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Muscle Sugar: Train Low, Compete High

Athletes who compete in sports requiring endurance can run or cycle faster by training their muscles to burn more sugar and less fat. Muscles use carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy. The faster you run or cycle, the greater the percentage of sugar your muscles burn. The percentage of sugar to fat that a muscle burns is determined by enzymes in muscles that turn sugar into energy.

DEPLETION INCREASES SUGAR-BURNING ENZYMES: An athlete can increase the muscle enzymes that turn sugar into fuel by training part of the time when his muscles are low in sugar stores. Several studies have shown no benefit in performance in athletes training most of the time with low muscle sugar levels. Training all the time with low muscle sugar forces an athlete to train too slowly. An athlete is only as fast as his fastest intervals in training, so training slowly all the time would prevent an athlete from moving very fast in competition.

DEPLETION TREATS DIABETES: Several studies show that training with low muscle sugar can also help treat and prevent diabetes and obesity by depleting muscle cells first of sugar, and then of fat. Having low fat stores in muscles markedly increases the body's ability to respond to insulin and helps to lower high blood sugar levels.

HOW TO DEPLETE: You can teach your muscles to burn more fat and less sugar by:
• training after skipping breakfast;
• training twice a day with the second daily workout with muscles with low stored sugar, restricting carbohydrates in your diet during training;
• taking prolonged workouts that empty your muscles of stored sugar; or
• withholding carbohydrates after a hard workout.

The key is to train with low amounts of stored muscle sugar and race with muscles full of stored sugar (Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, October 2010).

FOR RACES, KEEP MUSCLES FULL OF SUGAR: Hundreds of research papers show that you can increase endurance and intensity in competition by filling your muscles with sugar before you compete and then taking sugar during competition.

The most efficient fuel for muscles during exercise is carbohydrates (sugar). The limiting factor for how fast you can move is the time it takes to move oxygen into muscles. Since sugar requires less oxygen than protein and fat, you move faster when muscles burn primarily sugar.

How far you can run, cycle, ski, or skate depends on how much sugar you can store in your muscles before you start exercising and how long you can keep the extra sugar there. When muscles run out of their stored sugar, muscles hurt and you feel tired.

Athletes in endurance events are told to cut back on their training three days before major competitions and eat extra carbohydrates. This fills their muscles with extra sugar. Then they are told to take sugar during competitions to keep up a regular sugar supply for their muscles.

TRAINING FOR MAXIMUM SUGAR USAGE: If athletes could use a special training technique to make their muscles burn a higher percentage of sugar during competition, they could go faster. They can do this by emptying their muscles of stored sugar during training. This forces muscles during training to burn a higher percentage of fat. However muscles compensate for this by trying to burn more sugar. They increase the concentration of enzymes that help to convert sugar to energy. Higher levels of sugar- burning enzymes cause muscles to burn more sugar during races.

You should not try to exercise every day with low muscle sugar stores. It will make you tired all the time, slow you down and increase your chances of injuring yourself.

STRESSING AND RECOVERING: Knowledgeable athletes train by stressing and recovering. They take a hard workout on one day, feel sore on the next, and then take easier workouts until the soreness disappears. They should take very intense workouts up to three times a week, rarely on consecutive days. These intense workouts should be taken with muscles full of sugar. So you eat before your intense workouts and can even take sugar during your prolonged intense workouts. However, on your four recovery days, you may want to start your workouts without eating breakfast. If you feel excess fatigue, your muscles hurt or you have little energy, shorten your workout. If you find that you are fatigued too often and take too long to recover from workouts, abandon this training technique. It is not for you. You probably have to take in a lot of sugar during training just to keep up the intensity and volume of work that is required to be a competitive athlete.

CAUTION: If you are training with low muscle sugar stores and you feel discomfort in your muscles that worsens as you continue exercising, stop immediately. You are at high risk for an injury because muscles depleted of their stored sugar are much weaker than those full of sugar and are far more likely to become injured.


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AAP Position Statement on Television Watching

Children Under two should not watch television because it delays the age that they learn to talk, and children older than that certainly should not watch television for more than two hours a day (American Academy of Pediatrics, October 18, 2011). That includes so called "educational TV" for children under two. More than 70 percent of children under two are exposed to TV.

"For every hour a child under two spends in front of a screen, he or she spends about 50 minutes less interacting with a parent, and about 10 percent less time in creative play." Several studies show that children under two learn words less effectively from TV than from talking to people. Children do not respond adequately to parents when the television set is on. Furthermore, parents who watch television more than two hours a day have children with delayed speech development.

ACTIVE, NOT PASSIVE: Parents should talk to young children as often as possible and encourage them to play with other children. Watching active games that require a response from a child does not delay development.

EXCESS TV WATCHING: Older children who watch television for more than two hours a day are fatter and spend less time playing outdoors. Furthermore, they are exposed to television advertisements for high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks, fast foods, and sweetened drinks, which increase risk for obesity and chronic diseases in later life. Children from homes in which the television sets are on most of the time
• watch more television,
• read less and are less able to read,
• have shorter attention spans,
• have smaller vocabularies, and
• talk less to their parents.


WHOLE Grains, not Flour

The Framingham Heart study shows how whole grains help to prevent, and refined grains can cause, heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Refined grains cause, and whole grains prevent, fat from being stored underneath the skin, and around organs, in your belly, which increases risk for these diseases (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2010: Journal of Nutrition, October 2011).

Anything that causes a high rise in blood sugar also causes high triglycerides in your bloodstream. This increases the bad LDL cholesterol that can cause heart attacks, and lowers the good HDL that helps to prevent heart attacks. Whole grains have a thick capsule that delays absorption and helps prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high. When you grind a whole grain, the capsule is broken; the powdery flour behaves like sugar and is absorbed immediately. A high rise in blood sugar causes the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin. Insulin causes fat to be deposited in your belly and around your organs. High levels of insulin also cause heart attacks by constricting the arteries leading to your heart.

The Continuing Survey of Food Intakes and the NHANES studies show that 95 percent of North Americans eat fewer than three servings of whole grains per day. Refining whole grains into flour removes fiber, minerals, vitamins, and other antioxidants and leaves the remaining parts that are converted to sugar which causes high levels of insulin.

Most North Americans get their whole grains from dry cereals (28.7 percent), yeast breads (25.3 percent), hot cereals (13.7 percent), popcorn (12.4 percent), and crackers (6.4 percent). Instead, try cooking your own whole grains that have not been ground into flour, such as barley, oats, brown rice and wild rice. See


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October 23rd, 2011
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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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