nutrition

Top 10 Fitness Myths from Outside Magzine

The January issue of  Outside Magazine  has a list of the " 10 Biggest Fitness Myths".      I don't know how they go about calculating the "biggest", but seeing as how popular magazines frequently get these messages so wrong, or the advice in their lists is just plan silly.  I think Outside did a good job with most of these, so I am going to address a few of them here: Myth #1: Stretching prevents injuries and improves performance.

This is absolutely true.  The evidence has been piling up for over 10 years.     No matter what your  gym teacher or personal trainer says, stretching does not prevent injuries.    It is a well established fact that stretching   BEFORE exercise inhibits maximal voluntary contraction (  strength and power), and there is a growing body of evidence that it may inhibit maximal aerobic work  as well.     I am not saying here that a warm up does not have its place, or that stretching is not useful in some circumstances.  But   stretching does not prevent injury, and pre- event stretching can definitely hurt  performance.

Myth #2: Running barefoot is better for the body. 

I am a cycling coach  so this isn't really my area of expertise, and I usually only run if someone is chasing me.  Myth #3: You need to focus on your core to become a better athlete.

I couldn't agree more.   I am  just plain tired of hearing about how important the core is.   A few years ago, there was a guy buying adverts on Velonews  suggesting that the best way to  improve your climbing was to improve your core strength, and I saw  recent   blog post from a coach that suggested that core muscles are more important than your leg muscles.  All of your muscles are important!       But  you don't pedal with  your abdominals or your obliques.  Otherwise all those women   that spend hours in pilates classes would be crushing it on the bike.   You pedal with the muscles in your legs and your butt.  Period.   I am not saying that doing a little core work  is useless.  These workouts have their place.   But the importance of a strong core in cycling and many other sports has been grossly overstated.      You can only train so many hours a week, and you get  faster on your bike by riding your bike, not by doing crunches.

Myth #4: Guzzling water and electrolytes before a race prevents cramps.

Also true.   You need to be properly hydrated  and you need to take in electrolytes for many reasons, but  hyperhydration and taking  in large amounts electrolytes isn't going to stop your cramps.     Find a cure for cramps that really works and I promise you you'll be famous though.

Myth #5: Popping ibuprofen before a hard workout prevents sore muscles afterward.

So many people do this, and it is absolutely the wrong thing to do.     Not only do ibuprofen and  others NSAIDS fail to reduce post exercise  muscle soreness  Inflammation  an important part of the muscle's repair process.  That means that  inflammation  is required to recover from training.    You are hurting your recovery by taking those things.      NSAIDS do have their place,  but don't pop them willy nilly.   Save them for when you have a specific  pain or inflammation issue that needs to be addressed.

Myth #6: Dehydration hurts race performance.

Outside magazine is wrong here.  WTF are they thinking.  Maybe they only had 9, but wanted to finish off their list.  Dehydration will make you slower, and can be dangerous.   Simple as that.

Myth #7: Ice baths speed recovery.

I'm not sure on this one.  I personally thing the jury may still be out.

Myth #8: Long and slow is the best way to burn calories.

True.  Ride harder and you burn more calories.  That isn't hard to figure out.    The only caveat here,  is that if you do a  really exhausting 1 hour ride, you may not be able to burn as many calories as if you  do a 4 hour easier ride. Myth #9: Fructose is a performance killer.

Fructose is a sugar that is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.  It is a great fuel for exercise, and for post exercise recovery.   Too much of it, like any carbohydrate will make you fat.   So   use some common sense here.   But if your sports drink  has some fructose, even HFCS in it.   You are probably getting exactly what you need.

Myth #10: Supplements take performance to the next level.

Most supplements are a waste of time.     I hear people say things like  " well, I started taking such and such, and I got much fitter".     I am willing to bet that the same time you started taking that supplement was the same time you started training harder.    It was the training.      I don't care if your local hero takes a  particular supplement either.   Just because " Joe Fast Guy" takes it doesn't mean that it improves performance.    He would probably be just as fast without it.     That being said, there are a few things out there that are helpful.   The number one being a simple carb/electrolyte sports drink!

 

Thats my 2 cents.  You can find the list along with Outside Magazines comments here: 10 Biggest Fitness Myths

Milk does not produce excess mucous.

Milk does not produce excess mucous.  That is a strange title for  an entry in this blog, but  it seems very appropriate  to my personal situation today.     I am suffering from a wicked headcold at the  moment.  A headlcold that may have been exacerbated by a high volume training cycle I completed on Sunday. ( and therefore relevant to cyclists, training and coaching)    I have  a slow nasal drip constantly coming out of my nose,  and down the back of my throat,  yet I  my head and upper respiratory  tract feel like they are holding so much pressure they are about to explode.    Basically, my head is full of mucous.     ( Doesn't that paint a pretty picture?  I know some might say my head is full of something else) .   I've heard from more than one person today, that I should stay away from milk and dairy, as it increases mucous production.   My first instinct was: " I don't buy it"   But that could be because I love cheese; swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, gorgonzola cheese, I love the stuff.    Cheese is one of the primary  reasons I need to drop 10lbs before track season starts.  (You can guess the other. It start with a B and end with an eer)  The other reason for my skepticism  is that I am not aware of any physiological  mechanism wherein dairy products produce mucous, but I have been wrong before, so I decided to do a little research. The first article I found that came from a reliable source ( ie: journal article or similar)  was this:   Relationship between milk intake and mucus production in adult volunteers challenged with rhinovirus-2.

In this article, they gave people sinus infections, and then essentially  measured their snot by weight, and measured their other symptoms ( such as cough).  What the researchers  found was  "Milk and dairy product intake was not associated with an increase in upper or lower respiratory tract symptoms of congestion or nasal secretion weight."   Basically:  Milk does not make mucous.   They also found what they called  "A trend ... for cough, when present, to be loose with increasing milk and dairy product intake; however, this effect was not statistically significant"  What this means is that basically they think there  may have been a difference there, that milk may have made  the cough  more loose, but that  the researchers did not have enough data or statistical power to prove it.    To me, this seems like like a great reason TO  enjoy dairy while you have a sinus infection.  I would rather couch up some loose phlegm that comes up easily, rather than that thick stuff!

Then I found this:  The Milk-Mucus Belief: Sensory Analysis Comparing Cow's Milk and a Soy Placebo.

In this study the researchers  performed a double blind study, and gave  subject either a milk , or  soy milk beverage that was indistinguishable from the milk .   Subjects reported increases in 3 of the mucous related variables when they drank the test beverage, but the effect was the same for  both the milk, and the placebo soy beverage.   The researchers "concluded that the effect measured is not specific to cow's milk, but can be duplicated by a non-cow's milk drink with similar sensory characteristics."    Bascially, milk does not make mucous, but if you think it does, and if you think you are drinking milk, you may report more symptoms.   I am going off of the abstract on this one, and I would like to read the whole article so I can see a bit more of their statistics and physiology, but I'm not willing to pay $41.95 for the privilege.

Those first two are from the 90s, and I found more from that  time period, but this is the one that really sealed the deal:   Milk Consumption Does Not Lead to Mucus Production or Occurrence of Asthm is a well written review article from 2005 with 49 references.    These  Swiss researchers carefully reviewed the literature and determined that recommendations to abstain from milk and dairy  in order to  avoid  to increased mucous or asthma symptoms  is not supported by research.  They also report that people  who believe  "milk makes mucous"  tend to report increased symptoms with milk consumption, while people that do not believe " milk makes mucous" do not report increased symptoms.   This in itself means nothing, until they point out once again, that people who believe "milk makes mucous"  are easily fooled by a placebo.    The reviewers  go on to say that avoidance of dairy products may lead to limited intake of certain nutrients, specifically calcium.   This might not be a an issue for a cyclist suffering from a short term a headcold, but  fact that I can still enjoy my cheese ravioli for dinner with no fear of extra snot buildup in my head gives me some comfort as I  stay at home recovering ans itching to get back on my bike.

-Sean

In 2003, I wrote about how milk  is an excellent recovery drink: ( this is a very old version of my old coaching site)

Several studies have confirmed that milk is an excellent recovery drink, and  , and works as well as commercially available recovery beverages for both cyclists, and runners.

Heidi Klum Likes Milk

I

Coconut Water for Rehydration

Coconut  Water  for Rehydration When I was in Costa Rica this last April, one of the locals I was riding with suggested we stop and have a drink of fresh coconut water.    Coconut water is basically the juice from the inside of a young coconut, before that juice becomes coconut milk.    To have a taste of the stuff, we simply stopped by a roadside fruit stand, and the owner knocked a whole in the coconut and gave us a straw.   The coconut water had an interesting taste, very mildly sweet, and refreshing.   As we sat next to our bicycles,  the local rider started telling me how coconut water was a perfect rehydration drink.   He went on about how coconut water was isotonic, meaning it has the same electrolyte concentration as the blood, and that it was actually used   as IV fluid in place of saline during WWII.    Those that know me, know that I consider myself and “open minded skeptic” when it comes to this sort of thing.  Honestly I thought the local guys was probably full of it, but I was still intrigued and I decided I would investigate further when I returned home.

What I found out actually surprised me.  Not only was coconut water isotonic to blood, but it was really used in WWII and there were several journal articles reporting the emergency use of coconut water being successfully used for IV hydration in place of saline.  Another study suggested that coconut water was just as effective as a commercially available carbohydrate/electrolyte beverage in rehydrating subjects, and the subjects actually had an easier time drinking the coconut water.     Now I had to go find myself some coconut water. ( There are no roadside fruit stands with young coconut near my house).

They don’t have the stuff at the Vons supermarket around the corner,  but I found some at the Pancho Villa Market  just a few minutes away.

The coconut water I found was 70% percent coconut water ( juice)  by volume, with 30% added water and a little sugar.    12 oz of plain coconut water would have about  70 calories, but the added sugar brings the calorie count of  the stuff I bought to about  110 calories per can.  This is still a little bit more than calories than Gatorade, and  about  1/3 less than a can of soda   The extra sweetness is not unpleasant after a long hard ride in the heat,  but I wouldn’t be opposed to have the unsweetened stuff either.  It is actually quite easy to buy canned,  unsweetened coconut water  online, so I'll probably order some soon.

Physiologically I wouldn’t say its “perfect” as an electrolyte replacement drink,  as the sodium is a bit low (it has about half as much sodium as  the same volume of Gatorade).   But then again it is packed with potassium and  you are most likely going to get plenty of sodium  from your post exercise meal.    it is  really a little low on sodium for use during exercise, but is pretty good as a post exercise drink.  Some studies have even shown that  potassium  is  highly important for maintaining proper blood pressure and heart health, so the extra potassium  could be a bonus.

My personal verdict?   My fridge is almost always  stocked with a few cans of coconut water these days.  It has become my go to beverage when I get home from a long ride.  It tastes good , gives me a few carbohydrates, and  replaces some of those lost electrolytes.

So  now is the time where I give you my shameless plug for your chance to try FRESH coconut water.   We are going to have a Crank Cycling training camp in Costa Rica this February.  It will be a weeklong camp where you can ride every day, relax by the hot springs each night, and sip  fresh coconut water    straight from the coconut.  Stay tuned for details.