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Healthy Living

Myths Regarding Fitness

Never drink water while exercising

This is wrong. You shouldn’t even wait until you are thirsty. If you feel you are losing water, you should immediately replace it. And if you intend to exercise the first thing in the morning, you should drink a glass of water before you start.

The body cells depend on circulation in order to get the energy they need, and to get rid of their waste products. When you become dehydrated, the fluids that bathe the cells diminish. The cells cannot function properly until it is restored. When that happens, your muscles cannot keep up the work they are doing and your heart receives an added strain. Part of the fluid you’ve lost is blood fluid. This means that the heart has to pump that many more times to recirculate the diminished supply of blood.

Sugar taken before exercise raises the energy level

Sugar ingested before a contest or workout can do more harm than good. Even the intake of preparations like honey and lemon juice is counter productive. Sweets can trigger an insulin reaction. The effect is to drive the body’s sugar into the storage organs. The only time you need to eat sugar to replace the amount that has been depleted is after an hour-and-a-half of steady exercise, such as a marathon race or a golf or tennis match.

Avoid certain foods before activity

Extensive tests at the University of California (LA)’s Human Performance Laboratory has yet to prove that the kind of food you eat makes the slightest difference in your performance levels. The literature on this subject has been combed. Every food on the forbidden list was offered free to campus athletes. Heavy foods, gas-producing foods, and spicy foods - they were given all. Neither on the playing field nor in the laboratory could players or researchers discern any difference. Nor did any of the players become sick from the forbidden foods.

Don’t eat before swimming

Cramps have rarely caused drowning. People who have supposedly drowned from cramps probably had heart attacks. The theory against eating before swimming is that it draws the blood into your intestine; when you start exercising, the circulation to the intestine shuts down and the blood goes to the muscles.

The most you might get if you exercise after eating is a stitch in the side. But cramps do not seem to be related to food at all. For example, a young American swimmer ate a hamburger with onions and mustard, and four candy bars, and drank a coke, just before a 1968 Olympic race, and broke her own world record. This isn’t to suggest that you should eat, a big meal before swimming in a race. Any violent activity after a meal will cause nausea. But you can certainly paddle around a warm pool to your heart’s content.

Salt tablets are better than no salt at all

It is true that when you perspire copiously, you will get muscle cramps unless you replace the salt. But a salt tablet is a solid piece of brine, and a solid piece of brine resting on the mucous membrane of the stomach can cause nausea and vomiting.

If you know you are going to perspire during a workout or contest, you can take a little extra salt with your food beforehand. During the contest you can take some salt after your activity. But don’t overdo it. Be sure you are only restoring salt that you have lost by sweating. The body can’t store salt. If you overdo it, you may actually induce the cramps and muscular weakness you were trying to avoid. The fluids from the cells in your body will be drawn into the bloodstream and the digestive tract in order to dilute the salt so that it can be more easily excreted from the body.

Extra protein makes you strong

The body has tremendous reserves and is very adaptive. The idea that you have to eat specified foods in specified amounts every day to maintain performance is unsound. The average person has no business starving himself to lose weight. When he does, there are consequences. When we are active, our body uses its own fat and carbohydrate for fuel. A diet that includes animal and vegetable protein supplies all the body needs to replenish its stores. There is no superdiet for super performance. You need every kind of food. Avoiding any kind of food is just as wrong as ingesting food supplements.

Sleep extra hours before a contest

You can’t store sleep. You can’t catch up on sleep, either. If you try by sleeping twelve hours, you will be worse off than if got by eight. Bed rest does not give energy after eight hours, nine at most. Bed rest has a severe deconditioning effect. All the body processes slow down. After six hours, the heart beat gets down to its basal rate. The metabolism drops. The circulation becomes sluggish. The muscles become flaccid. The whole body begins it lose its tone. A person who has been inactive for three days has lost five percent of his strength. Remaining in bed beyond a maximum of nine hours only makes you weaker.

Lying in bed in a relaxed state, incidentally, is almost as restful as sleeping and your level of recovery is sufficient. Rather than remaining in bed beyond eight hours because you haven’t slept the night before, get out of bed - and promise to yourself to relax the next time you cannot get to sleep.

Work up a sweat before a contest

If you intend to go from absolute rest to all- out exertion in a few seconds, this could cause a failure in the circulation to the heart, which might be dangerous if your heart is weak. If you step up your activities gradually and play a game that is not strenuous, then working up a sweat is useless and could actually be disadvantageous if your activity is an endurance event. Warm-ups are okay for sprinters who want to practice their starts. Any skill warm-ups, as distinguished from sweat warm-ups, are okay. But distance runners are going to need all the energy they have, and they are going to need to stay cool for as long as they can.

There are two reasons why prolonged warm-ups and working up a sweat are counterproductive, they deplete nutritional stores, and the body heat they create saps the energy needed for the event.

Sweating gets you in shape

The basic rule of working out is to avoid excessive sweating whenever possible. Energy is required to cool the system. This energy comes from the activity of your sweat glands, millions of them lying just under your skin that use metabolic energy to secrete sweat. This energy is drained from the total energy you have at your command to do the work of your body. Your muscles have to share in this energy in order to function properly. If a disproportionate share of that energy is used to secrete sweat, then there isn’t enough left for your other bodily functions. The amount of work you can do lessens when sweat glands use energy. When exhausted, they stop secreting, and you are in peril of a heat stroke.

The second loss of energy when you are over-heated is in the cardiovascular system. When the skin gets hot, the peripheral vessels leading to the skin open. Blood supply rushes to the surface of your body. This deprives the muscles of the blood they need. The heart tries to make up for the loss by pumping harder. The load becomes so great that if it is maintained for a prolonged period you could collapse. Inducing sweat is dangerous- and it makes no contribution to fitness.

Sweating does make the heart work harder, which is an objective of a fitness workout, but it does so in a hazardous manner. Sweating does burn calories, but it is a dangerous way to reduce weight.


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