Nationally Recognized Integrative Health Expert Karen Malkin Joins EWG Board of Directors

Sports Medicine Weekly is proud to announce that one of its valued partners, Karen Malkin, a leading integrative health coach and lifestyle practitioner, has joined the EWG board of directors, further raising the group’s profile as the nation’s leading nonprofit research organization advancing the importance of healthy foods free from toxic chemicals.

“Karen’s longtime commitment and expertise in helping people make healthier choices for themselves and their families aligns seamlessly with the core mission of EWG,” said the group’s president, co-founder and fellow board member, Ken Cook. “The advice and guidance around healthy diets Karen delivers could be found on some of EWG’s websites.”


“I have closely followed the work EWG has done pushing industry and the government to make healthy food more available and accessible, and I have relied on much of EWG’s research in my own work,” said Malkin. “I am excited to be part of such an important organization, and look forward to working with my fellow board members to build on their already incredible work.”


Malkin has a private health coaching practice in Chicago. As co-founder and CEO of MCT Foods, LLC, Malkin developed a line of high-quality vegan protein blends, MCT oil and superfood bars. She is the author of the “14 Day Transformation” series including “Toxin Takedown.”

Malkin serves on the advisory council for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern Medicine; the board of directors for Gardeneers, an organization that sustains and provides curriculum for Chicago Public Schools; and the advisory board for Spiral Sun Ventures, a mission-based capital fund investing in health and wellness products.

“Karen will undoubtedly bring her passion and energy to EWG’s board, and will be an important voice as we continue to take on new challenges and opportunities,” added Cook. “Karen’s fellow board members and I are thrilled she’s agreed to help chart our course going forward.”

To Stretch or Not To Stretch: Should you waste your time?

By Emily Haglage, PT, DPT from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush

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The American College of Sports Medicine states that adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. That is about 20 minutes a day. Stretching is not considered to be a moderate-intensity exercise. So, do we need to add 5-10 minutes of stretching prior to our workout, like our coaches always told us? In recent years, there has been much debate over different ways to stretch and which way is the safest and most effective. There are many different types of stretching techniques, but today we are only considering two types: static and dynamic.


Static stretching is lengthening the muscle while holding a particular pose for an extended period of time, such as propping your leg up onto a chair, leaning forward, and stretching your hamstring for 30 seconds.

Dynamic stretching is elongating the muscle while completing a movement. For example, running with high knees or walking lunges. So, how do we know when to perform each type of stretching?


Static Stretching

A strong amount of research supports the effects of static stretching to be performed after a warm up, but prior to your full workout, especially if you do not have the full range of motion to complete the activity. However, there are many current research articles that raise the negative effects of static stretching. One study states, “A longer stretch duration (i.e. >60 s) are more likely to cause a small or moderate reduction in performance,” which could lead you to a higher risk of injury.

Another study looked at performance of collegiate sprinters with and without static stretching. That study found, “ significant slowing in performance with static stretching… Therefore, in strict terms of performance, it seems harmful to include static stretching in the warm-up protocol of collegiate male sprinters.” Looking at this from a broader perspective, if you are want to participate in a sport such as jogging, evidence supports that there is no need for a specific static stretching routine.

● Perform after a warm up, but prior to a full workout

● Hold stretch less than 45 seconds

● Decreases speed and power

● May have little effect on long-term flexibility, and could increase your risk for injury

Dynamic Stretching

Research seems to lean towards dynamic stretching as the most beneficial form of stretching prior to any type of exercise or sport routine. In fact, most studies found that it was beneficial to perform dynamic stretching in order to reverse negative effects of static stretching. One researcher group discovered, “ Athletes in sports requiring [leg] power should use dynamic stretching techniques in warm-up to enhance flexibility while improving performance”.

Another research article found that dynamically stretching your hamstrings can actually decrease tightness and improve flexibility over a period of 6 weeks, and therefore significantly decrease low back pain. Not only does dynamic stretching warm up your muscles, but it wakes up your central nervous system which can prepare your body for a tough workout.

● Perform after statically stretching (if you choose this modality of stretching)

● Beneficial for the athlete participating in a sport with less pivoting movements such as swimming or jogging

● Can decrease muscle tightness and improve flexibility

● Helps to decrease your risk of injury


Emily_Haglage.jpgEmily Haglage is a graduate of Saint Louis University where she received her bachelor’s of science degree in exercise science and doctorate in physical therapy. She treats a variety of orthopedic injuries with special interest in knee injuries including patellofemoral pain, meniscus injuries, ligamentous injuries, arthritis and post-operative total knee replacements. She enjoys working closely with athletes by performing Functional Sports Assessments (FSAs) which give physicians more assurance that their patients are safe to return to sports such as basketball, football, soccer, tennis and hockey.

Warming Up vs Cooling Down: Things To Know

By Matthew Buckley for Athletico Physical Therapy

warming up vs cooling down

Picture this – you walk into your local gym after carving out time in your day to  work out.. You come prepared with your headphones in, new favorite song turned up, and a game plan full of all the exercises you’re going to accomplish that day. You scan the gym and see your favorite machine with no one else on it calling your name. You scurry to it, get settled in, and just as you’re about to start you think to yourself, “I probably should warm up, shouldn’t I?”

We’ve all been here. Most people at one time or another have followed some sort of workout plan in hopes of becoming more physically fit, and yet so often these programs neglect any sort of warm up or cool down. All too often people end up in physical therapy with workout related injuries, many of which can be attributed to poor warm ups/cool downs. In fact, in 2012 roughly 500,000 people were injured while exercising or using exercise equipment. Gym-goers are not alone. A review of the incidence of running injuries shows that the average recreational runner has anywhere from a 37 to 56 percent chance of injuring themselves.


With a proper warm up and cool down prior to activity of any sort, these rates of injury can be decreased and the ever-dreaded soreness after exercise can be lessened.. A proper warm up is very different than a proper cool down, so it is important to understand what should be incorporated into each of these. Here are some tips to guide a safe, effective warm up, cool down and overall workout.


The Warm Up

Contrary to popular belief, static stretching is  not the best way to get ready for a workout. Static stretching helps to lengthen and relax muscles, which while important (see below), is not the most effective way to get your body ready for physical exertion. Instead, what is called a dynamic warm up is best for pre-exercise. These are movements designed to increase the mobility of muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the areas of the body you’ll be using for exercise, as well as increase the mobility of the joints themselves.

These movements help prime your body for more strenuous physical exertion, begin to get your heart rate up in preparation for activity, and increase blood flow to the areas to supply muscles and tendons with nutrients during the workout. All this effectively decreases the chances of causing injury to a muscle or joint that creates force to perform any type of workout movement. A few examples of these movements include:

  • Body weight squats
  • Forward and backward lunges
  • Sidestepping in a slight squat position with a band around your knees
  • Jumping jacks
  • High Knees
  • Jogging Butt Kickers
  • Forward and side planks

The Cool Down

Following a workout, muscles have exerted force for an amount of time and have the tendency to get tight. The cool down is essential to restore muscles to their proper flexibility to prevent tightness, muscle imbalances and decrease the risk of overuse injuries. Stretching is also a great way to gradually decrease your heart rate after a workout and can help decrease the amount of soreness felt later that day/the next day following exercise. A stretch should be performed for any muscle or muscle groups that were used during that workout. Stretches should be held for 30 seconds and should NOT be to the point of pain.

The use of foam rollers for warming up and cooling down has gotten much more popular over recent years, and for good reason. Using a foam roller can be beneficial for both warming up and cooling down, as well as in between workouts. The pressure of the roller may be a bit uncomfortable at the time, but no sharp pain should be felt. Foam roll use helps to mobilize the tissue making movement easier afterward and will also help work out any soreness that is felt through the muscles.

The proper use of warming up and cooling down has a variety of benefits in combination with a safe and effective workout routine of any kind. Using these methods will help improve workout function, decrease risk of injury while working out and improve recovery from workout to workout. As always, consult your physician and/or physical therapist with any pain you may be experiencing with activity.

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The Athlete’s Kitchen: Taking Your Diet to the Next Level

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Some athletes are still on the “see-food diet.” They see food and they eat it. Others are a bit more mindful about how they nourish their bodies; they put thought into selecting high-quality foods that invest in good health, quick healing and top performance. They commonly report they have taken their diets to the next level. For some disciplined and dedicated athletes, the next level is a perfect diet with no sugar, no processed foods, no desserts and no “fun foods.”

While aspiring to eat quality foods is certainly a step in the right direction, eating too healthfully can sometimes create problems if the food policy becomes a bit too zealous. Is birthday cake really a bad-for-you food? (I don’t think so.) Is gorging on vegetables really best for your body? (Not if your hands acquire an orange tinge from having eaten too many carrots, or if you experience recurrent diarrhea due to an excessively high-fiber diet.)

Perhaps a better goal than a perfect diet is an excellent diet. An excellent diet might be more balanced, enjoyable and sustainable. Even birthday cake with refined sugar and saturated fat can fit into an excellent diet. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines allow for the inclusion of small amounts of so-called “imperfect” foods in your food plan:

Ten percent of calories can come from refined sugar. That’s about 250 to 350 calories (60 to 90 grams) of sugar (carbohydrate) for most female and male athletes, respectively. This sugar fuels your muscles. Sports drinks and gels count as refined sugar.

Ten percent of calories can come from saturated fat that can clog arteries and is associated with heart disease. For an athlete who requires about 2,500 to 3,500 calories a day, consuming 250 to 350 calories (about 30 to 40 grams) of saturated fat per day, if desired, can fit within the saturated fat budget. This means, from time to time, you can enjoy without guilt some “bad foods” such as bacon and chips. One slice of bacon has about one gram saturated fat; a small bag of potato chips, about three grams.


Certainly there are healthier foods to eat than bacon and chips, but you want to look at your whole day’s food intake- not just a single item- to determine the overall quality of your sports diet. If 85 percent to 95 percent of your food choices are high quality, a little bacon or a few chips will not ruin your health forever.


Some athletes deal with “unhealthy” foods by setting aside one day a week to be their cheat day. This well-intentioned plan can easily backfire. Most people don’t overeat/splurge until they have first been denied or deprived of a favorite food. Hence, when the perfect diet starts on Monday, people can do a heck of a lot of “last chance” eating the days before starting their restrictive food plan.

Rather than a Sunday splurge, let’s say on bacon, you might want to enjoy just a few slices of bacon throughout the week. This can curb cravings and dissipate the urge to splurge on Sundays. There can be a “diet portion” of any food.

Going to the next level

For athletes who want to take their diets to the next level with a sustainable plan, I offer these suggestions:

-Evenly distribute your calories throughout the day. Most active women need about 2,400-2,800 calories a day; active men may need 2,800-3,600 calories a day. This number varies according to how much you weigh, how fidgety you are, and how much you exercise. That’s why meeting with a professional sports dietitian can help you determine a reliable estimate. To find a local sports dietitian, use the referral network at http://www.SCANdpg.org.

-Most “bad” food decisions happen at night, after your body has been underfueled during the day. If you are “starving” before dinner, add a second lunch to curb your evening (over)eating. You will easily save yourself from a lot of junk food at night. Trust me.

-If your body requires 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day, this divides into 4 food buckets with ~600-700 calories every four hours. For example: 7:00 a.m., breakfast; 11:00, early lunch; 3:00 p.m., later lunch; and 7:00, dinner. Adjust the times to suit your schedule and divide the calories, if desired, into smaller snacks within that four-hour window.

-Your breakfast food bucket should be the same size as your dinner bucket; this likely means you’ll be eating a smaller dinner and a bigger breakfast. If you train in the morning, you may want to eat part of your breakfast calories before you exercise and the rest afterwards.

-Include in each food bucket at least three of these four types of foods:
1. Grain-based foods (about 150-250 calories/bucket), to fuel your muscles. Easy whole grains: whole wheat bread, oatmeal, baked corn chips
2. Protein-based foods (about 250 calories/bucket), to build and repair your muscles. Easy ready-made options include rotisserie chicken, deli turkey, hummus, tuna pouches, tofu, hard-boiled eggs and nuts.
3. Fruits and veggies (about 100-200 calories/bucket) for vitamins and minerals. Choose a variety of colorful fruits: strawberries, cherries, oranges, peaches, bananas, and blueberries. Also choose colorful veggies: dark green broccoli, peppers, spinach; orange carrots, sweet potato; red tomato, etc.
4. Dairy/calcium-rich foods (about 100 calories/bucket) for bones and maintaining low blood pressure: Lowfat (soy) milk, (Greek) yogurt, cheeseÑbut please not rice or almond milk. They are equivalent to juice with very little protein or nutritional merit.

By filling up on quality foods at breakfast, lunch #1, and lunch #2, you will crave less “junk food” at night and may not even miss it. Your diet will easily rise to the next level, no sweat.