Lazy Nutrition – Preworkout

This will be a series of occasional posts explaining different things I do with nutrition when I am being lazy, cheap, or dumb in order to attain some nutritional goals I’m working to fill. These are not the optimal solutions, they are going to be the ugly methods I’ve used to get the job done. Since I’m attempting to maintain a modicum of professional language I will title each of these “Lazy nutrition”, the original title was vetoed by my little sister.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m incredibly cheap. Thanks to having a Costco membership buying preworkout supplements are now a possibility for me based on my budget. When I was in grad school this wasn’t always an option. For about 3 years I used expired supplements from a previous research study that had been done at the school. When it finally ran out/started to mold, I still liked riding the lightning of energy supplements so I came up with some simple solutions (read: cheap).

Now before going down the rabbit hole of taking preworkout supplements keep in mind that these are not necessary. Calories in to calories out, macronutrient breakdown, nutrient timing, and composition should all come well before this. Mike Israetel does a great job of explaining this and showing how important each portion is. I’m assuming that you already have these in line, or you are just a bit wore down from a long work day and are looking for something to give you a bit more pep in your workouts and maybe a bit more improvements from your training.

So this is what a cheap lazy person like I would do in order to get a buzz, and as much as I could out of cheap products/ingredients.

Base recipe:

Coffee (1-2 cups)

Protein powder (20-40grams of protein worth) (can be switched out for BCAAs)

Creatine (5 grams)

Beta alanine (1-2 grams) (reduce the dose if you start to have tingling on the skin (parathesia))

Optional heavy sweating day option:

2 liter of Diet Dr. Pepper

Instantized BCAAs (only buy the instantized otherwise it mixes horribly) (10-20 grams)

Creatine (5 grams)

Beta alanine (1-2 grams)

Dash of salt if you want

This was done on a whim in the lab due to we had some leftover soda from some meeting and we were out of coffee in the lab. This was also done as a race, which led to some GI discomfort due to all the burping.

So why use each supplement, because they work. Now I will go in to the mechanisms and a bit about reasons for the dosages for each one.

Caffeine – This is probably the most abused performance enhancing drug on the market at this current time. It has the ability to increase alertness, energy, and contractility of your muscles. It decreases perceptions of fatigue, pain, and exertion. How much you take varies depending on your tolerance. Some people are very caffeine sensitive and might want to avoid it altogether, others can take 4 shots of espresso at once (like my cousin) and just go about their work day. Dosage that is effective for most people is about 3mg/kg of body weight or in American 1.3g/lbs. of body weight. Don’t go whole hog with this your first time out, start low and work your way up. You can always go super cheap and get instant coffee and just hit all those powders at once Dangerfield style.

Protein – It is da milk of da muscles. In all seriousness this is good stuff that the contractile tissue of your body is made up of (read: muscle). So a serving of 20-40 grams of a complete protein (like whey which is cheap and relatively quickly digesting) is enough to get a solid increase in muscle synthesis and help you avoid catabolism (helps you build muscle and avoid losing any). I’ll talk about why you would pick different proteins at some point, but for now just get something complete that you can stomach/enjoy. Also in my experience chocolate is always a safe flavor bet, and strawberry tends to be pretty underwhelming to my palate.

Creatine – Probably the most heavily researched supplement on the market. It works, plain and simple. Now as far as loading creatine goes compared to just taking the 3-5 grams every day, eventually your muscles get topped off so don’t worry about loading. There are small cases of issues with hydration and cramping due to using this, so if you are one of those people then don’t use it. It helps with short term energy production and due to hydration effects helps make the muscles larger. If you are a strength athlete that needs to last more than one rep (or just one rep) this can be a useful supplement. Plain powder here is tasteless and pretty cheap to pick up.

Beta Alanine – This is a relative up and comer in the area of sports performance. Its major ability is in acting as a buffer when muscle pH is dropping due to high amount of anaerobic metabolism. Dosages for this is typically 1-2 grams a day, if you take too much at once you will look like a meth head due to the tingling sensation on your face (parasethesia). Start on the low end and increase the dosage with time, and try to get it in to your system slowly.

Runner up: Carbohydrates – you can use something like a waxy maize starch or potato out starch, maltodextrin, or straight up pixie sticks (remember this is D bag nutrition), but at the end of the day those carbs will help you recover muscle glycogen and help you avoid higher amounts of catabolism. I tend to get enough carbs the rest of my day, but this can be very useful, especially if you are trying to gain weight.

Timing your ingestion is another important thing to keep in mind. Most nutrients when ingested are going to be absorbed in the small intestine which means they need to go through the stomach first. Liquids are going to get in your system a bit faster than anything you need to chew. Play with the timing and speed of which you ingest your pre workout to get the most out of it. I prefer to drink them slowly starting about half an hour out from when I am planning on training.

There are many other supplements on the market than these, but these are the ones that I have found to undoubtedly work for me and the research often shows that they are effective. Try one supplement at a time or this group and see if it helps. After some time if something else tickles your fancy try it out for a few weeks, and if you find a change then keep it. However, if you can’t discern any changes then quit wasting your money on things that aren’t enhancing your performance.

If you have any questions for supplements you have used/seen let me know and I’ll break it down for you. The science in this area is always developing with new products on the market that have been researched and some that haven’t been, but this list is just a number that work well and are pretty cheap to get a hold of.


Rowing with substandard dumbbells

After you have been training for long enough it is easy to row a 100lbs. dumbbell with solid technique. When this occurs you are now ready for 105lbs. dumbbells, however, if your gym doesn’t have those dumbbells and you don’t own an adjustable dumbbell what is one to do?

Well, here are a few solutions that I have found over time to allow you to creatively solve your row problems or otherwise and allow yourself to still have some progressive resistance:

Lifting strap dumbbells together

Take a long lifting strap for this one. Cinch it around the dumbbell you will be lifting like it was your own wrist, then wrap it around the dumbbell that you will be lifting. Make sure you have these put together tight and then you have a good grip. One issue with this method will always be some play in that the dumbbell (bottom) will swing as you lift it and the dumbbells if rubber coated can get somewhat stuck together if you drop them hard at the end of a set (experience speaking here). This can work well, key is don’t be a dick about setting them down or you might just donate a toenail or mess up your hand.

Hold two kettlebells together with one hand

The trick to this is to set the handle of the one further from you deeper into the nearer one like pictured below so it will be easy to hold on to. This even gives an artificial fat grip to the implement and won’t really roll too much if you seat it correctly in your hand in the first place. You can also strap the kettlebell to the dumbbell trick mentioned above in a fix.

Ankle weights

These can be added to yourself or the dumbbell as a means to make it heavier.  You could even use this on a pair of dumbbells if the movement you are doing requires that. Another use it to wear the ankle weight on your wrist as a means to add even more resistance. Also in this picture is the use of magnet weights that would be put on dumbbells or weight stacks, the issues with theses is they have a tendency to fall off when you are getting aggressive (read: very liberal, sloppy form) with your rowing technique. Nothing like a spontaneous strip set.

Are these the classiest ways to get a heavier dumbbell? No, but they are an effective way to give yourself more resistance in the movements you find productive when you currently don’t have a better way to progress them.

Photo credits go to Lauren Lane and Ryan Lane. Also thanks to Southeast Missouri State University and Maryville University for letting me utilize their gyms for these pictures.

The things you want to say, but don’t: Abdomination

On a normal Sunday I went in to do some close grip bench and some other upper body assistance work after hitting some easy fat man cardio of sled pushing and slow jogging outside (very soft j). I’m in my normal small world of 80s hair metal, electronica, and various other awful music walking from one exercise another exercise due to my typical supersetting work.

When walking around I notice a student of mine training. I wave and nod, and student returns the gesture. The student is doing set after set of sit ups. I carry on with my workout with thinking much about it a few minutes later I see the student again now doing leg raises. The cycle repeats to the student now doing crunches, then machine crunches, then pull down kneeling abs. Finally the student goes on to walk to nowhere on an eliptakillmyself.

I like this student, they are a hard-working, disciplined, and intelligent individual. But this student just made an investment of their time and energy in to training that was vastly unproductive for them. I won’t stop the student or force a conversation on training with them, but I do think about these scenarios and this is what I would tell them:

Stop wasting your time.

I can assume that you are working to get defined abs. The good news is you already have abs, the bad news is they are covered by a layer of fat. The amount of fat on top depends on really two things, your total amount of body fat and your genetic predispositions for body fat accumulation in certain areas. So this brings us to a simple point, if you want your abs to show, or just a defined midsection you need to decrease your fat mass.

Sadly, spot reduction is a myth (so negligible they aren’t worth counting). Doing large amounts of work with the muscle group you want to define will not cause you to decrease the amount of fat directly above that muscle. When you are “burning” fat, that fat is coming from stores all over your body, from inside your muscles, your visceral fat (which is usually one of the first to go which is a good thing), to that right under the skin all over your body. It doesn’t follow any scientifically verified pattern (but some have theories), but everyone is different from where it tends to go from first. So we have to lose a lot of fat to get some regions to be lean. Forearms, calves, feet, neck, and hands tend to be first, abs, low back, and hips tend to be the last.

So since we are talking now about losing fat, we need to burn calories and a solid amount of them. A pound of fat is about 3,500 calories. This is more calories than most people take in a normal day. So our goal now is to run enough of a caloric deficit to burn off that many. So if we can run at a 500 calorie deficit every day (and we are only losing fat now, not muscle) in a week that has netted us one pound of fat loss. Do that for a few months and you will be looking leaner (the number of months depending on where you started off at).

So burning lots of calories requires lots of energy to be used by muscles. The bigger a muscle is the more calories it will be able to burn with each contraction. This is why people with large amounts of muscle mass can seemingly lose weight fast. They simply have a bigger engine of which they can burn calories with (why most guys lose weight faster than women). There is a bit more to this, but I’ll probably talk about it later on.

Back to the abdomination. Your abdominals no matter how much you train will always be smaller and weaker than your legs (barring paralyzation or polio). So if we want to make our abs show up we should work on using the muscle groups that can burn more calories faster. So good choice with doing some cardio, let’s just make sure it is difficult enough to be helping us attain our goals. Resistance training itself also burns calories when we use the large muscle groups (especially in multi joint exercises like squats and deadlifts). So let’s hit those movements and add in some cardio, and now we have an effective and simple means to help decrease our fat mass so our abs will start to be more prevalent.

What are we glossing over here; well-balanced muscular development, appropriate rep ranges and loads, and most importantly nutrition. All of this is well and good, but if you are McMurdering your GI every day you aren’t going to be winning the battle of the bulge in the way you are hoping. I don’t want to force people to live on diets they hate, but your workout only makes up maybe one tenth of your day if you are very intense with your training. The rest of the day is when you can help or hinder your progress. The two to four meals (on average) that you take in can make or break progress, but that is a longer discussion for a later time.

I give props to this student for being in the gym and training hard. I respect their choice for what they do for their workout and wish them well in the future. My goal is just to be able to get more out of your training than you would otherwise. We all make mistakes in the gym (I continue to do so on a weekly if not daily basis), but our goal should be to get the most out of our training time. Don’t just train harder, train optimally. I’m still trying to figure out that optimal part.

The Henry Rollins Email Interview

Here is a quick email interview I did with Henry Rollins a few months back. I have always been a big fan of his work, and especially his energy and intensity whether he is performing as a musician, spoken word artist, or otherwise. He has always been very physical in performances from back in the days of Black Flag all the way to the final performances of the Rollins Band. For being well in to his fifties he is in better condition than a lot of the youth I work with. I sent him an email about being interviewed and he was kind enough to answer a few questions that I had. Here are his answers below without really any editing. Thanks again to Henry Rollins for allowing me to take some of his time to do this. Please take a moment and check out some of his work to this day Solipsist is one of my favorite books that he has wrote and Weight is a great album.

1) What does training mean to you and how has that changed throughout your life?

= It is a way to keep balanced. I don’t think that has changed. I have never been in competition, so there was never any idea to be the strongest or anything. It’s just a good thing to do with yourself.

2) What is your current training program like? Do you have a weekly routine that you could share?

= Medium weight. No more squats. A lot of calisthenics and cardio. I need my joints for what time I have left, so I try to avoid anything that will impact them.

3) Do you try and train when you are travelling? If so, what does that typically entail?

= There are gyms all over. If I am in the middle of nowhere like in parts of Africa, the day is a workout enough.

4) What advice would you give a young woman/man when it comes to the iron and training?

= Get some instruction and don’t over do anything ever. You will need your body for your whole life. It’s not a car you can trade in.

5) When did you feel like you were/are in your prime for strength? For endurance?

= Probably 1992. I was 31.

6) What is the most recent thing you learned about training?

= Nothing comes to mind.

7) What is your typical diet like?

= I don’t much or any sugar. I avoid bread. Past that, just sensible. My taste skews towards healthy food. It makes the body more operational.

8) How do you eat healthy when you are on the road?

= On the tour bus, I have a freezer and bring good food in there. In almost any city, you can get whatever you want. When I am (in) less fortunate places, I bring a lot of my own chow.

9) What was your favorite lift when you were younger and is it the same now?

= I always liked squats because they were kind of scary. I don’t have a favorite lift at this point.

10) What are your goals for training now (this might be the same as question one) and how have those changed with time?

= Stay healthy and operational. I have a lot I want to do, or at least be able to do if the opportunity arises.

11) Who was your best training partner ever, and what made them the best you have worked with?

= I never really had one. I am the solitary type.

A good training partner is worth their weight in gold

Buddhist quote: “When given the opportunity to travel with your greaters, travel with your greaters.

When given the opportunity to travel with your equals, travel with your equals.

When given the opportunity to travel with your lesser, travel alone.

Like a king without a kingdom, like a large elephant through the jungle.” – THE DHAMMAPADA

The Hop, Pookie Monster, The Max, Tweak, (Super) Mario, Murderface, Jaked, Pruter, Reko, Kuipes, Killaman, Rickert and the list goes on of some of the best training partners I have ever had. A good training partner is much like all good relationships you will have in your life. They don’t need to be the same type of person as you (and that is a good thing), but your mutual interests allow you to push each other to levels you wouldn’t have attained as quickly without one another. A good training partner also will call you out when you aren’t pulling your weight, and let you know when you are doing things incorrectly. Now you don’t need to be best friends with your training partner, but there should be these following aspects in common:

Consistency – I couldn’t care less about how strong a training partner is, but I sure as hell care if they show up. They don’t need to be the greatest athlete, have the best “genetics” or “talent” (I’ll talk about that a bit later on), they just have to be there. You have to know that they will always be there. Unless they are sick or dying you will never get stood up. A training partner who misses two training sessions for anything short of a prison sentence or glorious path of vengeance is no longer training with me. Your goal is to have a symbiotic relationship, not for them to be an energy vampire for you. (I’m guilty as hell for missing hill sprints, sorry again Tweak and Cue)

Intensity – they don’t need to be the world’s biggest sociopath, but when weights get heavy, when the work gets hard, they can bring something out to do battle. Most people who train with me think I’m a bit goofy. I like to joke around. I like to have fun in between sets. When it is time to hoist the heavy iron, I get dark and mean. That’s what you are looking for. One of my best training partners would get out of his mind for heavy deadlifts to the song: “father of mine” by Everclear. That was both inspirational and terrifying (check the lyrics to the song if you have questions). The rage burning in his eyes as he stepped up to the bar is something I will always remember. Needless to say I didn’t want to ask about the personal meaning of it to him. Another would attack weight to Katy Perry. I believe that Louie Simmons said it best when he said: “I won’t train with someone if I’m not at least a little afraid of them” especially when it is time to throw down.

Honesty – not that there is anything wrong with being a cheerleader (I was a collegiate one for a number of years), that isn’t what you want as a training partner. If your technique sucked, if you squatted high, if you are not working hard you want someone to level with you and let you know what is what. The goal is to get better, not play to our ego (for the love of god don’t stare at yourself in the mirrors when you train) so you want someone who can give you honest feedback. My best training partners are people that I still send my workouts to so they can audit them and when I see them in person I get feedback on my technique from them. Find someone that can do this for you.

Personal hygiene, working vocabulary, political identity, and religion means nothing in the gym. Those shouldn’t be deal breakers for who you train with (seriously knee sleeves will always smell bad). You can have great conversations about all of the above, but as long as those top three are getting met you’re good to go. I can’t stress enough how much this can be helpful in the long run. My best progress has always been related to times where I had a consistent training partner or team I was training with. Not everyone needs to have someone there to train with them and that is fine. The lone wolf rides alone. Most people will do good to train with someone. Please comment about any good training partners you have had or experience with it