Saturday, February 14, 2015

Healthy living 101: What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a crucial mineral that the body does not produce on its own and therefore, must be obtained by consuming magnesium rich foods. Magnesium is important for a healthy immune system, maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, keeping heart rhythm steady, keeping body temperature, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels regulated, and bones and teeth strong. Magnesium may also play a role in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines and excreted through the kidneys. Magnesium deficiency symptoms include muscle tension, muscle soreness, muscle spasms, muscle cramps, muscle fatigue, muscle weakness, arrhythmia, and increased heart rate. Other symptoms include softening and weakening of bones, imbalance blood sugar levels, headaches, elevated blood pressure, elevated fats in the bloodstream, depression, seizures, nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. Magnesium toxicity symptoms may occur from magnesium supplements. Although there is no toxicity threat to eating magnesium rich foods, excessive supplementation can cause toxicity where symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, drowsiness, and weakness. As with many other vitamins and mineral, magnesium works synergistically with other nutrients. For example, magnesium is required in order for calcium and potassium to work effectively in the body and protein is important to help magnesium work properly. Cooking can affect the magnesium content and depending on the food, up to two thirds of the magnesium can be lost from cooking. Additionally, many prescription medications, including antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and diuretics, have been shown to reduce the body’s supply of magnesium. Magnesium rich foods include (measured in milligrams (mg) rounded): • Pumpkin seeds (raw) – ¼ cup, 185 mg • Spinach (cooked) – 1 cup, 157 mg • Soybeans (cooked) – 1 cup, 148 mg • Sunflower seeds (raw) – ¼ cup, 127 mg • Sesame seeds – ¼ cup, 126 mg • Halibut – 4 ounces, 121 mg • Black beans (cooked) – 1 cup, 120 mg • Navy beans (cooked) – 1 cup, 107 mg • Millet (cooked) – 1 cup, 106 mg • Almonds (dry roasted) – ¼ cup, 99 mg • Pinto beans (cooked) – 1 cup, 94 mg • Cashews (raw) – ¼ cup, 89 mg • Brown rice (cooked) – 1 cup, 84 mg • Tuna (yellowfin baked) – 4 ounces, 73 mg The Recommended Dietary Allowances for Magnesium as set in 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences are as follows (measured in milligrams): • infants, 0-6 months: 30 milligrams • infants, 6-12 months: 75 milligrams • children, 1-3 years: 80 milligrams • children, 4-8 years: 130 milligrams • children, 9-13 years: 240 milligrams • males, 14-18 years: 410 milligrams • males, 19-30 years: 400 milligrams • males, 31 years and older: 420 milligrams • females, 14-18 years: 360 milligrams • females, 19-30 years: 310 milligrams • females, 31 years and older: 320 milligrams • pregnant women, 18 years or younger: 400 milligrams • pregnant women, 19-30 years: 350 milligrams • pregnant women, 31-50 years: 360 milligrams • lactating women, 18 years or younger: 360 milligrams • lactating women, 19-30 years: 310 milligrams • lactating women, 31-50 years: 320 milligrams

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

USATF Now Lets Members Ask About Drugs and Supplements

The USATF has teamed up with The National Center for Drug Free Sport to allow free access for all of their members to the Resource Exchange Center, a subscription service of Drug Free Sport. The REC is a portal where athletes and coaches can ask questions about drugs and supplements to make sure that they are not ingesting anything illegal within the sport and to learn of any known health risks or side effects. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency already has a hotline that elite athletes can call to determine if a medication or specific substance is banned. The REC broadens this concept by enabling any USATF members - not just athletes in USADA's drug-testing pool - to inquire about supplements, which can contain multiple substances, some labeled and some not. In addition, the REC and Drug-Free Sport will provide USATF members with information that is reported by athletes who take a supplement and have an adverse reaction to it. The directions and the method for accessing the portal is a little confusing. First, you need to log in to the USATF website using your member ID number. It doesn't say so, but you then need to return to the REC directions page and click on the REC logo to get to the REC Access Page which will provide your login information. Be aware that choosing your login name can also be difficult given their funky little widget. I took a look around the site after I figured out how to access it, and there are some good informational articles mixed in with pages that don't exist yet and are just coming soon... While the articles are certainly worth reading, the main feature I was hoping to see is conspicuously missing, and that is a list of common drugs and supplements and all of the information about each one that the site can provide. As far as I can tell, if you want information about a specific drug or supplement, you need to ask and then wait for up to 24 hours for a response. That seems like it's a a poor use of resources, as I have to imagine that many of the drugs and supplements people would ask about are going to be repeated over and over. Still, it's a great resource to have available, so if you are a member of the USATF and are at all curious about a supplement that you are or are considering taking, I highly recommend requesting information through the REC.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Health benefits of wine

"Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was ever granted by the gods to man." –Plato Polyphenols (a group of chemical substances found in plants) and resveratrol (an antioxidant found in red grape skins), both found in red wine, may offer significant antioxidant protection and have the potential to overcome free radicals that cause cellular damage, which is a root cause of various forms of cancer and heart disease. A 2003 Harvard study has shown that resveratrol extends the life span of yeast cells by 80%. Further studies show that regular, light to moderate alcohol consumption may preserve cognitive function in the elderly, including the prevention or postponement of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other forms of dementia. There have been more than 400 studies conducted worldwide, many of them longitudinal with large sample sizes. Studies indicate that red wine can raise HDL (the good cholesterol) and prevent LDL (the bad cholesterol) from forming. Additionally, red wine may help prevent blood clots, reduce the blood vessel damage caused by fat deposits, and decrease the risk of developing diabetes. Other medical studies point to multiple benefits of regular, moderate wine drinking to include lowered risks of stroke, colorectal tumors, skin and other types of cancers, and even the common cold, as well as reduce the effects of scarring from radiation treatments. Further studies show moderate, regular consumption of wine or beer decreases the risk of peptic ulcers and even rid the body of the bacteria suspected of causing them. So what is the bottom line? The multitude of studies conducted worldwide regarding the health benefits of moderate, regular wine consumption have all concluded that healthy people who drink wine regularly and moderately live longer. They key is moderation. Drinking too much alcohol (more than two glasses per day) has shown to have the reverse effect of the above listed health benefits and has even been proven to increase cancer risks.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Performance Enhancing Drugs VS Supplements (Part 2)

Part 1 of this series focused on two of the most common (and also most commonly misunderstood) supplements used by professional and recreational athletes. Protein powders and creatine are supplements derived from food products and so are no more dangerous than any other common food, such as milk, bread, or sugar. In other words, they are not drugs. Drugs are typically synthetic substances (man made, even if based on herbs or other plants) not commonly found in food, and are taken to induce the body to react in a certain way. Aspirin is a common drug that blocks the pain receptors in the brain, reducing the amount of pain felt from headaches and such. "Performance enhancing" drugs (PEDs) are not actually miracle pills or shots that give super-human strength, speed, endurance, or size to a person, even though they are portrayed that way in the media. What PEDs like HGH and anabolic steroids actually do is help the body recover more effectively from training sessions. Those who do not train often misunderstand the importance of recovery. Athletic training is hard work for any sport. Hours are spent drilling technique, as well as training for increased strength, increased cardiovascular output, and endurance. Two main factors allow the human body to cope with this: nutrition and recovery. As stated n part 1, even non-athletes use supplements to get nutrients that are difficult to get through diet alone. Athletes place much higher demands on their bodies than the average office-worker; consequently, they need more nutrients. Their bodies also take longer to recover from those workouts. Recovery times are necessary to allow the body and mind to recuperate and grow stronger from the stresses put on them through the training sessions. The human body naturally makes Human Growth Hormone and testosterone. These substances are necessary for the body to recovery from the stresses of training. Testosterone mainly helps recovery by promoting protein synthesis into muscle tissue. HGH stimulates cell reproduction and regeneration, as well as overall growth. A greater amount of these two substances in the body leads to shorter and more effective recovery sessions. Shorter recovery allows an athlete to train most often. Most PEDs are synthetic versions of one or the other of the above chemicals (synthetic testosterone being better known as anabolic steroids). While a small increase in athletic abilities is possible by just taking PEDs, they will not turn an average athlete into an excellent one. Even when taking PEDs, hard work and training time are still the most important pieces of the equation for success.