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Forever Young
Testosterone And Too Much Training
Stretch Marks
The Training/Immune System Connection
Oral Contraceptives
Alcohol In Moderation
Addicted To The Burn
Catching Some Zs
Does Lost Sleep Lower Performance
Aloe Vera As A Healer
Cramps: Cause and Effect
Hindering Performance
Soda May Weaken Your Bones
Muscle Cramp Update
Can I Raise HDL Level



Q: How can I stay healthy and look young when I get older?

A: The way you treat your body now is very important to your quality of life later on. Genetic background plays a great role, but you do have some control over the way you age. Here are some things you can do to promote good health and prevent disease.

1. Eat a healthful, varied diet that will help you maintain a desirable weight. Emphasizing lowfat dairy products, lean meats, plant proteins, whole grains, plant oil, fruits and dark green and leafy vegetables is a good place to start. Common sense should tell you to keep the fast food to a minimum.

2. Make exercise a daily priority. Even if you're not training in a gym or running on a track, a walk after dinner is still exercise. The goal is to stimulate the cardiovascular system-research suggests that you should expend about 2,000 calories per week exercising.

3. Limit your alcohol intake and don't smoke. These are obvious ways to promote good health and prevent disease. Not smoking reduces your risk of lung cancer. As for alcohol, you should limit your consumption to one to two ounces per day. A 12-ounce beer, a four ounce glass of wine or a mixed drink contains about a half ounce (15grams) of alcohol. A glass of wine during dinner won't harm the average person's health, but an excessive amount can have a long-term effect on your liver and kidneys.

4. Limit your stress. This lets your mind and body relax. Many things can help reduce stress, such as time management, music, massages, regular exercise and doing your favorite things.

5. Consult a health care professional when necessary. This is essential, as early diagnosis is especially important for controlling many diseases.






Baryophobia is a relatively new disorder that's associated with a poor growth rate in kids and young adults. It occurs because parents underfeed their children in an attempt to prevent obesity and heart disorders. Baryophobia is, literally, the fear of becoming heavy.

Many parents lead lifelong battles with the bathroom scale. With the best of intentions they want to prevent their children from falling prey to the same psychologically destructive battle. While a healthy, lowfat diet is optimal for growth and development, it's important that a child's diet contain adequate calories and protein and other nutrients essential for growth. After the age of two children can eat a lower-fat diet without adverse effects, but it's probably more important for health and bodyweight regulations at this stage to limit saturated fat intake rather than worry about total fat consumption.

By using height and weight charts, parents should be able to monitor their children's weight to avoid symptoms of baryophobia and a lifelong battle with food.






Many negative physiological changes occur as the result of stress and overtraining. While a threshold level of stress is necessary to elicit the positive changes that athletes desire from their training-for example, increased muscle mass and power, an enhanced cardiovascular system, increased endurance and an improved appearance-when the exercise is too stressful, they begin to experience those undesirable changes. Symptoms of overtraining include elevated resting heart rate, loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss and irritability, as well as changes in the testosterone and hormones involved in a stress response.

Research shows that testosterone levels are temporarily decreased as a result of overtraining, while serum cortisol levels increase. Cortisol is a catabolic steroid hormone that's released as a result of physical stress and is involved in the inflammatory response. In runners and cyclists testosterone levels decreased by 50 percent and cortisol levels increased approximately threefold after intense competition.

These changes are disadvantageous for an athlete, especially a bodybuilder who's trying to pack on muscle mass. Bodybuilders, therefore, should follow a more prudent training approach to avoid crossing the line from adequate to excessive training. Keep track of your body's signals and avoid the pitfalls that come from training too intensely.










Stretch marks generally appear on individuals who have undergone such a rapid increase in weight or size that their skin didn't have time to sufficiently accommodate it. While everyone knows that pregnant women commonly experience this phenomenon, many don't realize that bodybuilders, too, frequently develop stretch marks.

Stretch marks are genetic, and not everyone gets them. It's a characteristic similar to complexion or skin smoothness. There are several anecdotal remedies for avoiding or ridding oneself of these seemingly unsightly blemishes-everything from topical creams, vitamin E oil and aloe vera to oral nutrients and oils. New research on petroleum jelly indicates that it may finally ease some stretch mark frustration and at the same time provide an inexpensive, effective moisturizer for the whole body.

Yes, the old standby Vaseline, which is pure petroleum jelly, has been the focus of studies that show that it's not only one of the best moisturizing agents for you skin, but it also helps speed the healing process and recovery. The researchers at the
University of California at San Francisco expected the jelly to slow the healing process and were surprised to find that it actually enhanced the regeneration of skin cells. This shouldn't be interpreted to mean that using a petroleum-based product on your stretch marks will make them disappear. The healing process will be enhanced, however, and your skin will benefit as well. In fact, most dermatologists have for many years recommended petroleum jelly for stretch marks.

Petroleum jelly, or petrolatum, is found in varying degrees in most moisturizers and skin-care products; the problem is, it's greasy and messy to use. Even so, pure jelly or a product high in jelly will definitely be less expensive and more effective than most designer-labeled so-called moisturizers on the market.








Does training hard help keep you healthy, or does it increase your risk of getting sick. Research shows that both intense exercise and chronic fatigue can result in suppression of the immune system.

While intense exercise can exert a negative impact on your body's ability to ward off disease, it's not clear exactly what that leads to down the line. So does hard training make you sick? Research suggests that it does not.

In studies of runners those who ran less than 15 miles per week were found to be more susceptible to infection than those who ran more. Scientists have also discovered that runners are less susceptible to illness following a single major competition.

While there is a temporary drop in immune function immediately following an intense training session, this effect doesn't last long. The depressed immune function returns to normal within two hours. We don't know whether the results from one training session can carry over and last in a situation where someone is chronically overtraining. As long as you avoid overtraining and ongoing fatigue, exercise should have a beneficial effect on your ability to stay healthy; at the very worst it will have no effect at all.










Q: I'm a 26 year-year-old female bodybuilder, and I'm planning to compete for the first time in six months. As I currently use oral contraceptives, will they affect my physique adversely?

A: Oral contraceptives probably won't adversely affect your performance. In fact, two physiological effects of certain oral contraceptives may prove to be a benefit-an elevated level of basal growth hormone secretion that leads to a glycogen-sparing effect.

Growth hormone is involved in both fat breakdown and muscle growth, two effects that would seem to offer advantages to a competitive bodybuilder. The growth hormone response appears to be related to the reduced ability to utilize glycogen during exercise in women who take oral contraceptives. Since glycogen choice; so growth hormone helps to mobilize the fat from the adipose cells.

Taking the oral contraceptives may enable you to carry a lower natural bodyfat level. As with all mediations, however, you should consult your personal physician if you have any questions about their use.





Everyone knows that it takes more alcohol for a larger individual to become drunk than it does for someone smaller. It's also well-known that women and men respond differently to alcohol. Take a man and a woman of comparable size. After they ingest similar amounts of alcohol, the woman will have a higher blood alcohol level and will feel more drunk. Because women have higher blood-alcohol levels, they are much quicker to develop alcohol-related ailments, such as liver disease, than a man with a similar drinking history.

New studies show that these differences are caused by an enzyme that is present in the stomach of males but not females. This enzyme, alcohol-dehydrogenase, normally present in the liver, aids in the breakdown of alcohol, removing it from the body. Until recently the liver was thought to be the only place where this class of enzymes resides and the only place where alcohol is removed from the body. Since certain males possess a large amount of this enzyme in their stomachs, only a small amount of ingested alcohol ever reaches their bloodstream, where it affects the boy and mind. Apparently, women do not possess this enzyme in the lining of their stomachs, and so all of the alcohol they drink goes directly into their bloodstream before removal begins.

The amount of this enzyme in the stomachs of males appears to vary, with alcoholics containing the lowest amounts of the enzyme for those individuals studied. While alcohol should be ingested only in moderation, because of these findings we now know that moderation for a woman is different from moderation for a man.








There are two kinds of addictions, positive and negative. Dr. William Glasser is the author of a book on positive addiction in which he defines exercise as a form of positive addiction.

Negative addictions such as drugs and alcohol relieve the pain of failure and provide temporary pleasure but at a terrible cost in terms of the addict's family, social and professional lives. Positive addictions lead to psychological strength, imagination and creativity. If taken out of proper perspective, however, they can also alter family relationships and work performance, just as drug and alcohol abuse do. Even so, exercise isn't likely to destroy the body and the mind.

When an addiction becomes an obsession, negative aspects arise. If you keep it in proper perspective, though, your positive addiction can become a form of therapy that relieves anxiety and depression.

According to Glasser, the focus of a positive addiction can be any activity you choose, so long as it meets the following criteria:

. It is noncompetitive.

. You do it for approximately one hour per day.

. It is easy to do and does not require much mental effort.

. You can do it alone-you don't rely on others to do it.

. You believe it has some mental, physical or spiritual value.

. You believe that if you persist you will improve at it.

. You can do it without criticizing yourself.

When you are in a state of positive addiction, your mind is clear and you are free to become more imaginative and creative. Endurance activities are good forms of addiction; once you can perform the exercise without fatigue for an hour, you are most likely to achieve an addicted state.

Other forms of exercise also fit the criteria for positive addiction, but most make it hard for you to maintain a tranquil mind during the activity. It is the mindless, "timeless" state during the activity that you should strive for. When you can achieve that state on a regular basis, you should note positive changes in both your personality and mood. So go out and exercise for you body and your mind.










Just how much sleep is the right amount for you? We all know people who seem to get by on four or five hours of sleep a night, while others appear to need 10 or 12. But what amount of sleep is best?

According to one study, men and women who slept six hours or less per night were not as healthy as those who slept seven or eight hours; those who slept nine hour or more were slightly below average in health. Thus, seven to eight hours of sleep appears to be optimum, and too little sleep is more a problem than too much.

One important phase of sleep is the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, which is usually accompanied by dreams and which takes up about 20 percent of our sleep time. If REM sleep is continuously interrupted, we become irritable.

Moderate physical activity seems to enhance the ability to fall into a deep sleep without altering the time spent in REM sleep. Too little or too much exercise appears to result in sleep disturbance, however, and significant sleep loss seems to suppress the immune system.









Just how much will the loss of a night's sleep affect your performance? Long periods of sleep deprivation are known to decrease performance, but what happens when you've got insomnia for one night?

Research shows that subjects who are deprived of a single night's rest experience no decrease in either strength or anaerobic performance. This is important for athletes who lose sleep on the night before a contest due to travel factors, excitement or nerves. Although you may feel tired or sluggish initially, if you perform and adequate warm-up, the lack of sleep should not adversely affect your performance.





As bodybuilders we tend to be more health-and body-conscious than the average person. As a result we are more aware of what we put into and onto our bodies, so we often take a more holistic approach in the hopes of reestablishing and maintaining a more natural and healthy body. For example, when we get a cold, we are more likely to drink more fluids and rest. Or if we get an abrasion, we are more likely to apply vitamin E oil or aloe vera ointment than Neosporine or Cortaid. In the case of using aloe vera for cuts and wounds, however, the more holistic approach turns out not to be the best method.

Aloe vera is included in ointments that are meant to heal cuts and burns. While aloe vera is soothing and can result in immediate relief when applied to sunburned skin, it appears to inhibit the healing of open wounds and cuts. Recent evidence suggests that when aloe vera is applied wounds take up to twice as long to heal, as opposed to when a typical antiseptic is applied. So while a more holistic approach to diet and health is often beneficial, you should be open to scientific approaches as well.





Symptoms: Muscle spasms and cramping, low blood pressure and low blood volume brought on by electrolyte imbalance and dehydration.

Treatment: Depending on severity, the immediate response is to stretch and massage muscle and follow with isotonic fluid replacement. Severe cases require hospitalization and administration of I.V. saline. Quinine sulfate will relax muscles, which relieves cramping symptoms.

Prognosis: Recuperation is usually rapid once the cause of fluid and electrolyte depletion has been alleviated. In severe, chronic conditions symptoms can be fatal.

It happens without warning. A simple movement can trigger a painful series of events leading to severe muscle cramps and excruciating pain. We've all experienced a muscle cramp at one time in our training; the cramp is relieved by simply stretching the muscle. When it becomes uncontrollable, however, the pain can become severe, and no amount of stretching or massage seems to alleviate the spasm. Such is the case when the cramps are due to a chemical electrolyte imbalance combined with dehydration-both common occurrences for competitive bodybuilders. While striving for the ultimate look, we often alter our fluid and electrolyte intakes prior to competition to lose excess subcutaneous water and make our skin look like cellophane. At the same time we run the risk of going over the edge into severe imbalance, which leads to the symptoms described above.

Scene: 1988 Men's United States Bodybuilding Championships, Las Vegas, Nevada. Renel Janvier passes out during prejudging. Paramedics administer I.V. saline to relieve muscle cramping and acute electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. Later that afternoon Janvier is released from the hospital and is able to return to the night show and walk away with the Light Heavyweight title.

Scenarios like this one are happening all too often in bodybuilding today. In their quest to obtain optimal condition, competitors alter their body chemistries, leading in many cases to disastrous results. They cut down their sodium and their water intakes. Then they might take something else-maybe even something perfectly natural, like an herbal diuretic. Add to that a long prejudging ordeal and the cramps can start at any time. Then maybe they drink a little distilled water, compounding the problem.

We should learn from these mistakes. Limiting water and sodium throws off the body's chemistry, predisposing an athlete to an electrolyte imbalance. The use of distilled water further depletes the body of other important electrolytes, primarily calcium, chloride and potassium. Diuretics, whether herbal or synthetic, further complicate the situation. Combining these factors with a long prejudging under hot lights is inevitably going to lead to muscle cramping. While the treatments described above work, in many cases the relief comes too late. We can only hope bodybuilders pay closer attention to proper hydration and mineral replacement to avoid incidences like these from happening in the future.





Athletes who smoke are dramatically limiting their exercise performance capacities. Smoking is still widespread in our society, including the athletic community. Even so, most endurance athletes avoid cigarettes for fear of hindering performance with a "lull of wind."

While chronic smoking can lead to obstructive lung disorders, such pathologic processes usually take time to develop. Thus, chronic alterations in lung function may be minimal in terms of their effects on the performance of young smokers. Other more acute effects of cigarette smoking adversely affect exercise capacity. Much of this is due to an inadequate oxygen supply resulting from an increased airway resistance and the fact that the smoker needs more energy to breathe. Smoking increases the energy cost of breathing by 13 to 79 percent.

In addition, there is the effect that smoking has on heart rates. In one study heart rates measured during exercise averaged 5 to 7 percent lower in a group of chronic smokers who abstained from cigarettes for one day. All participants reported that they felt better while exercising when they abstained from smoking. It appears that the increased cost of breathing due to smoking can be substantially reversed in chronic smokers who abstain for only one day. Thus, if an athlete is unable to stop smoking completely, he or she should at least stop on the day of competition.





The link between diet and disease has long been established. Limiting fat and cholesterol will reduce your risks of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Increasing your intakes of fiber and calcium will reduce the risks of certain forms of cancer and osteoporosis, respectively. Taking in more calcium, in conjunction with a program of weight-bearing exercise, particularly weight-training. Aids in the development of strong bones and thereby helps prevent the debilitating effects of osteoporosis.

It's a common practice for dieters to increase their consumption of low-calorie sodas. This poses no risks if you drink them in limited amounts for short periods of time. Long-term use however, may be harmful, even for athletes.

A study of postmenopausal female athletes who drank carbonated beverages showed that these women experienced bone fractures after the age of 40 at a rate that was 2.28 times greater than that of women who do not drink those beverages. In fact, the results showed a significant dose-response relationship between the amount of soda consumed and the number of fractures. A diet that was low in dairy products also brought an increased risk of fractures.

Diets often produce low calcium and high phosphorus levels. Apparently the amount of phosphorus in soda beverages is a common link. A decreased intake of milk and other dairy products and an increased intake of diet soda may help to reduce you caloric intake, but they also create a calcium/phosphorus imbalance and predispose you to fragile bones. When you're on a diet, make sure you eat nonfat dairy products in limited amounts and substitute sparkling water for carbonated sodas.





In a previous issue I discussed the use of quinine sulfate in the battle against severe muscle cramps. Many athletes experience painful cramps during their sleep or following exhaustive exercise. Muscles may twitch uncontrollably, suggesting fatigue without actually going into full contracture. It is often difficult to tell when a cramp will occur. Athletes who perform in hot environments where they lose large amounts of fluid through sweating are usually more prone to cramping than others. Once a cramp arises, one five-grain quinine tablet should effectively relieve the cramping if taken within 15 minutes of onset.

Generally, you can avoid the onset of cramps by taking in adequate amounts of fluid and eating a balanced diet. While this is sometimes not enough, there is new hope for those who are prone to cramps. Experiments show that potassium appears to prevent cramps in some individuals. While water and electrolyte-replacement fluids are only effective when you consume huge amounts, one potassium tablet taken prior to exercise may provide relief from cramps during the subsequent workout. One 250-milligram dose should be adequate for individuals who are prone to muscle cramps. Mega-amounts are no more effective and are not recommended.





Q: I know that HDL cholesterol is considered to be good cholesterol. I follow a lowfat diet and have lowered my total cholesterol level, but my HDL level has decreased as well. What can I do to raise it?

A: While high-density-lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol is important, it's more important that you lower your total and low-density-lipoprotein, or LDL, levels. Since HDL is part of your total cholesterol count, lowering your total cholesterol often results in a reduced HDL level. Lowering your total cholesterol from 200 mg/dl to 160 mg/dl will cut your risk of heart disease in half. As for HDL levels, for every 1 percent increase in serum HDL, the risk of heart attack drops by 3 percent.

Research has shown that exercise elevates serum HDL levels, as do several substances, including niacin, gemfibrozil and alcohol. Recent preliminary studies done on animals indicate that tocotrienols, which are chemicals derived from palm oil that are related to vitamin E, and grape seed oil elevate HDL levels. They are the first two compounds in foods that are known to have this beneficial effect.

Moderate-intensity exercise is an effective way to raise your HDL levels; for example, a brisk, 45 minute walk. Probably the best advice I can give you is that you should get started on an exercise program and continue your reduced-fat diet. That way the changes in your cholesterol will be in the right direction. So take a walk and do your heart some good.