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Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition

The Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to sports and sports fitness, general fitness, bodybuilding, nutrition, weight loss, and human health. Here, you'll find everything from nutritional information and advice about healthy eating to training and exercise tips for improving your overall well-being.

Study: Exercise is Not Key For Weight Control

Posted February 10, 2017 3:00 PM by lmno24
Pathfinder Tags: fitness nutrition study

At my gym, in between intervals of burpees, squats, mountain climbers, and other torturous activities, instructors gently remind us that “abs are made in the kitchen.” Well, it appears that it’s not just a scare tactic, but in fact, there’s some truth to their prompts. It takes more than just hours in the gym to get in shape, and to lose or maintain weight.

A recent study found that exercise may not be the key to controlling – and losing – weight. While it’s important, research is showing that physical activity has less of an effect on weight gain than we think.

While it’s very helpful for many reasons, your diet is actually going to be the key in helping you lose weight, the study says.

Researchers who studied young adults from the United States and four other countries found that neither physical activity nor sedentary time were directly associated with weight gain.

"Our study results indicate that physical activity may not protect you from gaining weight," said lead author Lara R. Dugas, PhD, MPH. Dugas is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

One interesting note about this study is that working out increases your appetite and also makes you more likely to eat a larger meal than usual upon completion.

Some experts suggest that a decline in physical activity, especially with many of us working desk jobs, has been a large contributor to the obesity epidemic. But new research like this study, has not found a meaningful relationship between weight gain and physical activity.

The Loyola study is one of the primary outcomes of the Modeling the Epidemiologic Transition Study (METS). In METS, researchers followed adults aged 25 to 40 living in five countries: the United States, Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica and Seychelles (an island country east of Africa). The U.S. adults were from Maywood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Participants are predominantly of African descent and represent a broad range of social and economic development. Principal investigator of METS and senior author of the Loyola study is Amy Luke, Ph.D, professor and vice chair of Loyola's Department of Public Health Sciences.

The participants were measured and given devices to measure energy expulsion and step counts. The researchers also measured weight, height, and body fat. At the initial visit, participants from Ghana had the lowest average weights (139 pounds for both men and women), and Americans the highest weights (202 pounds for women, 206 pounds for men). Seventy-six of Ghanaian men and 44 percent of Ghanaian women met the U.S. Surgeon General physical activity guidelines, while only 44 percent of American men and 20 percent of American women met the guidelines. The guidelines recommend doing at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, per week.

Total weight gain in every country was greater among participants who met the physical activity guidelines. This was a surprise to researchers. For example, American men who met the guidelines gained a half pound per year, while American men who did not meet the guideline lost 0.6 pounds.

Researchers did not find any significant relationships between sedentary time at the initial visit and subsequent weight gain or weight loss. The only factors that were significantly associated with weight gain were weight at the initial visit, age, and gender. The participants were studied over the course of a year.

So, while it seems that every time we turn on the television or open a magazine, a new workout plan is advertised to us, what really matters is what we eat. An unhealthy diet seems to be more than likely the cause of weight gain, so don’t worry about skipping a night as the gym here and there – as long as you don’t always substitute it for a bacon cheeseburger.


23 comments; last comment on 02/14/2017
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Building A Better Nutrition Label

Posted February 09, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: food nutrition sugar

I’m a big fan of Nutella, but I’ve always thought that for a sweet hazelnut-cocoa spread its commercials contain liberal doses of baloney. Each ad I’ve seen promotes the product as a healthy, nutritious, natural spread and shows it being slathered onto whole-grain bread and waffles. And of course, kids love the taste, as it’s chocolate. Of course, a glance at the nutrition label indicates that the reason kids love it is that the first two ingredients are sugar and oil, and lots of it. But even for a health-conscious adult reading a label, “30 grams of sugar per serving” often seems abstract and difficult to measure.

About a year ago, German consumer interest group Verbraucherzentrale Hamburg began publishing images showing a graphic representation of a product’s composition. Their image for Nutella, shown here as an example, illustrates that the “healthy” chocolate spread is indeed mostly sugar and palm oil. Graphic nutritional information does what even a list of nutrition facts doesn’t: it provides a much better representation of ingredient amounts, not just their place in the nutritional hierarchy. The German images also teed off on the purportedly healthy Slim Fast and Capri Sun: the former is almost half sugar, while the latter is mostly sugar and water, despite being marketed as “made from sun-ripened fruits.”

Sugar has spawned its own public health crisis and in many ways is the new saturated fat in the public health crosshairs. While added sugar consumption in the US is steadily decreasing, Americans still consume about 94 g per day as of 2015. Consumer advocacy groups believe that nutrition labels are part of the problem. In particular, current labels list a product’s sugar content, but not added sugars or a percent daily value, like they do for fat, cholesterol, carbs and protein. In May 2016, the FDA announced some tweaks to US nutrition labels, requiring food manufacturers to include the total amount and percent daily value of added sugars.

The new labels (as shown here) will also make the serving size and calories more prominent, reword the servings per container verbiage, and eliminate the calories from fat requirement. Manufacturers grossing over $10 million in annual sales have until July of next year to comply with the new labels; those making less will have until 2019 to change their labels.

Of course, consumers often eat what they’re “not supposed to” even when they know exactly what’s in a product or what it could potentially do to them. Even worse, the new labels could have unintended consequences. A 2015 article in the journal Appetite found that the new labels actually caused consumers to overpurchase and potentially overconsume food because the majority of laypeople are still confused as to the definition of serving size. In this case, making the serving size more prominent produced an effect opposite its intention.

I still find the new labels—especially the graphic ones—pretty interesting, and I’ll surely think twice about considering Nutella anything more than junk food in the future.

29 comments; last comment on 02/15/2017
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Cream or Sugar?

Posted February 03, 2017 2:00 PM by MaggieMc

Cream or Sugar?

As I sit here with my fourth cup of tea for the day, I’m feeling pretty pleased that I didn’t put any milk, sugar, or other “calories” in it thanks to research from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The survey included 13,185 adults who reported drinking coffee and 6,215 who reported drinking tea in the 24 hours prior to being surveyed, according to an article from ScienceDaily. Those numbers amount to about 51 percent of U.S. adults drinking coffee and 26 drinking tea on any given day.

The study looked at more than just who drank coffee or tea, however. In addition, it considered what people add to their coffee and tea. Examples of add-ins were sugar (or sugar substitutes), cream (or cream substitutes), half and half, whole or reduced-fat milk, and honey.

Here at IEEE GlobalSpec, we have the most amazing coffee machine I’ve ever seen, and it has an abundance of options for how it will serve you your coffee. Most people seem to tend toward actual coffee, whereas I (if I’m drinking coffee) get the nearly-coffee-less French Vanilla that’s more sugar than coffee—but, I prefer my tea black.

It would seem I’m not alone in my “coffee” preferences, as the study found “many people prefer drinking coffee and tea with add-ins like sugar or cream” that are “dense in energy and fat but low in nutritional value.” While milk products might seem like they add value, the amount is negligible according to researchers, and sugary syrups offer us even less.

The study shows “those who drink their coffee black consume about 69 fewer total calories per day, on average, than those who add sweeteners, cream or other substances to their coffee.” Tea drinkers tended to add fewer “calorie-dense” substances to their tea, but those that did averaged about 43 more calories per day. The amount of calories seems tiny, but researchers say it can add up day after day—especially when we aren’t programmed to think about ‘drinking’ our calories.

All in all, the researchers don’t condemn drinking coffee with milk or sugar, they simply remind us to take those add-ins into account when managing our diets. So, bearing this information in mind, do you think you’ll add cream and sugar to your next cup of joe? Or pat yourself on the back for taking yours black?

Graphic Credit to ScienceDaily’s Julie McMahon

47 comments; last comment on 02/06/2017
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'Tis the Season for Football Championships

Posted December 15, 2016 9:00 AM by BestInShow

‘Tis the season for football (American football, not soccer) championships of various ilks. ‘Tis also the day after the Supreme Court paved the way for the NFL to start compensating former players who suffered head injuries. I’d been thinking recently about the role sports fields play in causing, exacerbating, or preventing injuries. Several times this season I’ve seen very short sort of advertisements about a center at my alma mater that conducts research on different types of sports field coverings, natural and artificial. Their research brief is, in part, to evaluate how safe these surfaces are for players.

So I started to wonder if there is definitive proof that artificial turf causes more injuries than natural turf. As with most simple questions, the answers to this one aren’t definitive. It all depends. And some of the evidence is more anecdotal than scientific.

Early artificial turf

I remember the allure of artificial turf in the mid-1960s. I particularly remember how ridiculous I thought my aforesaid alma mater was to install Tartan Turf, a very early 3M entry into the fake grass market. In addition to complaints about the heat levels on the field, doctors and trainers started noticing ACL injuries, concussions, and sprained ankles. In 1992, John Powell from the University of Iowa completed the first systematic study of turf injuries and concluded that pro football players sustained more knee injuries on artificial turf.

Modern fake turf

At some point Alma Mater gave up on fake turf and planted grass on the football field. I have a souvenir chunk of the old stuff, and I sure wouldn’t have wanted to play on it. The next generations of artificial turf usually consist of a woven mat with tufts said to resemble grass, sometimes laid down on a pad, with ground-up tires packed into the interstices. The infill supposedly resembles dirt, which has a cushioning effect, and the heat retention issues have ameliorated. (Image: Schematic of modern artificial turf. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.)

How a playing field can hurt you

Poorly designed and/or maintained natural turf can hurt a player. Hard compacted soil is no more yielding than early artificial turf. And if you’ve got gopher holes, or the surface is uneven, well, I don’t have to spell out the consequences. It’s also possible, although probably not likely, that chemicals used on a field – pesticides and fertilizers – are inherently dangerous.

Artificial surfaces don’t have gopher holes and they’re not maintained with pesticides. And they drain, or should drain, better than grass. However, the fact that a player won’t slip on a wet patch also means that the improved traction can cause more injuries. The higher the coefficient of friction, the greater the potential for injuries like ACL tears. The friction inherent in a commercial turf’s components can potentially be fine-tuned through choice of materials. Players routinely change cleats depending on the surface.

Artificial turf can have unexpected and insidious downsides, though, even if it does not exacerbate orthopedic injuries. Research on infections, specifically stubborn staphylococcus skin infections, caused when skin abrasions scoop up bacteria that live in the turf, indicates that staph is no more prevalent on fake grass than on natural grass. Poor hygiene, close physical contact, inadequately laundered uniforms could all contribute to these infections.

The ground-up tire crumbs contain latex but at lower levels than latex gloves. However, the crumbs contain whatever ingredients the original tires contained, including zinc, sulfur, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and volatile organic chemicals. [] Since the crumbs come from used tires, anything the tires picked up from the road is lurking there as well. Cancer is one potential outcome of long-term exposure, one that’s garnered a lot of publicity in the last couple of years. The research results I’ve read thus far don’t confirm the presence of dangerous levels of chemicals, but it’s still the early days – a situation that bears watching. (Image: Natural grass football field. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.)

Back to Alma Mater

Recently a group of turf researchers in Alma Mater’s Institute of Agriculture proposed a facility where they can study the impact of both artificial and natural turf on health, safety, and performance. [] Will this impressive facility be built? No idea. Several other universities, notably Penn State, have ongoing turf research programs. Until we see more research, particularly on the potential effects of chemical exposure, I don’t envy parents who have to decide whether to let their kids play on fake turf.


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When Is The Best Time Of Day To Drink Coffee?

Posted November 17, 2016 4:30 PM by lmno24

Many of us like to start our days with a cup of coffee. But, scientific research says pouring a cup of joe within minutes of waking up may not be the best for your body.

Ph.D. candidate Steven Miller at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda found that coffee first thing in the morning actually lessens the effects of caffeine and may lead to an increased dependence.


It’s all related to hormones and the body’s natural rest/wake cycle, known as the circadian clock. This is how our body responds to darkness and light and it plays a large role in sleep patterns, among other physical, mental, and behavioral traits.

The body naturally releases the hormone cortisol in response to stress. Cortisol helps the body metabolize and also helps with alertness. In essence, it helps keep your body balanced. The way the body naturally releases the hormone means that when you first wake up your body is producing peak cortisol levels. So feeding your body caffeine when it’s already keeping itself perked up diminishes the effects of the stimulant. When you drink coffee at these times, the body eventually produces less of the hormone and relies more and more on caffeine to compensate.

So when is the best time to drink coffee?

Research shows that peak cortisol levels are between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., noon and 1 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. So, having your first cup around 9:30 a.m. might do the trick. Taking it in advance of your body’s natural dip in cortisol may give that first cup a more potent effect.

It also turns out that the afternoon cup of coffee so many of us enjoy is timed just right; during another lull in cortisol production.

But, if you don’t work a typical 9-5 schedule, or you happen to be a particularly early riser—this rule can still apply. Scientists say you don’t need your first cup until at least an hour after you’ve woken up, even if that’s 11 a.m. on the weekends!

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