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Category Archives: Health And Hygiene

Nutrition, chamois creams, performance products, and pain-relieving ointments for cyclists.

Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

Ingredients For Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

Ingredients For Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

Last a fall I was out on a long bike ride with a friend of mine when he asked me how much money I spent a month on the carbohydrate gels I use. It was a question I really hadn’t thought much about before, but after doing a few quick calculations in my head I was shocked. Most of the carbohydrate gels I use are organic (a word usually synonymous with expensive), and during most of the year I go through 30 packs a week which comes out to $180 a month (I am so glad my wife never looks at the American Express statements). After I got home I decided to see if I could find a way to cut my expenses by creating my own carb gels, and at the end of this article you will find a few recipes that I have used. However, before we get to the recipes I need to explain how to choose your ingredients (if you want to experiment on your own).

I am a distance cyclist and except for my winter rides in the snow I seldom take a ride of under two hours. On long rides I normally burn between 900 and 1,000 calories an hour (based on my weight and speed). As a result, I try to consume 300 calories an hour (including 60 grams of carbohydrates). I get 100 calories an hour from my sports hydration mix and the other 200 calories from carb gels (and bananas when available). Most commercial carb gels offer a mixture of both simple and complex carbs and have 100 calories, along with 20 to 30 grams of carbs, and cost anywhere from $1.20 to $3.00 per package. Store-bought energy gels also have about 45mg sodium and 35mg potassium per serving. Simple carbs give a quick shot of energy, while complex carbs provide a slower release of energy. If your gel is composed entirely of simple carbs you will feel a quick rush of energy, followed by a sinking feeling a few minutes later.

You can make your own carbohydrate gels with just a few inexpensive ingredients—and it will only cost you around .30¢ per serving! As a bonus, your gels will always be fresh and free from unwanted chemicals. Here is a quick breakdown of the main ingredients that I use in my gels…

Brown Rice Syrup has 65 calories per tablespoon (21g) and 16 grams of carbohydrates. Brown rice syrup has a Glycemic Index of 25 and is composed of about 50% complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose, and 3% glucose. I buy Now Foods Organic Brown Rice Syrup from a local grocery store (it’s in their health food department) and it sells for under $5 for a 16-ounce container.

Raw Honey is a 100% simple sugar and has a Glycemic Index of 58. Honey has 64 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 17 grams of carbohydrates. Simple sugars can elevate your blood sugar very quickly, so you don’t want to take too much at one time. By the way, make sure you buy raw honey and not the processed garbage that comes in the cute bear containers.

Light Agave Nectar has 60 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 16 grams of carbohydrates, with a Glycemic Index of 11. Maple Syrup has 53 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 13 grams of carbohydrates, with a Glycemic Index of 54. Blackstrap Molasses has 45 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 11g of carbohydrates, along with 15mg of sodium and 500mg of potassium. Blackstrap molasses has a Glycemic Index of 55. Since blackstrap molasses has a strong flavor you should probably start with just a bit of it and work your way up!

Now for the recipes—I wish I could take credit for all of these, but most of them are recipes that I’ve cobbled together from other cyclists. However, the first recipe is mostly mine and it is my favorite!

Blue Ribbon Butterscotch Candy

Mix 8 tablespoons brown rice syrup, 2 tablespoons light agave nectar, 1 tablespoon warm water, 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/4 tablespoon Morton Lite Salt Mixture, and about 1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt. This mixture provides about 100 calories per 1.5 tablespoon. A ¼ teaspoon of Morton Lite Salt Mixture has 290mg sodium and 350mg potassium (I use this as an easy way to get potassium into my gels). This is my favorite homemade gel—and as the name implies, it tastes like butterscotch candy (and is highly addictive).

Honey GOO Recipe

This recipe comes from HomeGOO, a company that sells incredibly low-priced flasks for carb gels. Mix 4 ounces of raw honey, one tablespoon organic blackstrap molasses, 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. This recipe will approximately fill a 6-ounce flask.

Down And Dirty

I don’t remember where I found this recipe, but it is very easy to make and has a mild taste. Mix 3/4 cup of brown rice syrup, 1/2 cup of agave nectar, 1/2 cup of raw honey, and 1/2 tsp of sea salt.

Finding A Flask

HomeGOO sells two different reusable flasks. The five-ounce Goo Flask is a 5.5 inch tall BPA free plastic container with a leak proof, push-pull valve. The flexible six-ounce Goo Flask is made from ultra-lightweight BPA free plastic and collapses as you consume the gel. It also has a push/pull drink spout with removable cap, though the cap really isn’t necessary. These bottles are easy to wash by hand and are dishwasher safe.

HomeGOO Flexible Reusable GOO Flask

HomeGOO Flexible, Reusable GOO Flask

HomeGOO sells the five ounce flask for only .99¢, which means that if you only used in one time you still saved money over the cost of buying prepackaged gels. The six-ounce flask sells for $3 and should last a very long time. If you are into endurance sports you owe it to yourself to try these flasks!

 

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Disease Proof by Dr. David Katz

Disease Proof by Dr. David Katz

Disease Proof by Dr. David Katz

Imagine if a pharmaceutical company introduced a drug that promised to cut your chances of contracting all diseases (including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease) by at least 80%? I imagine you would immediately have four questions: How much does it cost? What are the side effects? How can I get a prescription? And, How can I invest in the company? While such a drug is not available, you can achieve an incredible 80% reduction in your chance of developing a devastating disease by making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Disease Proof, a new book by preventive medicine specialist Dr. David Katz, provides a road map for making the diet and lifestyle changes that will “add years to life, and life to years.”

David Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, is a remarkable physician. He received his BA from Dartmouth College and his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. According to his website, Dr. Katz “helped develop and found one of the nation’s first combined residency training programs in Internal Medicine & Preventive Medicine, and formerly served as the program’s director. Dr. Katz currently co-directs a one-year post-doctoral residency program in Integrative Medicine at his center in Derby, CT.”

The basic premise of Disease Proof is that you can slash your risk of disease by making just four adjustments to your diet and lifestyle—don’t smoke, eat healthy foods, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. The book begins by analyzing the past 20 years worth of medical research and concludes, “the leading causes of death and disease are largely within our control because they result from what we do or don’t do with our feet, our forks, and our fingers—namely, whether they are physically active, consume a healthy diet, or smoke—on a daily basis.”

While it is true that some diseases are inherited (such as Huntington’s disease, sickle-cell anemia or cystic fibrosis), the truth is that eight out of ten serious illnesses could have been prevented by changes in diet in lifestyle. And the fact is that most medical doctors find that prescribing drugs is a lot easier than instructing patients on how to develop a healthy lifestyle—and I really don’t blame doctors for this sad state of affairs! Thirteen years ago my physical health was horrible—I was morbidly obese and suffered from a multitude of major medical problems. My family practice doctor would load me up with prescription drugs and send me on my way. When I hit my lowest point I decided to turn my life around. I am not a physician, but I do know how to thoroughly research a subject, so I started reading dozens of books on health, exercise and nutrition. Then I went on a healthy diet and started a serious exercise program. The next time I saw my doctor he said I looked fifteen years younger than the last time I was in his office, so I explained what I had done. Before I left his office I asked him, “Why didn’t you tell me to eat healthy and exercise?” He cracked a smile and said, “You know, after telling that to thousands of patients and having them all ignore me I guess I just gave up.” He was probably right—the vast majority of people have to hit bottom before they are willing to even consider changing their diet and lifestyle.

While Disease Proof does discuss DNA, genetics and the Human Genome Project, it is not a difficult book to read (medical jargon is kept to a minimum). “One of the eye-opening revelations provided by the Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003, is that the genes themselves don’t lead to disease. It’s the interaction of certain high-risk genes and unhealthy environmental influences (including poor diet, physical inactivity, and smoking) that combine to trigger disease.” Dr. Katz discusses how diet and exercise can literally change the behavior of our genes and how heart disease, cancer, stoke and diabetes are not really the cause of death, but rather “the results or effects of how people live.”

Over half of the book is spent on nutrition, and while it does not offer a strict Paleo diet, it is what I would call “Paleo friendly”, i.e., eat a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats and skip the pre-packaged garbage that makes up most of the typical American diet. Dr. Katz wisely observed, “The longer the shelf life of a food product (such as neon-orange cheese puffs), the shorter the shelf life of the person who consumes it regularly.”

I realize that most of the readers of this blog are probably already following a fairly healthy lifestyle, but I am certain you have a lot of family members who could use a bit of a nudge towards healthy living—this book would make a wonderful gift for them! The hardcover edition of Disease Proof retails for $26, but is available from Amazon.com for only $17. The Kindle edition sells for $12. This book was published in September of 2013 and was printed by Hudson Street Press (304 pages).

 

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Convenience Store Cuisine For Cyclists

As a distance cyclist I burn over 1,000 calories an hour while riding and some of my rides last up to seven or eight hours. I normally try to consume 300 calories an hour while riding, so on some rides I consume around 2,500 calories. Most carbohydrate gels provide 80 to 100 calories per package and there is no way I want to carry 20 or more gel packs in my jersey pockets—even if I used a top-tube bag to store some of the packages. In addition, I normally drink 16 to 20 ounces of a hydration mix per hour and carrying seven bottles with me would definitely slow me down! Therefore, I try to plan some of my routes so I can pass by a convenience store or two along the way so I don’t have to carry everything with me (but this is not always possible). So, considering the limited choice of foods available at most convenience stores, what products make the most sense for cyclists?

My friend Randy with two popular products for cyclists!

My friend Randy with two popular products for cyclists!

Bananas. My first choice of food at a convenience store is a simple banana! An average sized banana has 105 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrates, and 422 mg of potassium. In addition, bananas are very easy to digest. Unfortunately, very few of the convenience stores in my area sell bananas!

Fig Newton Bars. A single 2-ounce package of Nabisco Fig Newton Bars has 200 calories with 40 grams of carbohydrates. They also provide 220 mg of sodium, 115 mg of sodium and 2 grams of protein. Under normal circumstances I would never eat a Nabisco Fig Newton Bar since they also have white flour and high fructose corn syrup. However, when it comes to convenience store cuisine they are probably the best thing you can find in the store!

Raisins. A handful of raisins is packed with vitamins, electrolytes, anti-oxidants, and minerals—and they are a great source of energy! A one-ounce box of raisins has 84 calories and 22 grams of carbohydrates. They also will give you 210 mg of potassium.

Beef Jerky. Anna, a young lady ride with during the summer, convinced me to start eating beef jerky a couple of years ago on a really long, hot ride. I was hesitant at first, mainly because I thought beef jerky wouldn’t digest as easily as the food I normally eat on a ride. However, a one-ounce package of Jack Link’s Peppered Beef Steak Jerky has 130 calories, along with 26 grams of protein and 1470 mg of sodium. Since there are only 1.5 grams of fat in a package of beef jerky it does not negatively impact digestion while cycling. By the way, I normally try to start consuming a bit of protein about two hours into any bike ride anyway.

Gatorade. When I leave home for a bike ride my water bottles are filled with Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix, a drink mix developed by Allen Lim, PhD, a sport scientist and former coach for a professional cycling team. I try to take enough packages of the Skratch powder with me so I can fill all the water bottles I need on a ride—all I need is a couple of bottles of plain water at the store. However, if you don’t use Skratch then you might want to try Gatorade. A 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade has 130 calories and 34 grams of carbohydrates. Each bottle also has 270 mg of sodium and 80 mg of potassium.

Natural String Cheese. Here is another product that Anna convinced me try during a long bike ride. Personally, I really didn’t like it, but for those of you on a high-protein diet it might be a good choice. A one-ounce stick of Kraft Natural Mozzarella String Cheese has 80 calories and 7 grams of protein.

A shelf full of high fructose corn syrup and chemicals

A shelf full of high fructose corn syrup and chemicals

Whatever convenience store cuisine you decide to buy you need to look at the label first and see if the product is in agreement with your overall health plan. Some of the “healthy looking” bars are simply garbage—they are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and more chemicals than you’ll find in a high school chemistry class!

What’s your favorite package of convenience store cuisine?

 

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Penguin Brands Sport-Wash

Penguin Brands Sport-Wash for cycling clothing

Penguin Brands Sport-Wash

It doesn’t take a long bike ride to leave your clothes smelling like a locker room. The moisture wicking fabrics used in cycling clothing does a great job at moving moisture away from the body, but they can’t move odor-causing bacteria out with it. The bacteria left on your clothing reproduces incredibly fast and the odor it creates is not easily removed by normal laundry detergents. If you really want to keep your cycling clothing from stinking you need to wash it in Sports-Wash by Penguin Brands, Inc.

Sports-Wash is an unscented, biodegradable laundry detergent that reduces odors and prevents color fading. It is also residue-free and non-allergenic. In addition, it restores the factory-applied Durable Water Repellent (DRW) finish to clothing.

Sports-Wash is also notable for what it does not contain. It contains no bleach, fabric softeners, or scent. I have noticed a slight smell as the clothing is being washed, but it rinses right out and leaves no residue.

Penguin Brands, Inc. claims that Sports-Wash will remove blood and grass stains. Fortunately, I have not had the opportunity to test this claim, so I will have to take their word for it.

My dear wife is kind enough to hand-wash all of my cycling clothing (yes, I am a lucky man). She uses one capful of Sports-Wash per sink full of dirty clothing. Sports-Wash retails for $18 for a 42-ounce bottle. I buy Sports-Wash at a local Dick’s Sporting Goods store, but it is also available on Amazon.com. Sports-Wash is more expensive than normal laundry detergent, but your expensive cycling clothing will last a lot longer if you wash it in a quality product like this.

 

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Muscle Pain? Try Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel

Biofreeze is a topical analgesic I use to help me deal with muscle aches and occasional problems like Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. A lot of people use Biofreeze for arthritis, but since I don’t have arthritis I really can’t tell you how well it works for that.

You have probably heard of cryotherapy before (the application of cold to temporarily relieve pain). Biofreeze is applied directly to the skin and works in a similar fashion to an ice pack, except that with an ice pack your movements are severely restricted. The active ingredient in Biofreeze is menthol (which is also responsible for its pleasant smell).

You can buy Biofreeze in different forms (gel, spray, wipes) and sizes. I purchased the gel in a 32-ounce bottle with a built-in pump. A few years ago I bought an ultrasound unit to help me deal with plantar fasciitis. The physical therapist who taught me how to use the machine suggested I apply Biofreeze just before I had ultrasound therapy. This combination really seemed to work well for me. If you read the reviews for this product that people leave on Amazon.com it seems like everyone is extremely happy with this product (it has a five-star rating which is something you don’t see very often in Amazon’s product reviews).

Biofreeze is available without a prescription, but you will probably have to visit a chiropractor or physical therapist to buy it locally since it is usually not available at pharmacies or regular retail outlets. However, Amazon.com has it in a variety of sizes. Here are the best prices I’ve found: A 4-ounce tube retails for $20, but they have it for $8, while a 32-ounce bottle retails for $90, but they have it for just $41. It is also available in individual packages—a box of 36 5-gram travel packs retails for $25, but they it for about half that price.

 

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Nair Shower Power For Men (II)

Nair Shower Power For Men Hair Remover

Nair Shower Power For Men

I wrote this article two years ago, but since spring is finally here I thought it was worth reprinting since a lot of guys will be doing some manscaping real soon…

Sorry ladies, but this product review is not for you. There is nothing in this post that would be of the least bit of interest to you. Please do yourself a favor and skip this post and come back next week.

OK guys, now that the ladies are out of the room, let me tell you how lucky we are. Guys often joke about the reason their wife or girlfriend is in a bad mood. I have decided that female mood swings have nothing to do with hormones—they are just ticked off by the fact they have to shave their legs!

I’ve been cycling for ten years and had never thought about shaving my legs until this year. There are many reasons cyclists shave their legs, such as making your legs easier to massage, easier clean-up when you crash, and sometimes just to make your muscles pop. I decided to shave my legs so I could use embrocation creams when I ride in the rain or in cold weather (I like the DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream).

My legs are about as hairy as Bigfoot, so I trimmed them with a body groomer first. The very thought of shaving my legs with a razor conjured up images of the bloody shower scene in Scarface. So, I decided to skip the razor and take the easy route with Nair Shower Power For Men. This is a chemical product (like lye) that you apply to your legs, wait a few minutes, and then wash off the chemicals (and your leg hair) in the shower. The directions are easy to follow and if you follow them correctly most of your leg hair will be gone. However, along with the hair you are also going to lose a layer of skin and have chemical burns that make you look like you’ve worked in a damaged Japanese nuclear reactor. In addition, the next day you will probably have red bumps all over your legs due to ingrown hairs.

A 5.1 ounce tube of Nair Shower Power For Men sells for around $10 and is good for about two applications. I’ve used this product twice and will not be trying it again.

After talking with other cyclists I decided to try another product, Nair For Men Body Cream. This product is about half the price of Nair Shower Power For Men and is a bit easier on your skin, but still nothing I would recommend—too many ingrown hairs.

Finally, I decided to just shave my legs with a disposable razor. However, since I did not want ingrown hairs I shaved them with a Bump Fighter Razor, a product usually used by African-American men to prevent ingrown facial hairs. This product worked like a charm! The Bump Fighter Razor is not sold everywhere—I found mine at a local CVS Drugstore and then ordered the refills from Amazon.com. In addition to being a great razor the Bump Fighter Razor is a lot cheaper than Gillette Mach 3 razors and gives a better shave and I haven’t had an ingrown hair since I started using them.

 

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Andy Pruitt’s Complete Medical Guide For Cyclists

Complete Medical Guide For Cyclists

Complete Medical Guide For Cyclists

I live in the far-north suburbs of Chicago and some of the greatest medical schools in the nation are located just a short drive from my house. I’ve been able to a lot of spend time with several young medical students and I have to tell you they are the brightest people I’ve ever met in my life! However, as brilliant as these med students are, they are never going to learn everything about medicine (and they will all quickly tell you that). Even physicians who have practiced for many years will sometimes have trouble diagnosing conditions they are not familiar with. Unless your physician specializes in sports medicine they are probably ill-equipped to deal with some of the routine problems cyclists encounter. The one book that has helped me more than anything else with medical and physical problems related to cycling is Andy Pruitt’s Complete Medical Guide For Cyclists.

While the title of the books says “complete medical guide” it really deals more with “physical therapy” than with medicine, but that is fine with me—diagnosing medical problems from just reading a book a few entries on WebMD can be rather dangerous.

The first four chapters of this book deal with how to properly fit your bike by adjusting saddle position, handlebar position and cleats (or pedals). In my opinion, the majority of medical problems cyclists encounter begin a poorly fit bike. Pruitt explains how to find your ideal position on the bike and this alone is worth the price of the book.

The second section of the book deals with “Remedies For Cycling Injuries” and it covers the majority of things that cause us pain, such as patellar tendonitis, back pain, Achilles tendonitis, carpel tunnel syndrome, saddle sores, and road rash. Pruitt not only explains the cause of these problems, but offers suggestions on how to overcome them.

The last section of the books deals with “Getting The Most Out Of Cycling” and discusses issues such as overtraining, weight loss, performance testing, developing a training program, stretching and rehabilitation.

While this book is very thorough, there are a few things it does not cover, such as cold weather cycling (something I tend to spend a lot of time doing). I have yet to find a book that deals specifically with winter cycling—most of what I know about this topic has come from trial and error (a lot of error) and from reading some of the “adventure cycling” books where experienced cyclists tell you about how they overcame problems with things like hypothermia and frostbite.

One section of the book I do disagree with is the chapter on “Health Maintenance” (chapter 15). Pruitt devotes just five short paragraphs to vitamin supplements and his basic opinion is that cyclists “get all the vitamins they need from their daily meals.” However, in the next chapter (“Aging and the Cyclist”) he does mention the need for older cyclists (you know who you are) to take omega-3 fatty acids, acetyl-L-carnitine and absorbable diindolylmethane (DIM) for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Reasonable people can disagree, but I am a firm believer in vitamin supplements—and if you don’t like the idea of taking supplements, well, don’t take them.

Andy Pruitt’s Complete Medical Guide For Cyclists is published by VeloPress and retails for $19, but you can find it on Amazon.com for around $12. This 6″x9″ paperback book is well illustrated with photographs throughout and has 224 pages. This book will benefit any cyclist, regardless of how long they have been cycling—from “weekend warriors” to distance cyclists.

 
 

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