Posts Tagged ‘Family Health’

apple, flowers and measurement tapeAccording to Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009–2010, more than two out of every three adults in the United States is considered to be overweight or obese. Increasingly, these individuals are realizing the impact extra weight can have on their health and lifestyles, from increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease to sore joints and limited energy. As such, many individuals struggling with overweight and obesity are seeking solutions to these problems, and turning to health and fitness professionals for help. In truth, fitness professionals are poised to make a bigger impact on public health than ever before. Are you prepared?

The ability to create effective fitness programs and offer the motivational techniques to help clients succeed are just part of the equation. Nutrition can make or break your client’s weight-loss program. While it’s vital to stay within your defined scope of practice as a health and fitness professional, helping clients achieve their goals and maintain those numbers beyond the short term with an expert nutrition plan and tips is always part of a successful program.

The best possible chances for weight-loss success with these 10 essential tips:

YOU CAN’T OUT EXERCISE A POOR DIET.

We’ve all heard this one and you may already be giving this advice. The truth is that diet is a significant part of the weight loss equation. Your clients should know that rebuilding their bodies into more efficient machines requires a (mostly) healthy diet with adequate calories. This is how they will best achieve their weight-loss goals.

MAXIMIZE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.

When it comes to weight loss, fruits and vegetables may just be your client’s best friend. These nutrient-dense foods can help clients feel fuller with fewer calories, making them an ideal addition to every meal. Fruits and vegetables also make a great low-calorie “off plan” snack when hunger unexpectedly rears its head. Clients new to a healthy eating plan may want to work closely with a dietitian to explore the best choices and preparations for fruits and vegetables.

LEARN TO LOVE LEAN PROTEIN.

Clients exploring a weight-loss program may be unfamiliar with lean proteins that can help curb cravings and keep them satisfied from meal to meal. Skinless, white meat chicken and turkey; fish and seafood; certain cuts of beef and pork; and beans and soy products are all lean choices. Once they get started on a weight-loss program with you, ensure your client’s meal plan includes a source of lean protein with every meal.

READING NUTRITION LABELS IS A MUST.

We live in a fast-paced world. To grab our attention, many products now include “healthy” buzzwords. These often do not provide the most accurate picture of a product. When it comes to weight loss and health, it’s important to read nutrition facts panels for the most accurate information. In fact, a recent study from the University of Houston looked at the difference marketing buzzwords (such as “all natural”) on packaging made and found “every single product used in this research study that included one of the health-related trigger words was rated as being significantly healthier than the exact same product that did not include those words.” Clients unfamiliar with nutrition labels should work with a nutrition professional to learn the basics of making the best choices for their weight-loss nutrition program.

PORTIONS ARE POWERFUL.

Most of us have seen how “portion distortion” has played a role in the excess weightmany of our clients are struggling to lose. While reading nutrition labels can help, learning recommended portion sizes and even regularly measuring foods are essential to meeting weight-loss goals. Clients wanting to start a weight-loss program should understand these portion sizes may take time to get used to. The best nutrition programs include easy-to-understand measurements to guide your clients as they relearn portions as part of a healthy eating plan.

MAKE IT REAL WORLD.

Your clients’ weight-loss programs should fit into their lives to ensure that they are successful now and for a lifetime. The most effective weight-loss programs include some flexibility in schedule and meal plan, as well as strategies to navigate social events, busy lifestyles and even restaurant meals. Work closely with clients to identify the weight-loss programs that will work best for them. Dietitians can also help clients navigate this real-world aspect with healthy eating strategies.

When clients are ready to start a weight-loss program, set them up for success with the right information. Working closely with your client to develop the best fitness and nutrition program can help you deliver the weight loss results they want.


 

Brought to you by the Registered Dietitians at Evolution Nutrition, a web-based nutrition management system, designed for you, the fitness professional.

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female athleteKate Carr
President and CEO, Safe Kids Worldwide
Posted: 08/05/2013 9:58 pm

Sixteen-year-old Anna didn’t hesitate when I asked her about her love of soccer. “It’s my life,” she said matter-of-factly, and her reputation backed it up. Through hard work, tenacity and dedication, Anna is one of the top high school soccer players in the Washington, D.C. area with realistic aspirations of a Division I scholarship.

That’s why it’s so sad that our conversation took place when she was lying on a sports rehab table so far from the game she loves. This is her third knee surgery, which is shocking but not as uncommon as you might think among female athletes. In fact, female athletes are three times more likely to have ACL injuries than male athletes.

There are plenty of theories for this discrepancy, ranging from physical differences to hormone levels. Either way, there are stretches and exercises all athletes can do to help prevent these injuries.

I was at the rehab facility to film a video with U.S. Women’s Soccer player Ali Krieger, who you might remember from her game-winning penalty kick in the quarterfinals of 2011 World Cup in Germany. Ali, who was recovering from an ACL (knee) surgery, helped demonstrate seven exercises female athletes can do to help prevent knee injuries.

It’s a must-see for all of the athletes in your life.

Safe Kids Worldwide and Johnson & Johnson are working together to reach parents, coaches and kids with tips that can prevent the more than 1.35 million ER visits that occur as a result of a sports injury. For more information, read our research report or visit www.safekids.org

For more on fitness and exercise, click here.

For more by Kate Carr, click here.

Français : Tractions

Français : Tractions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 


Doctor of Physical Therapy,
PhD Candidate at the University of Southern California
May 05, 2013

Death bydeadlift!

Pungent terminology to some, but if you’re a CrossFitter, it’s pure humdrum. There have been endless articles and blogs that have advocated for or against CrossFit. Those for it wax eloquent on its perceived benefits, like improving physical strength, endurance, range of motion and even appearance. So, you’re saying when you combine a strict diet minimizing dairy products and simple carbohydrates and work out harder and with more intensity, it yields results? Shocker (and that, ladies and gentlemen, is sarcasm at its finest).

The drawbacks of CrossFit are not as apparent. Due to a lack of prospective data, there is no definitive information attributing CrossFit to injury; rather, there are simply anecdotal reports associating CrossFit with — amongst other things — shoulder, back and knee pain. However, the associations between injury potential with the particular lifts and exercises performed during a typical class are painstakingly clear. Fortunately, it can all be addressed through improved quality control, but unlike Drake, it starts from the top.

There are currently no guidelines by any nationally-recognized authority (e.g. NSCA, NATA, ACSM, NCSF) that one can use to inform themselves about CrossFit training methods. Furthermore, potentially due to the minimal qualification requirements, the coaches may not always have the skillset or knowledge base to promote (and/or individually tailor) form in order to prevent injury. This is compounded by the fact that there are inadequate guidelines to prepare novice CrossFitters and potentially insufficient individual attention due to large class sizes. As many CrossFit programs are predicated upon competition amongst the class members, performance (e.g., time and/or repetitions) also often supersedes health. In other words, if you want to be first in the WOD (workout of the day), you may have to push through pain, injury and/or fatigue. It may be the essence of competition, but with high-intensity exercise, injury is inevitable if not done with the proper form. Athletes (novice and experts alike) should thus be cognizant of choosing facilities that offer coaches who are accredited by nationally recognized authorities. With that said, here are just a few typical CrossFit exercises to be cautious of:

Deadlift

An effective lift that targets the hamstrings and back extensors. However, if fatigued, or during competition, mechanics can get sloppy, particularly characterized by the back rounding out and the bar moving too far from the body. This can result in excessive strain (and pain) to the hamstrings, as well as the back muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Having the back bent during the loading and unloading phase can potentially lead to a herniated disc. Focus on maintaining a neutral spine, all the while keeping the bar close to the body.

Power Clean

Similar to deadlifts, power cleans are an Olympic lift, yet the complex movement pattern appears to make it even harder to master. Ex-NFL strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley notes that “the inherent dangers unique to this movement can make it a potential hazard … It places the muscles, lower back, tendons and joints in a vulnerable position.” In fact, even with perfect form, the load from the power clean, particularly during the descent phase, may result in excessive forces to the knee joint. If form degrades and the back begins to arch, the body relies more on the hamstrings and back to eccentrically (muscle lengthening contraction) control the weight, potentially leading to excessive strain and injury to these structures. If performing the power clean, be sure to maintain a neutral spine, bend sufficiently at the knees, and progress very slowly until a good technique is mastered. This may help limit excessive force transmission through the body. It is also advised that those with pre-existing knee pain steer clear of this lift.

Kettlebell Swing

The force to propel the kettlebell is supposed to be derived from the hips. If the weight is too great, or one begins to fatigue, they often compensate by overstressing the upper body — neck and shoulders — during the ascent, and the back — just as in the power clean — during the descent. Furthermore, if the stance is too wide and the knees begin to fall inward, it can result in excessive load to the lateral knee joint. If the stance is too narrow, it will minimize the ability to open the hips, likely resulting in a variety of compensatory (and deleterious) movement patterns. Correct selection of stance width, and having the feet slightly externally rotated can help avoid these pitfalls.

Muscle Up

The ring muscle up is the quintessential CrossFit exercise, requiring flexibility and strength of the core and shoulders as well as mental strength and confidence to complete the task. Though it is a combination of a pull up and a dip, many individuals whom are able to perform both exercises seamlessly have great difficulty in transitioning between the two and thus completing a muscle-up. During the pull phase, one requires core strength to complete a kip pull up, else there will be compensation by the shoulders. During the push phase, the elbows have to stay tucked in close to the body, otherwise it places the shoulders in more of an open-packed position, leaving them — and the rotator cuff, in particular — vulnerable to injury. Make sure to master both ring-based pull ups and dips prior to progressing to a muscle up. It is advised that individuals with pre-existing shoulder injury or instability take particular caution.

Death by. An obvious exaggeration that in CrossFit terminology means to add a single repetition each successive minute until failure. However, the term, and this method of exercise, symbolizes the CrossFit mantra of forging elite fitness, seemingly by pushing yourself past your preconceived limit. Adherence to the CrossFit program and performance of its exercises undoubtedly generates results, but if done improperly, even though the chances of actual death may be low, the likelihood of injury appears high. I would thus be amiss to advise against CrossFit exercises and the associated diet, so rather, I take aim at the CrossFit structure that clearly fails in ensuring that their coaches place emphasis on long-term health and wellness, rather than simple performance metrics. Because frankly, it’s hard to be elite with a herniated disc.

A pair of ASICS stability running shoes, model...


Doctor of Physical Therapy and current PhD Candidate,
University of Southern California
Posted: 10/08/2012 11:30 am

“Yo, what type of shoes should I run in?”

Whether in a medical conference, academic setting or bar, once people know my line of research, that’s typically the first question that pops up. Often times I feel my response is a bit coy, mostly because it would take longer to answer than what people have time for. Although there’s no hard and fast answer for everyone, I personally believe it comes down to the Three Ps.

Three Ps

We’re all different — in the way we speak, the way we think, and, unsurprisingly, the way we run. Thus, when determining the optimal running shoe, it’s imperative to consider your Three Ps: pattern, passion and purpose.

(Foot) Pattern

There are three basic foot patterns: normal, overly pronated (i.e., flat-footed) and overly supinated (i.e., high-arched). Most individuals present with a normal foot type and during traditional heel-to-toe running demonstrate rapid pronation upon heel-strike. In order to slow the rate of pronation, these individuals would be best served by a stability shoe, which is characterized by a heel counter (i.e., a stiff cup around the heel), a medial wedge and a dual-density midsole.

Relative to a stability shoe, a motion control shoe is less flexible due to an increase in dual density foam and a more rigid heel counter. This type of shoe is ideal for people with flat feet, as it’s designed to help compensate for the over-pronation.

The arch of the foot is supported by a thick band of connective tissue called the plantar fascia, which becomes taught — and thus helps to absorb shock — when the foot bears weight. In people with high arches, the foot doesn’t pronate sufficiently, negating some of the shock absorption. A neutral cushioned shoe compensates for this through encouraging foot movement by maximizing flexibility (via lacking a medial wedge and presenting with a softer midsole and heel counter).

Passion

There are a multitude of different running styles that people are passionate about: heel-to-toe, pose, chi, barefoot or minimalistic, and alterations in cadence. The common denominator in all of these running forms is a manipulation in the method of foot strike. Teachers of pose, chi, and barefoot running promote forefoot strikes, while an increase in running cadence typically results in an inherent change from a heel-strike, to a mid or forefoot strike for controlled running velocities.

The method to impacting the ground is influenced by footwear. In fact, relative to traditional running shoes, when people run barefoot, or in minimalistic shoes, they naturally shift to a more anterior strike pattern (likely in order to prevent collision of the heel with the ground). It appears that shoes with reduced heel-to-toe drops may help promote this. The heel-to-toe drop is a measure of the difference in the height of the shoe from the heel to the forefoot. Traditional running shoes have drops between 8-12 mm, whereas minimalistic shoes can be as low as 0 mm.

In order to determine the optimal drop, it’s important to recognize how you impact the ground when running. Although many people believe they are forefoot strikers, it’s been shown that approximately 75 percent of runners run heel to toe, whereas 24 percent are mid-foot strikers, meaning that they strike the ground with the middle of their sole. A negligible portion of runners run forefoot. In order to prevent excessive strain to the calf and Achilles tendon, it’s recommended that heel-strike runners who yearn to run in shoes with smaller heel-to-toe drops transition to them over a period of time (with shoes with increasingly smaller drops).

Purpose

With technological advancements in the footwear industry and an associated increase in the amount of scientific research concerning footwear, we now have a greater understanding regarding the attributes of shoes that can help runners address their specific purposes. For example, a bowing-out of the knees may potentially lead to degradation of the medial meniscus (cartilage within the knee), whereas a falling in of the knees may result in lateral meniscus degradation. A lateral or medial wedge, respectively, may help to compensate for these mal-alignments. Similarly, shoes with a heel flare — an outward projection on the lateral (and sometimes posterior) aspect of the shoe — may result in an increase in pronation during the initial stance phase of running. Although it will add weight or width to the shoe, it may limit the potential of developing anteromedial compartment syndrome. Relatedly, increased cushioning under the heel may also add weight to the shoe, however, it likely will take pressure off the plantar fascia, and is thus often recommended for those with plantar fasciitis.

A recent introduction to the running market is minimalistic footwear. The Nike Free has a foam based outsole that can splay. As a result of its minimal structural support, it may help in developing the intrinsic muscles of the foot. In contrast, the Vibram FiveFingers and New Balance Minimus have rubber outsoles and appear designed to optimize the barefoot running experience. Similarly, and as mentioned above, relative to heel-strike running, shoes with reduced heel-to-toe drops that theoretically promote mid or forefoot strikes will likely result in an increased demand to the ankle and a reduced demand to the knee (and their supporting structures, respectively). The caveat of all of these shoes, however, is that they may require training to the foot and calf and/or a transitional period prior to using them exclusively for running.

So I was recently having dinner with a friend of mine at this Chinese restaurant, and his fortune read “There should only be one thing coy in the room, and that’s the fish.” So while I hope I provided a sufficient running shoe guideline, when you asked me at the bar last Friday about what type of shoes you should run in, aren’t you glad there were no fish around?

For more by Rami Hashish, DPT, click here.

Follow Rami Hashish, DPT on Twitter: www.twitter.com/runinjuryfree


Physician; Writer; Associate Professor,
Georgetown University
Posted: 08/29/2012 8:17 am

A single rebound changed teenager Tracy Yatsko’s life. It was Jan. 10, 2005. Two minutes to go till half time in a hard-played game where she — a tenth-grade starting forward for the Tamaqua Lady Raiders of Penn Township, Penn. — left the ground momentarily while jumping for the ball, and then, on her descent, ball in hand, the collision: the back of her skull smacking into the head of the opponent who’d been guarding her. She recalls a brief visual blackout — less than a second — but she didn’t lose consciousness and even managed to get off another shot at the basket. Even so, feeling dizzy and nauseous, she opted for the bench for the rest of the game, just as a precaution.

Next day, though, the dizziness and nausea were still there. She attended school, finding that “I couldn’t concentrate, and I just wasn’t there,” but after a second night’s sleep, feeling better and hoping she’d weathered the worst of that head bump, she decided to suit up and start another game for the Lady Raiders. That was the breaking point. She made it through the game, but afterward, while changing in the locker room, she blacked out and fell to the ground. “I couldn’t hold myself,” she recalls. It was frightening, as it was now clear this was something she wasn’t just going to shake off.

From that first trip to the emergency room, says her mother, Linda McCarroll, “life was never the same.” Or, as Tracy puts it: “That’s when everything started.”

It was a concussion, and Tracy knew it, because she’d suffered one before, while still in the seventh grade. An MTBI, or Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, as it’s known in the medical literature. That earlier MTBI she did shake off — or at least the symptoms went away after 10 days or so. But “mild” can be a misleading term. Yes, there are more serious types of brain injuries, but the concussions that occur in contact sports can have effects that — despite the “mild” label — last a lifetime.

As Tracy has experienced for herself. Initially, she spent the rest of her junior year at home, literally on the couch. “I couldn’t go to the bathroom by myself. I had to cover the windows with sheets because of the light.” She has suffered constant migraines, nausea, vomiting, and had difficulty concentrating. She had to spend many days in the hospital, seeing dozens of doctors, getting all kinds of diagnostic tests. She had been on hundreds of medications, her mom says, some of them with terrible side effects. She lost many friends “because they were out having fun and I was stuck at home.”

As kids return to school and embark upon a new school sport season, stories like Tracy’s have put MTBIs — as well as other sports-related injuries — at the center of a debate that asks whether the price of getting hurt for the game is too high.

Journalists have begun focusing extensively on the toll among professional athletes, especially football players. But other experts — including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which held a special meeting on Capitol Hill in 2010 — are concerned about the effects on younger athletes.

For student athletes, studies are producing alarming numbers. One estimates that between
2001 and 2009 more than 2.6 million children in the U.S. were treated for sports-related injuries. Of them, more than 170,000 suffered from traumatic brain injuries.

That sounds like a lot, but they’re the tip of the iceberg, says, Dr. Dawn Comstock, of the Center for Injury Research and Policy, at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Many injuries, she says, are never reported: “Nobody really knows how big of a burden sports-related injuries are.”

Part of the story is a lack of awareness — even now — says sports-medicine expert Dr. Clarke Holmes, of Nashville, Tenn. “Many young athletes don’t know what concussions are,” he says. Many, he says, may experience a head injury, but then believe “that if they haven’t lost consciousness then they should be okay.”

Except that they’re often not okay, a fact that may be especially important for girls to understand. Says Dr. Holmes: “There is some evidence to suggest that girls may be more likely to have concussions and that their concussions may be more severe.”

Severe is certainly what Tracy’s concussion turned out to be. Grade III. The worst. It’s been more than seven years since that fateful game and she’s still paying for it — paying for wanting to play the game she loved. Perhaps the hardest part was being told she couldn’t play sports anymore. Ever. Sports was everything to Tracy: “I was a huge athlete. I was really good in basketball and track.” So when the doctor announced her sports days were finished, “it ruined my life. That’s when the depression set in. I thought my life was over,” she said, holding back tears even now.

Indeed, many young athletes would agree that sports are what defines them. It gives them a certain social cachet and represents real achievement, as well as embodying real-life values like teamwork and competition. Sports can also be a ticket to scholarships, higher education, and exciting careers — if you’re really that good. Tracy was that good.

That’s why many athletes are reluctant to report their injury. They risk being misunderstood as weak or lacking in motivation. They fear being sidelined, losing their chance to shine, to show what they are made of. “That’s just how we grow up,” says Tracy today. “We grow up saying ‘suck it up and get back in the game.'” Remembering the winter of 2005, Tracy says she was worried that her trainer would “sit me out of the game” if she said too much. “I kept quiet, but I shouldn’t have played.”

“There is no shame in being hurt,” says Dr. Holmes. “If you hide an injury then you are not only hurting yourself, but also your team. Because you’re out there playing and you are not 100 percent, and you can let the team down. You could miss an assignment, not know a play that you should, you could be a step slow.” More importantly, he says, “You could predispose yourself to another injury, or even a second concussion.”

This is an important piece of the picture. Once a concussion has occurred, the player becomes as much as four to six times more likely to suffer a second concussion. And having a second concussion, studies have shown, can be even more traumatic, resulting in permanent brain injury from the cumulative trauma.

That’s why medical and athletic organizations are quite serious about when the appropriate time is to return to play. Guidelines vary, says Dr. Holmes, and each case should be looked at individually, but in general the athlete has to be completely symptom free for some time before being allowed back in the game. Depending on the initial symptoms, it can be as little as 20 minutes for a very mild first concussion with no loss of consciousness, to more than three months for a third concussion, according to some guidelines. Or it can be, as in Tracy’s case, never being allowed in the game again.

The guidelines, from organizations such as the American Academy of Neurology, and the Colorado Department of Education, vary. But they all agree that athletes should take time off following an injury and that premature return to play can harbor serious consequences. As serious and catastrophic as brain herniation and death.

Unfortunately, says Dr. Comstock, not many are taking heed. According to one study she authored, 40.5 percent of high school athletes with a concussion returned to play too soon. And males — true to stereotypes of being more “macho” — were more likely than females to not follow these guidelines. That study, in the journal Brain Injury, also showed that during the 2007-2008 season alone, 15.8 percent of football players who suffered a concussion and lost consciousness returned to play the same day.

But it is not just the athletes themselves who are eager to put injury aside and get back in the game. Coaches and parents are as much to blame. “I see how parents can get so involved in a game,” says Linda, “and sometimes coaches and parents can make the wrong decisions.”

She and Tracy are trying to tell their story to anyone who would listen. Tracy even testified before a congressional committee and told her story at the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania. “There have been a lot of coaches who’ve changed the way they’ve coached because of Tracy,” says Linda with pride in her voice. “They’ve been much more careful. They don’t put their player back into the game if there is any injury, whether it’s a head injury or it looks like they have a sprained ankle. Because of Tracy they’re really thinking twice and just admiring the message that she’s been putting out there.”

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump, jolt, or blow to the head. It can happen due to a fall, or after hitting another player.

Symptoms of Concussion

Early symptoms may include: Headache, Dizziness, Confusion, Nausea, Vomiting, Vision Changes, Ringing in the ears, Sensitivity to light.

Late symptoms: Memory disturbances or loss, poor concentration, irritability, chronic migraines, sleep problems, personality changes, chronic fatigue, depression.

If you think your child had a concussion:

– Seek medical help at once. The doctor can help assess the severity and help determine when it is safe to return to play.
– Keep your child out of play until a health care professional says it is okay to go back.
– Report all concussions to your child’s coach, including previous ones, or those suffered playing another sport.
– Consider baseline neuro-psychiatric testing at the beginning of the season. Repeat testing after an injury can more precisely show the degree of damage and help with rehabilitation.

A concussion can happen in any sport activity. The top offenders are contact sports. “Player-to-player contact is the number one mechanism for injury,” says Dr. Comstock.

Higher injury rates, including concussions, are found in: football, ice hockey, boys lacrosse, soccer, basketball, girls lacrosse and field hockey.

For more by Ranit Mishori, M.D., MHS, click here.

For more on personal health, click here.

Follow Ranit Mishori, M.D., MHS on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ranitmd

User:Extremepullup performing a standard dead-...

User:Extremepullup performing a standard dead-hang pull up (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Cassilo
USA Today High School Sports
Doing a lot of heavy lifting might seem like the best way to strengthen your upper body, but sports training expert Rick Howard says that’s not necessarily the case.

We asked Howard, the founder of the Youth Special Interest Group for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, to shed some light on a few upper-body training misconceptions.

Myth 1: Focus on muscles you can see.
Howard:
Athletes work muscles they can see like their chest. That’s why they tend to do the bench press, biceps and abs. To improve upper-body strength, you have to have a balance between the muscles on the front and back of your body.

Myth 2: Upper-body strength starts in the weight room.
Focus on bodyweight training before you transition to machines like the bench press. You don’t always have to use a strength-training machine. There are all types of exercises like pushups to work your chest muscles and exercises like pull-ups to work your back. It’s a long-term process to get into peak condition, and you need to progress correctly.

Myth 3: Do as many reps as often as you can.
Start with one set of an exercise for 10 to 15 reps. Progress to three sets, then gradually add weight. You don’t need to do the maximum every time. The key is to have great form, not to do as many reps as possible.

Myth 4: Every athlete should bench to build a strong upper body.
Some athletes have shoulder injuries that preclude them from doing a bench press. For others, there are different weighted bars that might be too heavy to lift. Instead, you can use a medicine ball, bodyweight exercises or dumbbells.

Myth 5: You should strengthen your upper body on your own.
A lot of times athletes go into a weight room or in their basement and work out without supervision. That, unfortunately, is where most injuries occur.

Some athletes are choosing water and real food instead of sports drinks and processed bars and gels.

By Alastair Bland
The SALT, NPR Food Blog
Posted 7/16/2012

As the world’s greatest athletes gear up for the 2012 Olympic Games in London this month, viewers like us are likely to see a spike in televised ads for sports drinks, nutritional bars, and energy gel — that goop that so many runners and cyclists suck from foil pouches.

Powerade, in fact, is the official sports drink of the 2012 Olympics, and if it’s true what these kinds of ads imply, processed sports foods and neon-colored drinks are the stuff that gold medalists are made of.

But sports nutritionists and pro athletes don’t all think so. David Katz, physician and nutrition expert at the Yale University School of Medicine, says sports drinks generally aren’t much better than sodas. “[Sports drink companies’] marketing is based on the gimmick that somehow this extra load of sugar and calories will turn you into an athlete,” he says

Perhaps no brand has so loudly touted its product as an enhancement to physical prowess as Gatorade. One of its most effective sales pitches asserts that its sweet and colorful drinks can rehydrate a body more efficiently than water. Leslie Bonci, a dietary advisor to several Major League Baseball teams and a consultant for Gatorade, explains, saying that the body can absorb Gatorade more quickly than it can water alone. She adds that the sugar in Gatorade provides needed calories absent in water.

“Gatorade is a source of fluid, it’s a source of energy, and it’s a source of electrolytes,” she says. Electrolytes are minerals essential in helping the body retain water — and it’s true: We can’t live without them.

But the electrolytes in Powerade and Gatorade occur naturally in many other foods, like fruits, vegetables, grains, milk and coconut water.

Katz warns that the sugar content of sports drinks is far more likely to cause unwanted side effects than it is to propel you to the finish line of a race.

Like tooth rot, for example, or that stubborn layer of blubber that clings to our waistlines in spite of our most vigorous efforts to dispatch it. After all, makers of sports drinks, bars and gels encourage people to consume their products not just during exercise, but before and after, as well.

For example,the website for GU Energy — a popular brand you may know from discarded foil wrappers plastered to the asphalt — advises sucking down one of its 100-calorie gel packs before a workout, then again every 45 minutes during the workout. For your post-workout meal, there is GU Recovery Brew.

GU Energy did not respond to our inquiries about their products by press time, but sports nutritionists aren’t so sure about the suggestion to slurp the gels.

“The sports nutrition industry just tells us to eat, eat, eat,” says Stanford University nutrition coach Stacy Sims. “They don’t care how big you are or whether you’re a man or a woman or if you’re trying to lose weight.” (Full disclosure, Sims co-founded her own sports nutrition company called Osmo, which makes powdered sports drinks for hydration and recovery, and are purportedly easier on the body than syrupy energy gels.)

Walk onto any school field on weekends, and you’ll see kids drinking sports and energy drinks, too, even though pediatricians advise good old fashioned water.

Mountain biking legend Gary Fisher says these “engineered nutrition” products keep many amateur athletes on the tubby side. “I see guys who really put in the miles, and they have a gut that never goes away,” Fisher says.

Fisher says he prefers roast beef sandwiches, burritos, nuts, and bananas during bike rides, and afterward, he often eats a large helping of chicken or fish served beside a salad dressed with olive oil.

And Scott Jurek, the record-holding vegan ultra-marathoner featured in the 2009 bestseller Born to Run, enjoys smoothies prior to his 30-mile training runs, scarfs rice balls and hummus wraps en route, and afterward feasts on quinoa, tempe, brown rice, and beans — all vegan recipes included in his new book, Eat and Run.

Jurek says gels, which are easy to pack and carry, may be convenient if no real foods are available. His favorite gel product is by Clif, which also happens to be one of his sponsors.

But Sims at Stanford says unless you’re flat out of gas with miles more to go, don’t do goo.

“The fact is, every time you take a gel, you’re doing the exact opposite of what you want to do,” says Sims, who has worked with cycling stars Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong. She says densely sugared foods dehydrate the body and cause overheating.

But that’s supposedly where Gatorade comes in, rehydrating parched athletes and resupplying the body’s depleted electrolytes.

How important is hydrating anyway? Can it be reduced to a specific formula? Timothy Noakes, a South African sports nutrition doctor, says dehydration is a simpler condition than sports drink companies have hyped it up to be. He says athletes can generally “listen” to their bodies and drink water when they feel thirsty.