The Pulse: October 2002

The Pulse

Early Birds Get Bugs
If you're feeling slightly under the weather, hit the snooze button. People who go to the gym at the crack of dawn may be more vulnerable to infection. After studying male swimmers, British scientists discovered that levels of the stress-hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system, were highest in the morning-and even higher after exercise.

Bonking Sucks
Adding herbal stimulants like guarana and ginseng to sport drinks and snacks isn't a new idea-athletes look to them for natural energy boosts. But now they've even been added to candy: Extreme Lozenges ( Pro triathletes and cyclists are already popping the likes of Atomic Blast and Madness-which also packs 15 mg of caffeine.

Lay Off the J
If you have a habit of taking a toke every time you ride from base to summit, you might want to cut back-if you actually want to remember which base to what summit. A recent study showed that long-term pot smokers (near-daily use over the course of 24-odd years) scored significantly worse than short-term users on tests measuring memory and attention span. Or something like that. We forget.

Behind Bars
Don't believe everything you read-even when it comes to food labels., an independent evaluator of nutrition products, tested 30 nutrition bars and found that 60 percent of them didn't meet their claims, understating levels of sodium, sugar, and, most often, carbs. Most popular bars (like Luna, Balance, and MetRx) passed; the fibbers are currently rewriting their wrappers.

Lectures for Late-Nighters:
by Kim Wong

Up late enough to close the bars and early enough to catch first tracks? Then listen up. Your mother was right. Harvard neuroscientist Matthew Walker recently studied the effect that snoozing had on the motor skills of 62 test subjects. After learning to punch in a repeated keyboard sequence, they logged Z's (or didn't) and then were tested at the keyboard again. The group that got a good night's rest upped their speed and accuracy by an average of 20 percent-an improvement that can apply out on the slopes, according to Walker. Turns out, getting eight hours of shut-eye is crucial to maximizing your stage 2 non-REM sleep-the time when brainwaves are buzzing with activity and rehashing the day's motions and lessons. "Your brain continues to learn even while you sleep," says Walker. "Practice can make you good, but practice and sleep make you almost perfect."