Sound Bites: How To Rock Your Workout & Why To Love Chocolate, Nuts and Strawberries Even More

By Megan O. Steintrager

Missed some of the health updates in your news feed this week? Here’s what you need to know now:

DO THIS TO ROCK YOUR NEXT WORKOUT

You might already know from personal experience that a caffeine-laced coffee or tea (or gel or piece of gum, for that matter) can help boost your athletic performance — helping you go faster and harder and feel better while exercising. “Taken an hour or so before exercise, [caffeine] enables most athletes to run, bike, swim or otherwise perform a little faster or more vigorously than if they do not have caffeine first,” The New York Times explains. “Caffeine provides this boost by making it easier for muscles to burn body fat, of which we all have ample supplies. It also increases alertness, which seems to make exercise feel less strenuous.”

But here’s the exciting news for habitual caffeine consumers: Contrary to commonly accepted wisdom, new research suggests that you don’t have to abstain from caffeine in the days and weeks leading up to your athletic event to get the caffeine boost. In the study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, the majority of a group of endurance cyclists who were given a caffeine pill before exercise performed harder and faster than when given no pill or a placebo. Now, as the Times points out, there are many caveats: This study was on a group of young, super-fit men, so it’s hard to extrapolate how less fit or older men or women may be affected. In addition, big doses of caffeine can cause gastrointestinal distress, jitters, and other problems. There’s a reason runners and other athletes follow a strict Never Try Anything New on Race Day rule. That said, it might be worth experimenting with an occasional caffeine jolt on non-race days to see if your workouts benefit — then consider putting it into practice for a race or event. Read more about how to Fuel Your Workouts Like a Pro.

YET ANOTHER REASON TO EAT CHOCOLATE

Chocolate

The good news about our favorite treat just keeps coming: Eating chocolate might reduce risk for developing irregular heartbeat — a condition linked with higher risk for stroke and dementia, among other ills — a large new study has found. “Consuming moderate amounts of chocolate was associated with significantly lower risk of being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF) — a common and dangerous type of irregular heartbeat — in a large study of men and women in Denmark led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and in Denmark,” according to a press release from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Other studies have linked consumption of chocolate — the darker the better — with other heart benefits, including lower mortality from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Time to whip up a batch of Chocolate-Beet Allspice Truffles, we think.

GO NUTS FOR NUTS

Mixed nuts

As with chocolate and coffee, we really can’t get too much good news about nuts, which have been linked to benefits for just about every part of the body, including the brain and heart. Now comes a study that demonstrates that eating tree nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, and cashews), may cut the risk that colon cancer will return in survivors of the disease. In the study, performed by Dr. Temidayo Fadelu of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, “People who reported that they ate more than two ounces of tree nuts per week — about 19 percent of the study participants — had a 42 percent lower chance of cancer recurrence and a 57 percent lower chance of death than those who did not eat nuts,” Reuters reports. Add more tree nuts to your diet today with one of these 9 Delicious Pesto Recipes.

BERRY GOOD NEWS

Strawberries

It’s strawberry season in much of the country, and here’s another reason to enjoy the fruit: New research on mice has shown that strawberry extract can inhibit the growth of laboratory-grown breast cancer cells, Science Daily reports. While the scientists involved in the study point out that the results from animal studies cannot be extrapolated to humans, there are already plenty of good reasons to eat strawberries: The fruit is a great source of antioxidant polyphenols, fiber, and vitamin C. Go savory with your strawberries for dinner tonight with this Grilled Salmon with Strawberry-Avocado Salsa recipe.

A CANCER THAT FEEDS ON SUGAR

Less sugar

A new study has found that a certain type of lung cancer tumor — squamous cell carcinoma — is more dependent on sugar for its energy supply than other types, according to findings published in the journal Nature Communications. “The team at the University of Texas at Dallas were looking for simpler ways to tell one kind of cancer cell from another,” TODAY reports. “They discovered that squamous cell tumors — which account for about 25 percent to 30 percent of lung cancer tumors — slurp up more sugar than other types.” Researchers say it might be possible to starve the cancer cells through diet or through medical treatments that block a glucose-transporting protein. This new research adds to the body of evidence against excess sugar consumption: “Several other studies have indicated that people who consume more sugar have a higher risk of cancer — especially breast cancer and pancreatic cancer,” TODAY notes.

Hungry for more? Check out the latest health news.

Bio: Megan O. Steintrager holds a master’s in journalism from New York University and has been an editor and writer for Epicurious, Gourmet.com, TODAY, Food Network Magazine, and Zagat, among other outlets.


Originally published at Clean Plates.