Author Archives: jqr5447

Are training masks a sham?

It is common for competitive athletes to train at high altitudes because of the decreased amount of oxygen in the air. They believe that it will provide an advantage when returning to sea level. This is why the US Olympic Team has their main training center in Colorado Springs, CO, which has one of the highest altitudes of any major US city. Several different machines have been developed to try to mimic the training in Colorado Springs, but they are unaffordable for most athletes. A newer company, Training Mask, has developed their own product for athletes that is much more affordable (they usually sell for around $100).

In the last few years, these altitude-training masks have become more and more popular. On their website, Training Mask says that, along with making your workout more efficient, it will “increase your stamina and ability to go harder at your sport.” At first glance, it makes sense, but I’ve done some digging and found out that maybe it’s not worth the money. mask-2

An observational study from Texas Tech University analyzed the Training Mask in seven NCAA runners. These subjects took performance tests before and after four-weeks of training using this mask. They essentially failed to reject the null hypothesis that the masks help with stamina and endurance. The subjects had greater respiratory muscle strength, but this only means that they could breathe “harder.” It did not change the maximum amount of oxygen absorbed during running, which is what is actually important when exercising and what increases muscular endurance. The major limitation of this study is the fact that there wasn’t any sort of control group. Researchers at Arizona State fixed the second problem, studying nine cyclists and having a control group. Their results were very similar. A limitation shared by the two studies is small sample size, but I think we can ignore this because the results were so significant and similar. Another possible reason for no increase in endurance during their respective sports is the time frame. Both studies only gave the subjects 3-4 weeks with the masks. What would have happened if they had 10-15 weeks? It would be interesting to see if the results would differ.

I had a hard time finding many credible trials regarding Training Masks. This could be largely due to the file drawer problem. Training Mask’s website shows a few studies supporting their product, but it’s hard to know their credibility due to bias.

Many people misunderstand these altitude-training masks. Yes, they are good for strengthening your respiratory muscles (i.e. how hard you can breathe). This, however, shouldn’t lead to an increase in performance. According to, “the main problem isn’t usually getting air into your lungs anyways—it’s getting oxygen from the air into your blood, and then putting that oxygen towards a useful purpose in your leg muscles.” Athletes train at altitude because the air has less oxygen, but these masks do not actually limit the amount of oxygen in the air you inhale. Instead, they just make it harder to breathe. This forces you to “suck” in the air, potentially running the risk of poor breathing habits due to the mask.

Overall, there is no major evidence that supports the use of the training mask for sports; however, there is no evidence showing that it is “bad” to use. Of course, some will train harder because they feel like Bane when wearing it, but for most, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the money.2132844-darkknightrises20111201

Chipotle Could be Optimal for Busy Student-Athletes

Wake up, eat, class, weights, eat, class, practice, eat, study, and sleep. That is a typical day for a student athlete at Penn State. I am an athlete myself, so I know the pains of the incredibly busy schedule. For athletes, what you eat is very important, but finding the time to eat enough is the hardest part. It is vital to consume the right amounts of every food group, and it is hard to do that on a busy schedule. Looking at most factors including portions, calories, and food groups, I think that Chipotle is perfect for student-athletes.1024px-Chipotle_Mexican_Grill_logo

There are five main food groups for a balanced diet: carbs, protein, milk/dairy, fruits/veggies, and good fats/sugars. A chipotle burrito or burrito bowl makes it possible to get most, if not all of these in one meal. Rice covers the carbs; beans and meat provide a lot of good quality protein; cheese is a good source of dairy; corn, peppers, and lettuce cover the veggies; avocado is an excellent source of good fats. All of these ingredients are needed for the body, especially when it needs to recover from a tough workout. Unlike most Americanized Mexican fast food restaurants, Chipotle uses local, fresh ingredients. Many people make the argument that chipotle is bad because of the high amount of calories (a burrito typically has around 900-1000+ calories), but with the amount of training that athletes do, they need a lot of calories in their diet, and chipotle provides them with good quality calories.

An observational study published in The Training and Conditioning Journal looked at the eating habits of 345 male and female athletes from different division one schools. The researchers took gender and eating disorders into account when processing the data. Looking at body composition, eating frequency, and calories consumed, they found that 70% of female athletes and 73% of male athletes were consuming too few calories to meet their energy needs. This study showed that many student-athletes had an inadequate amount of calories to support their athletic energy, let alone the energy they need to process information in class. There are several limitations to this study. Athletes are constantly trying to vary their body weights. Since it is an observational study, it is very susceptible to third variables. For example, a football player might be trying to put on 10 pounds in the offseason while a soccer player might be trying to lose 5. That could mess with the data. Another aspect we need to look at is the subjects lying or exaggerating. For example, self-image has become a major factor in today’s world, especially for women. I think that we can ignore this because the study was both voluntary and anonymous. The workload for athletes can also differ from school to school and sport to sport. Can the findings from this study be applied to most college athletes? I think yes. The sample size is quite large and is varied throughout many athletic programs, and the data is quite significant.

It is clear that many student-athletes are not consuming enough calories. This is probably due to their busy schedules and often having to eat quickly and on the run. Some universities, including Cal Berkley, even have an express line for their athletes at the local Chipotle. Looking at the high quality ingredients and the amount of calories that Chipotle provides, it seems like a perfect, one-stop-shop meal for a college athlete.

Athletics and Academics

Growing up playing sports, I noticed a trend. After taking my junior year off from football, my grades dropped significantly. When I rejoined the team senior year, my grades rose back up to where they were. I always thought it was odd, especially since football was such a big time commitment. After researching this topic, I’ve found that maybe I’m not alone.

Professors from The University of South Carolina and Penn State University did an observational study on 9,700 high school students (age 14-18). They studied the link between GPA and various different extracurricular activities. The extracurricular that had the most consistent and significant data showing a correlation between that and higher GPA was team sports. A similar Michigan State University study showed that high school athletes did roughly 10% better in core subjects than non-athletes.5844020

Since these are observational studies, they are very susceptible to third variables. For example, most schools have GPA requirements for athletes. As a result, the athletes could be feeling more pressure to do better in school. Athletes also could be getting better treatment from teachers, especially in schools where sports play a huge role. It is very common for athletes to receive extra help from teachers, coaches and other players with their schoolwork. Since these are observational studies, we have to think about the possibility of chance. I think it is safe to say, however, that the sample size is large enough to rule out chance as a viable option for the results. I think applying this data to all demographics will get similar, but less significant results. For example, wealthy kids in urban prep schools tend to be very involved in the arts and could surpass the athletes in academics. In a rural area of South Dakota or a poor area of major city, sports could teach students about determination and work ethic, resulting in better grades. I believe that this data is credible, not necessarily in saying that athletes far surpass non-athletes in academics, but that team sports help kids with their schoolwork.

It’s hard to know exactly what about team sports leads to a higher GPA. There are several possible mechanisms for this. Some may argue that sports take time away from studies and cause students to do worse in school. To counter, sports teach kids good time management skills. Team sports give students more structure in their lives, which we can assume helps their study habits by leaving less time to procrastinate. There is no data to support this, but the only foreseeable way to test this is through a survey, which leaves the possibility for false negatives and positives. There is also a possibility that perhaps athletes are predetermined to think differently and have more drive and determination. This would make sense because of the competitive nature of athletes. An observational study published in the American College of Sports Medicine showed that athletes were significantly more focused and were better tactical thinkers when using a simulator for crossing the street in traffic. Their physical fitness played no role in the study as all participants moved at the same speed. They were significantly better at reading patterns and predicting where the cars would come from compared to the non-athletes. This higher ability to read patterns could definitely correlate with a better understanding of subjects like math. A third possibility is the psychological aspect behind team sports. Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (seen below), people can’t reach their full potential until their “social” needs are met. Being part of a team and working towards a common goal develops maslow_trianglefriendships and gives students a sense of belonging. As a result, students who are on a sports team could be more likely to reach their full potential not only in school, but also in life as a whole.

The only foreseeable counter argument that sports make students worse in school would have to do with concussions from contact sports. In an observational study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers looked at roughly 350 students who had received concussions. Many reported a harder time concentrating in school after the concussion. This was more likely for students who had not completely recovered from their concussion and even more so for those who have received multiple concussions. It is possible, however, that they over-exaggerated their symptoms for the case of the study. They could have even under-exaggerated their symptoms. It’s hard to know, but it does make sense that multiple concussions can cause brain damage. In that case, sports could be worse for kids academically. As long as the correct precautions are taken regarding concussions, this variable should not affect the entire argument presented before.

Although we can’t prove that team sports lead to a higher GPA, the evidence combined with possible mechanisms is very convincing. It is widely known that team sports help kids with social skills and overall health, but now we can see that it could have promising cognitive effects.


Creatine and Athletes

Creatine monohydrate is one of the most controversial supplements of today. Many athletes and bodybuilders alike have started using creatine monohydrate as a supplement to their normal diets, with the hopes that it will increase their strength and size. Creatine occurs naturally in the body stored in the kidney and helps supply energy to muscles. It is mainly found in red meats and chicken, but many people take extra creatine as a supplement to get more of it into their bodies. The two major questions about creatine that need answering are: how well does it work? And is it safe to use? For athletes, it seems that the benefits of creatine outweighs the risk and hazard.

A randomized double blind placebo test done at the University of Bloomsburg tested the strength of roughly 30 subjects. The subjects were then given a strength-training program. Half of the subjects were given a standard (5g) dose of creatine monohydrate everyday throughout the trial period. The other half were given a placebo. They found that the group given the creatine had an 8% higher increase in bench press in comparison to the placebo. Also, they found that there was a 14% increase in maximal repetitions at a given percent of one rep maximum bench press in the control group compared to the placebo group.

There are several limitations to this study, including a small sample size, race, age, and gender. Since it is a university study, we can deduct that the subjects were roughly 18-25 years old. This is a good sample age for what I am looking at because serious athletes aren’t typically much older or younger than the subjects. Gender is another limitation because women in general aren’t as strong as men. It would have been interesting to see of their strength gains while on creatine were proportional to the men. Despite the other limitations, the evidence is sufficient enough to say that there is a correlation between creatine ingestion and strength gain. There are also many other studies to contribute to this. A logical mechanism for this is that the increase in creatine increases the energy that is transferred into the muscles, resulting in strength gain and delayed muscle fatigue.

So, if creatine works so well for strength gain, why wouldn’t every athlete use it? As it turns out, creatine is one of the most controversial supplements of today, mainly due to its side effects. pGNC1-2331608dtAccording to webMd, creatine draws water from the rest of your body, so drinking extra water is very important. This will also help to flush out the excess creatine from your body. This shouldn’t be a problem for athletes, as hydration is already an important part of their daily lives.

Although there is concern that creatine can prove harmful to the kidney, liver, and heart, there is currently no significant evidence that supports this. For example, a published study in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition failed to reject the null hypothesis that long term creatine supplementation while resistance training impairs kidney function, while consuming a high protein diet.

There have not been a substantial number of reported serious side effects when taking it, so the risk of creatine is not very high. If significant evidence arises that creatine does actually harm the kidneys, liver, or heart, then the hazard would be relatively high. Right now, however, the hazard is low.

For athletes, the strong correlation between creatine and muscle building is far more significant that the risks brought to the table, especially because of how active they are. After looking at this data, it seems that this natural supplement is perfect for athletes, especially in today’s world of sports where everyone is much bigger and stronger.

Caffeine: A Study Drug

It’s something you see everyday, Penn State students downing cups of coffee or chugging Red Bull before a class or test to stay focused. I’ll admit I’ve been there more often than I’m proud of. Many people wonder, however, if caffeine helps us with more than just staying awake.

Let’s first take a look at a study on caffeine and memory from Johns Hopkins University. Researchers preformed a randomized double-blind placebo trial on fifty-four subjects. These subjects were said to be people who do not eat or drink caffeine regularly. Five minutes after studying a series of images, half of the participants were given a 200mg caffeine pill while the others were given a placebo. The participants were brought back in the next day and were tested on the images. The group that received the caffeine did significantly better at not only remembering the images, but also distinguishing them from new images added to the test.

This study shows a positive correlation between enhanced memory and taking caffeine after learning. There are, however, some questions that need answering. The sample size was fairly large so it gives us a good depiction of the effects of caffeine, but they failed to report the age and gender of the subjects. Since it was randomized, the gender isn’t as much of a concern. Since it was a university research study, it is probable that the subjects were between ages 18 and 25. If this is the case, even despite the small age range, the results were significant enough that we can assume that it applies for other age ranges. The subjects were described as people who do not take caffeine regularly, so what about those who take a lot of caffeine? Many people are heavy coffee drinkers, so would this help their memory since they ingest significantly more caffeine than the subjects in the study, or do they build up a tolerance to the caffeine? Also, since chance is always a factor in science, there is a chance that the placebo subjects have ADHD or some type of learning disability that was not accounted for. Lastly, even though the subjects were said to not be regular caffeine takers, they still could have stopped at Starbucks for a cup of coffee before the study. This leads us into my next question: does the timing of the caffeine consumption matter?

Offduty: Caffine Drinks

Offduty: Caffine Drinks

There was another group of randomized double-blind placebo trials done at Johns Hopkins University in response to the first study that we looked at, answering many of the questions above. Using 160 subjects, they gave one group a 200 mg dose of caffeine before learning a subject (the other group was given a placebo). The rest of the test was exactly the same as the first study. They found no statistical difference relative to the placebo when receiving the caffeine before learning the information. Comparing this to the first study, we can see that giving the subjects caffeine after learning had better results in than giving them caffeine before.

The Johns Hopkins researchers also tested the difference between different doses of caffeine (after learning a subject). There was a difference in the results in those who received 100mg and 200mg doses of caffeine, but there was no difference between 200mg and anything above 200mg, showing that we don’t need to overload ourselves with the drug.

The last factor that we should account for is the effects that caffeine has on sleep. As we know, sleep has a huge impact on our cognitive functions, including memory. Since caffeine intake can inhibit sleep, it is a viable argument that taking in too much caffeine can have a negative effect on our memory. Since Johns Hopkins showed that 200mg caffeine had the same effect as taking more, it seems not only unnecessary, but also potentially harmful to our memory to consume more than 200mg.

Now we can see that the many people misunderstand the best uses for caffeine. There is strong evidence showing that drinking your cup of coffee after studying will be more beneficial than drinking it before, even if you think it will help you stay focused. Obviously, there are several other variables that need to be accounted for in these studies, but the evidence found at Johns Hopkins definitely provides a strong argument that ingesting caffeine after learning something is the most beneficial.


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Most competitive athletes have one thing in common: the hatred of ice baths. The ten minutes of hell after a workout or game is enough to make any athlete cringe. Some athletes swear by them while others do not believe they help at all, and the evidence is just as conflicting.

Let’s first take a look at the evidence against ice baths. An experimental study on ice baths was conducted at the University of Queensland in Australia that showed a correlation between the baths and hindered muscle adaptation. 21 subjects went through strength training workouts twice per week. Roughly half of the group sat in the ice bath for 10 minutes post workout while the others “warmed down” on a stationary bike. The bike group showed greater strength gain than the ice bath group. There could be many reasons for this. It is commonly known that muscle is really built during the recovery time after the workout, and using ice baths to speed up that process and reduce inflammation hinders the muscles ability to go through the full recovery process. The problem with the study is that it does not tell us what muscles the strength was measured from. If they were measuring leg strength (squats, for example), the extra bike ride could have helped build that strength, compared to sitting in tub for ten minutes. The study does say, however, that muscle biopsies were taken in the same study from the subjects. The stem cells needed for muscle building were “blunted” in the ice bath group for up to two days.

There is also good evidence that promotes the use of ice baths. I’ll admit that ice baths, no matter how awful they may be, make you legs feel incredible afterwards. An experimental study from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport showed a positive correlation between ice baths and faster recovery times for runners. They had the same nine trained runners do two difficult running workouts on three separate occasions separated by a few days. For one of the tests, the runners took a 15 min ice bath at 46 degrees Fahrenheit between the two workouts. For the next two tests, they gave them a 59 degree ice bath and 15 minutes rest, respectively. After the baths/rest period, they were asked to run as far as they could to exhaustion. The runners ran 3-4 minutes longer when given the ice baths. This shows that the ice baths helped the runners recover faster for the second part of the workout, but did it help them in the long run? The cold water reduced some the muscle inflammation from the first workout, which made their legs feel better for the second, but this is not to say that it helps for long- term recovery


There is also a third variable that needs to be looked at regarding the second study, which is the placebo effect. It could be the case that when the runners were given the ice baths, they thought that they had recovered faster and they pushed themselves harder because of it. Essentially, there is a possibility that it contributed to the runners’ mental toughness and they ran farther as a result. This does not mean, however, that their muscles were healthier because of it.

Now we see that there are multiple completely different schools of thought when it comes to ice baths and athletic performance. If you are in need of a quick recovery, i.e. if you have a game or a race in back to back days, ice baths could be the answer you are looking for. If you can help it, however, there is evidence supporting that it is a good idea to let your muscle soreness run its course, it’s all part of muscle building. If you’re an athlete, take a hard look at what you are trying to accomplish and see if ice baths are right for you.


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What Do Sodas Do To Your Teeth?

We’ve all heard it before: “brush and floss every night, and stay away from sodas!” These are some of the many lectures that everyone got when they go to the dentist as a kid, and most didn’t pay too much attention. I know I didn’t! Upon further examination of what some popular sodas can really do to your teeth, however, maybe it’s time to think about changing up your drink of choice.

First, it’s important to realize that the root of the problem isn’t necessarily sugar; instead, the major problem is acid. Dr. David Katz, the director of the Yale Prevention Center, stated that “bacteria convert sugar to acid, and it’s the acid bath that damages enamel, not the sugar directly.” Essentially he is saying that drinks that are already very acidic are much worse for your teeth, so let’s take a look at a study on how soda affects tooth decay.

A controlled experimentsoda_chart2-620x748 on sodas and dental erosion was preformed at the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine by Dr. Kenton Ross and Poonam Jain. They measured the pH of 20 popular sodas (both regular and diet) and placed human enamel slices into the soft drinks for 48 hours after weighing the enamel. When the results came in, she found the teeth put in “Coke/Pepsi, RC Cola, Squirt, Surge, 7-up, and Diet 7-up lost up to 5% of their weight.” The other thirteen sodas also lost weight, but were all under 5%.

It’s not very realistic for an everyday setting that your teeth will be submerged in soda for 48 hours, but we can still see that there is a correlation between soda and tooth decay. There are ways to get around the tooth decay while still drinking soda, however. Dr. Ross says that root beer, although very sugary, is the least damaging soft drink because it does not have phosphoric and citric acids that harm teeth. Dr. Ross also says that drinking sodas with a straw will help make tooth decay minimal by limiting the contact between the soda and your teeth. It’s important to be aware of what’s good and bad for your teeth; after all, you only get one set!


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I Don’t Have ADHD… Will Adderall Still Help?

Adderall is prescribed to those with ADHD with the purpose of helping them concentrate for long periods of time, but it has now found its way into the hands of those who do not have this condition, particularly on college campuses. This has created an underground drug market for the pills, each one going for at least $5 and often much more around exam time. Many students swear by the drug, saying that it helps them to study for hours without stopping and gets them better grades on exams. After doing a little digging, however, I’ve found that might not be the case. Adderall definitely aids those with ADHD, but does it really help those who don’t have the condition?

First, this is not to say that Adderall doesn’t help anyone. It does a lot to our brain, but the main point is that Adderall “essentially increases the signal-to-noise ratio of neurotransmission, allowing people to focus on the task at hand” ( It is a stimulant, stimulating this neurotransmission. People with ADHD need a boost in this neurotransmission, so the drugs help them. “Smarter” people, by common society’s definition, don’t necessarily need this boost so the drug doesn’t actually help them as much. Adderall essentially helps those with ADHD to catch up to those who do not have ADHD, but it is not made for people without ADHD to go above and beyond.

Dr. Martha Farah researched this topic at the University of Pennsylvania using a blind placebo test. She looked at 47 twenty-something year-old subjects and none of them had ADD or ADHD. Every subject was tested on multiple cognitive functions including working memory, raw intelligence, and memory of specific faces and events. All of the participants were tested on both Adderall and the placebo, but they did not know which they were taking. When the results of the tests came back, there was almost no difference in the scores; however, when the participants were asked “how much did the pill influence your performance,” those who took Adderall were more inclined to say that they thought they did better on the tests despite no improvement in scores. Adderall “unleashes the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, triggers the brain’s reward system, and can produce a mild sense of euphoria,” according to an article in Time. This would explain why students think they are doing better and learning more than they really are. Adderall is essentially making studying more fun for the brain, giving off a feeling of confidence at test time.

When deciding whether or not to buy Adderall to study for the next SC200 exam, you might want to evaluate your own study habits and mental capability. If you have the mindset that “I could probably study on my own, but buying Adderall couldn’t hurt, right?” it’s probably the case that your brain and your wallet really don’t need it.

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What Should You Listen to While Studying?

Even though the library is meant to be a quiet place to study, it can definitely be distracting at times. In this day and age of digital music, most students choose to put in their headphones and listen to music while studying because they think it will help them concentrate. This assumption is not always true as different genres of music show different results while studying, and some contribute to greater academic success than others.

According to Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford University in an article in USA Today, listening to music with lyrics inhibits your ability to retain information while studying, especially in writing or reading, due to cognitive limitations because they are both using the language parts of your brain. It’s essentially like trying to read a book in a room full of loud, talkative people, which isn’t easy. This rules out many types of popular music to listen to while studying, but maybe students these days need to take a page out of their history textbook and go back to the roots of today’s music: classical music.

A study was done at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on the correlation between classical music and test scores. They split 72 undergrad students into five groups, each of the five listening to different classical music while talking a multiple-choice test. The study concluded that the music had “no statistically significant effect on multiple choice test scores.” This is also consistent with previous research, according to the study. This shows that listening to classical music during a test does not necessarily help, but that’s not to say it does not help with studying. maxresdefault

Classical music is widely known to have a calming effect on people. A study done at Emporia State University holds constant with that assumption, showing a positive correlation between classical music and calmness, security, satisfaction, comfortableness, relaxation, and pleasantness. Even though classical music does not directly help with test taking, we can still see how it can contribute to overall academic success. As I’m sure you’re all aware of, studying while in an unpleasant mood or while stressed/jittery is very hard and often times ineffective. Listening to classical background music while studying will calm your mood and aid you while studying, helping you stay concentrated and relaxed.

Next time you are anxious and have a hard time staying focused while studying, try listening to a classical artist like Beethoven or Mozart. They will help you get ready to ace that next big exam.

The Powers of Chocolate Milk

During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Bejing, Michael Phelps, an American swimmer, set the record for the most medals by an individual in Olympic history. During the broadcast of one of his races, NBC released a video showing Phelps’s diet. To the surprise of many, it included gallons of chocolate milk everyday. “Chocolate milk?” some said. “Isn’t that supposed to be fatty and sugary?” Despite those notions, chocolate milk has been found to be the optimal recovery drink for after exercise.

It is essential to put protein and carbohydrates into your body roughly 30 minutes after your workout. Chocolate milk’s 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio (that is, 3g carbohydrate per 1g protein) is “ideal” according to WebMD. Regular low fat milk only has a 2:1 ratio, which is not enough carbohydrates/sugars to refuel your body after intensive exercise, and sports drinks have the carbohydrates that your body needs, but not the protein. Adding these extra carbohydrates to milk (i.e. chocolate milk) are exactly what your body needs.

Dr. John Ivy from the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas preformed a study on chocolate milk and athletes. He studied 32 trained cyclists, both male and female. The subjects rode their bikes for 90 minutes at a moderate pace. Afterwards, 10 cyclists were given low fat chocolate milk, while the rest were given a sports drink or a calorie-free beverage. After consuming their beverages, all of the subjects biked for 10 minutes at “high intensity intervals.” He found that those who drank the chocolate milk had much more power and speed on the bike than those who were given the other beverages. Dr. Ivy’s study showed a correlation between the consumption of chocolate milk and a faster recovery time for the cyclists. Although this does not show a definite causation between the two (because correlation does not necessarily equal causation), we can use our knowledge of the human body and the evidence from the study to make the assumption that chocolate milk really does help with recovery after exercise.

Next time you go workout at the IM building, stop and get a chocolate milk from the Creamery. It’s a delicious way to replenish your body, and you will be ready to get back in the gym even faster.


More Naps!

Do you find yourself falling asleep in your chair after being in class for a couple of hours? Do you drink multiple cups of coffee and Red Bull just to keep your eyes open long enough to study for an exam? Do you have trouble remembering the material that you studied earlier in the day? Set aside a few minutes for a power nap!

Humans are one of the only species of mammals that only sleep once per day. In fact, 85% of mammals sleep for several short periods of time throughout the day, according to The National Sleep Foundation. This makes us ask the question: why don’t humans do this more? Maybe only sleeping at night is not what we are meant to do. Young children (and many elderly people) nap multiple times per day, while college students, for example, might only get 4-5 hours of sleep per night, which is not enough for most people.

A full sleep cycle is roughly 90 minutes, but sleeping for even 10-20 minutes is still beneficial. Sleeping for this short amount of time allows for some rest, but restricts us to the earlier stages of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. That way, we still get some rest without falling into too deep of a sleep, making it easy to wake up and continue with your day. Twenty minute naps can result in alertness and performance improvement in almost all aspects of life, improve our mood, and give that extra boost of energy that you need to get through class.2607621162_13ece1c44c

A study was conducted on naps at Saarland University in Germany. Before the study, the subjects were given a list of 90 words and 120 word pairs. One group (treatment group) took a short nap of roughly 45 minutes, while the other group (control group) stayed awake and watched DVDs. The results were that the participants who slept remembered more of the words than those who had watched DVDs. This shows that even a short nap has a positive correlation with learning success.

In conclusion, try incorporating a nap into your daily routine. As college students, we are up late almost every night whether we are studying in the library or hanging out with friends. Even if you are not tired, taking a short nap will give you that extra bit of energy you need to get through the day and will also help your study habits.

If this post interested you or you want to learn more about the importance of naps, check out this TEDx talk by Dr. Sara Mednick from the University of California, Riverside.

Hi everyone my name is James Ronan and I am from Bethesda, Maryland, about 10 minutes from Washington, DC. I am a sophomore here at Penn State, hoping to be a finance major. I am also a member of the rugby team.

I am not a science major for a couple reasons, the main one being that I have never really done well in science classes. I always had a hard time motivating myself to study chemistry and biology because I didn’t think that I would ever need to know about that stuff in the real world.

As you can imagine, I was not excited about having to take GN’s at Penn State. Last year, however, my roommate took this class and loved it. He said it was unlike any science class that he had ever been in before and said that he learned information that was actually valuable to him. Hopefully by the end of this course, I will feel like Walter White in Breaking Bad.Penn-State-10