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Protein Meals Hasten Recovery from Intense Exercise

Recently I reviewed the latest research showing that protein restriction may be more important than calorie restriction in extending a person's life.

However, this week I found two studies showing that sometimes it is better to eat protein-rich meals. One study showed that eating a carbohydrate-protein meal immediately after a hard workout helps you recover faster so you can take your next hard workout sooner (Sports Medicine, November 2010). The second study showed that eating a protein-rich meal immediately after exercising hastens muscle growth and repair in both young and old men (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2011).

All sports training for strength, speed and endurance is based on stressing and recovering. You take a hard workout intense enough to damage your muscles, feel sore the next day, and go at a far less intense pace for as many days as it takes for muscles to heal and the soreness to go away. If you can recover from your hard workout faster, you can do your next hard workout sooner and you will become a better athlete.

Anything that increases the rate that protein building blocks, called amino acids, enter muscles helps muscles heal faster. Insulin drives amino acids into muscles. Hard exercise makes your muscles far more sensitive to insulin during exercise and maximally for up to an hour after you finish exercising. So taking a meal *rich in carbohydrate and protein, *within one hour of finishing your hard workout, will help you recover faster for your next hard workout. This will help you do more hard workouts that make stronger and faster and give you greater endurance.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Can heating your home make you gain weight?

You have two types of fat: yellow fat that takes no calories to maintain, and brown fat that burns yellow fat to heat your body. When you sit in a room at 60 degrees F, brown fat in your upper back and neck generates extra heat called "non- shivering thermogenesis" to burn more calories and help protect you from gaining weight (Obesity Reviews, February 2011).

With the advent of central heating, room temperatures rose and so did obesity. In Britain, the average temperature of living rooms were 65 degrees F in 1978 and 70 degrees in 2008. Bedroom temperatures rose from 59 degrees in 1978 to 65 in 1996. People also ride in heated cars instead of walking and children watch television and use computers instead of playing outdoors.

You have the most brown fat in your early years of life and gradually lose it over time. If you are repeatedly exposed to cold, your body can actually generate more brown fat, but most people do not like to live in 60 degree temperatures. Central heating may be partly responsible for 34 percent of US adults being obese (BMI >30) (National Center for Health Statistics, June, 2010). However, room temperatures are far less significant for weight control than exercising more and eating less.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is it safer to take daily small doses of vitamin D or occasional large doses?

It is safer to take daily lower doses. High-dose Vitamin D (50,000 units once a year) increased risk of falls and fractures in women over 70 (JAMA, May 12, 2010). The initial very high blood levels of vitamin D following a single large dose may cause the body to use up vitamin D at a faster rate and cause lower levels afterward. Giving 2,000 IU/day produces much higher blood levels of vitamin D than giving 60,000 IU of vitamin D once a month (Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:1565-1571). Another study showed that 600 IU/day produced higher blood levels than 4,200 IU/week or than 18,000 IU/month (Osteoporosis Int 2008;19:723).

If you are concerned about your vitamin D level, get a blood test called vitamin D3. If it is below 75 nmol/L (=30 ng/L), you can get more sunlight or take 2000 IU of vitamin D3/day until levels return to normal.

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Recipe of the Week:

Pink Beans and Brown Rice

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

March 13th, 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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