Nutrition

Low-Carbohydrate Diets Harm Athletic Performance

Some people believe that if you restrict carbohydrates, you will teach your muscles to burn more fat and preserve their small store of sugar (Metabolism, 2016;65(3):100-10). That is correct, but burning more fat and less sugar for energy slows you down (Nutrients, 2014;6.7:2493-508). The limiting factor to how fast you can move over distance is the time it takes to move oxygen into muscles. Since sugar requires about 20 percent less oxygen than fat does to fuel your muscles, you need to slow down and have less power when your muscles burn fat rather than sugar.

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What's the Best Breakfast You Can Eat?

For many years I have recommended oatmeal as the ideal breakfast food. It is filling, does not cause a high rise in blood sugar and is an excellent source of soluble fiber. You can enhance the flavor and nutritional value of your oatmeal by adding your choice of nuts, raisins or other dried fruits, fresh fruits such as blueberries, and spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. The soluble fiber in oatmeal and in fruits helps to keep blood sugar from rising too high and to control cholesterol (Curr Atheroscler Rep, Dec 2016;18(12):75).

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Eating While Riding: Is Sugar Bad?

Spring is beautiful in Colorado! The hills are green from the early spring snowfalls and the lakes are full from runoff from the mountain snowpack. Last week I rode up to Carter Lake and back, a 3:30 jaunt that included exploring a dirt road variation. At the lake I kicked back at the marina, drank a Coke (not diet), ate a half-dozen fig bars and soaked in the sun and the beauty. On the way I’d eaten a banana, apple slices, a granola bar and drank a bottle of tea sweetened with white sugar, and a bottle of water. Over the course of the 3:30 ride I ate almost all carbs, much of it in sugary foods and drink. 

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How Excess Salt Affects You

Two excellent recent studies from Germany and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee tell us that us excess salt: causes hunger, rather than thirst; breaks down muscle and fat; may be a primary dietary factor in the high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes in North America because it raises blood levels of adrenal hormones (cortisol) (Journal of Clinical Investigation, April 17, 2017). The common belief is that increasing salt intake increases urination and the more you urinate, the more fluid you have to drink to replace the fluid that you have lost. However, that's not the case. 

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High-Carb or High-Fat Diet?

On an endurance ride a roadie is cruising along at a conversational pace, burning fat for fuel. Climbing a fairly steep hill, the roadie also starts burning glucose for fuel. The harder the roadie is going, the greater proportion of the rider’s energy comes from glucose. You can store 1,500 to 2,000 calories of glycogen in your body, which your body metabolizes as glucose to fuel your muscles. On a longer ride with real climbing, on a shorter club ride hammering with your buddies, and during an interval workout, you’re burning lots of glucose. When you run out of glucose — you’ve bonked!

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Heart-Healthy Diet: New Studies

Several recent articles provide new data on which foods are associated with both your health and your longevity. The current issue of JAMA (2017;317(9):912-924).contains a major statistical analysis of the association between diet quality and rates of death from the cardiometabolic diseases (heart disease, strokes and type II diabetes). This review of more than 700,000 deaths in 2012 from heart attacks, strokes and diabetes in the U.S. shows that almost half of the deaths were associated with poor dietary habits. The 10 specific dietary factors were:

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Convert White Fat Cells into Fat-Burning Brown Fat Cells

In the United States since the end of World War II, there has been an increasing epidemic of obesity and diabetes. This month Dr. Alexander Pfeifer, of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Bonn in Germany, showed that mice can lose a lot of weight just by converting their harmful white fat cells into energy-consuming brown-fat cells (Cell Reports, January 3, 2017;18:225–236). We will await further research to see if this concept can be applied to humans.

 

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Eat Whole Grains, Not Flour

Whole grains are healthful, while refined grains (foods made from flour) can be harmful, particularly if you are overweight or have high blood sugar levels. A recent review of 20 studies, with 2,282,603 participants and 191,979 deaths during the study periods, found that greater intake of whole grains was significantly associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality (Adv Nutr, November 2016;7:1052-1065). Each additional three servings of whole grains per day was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Many other studies agree with these findings:

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Aspirin's Benefits from Plants

A few weeks ago I reviewed data explaining why most doctors now recommend that heart attack-susceptible men and women, aged 50 to 69, take a baby aspirin daily or every other day to help prevent heart attacks and colon cancer, prompting more than 50 million Americans to take aspirin regularly. However, people who take low-dose aspirin regularly are at 58 percent increased risk for gastrointestinal bleeding and 27 percent increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke, and these risks increase with aging (Ann Intern Med, June 21, 2016;164(12):826-35).

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Caffeine Boosts Endurance and Strength

A review of 34 recent studies shows that taking caffeine before and during exercise can increase muscle strength and endurance (European Journal of Nutrition, published online October 18, 2016;1-15). Taking 1-2 mg of caffeine per pound of body weight can enhance performance of athletes. A 150-pound athlete will get maximum benefit from two to three cups of strong coffee, which has about 100mg of caffeine per cup.

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Big Sugar Paid Harvard to Say that Sugar is Healthful

My faith in several of my Harvard mentors during the 1950s and 1960s has been shattered by an article that appeared this week in JAMA Internal Medicine (September 12, 2016). Cristin E. Kearns, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF, discovered letters in the archives at Harvard, the University of Illinois and other libraries showing that from the 1960s onward, the sugar industry paid respected researchers at Harvard to write that sugar is not harmful.

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