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Adventure Magazine

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Performance
First Responder
In the ever diversifying world of outdoor sports, we all hit a few road blocks en route to peak performance. First Responder, a monthly column in our new Performance section, seeks to demystify the everyday snags that miff your game.

Q:

I've seen people at the gym consuming "powdered grass" in the mornings. Should I start grazing too?

"Grasses are a classic gimmick that plays off the commonly held idea that if it's natural, it must be good for you," says John Swartzberg, M.D., professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health. Grass, it seems—in its liquid, powdered, or fresh-cut forms—won't be preventing heart disease, boosting your immune system, or promoting weight loss anytime soon. "There is no evidence to back up any of the claims companies make," Swartzberg says. In fact, grasses like alfalfa, oat, and rye contain only trace amounts of nutrients and offer minimal, if any, health benefits. And even if they did, there is little evidence our bodies could use them. Unlike cows, which rely on four-chamber stomachs to extract what nutrients they can from grass, our single-chamber models are unable to process grass—even the liquid and powdered varieties. "Cattle do great on it," says Swartzberg. "You're better off eating a few spinach leaves."

Q:

I'm sneaking away for an in-and-out ski trip in the Alps. What's the best way to minimize jet lag?

Conventional wisdom says that travelers should preadapt to their destination's time zone by either staying up later (if you're heading west) or going to bed earlier (if you're eastbound). However, "in practice, readjusting your sleep schedule has a minimal effect when the time difference is great, and it requires a large amount of effort," says Craig Heller, a neurobiology professor at Stanford University. If your destination is more than six time zones away, forget prevention and focus on the proper steps to minimize jet lag on arrival.

"Even if you're sleepy, it's best to push yourself through the first day and then go to bed around the local bedtime," says Tom Scammell, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at Harvard. The next morning, hit the slopes. Exercising early in the day and remaining active will help you recover faster, says Heller. Lay off the après—alcohol will make you drowsy while degrading your quality of sleep. No matter what you do, you may not perform at your best initially. Go slow at first—it's easier to "sneak away" when a medevac isn't involved.


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What's your performance question?

Send your health and performance questions to adventure@ngs.org, subject line: First Responder, and we'll bring back answers from the experts—all you have to do is e-mail us >>

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October 2004



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