Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Is Coke a Good Source of 'Fuel' for Endurance Athletes?

Pictured here is Björn Suneson, of Sweden, who is currently running all alone across America. I was fortunate to be able to spend about 45 minutes with him a couple of weeks ago when he was in Indiana. While chatting, I noticed a two-liter Coke container on the support stroller he's pushing. I've followed Björn's running adventures for several years and am well aware that he enjoys drinking coke – both while on the road running and after getting done with his daily miles. I, however, have never been one to drink a carbonated drink while on a run.

The benefits of drinking a caffeinated, high-sugar beverage, such as Coke, toward the latter part of an endurance event, are well documented. Research from many institutions has shown that it helps mobilize fats and sugar into the bloodstream, making it available for use by the athlete, which should improve endurance performance.

However, not everyone's body responds favorably to ingesting caffeinated cola during exercise. Some athletes who are particularly caffeine-sensitive, or ingest excessive amounts of caffeine in any form, will experience negative effects like jitteriness, gastrointestinal distress, and the need to urinate more.

When I did my ultra-endurance runs across states/countries, I used two sources of liquid fuel – water and Gatorade. That's it! I did drink some caffeinated colas after logging my daily miles, but water and Gatorade were primarily my liquid fuel of choice, especially when I was actually putting the rubber to the road. Björn does drink Gatorade and water as he is striding down the road, but unlike me... he likes to include Coke as well.

Increasing numbers of athletes are using Coke to fuel their exercise – and are reporting that it works. Researchers at the Australian Institute of Sport surveyed 11 of the 19 men's cycling teams participating in the U. S. Professional Championships and found that in six of those 11 teams, every single athlete ingested Coke during races. In four other teams, roughly two-thirds of the riders drank Coke. Only one team was Coke-free. Usually, Coke was consumed during the last half of the competitions, which lasted for two to six hours.

Reports show that Coke's carbohydrate content is at about 11 percent, which is considered slightly too high for a sports beverage (exercise scientists have identified 5 to 9 percent as the optimal range for sports-drink carbohydrate concentrations; beyond 9 percent, gastric emptying is retarded, and water may even be dragged into the stomach to dilute the excess carbs, robbing tissues and blood of fluid). Also, Coke offers little in the way of electrolytes, and its carbonation is thought to increase the risk of gastric upsets during exercise. Finally, Coke’s acidic content and artificial colors make it something that some athletes choose to avoid.

Research shows that Coke’s carbohydrate can keep muscles working as glycogen levels decrease, and if Coke is mixed half-and-half with Gatorade (which some athletes do), the resulting mixture possesses a carbohydrate content of about 8.6–8.7 percent, which is within the optimal range of carbohydrate concentrations. Finally, Coke's caffeine cannot be overlooked (a 12-ounce can of Coke has between 30 and 45 mg of caffeine). Caffeine has been shown to be performance-enhancing in a variety of different studies.

With that said, I lift a can of Coke to salute Björn on his running into the state of Nebraska yesterday. You're almost to the halfway point. Well done!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Are You Drinking Enough Water?

Over half of your body is made up of water. According to, water comprises 60% of adult males, 55% of adult females, 65% of children, and 75% of infants. Most of the body's water is in the intracellular fluid (2/3 of the body's water). The other third is in the extracellular fluid (1/3 of the water). According to a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the amount of water in the human heart and brain is 73%, the lungs are 83%, muscles and kidneys are 79%, the skin is 64%, and the bones are around 31%.

Water is the primary building block of cells and acts as an insulator, regulating internal body temperature. Water is needed to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates used as food, and is the primary component of saliva -- used to digest carbohydrates and aid in swallowing food. Water lubricates joints, acts as a shock absorber, and insulates the brain, spinal cord, organs, and fetus. Water is used to flush waste and toxins from the body via urine and is the principal solvent in the body. It dissolves minerals, soluble vitamins, and certain nutrients. Also, water carries oxygen and nutrients to cells. Water plays a vital role in the body's regulation, protection, and function.

When I was running solo across America in temperatures that were typically around the 100-degree mark, I would drink at least two gallons of water on a 35-mile day as my body exerted tremendous energy covering the distance while pushing a jogging stroller averaging 65 pounds in weight. Even at the office, I drink water regularly and it is the only form of liquid I drink during the work day. The percent of water in your body depends on your hydration level. People feel thirsty when they have already lost around 2-3% of their body's water. Mental performance and physical coordination start to become impaired before thirst kicks in, typically around 1% dehydration.

So, how much water should you drink each day? There are many different opinions! The health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember. However, there is also a way to calculate how much water you should drink daily based on your weight. For instance, a 200 pound man and 100 pound woman require different amounts of water every day. To figure out how much water to drink each day based on your weight, I've read that you multiple your weight by 2/3 (or 67%). For example, if you weigh 190 pounds, you multiple that by 2/3. That would mean that you should be drinking about 127 ounces of water every day (or 1 gallon). If you want to adjust that number based on how often you work out -- since you are expelling water when you sweat -- you should add 12 ounces of water to your daily total for every 30 minutes that you work out. As an example, if you work out for 45 minutes daily, you would add 18 ounces of water to your daily intake.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

New "Active Shooter" Video Game Uses School Environment

According to a recent poll, ten percent of Americans (32 million people) consider themselves "Gamers." Last year, a study published in Molecular Psychiatry stated that people who play action video games that involve first-person shooters, such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, experience shrinkage in a brain region called the hippocampus. That part of the brain is associated with spatial navigation, stress regulation and memory. Playing Super Mario games, in which the plumber strives to rescue a princess, had the opposite effect on the hippocampus, causing growth in it.

In recent years, scientists have done dozens of studies looking to see if playing video games affects people's health and behavior. There is some evidence that video games may improve people's visual short-term memory and eye-hand coordination. Five months ago, Newsweek featured an article which stated that playing video games for a 12-hour streak could be a mental health problem, and Forbes reported that the World Health Organization is adding gaming disorder to a beta draft of its International Classification of Diseases.

According to the draft, gaming becomes more than just a hobby when you’re unable to control how often you play or can’t seem to stop even after battling it out for hours on end -- the game often taking over your life and gets in the way of everyday activities. And despite any negative consequences, like getting fired for too many skipped work days, people who have the disorder can’t stop themselves from playing. The draft states, "The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behavior may be continuous or episodic and recurrent."

The International Classification of Diseases, or ICD, is used by health professionals globally and serves as an international standard for defining health conditions and diseases. The 11th edition includes this new gaming disorder.

Last week, a Fortune magazine headline caught my attention. It reads, "Upcoming Video Game Lets You Play as a School Shooter." With all of the tragic school shootings that have been taking place, I shook my head in disbelief as I read the headline -- and felt sick at the same time. "Active Shooter" is slated to go on sale June 6 on the Steam digital distribution platform. The game describes itself as a simulation of an active shooter situation, where players can opt to be either the killer or the SWAT team tasked with neutralizing the situation. Screenshots from the game show attacks taking place in both an office and school environment.

Active Shooter will be sold for between $5 to $10 and is being highly criticized by gamers on social media and it is reported that the developer appears to be hoping that the controversy will boost sales. Yesterday, CNN reported that parents of slain students of school shootings -- as well as the general public -- are outraged about the video game. However, Fortune magazine reported, "Video games are protected under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in 2011. And while some can be hyper-violent, few developers push this far beyond the line of good taste."

As a father of four children, a Christian, a former 5th grade teacher, and a man who despises shootings as those promoted by this latest video game... please, do not support the sale of the "Active Shooter" video game or the Steam platform, which is owned by Valve Corporation -- a video game developer based in Washington state. The game was developed by Revived Games and published by a Russian company called Acid. Please, boycott those companies.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 25, 2018

Arlington, Virginia Ranked as Fittest City in America for 2018

The results are in! The 2018 American Fitness Index report from the American College of Sports Medicine ranked the 100 largest U.S. cities on health and fitness. Rankings are based off of cities' overall scores, which include data on fitness, nutrition, chronic disease, smoking, mental health, access to parks and public transportation.

Based on the report, Arlington, Virginia is America's fittest city, taking the top spot with a score of 77.7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, took last position with 26.3.

8St. PaulMN70.2
9San JoseCA69.8
14San FranciscoCA67.3
16San DiegoCA66.4
23St. PetersburgFL60.4
24Colorado SpringsCO58.1
30Virginia BeachVA56.9
35Chula VistaCA55.3
39Long BeachCA54.8
40Santa AnaCA53.7
45New OrleansLA51.8
50Los AngelesCA48.9
52New YorkNY48.6
56Fort WorthTX47.6
57St. LouisMO47.4
63Las VegasNV45.1
67Baton RougeLA43.4
68San AntonioTX43.4
69Jersey CityNJ43.2
74Kansas CityMO41.5
77Corpus ChristiTX40.6
79 (tie)ColumbusOH40.3
79 (tie)El PasoTX40.3
84Fort WayneIN39.2
92North Las VegasNV34
100Oklahoma CityOK26.3
It should be noted that in the finer details of the report it shows that Madison, Wisconsin residents are the most active, with more than 90% saying they exercise regularly. However, Boise, Idaho has the biggest percentage of residents who meet aerobic fitness standards, and Plano, Texas, has the most residents who meet both aerobic and strength guidelines. Yet, it is Arlington, Virginia that the 2018 American Fitness Index report states is the fittest city in the USA.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso