Jan. 26, 2021

Increase your lung muscle strength
When my son was 3, he nearly died from an “atypical pneumonia” that continually filled his lungs with fluid. Sitting by his bedside, I caught a much lesser variety, though it was months before I could run without hearing a raspy inhale. So I think about the lungs more than most of you. And six months ago, after reading a few favorable articles, I bought this breathy-thingy for 30 bucks. I tried it, and it works fine. Problem is, I haven’t incorporated it into my daily routine yet. Now I will, in part because of this most-recent positive research result on inspiratory muscle training. More at Medicina.

Nutrify your meals with these simple add-ons
Yes, I made up that word. But it seems to work pretty well for a strategy that adds a nutritional boost to what  you’re eating. It’s simple to keep these things around in a resealable container, and it’s fun to add them to your favorite foods. I’m already putting kefir in my smoothies. Now I’m planning to try cacao nibs in my yogurt, and hemp hearts on my (occasional) ice cream. More at Podium Runner.

At last, a few good words about the benefits of moderate steady training
I don’t have to tell you that HIT training (high intensity) has gotten all the coverage in recent years, promising you more for less. Who wouldn’t want that? But those are often slice-and-dice studies that don’t look at the whole picture. A new report takes a different slant, comparing three days a week of HIT exercise with five days of moderate 30 to 40 minute workouts. Result? Both produced equal fitness gains, but the moderate approach also helped to reduce body fat, lower blood pressure, and lower blood glucose (only on the days when subjects exercised). A doc named Franklin Zimmerman has said, “You only have to exercise on the days when you eat,” and it turns out he’s right. More at NY Times.

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Vegans, vegetarians: Eat smart, especially for strong bones
Listen, I’m one of you. I’ve been a vegetarian--with occasional lapses, I admit--for more than a half century. Fortunately, I know a lot more about nutrition and health than I did way back then. But I was still surprised by this deep, longitudinal report which found a 43 percent higher risk of bone fractures among vegans, and some risks for vegetarians too. It’s especially important to be vigilant about your protein, zinc, and calcium consumption. More, short, at IdeaFit, and long at BMC Medicine.

Best face masks to wear while running or biking
It’s been a twisted, confusing path, but for the most part, I believe experts have come down on the side of believing there’s low covid transmission during outdoor exercise, especially if you maintain a little distance from your training partner. Nonetheless, it’s good to know that some masks are more comfortable than others (while still covering your mouth and nose) during endurance exercise with lots of steady, uninterrupted, modest breathing in and out. This isn’t a scientific review, but the folks at Gear Patrol seem to know their masks pretty well, and have done lots of other articles that you can easily link to. More at Gear Patrol.

Low carb diet (keto) vs high carb, round 143
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m fascinated by the low-carb (ketogenic) vs. high-carb war. We’ve certainly learned in the last decade that fat isn’t nearly the monster we once believed, and even has good points. But for weight loss? And long-term? Those are still open questions. In the latest round, uber-math scientist Kevin Hall, from the National Institutes of Health, had subjects follow a plant-based low-fat diet (75% carbs) or a meat-based high-fat diet (75% fats) for two weeks while living in a metabolic ward, and then switch diets. In the ward they couldn’t cheat on their diets. They had no access to food other than the meals delivered to them. 

Result: Subjects ate 550 to 700 fewer calories per day on the low-fat diet. However, their glucose and insulin levels were steadier on the high-fat diet--a partial win for high-fat. Most interesting: According to Keto theory, carbs are bad because they perturb glucose and insulin, causing fat gain and increasing hunger. Here, the high-carb diet did affect insulin and glucose, but did not have the hypothesized effect--a loss for high-fat, at least a mechanistic one. More at National Institute of Health.

Train by your muscle fiber types for optimal fitness (and to avoid overtraining)
This little blog from Training Peaks is actually about cyclists, but that doesn’t make any difference: Muscle fiber is muscle fiber, and intensity of training is intensity. The author discusses fibers Type 1, Type 2A-2X, and Type 2B. These cover the range from relatively easy aerobic training to short, intense power sprints. It’s good to train them all, of course, but you have to be careful as you move up the range. More at Training Peaks.

Several steps to a faster recover from Achilles problems
Achilles tendinitis is one of those injuries you don’t want to get because it’s tough to fix and can hang on for a long time. (I missed 11 weeks of running last summer, but am thankfully 99 percent good now.) Pretty much everyone knows about the eccentric heel-drop exercises you’re supposed to do when you have Achilles issues (the Alfredson protocol). This new research report followed an RCT (randomized, controlled trial) design and found “significantly greater improvements” when subjects also used extracorporeal shockwave therapy. More at Foot & Ankle International.

How to pick the best fitness app
For this kind of info, you have to go beyond the usual running websites to a respected tech site. So that's what I did here, referring to Gizmodo. I didn't realize you could subscribe to apps from the big players without also buying their expensive equipment, but apparently that's the case. Gizmodo seemed quite impressed with offerings, at $10-$13 monthly, from Apple Fitness, Peloton, Fit)u have to pick the one that grabs you for ease of use and varied offerings. By the way, given that it's still winter and still Covid, you're excused if you choose to exercise indoors with these apps. Do whatever you have to do to keep moving. More at Gizmodo.

Your diet can reduce your injury risk, and improve your return from injury
Nancy Clark is a runner and sports nutrition expert who has been writing about the intersection of the two for 40 years. That gives her high marks in my book. Recently she attended the virtual conference of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) to keep up on the latest findings on nutrition and injury-prevention and return-from-injury. She summarizes that info at the following link, with a nuanced look into collagen, a hot topic these days. More at Nancy Clark RD.

Fact check: Some things you believe about dieting and weight loss are false
We’re getting to that time of the month when everyone’s Jan. 1st resolutions are becoming  harder to hold together. That’s particularly true about those most common of goals: weight-loss. I figure if you want to get it right, you should have the basic facts on your side, and the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine agree. A few years back, they published a classic, evidence-based article (now free if you choose to click the link below) about myths and wrong assumptions associated with weight loss. For example, it’s not bad to have a rapid weight-loss at the beginning of your diet. (It’s better to be encouraged than discouraged.) Also wrong: that small daily changes yield big results over time; and that you can burn 100 to 300 calories having sex. Would you believe 14? More at New England Journal of Medicine.

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Thanks for reading. See you next week.