Germs At The Gym

Germs at the GymPutting in time at the gym is supposed to make you healthier, but if you’re not careful, it could be the cause of an unexpected surprise—sickness.  The gym is one of the best places for pathogens (germs) to hide.  It provides germs exactly what they need to thrive and multiply:  dampness, darkness, and warmth.  While other body systems and tissues may be affected, skin is the primary site of exogenous infection.

Although the exposure of athletes to various routes of physical insult has been recognized since humans ran from predators, only in modern times has attention been paid to the specifics. That covers everything from respiratory irregularities to athlete’s foot.  Most common, however, are attacks on the skin, and these account for more than half the outbreaks of infectious diseases that occur among participants in competitive sports. It’s been noted that, “viral, bacterial and fungal infections are common in athletes due to heat, friction and contact with others,” in a study reported in Canada. (Conklin. 1990)  Lesions from herpes, tumors from molluscum, and painful plantar warts may be transmitted from surface-to-person and from person-to-person at the gym. On the upsides, there is hope because “antibiotics are effective against mild infections.”

Do you pay attention to your skin after a day at the gym?  Probably not.  You might wash it, but do you examine it? In the worst possible scenario MRSA, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, may appear.  This germ is usually associated with hospitals and nursing homes, but of late has been associated with schools, playgrounds, and your gym, but thankfully not as an epidemic.  MRSA can start as a tiny pimple and grow to the size of a softball in a short time, requiring hospitalization, surgical cleaning of the wound, stitching, and a course of antibiotics. MRSA infections commonly start at sites of visible skin trauma, such as cuts, scrapes, and abrasions, but also show up at places where there is hair, such as the back of the neck, armpit, and groin.  There have been cases of MRSA beginning on feet.  That makes sense because you tend to go barefoot in the locker room…when flip-flops are more in order.  Direct and indirect contact with the lesions and seepages of others make the skin vulnerable to a host of problems.  While MRSA may be the worst, it may also be the least likely of our worries. (Ryan. 2011)  More common are athlete’s foot, jock itch, impetigo, herpes simplex, and ringworm, among a few others.

There are preventive steps you can take. Covering any breaks in the skin is of paramount importance. It doesn’t take much for an opportunistic bacterium to worm its way in.  Do not shave prior to visiting your gym. That goes for gals as well as guys. Razor nicks open the door for infections. Do not go barefoot. The heat in the shower room, the darkness of the area, and the dampness provide the ultimate environment for the propagation of fungi and other pathogens. Wear flip-flops or water shoes. Besides, they’ll keep you from slipping on wet tiles.

It’s a nice courtesy for your gym to provide disinfectant sprays that you can use before attacking a machine or stretching on a mat. If it doesn’t, bring your own, along with paper towels.  What’s wrong with a rag?  It’ll transfer germs from one place to another.  Or bring disposable wipes.  More men than women shower at the gym. Make sure your towels are clean, and try not to use the one from your feet on the rest of your body if you’ve been barefoot or if it fell onto the locker room floor.  Don’t share towels, either.  Nor soap, unless it’s a liquid in a pump bottle.

Be religious about doing your laundry.  Don’t let wet stuff sit in your gym bag to ferment.  No matter how clean you think you are, stuff will grow there.  If you have kids, be especially vigilant.  Molluscum contagiosum is commonly seen in youngsters, usually being spread from skin to skin, but also by sharing a towel.  Meticulous hygiene is imperative.  Lots of men—more than women—walk around the locker room in the buff.  Wearing a towel places a barrier between you and the bench or any other shared surface.  The last place you want an itchy infection is where you sit.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Who Needs Electrolytes and Why?

Many people talk about electrolytes but do you have any idea what electrolyte really is? Being among the smallest of chemicals important to a cell’s function, electrolytes are crucial to the manufacturing of energy, the maintenance of membrane stability, the movement of fluids in the body, and a few other jobs, such as contracting a muscle, like the heart.

No Sweat

You know that you’ll taste salt if you lick the back of your hand after jogging or cutting grass on a hot summer day. Sodium is one of sweat’s main ingredients, along with chloride and potassium. All three are carried to the surface of the skin by the water made in sweat glands and the salt stays after the liquid evaporates. The purpose of sweating is regulation of body temperature, which is achieved by the eccrine glands that cover much of the body. An adult can easily sweat two liters an hour (Godek, 2008), up to eight liters a day (Vukasinovic-Vesic, 2015). It’s the evaporation of the water that has the cooling effect. Some animals do not have efficient sweat glands, such as dogs that have to pant to cool down, or hogs that needs to wallow in mud or cool water.

After exercise — or other cause of heavy perspiration — it’s important to restore fluid balance, especially in hot weather when it is easy to get dehydrated. Rehydration occurs only if both water and electrolytes are replaced. The amount of electrolytes lost through sweat varies from person to person. Accurately matching beverage electrolyte intake with loss through sweat is practically impossible. If you are eating at the same time as drinking plain water, this may suffice for rehydration. Otherwise, inclusion of electrolytes is essential.

What Are They and What Do They Do?

In the body, the electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate. Not all are contained — or needed — in an electrolyte replacement beverage. Sodium, the main cation outside the cell, controls total amount of water in the body, regulates blood volume and maintains muscle and nerve function. You need at least 500 mg a day. The suggested upper level is 2300 mg, but most Americans ingest more than 3000. Chloride, also from table salt, is an anion. Found in extracellular fluids, chloride, in the company of sodium, helps to maintain proper fluid balance and pressure of the various fluid compartments.

Potassium is the major cation inside the cell, where its job is to regulate heart beat and blood pressure while balancing the other electrolytes. Because it aids in transmitting nerve impulses, potassium is necessary for muscle contractions, actually the relaxation half of the contraction. Deficiency of potassium is more common than overdose, and may arise from diarrhea or vomiting, with muscle weakness and cramping being symptoms. Intake of potassium is generally much lower than the recommended 4700 mg a day, which is not surprising in light of the deficits in food caused by insulting agricultural practices. Perhaps the most under-appreciated mineral in the nutrient armamentarium is magnesium, not only a constituent of more than three hundred biochemical reactions in the body, but also a role player in the synthesis of both DNA and RNA. As an electrolyte, magnesium supports nerve and muscle function, boosts immunity, monitors heart cadence, stabilizes blood glucose, and promotes healthy bones and teeth. With half the U.S. population deficient, Mg is the orphan nutrient that is able to prevent elevated markers of inflammation (such as CRP), hypertension (It’s called nature’s calcium channel blocker), atherosclerotic vascular disease, migraines, asthma, and colon cancer (Rosanoff, 2012). Supplementation with magnesium is uncertain because absorption is inverse to intake.

Like the others, calcium is involved in muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve messages, but also in blood clotting. Calcium tells sodium to initiate a contraction so that you can pick up a pencil or scratch your nose. In opposition, magnesium tells potassium to let the pencil go or to move your arm back down. Because the heart needs calcium for a strong beat, it will pull the mineral from bone if dietary sufficiency is missing. After calcium, phosphorus — phosphate — is the most abundant mineral in the body. This anion helps to produce energy inside the cell besides being a bone strengthener. It’s a major building block of DNA and the cell membrane. Bicarbonate keeps pH in balance and is important when muscles make lactic acid from work.

Where Can I Get the Electrolytes I Need?

There are scores of electrolyte replacements on the market and entirely too many with sugar or additives. The issue with electrolytes is, in all honesty, that they taste bitter and salty. The fact that sugar is a carbohydrate hinders the processing of a hydration drink because absorption is slowed. That’s what carbohydrates do. Sugar concentrations in many sports drinks are higher than that of body fluid, so will not be readily absorbed. Plain water passes through too fast; carb-laden drinks pass too slowly. Therefore, an electrolyte balanced drink will do the job better and faster. Sodium and potassium, after all, encourage fluid retention and help to reduce urine output.

It is common knowledge that most of us gravitate to sweetness in times of dehydration; saltiness less so. But when you need rehydration, choose the real stuff, BodyBio’s E-lyte and E-lyte Sport, two electrolyte replacements that copy the mineral balance of the body. Elyte may be used as a daily addition to the diet, and is effective to restore homeostasis in times of virus-induced gastrointestinal distress for adults and children, in electrolyte deficit from uncontrolled diabetes and even for restless leg syndrome. When sodium loss is high from exercise, chose Elyte Sport.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Off-Season Fitness

group-fitnessThe off-season is the time for a well-deserved break, yet it might be viewed as a chance to get ready for next season.  As each day passes you’ll lose the fitness that you worked so hard to get if you fail to do something to keep it.  There’s no need to go to extremes, though.  Looking at the off-season as part of your overall training cycle will keep you focused on maintaining the fitness level you need to get the job done.  Nutrition is part of that plan.

For a high-school athlete, a summer with no training is a missed opportunity that guarantees a hard return to the rigors of structured sports.  Just as during the season, it’ll help to set goals, such as reducing body fat, adding muscle mass, maintaining aerobic fitness, improving speed, and developing techniques specific to your sport.  Any attempt to alter body composition must be planned over a significant time period, making it absolutely necessary to start a program weeks before the season opens.  It isn’t safe to increase or decrease a body component in a short time.  Because of this, be careful to avoid fads and misinformation from the non-credentialed sources that pop up on the internet and from friends of friends’ friends.

Since you’re on your own during the off-season, or are hangin’ with the guys at best, you’ll be separated from the atmosphere that lends itself to motivation and drive.  If you’re totally idle, you’re detraining, and that’ll reverse the training-induced physiological adaptations you need to excel at your sport.  You’ll lose strength, power, endurance, and aerobic power and capacity.  Within days or only a few weeks you’ll see these qualities diminish.  If you‘re a runner, fifteen days’ inactivity will award you with a 25% decrease in performance.  (Houston et al. 1979)  If you’re a strength-trained athlete, strength or power will decline almost immediately after the cessation of training.  (Kraemer. 2002)  Since you’re on your own, you’re also unlikely to train as you would under supervision, and the results will show it.  (Mazzetti. 2000)  It came as a surprise, however, when researchers announced that if frequency of training is reduced by two thirds, endurance capacity can be maintained for as long as three months.  (Hickson. 1982)  (Neufer. 1987)  So, now you have some slack time.

Simple things like walking, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, and even stretching contribute to your fitness plan.  And there’s nothing wrong with cross-training.  But there are some things you can’t do all at once, like lose weight and increase muscle mass.  These need to be tackled separately, mostly because the body isn’t very adept at doing both at the same time.  Lose the weight, and then build the muscle.

The off-season doesn’t mean you can eat what you want.  The high-calorie energy bars that got you through the season won’t do you any good if you don’t burn ‘em.  You still need to keep an eye on calories in and calories out, as well as on hydration.  Your nutrition goals will include maintaining the physique that is suited to your sport, so balancing energy needs is important.  This is an individual venture that requires a different carbohydrate to protein ratio from that during the active season, particularly if your off-season training sessions are of shorter duration.  Once you find your competition weight, stick to it, even if you have to monitor yourself a few times a week to find any changes you didn’t cause on purpose.  (Smith. 1984)  If you’re trying to lose weight, be watchful not to over-restrict your eating.  Sports dietitians are available to help you with this.  It might be worth your while to sit down with a pencil and paper and figure out how many calories you need to train and how many you need for normal body functions, and work from there.  If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, keep in mind that you need about 30 calories of energy per kilogram of lean body mass to keep you going.  Otherwise you risk metabolic and hormonal insult, and if you’re a girl, you need to watch for menstrual disorders.

When it comes to protein intake, the total amount is not as important as the timing.  Consuming protein before and right after a session will enhance protein synthesis and net protein balance.  1.2–1.6 grams per kilogram of body mass will serve you well in both endurance and strength.   If you lay off completely for a few weeks, you can lower those numbers to 0.8–1.0.  (Colombani. 2011)

Different activities have different fuel needs, so carbohydrate intake is not one-size-fits-all.  For light training, you need about 5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass, while heavier, prolonged, or strenuous work that demands optimal synthesis of glycogen might call for 7–10 grams per kilogram.  You’ll need the higher amounts for events that last longer than one hour.  You should be able to fine tune intake according to your specific needs.  (Burke. 2011)

The off-season needn’t be a season off.  A serious athlete will take care of business so that getting back into the groove is not a monumental feat.  In light of this, it’s O.K. to have a cheat day once in a while, where you can eat pizza on a Friday night, or a bowl of ice cream, or a chocolate éclair after a meal.  But don’t do all these at the same time.  Nine to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day, even during the off-season, will supply nutrient density to help offset prandial sins.  That sounds like a lot, but really isn’t.  Besides, eating this much produce can displace the potential to eat empty calories during the off-season.

Staying properly hydrated is a matter of common sense, but that faculty is ignored too often.  Losing 2% of body weight to sweat impairs performance on the field or in the gym.  More than that risks serious after effects that may include hospitalization. On the other hand, overhydration will dilute electrolytes and backfire.  Don’t drink at rates that are greater than sweat losses.  You might actually gain weight during the competition period.  Get hydrated before an event with 8-16 ounces of fluid a couple of hours prior.  Drink ½-1 cup every fifteen to twenty minutes, if you can, during an event.  Afterwards, replace any fluids you have lost at a rate of about two cups for every pound of body weight lost.  If you’re not exercising regularly, you still need three liters—or more—of water a day, some of which comes from food.  Use it or lose it.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.