Building a Better You – Book Release

Kind reader, my long time friend Jeremy Vincent and I have written a book and it is up on Amazon. The book is a self-help book that we wrote collaboratively over the past 3 years. Jeremy has his doctorate in psychology and wrote extensively on different parts of mental skills training and psychology. I wrote sections on training, nutrition, and recovery. Here is the link to the book:

https://www.amazon.com/Building-Better-You-Fulfilling-Overcoming/dp/1547167866/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1505836207&sr=8-2&keywords=building+a+better+you

If you have the money please feel free to buy a copy. The goal here was to write this book in general, not to get rich. Here is a portion that I wrote that didn’t make the final edition since the book was already well over 200 single spaced pages (and is 8×10):

Popular diets (pros and cons)

This section will discuss a variety of different popular diets and the advantages and disadvantages of each essentially serving as a primer. Before embarking on major dietary change be sure to go to a medical professional and get their clearance before you try these. Some can be very drastic nutritional changes which can have consequences on your health if you aren’t doing this with medical supervision until you fully understand the basics of the diet. You can try any of these, but you don’t necessarily need to try any of them. If your current diet is getting you the results that you want, then change nothing and keep doing what you are doing. Be sure to also get a blood panel and body composition testing performed before you start so you can measure the diet for its effectiveness on your health and not just on your cognition and feelings of well-being. Good luck and remember to experiment with these diets accordingly for at least a month if not longer so you can really see if there are any changes that do occur.

Atkins

This diet was popularized in the in the 1990s, but the original text was written in the 1970s where its later edition was written in 2002. The basics of this diet is to eat a very low carbohydrate diet with an acclimation period of no carbohydrates followed by a low carbohydrate lifestyle after that point. The diet can be effective, but any diet that doesn’t allow for certain macronutrients, can lead to issues with food choices that can have health consequences. It is a diet that one of the author’s has experimented with (Mike), but is not a large fan of it. The lack of carbohydrates will make a number of sporting activities much more difficult to compete in.

Paleo

This diet was popularized by the writings of both Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf. The diet requires the avoidance of any types of processed foods such as grains and abstention of any foods that are more recently made (not eaten by Paleolithic man). There are a few cognitive flaws in this argument, but the key with this diet is your food choices by the nature of the beast must be of much higher quality. No pizza, beer, hot wings, bologna, etc. is allowed since those foods are not “paleo”. However, any vegetable (save legumes) is acceptable, along with any type of fruit or meat that is not processed. Within that scope, meats must come from quality sources that were fed their natural diet (grass-fed beef, as opposed to corn-fed antibiotic loaded cows). This diet can be effective, but like anything else it is more about quantity of calories than anything else. You can go over in the calories in this diet like any other, but this diet does have the advantage of typically allowing you to have more than adequate amounts of your vitamins and minerals and coming from good sources.

South beach

This is another popular diet with the goal of weight loss (fat loss). The way this diet aims to do so is through glucose control and only being allowed to eat certain foods. The way to control glucose in this diet is through high fiber/low GI carbohydrates, which is a good way to start off for just about anyone. However, when it comes to labelling certain fats as “good” or “bad” it seems to lose a bit of the plot. Since the diet doesn’t put a cap of caloric intake it can be easy to exceed how many calories you should actually be taking in, but the diet does suggest a workout program with it. This diet might be a sensible choice for you if you like a simple plan that allows you to work within a point system, but the writers of this book are not large fans of the diet.

Mediterranean

This diet was popularized by the longevity of the individuals from the area where they ate in this style. The diet is set to eat lots of fruits and vegetables along with quality meat, healthy fats, and dairy. The goal is to avoid unhealthy desserts and fat sources. This diet is structured mostly around the healthier food choices with some portion control. This can be a good diet for folks, but aiming for more optimization of macronutrients will have better effects on performance than you would get from this diet, but it has some solid healthy food choices like some of the previous diets discussed (mayo clinic).

Slow Carb

This diet plan was popularized by Tim Ferriss, the author of the four hour body (among others). The goal here is to make sure that your carbohydrate choices are low GI carbs and by doing so it will help you lose weight by maintaining the feelings of fullness and to help you make better nutritional choices throughout the day. By utilizing low GI carbohydrate sources you are not going to spike blood sugar levels which can have positive effects on not only controlling blood sugar, but also in the partitioning of nutrients throughout the body. This is a good qualitative diet where you can follow your sources accordingly, but in order to optimize lean body mass and sports performance you will also want to take in some fast digesting carbohydrate post workout to expedite recovery. You also get to have a cheat day each week which can be very useful as a means to giving yourself a mental reprieve.

Ketogenic diet

This diet is traditionally super high fat (approximately 80% of your daily calories) and low carb and protein (together make up the final 20% of the diet) recently this has become a very popular type of diet to partake in. What occurs when the body goes low carbohydrate you simply don’t have as much glucose for the body to use, which just so happens to be the preferentially energy source for a number of tissues in the body (like the brain). Over a long enough period of time the body will start making ketone bodies due to the increased metabolism of fatty acids (they are a byproduct of this process). These ketones will then go in the blood stream and be utilized as energy by the brain and other tissues.

This type of diet (specifically the ketones) has been shown to have a positive effect on cognitive functioning in older adults with Alzheimer’s specifically folks that with the APOe4 genotype (Henderson 2009). This diet has also been recently related to decreased symptomology of individuals with Parkinson’s disease (VanItallie 2005, Gasior 2008). There are also possible positive effects on a wide variety of cognitive functioning from mitochondrial biogenesis (more cellular factories for energy production) to resistance from oxidative stress.

Originally this diet was utilized as a means to help control drug resistant seizures for people to great success (people who had drug resistant seizures had less events while on this diet over half the time). It has since been utilized for a number of other health problems, and has potential advantages with avoiding diseases like diabetes since the body doesn’t have to worry about carbohydrate meal control. It is strict and requires a great degree of planning and discipline initially.

I would suggest trying a low carb diet for a solid two weeks (takes a bit to get in to ketosis without the use of supplements) to see how your body reacts. Partially as an experiment in mental toughness so be sure to plan other major life modifications or events during this time period. At the end of the two weeks your body should have started to adapt (some folks needs longer) and from there you can make the decision to keep it up. There is a lot of exciting research going on in this area which is going to be worth following.

Intermittent fasting

The basic concept for this diet is to eat food only within certain time windows. This can be done in a variety of ways and there was a great presentation and articles online available by Jon Berardi about his experiments with intermittent fasting on himself and some of his clients. What you are really exploiting here is by abstaining from food (with the added assumption that you are also training), you will likely not be getting in enough calories to gain weight, much less maintain it. Arguably, there might be some advantages to avoiding food for periods of time which allows your body to undergo a process known as autophagy.

This process is where your body naturally “cleans house” or you could say feeds upon itself since no other calories are coming in. Yes, you will lose some muscle, but there is perhaps an advantage to longer fasts where the body has the opportunity to purge precancerous cells and other factors that should not still be floating along in the body.

I’m not the biggest proponent of this diet, but for some people and their schedule (especially college aged males) this diet might work well. This is where you set a time window and only eat within it. This diet is not for people who have busy schedules and have to interact with people (can’t get away with being hangry). By having consistent eating you can control your mood better. This is one to perhaps play with if you are in the point in your life where it is possible to do so without negative social and lifestyle repercussions. Also recent research seems to show that simply limiting the window of which you eat to twelve hours most days of the week has positive effects on health.

Fasting

Taking the intermittent part out, and now you have straight up fasting. This is avoiding food or drink for a few days (maybe even a week or more). This is going to cause even further autophagy (cleaning up your cells (in theory)), and obviously be more stressful on the body. You still need to monitor your hydration and other health metrics (blood glucose, ketones, etc.) so this is not for the weekend warrior or otherwise. You can put yourself at a huge amount of health risk by doing this unsupervised and with little controls, but it is possible to do.

This isn’t a rapid weight loss strategy for getting ripped or lean, this is something you do for the (possible) positive health effects and/or the mental toughness aspects to it. If you have a life that requires you to be busy and productive (and tolerant of others) this is not for you. If you are very active and plan on training while not eating this again is not for you. If you are trying to get as muscular as humanly possible (with or without drugs) this is not for you. Be sure to use this method if you only are hoping for the first two reasons covered in this paragraph.

IIFYMs (If it fits your macros)

This is a diet for college students or douche bags. Most likely both. The goal here is to not care about the quality of the calories you are taking in (think 100 grams of carbs from pixie sticks compared to sweet potatoes), just making sure that you get in your daily goals of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. This is a good short-term diet plan for folks that don’t care about long-term health and otherwise. So if you are young (and dumb or lazy) this just might be the plan for you, but eating like an asshole will eventually catch up to you. This does require time and who knows science might be at a point in the future when this comes back to bite you, to unf#$% the situation you put yourself in. Think it is safe to see our thoughts on this one. YOLO.

In all reality this diet might be a good choice if you are just getting in to counting your macronutrients and then with time start to get those macros in from better sources. By learning how many grams of protein, carbs, and fats you need in a day in order to cause the body compositional changes you want. With time learning nutrient timing and enhancing the composition of the nutrients in your diet will lead to even better performance changes, so this could be the place to start. At the end of the day this is a good short-term strategy for your diet especially when you are looking to change your body composition with the least amount of mental work required.

Blood Type Diet

This is a diet based around the concept that thanks to your genetics you need to eat appropriately for your individual needs. This foundational concept is completely correct, unfortunately is it incorrectly applied. The basic is that due to your blood type you need to eat accordingly for health and longevity. Seeing as how your blood type is only one trait (actually your blood type is more than this, but this diet is based upon just your ABO genotype (really more phenotype)) you aren’t getting the whole information. This chapter has already highlighted a number of genetic traits which can influence how your body handles or might need more or less of certain nutrients. This diet program is inappropriate since it doesn’t get in to the nuances of a wide variety of genetic traits (over 20,000) that makes up an individual. This diet is incorrect, but someone could actually do this correctly and this diet would be called the Genotype diet (I think I’m going to copy right this ahead of time to make that paper).

Gene Type Diet

Well it already has been written (damnit). This one is misguided in over application of certain concepts, but at least it isn’t as bat shit crazy as the blood type diet. The key again is to eat according to what your genetic traits predispose you to. As you have already noticed from our talk on vitamins, minerals, and certain macronutrient subsets there are certain genetic traits that you may or may not have that effect how well you metabolize/utilize those parts of your diet. The mistakes here are the over application of these ideas and losing sight of the effects of calories in to calories out. Learning about your genetics can be useful, but aside from reading our previous recommendations, I suggest that you take some time on occasion to self-study instead of believing everything that someone who is directly profiting from tells you.

Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me. Also if you buy a copy I will gleefully sign it.

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Hot Boxing Myself, Experiments with Sauna Use

 

After reading up on the myriad of positive effects of sauna use on overall health, I decided to give it a go. The first real sauna session I did with my sister at a local golds gym and by the end of a session that was just 12 minutes long my heart rate had risen to 150 beats per minute (bpm). At this point I figured why not try to make this practice a bit more regular and see what if any positive effects on my health I could have.

My reasons for trying it:

Heat shock protein activation. Activation of these proteins allow for some cellular housekeeping to occur where misfolded proteins are then folded correctly or dismantled. Proteins when made in the body need to fold correctly in order for those proteins to have their normal function. Proteins fold due to reasons like the charge (positive or negative), their relationship to water (hydrophobic or hydrophilic), and a few other interactions. When folded properly, proteins can have their typical function. When they aren’t at best they are wasting cellular resources to be made and at worst causing some dysfunction. Due to what is known as cardiac drift your heart rate increases as you sweat more which in turn causes a training effect to occur on the heart. With those applications in mind the goal was to use this to help with the atrophy of my right arm after shoulder surgery along with help my brain in general since I’m still having a few residual effects from my concussion from last year.

To be uncomfortable. It sounds funny, but putting yourself through occasional distress makes other stress in life seem easier and more manageable. This is due to the endorphin/dystrophin signaling in the brain and well, why not. At worst this is making me a more heat adapted individual and slightly tougher.

Experimentation

After the initial run at Gold’s gym I was lucky enough to borrow a sauna chair from a family member. This was interesting since it was a sauna where when you sit inside your head is exposed. I found after the first time inside that I really didn’t seem to get that hot since I had both my head and my hands exposed. So the next time I wore a beanie while inside to keep my head hot along with kept my hands inside of the sauna chair. This seems to be the sweat spot (get it, not sweet spot). Further the chair takes a few minutes to heat up, so aiming to be exposed to 20 minutes of heat required me to actually be in the chair for 25 minutes. Also wearing a hat kept from my sweat running down my face as much making things a bit more uncomfortable.

After finishing the sauna I found that it was important for me to relax for a few moments before hoping out and getting on with my day. I also would take a cool (not cold) shower afterwards which felt nice and relaxing before typically heading to bed.

Some of the research utilizes sessions that last for an hour and I’m not on that level. Also, I’m doing these sessions as a one off, not doing repeated bouts yet. I might work up to repeated bouts, but I’m not there right now.

Nonsense claims of sauna use

Some folks will claim that saunas help them lose body fat. This is not the truth. It does slightly increase your metabolic rate, specifically through the increased heart rate, but the basic use of things like brown fat for thermogenesis (heat production) does not occur. What you are doing is using less calories. Since your body is constantly trying to keep your body temperature around 98.6 degrees if you make the temperature higher than that your body sweats to lose some heat, but that requires little energy. If you are however in a 40 degree room your body will work much harder to keep your temperature up so you can avoid hypothermia, but not many people want to do something like that.

Sweating out toxins. This might have some truth with this is a major clearance methodology for things like BPA, but this has not been really observed too much by science as a real methods for removing negative contents from the body.

Notes for Caution When Using

Dehydration and heat illness are very real risks of using saunas. If you are an athlete that already sweats extensively due to their practice schedule this is likely to cut in to your own recovery, not bolster it. The electrolyte depletion that you can get from doing that can cause not only a decline in performance, but massive cramping. As you become habituated to the sweating in the sauna your body will actually lose less electrolytes and because of this you won’t be having as great of issues with cramps (though there is still a risk here).

Additionally the changing from hot to cold temperature can cause some hard constricting and dilation of blood vessels which has in at least one case lead to a heart attack. This is a stressful thing to do to your body so don’t just dive in day one.

Summary

After doing this for a little over a month straight it seems this had a positive effect on my post concussive symptoms, so I will keep this up. Now to be honest, this wasn’t the most well controlled study, but I have come to like the experience in the sauna and it helps me relax in general at the end of the day. Will I ever buy/build a sauna in my house, maybe. Either way I found this to be enjoyable and it is a nice way to finish up a hard workout (I also tend to train later on in the day) or relax a bit before bed. If you get a chance try using a sauna yourself, start with a lower amount of time you are in the sauna and build up slowly. If you have issues with cramping or dehydration this is not a good choice for you to use. If in doubt consult your physician and take it from there. As always thanks for reading and have a great day.

Wasted Time Doing Work            

Once again cheerleading is starting up and we just survived camp, well really they just survived camp. I went on vacation to Indy to see and old friend and then to Asheville to relax with family. We are now trying to aim the kids at getting ready for not just the fall season of cheering both football and basketball, but keeping in mind what skills we want to bring to the nationals mat in January. We need to start working towards having better timing, more difficult skills, and being in better shape for the routine. We only get to practice with the kids for about 6 hours each week. What they do outside of practice is something we have no control over, but you can always tell which athletes put in that work and which just do the bare minimum. This post is for the athletes that are doing or want to do more work outside of practice. My advice to them is to not waste their time.

What I mean by not waste their time, is that they spend that time developing the skills that they need to. I really don’t care about how great their back squat is, as long as it is strong enough. This doesn’t mean that they never have to lift if they are strong enough, but that we need to maintain our strength levels. This logic can be applied to endurance, power, technique, etc. Each ability (or skill) has a number of thresholds you need to hit in order to perform it successfully. If one of your basic performance abilities is below the threshold then that will be the limiting factor. When you find this weak point it is time to start programming to develop that limitation. Below are some basic ideas of how to break through those limits and not waste time in your training.

Wasting time examples followed by better investments of that time

Not enough strength

Waste of time Good investment
Doing more cardio Squat, deadlift and press or sprint style work along with heavy sled work
Doing more plyometrics and box jumps Do Olympic lifts and their variations
Stretching more Squat, deadlift and press
High rep low weight training (sets over 12 with pink dumbbells Increase load so that the sets are for 10 or less repetitions
Isolation work when you are limited by one muscle group, instead full movement patterns Start with compound movements and only do these at the end of training
   

 

Not enough power

Waste of time Good investment
Doing more cardio Sprints with long recoveries
Doing more plyometrics and box jumps Decrease the reps and increase the intensity
Stretching more Do full range lifting
High rep low weight training (sets over 12 with pink dumbbells Increase the load and focus on speed during the lifting phase and control lowering it.
Isolation work when you are limited by one muscle group, instead full movement patterns Compound movements
   

 

Not enough endurance

Waste of time Good investment
Doing more cardio Good choice
Doing more plyometrics and box jumps Switch to stair or hill sprints
Stretching more Maybe do something like yoga, MAYBE
High rep low weight training (sets over 12 with pink dumbbells Try out some javorek complexes.
Isolation work when you are limited by one muscle group, instead full movement patterns Compound movements specifically high rep squatting and clean to press work for work capacity.
   

 

Not enough mobility

Waste of time Good investment
Doing more cardio Pick things that slightly challenge mobility like rowing, swimming, and circuit training with full range
Doing more plyometrics and box jumps Stretch between sets
Stretching more Add in some extra tools like foam rollers
High rep low weight training (sets over 12 with pink dumbbells Pick movements like high bar squats, RDLs, and lunges with slightly heavier weights where you work through that full range
Isolation work when you are limited by one muscle group, instead full movement patterns Do full range compound movements
   

 

Not enough technique

Waste of time Good investment
Keep doing the same shitty technique Work on one detail at a time
Try getting stronger instead Get expert coaching
Complain about genetics Find someone who has a different approach
Listen to people with bad technique to start Watch video of your technique and compare it to expert technique
Quit Practice outside of practice
Never do this outside of practice Figure out your basic fault

Summary

So I hope this is a good example of how you can optimize your performance and technique by putting in not only extra work, but focused work that will really make you better. Do take the time to perform the type of work that you enjoy, but don’t forget about thinking critically about your weaknesses and doing your best to attack those weaknesses. Thanks for reading and if you want any advice or elaboration on the points above please leave a comment.

Introduction Phase to Weight Lifting

Right now I am rehabbing my shoulder and I’m aiming to take a good run at Olympic lifting once I can train how I want to. So this is the basic plan of things that I am going to do with my training to progress in Olympic lifting thanks to advice and recommendations that I have been given over the years and now I’m patient enough to start using it. Keep in mind that I am in good overall shape with decent but not great mobility and a solid strength base.

Technique

Olympic lifting involves two competitive lifts; the snatch and then the clean and jerk. In competition the greatest load that you manage on each lift is how you are compared to other lifters in your weight class for who is the winner. These are very high speed and technical movements with heavy loads. You need to optimize your technique as much as possible to not only enhance your performance but also to keep healthy. When you start off, make sure that you are doing everything that you can to refine your technique.

Warming up

For each of these Olympic lifting training sessions I am going to warm up utilizing either the Bergner warm up or Justin Thacker’s warm up progressions. This is going to help with my movement and preparation for the heavier loads. Now I will need to modify these for a while since I am not ready for the full movements much less some of the easier variations for mobilizing. Also I plan on doing a number of warm up sets with a pvc pipe before doing any actual bar movements in training.

Coaching

On the note of optimizing your technique, go get some coaching in these movements. If you live anywhere near civilization you will likely be able to find someone to help you with your technique. Worst case scenario there are people online that can coach you and you can video your lifts and they will give you feedback on your technique. I am a fan of Leo Totten, Justin Thacker, and a few others for their ability to coach and refine technique. Get a good coach that you can trust and move on from there.

Progressions

So as I am getting healthy again on the shoulder where I can do the movements I won’t actually start with the full lifts. Instead I will start with variations on the Olympic lifts and progress then to the main movements. These are progressions I got from Quinn Henoch and a few others. If you are looking to get in to olympic weightlifting these are good progressions to start with for the olympic lifts.

Snatch

Beginning Overhead squat
  Snatch balance
  Drop squat for snatch
  Heaving snatch balance
  Hang snatch with pauses to overhead squat
  Power Snatch to Overhead Squat
End Olympic Snatch

 

Clean

Beginning Front squat
  Front squat with pauses
  High hang power clean to front squat
  Power clean to front squat
End Full clean

 

Jerk

Beginning Strict press with hold overhead
  Push press
  Split jerk position strict press
  Push jerk
End Split jerks

 

Training programming

As I am working my way in to these movements the big key with each is always quality first then quantity. This means to keep the reps low on each set and give myself plenty of rest between each set. By low reps we are talking about sets of 5 reps or less, but doing 5 or more sets. The basic goal will be 25 quality reps over a training session. As far as load is concerned, the goal is to use the heaviest load that I can without having my technique break down. As far as progressing through the exercises, we are looking to have two workouts in a row where I perform the movements with impeccable technique with a load that I find acceptable. Yes, that is muddy, but I’m basing this on feel and aiming to get to loads that are around my bodyweight or above it (especially in the clean) before I am going to start really chasing heavy numbers.

For the rest of my training I will be following my typical upper and lower split but putting these movements in to the beginning of the training program along with programming accessory movements that will enhance performance and range of motion in my joints. If you want a further explanation of this just let me know, but this means simple things like high bar back squatting, extended range of motion split squats, and full range pull ups, rows, and presses.

Summary

So this is my basic program for progressing in to Olympic lifting. Obviously, now I need to put my money where my mouth is once I am cleared. I’ll try to keep you posted on how things go with this training and as always thanks for taking the time to read this.

Science! Dosages Matter

Science! Dosages Matter

I have come across this recently where a number of students have asked me how much I should take of one supplement or another. At the end of the day you want to make sure you understand what the minimal effective dose, normal dose, and safe dose of any supplement or drug you take. Please forward this on to friends that you know take a large number of supplements and/or someone that is having issues with side effects from something they are taking.

Minimal dose

This is the smallest amount of something you can take to have a positive effect. Supplement companies will sometimes put a laundry list of individual ingredients in a supplement, but the amounts of each ingredient is too little to actually have an effect on the body. Take for example caffeine, in the literature the sweet spot for caffeine supplementation (which there is a big genetic component for) is about 3-6mg/kg of body weight. This means that a 100kg guy (dude who weighs 220lbs.) needs to take in 300-600mg of caffeine to get a boost in performance. This would be the equivalent of 2-4 espresso shots depending on how strong you make the expresso.

Optimal dose

Working with the caffeine dosage (3-6mg/kg) earlier this is the amount that you need to take in order to get a solid effect. Be sure to read up on anything that you are either experimenting with or prescribed so that you know how much is really needed for someone like yourself. Just about all supplements that you might take have dosages that matter relative to body mass, but some will just have a general amount of the supplement to take. Be aware that due to differences in physiology there tends to be a range. Some folks naturally need more and others need less. This is due to genetics which can cause you to absorb less or more, metabolize things more efficiently and so on. Experiment with your dosages by starting on the low end of optimal and then working your way up when you are using supplements. When it comes to pharmaceutical aids ask your physician why they recommend a certain amount for you and not more or less.

Upper limit of intake (maximal safe dose)

From our example of the dude that just took 600mg of caffeine because he really wants to ride the lightning, let’s say that there was a mistake and his 50kg (110lbs.) female friend drank the preworkout that was meant for him. Well she just took in 12mg/kg this load will cause some issues with jitters, anxiety, possible insomnia, diarrhea potentiall, and the beginnings of some heart palpations (possibly). Overall you don’t want to take in more caffeine than about 9mg/kg any benefits from caffeine are wasted at this point due to the side effects that come along with it.

Summary

So dosages matter, .3mg/kg of caffeine and you will barely feel anything. 3mg/kg of caffeine and you will be ready to rock. 30mg/kg of caffeine and you can die from it. Read the labels of the things you are consuming and always keep in mind how much of a supplement you are taking in relative to your body weight.