Do you need to buy protein powder?

Recently a colleague of mine asked me if protein powder was necessary after reading another blog post online about it. He was concerned that he was wasting his money on buying protein powder and would be better off just not getting it. We chatted a bit, but I figured there are a number of other folks out there with the same question, so I would write a bit on it.

The short answer to do you need to buy protein powder is; no. However, the long answer has a number of caveats that are important to understand.

Protein powder is just a simple product to allow you to get in a greater amount of grams of protein each day by simply mixing water and said powder and drinking it. If you have a diet that already is high enough in protein (if you are aiming to gain muscle we are talking about getting in at least 1.5g/kg of body mass each day) then you don’t need the protein powder, but if you want to optimize your muscle mass building response taking protein powder directly after training will enhance your recovery. Also, when you are trying to lose weight you have to run a caloric deficit. This requires the obvious decrease in calories you eat each day and most protein powders are simply protein, and your protein demands actually increase when you are losing weight as a means to preserve lean body mass (over 2g/kg of body mass). Using protein powder as a means to hit your protein goal without messing with your caloric deficit is a good way to go, especially when most meat has fat also in each serving which adds up quickly. So those are two simple reasons of why to use protein powder to just optimize your muscle mass.

Some other good reasons why you would want to supplement with protein is when you are eating a diet that is naturally lower in protein. For example being a vegan or some of the stricter forms of vegetarianism where your high protein options are very limited (try getting 200 plus grams of protein each day from quinoa). If you are an athlete trying to gain muscle mass, or lose weight and retain your muscle mass this is very hard if you aren’t getting in enough protein. If you are only living on vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds this can be done, but requires a lot of effort and planning, whereas protein powders allow for simplicity.

23778_595464372680_677463_n-pointersaurusThere can be other nutritional issues like travel, having your jaw wired shut, or otherwise where this just allows for a simple option that you can easily transport. At the end of the day I would always recommend whole food for the majority of your diet, but protein powder can be a nice bridge. So at the end of the day, you don’t need protein powder, but it is useful in a number of situations. Thanks as always for reading and is you have any questions about types of protein powders (or want me to write about it) just let me know.

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Dealing With the Post Season Hangover

So you just finished up with your competitive season or your big competition. You might be happy or you might be sad with your finish, but likely you are tired and more so a little bit beat up. When you finish up an intense training cycle with a hard competition it is important to take some time to ease back and rest. This doesn’t mean take it easy for the rest of your life, but instead for a little bit (one week to maybe a month). Here are a few things to do in order to help yourself recover:

Active rest

Take some time off from your sport, but not necessarily from everything. This is the time to play a sport or do an activity that you like to do, but your hard training made it so you didn’t have the time. Be sure to pick the exercise that is not going to beat you up. Meaning you just finished with your football season so you are going to go play rugby as active rest. Instead think of this like going hiking, playing some basketball, or bike riding. Just go out and have fun and be active that will do wonders for still keeping you in good shape, but not stressing you in the same way you have for months.

Rehab

If your competition is over, it is time to get patched back up. See your athletic trainer, physician, or start doing some self-study to start working on the areas that are beaten up. This is the time to use your extra recovery abilities to help fix your weak points, and not induce more damage in areas that may or may not be holding you back currently. Don’t be afraid here to really just do a full body diagnostic here to see what might be tight or beat up, but wasn’t even on your radar.

Nutrition

You might have had to make weight for your competition, so now is the time to start eating a bit more. Perhaps you were having to eat like crazy to keep your weight up during a grueling competitive season, so now start trying to cut back a bit on the calories. Don’t worry about going to crazy, but now that things are quiet (or at least quieter) take the time to make the best nutritional decisions you can to help your body recover.

Weak point work

Now that you know how your season or competition played out, start working on the elements of your sport that held you back the most. This might be working certain sports skills more, this could be training up more strength or endurance. Take this time to learn how to attack your weaknesses and/or start improving them.

Summary

At the end of a hard training cycle it is important to take a moment to reflect and relax. If you constantly push hard with no end in sight you are more than likely to just burn yourself out. Listen to your body and figure out what you can do to make yourself better in the future and fix any issues you have created from the training you just survived. As always if you have any questions of anything you want me to write more about please just leave a comment.

The Idea vs. The Reality

This is yet another thought exercise that I’ve been mulling over. Often in life we can get swept up in the idea of something. This can be being a champion, being rich, famous, married, etc. I find that it can be easy to think about the idealized existence. You standing up there on the podium, looking out at the ocean from your large vacation home, or being surrounded by adoring fans is an easy thing to dream about. But, life is reality, not just our dreams. This isn’t meant to keep people from trying to attain their dreams, but keep in mind that all things have a cost.

The reality.

In order to be rich you need to earn lots of money. Sounds simple, turns out not so much. This can take years of hard effort before you even start to accumulate any real wealth. If every get rich quick scheme worked think about how many other wealthy people you would know. People like the idea of being a champion, but the idea of having to train hard nearly every day, never skip a practice, and watch what you eat all the time quickly turns people off to the dream.

I bring this up since I see this with my athletes who want to be champions (at least on paper), but in reality don’t put in the work that is needed be great. My students who want to get all A’s, but don’t turn in their homework or study for the exams. I see this in myself with my own training. I like being strong, but I’m not willing to do certain things that I would need to if I wanted to be truly great in powerlifting (things like gaining weight (50lbs.+) and doing drugs (specifically steroids), and not allowing myself to be exposed to other stressors (like going to for walks and doing some forms of cardio)). Finally, how if I want to get back to where I once was, I will need to get shoulder surgery done which will recover a number of months of recovery. That cost, I’m willing to pay.

pec-tear-bruising-two-days-after-the-tear
This is the blood pooling just two days after the injury.

Bring the two together

I try to meet my ideas of what I want to do in my life to the reality (and fail frequently on this too). It is important to understand that it is easy to get swept up in the idea of something, but not be prepared for the reality of what approaches. I think this is easiest to see in relationships, how many people like the idea of being married, having a pet, or being part of a social group, but when it comes time to deal with the fact that your cat just projectile vomited on his cat tower and hit every landing part of it, along with the wall, you might not like the idea of pets (sorry that was part of my past weekend).

Summary

Take a moment and be honest with yourself of do you truly want the reality of something or do you just like the idea of it? We only have so many hours in the day and the more time you have to spend on things naturally takes away from other things that you could be doing. Often the reality of situations can start to wear people down with time and that’s not the goal. Use this as a means to truly commit yourself to your goals, know how much time and energy that this will truly require and then set yourself in for the long haul.

Dad’s Training Program 2017

So here is a basic training program for my dad. He is over 60 and still working full time, so this program is meant to be done around his daily schedule where he just needs to get in three to four different workouts each week in the gym. Any additional cardio or long walks that he wants to do can be performed and will likely not cut in to his recovery. This is training for the long haul. Trying to be good at everything without taking on more risk than is necessary for performance (check out my pec tear if you want an example of pushing the limits and the risks involved). The goal is to follow some basic principles:

1) No sets under 8 repetitions

2) No exercises that bother the joints will be performed, change them accordingly

3) Only one set to failure for each exercise and that is only if you feel good

4) When you can perform 15 repetitions with quality technique add resistance to the exercise

5) Always start an exercise with the lightest resistance you can to warm up with

So with these basic underlying principles we will put together the training program on a 3 days a week of training program with an optional 4th day.

Day 1 2 3 4 (optional)
Exercise Goblet squats or Back squats DB military press Trap bar deadlift Bench Press
Sets x Reps 3-5 x 10 3-5 x 10 3-5 x 10 3-5 x 10
Exercise Back extensions Chin ups or pull ups Bulgarian split squats Db rows
Sets x Reps 3-5×15-20 3-5 x 10 3-5 x 10 3-5 x 10
Exercise Leg raises Push ups Ab wheel Cable tricep push downs
Sets x Reps 3-5×10-20 3-5 x 10 3-5×10-20 3-5 x 10
Exercise BW lunges Db laterals BW squats Band pull aparts
Sets x Reps 3-5×10-20 3-5 x 10 3-5×10-20 100 reps
Exercise Calf raises Threaded curl bar Calf raises Db curls
Sets x Reps 3-5×10-20 3-5 x 10 3-5×10-20 3-5 x 10

Basics

Warm up

Start off with at least 5 minutes of steady state cardio of your choice and then take 5 minutes to stretch out the muscle groups that you are using. Aim to follow the same movement patterns that you are training that day, and hit a few warm up sets of each exercise with an empty bar or dowel to just move.

Progressions

Start light on all exercises and track your weights on each exercise each week. Aim to beat your performance each week from the previous week. This can be through just another rep or adding just another pound to each exercise. For movements like the chin ups/pull ups feel free to use the assistance machine so that you can get those sets of ten and once you can easily do those reps start decreasing the load.

Exercise Performance

On each exercise control the eccentric (part of the motion where you are relaxing the muscle under the load) by trying to take about three seconds. On the concentric (shortening the muscle) make sure you do so through a full range of motion and that you don’t do so in a ballistic manner in the beginning. Finally, use the biggest range of motion that you can (pain free) on each exercise.

Cool down

Feel free to do more cardio, but take some time and stretch out each muscle group you trained that day for at least thirty seconds. Hold those positions and just try to relax feeling the stretch through the entire muscle. No matter what you trained, stretch out your hips by doing both hip flexor stretches and glute/hamstring stretching. After that you are good to go.

Summary

This is a simple training program looking to keep or even build muscle mass and maintain joint health and function. Don’t get hooked too much on the exercises here, instead focus on the movement patterns that they use. The goal is to hit all of the major muscle groups and do so in a way that won’t beat you up. No real bells and whistles to this program, but a good base plan here for just about any one. Thanks for taking the time to read this and feel free to share it with anyone that might be able to gain from it.