Endorphins Make Me Feel Good…

So what is an endorphin?  How do you explain or describe it?  

Well, Wikipedia’s definition is:

I will have a bowl of endorphins please

Endorphins (“endogenous morphine”) are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters.[1] They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise,[2] excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm,[3][4] and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being

ummmm…..what???  They are endogenous opioid peptides?   Okay then.  Lets start with an easy statement about endorphins.  They are supposed to make a person feel good – that simple.   Some people say it’s in our heads while others have done research and say it is a chemical released in our body that makes us happy, content, settled.  The articles side all over the place – they are not real, they are very real, research has proven, research has not “scientifically” proven…..so read on and you make your own decision.

For runner’s and/or endurance athletes they often are heard describing it as a “runner’s high”.  You know, that good feeling you get after a long run, a roll in the hay or a good laugh?  It’s not just because you’ve relieved exercise guilt, had a wham-bam orgasm or heard an absolute knee-slapper.  That elated feeling, which can last up to 12 hours for some people,also  has a scientific explanation.  It comes from a release of endorphins.   And it’s an “all natural” way of getting high.  Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.     This  feeling,  is often accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.   

Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters referenced in the Wikipedia definition outlined in this article earlier.  The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines.  However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, MD, family practitioner and author of  “Eat for Health” and “Eat to Live” notes that the science of endorphins-from-exercise is controversial, and that some medical professionals believe the positive feeling you get when you meet a physical challenge, rather than the exertion itself, is what stimulates the endorphin release. Several articles that were researched indicated that endorphins are indeed real and provide benefits to us that include:

Relief of pain
Enhanced immune system
Reduced stress levels
Postpone aging process
Modulated appetite
Lowers blood pressure
Influences calm or euphoric state of mind

 But whatever the cause and benefit, exercise has been proven to enhance the mood.  So lets not speculate any longer.  Get outside, find your sport and start feeling good……endorphin or no endorphin.  In Dr. Fuhrman also recommends prolonged activities such as cross-country skiing, swimming, tennis or a long cardio workout for the best effects. So try to catch an endorphin  see what cha think!  

References;

Endorphins 101: Your Guide to Natural Euphoria
Dr Joel Fuhrman; MD Family practitioner and author

Did you say Pickle Juice before my Run?

Pickle Juice??  What the heck?   You want me to drink some pickle juice before my run / ride / walk???   Why can’t I stick to some GUs, Gels or Chomps and just eat a pickle when I order my sandwich that comes with a pickle?   Well, good question but if you google pickle juice and the athletic and health benefits of it, you might be surprised the amount of information and studies you will find.  Some studies adamantly say pickle juice is beneficial in helping stop cramps and others are hesitant to say that cramping is even caused by dehydration and/or lack of salt intake.  So we created this blog to give you some insight and let you come to your own conclusions on whether or not you want to venture out and give it a try.

Pickle juice is the liquid substance used to give cucumbers their salty, sour taste.  In most cases, it is made of water, salt, calcium chloride and vinegar (acetic acid), and occasionally contains flavorings like dill or “bread and butter”.   The use of pickle juice as a defense against muscle cramps first attracted headlines when the Philadelphia Eagles credited pickle juice with their cramp-free win over the Dallas Cowboys in the over-one-hundred-degrees Texas heat.  Rick Burkholder, the Eagles’ head trainer, called it his “secret weapon.”  Pickle companies (such as Mt. Olive Pickle, Vlasic Foods and Golden Pickle) claim that pickle juice is similar to an isotonic beverage and can prevent muscle cramps caused from strenuous exercise.   Mt. Olive Pickle asserts that “an athletic trainer from the University of Northern Iowa” uses pickle juice to avoid muscle cramps in athletes. (http://www.mtolivepickles.com/Picklemania/PickleJuicePower.html)

Golden Pickle has even created a sports drink, appropriately named “Pickle Juice Sport” which you can purchase at CK SPORTS.  Golden Pickle claims that Pickle Juice Sport has “approximately 30 times more electrolytes than Powerade and 15 times more than Gatorade.” (www.goldenpicklejuice.com). It is even endorsed by Dallas Cowboy Jason Witten.

So why would pickle juice work?  Exercise induced muscle cramps are can be caused by dehydration from exercising in hot weather and not drinking enough fluids.  When you sweat during exercise, you can lose a lot of salt from your blood.  These salts are also known as electrolytes.  The loss of electrolytes can cause muscle cramping, especially in hot, humid weather.  Cells in the body use electrolytes to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses to other cells. In this case, these impulses are responsible for muscle contractions. Pickle juice has a very high salt, or electrolyte content.  Therefore, drinking pickle juice before exercising could possibly provide your body with enough salt, that your muscles will not cramp.  Other studies claim that your body gets enough sodium through the foods you eat and pills, juice, etc are not necessarily needed.

One study (resource provided below) compared pickle juice from Vlasic Pickles to the carbohydrate sports beverage Gatorade. The two beverage samples were analyzed in a food-composition laboratory to determine the amount of salt, potassium, calcium and magnesium in each product.  Pickle juice was found to have considerably more salt than the carbohydrate beverage.  Dale et. al. concluded that pickle juice can be used as a remedy for muscle cramps. However, the study also warns of the danger of ingesting too much salt as well so be smart when training and see what works for you, your workouts and your climate.  In most articles two ounces is the suggested serving size of pickle juice.

There was even another study that took two groups of men and put them through strenuous enough exercise for them to lose 3% of their body weight through perspiration (mild dehydration) and then s contraption was put on the big toe of their unexercised leg, and the tibial nerve in the men’s ankles was electrically stimulated, causing a muscle in the big toe to cramp — ow??    The procedure causes some discomfort, making it too painful to use on larger muscles, like the hamstrings or the quadriceps.  The duration of their cramping was about 2 to 2.5 minutes.   The volunteers rested and did not drink any fluids. Then their tibial nerve was zapped again.  This time, though, as soon as the toe cramps began, each man downed about 2.5 ounces of either deionized water or pickle juice, strained from a jar of ordinary Vlasic dills.  The reaction, for some, was rapid. Within about 85 seconds, the men drinking pickle juice stopped cramping.  But the cramps continued unabated in the men drinking water.   hmmmm….so you see….one has to wonder?  Can pickle juice work for you and your workouts?

And if pickle juice isn’t your thing – no worries.  There are various supplements made from various companies (Shark Salts, Hammer, Salt Stick, etc) also provided at CK SPORTS that provide a source of salt for athletes.  Whatever direction you go to increase your salt intake do remember that too much of a good thing.  And if you are on a salt-restricted diet, you may want to look elsewhere for a muscle cramp remedy.   Medical professionals believe that salt plays a major role in preventing dehydration that causes muscle cramps, but it does not necessarily have to come from pickle juice or other salt tablets.  In fact, Kurt Spindler, the Director of the Vanderbilt Sports Medicine Center, suggests that athletes just conscientiously salt their food at their meals to avoid muscle cramps.

RESOURCES

Muscle Cramps. (2005) A-Z Health Guide from WebMD. Retrieved September 18, 2006.  http://www.webmd.com/hw/health_guide_atoz/sig239850.asp

Dale, R. B. Leaver-Dunn, D. Bishop, P. (2003).  A compositional analysis of a common acetic acid  solution with practical implications for ingestion. Journal of Athletic Training. 38(1) .57.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/phys-ed-can-pickle-juice-stop-muscle-cramps/

What is Active Therapy?

by Tim Hines-
Elite Performance Chiropractic located in McKinney, Tx.

ART is a patented, soft-tissue mobilization technique preferred by many of today’s top athletes. The goal of ART is similar to sports massage, in that it aims to remove scar tissue from the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Chronic and repetitive injury causes scar tissue to form in the body. Over time this scar tissue becomes adhesion that limits function and can became very painful — even leading to more injury.

Active Release is a very focused approach to aiding the body in recovering from the effects of these chronic injuries. Most often practiced by chiropractors, some have likened ART to a chiropractor’s approach to sports massage. While the end goals may be similar, the techniques are quite different. Swedish massage treats the body with a broad, full-body approach. Sports and therapeutic massage are more focused approaches, treating problem areas. ART is even more focused. Certified practitioners of ART are trained to find the source of the problem, go right to it and treat it directly.

How does it work? A simple way to describe it would be a pin-and-stretch. The ART practitioner finds the adhesion that is limiting the function of the muscle, joint, etc. Pressure is applied to the problem spot, and the muscle, or ligament, or tendon, is stretched while pressure is increased. The effect breaks up the adhesion and frees the surrounding soft-tissue. As a massage therapist who is certified in ART, I look at it as another tool in the tool-box of therapies.

Sometimes, all it takes is a screw-driver to fix something — other times, you might need a hammer — often, both a hammer, screw-driver, and even a wrench are needed. ART is great because it can treat injuries quickly, and creates a faster recovery. It can be a crucial part of your overall care. I find that combining ART with chiropractic adjustments and massage, along with proper conditioning and important things like the right fit of shoes, or a properly balanced bike, all work in conjunction to help you perform at a top level.

What’s the Hype about Sports Massages?

So, when you decide to go and get a massage to either prep for an upcoming race or recover from a long training event are you selective on who you go see, when you go and what to expect?   

Tim Hines 
Local Massage Therapist, Tim Hines, with Elite Performance Chiropractic located in McKinney, provides us with everything you would want to know about massages. 
 
Massage therapy has a world of benefits for bikers and runners.  Athletic performance, while healthy, also puts stress on the body — particularly when you push yourself to achieve that next goal.  Living takes its toll, and we must take care of our bodies or they will let us know about it.  We need food, sleep, and exercise to maintain ourselves.  Massage therapy, as well, plays an important part in helping the athlete continue to perform at a peak level.

 
Running and biking puts the muscles under stress.  This is good — it’s how the muscles grow and develop — but it also has a down-side.  The stress can create little injuries in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, that if not attended to, leads to a build-up of scar tissue.  That scar tissue can form into web-like bundles we call adhesion.  This is that gristly stuff you sometimes feel when you are palpating a tender area, and the hard knots that ache in your shoulder tops and other places.  Adhesion limits the function of the muscle — decreasing performance and increasing the chance of new and greater injury.
 
Left unchecked it will cause imbalances in the body that start to spread problems from one part to the next — making you run or peddle harder with one leg than the other, for example.  That in turn may cause your hips to start twisting, creating instability in the low back.  The calves of runners can become extremely restricted — leading to problems like plantar-fasciitis or shin-splints.  Adhesion often forms in the upper back of bikers, because they spend so much time hunched over their handle bars.  From there, problems can spread to the neck and arms. Nerves can even became impinged, causing numbness and tingling in the hands.
 
Fortunately we’ve developed a solution over the years that we call massage therapy.  The goal of sports massage is to remove these adhesions — eliminating the painful restrictions and returning the body to proper and balanced function.  A good massage not only unties the knots in the muscles, but it also helps clean out the soft tissue, pushing away lactic acid and toxins and bringing in fresh blood flow, needed for muscle healing and recovery.
 
Athletes report that massage helps reduce the recovery phase their bodies go through, and enhances their build-up phase.  That simply means that the amount of time you feel sore and wiped-out following a performance is lessened.  And your muscles are able to adapt to new demands and grow stronger more effectively because they are free of restriction, and your body is in better balance.
The body does the best it can to deal with the stresses we it put under, but it can always use a helping hand.  Therapeutic massage, especially when combined with chiropractic care, is a natural and healthy way to take care of yourself, and get the most out of your athletic performance.
 
 
Tim is a Massage Therapist for Elite Performance Chiropractic in McKinney, Tx.  www.epcmckinney.com
Tim’s credentials include; LMT, Sports & Therapeutic Massage, ART Full Body Certified, Long Nerve Track Entrapment Certified, Lymphatic Drainage Therapy.  CK SPORTS and Elite Chiropractic partner together in various events.  Every Friday, Rich Miller, owner of Elite Performance offers his services at CK SPORTS from Noon to 1:30pm for local residents who would like a 15 minute analysis of any injury or ache they may have.  Call and schedule your 15 minute session now at 214-383-0088.

Water…be happy the natural way

Most people experience mild dehydration, or the state in  which your body contains too little fluid, on occasion. Although severe  dehydration is less common, it can become life threatening, according to the  University of Maryland Medical Center. In  addition to physical symptoms, such as dry mouth and sunken eyes, dehydration  can negatively affect your moods. Drinking enough water each day can help  guard against these mood complications.

Relationship

Although drinking water is not known to directly cause  positive moods, even mild levels of dehydration can hinder your emotional state,  according to Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin. If you  consistently are dehydrated and prone to low moods, such as sadness or anxiety,  increasing your water intake might help minimize your mood problems. If your  mood challenges derive from an illness, such as major depression, an anxiety  disorder or hypothyroidism, drinking more water might help prevent the worsening  of your symptoms; seeking proper treatment for the underlying condition,  however, is important.

Research

In a study published in the “Journal of  Psychophysiology” in 2000, eight healthy, endurance-trained men were kept under-  or over-hydrated while exercising on a treadmill for 90 minutes. Researchers  then analyzed the mens’ memory skills, levels of fatigue and moods and found  that dehydration impaired all of these functions. These findings indicate that  short-term, relatively mild dehydration can immediately detract from an active  person’s moods.

Dehydration Causes

If you have a condition associated with dehydration,  staying on top of your fluid needs might help manage your emotional and physical  symptoms. One of the most common triggers, according to the European Hydration  Institute, is an infection that causes diarrhea. When faced with infectious  diarrhea, you can lose a significant amount of water, or up to one liter per  hour, with each bowel movement. Vomiting, which might accompany food poisoning,  flu viruses and pregnancy, also can cause excessive fluid loss. Older adults and  children are more susceptible to dehydration because of their lower body  weights, higher turnover of water and bodily chemicals called electrolytes and  sensitivity to illnesses and infections. Sweat from vigorous exercise or  spending time in hot weather also can contribute.

Prevention/Solution

If you are prone to negative moods or mood swings,  discuss your symptoms with a qualified health care professional to determine  whether an illness is at play. Although people’s specific hydration needs vary,  doctors generally recommend drinking eight or nine cups per day, according to  MayoClinic.com. If you consume other hydrating foods and beverages, such as  fresh fruits and vegetables, soups, low-fat milk or herbal tea, you might not  require as much plain water. If you eat primarily low-fluid foods, such as  breads, potato chips and pretzels, you might require more. If you experience  thirst or your urine appears bright yellow, you might lack water. Keep water  nearby for convenience, particularly during and following exercise and heat  exposure. If water tastes “boring” to you, add a splash of fruit  juice.

information from lancearmstrong.com

 

Food For Thought…..

by Jeff Horowitz – Smart Training (excerpts also from Wall Street Journal’s Personal Journal)

In case you missed it, an article in the Wall Street Journal’s Personal Journal section of Novemebr 22, “Countdown To a Food Coma”, gave some unexpected support for running and other exercise. The WSJ reported that researchers had found that your body’s reaction to big meals can be an indicater of future heart problems. And interesting for runners, exercise immediately before a big meal — and a regular habit of exercising — can help insulate your body from this harm. Says the WSJ: “Th[e] post-meal recovery period is being studied by scientists who are increasingly finding that what happens in the body after eating a big meal doesn’t just bring on sleepiness, commonly known as food coma. It can also increase the risk of later health problems. “Everybody absorbs fats, sugars and other nutrients differently. These variations can provide clues about a person’s risk for common medical conditions, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, research shows. Even in healthy people, cells that line the blood vessels temporarily function less efficiently after a person eats a high-fat meal.

“Researchers also are studying strategies for reducing risks in the period immediately after a meal, known as the postprandial phase. While going for a walk after eating might help digestion, for example, recent studies suggest that exercising 12 or more hours before the meal can prevent one of the most damaging effects—a post-meal spike in a type of fat called triglycerides.

One of the biggest tasks for the body after eating is to deal with fats in the blood. Cholesterol, particularly LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, infiltrates the walls of the arteries and forms plaques, which can block blood flow or eventually rupture, leading to heart attack and stroke. The condition is known as atherosclerosis.
     “Triglycerides, which typically peak after a big meal, are present in food and are also converted by the body from other nutrients, like carbohydrates. Triglycerides are particularly problematic because they are so good at penetrating the arterial wall.
    ”In a follow-up study, also published in JAMA, the research team found that testing for elevated triglycerides after eating was a better predictor of future heart attack than measurements taken while a person was fasting, which is the typical method during a checkup. Triglyceride counts after eating also were a more accurate predictor of stroke in women than were cholesterol measurements, according to a study published this year in Annals of Neurology.
     Light exercise like a slow walk, done continuously for 30 minutes or more, appears to reduce the peak in triglycerides that occurs after eating a meal some 12 to 16 hours later.
     It’s unclear exactly why there is a delay, but exercise induces a number of cellular responses that require different amounts of time before taking effect…Other research has suggested that the benefits of exercise on fat processing can last as long as 48 hours.
     The ideal is to be consistently active. But if people are more sedentary and want to time their exercise, it is best to take that long walk half a day before a big meal.

NUTRITION – HOW IMPORTANT IS IT AS PART OF YOUR TRAINING PLAN

Knowing about nutrition and what to eat is an extremely integral part of endurance sports.  What you eat can have a dramatic effect on your mood and running performance, so it is worthwhile to take some time and thought to what you put in your body when you want to perform well.  The most well planned and executed training plans can end quickly on race day if the athlete neglects any and all aspects of nutrition. That being said one can also get lost in the amount of information that is currently present in regards to what you should eat and how much.  Athletes can by overwhelmed with the amount of  information on television, magazines, race expos, training camps and the internet of so called healthy energy foods that over the years have become a multi-million dollar industry.

The simple truth is that the  foods that work best for most ahletes are the same ones our hunter-gatherer ancestors ingested: lean meats and fish from wild sources, vegetable protein sources, fresh fruits and vegetables that provide whole carbohydrates and natural unsaturated fats found in nuts, fish and vegetables. Not only are these foods not processed but they are mainly alkaline in nature thus help fight inflammation in the body.

Once you are able to improve your lifestyle diet you can start incorporating training specific or race specific nutritional products such as sports drinks, gels, bars and other powders that provide training/racing benefits. The number of products in the market in this category is too many to mention in this article but CK SPORTS supplies a majority of the industry leaders. The key is to experiment with these products during training so you know they agree with your system and when it is necessary to take them.

In general you should incorporate the following points to help improve your nutritional habits:

  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables as they will provide you with most of your daily carbohydrates and they help keep body inflammation at a minimum.

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently which aids in proper digestion, doesn’t shock your insulin levels and stops you from over-eating.

  • Avoid saturated and trans fats as they increase inflammation in the body and are one of the causes of cardiovascular disease.

  • Eat lean protein as this will help you recover from harder workouts, promote lean muscle mass which burns the most calories and balances out blood sugar levels.

  • Avoid high-glycemic foods and drinks other than when your body needs them which is immediately before, during and after workouts.

  • Stay hydrated with water your main drink of choice.

  • Monosaturated fats such as olive oil, flax seed oil, canola oil and avocados are the healthiest fats to consume.

With all the information out there, if nutrition is a main concern for you, it is important to search out a qualified sports nutritionist who can help you make informed choices and limit those choices that are hampering your performance.

Some of the information in this article was provided by Dr. Jake Oergel; an accomplished Ironman triathlete who has competed in over 75 endurance events.