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.

Protein Powders: which are best?

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Protein powders are considered a staple of many person’s supplemental regimens, and for good reason too. Protein powders are cheap, simple, and effective. They can be used for fat loss, muscle-building, or for general health.

Recently, I have been asked about which protein powders are the best to use. I did a bit of research and have come up with the following information. Protein powders can fall under two main categories:

  • Animal-based proteins; and
  • Plant-based proteins.

There a many reasons to supplement with protein powders. Below is a list of situations where protein supplementation may be beneficial:

  • Post exercise recovery of muscle function and performance;
  • Increasing the duration or intensity of workouts;
  • Trying to gain weight or muscle mass;
  • Athletes participating in advance training;
  • Recovery from an injury or medical procedure;
  • Deciding to go vegetarian or vegan;
  • For the elderly.

Bio Availability (BV)
The BV is one way to measure a protein’s “usability”. The higher the BV, the greater the proportion of available protein that can be synthesized by the body’s cells. Note, BV scores are averages and does not refer to the amount of protein in the powder; it only refers to the usability of the protein in the powder.

 

Animal Based Proteins
Animal derived proteins are better overall than vegetarian derived. They are complete protein sources and are typically better absorbed and digested than their plant-based partners.

 

Whey (BV: 95-100)
The standard protein powder. Whey is derived from milk as the liquid component. It’s main benefits that make it stand apart from the rest are:

  • 25% branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) content by weight, approximately;
  • High cysteine and glutamine content, which aid in glutathione production and gut health; and
  • Fast absorption speed relative to other protein sources (1-3 hours).

Various forms exist, such as Whey Concentrate, Whey Isolate, and Hydrolyzed Whey (digested slowest to fastest).

Out of all protein sources, whey can also be seen as the “healthiest” due to it’s cysteine and glutamine content increasing levels of glutathione (an intrinsic anti-oxidant) in the body, and providing an abundance of glutamine for cells lining the gut.

The BCAA content is also notable as it is rich in the amino acid Leucine, which has many muscle-building properties in the body and is one of the most important amino acids to ingest in higher-than-normal doses with the goal of building muscle mass or retaining muscle mass when losing fat.

Casein (BV: 75-80)
The standard ‘slow release’ protein source. Casein is the curd (solid) portion of dairy protein. The typical benefits associated with casein supplementation are:

  • A very high insulin secretion value relative to other protein sources;
  • Slower absorption in the intestines;
  • Great evening protein source.

Casein is found in various forms such as Calcium Caseinate and Micellar Casein. These are generally slow digesting proteins (6-8 hours). These proteins are also a great source of dietary glutamine, which feed the cells lining the gut.

Casein is also a protein source that some people find difficult to digest. If you have any digestive issues with dairy products then I’d stay away from this.

Egg (BV: 100)
Egg protein is typically dehydrated egg white albumin. Egg’s main marketing points are:

  • An excellent bioavailability;
  • A balanced amino acid profile; and
  • Is a medium release protein source (3-6 hours).

Egg white protein is heat processed, so the biotin-binding compound called ‘Avidin’ (which may lead to biotin deficiency via consumption of raw egg whites) becomes a non-issue.

Collagen (BV: 90-95)
Collagen hydrolysate or Collagen Peptides are produced from collagen found in the bones, skin, and the connective tissue of animals. Collagen is the key structural protein that ensures the cohesion, elasticity, and regeneration of all of our connective tissues.

Supplementing collagen provides all the amino acids you need for connective tissue repair, and it thickens the skin for a more youthful appearance.

Some of the benefits of Collagen:

  • Gut bacteria turns collagen into butyric acid which is good for digestion;
  • Supports connective tissue repair;
  • Supports bone health;
  • Great protein source for people who can not tolerate dairy based proteins;
  • Has a high glycine content (an amino acid that increases Glutathione production which has been dubbed the master antioxidant).

 

Plant Based Proteins
Not as good as animal based protein powders. Various vegan options exist each with their own list of benefits and drawbacks. They generally do not have complete amino acid profiles and need to be paired with other sources to transform them into complete protein sources.

Soy (BV: 75-80)
Soy protein is a protein source based on soy beans. It’s main selling points are:

  • A complete vegan amino acid profile;
  • Hormonally active constituents that may benefit bone health and anti-cancer effects; and
  • Very high and diverse micronutrient profile.

Soy is a controversial topic. Soy itself in an unprocessed (food) and unfermented form has many noted downsides to it, including:

  • Protease and trypsin (intrinsic enzyme) inhibitors;
  • Disruptions to the estrogen / testosterone balance in the body (via phytoestrogens);
  • Disruptions to thyroid metabolism;
  • Lectin content;
  • Phytic acid and similar anti-nutrients.

The significance of these concerns are dependent on the form of the soy ingested (fermented, unfermented and raw, processed, etc), on the person ingesting it (post-menopausal women v. 20-year-old male) and in the dose consumed.

Rice (BV: 80-85)
Rice protein is a protein powder created from rice after the protein and carbohydrate sections have been separated by enzymatic treatment. Rice proteins main marketing points are:

  • Very easily digested (easy on the stomach);
  • Low allergen content.

It is usually paired with Pea / Gemma protein to get a more complete amino acid profile.

Pea / Gemma (BV: 70-75)
Can be seen as the ‘Whey’ of the vegan options. Pea protein is higher in the amino acids leucine, arginine, and glutamine. Pea protein’s main selling points are:

  • High leucine content;
  • High digestibility.

It is usually paired with rice protein in order to get a more complete amino acid profile.

Pea Proteins typically contain isoflavones, lectins and phytates and other anit-nutrients similar to soy.

Regarding Lectins, Phytates and similar anti-nutrients
Lectins are an extraordinarily sticky protein that particularly like carbohydrates (sugars). Once it enters into the small intestine, it has the tendency to stick to the intestinal epithelial cells, or as we’ve come to lovingly know them, the microvilli lining.

It’s here that the stage is set for yet another wonderful phenomenon known as leaky gut syndrome (I’ll save the rest for another post).

Much like lectins to carbohydrates, Phytates love to bind with calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. The take-away here is that due to the high amount of Phytate (found in cereals, grains and legumes), vegetarian and vegan diets are almost certainly deficient in calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.

This is the main reason why smart supplementation, and timing is required when following plant-based diets.

In summary
Use the above information as a guide only. While supplementing with protein powders can help you reach your goals, the best option is to get as much of your daily protein requirement from your diet by eating plenty of lean meats, seafood and eggs.

My personal preference is using Whey Protein Concentrate or Collagen. They have complete amino acid profiles and have excellent bioavailability.

Noting that not everyone can tolerate dairy and other animal based products, or choose not to consume them for other reasons, there are suitable plant-based proteins on the market to help you reach your daily requirement.

The choice is yours.

Supplementing with L-glutamine

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What is it?
L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body, making up approximately 60% of free-form amino acids. Glutamine is highly in demand throughout the body. It is used in the gut and immune system extensively to maintain optimal performance.

When the body is under stress from heavy training, the level of glutamine in the muscles and blood decreases dramatically (up to 50%) as the body produces more white blood cells to fight infection and repair damaged muscle tissue. If the body’s stores of glutamine and capacity to produce it are inadequate to meet the demand, the risk of over-training, illness and injury increases.

Who needs it?
Glutamine has been studied since the 1960’s in the treatment of those suffering from trauma (such as burn, surgery, and disease victims).

To a lesser extent, research has been done on its benefits for athletes. Since athletes use a lot of their glutamine during intense training sessions and competitive events, they are more susceptible to illness, as the immune system relies heavily on this amino acid.

Becoming ill or losing lean muscle mass are signs of a deficiency.

Benefits of taking L-glutamine
Here are some of the ways that glutamine supplementation can boost performance and assist in overall health:

  • Glutamine has been linked to protein synthesis. It prevents your muscle from being eating itself;
  • Glutamine may serve to boost your immune system. For athletes, this is important since intense workouts tend to greatly deplete glutamine levels;
  • Helps maintain cell volume and hydration, speeding up wound and burn healing and recovery;
  • Increases growth hormone production and release;
  • Glutamine is a precursor to Glutathione (an important antioxidant);
  • Decreases recovery time from intense training sessions or competitive events;
  • Glutamine is one of the most important nutrients for your intestines. It has the ability to ‘repair a leaky gut’ by maintaining the structural integrity of the bowels; and
  • Glutamine can cure ulcers! Studies have found that 1.6 grams of glutamine per day had a 92% cure rate in 4 weeks.

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How much should be supplemented?
The dosage relative to the volume of intensity and duration hasn’t been well established, but it appears that supplementing with 5-10 grams on the days of very hard workouts and competitive events may be beneficial. The is no known downside from taking in L-glutamine at these levels, and any excess will be excreted in the urine.

When to supplement?
Take L-glutamine in the evening before bed or in the morning upon waking, when your muscles have been without significant nutrition for up to 8 hours. Research shows that L-glutamine can raise growth hormone levels significantly by taking 5-10 grams before bed.

Another good time for L-glutamine is within an hour post workout. This helps in the recovery process from demanding workouts.

Final Thoughts
Whether you’re looking at increasing your athletic performance, build muscle or improve a health condition such as leaky gut or diabetes, L-glutamine should be a part of your daily diet.

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.

Apple Cider Vinegar

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What is apple cider vinegar?
People have used apple cider vinegar (ACV) for thousands of years. Everyone from the ancient Babylonians to the Greeks used it as a cure-all for all kinds of health ailments.

Like coconut oil and grass-fed butter, ACV is enjoying a comeback among people who care about their health.

Vinegars are a product of fermentation. This is a process in which sugars in a food are broken down by bacteria and yeast. In the first stage of fermentation, the sugars are turned into alcohol. Then, if the alcohol ferments further, you get vinegar. ACV comes from pulverized apples.

ACV contains is acetic acid, which helps get rid of harmful bacteria and fungi in the gastrointestinal tract. This helps the digestion and absorption of nutrients from food in the intestines.

10 reasons to use apple cider vinegar

  1. It helps the body maintain a healthy pH level. You would think it would be acidic but in fact it helps bring your body into a more alkaline state;
  2. The alkaline effect of ACV also helps detoxify the liver, which makes it a great tonic when detoxing;
  3. It can help you lose weight. ACV works by correcting acid issues. It acts as a buffer in the body – the acetic acid reacts with base or acid compounds to form an acetate, therefore rendering them chemically bioavailable for the body’s utilization;
  4. It’s great for your lymphatic system. It helps break down mucus throughout the body and cleanse the lymph nodes. This also means it’s great when fighting a blocked nose or sinus infection;
  5. It helps improve gut flora and aids digestion. It is also said to clear up chronic acid reflux when taken with each meal;
  6. ACV is full enzymes that can help rid your body of Candida due to the malic acid and acetic acid (mentioned above);
  7. It makes a wonderful tonic for bad breath (halitosis). Dilute in warm water and gargle it morning and night;
  8. It boosts your immune system due to its antibacterial properties;
  9. It is great for your skin. Apply it topically for immediate benefits: dilute ACV with water and using a cotton pad apply as a toner or dab directly onto blemishes to dry them out; and
  10. Thickens your hair and makes it shine: Fill an old shampoo bottle with 1/2 a tablespoon of ACV and a cup of cold water. Pour the solution through your hair after shampooing several times a week.

Hot tip
Heartburn and digestive issues are two of the most common health complaints today. They are some of the standard symptoms that result from the modern westernised diet, which can result in not enough stomach acids being produced by the body (ie: hydrochloric acid).

By adding raw ACV to your diet, you can help your stomach create enough acid to start the digestion process and kill off harmful microbes.

Giving your digestion a boost is easy. Just add ACV to your salad dressings or drink some raw, unfiltered ACV diluted with water about 20 minutes prior to meals.

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.

The Burpee: the ultimate conditioning tool

The burpee is a staple in many conditioning routines, and for good reason. This simple exercise can be done almost anywhere, by almost anyone.

To perform a Burpee:

  • Begin in a squat position with hands on the floor in front of you.
  • Kick your feet back, while simultaneously lowering yourself into the bottom portion of a pushup. Your arms will not be extended.
  • Immediately return your feet to the squat position, while simultaneously pushing “up” with your arms. You will perform a pushup as you return your feet to the squat position.
  • Leap up as high as possible from the squat position. Repeat, moving as fast as possible.

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Burpee benefits
Some of the benefits of adding burpees to your workout routine:

  • Strength;
  • Total body conditioning;
  • Improved anaerobic capacity;
  • Improved body composition; and
  • Weight loss.

It’s not a Squat Thrust
At first glance, you may associate the burpee with a traditional squat thrust. Squat Thrusts are typically performed without the vertical jump. With a squat thrust, you simply “stand up” before returning to the squat position. Squat thrusts are much easier than explosive burpees.

Variations
There are many variations to performing burpees. Some will lower the intensity, while others will increase it. They include:

  • Burpees without a push-up;
  • Dumbell Burpees;
  • Weighted Vest Burpees; and
  • Medicine Ball Burpees.

With or without weighted resistance (dumbbells, vests, medicine balls, etc.), a regular dose of burpee conditioning will provide immediate, and drastic improvements in your physical fitness.

Burpee Intervals
Burpee Intervals are one of the best conditioning drills. Here is one of my favorite Burpee conditioning workouts from Infinite Intensity by Ross Enamait.

Begin with 30 seconds of Burpees, and immediately follow with 30 seconds of shadow boxing. Continue this pattern for a full 2 or 3-minute round.

The Round

  • 30 sec x Burpees;
  • 30 sec x shadow boxing.

Beginners

  • 4 x 2-minute rounds with 1 minute of rest between rounds.

Intermediate

  • 6 x 2-minute rounds with 1 minute of rest between rounds; or
  • 4 x 3-minute rounds with 1 minute of rest between rounds.

Advanced

  • 6 x 3-minute rounds with 1 minute of rest between rounds.

Master

  • 6 x 3-minute rounds with 30 seconds of rest between rounds.

Energy systems of the body (simplified)

ATP broken down

The first thing to remember is that ANY muscle contraction or physical effort is due to a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When an ATP molecule is combined with water the last of three phosphate groups splits apart and produces energy. This breakdown of ATP for muscle contraction results in adenosine diphosphate (ADP). The limited stores of ATP must be replenished for the physical effort to continue; so chemical reactions take place to add a phosphate group back to ADP to make ATP.

How ATP is produced
Take three different activities and put them on a continuum. On one end would be a quick, explosive burst such as throwing a punch. On the other end would be an extended, lower-level event such as walking five miles. Between the two could be anything. An intense twenty-second activity, one minute of constant force exertion, or a five-minute event with varied intensities of effort.

The three energy systems
Conventionally, there are three energy systems that produce ATP:

  • ATP-PC;
  • Glycolytic or lactic acid;
  • Aerobic or oxidative.

All systems are available and “turn on” at the onset of any activity. What dictates which one (or two) is relied upon the most is the effort required.

ATP-PC system – maximum power / short duration
ATP and phosphocreatine (PC) compose the ATP-PC system, also sometimes called the Phosphogen system. It is immediate and functions without oxygen. It allows for up to approximately 12 seconds (+ or -) of maximum effort. During the first few seconds of any activity, stored ATP supplies the energy. For a few more seconds beyond that, PC cushions the decline of ATP until there is a shift to another energy system.

Examples:

  • 100m sprint;
  • Discus throw;
  • Weight lifting.

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Lactic acid system – moderate power / moderate duration
Now it becomes more complicated as the energy demands shift to this system. The glycolytic or lactic acid system is the “next in line” tool after the ATP-PC system runs its course. Dietary carbohydrates supply glucose that circulates in the blood or is stored as glycogen in the muscles and the liver. Blood glucose and/or stored glycogen is broken down to create ATP through the process of glycolysis. Like the ATP-PC system, oxygen is not required for the actual process of glycolysis (but it does play a role with the by-product of glycolysis: pyruvic acid).

Here is where it gets interesting. After maximum power declines around 12 seconds, further intense activity up to approximately 30 seconds results in lactic acid accumulation, a decrease in power, and consequent muscle fatigue. This high, extended effort is labeled “fast” glycolysis. Exerting further effort up to approximately 60 seconds results in another drop in power due to the shift in dependence on the oxidative system.

Enter “slow” glycolysis into the discussion. Remember that the by-product of glycolysis is pyruvic acid. In fast glycolysis, more power can be generated, but pyruvic acid is converted to lactic acid and fatigue ensues quickly. Slow glycolysis is different. Relatively less power is generated, but pyruvic acid is converted to acetyl coenzyme A (acA), fed through the oxidative Krebs cycle, more ATP is produced, and fatigue is delayed.

Examples:

  • 400m sprint;
  • 800m sprint.

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Aerobic system – low power / long duration
Your maximal effort was fueled initially by the ATP-PC, but your performance declines. Continued effort results in further decline, either via fast glycolysis (quick decline) or slow glycolysis (slower decline). You’re now entering the complex world of the low power but longer duration aerobic or oxidative system.

Examples:

  • 5km run;
  • long distance running or walking.

The effort demand is low, but ATP in this system can be produced three ways:

  • Krebs cycle;
  • Electron transport chain;
  • Beta oxidation..

First, the science. The Krebs cycle is a sequence of chemical reactions that continues to oxidize the glucose that was initiated during glycolysis. Remember the acA? It enters the Krebs cycle, is broken down in to carbon dioxide and hydrogen, and “bang” two more ATP molecules are formed.

The problem is, the hydrogen produced in the Krebs’s cycle and during glycolysis causes the muscle to become too acidic if not tended to. To alleviate this, hydrogen combines with several enzymes and is sent to the electron transport chain. Through more chemical reactions in the electron transport chain, hydrogen combines with oxygen, water is produced, and acidity is prevented. Notice this takes time due to the need of oxygen, which is why the oxidative energy takes a while and intensity of effort declines (i.e., max effort sprints become a slow jog/walk).

The Krebs cycle and the electron transport chain metabolize triglycerides (stored fat) and carbohydrates to produce ATP. The breakdown of triglycerides is called lipolysis. The byproducts of lipolysis are glycerol and free fatty acids. However, before free fatty acids can enter the Krebs cycle they must enter the process of beta oxidation, where a series of chemical reactions downgrades them to acA and hydrogen. The acA now enters the Krebs cycle and fat is metabolized just like carbohydrates.

Simply put…
Due to the time-line, the aerobic system provides energy much more slowly than the other two systems, but has an almost unlimited supply (in your adipose tissue – yeah, that fatty stuff you can pinch). The aerobic system by itself is used primarily during complete rest and low-intensity activity. It can produce ATP through either fats (fatty acids) or carbohydrates (glucose).

Hopefully that was simple enough to understand. It is important to have a basic understanding of these energy systems when developing a training program for everybody ranging from the weekend warrior to the elite level athlete.

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.