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.

Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome – Is your ITB killing you?

If you’re an active person, and especially if you’re a runner, Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome is one of the most common overuse injuries that can sideline you. Though many people suffer from ITB Syndrome, few understand what it is and how to treat it.

If you’ve ever had ITB Syndrome, then you know how much it can hurt, and how it feels like it’s never going to go away.

It’s one of those pains in your knee or the outside of your leg where you go out for a run or a ride, and have to limp home. Many suffer with this injury for months. It’s like a knife digging into the side of your leg or knee. The ITB is an extension of a short muscle on the side of your hip called the Tensor Fascia Lata (TFL) as well as your gluteus maximus (glute max) muscle, (that’s your behind). The ITB extends from the TFL and glut max down to the outside of your knee.

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Symptoms
Pain occurs anywhere along the ITB, usually at the insertion (by the knee) or somewhere in the middle. You’ll have pain running, riding or walking [usually down] stairs, and anytime you try to bend your leg, especially after keeping it straight for a while.

Sometimes, even waking up in the morning will be like an ice-pick in your leg. If you’ve ever had an ITB problem, you probably went through a whole slew of treatments and still had it for 3-6 months; that is very common and no fun.

Causes
ITB Syndrome occurs typically from the following reasons:

  • Often there is an actual weakness of the TFL or glute max itself. 75% of the ITB is made up of  the glute max – the major muscle you use to jump, climb, squat, run, ride your bike, and even just to get out of a chair;
  • A muscular imbalance between the inside and the outside of the leg;
  • One or both of those muscles could have fatigued from wearing the wrong type of shoes or orthotics;
  • An old injury that is still haunting you, but you don’t know it because the pain is gone, but your body has compensated;
  • An insulin issue from eating too many carbohydrates creating a gait disturbance, or even from a digestive problem, (gut inflammation can inflame the ITB);
  • Overtraining.

Treatment
Once you notice ITB pain, the best way to get rid of it is to rest immediately. That means fewer miles, or no running at all. While you’re backing off on your mileage, you can cross-train. Swimming, pool running, cycling, and rowing are all fine. If you diagnose an ITB problem early enough treatment can be as simple as rest, massage and stretching.

Medical treatment is cortisone shots and NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for inflammation and if that doesn’t help, then surgery can be recommended to cut and release the band (in severe cases).

Other keys to treating ITB and speeding a healthy return to the track are as follows:

  • Stop running. It’s simple – if it hurts to run, don’t run.
  • Increase strength. Simple exercises to strengthen the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and core muscles can aid a speedy return to the track.
  • Massage the injured area. Using a foam roller and/or a tennis ball to work out tightness in my glutes, quadriceps, ITB, hamstrings and hips.
  • Better quality sleep. Most recovery and healing happens when you’re asleep. Aim for 8 or 9 hours minimum of quality, unbroken sleep.

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.

The big three movements

Deadlifts, overhead presses and farmer’s walks are the most important exercises. Here is why.

Barbells

If you care about being functionally strong then you must be competent at these basic movement patterns:

  1. Picking heavy stuff up off the ground;
  2. Lifting heavy stuff overhead; and
  3. Carrying heavy stuff for time or distance.

If your goal is strength and you’re not doing these, well, the best of luck with that. Yes, deadlifts, overhead presses, and farmer’s walks are really that important. Functionally, picking stuff off the ground, moving it overhead or carrying weight over  a given distance are some of the more common real world applications of strength. These movements are practiced almost daily by most people.

Additionally, I would add pull-ups, however the skillset for everybody to pull their own bodyweight over an obstacle is not commonly required these days as it was in previous generations.

Strength standards
Below are some functional strength standards that are highly achievable with some consistent strength training.

Men

  • Deadlift: 100-150% bodyweight
  • Single-arm overhead press: 50% bodyweight
  • Farmer’s carry: 100% bodyweight (total)
  • Pull-up: minimum 8 repetitions

Women

  • Deadlift: 100-125% bodyweight
  • Single-arm overhead press: 33% bodyweight
  • Farmer’s carry: 66% bodyweight (total)
  • Pull-up: 3 repetitions

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.

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.

The game changer: loaded carries

Trying to find that right movement that will radically change your body.

Find that missing ingredient to your training programming that will help you build muscle faster, drop fat quicker, along with dominate on any field of play. For most of us it’s as simple as this.

The loaded carry.

Strength coach Dan John states that the loaded carry does more to expand athletic qualities than anything else out there. Because of their versatility, loaded carries can be used by anyone, anywhere. It doesn’t matter if your goal in to get stronger, build muscle, improve overall posture or even lose some body fat.

Loaded carries are very functional. Loaded carries basically work every muscle in the body. Shoulders and upper back, arms, core, and even your legs. By doing them you can improve your strength, stability, and conditioning all at once.

Some variations

Single-handed carries

  • Waiters walk. The weight is held with a straight arm overhead like a European waiter in a café. This is usually the lightest of the carries and does wonders for shoulders.
  • Suitcase walk. Grab the weight in one hand like a suitcase and walk. The obliques on the other side of the weight will want to have a discussion with you the next day.
  • Rack walk. Usually done with kettlebells, hold the ‘bell in the racked position, which is the weight on the chest, like a clean. This is a fairly remedial move but it can teach an athlete about how the abs work.

Two-handed carries

  • Press walk. This is simply a double waiter’s walk but the weights come alive as you move. Lighter weights are recommended.
  • Farmers walk. The King of Carries. Go as heavy as you can with ‘bells in both hands, just like in a Strongman competition. This can be done really heavy for short distances or lighter for great distances. My favorite variation is really heavy for great distances.
  • Double rack walk. Same as above but with two kettlebells. Again, a learning move, but it’s a great way to teach the athlete to breathe under stress.
  • Cross walk. Waiter’s walk in one hand while doing the farmers walk in the other. It’s a very interesting way to teach the athlete to lock down the midsection during movement.

Sandbags, sleds, packs and vests

  • Sandbags are a great training tool. Bear hugs and shoulder carries are common variations. Just pick the sandbag up and carry it.
  • Sleds. Nothing crazy here, just add weight, attach a rope or harness and push, pull, drag, etc.
  • Packs and vests is just adding weight to a pack or vest and moving. Pretty simple stuff. My preference is to throw on a pack and get outdoors for a hike.

How often
Do some kind of loaded carry three times a week. Farmers walks and sled push / pulls are my personal favorite moves and tend to be some of the best bang-for-the-buck choices.

Final thoughts
I’ve used many of the variations listed above with success. I’ve found that they have contributed to building muscle, improve posture and body composition and have also helped with overall physical conditioning. As a result, loaded carries regularly find their way into my programming.

A month is all it takes. Try it and get back to me. Three times a week for a month. Obviously, your grip will be better. Your legs will be stronger. You’ll discover that the weight room isn’t that tough any more. You’ll look leaner, but be bigger.

A real game changer.

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.