In his new book, The Science of Fitness (co-written with Dr. Mark Hom), three-time Tour de France champion and Twin Cities resident Greg LeMond recounts how his racing career was jeopardized after a hunting accident that left lead shotgun pellets scattered throughout his body. He subsequently suffered from a condition called mitochondrial toxicity, and his book delves into ongoing research that yields insights into physical fitness, obesity, cardiovascular health, and the aging process.
- Fitness begins on the cellular level. Mitochondria are components of our cells that turn fuel into usable energy (sometimes called the “powerhouse”). They burn fat, protect us from free radicals (one of the causes of aging), regulate body temperature, and determine how long our cells live.
- We literally are what we eat—our food becomes incorporated into our organs, cells, and mitochondria. Trans fats in processed and fried foods in particular can disrupt normal cell function and our metabolism.
- An elite athlete has more mitochondria than a recreational athlete, who has more than a sedentary person. High-intensity interval training “flips the switch” to build more mitochondria several times within a single workout, leading to a double benefit: You burn fat while training, and it creates more mitochondria that in turn raise your metabolism.
- Space station astronauts experience muscle atrophy due to lack of gravity despite daily exercise. Gravity strengthens muscles and, luckily, we have an ample supply here on Earth. Work against gravity (climb stairs and bike or run uphill) whenever you can. It’s the best way to fight age-related muscle atrophy and stay fit.
- Diet and exercise nurture mitochondria, which are a vital key to good health. As LeMond says, “There is no pill, no drug, no medicine available that can do for you what one hour of exercise can.”