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University Park, Pa. — Girls and boys are now equally caught up in the social pressure for a muscular body image currently lauded in popular culture. A Penn State researcher contends those pressures are leading girls and boys down unhealthy avenues such as the misuse of anabolic steroids.

“Young girls have always had to struggle against the media stereotypes of stick-thin models or voluptuous sexuality, but with the rising popularity of women sports, girls are bombarded with buffed body images,” says Dr. Charles Yesalis, professor of health policy and administration, and exercise and sports science at Penn State, and editor of the newest edition of the book “Anabolic Steroids in Sports and Exercise.” “Now, young boys face pop culture musclemen like The Rock and Steve Austin, given the influence of professional wrestling shows.”

“The current film ‘Charlie’s Angels’ sports karate-kicking women in cool clothes,” he added. “Today’s children look with envy at the physiques of actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, and Linda Hamilton, whose roles call for a muscular build. Hollywood stars are openly taking Human Growth Hormone (HGH) injections to combat aging.”

In addition, children are entering competitive sports at younger ages and many working families have children signed up in two or three sports. Parents, coaches and young athletes are facing growing violence in amateur athletics. The pressure to win at all costs continues to weigh heavily on children, Yesalis notes.

The concern is that many youths will take shortcuts to achieving a muscular build by using anabolic steroids. Female athletes also are pressured to achieve low body fat to excel in their sport. The Penn State researcher has seen evidence that the pressures are reaching down to young children. For example, the book cites figures from the Monitoring The Future Study, a national-level epidemiological survey conducted annually since 1975. Approximately 50,000 8th, 10th and 12 graders are surveyed each year.

The MTF data shows that during the 1990s, anabolic steroid use among 12 graders –both boys and girls – rose to an all-time high with more than 500,000 adolescents having cycled – an episode of use of 6 to 12 weeks – during their lifetime. And the percentage of girls alone doubled in the same period.

A 1998 study of 965 youngsters at four Massachusetts middle schools found that 2.7 percent admitted to taking illegal steroids for better sports performance. That included some boys and girls as young as 10 years old. “This year’s Olympic doping scandals and the epidemic of anabolic steroids in professional baseball just glorify and justify steroids to impressionable youths,” Yesalis notes. “The use of anabolic steroids has cascaded down from the Olympic, professional and college levels to high schools and junior high schools and now middle schools for athletes and non-athletes alike. ”

“Anabolic steroids are made to order for a female wanting to attain a lean athletic body. While most drug abuse has outcomes that tend to discourage use, females who use anabolic steroids may experience a decrease in body fat, increased muscle size and strength, and enhanced sports performance,” he says.

Girls and boys misusing anabolic steroids may win approval and rewards from parents, coaches and peers, but don’t realize there are long-term negative effects on their health, particularly girls, according to Yesalis. Young girls face potential permanent side effects of male hair growth or baldness, deepening of the voice, the enlargement of the clitoris as well as the known risks of heart and liver diseases.

Published by Human Kinetics, the book incorporates the latest research, experience and insights of 15 experts on the scientific, clinical, historical, legal and other aspects of steroid abuse and drug testing. New information looks at the effects of steroids on health, particularly that of women.

This year, trials of East German doctors, coaches and officials reveal records of systematic doping of young athletes without their own or parents’ knowledge. In 1974, officials’ plan to turn the tiny Communist nation into a superpower in sports included giving performance-enhancing drugs to all competing athletes including children as young as 10 years old. The indictments included 142 former East German athletes who now complain of health problems. In media reports, several female athletes report incidents of miscarriages, liver tumor, gynecological problems and enlarged heart, all showing up decades after the steroid misuse.

“Our society’s current strategy for dealing with the abuse of anabolic steroids in sport primarily involves testing, law enforcement and education,” Yesalis says. “But our efforts to deal with this problem have not been very successful. Unless we deal with the social environment that rewards winning at all costs and an unrealistic physical appearance, we won’t even begin to address the problem.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Vicki Fong
Penn State

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Don’t drink alcohol. Take vitamins. Avoid eating eggs. We’ve heard these pieces of nutritional advice for years – but are they accurate?

Not necessarily, say two exercise physiologists who presented at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 11th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition in Dallas, Texas. Wendy Repovich, Ph.D., FACSM, and Janet Peterson, Dr.P.H., FACSM, set out to debunk the “Top 10 Nutrition Myths.”

According to Repovich and Peterson, these nutrition myths are:

10. Eating carbohydrates makes you fat. Cutting carbs from your diet may have short-term weight loss benefits due to water loss from a decrease in carbohydrate stores, but eating carbs in moderation does not directly lead to weight gain. The body uses carbs for energy, and going too long without them can cause lethargy.

9. Drink eight, 8-oz. glasses of water per day. You should replace water lost through breathing, excrement and sweating each day – but that doesn’t necessarily total 64 ounces of water. It’s hard to measure the exact amount of water you have consumed daily in food and drink, but if your urine is pale yellow, you’re doing a good job. If it’s a darker yellow, drink more H2O.

8. Brown grain products are whole grain products. Brown dyes and additives can give foods the deceiving appearance of whole grain. Read labels to be sure a food is whole grain, and try to get three-ounce equivalents of whole grains per day to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

7. Eating eggs will raise your cholesterol. This myth began because egg yolks have the most concentrated amount of cholesterol of any food. However, there’s not enough cholesterol there to pose health risks if eggs are eaten in moderation. Studies suggest that eating one egg per day will not raise cholesterol levels and that eggs are actually a great source of nutrients.

6. All alcohol is bad for you. Again, moderation is key. Six ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer are considered moderate amounts, and should not pose any adverse health effects to the average healthy adult. All alcohol is an anticoagulant and red wine also contains antioxidants, so drinking a small amount daily can be beneficial.

5. Vitamin supplements are necessary for everyone. If you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with moderate amounts of a variety of low-fat dairy and protein and the right quantity of calories, you don’t need to supplement. Most Americans do not, so a multi-vitamin might be good. Special vitamin supplements are also recommended for people who are pregnant or have nutritional disorders.

4. Consuming extra protein is necessary to build muscle mass. Contrary to claims of some protein supplement companies, consuming extra protein does nothing to bulk up muscle unless you are also doing significant weight training at the same time. Even then the increased requirement can easily come from food. A potential problem with supplements is the body has to work overtime to get rid of excess protein, and can become distressed as a result.

3. Eating fiber causes problems if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber can cause problems in IBS sufferers; soluble fiber, however, is more easily absorbed by the body and helps prevent constipation for those with IBS. Soluble fiber is found in most grains.

2. Eating immediately after a workout will improve recovery. Endurance athletes need to take in carbohydrates immediately after a workout to replace glycogen stores, and a small amount of protein with the drink enhances the effect. Drinking low-fat chocolate milk or a carbohydrate drink, like Gatorade, is better for the body, as they replace glycogen stores lost during exercise. Protein is not going to help build muscle, so strength athletes do not need to eat immediately following their workout.

1. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by eating foods low on the glycemic index. High levels of glucose are not what “cause” diabetes; the disease is caused by the body’s resistance to insulin. Foods high on the glycemic index can cause glucose levels to spike, but this is just an indicator of the presence of diabetes, not the root cause.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Communications and Public Information
American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 International, National and Regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health and quality of life.

Although it’s too soon to recommend dropping by Starbucks before hitting the gym, a new study suggests that caffeine can help reduce the post-workout soreness that discourages some people from exercising.In a study to be published in the February issue of The Journal of Pain, a team of University of Georgia researchers finds that moderate doses of caffeine, roughly equivalent to two cups of coffee, cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48 percent in a small sample of volunteers.

Lead author Victor Maridakis, a researcher in the department of kinesiology at the UGA College of Education, said the findings may be particularly relevant to people new to exercise, since they tend to experience the most soreness.

“If you can use caffeine to reduce the pain, it may make it easier to transition from that first week into a much longer exercise program,” he said.

Maridakis and his colleagues studied nine female college students who were not regular caffeine users and did not engage in regular resistance training. One and two days after an exercise session that caused moderate muscle soreness, the volunteers took either caffeine or a placebo and performed two different quadriceps (thigh) exercises, one designed to produce a maximal force, the other designed to generate a sub-maximal force. Those that consumed caffeine one-hour before the maximum force test had a 48 percent reduction in pain compared to the placebo group, while those that took caffeine before the sub-maximal test reported a 26 percent reduction in pain.

Caffeine has long been known to increase alertness and endurance, and a 2003 study led by UGA professor Patrick O’Connor found that caffeine reduces thigh pain during moderate-intensity cycling. O’Connor, who along with professors Kevin McCully and the late Gary Dudley co-authored the current study, explained that caffeine likely works by blocking the body’s receptors for adenosine, a chemical released in response to inflammation.

Despite the positive findings in the study, the researchers say there are some caveats. First, the results may not be applicable to regular caffeine users, since they may be less sensitive to caffeine’s effect. The researchers chose to study women to get a definitive answer in at least one sex, but men may respond differently to caffeine. And the small sample size of nine volunteers means that the study will have to be replicated with a larger study.

O’Connor said that despite these limitations, caffeine appears to be more effective in relieving post-workout muscle pain than several commonly used drugs. Previous studies have found that the pain reliever naproxen (the active ingredient in Aleve) produced a 30 percent reduction in soreness. Aspirin produced a 25 percent reduction, and ibuprofen has produced inconsistent results.

“A lot of times what people use for muscle pain is aspirin or ibuprofen, but caffeine seems to work better than those drugs, at least among women whose daily caffeine consumption is low,” O’Connor said.

Still, the researchers recommend that people use caution when using caffeine before a workout. For some people, too much caffeine can produce side effects such as jitteriness, heart palpitations and sleep disturbances.

“It can reduce pain,” Maridakis said, “but you have to apply some common sense and not go overboard.”

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Sam Fahmy
University of Georgia

Drinking water during a long-distance race may do serious harm rather than keep you safe from injury if you’re drinking too much, according to a cardiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.Runners or any long-distance athletes who drink too much water during a race could put themselves at jeopardy for developing hyponatremia, a condition marked by a loss in the body’s sodium content that can result in physical symptoms such as lethargy, disorientation, seizures and even respiratory distress.

In a perspectives article in the current issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Benjamin Levine, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, said competitive runners are less likely to suffer from hyponatremia.

“Those who are running to finish the race very fast don’t have time to drink a lot of water along the way,” Dr. Levine said. “Those who are not running the race competitively tend to stop at every water station and take a drink. Over the course of a long race, they can dilute themselves.”

In addition popular sports drinks don’t always include enough sodium to offset the body’s loss of the mineral during exercise. The drinks often carry more water with smaller concentrations of salts than are normally found in the human body; therefore, they do not replace salts adequately, said Dr. Levine, medical director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a collaboration between UT Southwestern and Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.

The NEJM perspectives article accompanies a study in the same journal by researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School. The study evaluates the blood concentration of sodium in runners both before and after a long race and examines their risk factors for developing hyponatremia. It recommends individualized fluid-replacement consumption by all competing athletes.

“Researchers of the study found a surprisingly large number of runners had actually gained weight during the race and their sodium concentrations were very low – some were dangerously low,” Dr. Levine said. “The recommendations listed in the study that fluid-replacement schedules be individualized for all athletes competing in long-distance events should be taken seriously by all competitors.”

People lose water and salts from their bodies at different rates during exercise, he said. Heat and humidity also play a role in the rate of this loss. Calculating fluid loss is as simple as weighing yourself before and after exercise and comparing that number to the amount of fluid you consumed throughout.

“All serious distance athletes should find out what their rate of fluid loss is and individualize their fluid intake prior to a distance event,” Dr. Levine said. “It’s also good to accept some mild dehydration during a long race. There are plenty of Web sites available now that show how to customize your fluid intake.”

He also added that taking along salty snacks to eat during the race is a good way of combating hyponatremia. Generally, athletes of all types are instructed prior to activities that water consumption is necessary to prevent illness from heat and to maintain performance levels.

It is also clear, however, that fixed global recommendations for fluid replacement may not be optimal for individual athletes of different body types and with varying degrees of training and heat acclimatization.

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Katherine Morales
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Peak athletic performance may be related to time of day, suggests a University of Chicago study being presented to the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, ENDO 2001, in Denver, Colorado, on June 22, 2001. The study shows that the response of the systems regulating energy metabolism and some hormones differs according to when in the day exercise is performed.

Subjects who exercised at night had much larger drops in glucose levels in response to exercise than at other times of day. Exercise in the evening and at night elicited large increases in the levels of two hormones important for energy metabolism, cortisol and thyrotropin. Exercise at other times of day had much smaller effects on these hormones. In contrast, marked increases in growth hormone levels in response to exercise were not effected by the time of day.

“The effects of exercise we observed may explain how some times of day could be better than others for regular exercise or athletic performance, as we might expect from anectdotally reported variations in peak athletic performance,” said Orfeu Buxton, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in endocrinology at the University of Chicago. “We found strong evidence for substantial changes in glucose metabolism and an array of hormonal responses to 1-hour, high-intensity exercise, dependent on the timing of the exercise. Circadian rhythms, generated by our 24-hour internal clock, appear to play an important role in the complex response to exercise.”

For the study, conducted in the Clinical Research Center of the University of Chicago, 40 healthy men, between the ages of 20 and 30, were divided into five groups. Four groups exercised vigorously for one hour on a stair-stepper in the morning, afternoon, evening or night. A control group did not exercise. A standard marker, the timing of melatonin secretion, was used to determine the timing of each individual’s daily rhythm, his circadian “clock time.”

When not exercising, the subjects rested in bed with constant glucose infusion to avoid fluctuation in their blood sugar levels caused by intermittent meals. Blood levels of the “circadian hormones,” melatonin, cortisol and thyrotropin, and the levels of growth hormone and glucose were compared to blood levels for the same time of day in the resting control subjects.

The importance of timing for hormonal secretion and energy metabolism is demonstrated by the distinct 24-hour patterns of secretion for each hormonal system. One hormone may be actively secreted in a complex pulsating pattern while another may be in a resting phase.

Many circadian rhythms, such as heart rate, oxygen consumption, and cardio-pulmonary function play a role in athletic performance. Rhythmic patterns of hormonal secretion provide internal temporal organization essential to the coordination of physiological processes. Physical exercise is associated with marked metabolic changes and can elicit a variety of neuroendocrine responses. Although these metabolic and hormonal responses to morning exercise are well-documented, few studies have examined the effects of exercise at other times of day.

“Our study covers new ground, demonstrating variation in the effects of exercise at four different times of day, with circadian time precisely quantified, with a practical duration of exercise, and with a high intensity designed to elicit maximal effects” said Buxton.

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Jeanne Galatzer-Levy
University of Chicago Medical Center

Co-authors on the study include, André J. Scheen, M.D., Division of Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolic Disorders, University of Liége, Belgium; Mireille L’Hermite-Balériaux, Ph.D., Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., Department of Medicine, University of Chicago.

This work was supported by grants from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and from the Department of Defense. The University of Chicago Clinical Research Center is supported by a National Institutes of Health grant.

Active individuals lacking in B-vitamins – including college athletes and other elite competitors — may perform worse during high-intensity exercise and have a decreased ability to repair and build muscle than counterparts with nutrient-rich diets, according to recent Oregon State University research published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.The B-vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, B-12 and folate. These micronutrients are necessary during the body’s process for converting proteins and sugars into energy, and are used during the production and repair of cells, including red blood cells.

For active individuals a marginal deficiency in the nutrients may impact the body’s ability to repair itself, operate efficiently and fight disease, said Melinda Manore, researcher in the Colleges of Agricultural and Health and Human Sciences. Manore analyzed the athletic performance of several elite and collegiate athletes in her research, as well as less competitive individuals.

The stress on the body’s energy producing pathways during exercise, the changes in the body’s tissues resulting from training, an increase in the loss of nutrients in sweat, urine and feces during and after strenuous activity and the additional nutrients needed to repair and maintain higher levels of lean tissue mass present in some athletes and individuals may all affect an individuals B-vitamin requirements, said Manore.

“Many athletes, especially young athletes involved in highly competitive sports, do not realize the impact their diets have on their performance,” said Manore, who is also an Extension Service nutrition scientist. “By the time they reach adulthood they can have seriously jeopardized their abilities and their long-term health.”

Current national B-vitamin recommendations for active individuals may be inadequate, and athletes who follow the recommended daily allowances set by the U.S. government may be receiving lower amounts of nutrients than there bodies need, said Manore. Athletes who restrict calories or limit food groups like dairy or meat have an increased chance of deficiency. Such athletes are often concerned about maintaining a low body weight for sports like gymnastics and wrestling.

“The most vulnerable people are often the individuals society expects to be the healthiest,” said Manore. “There’s a lot of pressure on women in particular to look like an ‘athlete.’ Unfortunately for some people that means skinny and petite, rather than healthy and strong.”

The B-vitamins are in whole and enriched grains, dark green vegetables, nuts, and many animal and dairy products. Manore suggests athletes and individuals with poor or restricted diets consider taking a multivitamin or mineral supplement.

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Melinda Manore
Oregon State University