Latest sweetener, sucralose, is made from sugar but has no calories

Fitness Q & A

Health & Fitness

September 26, 2004|By Gailor Large | By Gailor Large,Special to the Sun

A co-worker just recommended Splenda to me. What can you tell me about it? How does it stack up against other sweeteners?

Buckle your seatbelts, sugar lovers. For those who don't know Splenda, it's roughly 600 times sweeter than sugar. Wow! Just as NutraSweet and Equal are brand names for aspartame, and Sweet 'n Low is the brand name for saccharin, Splenda is the product name for sucralose.

Unlike its predecessors, calorie-free sucralose is actually made from sugar. According to the Food and Drug Administration's Web site and the official Splenda site, sucralose makers begin the process with sucrose.

Advocates of the sweetener say that this process makes Splenda taste more like the real thing than its competitors. The FDA approved sucralose in 1998, but like any sugar substitute, it should be used in moderation. Just like sugar, it comes in granular form and can be stirred into drinks, sprinkled on food, and used in cooking and baking.

I'm in my late 40s and still play basketball every Saturday, but not without aches and pains. I'm starting to wonder if I'm doing more harm than good to my body. What's your advice?

Ah, another weekend warrior. Soreness is one thing, chronic pain is another. For an expert's opinion, we turned to Susan Schehr, physical therapist and owner of the Pain Relief & Sports Rehabilitation Physical Therapy Center in White Marsh.

"I would recommend that he see his doctor to assess the nature of his aches and pains, and that will determine if he's doing more harm than good," says Schehr.

Generally speaking, the more you can spread out your time on the court, the better. Instead of pounding your body for three hours every Saturday, try playing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for an hour each day. This will give your joints and muscles some recovery time.

Also, warm up before playing, and stretch after. Mixing in cross-training (biking, jogging, yoga, lifting) during the week will also prepare your body for the stress of your Saturday games.

My wife, 5-year-old and I just moved into town. We're avid tennis players and want to join a club for the winter. Any suggestions in or around Towson?

You're in luck. North Baltimore has a good number of tennis clubs to choose from. Here are some top choices:

Baltimore Fitness & Tennis, 410-653-0166

Bare Hills Athletic & Tennis Club, 410-823-2500

Cross Keys Tennis Club, 410-433-1800

Forty West Racquet Club, 410-747-5683

Greenspring Racquet Club, 410-821-5683

Orchard Indoor Tennis Club, 410-821-6206

Perring Athletic Club, 410-661-9220

Twin Lakes Racquet Club, 410-655-3744

I just joined Curves for Women, which uses a circuit training system of 12 resistance machines with a recovery board in between each machine for a total of 24 stations. The circuit takes me 30 minutes for two rotations, and they recommend that you come three times a week. Is this an effective type of exercise?

Pace circuits are great for burning excess calories and building muscle endurance. The variety of machines is also effective for those who lose interest during longer, repetitive workouts. But while circuit training can be effective for toning and burning, there are some drawbacks.

There is a hole in your schedule when it comes to pure cardio and weight-bearing exercise. If the circuit is your only exercise during the week, try to mix in cycling, jogging, stair climbing, walking, or a sport like tennis. Challenging your body in new ways will help you avoid hitting a plateau and will keep you from getting bored.

I prefer the elliptical machine to the stair climber, but I feel as if I don't get nearly as good a workout on the elliptical. The strange thing is, the elliptical machine tells me I burn about 50 more calories an hour than I do on the stair climber. If I'm sweatier and more tired after the stair climber, how can this be?

Never trust an exercise machine. If you have barely broken a sweat and your elliptical machine says you've scorched 500 calories, something is amiss.

These machines use your body weight, exercise speed and resistance level to estimate how much energy you're expending (i.e. number of calories burned). The key word here? Estimate.

Many of these machines have a large margin of error. Instead of relying on calorie counters, listen to your body.

The elliptical trainer, meanwhile, gives you a full-body workout, while the stair climber targets the legs. So it's possible to become more sore more quickly on the stair climber while burning comparable calories.

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