What is Overtraining?

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Recovery is one of the key components to high performance in sports but is rarely appreciated by most athletes ranging from the weekend shuffler to the elite level endurance athlete. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the road to success is hard workouts, and the more the better.

A highly motivated athlete, no matter how elite, who has placed recovery on the back burner, will soon enough experience total fatigue. Waking up in the morning tired, unable to complete the easiest of training sessions. This can go on for days, weeks or even months. You’re overtrained.

How Overtraining can occur
Below is a list of just some of the reasons an athlete could become overtrained:

  • Inadequate recovery between training sessions;
  • Too much high intensity training, typically for too long;
  • Sudden drastic increases in distance, length, or intensity of exercise routine;
  • Daily intense weightlifting;
  • High volumes of endurance training;
  • No vacations, breaks, or off-seasons;
  • For athletes, excessive competition at high levels (i.e. trying to win every race);
  • Inadequate nutrition, typically in the form of caloric and carbohydrate/fat restriction;
  • Insufficient sleep;
  • High amounts of stress and anxiety.

Common Symptoms of Overtraining
There are many symptoms of overtraining, ranging from physiological to biochemical or even a compromised immune system. Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms of overtraining.

Physiological and Psychological

  • Decreased performance;
  • Decreased strength;
  • Decreased work capacity;
  • Changes in heart rate at rest, exercise and recovery;
  • Increased frequency of breathing;
  • Insomnia;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Increased aches and pains;
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Depression;
  • Apathy;
  • Decreased self-esteem;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Irritability.

Immunological

  • Susceptibility to illness;
  • Slow healing of minor scratches;
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Biochemical

  • Negative nitrogen balance;
  • Flat glucose tolerance curves;
  • Reduced muscle glycogen concentration;
  • Decreased hemoglobin;
  • Decreased iron serum;
  • Mineral depletion;
  • Elevated cortisol levels;
  • Low free testosterone.

Overcoming Overtraining
The only way to overcome overtraining is adequate rest along with sound nutrition. Overtraining usually results from training mistakes, most commonly is an imbalance between stress and rest. This usually occurs as an athlete suddenly increases their training workload in either volume or intensity, sometimes both.

Overtraining can be avoided by following a long-term, structured training program that has scheduled rest and recovery days. A reduction in workload for a single training week, every 6-8 weeks is also very beneficial. Taking the time out to reduce both mental and physical stressors of the modern world can help with recovery.

Training programs should be unique to the individual athlete, taking into consideration, age, experience, susceptibility to illness and injury, along with any personal goals.

My training at 36-ish

Goals
Fitter. Faster. Stronger.
Always learning.

Context: 36-year-old. 180cm. Soldier. Student.

My aim is to live as long as possible and as healthy and productive as possible. I’m not a father yet, but I would like to be a parent one day and see those children grow up.

Basically, I want live well and avoid chronic disease (for as long as possible). My grandfather lived to 84 years old, although his last decade was hampered by heart disease, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

So, I plan to use some evolutionary wisdom and apply it to modern society. Simply put, keep my metabolism as healthy as possible (eat whole foods), keep enough muscle mass and remain as mobile (be active) as I can so that I can actually get around and do everything I want to do for as long as possible… and hopefully help a few people out along the way.

Caveat: This is what has worked for me so far…

Food
For those who don’t know me, I have been following Paleo or Primal type nutrition for about six years now. For the most part it’s just eating whole foods as often as possible. I do like my full fat dairy (like cheeses and some yogurt) and they don’t really affect me in a negative way unless I eat them in excess so with a bit of discipline I’m all good.

I’ve been trying to get about 125-150g of protein per day, with a lot of cooked veggies (for nutrient density) and some healthier fats like avocado and oils such as coconut, macadamia and olive. I must admit, I been fairly liberal with my use of butter and sea salt with my cooking. Not only are they a good source of vitamins and nutrients, but they taste really good.

I would usually split this over two or three meals depending on the day and what was going on during that day or week. The last two or three months I have been fairly low in dietary carbohydrate and have felt pretty good. I do have days where I really lift my carbohydrate intake but they have been fairly random and are usually after some intense training periods where I need a bit of a boost to aid in recovery.

I do a bit of intermittent fasting here and there. I am metabolically flexible, meaning I am well adapted to using fats or ketones as an energy source. Occasionally on a low tempo day, I would dabble in a longer fast of up to 24 hours This wasn’t very regular, maybe once every 6-8 weeks.

These days I don’t count calories or worry too much about when I’m eating or not eating. Basically, I eat when I’m hungry and try to avoid processed foods when practicable.

Most weeks I eat out with friends one night which would usually lead me to the local Vietnamese Pho or Grill’d restaurants.

Supplements
I’ve been supplementing with Nordic Naturals Fish Oil. I think omega-3 supplementation is important for overall health and Nordic Naturals is basically the gold standard of omega-3 supplements.

Magnesium. This is probably one of the most important supplements for me. I generally take it post workout (especially in the warmer months) or in the evenings prior to sleep. Magnesium is vitally important to so many biological functions in the body and these days it’s not that easy to get enough from diet alone. Add in some intense training or workloads, and your requirement increases.

At the moment most of my work days are spent indoors so during the winter months I add 10g L-glutamine daily (in the morning) and about a 10ml of Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil every other day. The L-glutamine is got for overall health and recovery while the Cod Liver Oil is a good source of both Vitamins A and D. 

Training
There are several coaches that I go to for inspiration when it comes to my program design. They are Dan John, Pavel Tsatsoline and Ross Enimait. When it comes to strength, conditioning, combative and kettlebell training these guys have you covered. 

Over the last 12 months or so I have been playing with some basic strength and conditioning programs consisting of mostly compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, rows, bench and overhead presses. Most of the time being spent around the 3-6 repetition range.

Heavy Turkish getups (up to 50kg), kettlebell swings and farmers carries have also featured consistently in my programing. 

I had a good three or four month period where I added some decent metabolic conditioning (metcon) circuits a couple of times per week. I felt this was working quite well but I had to really ramp up my caloric intake as the metcon work really depletes the energy levels.

Running. It’s been mostly interval work and 5km racing. The days of running 10km to 21km are behind me. I just found them too taxing on the body as a whole. My preference lately has been to run 200m and 400m intervals and every now and then I just get out and run around for 4km or 6km.

I missed out on the usual Run for the Kids in 2017, but I did compete in the Run Melbourne (26:50 for 5.7km) and Melbourne Marathon (26:03 for 5.7km). This year I have run in the Sole Motive Zoo Run (25:25 for 5km), Run for the Kids (23:20 for 5.2km) and the Mother’s Day Classic (17:41 for 4km).

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Right now my training consists of three days of strength and conditioning, two days of running (easy run and some sprint work) and maybe a single boxing workout. Each workout lasts about 30-35 minutes with the exception of the boxing which usually lasts 60 minutes. This gives me a total of about three to four hours of dedicated training per week which allows me to have more free time in my week.

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Lifestyle
I’m back in Melbourne. Where I grew up. Around family and friends definitely makes life a little easier. The importance of good social connections is often overlooked when it comes to optimising health and performance.

The last twelve months have been kind of interesting for me. A lot has happened on a personal level. Some good, some not so good, but I believe overall that I have had a net win which is great.

This year will mark 15 years as a soldier. That’s basically a lifetime. Soldiering has taken me to some pretty interesting places around the world and it has given me the opportunity to learn and work alongside some professional people.

I mentioned earlier that I am once again a student. I am finally completing my studies in nutrition which I am excited about. I am doing this via correspondence which will take about two years to complete, then I’ll make a decision on where I go from there.

Ancestral tips to better sleep, health and performance during the cooler months

As we move into the cooler, darker and shorter days of winter it becomes more difficult to maintain energy levels, productivity and fight off nasty colds and flu. These common complaints become the “norm” as the seasons change and people are constantly searching for the “magic bullet” supplement to keep them running on all cylinders.

Recent studies on the daily patterns of modern hunter gatherer tribes around the world may hold a few clues in how to keep yourself health and productive throughout the winter months.

How much sleep did our ancestors get?
Did our hunter-gatherer ancestors really go to bed as the sun went down, sleeping through the night for 8-10 hours, waking up with the sun? They definitely did not have mobile phones, laptops, external light sources keeping awake all night.

In 2015, a study was conducted on several modern hunter-gatherer tribes. The San of southern Africa, the Tsimane in Bolivia, and the Hadza in Tanzania. The study found that they only slept an average of 5.7 to 7.1 hours per night. Surprised? Most sleep research today suggests that most people are sleep deprived, averaging about 6.5 hours per night. This is approximately 1-2 hours less sleep than our grandparents got two generations ago. Experts today believe the general population should be aiming for 7-9 hours sleep per night for better health.

Although very important, there is more at play than simply the amount of sleep you get. Here are some of the key factors that could help improve your overall sleep and optimise your health and wellbeing this winter.

Go to bed earlier in the winter months
Looking at the tribes mentioned earlier in the study, we’ll see that they went to bed earlier during the darker days of winter / wet season and later in the summer / dry season. The average bedtime was around 9pm in the winter months, compared to about 10:45pm in the summer.

Today a lot of people struggle to get to bed before midnight (laptops, mobile devices and TVs don’t help) and usually don’t get to bed any earlier in the winter months. This lack of sleep has been shown in research to suppress the immune system, putting you at greater risk of developing an infection such as colds and flu.

Wake up consistently with the morning sun
Most people would agree that hitting the snooze button on your smartphone in the morning and sleeping in for another few minutes feels pretty good, but is it what your body really needs? The tribal groups in the study woke up at similar time each day of the year with the morning sun.

If you have ever done any real camping you would be aware how quickly you naturally get tired once the sun has gone down. Even in front of an open fire, the body begins to wind down and processes for sleep activate naturally. Waking up is just as easy once the sun has risen and the amount of light and temperature begins to rise.

Several key hormones are produced during a natural daily pattern or circadian rhythm that new research shows gets disrupted if you constantly change your sleeping and waking time. Disrupted circadian patterns have been shown to leave you more prone to fatigue, inflammation, weight gain and even change the balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your gut.

If you struggle with fatigue, insomnia or frequent colds and flu, aim to have a consistent bedtime and waking time this winter. Go to bed earlier (and don’t sleep in longer in the mornings) to help kick your snooze button habit in the morning.

Exposure to a lot of morning sunlight
It’s difficult to wake in the morning and get outside during the cold days of winter. Fatigue, lack of time and general desire to stay warm keep you huddled up in your house, car, and office. However, not exposing yourself to natural light may be having a significant negative impact on your health.

Modern hunter-gatherer communities get up daily with the morning sun and engage in the vast majority of their physical activity in the morning hours exposed to natural light. In contrast, most people are indoors all morning throughout the winter. Commuting in cars and working in buildings. Not getting nearly enough exposure to natural light. Even on a cloudy day, the natural light outside provides a massive 100,000-lux, compared to only 5,000-lux in your office or home.

There is research showing that this light exposure is crucial for circadian hormone production and thus your energy levels, health and resiliency. Try to get outside to grab your morning coffee, walk a few blocks, or go outdoors in the morning for a light run/jog to start your day. You’ll feel much better for it!

The take away
Just because the modern-day hunter-gatherers studied only got about 6.5 hours sleep per night does not mean it is the optimal amount for everybody.

Traditional hunter-gatherers may require less sleep than most people in modern-day societies, due to the fact that they are not exposed to artificial lighting, mobile devices, junk food, and all of the other sleep-disrupting factors that are a part of life in modern society, and therefore experience better quality sleep than most people.

Getting quality light exposure early in the day is crucial for circadian rhythm and will optimise your energy, health and resiliency.

Your individual sleep needs may in large part be determined by your health condition and physical activity levels, as well as your evening routine and sleeping environment. If you are in great health and prioritize the quality of your sleep, you may require less than 8 hours of sleep every night.

Evolutionary Fitness

Eat fresh wholefoods that we were evolved to eat. Usually three times a day but occasionally skip a meal, let hunger dictate your meals. Workout with short and intense resistance sessions a few times a week. Walk, play and stay active.

– Arthur De Vany, Ph.D.

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Arthur De Vany, Ph.D. In his 70’s, is 6ft 1in, weighs approx 190lbs and has about 10% body fat.

Arthur De Vany believes that we have virtually the same genetic makeup as our Paleolithic ancestors who lived 40,000 years ago. The problem, he and many others believe, is that our environment has changed dramatically.

De Vany contends that we would be healthier, fitter, and live longer if we adopted a modern version of the Paleolithic lifestyle. Having spent more than 30 years studying and practicing how to do that, he is regarded by many as the “grandfather” of the Paleo movement.

In this post I am going to sum up some of his basic principles and show you how to get started working out and eating how we evolved to for optimal health.

Nutritional Philosophy

To call a [low-carb] diet on which humans lived for millennia a fad is just ignorant. In fact, it is the modern fad of eating a high carb, high grain, high sugar diet that is harmful.

Arthur De Vany, Ph.D.

Cook by colour and texture so that meals look beautiful. If busy, skip meals with little worry. You don’t have to have three square meals a day. Snack on nuts or celery. Drink plenty of water. Also drink tea, coffee and a little wine.

Basically, eat animal proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Full fat diary is fine if tolerated.

Carbohydrates

Avoid bread, muffins, bagels, pasta, white potatoes, cereals, vegetable oils, beans or anything in a package.

These foods are empty, high-calorie foods that are not only detrimental to your health, but are of no dietary requirement to the body.

Fats, Herbs and Spices for Flavour

Spice up your food with fresh ingredients such as basil, cayenne, garlic, parsley, rosemary, spring onions or tumeric.

Avocados, nuts and seeds, and use oils, such as coconut, macadamia and olive oil, for flavor.

Celery adds texture (and is good for testosterone too).

Fruits

Fresh fruits and berries of all sorts are good; They are good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. De Vany focuses on melon and red grapes. Fruit juice is out.

I personally have one or two pieces of fruit most days. Mostly bananas or apples, as they’re readily available to me. I do rotate as different fruits and berries come in and out of season.

Fruits are one of the best ways for quick fresh energy.

Vegetables

Eat lots of fresh raw, steamed, sauteed or grilled vegetables. Try not to use frozen, canned or packaged vegetables, although they are generally better than no vegetables.

Protein

Eat plenty of meat, such as ribs, steak, bacon, pork loin, turkey and chicken, but trim excess fat from the edges. Fish, seafood and eggs are also excellent choices. Don’t forget your organ meats, liver is one of the most nutrient dense foods available.

Try to have protein with most meals as it will improve satiety and keep you feeling fuller longer.

Intermittent Fasting

Our ancestors lived with feast and famine. Research indicates that chronic or intermittent fasting improves health. I do it the easy way. Never chronically; your mind and body will not accept it. And you will lose vital lean body mass; muscle and organ mass. Easy intermittent fasting is skipping meals randomly and eating to fill later.

Don’t be afraid to skip a meal and prolong your overnight fasts, I often workout first thing in the morning totally fasted (maybe a cup of coffee and some BCAA’s) and do not eat for up to  an hour afterwards.

This is great for Growth Hormone release and will boost lean muscle growth and accelerate fat loss.

Training Philosophy

Physically and genetically, we are built to run fast and climb trees easily. But few of us over the age of 11 do so. Which is why we’re now at the gym.

– Arthur De Vany, Ph.D.

DeVany is an advocate of intense intermittent training, keeping your workouts short and simple training with weights for no more that a couple 20-30 minute short intense sessions a week. He has based his training model on Power Law Training. You can read De Vany’s paper titled Evolutionary Fitness here.

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The Rules

Follow the “15-8-4″ routine:

  • Do a set of 15, a set of 8, and a set of 4 repetitions for each exercise using progressively more weight on the latter two sets if you can.

Keep moving:

  • Do not rest between sets or exercises. Try to average 10-15 seconds (or as long as it takes to set up the next exercise) in between sets.

Keep your workouts very short and intense:

  • Get in and out of the gym in 45 minutes or less.

Work out no more than once or twice a week:

  • Pick a random day and don’t do it on the same day always.

Exercise the major muscle groups:

  • Conduct exercises such as the dead lift, squat, bench press, bent over row, upright row, overhead press and farmer’s walks.
  • Body weight exercises like the pushup and pullup.
  • Do free body exercises at a fairly fast pace during the concentric phase and a rather slower pace during the eccentric phase.

Protect your heart:

  • Do not grip things too hard and stay loose so the blood flow is not constricted by clenched hands and teeth.
  • Don’t hold your breath, and be sure to exhale as you push or pull the weight.

Protect your spine:

  • Do the abdominal brace, contracting the erectors of the back and pushing the abdominal muscles out a bit and contracting them.
  • Maintain the curvature of your spine and pivot from the hips rather than bending the spine.
  • Use your legs versus your back when lifting and don’t be afraid to use lower weights – especially with dead-lifts.

Hanging Ab Sets:

  • Find a pull up bar and hang from it with your knees at waist level. Hold as long as you can. Repeat 2 more times.

Standing Crane:

  • A yoga balance-building move where you stand on one leg, stretch the other leg out behind you, and position your body parallel to the floor.

De Vany doesn’t believe in long cardio work like mid level intensity jogging and prefers to walk, hike and play sports to keep that side of fitness in check.

He also recommends high intensity, short duration sprint work on occasion to add variation to your training. This will promote specific hormone drives that quench hyperinsulinemia and build muscle and bone density that keep you young and lean.

In a Nutshell

  • Eat fresh wholefoods that we were evolved to eat (Art is not a believer in starchy foods);
  • Usually three times a day but occasionally skip a meal, let hunger dictate your meals;
  • Workout with short and intense resistance sessions a few times a week;
  • Walk, play and stay active.

The beauty of the Evolutionary Fitness model that De Vany has created is that it seems so simple but it allows so much room for adaptation to your own needs. This article is a very basic summing up of the principles and there is a lot more to it and a lot more one can learn.

You can check out his book, The De Vany Diet here.

Skinny Fat

Skinny Fat: A physique, while not overweight (and possibly underweight), lacks any visible lean, striated tissue.

– Definition, Urban Dictionary

Conventional wisdom would suggest that if you are overweight you are generally unhealthy, and if you are thin, you are healthy. However, new research points to just how dangerous being skinny can be. Well, if you are a “skinny fat” person, that is.

The medical term for this is metabolically obese normal weight (MONW), or skinny fat. Basically, this means that you are carrying too much body fat and not enough lean muscle (generally belly fat).

Women are more commonly to be hit with MONW syndrome or skinny fat than men. A common theory is that men usually aren’t afraid to lift weight in the gym (and, to be fair, men naturally have more lean muscle than women).

On the other hand, women generally have the misconception that lifting weights immediately makes you look big and bulky (which couldn’t any further from the truth) and prefer group fitness classes like as Zumba and/or Aerobics or spend all of their time on the treadmill, stairmaster or a spin bike, not to mention inventing a million bizarre weight loss diets (with equally bizarre names).

Simply dieting can eliminate weight, but it will not strengthen anything. Also, because of physiology unique to women, the fat cells in the lower body just happen to be world-class hoarders.

Starting at an early age
In America, studies on teenagers found that 37% of skinny children had one or more signs of pre-diabetes, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol. Yes. You read correctly. Almost 4 out of 10 normal-weight children are pre-diabetic!

Nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese in the America. However, it appears that only 20% are healthy. This means that 8 out of 10 children in America are either overweight or have pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes. Countries like Australia aren’t that far behind.

Processed and fast foods, video games, social media sources, reduced sleep quality and inactivity are all causative factors in developing these conditions in children.

It probably isn’t helping that many of the role models in our society aren’t exactly the picture of health, ie: skinny runway models, or super skinny guys without an ounce of masculinity in them. Whatever happened to the track and field champions of past Olympic Games? Fast, fit, strong, conditioned men and women able to compete in multiple events.

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Health issues related to Skinny Fat Syndrome
A person who is skinny fat is susceptible to the following conditions (but not limited to):

  • Diabetes;
  • Cardiovascular disease;
  • Osteoporosis;
  • Fragile bones from calcium and other nutrient deficiencies;
  • Elevated blood pressure and cholesterol;
  • Chronically low energy levels; and
  • Infertility (both men and women).

How does a person become Skinny Fat?
In no particular order, these are several of the most common ways a person can become skinny fat:

  • Eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you don’t eat any meat, the body will eat itself instead;
  • Eating lots of Gluten. Lectins, phytates and other anti-nutrirents setting the stage for systemic inflammation that damages the digestive tract making it harder to utilize nutrients from the rest of your diet.
  • Excessive cardio. Training your body to be catabolic, breaking down muscle tissue and to store fat;
  • Fat burning pills. Potential short-term fat burners, but in the long run they are more muscle burners and long-term fat storers;
  • Not lifting weights… Ever. Do I even need to comment here?

How to turn it all around
Reversing the effects of skinny fat syndrome is very similar to that of someone who is overweight and pre-diabetic. Using the following steps one can easily turn it all around start improving their quality of life:

  • Eat a nutrient dense, low glycemic load diet (basically a whole food or Paleo type diet). Lean meats, seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, healthful oils, nuts and seeds;
  • Avoid flours and sugars. Including gluten-free flour products. Even whole grain flour acts like sugar in your body;
  • Don’t drink your calories. It’s always better to chew you calories. No soft drinks, juices, sweetened drinks. Reduce alcohol to no more than 2-4 glasses of wine per week;
  • Lift and move your body. A training routine that combines both strength and cardio is important;
  • Sleep well. Sleep deprivation alters the metabolism and increases cravings for carbohydrates and sugars. Aim for 7 or more hours per night; and
  • Did I say lift? I can’t stress this enough. A simple solution to many of the problems women face. Osteoporosis, the beach season, the belly fat that wont budge… weight-bearing physical activity is the answer.

What is most alarming is that many people who think they get a pass because they are thin should actually be taking a second look at their health. It is possible to be skinny and sick and be metabolically obese, which is potentially even more dangerous.

The good news is that it is a solvable condition. By following the above points or speaking with your medical practitioner you will be well on the way to becoming a healthier person that is full of energy and has a much better overall body composition.

An introduction into kettlebell training

What is a kettlebell?

It’s a cannonball with a handle. It’s an extreme handheld gym. It’s a great strength and conditioning tool.

The kettlebell can deliver high level all-around fitness. Functional strength. Staying power. Flexibility and mobility. Fat loss without the dishonor of an aerobics class. Kettlebells can be used virtually anywhere.

Kettlebells are traditionally measured in poods. An old Russian unit of measure, a single pood weighs 16 kilograms (kg).

The general rule of thumb is that men should start with a 16 kg kettlebell. An experienced athlete can start with a 24 kg kettlebell.

For women, it is suggested that they start with an 8 kg kettlebell and 12 kg if they’re an experienced athlete.

Kettlebell safety 101
Below is a short list of rules on how to use a kettlebell safely as stated in the book Enter the Kettlebell written by kettlebell master trainer Pavel Tsatsouline.

  • Check with you doctor before you start training;
  • Always be aware of your surroundings;
  • Wear flat shoes;
  • Never, never contest for space with a kettlebell;
  • Practice all safety measures at all times;
  • Keep moving once your heart rate is high;
  • Build up your training load gradually using common sense, and always listen to your body;
  • Instruction can not cover all contingencies, and there is no substitute for good judgement.

The kettlebell sumo deadlift
The first movement to master is the kettlebell sumo deadlift. This movement requires the athlete to safely pick up the kettlebell from the floor.

Taking a comfortable stance, with feet slightly turned out. Sit back as you would in a high chair, and pick up the kettlebell with both hands by extending your hips and knees.

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The checklist:

  • Your arms are straight; the legs are doing all the lifting.
  • Your knees are pointing in the same direction as your slightly turned-out feet.
  • Your heels are planted. You are sitting back, rather than dipping down or bending forward.
  • Your back stays straight throughout. Don’t confuse “straight” with “vertical”! “Straight” in this context means “not rounded.”
  • You are looking straight ahead, not up or down, at all times.

Once you have mastered this simple and functional movement you will be ready to progress on to more advance kettlebell movements such as:

  • The kettlebell swing;
  • The kettlebell get-up;
  • The kettlebell snatch.

I have personally used kettlebells with great success over the years and can attribute a large part of my own physical conditioning to the kettlebell.

Coconut Oil Coffee: optimizing overall performance

There’s just something about a morning coffee/espresso that gives a higher enjoyability in which to start the day.

Adding coconut oil to your morning coffee will make you feel energized, alert and focused without the traditional coffee crash. Coconut oil also supports healthy body fat metabolism and can help increase muscle mass.

Coconut oil is mostly made up of the medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), lauric acid (about 45-50%). Some advantages of MCT’s include:

  • MCTs are absorbed quickly by the body (digestion) and can be used for immediate energy;
  • MCTs enhance ketone production which have therapeutic (energy/cognitive) and nitrogen retention (protein sparing) advantages;
  • MCTs have been shown to boost immune function;
  • MCT rich diets have been shown to increase metabolic rates; and
  • MCT rich diets shown to better reduce hunger/suppress appetite.

The potential to not only have more immediate and stable energy but also control hunger/appetite better (reducing rebound eating tendencies), makes it a no brainer for a lasting lean lifestyle plan.

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Coconut Oil Coffee
Just 3 easy steps to enjoy this energy boosting drink:

  • Put your coconut oil in a cup (1-2 tablespoons);
  • Add in your hot coffee or espresso (tea is also an option);
  • Stir and enjoy.

For variation you can also add collagen and some cinnamon, or to make the infamous Bulletproof Coffee you can add some grass-fed butter!

Pre-workout Coffee
Why coffee before training? Caffeine, of course. Caffeine triggers the muscles to start using fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrate sugars. Some of the other benefits of coffee taken pre-workout include:

  • Increased athletic endurance performance;
  • Increased strength and power performance;
  • Reduced perceived exertion level.

As little as 3-5 milligrams of caffeine (per kilo of body weight) is all that is required. For most people, that is roughly 1-2 espresso coffee’s taken within the final 60-90 min prior to a workout or race.

Note
It takes nearly twice as much Red Bull and nearly 3 times as much tea to equal the caffeine in coffee.

Try it out for yourself and tell me what you think of it.

The Paleo Diet for Athletes

Traditionally, Paleo type diets are much lower in carbohydrate than the average modern-day athlete diet. Our ancestors seldom did 2 hour runs and 6 hour bike rides. Certainly, they had periods of intense activity, but these where relatively brief and spaced apart.

Endurance athletes require a higher intake of carbohydrates in order to replenish fuel stores after long and intense workouts. As such the program for athletes makes changes to the basic program to allow the intake of some foods that are not included in a Paleo Diet.

The major adjustment to the diet is that certain high glycemic index carbohydrate foods are included during the immediate post-workout period. For the remainder of the day the dietary pattern is the same as a typical Paleo Diet program. This is required to satisfy the need to quickly replace glycogen stores after exercise and will help speed up the recovery process for repeated efforts.

I did not write the article below, however it is an excellent summary of The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel.

A QUICK GUIDE TO
THE PALEO DIET FOR ATHLETES © 2005 Loren Cordain, PhD and Joe Friel, MS

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The Paleo Diet for Athletes was released in October, 2005 from Rodale Press. Written by Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet, and Joe Friel, M.S., author of numerous bestselling books on training for endurance athletes, the book applies the concept of eating as our Stone Age ancestors ate to the extraordinary demands of training for serious endurance sports. Although it is now the 21st century, athletes still have Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) bodies. There has been no significant change in the human genome in the past 10,000 years. Physiologically speaking, we are still Paleolithic athletes.

THE PALEO DIET
The basic premise of Dr. Cordain’s research on paleolithic nutrition is that certain foods are optimal for humans and others are non optimal. The optimal foods are those that we have been eating for most of our time on Earth—more than 4 million years. Only in the last 10,000 years, a mere blink of the eye relative to our species’ existence, have we been eating non optimal foods. Unfortunately, these foods comprise the bulk of what western society eats today and include such foods as grains, dairy and legumes. Given that our bodies have not changed, we are simply not well adapted to these non optimal foods and they moderate health and peak performance. On the other hand, we have been eating optimal foods – vegetables, fruits, and lean animal protein – for hundreds of thousands of years and we are fully adapted to them. Science tells us that these foods also best meet our nutritional needs. Eat these and you will thrive. Avoid or strictly limit them and your health and performance will be compromised.

PALEO FOR ATHLETES
Serious athletes, however, when it comes to immediately before, during, and directly after workouts, need to bend the rules of the Paleo Diet a bit since we’re placing demands on the body that were not normal for our Stone Age ancestors. Hour after hour of sustained high energy output and the need for quick recovery are the serious athlete’s unique demands. This requires some latitude to use non optimal foods on a limited basis. The exceptions may best be described by explaining the athlete’s 5 stages of daily eating relative to exercise.

Stage I: Eating Before Exercise
In brief, we recommend that athletes eat low to moderate glycemic index carbohydrates at least two hours prior to a hard or long workout or race. There may also be some fat and protein in this meal. All foods should be low in fiber. Take in 200-300 calories for every hour remaining until exercise begins. If eating two hours prior is not possible, then take in 200 or so calories 10 minutes before the workout or race begins.

Stage II: Eating During Exercise
During long or hard workouts and races you will need to take in high glycemic index carbohydrates mostly in the form of fluids. Sports drinks are fine for this. Find one that you like the taste of and will drink willingly. Realize that events lasting less than about an hour (including warm-up) don’t require any carbohydrate. Water will suffice for these. A starting point for deciding how much to take in is 200-400 calories per hour modified according to body size, experience and the nature of the exercise (longer events require more calories than short).

Stage III: Eating Immediately After
In the first 30 minutes post workout (but only after long and/or highly intense exercise) and post race use a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrate and protein in a 45:1 ratio. You can make your own by blending 16 ounces of fruit juice with a banana, 3-5 tablespoons of glucose (such as CarboPro) depending on body size, about 3 tablespoons of protein powder, especially from egg or whey sources and two pinches of salt. This 30 min window is critical for recovery. It should be your highest priority after a hard workout or race.

Stage IV: Eating for Extended Recovery
For the next few hours (as long as the preceding challenging exercise lasted) continue to focus your diet on carbohydrates, especially moderate to high glycemic load carbohydrates along with protein at a 45:1 carb/protein ratio. Now is the time to eat non optimal foods such as pasta, bread, bagels, rice, corn and other foods rich in glucose as they contribute to the necessary carbohydrate recovery process. Perhaps the perfect Stage IV foods are raisins, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.

Stage V: Eating for Long Term Recovery
For the remainder of your day, or until your next Stage I, return to eating a Paleo Diet by focusing on optimal foods. For more information on the Paleo Diet go to The Paleo Diet website or read The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.

HOW MUCH PROTEIN, CARB AND FAT SHOULD I EAT?
The macronutrient requirement changes with the demands of the training season and so should be periodized along with training. We recommend that athletes maintain a rather consistent protein intake year round. As a percentage of total calories this will typically be in the range of 20-25% for athletes. This is on the low end of what our Stone Age ancestors ate due to the athlete’s increased intake of carbohydrate in Stages I to IV which dilutes protein as a percentage of daily calories.
On the other hand, periodization of diet produces significant and opposing swings in the athlete’s fat and carbohydrate intake as the training seasons change. During the base (general preparation) period the diet shifts toward an increased intake of fat while carbohydrate intake decreases. At this time in the season when a purpose of training is to promote the body’s use of fat for fuel, more healthy fat is consumed – in the range of 30% of total calories – with carbohydrate intake at around 50%. During the build and peak (specific preparation) periods the intensity of training increases placing greater demands on the body for carbohydrate to fuel exercise. At this latter time of the season Stages III and IV become increasingly critical to the athlete’s recovery. Carbohydrate intake increases accordingly to around 60% of total calories with fat intake dropping to around 20%.
During times of the year when training is greatly reduced (peaking/tapering and transition periods) the athlete must limit caloric intake to prevent unwanted weight gain.

WHY IS THE PALEO DIET BENEFICIAL?
Health and fitness are not synonymous. Unfortunately, many athletes are fit but unhealthy. Frequent illness, injury and overtraining reduce performance potential.

The Paleo Diet for Athletes significantly improves health long-term. Compared with the commonly accepted athlete’s diet, the Paleo Diet:

  • Increases intake of branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Benefits muscle development and anabolic function. Also counteracts immunosuppression common in endurance athletes following extensive exercise.
  • Decreases omega-6:omega-3 ratio. Reduces tissue inflammation common to athletes while promoting healing. This may include asthmatic conditions common in athletes.
  • Lowers body acidity. Reduces the catabolic effect of acidosis on bone and muscle while stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This is increasingly important with aging.
  • Is high in trace nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimal health and long term recovery from exercise. The most nutrient dense foods are vegetables and seafood. On average, vegetables have nearly twice the nutrient density of grains.

EXCERPT FROM THE PALEO DIET FOR ATHLETES
Training for endurance sports such as running, cycling, triathlon, rowing, swimming, and cross-country skiing places great demands on the body, and the athlete is in some stage of recovery almost continuously during periods of heavy training. The keys to optimum recovery are sleep and diet. Even though we recommend that everyone eat a diet similar to what our Stone Age ancestors ate, we realize that nutritional concessions must be made for the athlete who is training at a high volume in the range of 10 to 35 or more hours per week of rigorous exercise. Rapid recovery is the biggest issue facing such an athlete. While it’s not impossible to recover from such training loads on a strict Paleo Diet, it is somewhat more difficult to recover quickly. By modifying the diet before, during, and immediately following challenging workouts, the Paleo Diet provides two benefits sought by all athletes: quick recovery for the next workout, and superior health for the rest of your life.

Basically…
At every level of competition, The Paleo Diet for Athletes can maximize health and performance in a range of sports.

The benefits of coconut oil

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Our body is well designed to run primarily on fat as a source of energy and when it does, it produces ketones bodies, which is perfectly healthy. Ketones are what the body produces when it’s using fat for energy in the absence of glucose. These ketones are a preferred energy source for the brain and heart.

Of the fats in coconut oil, 92% are healthy saturated fats. This makes it highly stable under heat when cooking and solid at room temperatures.

The main fatty acid content comes from Lauric acid (45-50%). Lauric acid is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT) with a 12 carbon structure (C12:0). These MCTs are digested and assimilated easily in the body and are transferred directly to the liver where they are immediately converted into energy, also meaning they are not directly stored as body fat.

Other MCTs of importance found in coconut oil are:

  • Caprylic acid (C8:0);
  • Capric acid (C10:0).

Generally speaking, the shorter the fatty acid carbon length (Cx:0), he faster the body can turn the fatty acids into usable energy.

Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is unique and different from almost all other fats and possesses many health giving properties.

Lauric acid is a powerful virus and negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth!  Capric acid, another fatty acid present in smaller amounts, has also been added to the list of coconut’s antimicrobial components.

Coconut oil has been shown to consistently raise HDL cholesterol levels in humans. Higher HDL is linked to a reduced heart disease risk.

Benefits of Coconut Oil
More than 2,000 studies have been performed on coconut oil, demonstrating a wide range of benefits. Here is a list of some of the benefits associated with the consumption of coconut oil:

  • Enhance immunity and fight infections;
  • Improve your cholesterol numbers;
  • Decrease risk of heart disease;
  • Promote weight loss;
  • Boost metabolism;
  • Boost energy levels and enhance athletic/physical performance;
  • Assist with blood sugar regulation & prevention/treatment of diabetes;
  • Improve digestion;
  • Improve brain health;
  • Improve skin health;
  • Improve hair health; and
  • Improve thyroid function.

Using Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be used both internally and externally. It is an excellent source of energy and when ingested as a food oil or health tonic. It adds both flavour and has therapeutic benefits.

Some of the more popular uses of Coconut Oil:

  • Coconut oil is one of your best cooking alternatives as it is so stable that when heated it will not oxidize or go rancid;
  • Mix it into smoothies, herbal teas or hot water;
  • Mix it into black coffee (instead of milk or other creamers);
  • Use it as a skin and hair moisturizer;
  • A natural SPF 4 sunscreen;
  • Oil pulling (using it as a mouth wash, will help with gum disease and tooth infection); and so much more.

Vitamin D: the benefits

Vitamin D may be the single most important organic nutrient for your overall health. In fact, if this were a drug, it would be considered the discovery of the century.

– Al Sears, M.D., Your Best Health under the Sun

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Vitamin D, commonly mistaken for a vitamin is actually a prohormone (the precursor of a biologically active hormone). Vitamin D has no requirement to be eaten, as humans can meet all their requirements by getting enough sunlight exposure. It is critically important for the development, growth, and maintenance of a healthy body throughout its entire lifespan.

Vitamin D has been shown to be critical in (but not limited to):

  • Reduce inflammation;
  • Help with fat metabolism;
  • Help with cancer prevention, including skin cancers;
  • Help prevent autoimmune diseases;
  • Help prevent cardiovascular disease;
  • Help prevent types 1 and 2 diabetes;
  • Help the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus;
  • Help promote bone and muscle heath.

How much do we need?
The vitamin D council has the current recommendations (these are only estimated amounts):

  • Healthy children over the age of 1 years – 1,000 IU per every 25 lbs of body weight;
  • Healthy adults and adolescents – at least 5,000 IU;
  • Pregnant and lactating mothers – at least 6,000 IU;

Additionally, children and adults with chronic health conditions such as autism, MS, cancer, heart disease, or obesity may need higher amounts.

There is difference among some organisations with regards to recommended daily intakes. This is due to researchers For example, the Food and Nutrition Board has the current recommendations:

  • Healthy children over the age of 1 years – 600 IU;
  • Healthy adults and adolescents – 600 IU;
  • Pregnant and lactating mothers – 600 to 800 IU.

The Food and Nutrition Board recommended daily intakes are the official recommendations by the United States government.

The Australian recommended daily intakes are as follows:

  • For those who get some sun exposure and are under 70 years – 600 IU / over 70 years – 800 IU;
  • For those who get very little or zero sunlight of all ages – 1000 IU to 2000 IU.

Where do we get it?
The best source is obviously the sun. Scientifically speaking, Vitamin D is obtained via a process where UVB radiation from sunlight converts cholesterol into D3. Certain animal foods and products, such as cod liver oil, salmon, makerel, sardines, beef liver and pasture raised eggs also contain Vitamin D.

Vitamin D and sun exposure
The human body was designed to receive vitamin D by producing it in response to sunlight exposure. Since this is the way Nature intended, it should be considered the method of choice. Conservative estimates place ancestral levels around 10,000 – 20,000 IU per day from direct sun exposure.

The human body can produce this amount in a very short time so over exposure isn’t necessary. Basically, the requirement to produce enough Vitamin D in a single day is to be in direct sunlight (as much skin exposure as possible) for about half the amount of time it takes for your skin to burn (turn pink).

The below map of Australia give an estimate of how much sun exposure is required to meet daily requirements. As you can see it doesn’t take too long in the summer months, with more time required during the cooler months.

Aus Vit D sun map

Even if you decide to stay out in the sun for an extended period of time, you body has a way of shutting down its production of Vitamin D. You will just stop producing it when you don’t need it.

What about sunscreen?
Ingredients in the majority of sunscreens block both UVA and UVB radiation. As mentioned earlier, UVB is responsible for producing Vitamin D. Only recently, have scientific bodies began to agree that it is UVA radiation that causes the deadly melanoma.

Sunlight exposure has a paradoxical effect that is both good and bad. Chronic, long term exposure to the sun, such as lifeguards and other outdoor workers experience, is protective from melanomas and other cancers, where as intermittent, infrequent intense burning, followed by little sun exposure, may promote this deadly form of skin cancer and many  other cancers.

– Dr Loren Cordain, Ph. D., The Paleo Answer

Sunscreen with a SPF factor of 15 blocks 93% of UVB radiation, the type that is actually required by the human body to produce Vitamin D. SPF 30 and SPF 50 sunscreens block out 97% and 98% respectively. To be effective, all sunscreen, regardless of strength, should be reapplied every two hours. Also, the “reddening” of the skin is a reaction to UVB radiation alone and does not give any indication to the amount of UVA radiation damage.

So, blocking UVB radiation isn’t the smartest idea going around as this is the spectrum of light that stimulates Vitamin D production within the body. How does one stay sun smart and still benefit from sufficient Vitamin D production?

One method could be to apply sunscreens liberally at the beginning of the summer and as your base level tan is produced you could lower the SFP of your sunscreen until your using very little, if at all (remember, the best protection against unwanted  UV radiation is a good tan, some shade or a hat).

Finally, the human species has evolved in the great outdoors and with direct sun exposure, thus having an actual nutrient requirement for it. Don’t deprive yourself of your day in the sun.