DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband is 35 and still plays very competitive hockey three or four times a week. On the other days, he practices. When he gets up in the morning, he can hardly put one foot in front of the other because he’s still tired. By the late afternoon, he’s fine. Do you think this is too much exercise for him? – G.K.

ANSWER: As far as expending energy, hockey is one of the most demanding sports. As proof of that, after a hockey game, 80 percent of leg muscle glycogen has been depleted. Glycogen is stored muscle sugar (carbohydrate); it’s muscle fuel. Without enough, muscles cannot contract.

Try something for a week. When he comes home, have a huge plate of pasta ready for him – spaghetti, or whatever pasta he likes. If an athlete eats carbohydrates, like pasta, within two hours of exercise, he or she replenishes muscle glycogen rapidly. Whole grains, breads, fruits and pancakes can substitute for pasta. He doesn’t have to worry about gaining weight; hockey burns so many calories that he’s not likely to become fat.

If this doesn’t work, then he should take a rest. If that doesn’t work, he needs to see the family doctor.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have promised myself that I am not going to depart from life with a pot belly. Well, at age 44, I am getting one. I do sit-ups every day. What else can I do? – M.K.

ANSWER: It almost seems that the midsection is a magnet for fat. Even a few extra calories make their way there. Even though I don’t know how much you weigh, you have to cut back on calories. Fat is accumulating, and it cannot accumulate unless people take in more calories than they burn.

Second, you have to pay attention to your posture. On many people, the lower back curves too far inward. That’s lumbar lordosis. A slight inward curve is natural; an excessive one makes the stomach stick out. At all times, sitting and walking, make a conscious effort to keep the lower back flatter – not ironing-board flat, but flatter than it is.

Sit-ups are good. They build abdominal muscles, and strong abs hold abdominal organs in place. Vary your abdominal exercises. Have you have you ever tried what some call a reverse sit-up? Lie on the floor with your arms at your sides. Bend your knees about 30 degrees.

Then raise your legs so that your bent knees approach your chest. Hold that position for a count of five and return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise as many times as you comfortably can.

The fitness booklet deals with fitness in general as well as aerobic and abdominal exercises. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1301, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I bicycle year-round. Lately, I have noticed numbness in two fingers of my right hand. Could this be related to my biking? I don’t want to give it up. – T.R.

ANSWER: Which two fingers? The ring and little fingers? If so, you are compressing the ulnar nerve, a nerve that runs from the shoulder all the way down the arm and hand to those two fingers. It’s a common biking injury because of low handlebars and the way cyclists hunch over them.

You don’t have to give up your exercise, but you should take a rest until the numbness goes away.

Then, when you resume riding, move the seat to a more forward position. Get some softer handlebar grips and wear padded gloves when you’re riding. Every five minutes or so, change the position of you hands on the handlebars. Adjust the handlebars a bit higher so that you don’t hunch over so far.

If these changes make no difference, you must see the family doctor to find out what’s going on.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Is there an optimum temperature for pool water? I come out of my club’s pool shivering. – R.E.

ANSWER: Most people are most comfortable with a water temperature between 82 F and 86 F (28 C to 30 C).

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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