Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Friday, March 25, 2011

Multivitamins No Benefit

Many people to choose to down a multivitamin daily because getting those extra vitamins and minerals is believed to offer some kind of health benefit.  However, to date there are no studies that show that long term use of multivitamins reduces risk of cancer, heart disease or any illness.

The promise of hope is a powerful motivator.

Even if there is strong evidence that multivitamins do nothing, many will be quick to dismiss the hard evidence and supplant it with traditional urban myth beliefs.  Kind of like believing in fairies.

Interestingly there is a lot of hard evidence that shows eating healthy food and exercising regularly does decrease risk of heart disease, cancers, and even the common cold.

So, pop a pill that does nothing at all, except increase the amounts of vitamins and minerals in your urine, or eat healthy and exercise?

If the outcome that motivates you is reduced risk of illness over a lifetime, then eating healthy and exercising regularly will provide you with that, but a multivitamin will not provide any additional benefits.

A recent study once again shows multivitamins do nothing. 182,009 study subjects were followed for 11 years.  28, 851 study subjects died during the 11 year follow up period.  There was no association with protection against cancer or cardiovascular diseases from use of multivitamins. (1)

There are definite exceptions for vitamin and mineral supplementation though.

We know that those living in northern latitudes, like us Canadians, will have reduced vitamin D levels as we progress into the winter season.  I take 4000 IU/ day of vitamin D between October and May every year.  I discussed my vitamin D intake with my physician.

Cancer Canada, Osteoporosis Canada, and Health Canada each have recommendations for vitamin D intake (click on links to find out).

As we age (generally above age 50-60) our GI may become less capable of absorbing some nutrients, like vitamin B12 and iron.  You'll have to talk to your physician about this.

Woman who may become pregnant are encouraged to take a folate and iron supplement; definitely talk to a physician about this.  Health Canada recommendations for prenatal nutrition.

Although athletes are a big target demographic to sell vitamin and mineral supplements to, eating healthy will provide all the nutritive needs of all athletes, generally a multivitamin will not help an athletes performance in any significant way (2, 3).  There may be an exception with ultra endurance athletes, those running huge volumes day after day in extreme competition (4)

Some endurance athletes who train too much can reduce iron and iron stores; this occurs more with female athletes than male athletes, but both genders are affected, and those who run are affected more than those who don't run. Running can cause destruction of red blood cells by literally pounding the crap out of blood cells in the capillaries in the soles of your feet.  Poor diet is also a contributor to what is referred to as "runners anemia" (microangiopathic hemolytic anemia).

This means some endurance athletes may need iron supplementation, but don't self prescribe, you need a doctor to do the appropriate blood work and dietary analyses in order to determine if you have anemia, what the cause is, and what course of treatment is best. Typical symptoms of runners anemia are fatigue and reduced performance that does not resolve with normal recovery periods.

It may be that many runners simply need to eat better and introduce more recovery into their exercise routines to prevent runners anemia.

(1) Multivitamin Use and the Risk of Mortality and Cancer Incidence

Multivitamins and athletes:

(2) The effect of 7 to 8 months of vitamin/mineral sup... [Int J Sport Nutr. 1992] - PubMed result

(3) Vitamin and mineral supplementation: effect on the... [Am J Clin Nutr. 1988] - PubMed result

(4) Multivitamin-mineral supplementation prevents lipi... [J Am Coll Nutr. 2007] - PubMed result

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Going Green; Don't be Naive

It's fair to shop for organic or natural if that's what you want.

A couple things to consider, if something is actually organic or natural, whatever those terms are supposed to mean, is it actually better?   Maybe, but a lot of the time there is no additional nutritional benefit to organic foods.  There are some exceptions. Strawberries and blueberries when grown organically have been shown to contain more antioxidants and slightly more vitamins.  The organic strawberries also had longer shelf life than conventionally grown.  There are fewer pesticides on organic fruits and veggies so if that's a concern for you organic makes sense.

The largest benefits come from choosing whole foods over processed foods, not from choosing organic over conventionally grown.  You're better off buying dry beans and cooking them yourself rather than buying canned bean soup, as most canned soups are super high in sodium and may have added sugars and fats for flavouring.

Making your own dinner from scratch tastes better and is more nutritious than buying a processed frozen dinner.

That's food, what about products like diapers, shampoo's and cleaning products? Can you trust the label that says "organic" and or "natural"?

CBC's Marketplace busts a few companies who's "natural" and "organic" labels don't represent what you might think they do.

Check out the link

CBC - Videos - /


What do I buy personally?  I always buy the big container of organic spinach.  Why?  It's cheaper than the other spinach.  It pays to buy in volume.

When organic broccoli is the same or cheaper price than regular I buy organic, otherwise I buy regular.  Organic broccoli is on sale often.

I'll only buy organic strawberries.

I buy local unprocessed honey directly from the bee keeper/ honey guy (Winnipeg MB) (John Russell Honey)

When I don't make my own bread I buy organic because it has no artificial sweeteners or flavours. I don't like the idea of fake stuff in my food.  If you can't make your product without fake stuff, then your product doesn't measure up on it's own- that's my opinion.

I look for food products with no or minimal processing, no trans fats, low sodium, and no artificial flavours or colours.  Most of what I eat is whole foods.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring and Summer Are On The Way; Hello Exercise Injuries

Ahh spring.. Birds singing, fresh air that doesn't freeze your face off, the sweet sound of snapping tendons, and cry's of agony from athletes sustaining muscle injuries.

While most Canadians, in fact most people around the entire globe, don't exercise much, there is still a small steady growth in people who do exercise who are starting to get more interested in taking their fitness to a higher level.

Whether a high school or university athlete or a 30 to 60 something recreational athlete, more of the active crowd are taking part in more demanding exercises. Which is great.  It feels really rewarding to experience the fitness gains from high performance training.

For the general exerciser, spring and summer see more physical activity than winter.

In Canada leisure-time physical activity is 86% more likely in the summer than in the winter. (1)

My most difficult challenge as a coach is not getting sports enthusiasts and athletes to put time into training, the challenge is getting them to recognize when to go easier and placing importance on mastering the basics, avoiding overreaching, and injury prevention.

Here are some interesting stats:

  • High school students who play sports all year long have a 42% increase risk of overuse injury, and potentially had the greatest reduction in injury risk by taking one season completely off from sports each year. (2)

  • 1st year college/ university swimmers were more likely to become injured than later year college/ university swimmers. The reason is thought to be too rapid of a transition to more demanding training and competition. (3)

  • Pro rugby players have significantly more injuries when they did more strength training or more field training. (4)

  • Overuse (training too much) accounted for 68% of preseason and 78% of competition season injuries in triathletes (5), and a training volume of around 8-10 hours per week seemed to be associated with fewer injuries compared to greater or fewer training hours for triathletes (6). 

This spring, whatever activity you're into, put a lot of that enthusiasm into easy and progressive basic training.  It's a slow start, but if we can learn to associate the reward of greater future performance, we can really connect with the value of a progressive long term plan.  Go easy now so can you can go harder later, when it means more.

Muscle strength imbalances are very common, and cause plenty of performance and movement impairments.  These strength imbalances are insidious; we don't really feel them, and most people don't really know what they are and are aloof to these gremlins doing dirty deeds affecting hip mechanics, core stability, and muscle coordination.

The first step is getting assessed.  Look for a coach or trainer who knows how to do a movement screen or basic technique analyses.  They'll run you through a series of movement challenges to look for knees going the wrong way, lumbar and pelvis instability, and poor movement patterns due to either strength imbalances, old bad habits, old injuries, or insufficient range of motion (inflexibility).

Your exercise plan will then be built on the results of these tests with the goal of progressing you from the prehab/ rehab stage, to full on performance training.  Be ready to devote up to 8 months or more to this process before really hitting training hard on all cylinders.

Yes, 8 months or more.  I know.. I just lost 95% of people who may have been buying into this.

"I don't have 8 months.  The season starts in 8 weeks".  The only real response I can provide that has any resonance or reason are the research results I've linked here.  They all demonstrate that training too much too soon results in injury, and that more focus should be placed on building gradually as performance allows.

We've developed a consumer mentality towards increasing performance.  We think we can demand someone sell us a program that supplants the longer path to performance with a short cut.  We're so accustom to this we now think the short cuts are the real deal and the idea of long term gains is an uninformed concept.  The thing is we can't apply our consumer demands to our DNA or our cells biological processes that dictate adaptation to exercise.

We can use our consumer power to get a lower price for buying more volume, or even go high end and demand a product be custom made to our ideal demands. But that only works for things that can be easily formed the way we want.  Human biology on other hand is what it is.  You can't lay down $100.00 and expect muscle cells to absorb the money and subsequently get bigger or stronger.

You could argue that for dopers this is sort of how it works; they buy illegal drugs that do manipulate the natural response to exercise.  But for the rest of us it's up to us learn the natural capacity of our bodies to respond to exercise then model our exercise based on that understanding.  We have to be humble enough to accept that this is the way it is, and also disciplined and excited enough to reap the benefits of the long term approach.

There is a limited sweet spot for training intensity and progress that our cells can respond to.  Go beyond that, and we're simply exceeding our cells ability to adapt and no matter how loud a trainer yells at your muscles, or how much you paid for the latest training gimmick, it won't do a damn thing.

Let's step back from that and tune into how fit we really are or aren't, learn about our specific strengths and weaknesses, and follow a long term injury and overuse resistant program.

I've seen it over and over: six to eight months of correcting muscle imbalances and getting back to basics catapults a persons following seasons to a higher level of performance.  Nothing motivates like success and once we get passed this current trend of over-doing it and experience the success that comes with healthy long term exercise plans, more of us will be motivated to take it easy more often.

Taking it easy when it counts is what allows us to maximize performance when it counts.

1. Seasonal variation in leisure-time physical activi... [Can J Public Health. 2007 May-Jun] - PubMed result

2. Overuse injuries in high school athletes. [Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2010] - PubMed result

3. Injury patterns in Division I collegiate swimming. [Am J Sports Med. 2009] - PubMed result

4.  Relationship between training load and injury in p... [J Sci Med Sport. 2011] - PubMed result

5. Factors associated with triathlon-related overuse ... [J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2003] - PubMed result

6. Training patterns and sports injuries in triathlet... [J Sci Med Sport. 2004] - PubMed result

Monday, March 14, 2011

How's Your Sleep?

CJOB's Question of the day today;

Are you having trouble adjusting to the time change?

Go to the poll to vote and see the poll results.

Sleep depravation is a big problem; we know that being sleep deprived can make you a risk on the road as judgment and reaction time are impaired.

Not getting enough sleep is also connected to weight gain; not getting enough sleep increases hormones that make you feel hungry, and decrease hormones that make you feel full, influencing you to eat more.

Lack of sleep makes you less productive at work, and decreases the positive effects of exercise.

So when it comes to our annual "spring ahead" time change where we set our clocks one hour forwards, do we suffer all the ill effects of sleep depravation from missing one hour of sleep?

Only if you are already sleep deprived.  If you usually get all the restorative sleep you need (between 7.5 and 9.5 hours) then missing one hour will not cause any significant change in cognition or reaction time.

If you're like many people in the modern world though, and you regularly get only 5 to 6.5 hours of sleep, then for you knocking off another hour of sleep will take its toll.

An interesting factoid: when we take away schedules and clocks and observe natural sleep times, almost everyone will sleep for 9 to 10 hours.

"I'll sleep when I'm dead".  This axiom is used to defend reducing sleep time in an effort to increase the time we have to do whatever we do when awake.  We tend to dismiss the importance of sleep, feeling that sleep is an inefficient use of time.  Some will even feel guilty for getting "too much" sleep as from their perspective they've wasted time that could have been spent working.

It turns out our work time is more productive when we get the right amount of sleep as we make fewer errors and have greater problem solving capacity and creative prowess.

If we are sleep deprived or have one night of terrible sleep we can't simply catch up by sleeping in the next day.  It could take a week or more of healthy sleep to get us close to returning hormones to normal levels and reset our sleep clock.

Caffeine doesn't wake you up, the drug caffeine does not compensate for the health risks associated with lack of sleep, such as obesity, heart disease, and type two diabetes.

Caffeine withdrawal occurs every night a regular caffeine consumer sleeps.  By the time morning comes around one will feel they really need that morning cup.  Indeed, following through on the urge does make a person feel better, but this is only because of a dependance on caffeine.  Cut the regular coffee intake for a couple weeks and a person will no longer experience the strong feeling of needing the java jive because there is no caffeine withdrawal that instigates the urge for more of the drug.

The old fashioned, but evidence based advice still stands:

  • Go to bed at about the same time every night
  • Get around 8ish hours of sleep
  • Wake without an alarm

What?  Wake without an alarm?  Are you nuts?  I may be, but not in regards to this topic.  If we get enough healthy sleep and go to bed at the right time, we'll wake up without an alarm feeling rested.  We just have to go to bed early enough so the timing works out that we awake when needed.

Of course if we're not living in a cave we will need that alarm from time to time, but as much as possible if we wake without an alarm, we will have far more energy than any energy drink could ever provide us.

Interesting info from Stats Canada on sleep

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New Consumer Urine Test Could Show Overeating

Tanita working on hand-held gauge that shows who pigged out | The Japan Times Online

It's not out yet, but Japanese company Tanita Corp, makers of body fat scales, is working on a device that checks urine levels of sugars and other properties to check if you've consumed too much food.

Of course you could just look at what you ate..

US and Canada Obesity Rates Similar, Nobody Wins

Key findings from a recent study released by the CDC shows that 24.3 of Canadians are obese, and in neighbours to the south 32.6% of the population is obese.

Same deal; we eat too much and don't exercise enough.

Products - Data Briefs - Number 56 - March 2011