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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

So called “sports” drink advertising campaigns taut the benefits of drinking energy drinks for improved performance, concentration, and mood. However, like most marketing campaigns, as the old adage goes, if it seems to good to be true (energy in a bottle! Lose 30 pounds in 1 week!) it likely is too good to be true.

In his recent article, “The Downside of Energy Drinks – Negative Performance and Psychological Effects” published in ACSM’s Active Voice newsletter, Conrad Woolsey, Ph.D., CHES states that Energy drinks may actually cause long term energy depletion. Dr. Woolsey has published a number of studies regarding energy drink use and it’s effect on the nervous system and health in general. His findings are that that Energy Drinks can inhibit peak performance and that regular Energy Drink use will result in drinkers feeling tired, anxious, and depressed more of the time rather than energized and calm.

Caffeine Overdose?

According to Dr. Woolsey, of the over 500 brands of energy drinks now available, several contain 3-4 times the amount of caffeine (300+ mg/8 oz.) as standard energy drinks (80 mg/8 oz.) such as Red Bull.

Drinks like Spike and Redline also contain other herbal stimulants such as evodamine and yohimbine which are more powerful and dangerous than caffeine.

Energy Drinks: A New Addiction?

According to Dr. Woolsey, energy drinks work, much like drugs of addiction, “ by causing a large release and/or prolonged action of pleasure-reward neurotransmitters (dopamine/serotonin) and stress hormones (nor-adrenaline/adrenaline), which in turn provides a short term high followed by a low.”

In his research Dr. Woolsey found that “using energy drinks can raise pleasure-reward thresholds and damage neurotransmitter receptor sites. This results in more drug craving and/or thrill-seeking to satisfy homeostatic brain deficiencies and increases the chances of developing anxiety and depressive disorders.”

Prior research has shown that significant brain modeling occurs in adolescents all the way up to age 20. Young people under age 25 are also at risk for developing addictive personality traits and behaviors due to incomplete development of the memory (hippocampus), stress, and pleasure-reward systems of the brain with regular use of energy drinks.

In a randomly assigned double-blind placebo controlled study where Dr. Woolsey and his collagues tested energy drinks on a dynamic performance skill, they found performance improvements only when they examined a one-dimensional variables such as reaction time. But reaction time alone is not the only variable needed to coordinate multi-dimensional skills. In the study, performers perceived they were doing better, but actually made significantly more errors, due to being hyper-focused and/or over-aroused. Technical skills require precise timing and coordination and according to Dr. Wollesey’s studies, Energy Drinks can and often do reduce performance. As a sport psychology consultant, Dr. Woolsey regularly works with elite athletes whose performances suffer from using energy drinks, particularly in high-pressure situations.

Energy the Natural, Non-Addictive Way

The best way to feel energized and alert is to get a good nights sleep of about 7-8 hours. There is no substitute for a good night’s sleep, for you or for your children. Pouring caffeine into a sleep deprived person does not make up for the lack of sleep.

Another natural way to perk yourself up include avoiding dehydration by simply drinking enough water to stay hydrated. (Hint: If you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated.)

Finally, to keep energy levels constant, maintain steady blood sugar levels (without spikes or lows) by eating small meals at regular intervals (versus starving yourself and then binging on sugar or energy drinks to get you going). Sounds suspiciously like that whole “eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest and fluids” advice we’ve all heard before. Try it yourself and see how you feel.

And save the cost of expensive energy drinks, along with the cost of possible medical bills for anxiety, depression and addiction!

Buy Bottled Sleep By Sue Shekut

Am I really selling bottles of sleep? Of course not. If I could bottle sleep and sell it, I’d be a billionaire. But really, no one can bottle sleep. And if they could, would you have to buy a separate bottle for REM sleep and good dreams? (I’ll have a bottle of 8 hours of Sleep with a side order of good dreams?)

To read the complete article by Dr. Woolsey in Active Voice, click here.

Who is Conrad Woolsey and Why Should We Listen to Him?

Conrad Wolsey, PhD, CHES

Conrad Woolsey, PhD, CHES, is an Assistant Professor of Health and Human Performance at Oklahoma State University and a sport psychology consultant. His research areas include brain chemistry, addiction, positive health behavior change, health psychology and performance in athletes. He has authored publications and several research presentations related to this commentary1 including one at ACSM’s Annual Meeting and World Congress on Exercise is Medicine™, held in Baltimore in June 2010. For further information, contact the author by e-mail via his institutional website.

Studies by Dr. Woolsey on Energy Drinks

Woolsey, C. (in press, due for publication in October, 2010). Energy drink cocktails: A dangerous combination for athletes and beyond. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 54(3), December 2010

Woolsey, C., Waigandt, A., & Beck, N. (2010). Athlete energy drink use: Reported risk taking and consequences from the combined use of alcohol and energy drinks. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22(1), 65-71. Doi:10.1080/10413200903403224

Woolsey, C. (2010, March 18). Energy drinks: The new gateway drug. AAHPERD National Convention and Exposition in Indianapolis, Indiana. AAHE RCB Oral Session – New Challenges in Drug Use/Abuse Prevention and Intervention.

Woolsey, C., Martens, M.P., Beck, N.C. (2009). Understanding athlete brain chemistry and addiction. American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM Central States Regional Conference, Columbia, MO. November 6, 2009. Oral Presentation – 45 min.

Woolsey, C. & Kensinger, W.S. (2009, November 6). Exercise & energy drink use: Juiced jolts or risky sips? ACSM’s Central States Regional Conference, Columbia, MO. Oral Presentation – 45 min.

Woolsey, C. (2010, March 5). The effects of energy drinks and alcohol on brain development and psychological health. Achieving Wellness Through Community. Sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Norman, OK. Speaker- 60 minutes.

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Some Kills
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Today we have a guest post from Libery Kontranowski, a freelance writer and former pharmaceutical representative. Liberty has first hand experience representing a major smoking cessation product, Zyban.  Many of my friends and some clients have had good luck with Zyban and quitting smoking. So if you are a smoker or have someone in your life that still smokes, read on. (I am not affiliated with Liberty, Zyban or eDrugstore.md. I simply want to give my readers access to new information about smoking cessation!)

Note: Zyban does not work for everyone. If you try Zyban or similar products and have any adverse side effects, mood swings or feel depressed, contact your doctor immediately.

Quitting Smoking: Meds, Methods and Madness, Oh My!

By: Liberty Kontranowski

Quitting smoking is one of the hardest tasks to ever accomplish. But now that smoking is being banned in municipalities and public spaces, it’s a great time to kick the habit for good.

While you already know that smoking is dangerous to you and those around you (and even to those who visit your home, whether you light up in their presence or not), it’s important to realize that smoking is an addiction. Certain properties in nicotine have addictive qualities, and to be truthful, they are not all bad. Nicotine can help people focus, make them more alert and can soothe frazzled nerves. It’s the other stuff that cigarettes are made up of – the cancer-causing carcinogens – that are so harmful. In short, if nicotine could be bottled or manufactured without the rest of a cigarette’s components, we might all find ourselves racing out to buy some. Of course, that is not the case, so to prolong the health of your lungs, make quitting a priority.

In my previous life as a pharmaceutical sales rep, I had the pleasure of selling Zyban (buproprion). I say “pleasure” because on more than one occasion, I had physicians call me into patient rooms to give details about the medication right to the patient themselves. At first, it  was intimidating, but once I saw the genuine look of hope and relief wash over the patients’ faces, I knew I was making a difference.

Unlike nicotine patches, medications such as Zyban and Chantix do not deliver nicotine into the body, and quitters are allowed to smoke in the beginning of treatment. Once the medication reaches a steady state in the body, cravings are reduced little by little, to the point of none at all. This seems to be a particularly intriguing way to quit, since the quitter does not have to initially give up their cigarettes completely. As they find their cravings reduced, they feel a great sense of accomplishment and therefore tend to stick out the program – and are more successful in their effort to quit.

As an interesting side note, Zyban is actually a renamed version of Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant. In clinical studies for Wellbutrin, subjects reported the “side-effect” of fewer cravings for cigarettes, and thus the manufacturing company pursued FDA approval to repackage Wellbutrin with a support program and release it as Zyban for smoking cessation. What a great side-effect!

Now, while medications are wonderful choices for a lot of people, some folks try to avoid that road, or they save it for a last-ditch effort. That said, there are other ways a smoker can attempt to quit:

Cold Turkey – This is simply quitting altogether without cutting back, using medications, etc. If you’re a very strong-willed person, or if you’ve recently been diagnosed with an illness or disease that is directly affected by your smoking, this might be the quit choice for you.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy – Nicotine patches are often used in a step-down method, whereby they deliver a certain amount of nicotine to the body, gradually lessening the amounts until the body no longer craves it. Those using nicotine replacement therapies (also including gums, lozenges, sprays and inhalers) are urged NOT to smoke while using these devices, as this will both defeat the purpose of the step-down treatment and may overdose the quitter’s body with nicotine.

Behavioral Modification – A key factor to the success of any smoking cessation method is simply a change in habit, also known as behavior modification. If a smoker lights up first thing in the morning, they should distract themselves with a shower, cup of coffee or breakfast instead. If a cigarette is part of the daily ride to work, the quitter should take a different route to work, drive with the windows open or take public transportation. Any change in the routine will help offset the quitter’s auto-response to light up a cigarette.

If the hand-to-mouth motion is what the quitter misses most, chewing gum, gnawing on the end of a pen, or drinking a glass of water may suffice. Type an email, write a letter, cook a meal or take a walk to keep the hands occupied.

While quitting smoking is not easy, there are plenty of resources to help a person be successful. There are many websites and support groups available for quitters, and online discussion boards can be a great place to share your successes and downfalls, as well as get and give inspiration.

Best of luck to you on your smoking cessation goals. Your lungs (and family and friends and co-workers) will thank you, for sure!

Liberty Kontranowski is a freelance writer and blogger with hundreds of health, sex and lifestyle articles published online and print. She is a frequent contributor to eDrugstore.md, the top-rated online medications facilitator.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Having a hard time switching from potato chips to carrots? You are not alone! As people in our country continue to grow more and more obese, many research scientists are putting in long hours to investigate biological causes. Last month, scientists from the Scripps Research Institute issued a report that shows -definitively, for the first time- that the same biological processes that cause drug addiction are behind the compulsion to overeat. Many obese people have been making this statement for years–that they feel out of control after eating junk food, and the more they eat, the more they want.

In the study, scientists monitored brain chemicals in rats, noticing that as the rats got more obese, their brains were less and less able to issue a reward to the body. As this pleasure center in the brain became less and less responsive, the rats developed the tendency to overeat, seeking that chemical reward. This is the exact same pattern that occurs in rats that are administered cocaine or heroin, and scientists believe that the pattern plays a large part in the development of drug dependency.

Paul J. Kenny, an Associate Professor at Scripps, conducted the study. He says that the nearly three year long study confirms the “addictive” properties of junk food:

“The new study, unlike our preliminary abstract, explains what happens in the brain of these animals when they have easy access to high-calorie, high-fat food. It presents the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms. In the study, the animals completely lost control over their eating behavior, the primary hallmark of addiction. They continued to overeat even when they anticipated receiving electric shocks, highlighting just how motivated they were to consume the palatable food.”

The scientists offered the rats many types of food, but they always chose “junk” food. As a test, the researchers removed the junk food and tried to put them on a nutritious diet. Their preference for junk food was so strong, however, that they starved themselves for nearly two weeks.

To read the entire article, visit the original Press Release.

So if anyone tells you junk food is not addicting, think again. And pass the carrots!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Deep breathing from Anxiety Therapy Online

Non smokers don’t get it. I’ve heard nonsmokers say, “Why don’t you just quit?” Or “How can any intelligent person smoke?” (Knowing what we know about smoking and health.) Smoking addiction isn’t a rational decision. People don’t get up in the morning and say, “Gee, I think I will fill my lungs with carcinogens.” Like any addiction, smoking is a habit and a physical dependence on a powerful chemical substance. The addiction to nicotine can override people’s intellectual beliefs about health. If you’ve ever had the stomach flu or persistent diarrhea, you know what it’s like to have an overwhelming urge you can’t control. Being addicted to smoking is a similar situation. It gives people strong urges that are very difficult to deny or control.

Read more from the American Cancer Society about nicotine withdrawal:

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can lead quitters back to smoking

When smokers try to cut back or quit, the lack of nicotine leads to withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is both physical and mental. Physically, the body reacts to the absence of nicotine. Mentally, the smoker is faced with giving up a habit, which calls for a major change in behavior. Both the physical and mental factors must be addressed for the quitting process to work.

Those who have smoked regularly for a few weeks or longer, and suddenly stop using tobacco or greatly reduce the amount smoked, will have withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms usually start within a few hours of the last cigarette and peak about 2 to 3 days later when most of the nicotine and its by-products are out of the body. Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days to up to several weeks. They will get better every day that you stay smoke-free.

Withdrawal symptoms can include any of the following:

  • dizziness (which may only last 1 to 2 days after quitting)
  • depression
  • feelings of frustration, impatience, and anger
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • sleep disturbances, including having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and having bad dreams or even nightmares
  • trouble concentrating
  • restlessness or boredom
  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • increased appetite
  • weight gain
  • constipation and gas
  • cough, dry mouth, sore throat, and nasal drip
  • chest tightness

These symptoms can lead the smoker to start smoking cigarettes again to boost blood levels of nicotine back to a level where there are no symptoms. (For information on coping with withdrawal, see the section, “How to quit.”)

Smoking also makes your body get rid of some drugs faster than usual. When you quit smoking, it may change the way your body handles medicines. Ask your doctor if any medicines you take regularly need to be checked or changed after you quit.

Dealing with withdrawal

Withdrawal from nicotine has 2 parts — the physical and the mental. The physical symptoms, while annoying, are not life-threatening. Nicotine replacement and other medicines can help reduce many of these physical symptoms. Most smokers find that the bigger challenge is the mental part of quitting.

If you have been smoking for any length of time, smoking has become linked with nearly everything you do — waking up in the morning, eating, reading, watching TV, and drinking coffee, for example. It will take time to “un-link” smoking from these activities. This is why, even if you are using a nicotine replacement, you may still have strong urges to smoke.

Rationalizations are sneaky

One way to overcome these urges or cravings is to notice and identify rationalizations as they come up. A rationalization is a mistaken thought that seems to make sense to you at the time, but the thought is not based on reality. If you choose to believe in such a thought, it can serve as a way to justify smoking. If you have tried to quit before, you will probably recognize many of these common rationalizations:

  • I’ll just have one to get through this rough spot.
  • Today is not a good day. I’ll quit tomorrow.
  • It’s my only vice.
  • How bad is smoking, really? Uncle Harry smoked all his life and he lived to be over 90.
  • Air pollution is probably just as bad.
  • You’ve got to die of something.
  • Life is no fun without smoking.

You probably can add more to the list. As you go through the first few days without smoking, write down any rationalizations as they come up and recognize them for what they are: messages that can trick you into going back to smoking. Look out for them, because they always show up when you’re trying to quit. After you write down the idea, let it go from your mind. Be ready with a distraction, a plan of action, and other ways to re-direct your thoughts to something else.

Use the ideas below to help you stay committed to quitting.

Avoid temptation: Stay away from people and places where you are tempted to smoke. Later on you will be able to handle these with more confidence.

Change your habits: Switch to juices or water instead of alcohol or coffee. Take a different route to work. Take a brisk walk instead of a coffee break.

Alternatives: Use substitutes you can put in your mouth such as sugarless gum or hard candy, raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, or sunflower seeds. Some people chew on a coffee stirrer or a straw.

Activities:
Do something to reduce your stress. Exercise or do hobbies that keep your hands busy, such as needlework or woodworking, which can help distract you from the urge to smoke. Take a hot bath, exercise, or read a book.

Deep breathing: When you were smoking, you breathed deeply as you inhaled the smoke. When the urge strikes now, breathe deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting and the benefits you’ll gain as an ex-smoker.

Delay: If you feel that you are about to light up, delay. Tell yourself you must wait at least 10 minutes. Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the strong urge to smoke.

Reward yourself

What you’re doing is not easy, so you deserve a reward. Put the money you would have spent on tobacco in a jar every day and then buy yourself a weekly treat. Buy a magazine or book, go out to eat, develop a new hobby, or take a yoga class. Or save the money for a major purchase. You can also reward yourself in ways that don’t cost money: visit a park, go to the library, and check local news listings for museums, community centers, and colleges that have free classes, exhibits, films, and other things to do.

Read more at the American Cancer Society’s website here.

Notice that many of the strategies for handing nicotine withdrawal are the same strategies people use for stress management!

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