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Lactic Acid is Good For You

Lactic acid is the most efficient fuel that your muscles can use, even more than sugar. When you exercise as hard as you can, it helps you to go harder. A paper from Aukland University in New Zealand reviews the latest research showing that lactic acid is good for you (Sports Medicine, Volume 36, 2006). Your muscles use carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy. Enzymes in muscles break down carbohydrates in a series of reactions that release small amounts of energy at a time. More than 80 percent of the energy used to power muscles is lost as heat, so burning fuel instantly for energy would produce so much heat that it would burn your muscles.

Enzymes require oxygen to turn food into energy. When you exercise so hard that you can’t get all the oxygen you need to break down food for energy, lactic acid accumulates in muscles and spills over into the bloodstream. This makes muscles acidic and it is the acidity that makes muscles burn and forces you to slow down. However, muscles require very little oxygen to turn lactic acid into energy. So when your muscles produce lots of lactic acid, they use this chemical for energy and require less oxygen. As soon as you slow down, you catch up on your oxygen debt and recover. So lactic acid is good for you. It helps you to exercise with less available oxygen.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will exercise help me prevent diabetes, even though I’m overweight?

A recent study shows that lack of exercise is a major risk factor for diabetes in overweight women, and these women can help prevent diabetes by exercising, even if they don’t lose a lot of weight. Before insulin can do its job of driving sugar from your bloodstream into cells, it must first attach to small hooks on cells called insulin receptors. Having extra fat in your body prevents insulin from attaching to these receptors, and prevents insulin from lowering blood sugar levels. Therefore the cells of overweight women cannot respond to insulin as well as those of their leaner counterparts. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst showed that overweight women who engage in vigorous exercise can respond to insulin as well as leaner fit women (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, October 2006). Thirty-five percent of North Americans will become diabetic, and staying in shape may be an even better way to prevent diabetes than controlling weight.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I dread winter because my hands get so cold; can anything be done?

If your fingers turn white and start to hurt when you're out in the cold, you may have a condition called Raynaud's phenomenon. On exposing your fingers to cold, the blood vessels close, skin turns white and their temperature drops. When the temperature drops to 59 degrees, your body tries to save your skin by opening the blood vessels and the skin turns red and starts to itch and burn. If you warm your hands at this point, your skin will not be damaged, but if you do not get out of the cold, the blood vessels in your hands can close and the temperature in your hands can drop to freezing, resulting in frostbite.

People who have Raynaud's phenomenon have blood vessels in their hands that do not open when the skin temperature reaches 59 degrees. Several diseases, smoking and using vibrating equipment can cause Raynaud's phenomenon.

Wear two or more layers of gloves and mittens. When your fingers feel cold, swing your arms very rapidly about your shoulder with your elbow straight. This will drive blood, like a centrifuge, into your fingers and warm them. The blood pressure drugs called calcium channel blockers, such as Nifidipine, can help to treat and prevent Raynaud’s phenomenon (Rheumatology, November 2005). Another option is nitroglycerin ointment that is used to treat angina. When applied to the forearm, it opens blood vessels leading to the hands. Check with your doctor to see if these prescription medications would be appropriate for you.

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Recipe of the Week:

Roasted Veggie Bean Pot

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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