to rise and your pancreas to release insulin, which will cause your blood sugar to drop too low so you will feel tired. However, the major cause of tiredness that you feel in your muscles during exercise is lack of stored sugar in muscles. Taking any extra calories before and during exercise helps to preserve the sugar that is stored in muscles and help you to exercise longer. If you are going to exercise for more than an hour, eat or drink anything you like before and during your exercise. Most people will not get stomach cramps while exercising, no matter what or when they eat.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will eating gelatin make my nails less brittle?

In the 1890s, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Knox made gelatin by boiling leftover slaughterhouse waste, and devised a method of drying it into sheets and grinding it into a powder. In one of advertising history's most successful campaigns, they claimed that this waste product would make fingernails stronger, presumably because cow hooves are strong. You can still buy Knox's gelatin, and many people still believe the old claims, even though there is no evidence that gelatin has any effect on nails.

Gelatin does not contain any special nutrients. It contains protein, but lack of protein is not the cause of brittle and cracked nails. Even if protein deficiency caused brittle nails, gelatin would be a poor choice, because it is very low in two of the protein building blocks tryptophan and lysine. You can meet your needs for protein by eating any ordinary food source of protein such as beans, meat, fish or chicken.

If you have deformed nails, check with a dermatologist to see if you have a fungus infection that can be treated. If you have nails that peel, crack and break, you probably have a genetic condition that causes your nails to lose moisture. The most effective treatment is to use nail polish to slow the loss of moisture, and to keep the nails very short.

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New Summer Recipes

Quinoa Salad with Spinach and Melon
Summer Veggies and Beans
Sweet Potato Salad with Olives

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

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

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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