Gluten Sensitivity: Fact or Fiction?

4 Dec

Recently, I’ve had a few customers inquire about the potential benefit of a gluten-free diet.  The gluten-free market is supported by billions of dollars in sales, very little science, and a lot of hype.

Ultimately, there are very few scientific studies supporting a gluten-free diet for individuals who are not afflicted with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) or wheat allergy.

What is gluten?

Gluten is protein that is found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye.  Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape, and often gives the final product a chewy texture. In addition to being found in breads, cereals, etc., gluten is also used in cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations.

Gluten sensitivity

There are very few (3) actual gluten-related disorders: wheat allergy, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).  In terms of prevalence, About 0.1% of the population has a wheat allergy. Wheat allergy is most prevalent in children between 3-5 years old who have other food allergies. Often, the children outgrow it.  Approximately 1% of people in Europe and North America have been diagnosed with celiac disease.

Symptoms

Wheat allergy, celiac disease, and NCGS all share the same gastrointestinal symptoms: cramps, bloating, nausea, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation, and abdominal pain, especially after exposure to wheat or gluten. After gluten ingestion, symptoms can present between several hours and several days later.

Treatment

For any person diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder, it is important for them to adhere to a gluten-free diet in order to prevent gastrointestinal disturbances, optimize nutrient absorption (thereby reducing risk of anemia and osteoporosis), and, in the case of celiac disease, reduce the risk of intestinal lymphoma (cancer related to elevated inflammation.

Considerations

Many nutrition experts consider the gluten-free diet a fad.  It has also been strongly suggested that the benefit of going “gluten-free” is actually derived from reducing carbohydrates, especially refined grains.

A “gluten-free” label does not necessarily equate to “healthy.”  People can improve the quality of their diet by substituting baked goods with healthier options, in general. For example, choosing salads and fruit instead of pizza and brownies will lead to an increase in the consumption of essential nutrients and better control of caloric intake.

Studies have shown that the gluten-free version of a food is almost always more expensive; food “staples” such as bread and pasta are approximately twice as expensive as the traditional version.

A diet that increases energy and focus and helps prevent gastrointestinal distress is appealing. However, there is currently no support for a gluten-free diet in people who have not been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is abundant in nutrient-rich foods and low in highly processed food will fuel your body for optimal health and athletic potential. If you experience symptoms that are compromising your performance, you may consider getting tested for gluten sensitivity and other minor allergies/intolerances/sensitivities.

Don’t be too quick to jump on the gluten-free “bandwagon.”  If you want to “clean up” your diet, start by reducing/eliminating processed foods, refined grains, food with added sugars and saturated fat.  Eat whole grain/high-fiber carbs; lots of fruits and veggies; unsaturated fats; and lean protein.  Maintain a reasonable daily caloric intake, based on your target weight and activity level.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Winners Never Quit and…

19 Nov

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” – Vince Lombardi

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” – William E. Hickson

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” –  Joseph P. Kennedy

I’m sure you’re familiar with these quotes.  They all speak to the same concepts — persistenceperseverance, and overcoming adversity.

Here’s some advice: Forget all that stuff.  Accountabilityself-development, and self-improvement are overrated.  And, it takes a lot of work to make yourself better.  Why expend all that effort?  I’m pretty sure no one ever improved their lot in life — academically, athletically, personally, or professionally — by working hard to make themselves better.

Are you a student who doesn’t care for a teacher, classmate, or class?  Don’t particularly like homework and studying?  Struggling with a certain subject or course? Are you just plain tired of school?  Just quit.

Are you an athlete whose coach is not giving you the playing time you feel you deserve?  Teammates not helping you get the exposure and recognition to which you’re entitled?  If you’re not satisfied with your playing time — or any other aspect of your sport participation… walk away.

Are you a business professional who’s just plain tired of the day-to-day grind?  Experiencing difficulty with a job-related role, responsibility, or task?  It may be time to put in your notice.

Having trouble communicating, interacting, and coexisting with family and friends?  It’s obviously their problem (no matter how many of them there are) because it certainly can’t be you.  You should suggest to all of them that they “look in the mirror” and engage in some serious soul-searching and attitude adjustment, and learn to adjust to your perspective.

And another thing: I’ve always encouraged my kids to talk directly with adults — teachers, coaches, supervisors, etc. — to discuss and resolve any issues that may exist, before I got involved.  I wanted them to deal with differences of opinion and adversity, and learn to “fight their own battles.”  But maybe I had it wrong.  Why should a kid have to swallow his/her pride and check his/her ego when a “helicopter” parent, living vicariously through their kid, is willing to confront his/her “tormentor?”  It’s much easier just to let mommy and daddy fight that battle for you.

Let me know how that works for you.

On a serious note, NO ONE should EVER tolerate verbally and/or physically abusive behavior from ANYONE!

Quitting is becoming an epidemic.  Are you infected?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Goal-Setting for Athletes

12 Nov

The winter sports season is upon us, which means that winter sports athletes should have been actively preparing for the coming season (especially those not involved in a fall sport).  Improving sport-specific skills and strength and conditioning should be priorities for basketball players, swimmers, and wrestlers.

All four of my children were basketball players.  They all played other sports, as well, but basketball was the “common denominator.”  Prior to any season, I always encouraged them to sit down and develop written goals for the upcoming season — team goals and individual goals; performance-related goals and effort-related goals.  I think goal setting is important to any endeavor, not just sports.  Personal, academic, athletic, and professional goals — along with appropriate action planning — help to facilitate a successful outcome.

Here’s an example of what individual goal setting might look like for a basketball player:

Play with AGGRESSIVENESS, CONFIDENCE, and ENERGY

Use your SPEED and QUICKNESS to your advantage

DEFENSE

  • Take away opponent’s dominant hand
  • Interrupt passing lanes
  • Jam cutters
  • Box out and rebound

OFFENSE

  • Change SPEED and DIRECTION
  • ATTACK the basket
  • TAKE open shots
  • Knock down shots
    • Field goals, free throws, layups
  • Use reverse layup and spin move, situationally
  • Shoot pull-up and step-back jump shots when you have the opportunity
  • Look for offensive rebound and put-back opportunities
  • Always look for your team’s best scoring opportunity, on every play

This example is, by no means, intended to be all-inclusive.  It’s just a template and, perhaps a starting point — something to get you thinking and started.

It’s important to have a realistic understanding of your strengths and areas for improvement — to know where you are today, relative to your goal, and where you want to be tomorrow.  The time and effort it takes to invest in your self-development and self-improvement is up to you.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The 4 “A”s of Success for Student-Athletes

7 Nov

First of all, thanks to Athlete Motivation for sharing this, on Twitter.  I’d like to take their tweet and expand on it.

We work with hundreds of athletes at our facility — from scholastic, collegiate, and professional levels.  By far, our highest concentration comes to us from the high school and college ranks.

To a one, the most successful student-athletes with whom we work live and breathe the “4 ‘A’s of Success.”  They are capable, responsible students who work hard — both on and off the court/field — to be the best athletes they can be.  They understand that their ultimate success in school and sports is actually developed away from the classroom and gym or field.  Their practice habits and willingness to prepare are “a cut above” the average student-athlete.

  1. Academics.  Hit the books and make your studies a priority.  I don’t care how talented an athlete you are, academics are the conduit to your future.
  2. Athletics.  Work to develop your sport-specific skills to the best of your ability.  Improve your strength, speed, agility, and overall athleticism.  Dedicate yourself to become a student of the game.  Commit yourself to contribute to the success of your team however you can.
  3. Attitude.  I could go on and on about the impact of positive thinking.  Believe in you.  Approach each day as a new opportunity to improve yourself and be successful.  Be happy and smile… a lot.
  4. Achievement.  There’s nothing better than a sense of accomplishment.  Goal setting and action planning are important components of the achievement process.  Ultimately, action is probably the most important element — you’ve got to work your plan.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Nutrition 101 for Student-Athletes

29 Oct

School days are often long days for student-athletes — early mornings, late evenings, and lots of activity during the day.  This can present some challenges, as it relates to nutrition.

The “3 square meals” philosophy is an antiquated notion for everyone, most of all active individuals and athletes.  It takes a little planning and preparation, but it’s important to keep your body adequately fueled throughout the day, and that means eating (meals and/or snacks) frequently and avoiding prolonged periods between meals and/or snacks.  (Please refer to my blog post, 6 Simple Nutrition Rules for Athletes)

There are two times of day that are especially important to ensure that you’re fueling your body:

  • Mid-morning, between breakfast and lunch.  Many student-athletes have 5-6 hours between breakfast and lunch — too long.  A mid-morning snack can help bridge the nutrition gap between the first two meals of the day.
  • After-school, between lunch and dinner.  Many student-athletes eat lunch between 11 AM and 12 Noon.  Because of after-school practices, games, etc., they may not have the opportunity to eat dinner until 6 PM or later — way too long.  An after-school snack (or small meal) can provide the body with the energy it needs for rigorous, high-intensity after-school activity, while bridging the nutrition gap between lunch and dinner.  (Please refer to my blog post, Bridging the Nutrition Gap Between Lunch and Dinner for the Scholastic Athlete)

Set yourself up for success and take care of your body by eating smart.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Fat is not the Enemy

22 Oct

A few decades ago, “low-fat” and “fat-free” were all the rage.  The “experts” decided that dietary fat reduction would reduce obesity and heart disease.  Even the American Heart Association got behind this initiative.

Ironically, obesity rates and heart disease prevalence did not improve with a low-fat diet and, in fact, got worse.  That’s because eating fat doesn’t make us fat, but carbs and sugars do.  And, unfortunately, words like “low-fat” and “fat-free” often translate to “loaded with sugar.”

Additionally, our “super-size” mentality doesn’t help (nor does a sedentary lifestyle).  Portion control (or lack thereof) — overeating — remains a significant challenge in our country.

I’m not suggesting that we should increase our fat consumption, especially people who have health risks like high cholesterol, but certainly awareness and education are warranted.

Here’s an article — 5 Reasons why you need more fat in your diet — that provides some perspective.  Ultimately, fats and carbs have a different effect on the body and its propensity to store fat, and eating fat won’t necessarily make us fat; all fats (saturated, unsaturated) are not created equal; and moderation is still the key.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Responsibility. Authority. Accountability.

15 Oct

For many of us, at some point in our lives, fall means sending a child to college.  I thought it was timely that a good friend shared an article with me — Is Someone You Love Going to College? Their Success Depends on Three Words.

Obviously, the “three words” can be found in the title of my blog post: responsibilityauthority, and accountability.  And, while the advice shared by the article’s author is directed at college students (and those of us sending kids to college), it really applies to all of us, whether we are students, athletes, business professionals, etc.

The article does a nice job reinforcing the fact that, ultimately, your success depends on you.  Winners know that their successes and setbacks are directly attributable to their actions and efforts.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

7 Coffee Facts You Need to Know

8 Oct

Apparently, Saturday, September 29 was National Coffee Day.  I missed it.

I’ve touted the benefits of coffee and caffeine in past articles and blog posts (Please see Coffee, Caffeine, and Exercise, among others).  Here’s an informative article from The Ladders’ Meredith Lepore.  Read it with your daily cup of java.

It seems like every day there is a new study telling us either that coffee is slowly killing us, making us healthier, making us smarter, making us dumber, helping us grow wings, etc., However there are a number of studies that have come out recently that reveal some very interesting facts about your daily cup of joe. In honor of National Coffee Day, this Saturday, check out these 7 facts about coffee.

It can make everyone you work with so much more appealing

A recent study that appears in the Journal of Psychopharmacology finds that if you have coffee before a conversation it will actually make you focus better and feel better about the people you are talking to. “The study was conducted using people who consume coffee regularly,” said study author Vasu Unnava. “For these people, it looks like coffee does make them feel more alert, focuses their thinking on the topic or task at hand, and has them participate more in group tasks. So, if you are a coffee drinker, it looks like coffee helps you do better in group tasks.”

The ideal time to drink coffee is actually four hours after you wake up

Though many of us can only get out of bed on the basis of knowing that a hot cup of coffee will be running through our bloodstreams within the hour, that is not actually when you should drink it if you want to maximize the benefits of caffeine. According to Laura Cipullo, registered dietitian and author of Women’s Health Body Clock Diet, you should have your first cup about four hours after you wake up. You are actually naturally alert when you wake up (even though it doesn’t feel like it) because your cortisol levels are high. So drinking caffeine on top that status is just going to make the drop even harder a few hours later.

It will extend your lifespan

In a study of 9 million British male and female adults, coffee drinkers had a slightly lower risk of death over 10 years (10 to 15%) than those who didn’t drink it regularly according to study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Another study that took place over 10 years found that people who had four cups of coffee per day had a 64% lower risk of dying during the study than those who never drank it.

It won’t dehydrate you

Though coffee gets a bad rap it will not dehydrate you! Caffeine can keep you more hydrated than other liquids because you are usually drinking it with a volume of fluid like iced coffee or tea. A 2014 study found that there was zero evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake.

It can help you lose weight

According to a study out of the Netherlands, caffeine can increase your metabolic rate by as much as 11% and only three hours after you consume it.

It helps with memory

In addition to making you more alert, it can help you improve your memory according to a French study. But the best way to reap the memory benefits are by drinking it black (no sugar, creamer, etc.,) In addition to helping with memory it also can make you more intelligent, cleanse your gut, help your heart, improve your workouts, etc.

It can fend off diseases

A new study from the Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center found that consumption of coffee (both regular and decaf) is associated with a lower risk of developing colon cancer. Another study found that coffee can have some preventative qualities against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It can even fight against the onset of Parkinson’s.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Are You Overtraining?

1 Oct

A well-designed, periodized Strength & Conditioning program directs training strategies and recovery activities throughout the athlete’s off-season, pre-season, and in-season phases, to optimize performance and minimize fatigue.

But training doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and athletes often have to balance other factors, such as school-based team training/workouts, open gyms, etc. (not to mention family obligations, homework, studying, and part-time jobs)

Currently, my high school boys and girls basketball players train with me 2-3 days a week.  They are also expected to participate in “voluntary” team-based Strength & Conditioning activity at their schools (a discussion for another day) – usually 2 days a week – and 2-day-a-week open gym workouts.

So how much is enough and how much is too much?

Here’s a resource – An Overtraining Scale – from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Strength and Conditioning Journal that provides some insight into the subject of overtraining.

 

It’s important to understand that you shouldn’t “pre-determine” your training activity, relative to time off training.  For example, don’t make a decision to skip your Saturday workout just because you have a practice scheduled for Friday, without knowing how you’re going to feel Friday or Saturday.  This is where mental discipline becomes important.

Also understand that you’re going to have to work hard to achieve your goals.  You’re going to have to (reasonably) work through some fatigue – both mental and physical.  That’s how champions are made.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Take Your Plank to the Next Level

24 Sep

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we really like the plank exercise and several of its variations.  Unlike traditional crunches and situps, the plank — done correctly — engages, strengthens, and stabilizes your entire core, shoulders to hips (and they’re easier on the back and hips).

I recently found this article titled, 47 Plank Variations for a Killer Core, which provides beginner, intermediate, and advanced level variations of this versatile, bodyweight exercise.

Check it out and give ’em a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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