My training at year forty

Another year has passed. Year forty. Here is the annual update on my training, nutrition and other major life events. A bit late this year. I have been quite busy both at work and at home with a bit of travel over the last several months.

Links to my previous annual updates can be found here: 36-ish37-ish38-ish and 39-ish.

Context and Goals
40-year-old. 180cm. 80kg.

No change really. I want to be fit enough, fast enough and strong enough to get through the everyday challenges of my life. In the last twelve months I have had more of a focus on adding more lean muscle.

Year Forty. Go on…

Food
It’s still mostly a wholefood diet. As a baseline template, it’s something along the lines of a paleo type diet with a few smart modifications. Basically, my plate will almost always have a good source of animal protein with some root vegetables and / or leafy greens. This has been the basic template for about the last decade. It continues to evolve and I generally rotate between lower and higher carbohydrate intake throughout the year depending on my physical and cognitive goals and requirements.

In the last twelve months my main effort has been to build some lean muscle. To do this I have had to increase my total caloric intake in order to help facilitate the growth. This has led to more of a traditional bodybuilder diet plan, with an emphasis on high amounts of protein and carbohydrate being consumed at every meal. Simply put, more calories in equals more potential for weight gain, specifically lean muscle tissue.

Most days I’ll eat four meals, with three or four hours between meals, to produce multiple spikes in protein synthesis and nutrient transport into the muscles in order to support new muscle growth.

Currently, my macronutrient breakdown would average out to be roughly:

  • Protein: about 200g;
  • Fats and oils: about 120g;
  • Carbohydrates: about 250g (depending on activity level).
  • Total: about 2850 calories.

Since last years update I have increased my daily caloric intake by another 200-300 calories and have added an additional three kilograms since the middle of the year.

As a rule, I don’t drink often. However, I’d say that on average I would enjoy a drink with my partner or some friends once or twice per fortnight. There are always exceptions to this rule, being special occasions, such as Anzac Day, or a significant event or birthday. It’s 2022 and I think it’s still important to be able to enjoy a drink socially on occasion, especially if it is contributing to a positive social interaction. The main takeaway here is that for the overwhelming majority of the year I am not drinking the night away.

When I do drink, it will very likely be a glass of Pinot Noir or if I’m chasing something a little more serious, I’ll look to a classic cocktail such as an Americano or a Gin Martini.

As for my training. Where possible, I prefer to train first thing in the morning, after a cup of black coffee and a serve of WPC prior to my workout. This combination contributes to an increase in protein synthesis, stimulating muscle growth and to help prevent the breakdown of lean muscle.

This has worked well for me for a while now and I have been able to maintain a healthy body composition, sustained physical performance and with fairly consistent energy levels throughout the day. Since my last update I have increased my weight by an additional three to four kilograms. Looking in the mirror, I would say that the majority of the weight increase has been lean muscle. Not bad for a bloke in year forty.

I’ll stress this again, this is what has worked for me.

Eating out is back on the menu, restaurants are open again and it’s basically back to pre-pandemic life which is a good thing.

Throughout the year, in my estimation, I would have eaten a three or four meals out each fortnight. Mostly with my partner. We try to schedule a nice meal or “date night” out on a Friday evening where we try to explore some nice venues and occasionally, we’ll exploit some old favorites. Steakhouses, Greek (for meat platters) or Asian-fusion restaurants are our usual choices.

Supplements
Generally, I don’t take a lot of supplements. I try to get as much of my nutrient requirements through diet alone, with the addition of some Cod Liver Oil during the winter months to boost vitamins A and D, which among other things, supports optimal immune system function whilst providing vital omega-3 fatty acids.

For pre-workout, I’ll make a cup of black coffee with some collagen peptides. On occasion, I do supplement with a pre-workout supplement. I try to select my pre-workout based on three main ingredients:

  • caffeine;
  • creatine monohydrate;
  • citrulline malate.

Magnesium. This is probably one of the most important supplements for me. Magnesium is vitally important to over 300 biological functions in the body, from regulating protein synthesis to muscle function and supporting proper sleep patterns. As the demands for physical training, professional workload and other stressors increase, the requirement for magnesium increases.

Vitamin C. Is a water soluble vitamin that has been shown to improve antioxidant levels, improve overall immunity, improve iron absorption, lower blood pressure, reduce heart disease and even dementia risk. Vitamin C is also critical for collagen synthesis. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It makes up the skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, and many other structures. Vitamin C is essential for the conversion of amino acids into functional collagen that the body can use.

Training
Strength and conditioning. During the last 12 months I’ve mainly focused on two training protocols. The first being mostly completing the bigger compound lifts first, then finish up with some accessory exercises and a finisher.

That means, deadlifts, power cleans, weighted pull-ups, horizontal and vertical presses. Followed by some accessory work like push-ups, dips, cable rows, split squats and ab rollouts.

I have generally split these movements into two separate training sessions, being push and pull and squat and press.

Sets and repetitions will vary each workout, but generally I’ll aim for about 25-30 repetitions in total for each movement. How many sets it takes to reach that total will depend on how I’m feeling on the day. Some days that could mean a standard 5 x 5 protocol and on others it could mean something like 2 x 15. 

My other strength and conditioning focus has been the kettlebell lifts. I really enjoy training with kettlebells and have found them to be an incredibly versatile training tool over the years.

Training with kettlebells can be more dynamic and can develop true strength and conditioning when implemented in circuit style training. I’ve also found that I can get a higher volume of lifts during my kettlebell training phases, not to mention a good sweat.

Farmer’s carries and high volume kettlebell swings have featured consistently in my programming.

I have found simple programming structures have worked better for me as opposed to trying to create super complicated workouts that can sometimes miss the mark.

I’m not setting strength records, but I’m doing pretty well for a guy who has just turned 40 years old. I’m athletic, have a decent strength to weight ratio, can run reasonably quick, generally in pretty good health and rarely injured. Pretty important for somebody entering “middle-age”. This allows me to be consistent. And consistency is in my estimation, one of the major keys to long term health and performance. I can be active across a variety of disciplines just about any day that I choose, which is more often than not.

I do take rest days as required depending on how I feeling both mentally and physically, maybe one day out of every 7 to 10 days is dedicated to rest and recovery.

Running. It’s been mostly interval work and some 3 to 5 km efforts. As general rule however, it’s the shorter, more intense runs that I feel the most benefit from.

During the last twelve months I have significantly reduced my weekly running load due to changes to my personal performance goals. I am planning to reintroduce a more structured run program into my training schedule in the near future.

As opposed to running, I have been walking a lot more. A great opportunity to listen to a podcast and just slow down for a while and spend some time out in nature.

Basketball. Still competing. It’s a sport I’ve played since I was 12 years old. Most weeks I get to play on two nights. The first being at a pretty high level or “A grade” and the second being more of a social level around the “B/C grade” mark. Both teams are competitive and I always enjoy being on the court. I’ve been given the opportunity to compete with the Victorian Army Basketball team again which is always and exciting and challenging competition.

Overall, I’m having a lot of fun playing sport again. I just love competing. Each night I’m matching up against players who are often half my age so it’s a good feeling to be competitive and even out-play most of my opponents on a nightly basis.

Currently, my training consists of three or four days of strength and conditioning combined with one session of running (mostly easy / mid-level efforts and some sprint work). Each workout will last about 40 to 50 minutes. I play basketball two nights a week.

A final point. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Lifestyle and Travel
I’m still living in Melbourne, Australia. It really is great being around family and friends for such an extended period of time. It does feel great to be part of a local community.

The importance of good social connections is often overlooked when it comes to optimising your health and how well you perform at all levels on a daily basis.

This year is my nineteenth year in the Army. A life time in one profession. It’s still an exciting career that has allowed me to develop both professionally and as a human, along with many opportunities to contribute to the global society in a positive way. A career that has taken me to almost every corner of the world. Whilst I am not currently attached to a fighting element in my current role, I am in a position to positively mentor and develop junior soldiers as they enter their trade training continuum. A very rewarding experience considering the operational experience I gained throughout my career.

My girlfriend / partner. What can I say? She is nothing short of amazing. Highly driven, intelligent, independent, successful, strong and beautiful. She’s an associate lawyer and on the side she lectures law for a major university, instructs fitness classes on occasion and is currently contemplating on whether or not to conduct another bodybuilding / bikini fitness contest preparation in the future. Most importantly, she makes me strive to be a better human every day.

Note. Did I say she is my favorite human.

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We officially moved in together late December. She relocated from the Bendigo office in Regional Victoria and took up a new role with a new practice group within the firm. Merging two lives into a single property will always have its challenges, such as losing some private space isn’t to get away from each other as often as previously and when you both have established homes not all of your belongings make it to the merged household. Not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, an excellent opportunity to start fresh and write the next chapter… together. I’d say it’s a net win.

We are both much closer to our places of work with both my partner and myself being about 15 minutes away from our places of work. Much better than battling the Western Ring Road that could have taken anywhere from 25 to 60 minutes on any given day! We’re also fairly close to the city and only an hour away from the family holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula.

Holidays. The last twelve months we didn’t travel interstate, but we did make it to the family holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula. As usual, we spent a few nights at Crown Towers Resort Melbourne around the Christmas / New Year period. We also had the opportunity to stay at a friends holiday home in Fairhaven, along the Great Ocean Road over the Labour Day long weekend.

So, what’s next?
The next twelve months is going to be an exciting time. On a personal note, I have just started studies in Certificates 3 & 4 in Fitness. I was qualified as a personal trainer prior to enlisting into the Army all the way back in 2003, however those qualifications are no longer current so it’s time to go back to school and become certified again. I feel these studies will compliment the Diploma in Nutrition that I completed recently. Recertification will provide me with another opportunity to provide a good service back into the community.

Life can be whatever you want it to be, and I am certain that there are going to be some new and exciting challenges in the future. Most definitely looking forward to the challenges of the next twelve months!

Until then… Live well. Train hard. Enjoy life.

The planes of human motion

3-Planes-of-Motion

What are the planes of human motion and why should we care?

If you’re a student of physical therapy, chiropractic or other medical profession, you’ll get this in school if you haven’t already. If you’re planning to certify in personal training or as a strength and conditioning coach will need to know it. Whilst for the most part, many o us don’t really need to know too much about the planes of human motion, it is something that any athlete or gym goer will come across from time to time throughout their health and performance journey.

Here is the simple version of the planes of human motion.

In its simplest form:

  • Sagittal. Forward and backward movement;
  • Frontal. Side to side movement;
  • Transverse. Rotational movement.

When picturing how this looks, just imagine slicing through the human body like this:

  • First through the centre, dividing the body from the left to the right to make up the sagittal plane;
  • Next through the body from the left side to the right, separating the front and back halves to create the frontal plane;
  • Finally cutting straight through the hips to divide the top of the body from the bottom, the transverse plane.

Not too hard right? It starts to get a little more complicated when you start to look at which motions move along each of the planes.

How to visualise the planes of human motion

Sagittal plane motion would include forward and backward motions, like sit-ups, back extensions or biceps curls. The sagittal plane cuts through the center of the body, so the motion is front to back or back to front, including straight forward running.

Squats involve flexion (forward motion) and extension (backward on the way up), so would fit into the sagittal plane.

Frontal plane motion would include leaning from left to right as in sidebends and lateral raises, or perhaps you might picture jumping jacks for a good image of movement along the frontal plane.

Transverse plane motion is the hardest to picture because the plane is horizontal as it divides the top from the bottom, so it can be hard to get your head around it being a rotating action. The main thing to remember is the rotation.

A good example of a transverse plane exercise would be medicine ball or cable wood chops, where the ball or cable moves across the body while a transverse activity would be swinging a golf club.

So, why is it important to know about or understand this?

It’s important to know that the planes  exist and to make sure our training programs include exercises along each of them. The most common gym exercises are on the sagittal plane, moving forward or back such as in horizontal or vertical pressing, pushups, crunches or even squats and lunges.

When creating exercise programs for clients, team mates or even just for yourself be sure to add some frontal plane and transverse plane exercises to bring up your built-in injury prevention.

Training in all three planes of motion is what’s going to help ensure good balance in your muscular body. Consistently training only within a single plane will basically do the opposite.

Human Movement Terminology

Now let’s take a look at a few other common movement terms used in anatomy and physical training. I’ll try to keep it brief and simple to give a base understanding and provide yourself with a bit of a cheatsheet in the event you decide to read an advance training article to further your knowledge or are recovering from an injury and need to understand what your surgeon or physiotherapist is telling you.

Prone vs supine
Prone is lying face down. Supine is lying face up.

Superior vs inferior
Superior means closer to the head. Inferior means closer to the feet.

Medial vs lateral
Medial refers to nearer to the center. Lateral refers to farther from the center.

Posterior vs anterior
Posterior is toward the rear. Anterior is toward the front.

Distal vs proximal
Distal means farther from the torso. Proximal means closer to the torso.

Extension vs flexion
Extension straightens a joint. Flexion bends the joint.

Supination vs pronation
Supination and pronation are used to describe action at the feet or forearm. In the feet, supination refers to an outward rolling action, while pronation refers to an inward rolling action.

With the forearm, supination refers to turning the palm up and pronation refers to turning the palm down.

Medial vs lateral rotation
Medial rotation turns toward the center of the body as in internal rotation. Lateral rotation turns away from the body externally.

Elevation vs depression
Elevation means upward; depression means downward. These terms are most often used to describe faulty scapula position, being either too high or too low.

Adduction vs abduction
Adduction brings the limb in toward the body. Abduction moves it away.

Dorsiflexion vs plantar flexion
Dorsiflexion at the ankle is to bring the toes toward the shin. Plantar flexion points the toes away.

Joint mobility vs flexibility
Joint mobility encompasses the ability of the joint to move through its full range of motion. Flexibility is about muscles, not joints, and is about lengthening the muscle to its optimal length.

Stability vs mobility
Stability is the muscle, tendon and ligament action needed to hold a joint in position.

Mobility requires the correct muscle action on one side of a joint and the necessary muscular flexibility on the other to produce full movement through a joint’s range of motion.

Activation vs dormant
Activation means an action to trigger a muscle that’s not firing well. Dormant refers to an inactive muscle group, at varying levels from fully inactive to fully engaged.

Tendons vs ligaments vs fascia vs myofascia
Tendons connect muscles to bones. Ligaments connect bone to bone. Fascia is connective tissue that covers soft tissue from head to toe, superficial to deep. Myofascia is fascia covering muscle.

Bilateral vs unilateral
Bilateral refers to both sides of the body working together. Unilateral is one side alone.

Concentric vs eccentric
Concentric shortens the muscle; eccentric lengthens.

For example, during the conduct of biceps curls the concentric action brings the wrist toward the shoulder whilst the eccentric action returns the weight to the start point with the arm extended.

Isometric vs isotonic
Isometric changes the muscle tension without changing the length. Isotonic changes the muscle tension while changing the length.

Origin vs insertion
Origin of a muscle is the stationary attachment site of muscle to bone. Insertion is the mobile attachment end site.

Primer mover vs synergist vs antagonist
Prime mover is the main muscle that carries out an action. Synergist assists the prime mover while the antagonist performs the opposite action.

Hopefully, that was simple enough to understand and a fairly comprehensive cheatsheet.

Pre-workout supplementation: when to take it and does it have the right stuff

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Pre-workouts have become on par with protein powders as a training staple for many athletes in recent years. With good reason. They’re effective, tasty and easy to use. Easy to the point that the name itself tell you when you should consume it.

When exactly should you take your pre-workout? Sounds too simple to screw up? Right? Well… you would be surprised.

Pre-workout Timing

Many people often start taking their pre-workout as they are walking into the gym. The problem is that the majority of active ingredients within a pre-workout take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to reach peak levels within the body. So if you consume your pre-workout as you enter the gym it may not be until you’re into the second or even third exercise before the you can take advantage of the benefits.

The major stimulant is usually caffeine, which has a half life of approx. 3-6 hours depending on the individual. That being said, the optimal timing to take a pre-workout supplement is somewhere in the 30-60 minutes window prior to your workout.

Pre-workout Ingredients

These days there is a huge range of pre-workout supplements on the market. Many of them provide an excellent choice. However, there are also many on the market that are below standard. These are usually full of many ingredients that you have likely never heard of before. A long list of ingredients usually means fillers or sweeteners or very small quantities of important ingredients that a single dose won’t provide any real benefit anyway.

A product with basic ingredients will almost always work best. However you pick your pre-workout, whether is it by brand, flavour, price, you should make sure it contains the following ingredients:

  • Caffeine. For increased energy, endurance and focus to fight fatigue for one more round. For more on caffeine and how it can improve athletic performance, check here.
  • Citrulline Malate. For transporting oxygen and other important nutrients to your muscles and is an important precursor to nitric oxide production. This helps enlarge the blood vessels and improving blood flow (the pump in your muscles). Improved blood flow also means better muscle contractions, lower heart rate and improved breathe rate during intense physical activity.
  • Creatine Monohydrate. For increased muscle mass, overall strength gains and enhanced recovery. Make sure your pre-workout contains the monohydrate form as other variations are inferior. For more on creatine, check here.
  • Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). These amino acids include leucine, isoleucine and valine and are critically important for muscle growth.

Alternatively, you could make your own pre-workout by adding these ingredients to a juice or pre-workout protein shake.

In summary

A pre-workout supplement may be very beneficial addition to your training regime. When used correctly, they can assist in a variety of ways such as increased energy, endurance, focus and an increased ability to to transport vital nutrients to the muscles during intense physical activity to help you achieve your training goals.

Supplementing with creatine monohydrate

creatinemonohydrate

What is it?
Creatine is a combination of three different amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. That is it.

It is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise.

Dietary sources of creatine include red meat and fish, however large amounts are required to be consumed to obtain sufficient amounts required for increased performance. Dietary supplementation is inexpensive and effective at increasing the amount of creatine within the body.

Studies have shown that supplementing with creatine has been very popular among athletes and bodybuilders to gain muscle, enhance strength and improve overall exercise performance for many years.

When you supplement with creatine it increases the body’s stores of creatine phosphate, which is able to donate its phosphate group to Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) to produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is often called the body’s energy currency. The more ATP that is available, the better the body can perform during all sorts of physical activity, with the most benefit being seen with short, fast and explosive movements.

There are many forms of creatine available on the market however the best form to supplement with is creatine monohydrate.

Who needs it?
Everybody can benefit from creatine supplementation, however these specific groups of people would benefit the most:

  • Bodybuilders and strength athletes;
  • People over 40 years of age;
  • Anybody trying to improve their physical and cognitive performance or recovery.

Benefits of taking creatine
Here are some of the ways that creatine supplementation can boost physical performance and assist in overall health:

  • Increases muscle strength and size;
  • Enhanced recovery;
  • Improved sprinting / high intensity physical performance;
  • Improved glucose tolerance;
  • Enhanced brain function;
  • May reduce sarcopenia (age related muscle loss).

How much should be supplemented?
Common dosing strategies usually include a loading phase of approx. 5 to 7 days where you supplement with 5g, 4 to 5 times per day.

Following the loading phase you would transition into the maintenance phase of 5g, 1 to 2 times per day.

It is not necessary to cycle on and off of creatine supplementation, however doing so could increases results or break a training plateau.

When to supplement?
An often debated topic, but it appears that taking creatine post-workout has the most benefits.

Some studies have shown that supplementing with creatine post workout at a meal time could be beneficial in increasing the uptake of creatine due to the increase in insulin secretion and transporting nutrients into the cells.

How this works:

  • The body absorbs nutrients better after physical activity;
  • Insulin helps drive more creatine into muscle cells;
  • The first meal post-workout should contain some carbohydrates to help spike your insulin in order to facilitate nutrient absorption into the muscles;
  • Creatine supplementation will help refuel your body’s creatine phosphate stores.

On non-training days, supplementation timing isn’t as important as the purpose of supplementing on a non-training days is to keep creatine levels elevated within the muscles.

Final Thoughts
Creatine is one of the cheapest, most studied, ethical, effective and safest nutritional supplements on the market. It has a variety of uses including increased muscle mass and physical fitness, and can also improve brain health.

Creatine Monohydrate is the best form of creatine to supplement with.

My training at 39-ish

So another year has gone by and I’m another year older. A bit late, but here is the annual update on my training, nutrition and other key happenings in life. If you’re somewhat interested, links to my previous annual updates can be found here: 36-ish37-ish and 38-ish.

Context and Goals
39-year-old. 180cm. 77kg.

I want to be fit enough, fast enough and strong enough to get through the daily challenges of life. Basically just I want to live healthy and well into old age.

Year Forty. Go on…

Food
Where to start? Well, it’s a wholefood diet. Something along the lines of an ancestral or paleo type diet. This has been my basic template for the last nine or ten years now. It has evolved over the years and I generally rotate between lower and higher carbohydrate intake throughout the year depending on my physical and mental requirements. In general, my protein intake is fairly stable throughout the year and I would switch between a high carbohydrate or high fat diet depending on the season and how I looked, felt or performed (mentally and physically).

Most days I’ll eat 3 meals, with at least 5 hours between meals, to allow the digestive system to do its job to metabolise nutrients to properly fuel the body. Most recently, I have added a high protein snack towards the end of the day as part of my evening routine. This usually consists of some protein powder mixed into some Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese.

As a general rule, my macronutrient breakdown would average out to be in the ballpark of:

  • Protein: about 200g;
  • Fats and oils: about 115g;
  • Carbohydrates: about 130g (depending on activity level).
  • Total: about 2355 calories.

Since the middle of February, I have made a conscious effort to increase my weight and build some lean muscle tissue which has required an increase in caloric consumption. I have added more carbohydrate to most meals, especially on training and / or competition days to help facilitate lean muscle growth.

These days, my macronutrient break down has looked a little more like this:

  • Protein: about 240g;
  • Fats and oils: about 85g;
  • Carbohydrates: about 240g.
  • Total: about 2685 calories.

What does this look like on a plate? It starts with quality sources of protein, such as beef, lamb, pork, game meats like kangaroo and venison, or some fish. Then, a variety of leafy greens, root vegetables or rice and finally some healthy fats like, butter, ghee or olive oil. 

I also eat eggs almost daily, bone broths and fermented foods, like kimchi and yoghurt.

I drink a lot of mineral water and my coffee is almost always black.

Throughout the previous year with coronavirus related lockdowns within the community, my alcohol consumption went up, then down, then up again. Drinking the occasional glass of red wine with my partner throughout the winter, then experimenting with cocktails during the warmer months. Most recently, I have once again dialed back on the alcohol to zero, with the exception of special occasions like Anzac Day, or my birthday.

I normally train first thing in the morning, after a cup of black coffee with some collagen peptides. Since February, I have consumed a serve of WPC prior to my workout, in order increase protein synthesis, stimulate muscle growth and to help prevent the breakdown of lean muscle.

This has worked well for me for a while now and I have been able to maintain a healthy body composition, sustained physical performance and with fairly consistent energy levels throughout the day. In that time, I have increased my weight by nearly three kilograms. Looking in the mirror, I would say that the majority of the weight increase has been lean muscle. Not bad for year forty.

I’ll stress this again, this is what has worked for me.

Eating out. It’s now 2021 and eating out is a part of the modern social culture. 

Most of 2020 eating out was taken off the cards with practically all restaurants being closed. This meant that I was able to dial in my nutrition pretty well without the temptation of fancy, over-indulgent meals at nice restaurants. Whilst I did eat out on occasion, I was really lucky with the fact that my partner eats very similar to myself so it was pretty easy for us to cook and share meals together at home with ease for the majority of the year. It also gave us some additional quality time together which I thought was pretty amazing.

I also know a little bit about nutrition and how to cook which helped.

Additionally, my partner recently commenced contest preparation for her third bodybuilding / bikini competition, which has increased the requirement to keep her the nutrition in order. I have chosen to basically eat the same as her, using my macros in order to support my goals of building muscle. It makes meal time easier for us when we eat together or when preparing meals for the week. It’s also an easy way for me to support her through her preparation.

Supplements
Generally, I don’t take a lot of supplements. I try to get all of my nutrient requirements through diet alone, with the addition of some Cod Liver Oil during the winter months to boost vitamins A and D, which among other things, supports optimal immune system function.

For pre-workout, I’ll make a cup of black coffee with some collagen peptides.

Magnesium. This is probably one of the most important supplements for me. Magnesium is vitally important to over 300 biological functions in the body  from regulating protein synthesis to muscle function and supporting proper sleep patterns.  As the demands for physical training, stress or professional workloads increase, the requirement for magnesium increases.

Vitamin C. Is a water soluble vitamin that has been shown to improve antioxidant levels, improve overall immunity, improve iron absorption, lower blood pressure, reduce heart disease and dementia risk. Vitamin C is also critical for collagen synthesis. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It makes up the skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, and many other structures. Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis. That means the conversion of amino acids into functional collagen that the body can use.

That’s about it really.

Training
Strength and conditioning. During the last 12 months I’ve mainly focused on two training protocols. The first being mostly completing the bigger compound lifts first, then finish up with some accessory exercises and a finisher.

That means, deadlifts, power cleans, weighted pull-ups, horizontal and vertical presses. Followed by some accessory work like push-ups, dips, cable rows, split squats and ab rollouts.

I have generally split these movements into two separate training blocks, being push and pull, with the other being squat and press.

Sets and repetitions will vary each workout, but generally I’ll aim for about 25-30 repetitions in total for each movement. How many sets it takes reach that total will depend on how I’m feeling on the day. So days that could mean a standard 5 x 5 protocol and on others it could mean something like 2 x 15. 

My other strength and conditioning focus has been the kettlebell lifts. I really enjoy training with kettlebells and have found them to be an incredibly versatile training tool over the years.

Training with kettlebells can be more dynamic and can develop strength and conditioning when implemented in circuit style training. I’ve also found that I can get a higher volume of lifts during my kettlebell training phases, not to mention a good sweat.

Farmer’s carries and high volume kettlebell swings have featured consistently in my programming.

Really simple. But simple works.

I’m not setting strength records, but I’m doing pretty well for a guy who has just turned 40 years old. I’m athletic, have a decent strength to weight ratio, can run reasonably quick, generally in pretty good health and rarely injured. Pretty important for somebody entering “middle-age”. This allows me to be consistent. And consistency is the key to long term health and performance. I can be active across a variety of disciplines just about any day that I choose, which is more often than not.

Running. It’s been mostly interval work and some 5km efforts. The Army loves running. So occasionally, I’ll have to run longer distances out to about 8km. As general rule however, it’s just the shorter, more intense runs that I feel the most benefit from.

During the last twelve months I competed in one virtual race with the New York Road Runners (NYRR), where you track a run locally and upload it to a global leaderboard.

Virtual Races:

  • NYRR Virtual, 5k (21:50min)

As opposed to running, I have been walking a lot more. A great opportunity to listen to a podcast, catch up with a friend or spend some time out in nature.

Basketball. It’s back. I’m really enjoying being on the court. Both socially and competitively. It’s a sport I’ve played since I was 12 years old. The 2020 competitions were brought to an immediate closure in March. Really disappointing as we were playing well and winning.

Overall, I’m having a lot of fun playing sport again. I just love competing. Each night I’m matching up against players half my age so it’s a good feeling to be competitive and even beat most of my opponents on a nightly basis.

Right now my training consists of four days of strength and conditioning combined with one or sometimes two days of running (mostly easy / mid-level efforts and some sprint work). Each workout will last about 40 to 50 minutes. I play basketball two nights a week, on Tuesday and Thursday.

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A final point. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Lifestyle and Travel
I’m living in Melbourne, Australia. It’s my fifth year back in my home state. It really is great being around family and friends for such an extended period of time. I feel like I am a part of the local community again, which is great. It does feel nice to be able to hold a decent conversation with your local barista or butcher a daily / weekly basis.

The importance of good social connections is often overlooked when it comes to optimising your health and how well you perform at all levels on a daily basis.

This year is my eighteenth year in the Army. A life time. For the most part it’s been an exciting career that has allowed me to develop as a human and contribute to the global society in a positive way. A career that has taken me to almost every corner of the world and I have had the opportunity to work with many great people from a variety of countries sharing the same values and goals as myself.

My girlfriend / partner. What can I say? She is nothing short of amazing. Highly driven, intelligent, independent, strong and beautiful. Running an office as an associate lawyer for a major personal injury law firm. She also lectures law subjects at the local university, instructs fitness classes and as discussed earlier, is in the middle of her third bodybuilding / bikini contest preparation. Most importantly, she makes me strive to be a better human every day.

We were fortunate enough to meet about a month prior to the initial lockdown early last year. In my estimation, just enough time to figure out that we were both decent humans with great potential, both as individuals and as a couple.

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Note. We still are both decent humans.

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She lives in Bendigo, Victoria. About a ninety minute drive outside of Melbourne. It’s only four turns from my door to hers. We were lucky enough to be able to travel between the two locations during the lockdown months, which did give us some sort of freedom or normality during a period of time that could just as easily have been incredibly lonely and mentally tough.

We were both lucky to have the opportunity to remain employed throughout the last twelve months and the transition to the work-from-home life made it even easier to spend time together between Bendigo and Melbourne. We are both back working at our respective office / barracks most days which means our time together has been reduced to mostly the weekends.

Having the opportunity to spend time in Bendigo has been great. A regional city with the country town sense of community. There are some amazing restaurants to try and some fantastic cocktail bars that are worth checking out. Not to mention some good coffee and a decent gym by the name of McQuinn’s.

As usual, I also spent some time at the family holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula. Always a great option for a lazy weekend getaway and some valuable beach time. We also spent a few nights between Crown Towers Resort Melbourne and the Jackalope Hotel Resort on the Peninsula around the Christmas / New Year period.

We also travelled to Adelaide in early January for five days. Most of our time was spent visiting beaches and cafes along the coast during the day and some inner city cocktail bars in the evenings.

So, what’s next?
The next twelve months is going to be an exciting time. On a personal note, I am seriously considering the possibility of transitioning out of the full-time service with the Army in order to provide more stability at home. I’ll most definitely continue to contribute with the Army Reserve. I feel that it is time for me find a new challenge on a professional level.

I’m always looking at ways to continue my development both personally and professionally. Most recently I have taken a deeper look into the works of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson and furthering my knowledge of long term property investment to better prepare myself for the future.

Life can be whatever you want it to be, and there are some really exciting times are ahead.

Until then… Live well. Train hard. Enjoy life.

How to count macro-nutrients

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The term macro-nutrients (macros) originates from the Greek word makros, meaning large. Macros are the nutrients you require daily in large amounts.

Macro-nutrients provide the body with energy (calories) and provide the building blocks of cellular growth, immune function, and overall repair. They are:

  • Fat. 9 calories / gram;
  • Protein. 4 calories / gram;
  • Carbohydrate. 4 calories / gram.

Your body also requires micronutrients in smaller amounts, such as vitamins and minerals.

Fats
Of all the macro-nutrients, fats (and oils) provide the most energy (calories) per gram. Important for critical functions such as nutrient absorption (especially the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K), hormone production, temperature regulation and providing an alternative energy source (in fact, cardiac muscle cells derive up to 90% of their energy requirement from fatty acids).

Dietary fats are either saturated or unsaturated.

Saturated fats come mostly from animal sources. At the chemical level they are tightly packed and have no double bonds, hence the term saturated. These fats are generally solid at room temperature and tend to be shelf-stable for a longer period of time.

Unsaturated fats include those that are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Chemically, these fatty acids are loosely packed and have either a single (mono) or multiple (poly) double bonds. The important Omega-3 fatty acids belong in this group. Unsaturated fats are generally in liquid form even when refrigerated and have a shorter shelf life.

The recommended daily intake is between 20-35% of the total caloric intake, although many people find optimal function and performance at higher levels.

Good sources of healthy fat include fish, meats, avocado, nuts, butter, olive and coconut oils.

Proteins
Proteins are important for the body to be able to build and repair cells and tissue structures, produce enzymes and hormones as well as regulate your immune system. Protein requirements will vary depending on individual body weight and fitness levels.

Typical recommendations for protein intake is between 15-25% of the total caloric intake.

Good sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, lentils and diary products.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide the body with fuel. They are broken down into sugars by the body and either provide immediate energy or are stored in the liver and muscles for later use in the form of glycogen.

Carbohydrates can either be complex or simple.

Simple carbohydrates (monosaccharides and disaccharides) are made up of either one or two sugar units and can be broken down fairly quickly in the body. Simply put, blood sugar levels typically rise quickly, then drop just as quick after the consumption of simple carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides and oligosaccharides) are made up of long strings of sugar units that take longer to break down for use in the body. Due to these longer strings of sugars, complex carbohydrates take longer to be broken down and as such, generally have a lesser impact on blood glucose levels.

In addition to providing fuel to the body, complex carbohydrates, particularly fiber, can help the body to maintain healthy digestive function and a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.

Although high, typical recommendations for carbohydrate intake is between 45-65% of the total caloric intake.

Good sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, tubers and grains.

How to actually count macro-nutrients
Use the following steps to effectively count macro-nutrients:

  1. Identify how many calories you want to eat each day.
  2. Identify the ratio of macro-nutrients that you want to consume. The current recommendations in Australia are as follows:
    • Fat: 20-35%
    • Protein: 15-25%
    • Carbohydrate: 45-65%
  3. Multiply the total daily calories by the identified percentages.
  4. Divide the calorie amounts by the macro-nutrient calorie-per-gram number.

The Example
Our case athlete is following a 2,000 calorie diet using 25% fats, 25% protein and 50% carbohydrates.

Fat (9 calories / gram)

  • 25% of 2,000 calories = 500 calories of fat per day
  • total amount of fat per day = 500/9 = 56 grams

Protein (4 calories / gram)

  • 25% of 2,000 calories = 500 calories of protein per day
  • total amount of protein per day = 500/4 = 125 grams

Carbohydrates (4 calories / gram)

  • 50% of 2,000 calories = 1,000 calories of carbohydrates per day
  • total amount of carbohydrates per day = 1,000/4 = 250 grams

From these simple equations we can determine how many grams for each macro-nutrient our case athlete should be eating per day. With the above example to achieve the goal of 2,000 calories our case athlete would need to eat 56 grams of fat, 125 grams of protein and 250 grams of carbohydrates.

Let us look at one more case athlete. Still following an 2,000 calorie diet, but following a fairly standard ketogenic nutrition plan using 65% fats, 25% protein and 10% carbohydrates.

Fat (9 calories / gram)

  • 65% of 2,000 calories = 1300 calories of fat per day
  • total amount of fat per day = 1300/9 = 144 grams

Protein (4 calories / gram)

  • 25% of 2,000 calories = 500 calories of protein per day
  • total amount of protein per day = 500/4 = 125 grams

Carbohydrates (4 calories / gram)

  • 10% of 2,000 calories = 200 calories of carbohydrates per day
  • total amount of carbohydrates per day = 200/4 = 50 grams

For ketogenic case athlete to achieve the same goal of 2,000 calories they would need to eat 144 grams of fat, 125 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbohydrates.

Two different case athletes with different macro-nutrient breakdowns and achieving the same total caloric intake.

Final thoughts
Each macro-nutrient has important role in the body, essential to optimal health and performance. Understanding how to count these macros can produce a variety of health benefits, including the improvement in the overall quality of diet, smarter food choices and portion control, which when combined with a healthy exercise program can assist in reaching specific goals including improved body composition, lean muscle growth and / or effective weight loss.

When I track my calories I have found the CRONOMETER application to be a great tool for not only tracking macros, but have found that it also tracks more vitamins and minerals than any other application on the market.

Simple Strength Revisited

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If you want to get stronger… lift weights.

Not the easiest of things to do with all gyms currently closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the government enforced lockdowns. They will however, reopen. Hopefully as early as next month.

When that happens I’m sure there will be many aspiring athletes and everyday gym goers who will  be itching to get back into the strongman’s room eager to lift as much weight as possible in an attempt to catch up on the workouts missed during the lockdown.

To avoid immediate overtraining or injury, some smart programming will be required. For most people it will have been two or more months since their last heavy workout. A loss in strength and conditioning is to be expected. That is ok.

Here is a strength routine that I picked up from strength coach Dan John and have used on occasion with success after periods of time away from the gym. It’s not too taxing on the body and can be completed several days per week.

It’s simple… but sometimes simple works.

The Protocol
First pick a compound exercise from the basic movement patterns.

  • Squat: front or back squat
  • Hinge: deadlift
  • Push: bench or overhead press
  • Pull: pull-up or power clean

Then find out how much weight you can move for 5 repetitions. For most people, it’s about 80% of your 1RM.

Use the following lifting scheme: 1 – 2 – 3. That’s 6 repetitions. Pretty simple. Complete a single repetition, rest shortly, complete a double, rest, then complete a triple. Rest as long as required between lifts. The aim is to complete every lift without failure.

Complete this method three times. It should look like this: 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Now you have completed 18 repetitions at your 5RM for each working set! Well done.

The Rules:

  1. Don’t miss a repetition. Make every lift.
  2. Don’t chase fatigue.

The weight should feel easy enough to move quickly. Increase the resistance over time from workout to workout. The best part about this lifting method is that you don’t even have to change your program to add these, you can just add a set here and there to your current program.

I usually pick movement pattern and conduct an exercise as my main lift for the day, then follow up with some accessory work to round out the session.

My training at 38-ish

So another year has gone by and I’m another year older. Here is a current update on my training, nutrition and other key happenings in life. If you’re interested, links to my previous annual updates can be found here: 36-ish and 37-ish.

Context and Goals
38-year-old. 180cm. 74kg.

I want to be fit enough, fast enough and strong enough to get through the daily challenges of life. With continued learning and adaptation, living healthy and well into old age.

Oh, and add a little more lean muscle too.

Once again, the caveat is that this is what has worked for me so far…

Food
What do I eat? You could call it some sort of ancestral or paleo type diet, but it’s basically a whole foods diet. It’s evolved over the years and I have reintroduced certain foods into the daily rotation like butter, cheese and the occasional slice of sourdough bread at breakfast.

For the most part, I just try to reduce or eliminate highly processed fast foods, crappy vegetable oils and added sugars as much as practicable.

On most days I’ll eat 2 meals with a snack, with at least 5 or 6 hours between meals, which allows the digestive system to have adequate time to do its job and metabolise nutrients to properly fuel the body.

As a general rule, my macronutrient breakdown would average out to be in the ballpark of:

  • 40-50% fats and oils;
  • 30% protein;
  • 20% carbohydrate.

More recently, I have been trying to add more carbohydrate into my diet to help facilitate lean muscle growth.

It’s definitely not keto which has become quite popular these days, but it’s still a fairly low carbohydrate diet and I would definitely be cycling in and out of ketosis on a weekly basis. I’ve done some occasional ketone testing and usually score between 0.5 to 0.8 mmol/L, which is considered nutritional ketosis. If you’re within this range you’re generally thought to be metabolically healthy, meaning that you’re able to switch between glucose (sugar) and ketones (a byproduct from the breakdown of fatty acids) as an energy source efficiently.

What does this actually look like on a plate? Well… quality sources of protein first, such as pasture raised beef, chicken, pork or some sustainably sourced fish. Then, a variety of leafy greens and root vegetables, and finally some good fats like avocado, butter, ghee, coconut or olive oil. Add some cheese like Gouda or Provolone to close out the meal and you’re done.

I eat plenty of eggs, bone broths and fermented foods, like kimchi and yoghurt. I drink a lot of mineral water and my coffee is almost always black. A glass of red wine, specifically a pinot noir or a classic gin martini is always welcome to round out the weekend.

I normally train in a fasted state, or after a cup of black coffee with some MCT oil. During periods of more intense training, I’ll have a serve of WPC prior to my workout, in order to help prevent the breakdown of lean muscle.

Contrary to what a lot of people think is best practice for weight management, most of my calories are usually consumed in the final meal of the day. I find that eating meals higher in carbohydrates at the end of the day allows me to replenish depleted glycogen stores, and preparing my body to train early the following day. I also have more time available in the evening to get creative and prepare larger meals.

This has worked well for me for the last 12-18 months, I’ve been able to maintain my weight and body composition easily and have had fairly consistent energy levels throughout the day.

I’ll stress this again, this has worked well for me.

Adding some additional weight to this argument is that I’m human, and I’m more likely to be sharing a meal in the evening after work with friends or family. This was the case until recently. The global COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent societal lockdowns have greatly restricted what individuals or groups of people are able to do in public. But more on that later…

Intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding. There is a difference. As mentioned earlier, I generally eat two main meals per day. One meal post workout and one at the end of the day. I would argue that this is called time-restricted feeding, with all meals being consumed within a predetermined window of time, for example between 12pm and 8pm on a regular basis.

Intermittent fasting is exactly that. Intermittent, meaning occasional. Humans have evolved over time to thrive through seasonal periods of both excess and limited food availabilities. This is why the body can switch and use both ketones and glucose as an effective energy source.

How do I fast? Depending on the day, lets say a typical day where I do a strength workout, I might only have a 10-12 hour overnight fast while on other days I can stretch it out to 16-18 hours with ease. Occasionally on a low tempo day, I would dabble in a longer fast of up to 24-32 hours. This wasn’t very regular, Maybe only 3 or 4 times over the last 12 months.

Eating out. It’s 2020 and eating out is a part of modern life. Well it was until recently. The global COVID-19 outbreak has placed the community on lockdown which has greatly restricted people from eating out. In fact, eating out is dead, for now. A lot of restaurants have had to resort to takeout or delivery options just to continue daily operations. Many places have closed indefinitely. Hopefully in the near future some restaurants will be able to reopen, even if it means limiting the amount of customers dining at any given time.

Lucky I know a little bit about nutrition and how to cook.

Supplements
I don’t take a lot of supplements on a daily basis. I try to get all of my nutrient requirements through diet alone, with the addition of some Cod Liver Oil during the winter months to boost vitamins A and D, which among things, support optimal immune system function.

As mentioned earlier, my pre-workout is typically a cup of black coffee with some MCT oil, and I’ll occasionally use a whey protein powder pre or post workout.

Magnesium. This is probably one of the most important supplements for me. Mostly taken post workout in the warmer months or in the evenings prior to sleep. Magnesium is vitally important to over 300 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 some elevated stress or workloads, and your requirement increases.

Additionally, over the last 12 months I have added Olive Leaf Extract during the standard cold and flu season to help strengthen the immune system.

Training
Strength and conditioning. During the last 12 months I’ve focused on two training protocols. The first being mostly completing the bigger compound lifts first, then finish up with some accessory exercises and a finisher.

That means, deadlifts, power cleans, weighted pull-ups, horizontal and vertical presses. Followed by some accessory work like push-ups, dips, cable rows, split squats and ab rollouts.

Sets and repetitions will vary from workout to workout, but generally I’ll aim for about 12-20 repetitions in total for each movement. How many sets it takes reach that total will depend on how I’m feeling on the day.

My other strength and conditioning focus has been the kettlebell lifts. These can be more dynamic and can develop strength and conditioning when implemented in circuit style training. I’ve found that I can get a higher volume in lifts during my kettlebell training phases, not to mention a good sweat.

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

These three exercises are so good for you that you could almost base your entire strength and conditioning program around them and you’re likely to see consistent progression throughout the year.

Really simple. But simple works. I can also finish most workouts in about 30 or 40 minutes.

I’m not breaking any strength records, but I’m tracking pretty good for a guy who is nearly 40 years old. I’m athletic, generally in good health and rarely injured, meaning that I have the ability to be consistent. This allows me to be active just about any day that I choose, which is most.

Running. It’s been mostly interval work and 5km racing. Occasionally, I’ll run longer distances out to about 8km. For the most part however, it’s just the shorter, more intense runs that I feel the most benefit from.

In the last twelve months I have competed in the following events:

  • Mothers Day Classic, 4k (18:22min) (11th in category)
  • Run Melbourne, 5.2k (22:40min) (18th in category)
  • Melbourne Marathon, 5k (21:23min) (3rd in category)
  • Portsea Twilight, 4k (DNS)

I suffered severe muscular spasms in my back several days prior to the Portsea Twilight 4k which forced me not to start the event. It was a bit of a setback, and it took several weeks to recover and resume training at lighter loads which caused me to miss some of the summer circuit before the COVID-19 restrictions suspended all races.

I also competed in five virtual races with the New York Road Runners (NYRR), where you track a run locally and upload it to a global leaderboard.

Virtual Races:

  • NYRR Global Running Day Virtual, 1.6k (6:55min)
  • NYRR World Championship Virtual, 5k (22:36min)
  • NYRR TCS NYC Marathon Virtual, 5k (22:31min)
  • NYRR Resolution Run Virtual, 5k (22:34min)
  • NYRR Virtual, 5k (21:44min)

Basketball. Last year I started playing basketball again. Both socially and competitively. It’s a sport I’ve played since I was 12 years old. The only time away from the sport was from 2006-2013, when my military career took priority and I was unable to commit to the sport due to the amount of time I was away from home.

I was fortunate enough to play for Victoria in 2019 Defence Force National Basketball Championship. It was extremely competitive level of basketball and a lot of fun. It had been a while since I had played at such a high level of sport.

With other quality offensive players on the team, I didn’t shoot or score in the volume that I am normally required to do when I’m on the court, but it was great to play a lot of effective minutes and contribute to the team, especially in some of the closer contests.

The Men’s title was won by New South Wales and the women’s title went to Queensland.

Overall, I’m having a lot of fun playing sport again. I just love competing. Each night I’m matching up against players half my age so it’s a good feeling to be competitive and even beat most of my opponents on a nightly basis.

Right now my training consists of three days of strength and conditioning combined with two or three days of running (mostly easy/mid level efforts and some sprint work). Each workout will last about 30 minutes.

On the days I haven’t run, I usually go for an evening walk around the river for about an hour. I’ve found it a great way to stay mobile, relax and keep up-to-date on listening to some informative podcasts.

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March 2020. The final week before gyms were forced to close due to COVID-19.

COVID-19. With the government imposed community lockdowns in an attempt to “flatten the curve” during the global COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve had to make fairly significant changes to how I train. Firstly, the gyms are closed until further notice.

Personally, I feel that this has been a great opportunity to explore other areas of fitness. I’m fortunate enough to have spent the last 17 years in the military and have a solid understanding of “real” functional fitness. With gyms closed people have had to get creative with their workouts.

I have started to incorporate more circuit type workouts into my programming where I’ll run for 10 to 15 minutes, then conduct a series of bodyweight movements like push-ups, pull-ups, air-squats and mountain climbers then run the return leg.

Alternatively, I have a few training aids at home including some kettlebells, a sandbag, a sledgehammer, a deadball and an ab wheel that I can incorporate into home workouts.

Probably not too bad a set up for general fitness and conditioning training. Most strength based workouts are combining a variation of an overhead press with some pull-ups and goblet squats, then finishing with either high volume sledgehammering or swings.

Add in the occasional sprint workout, hike or loaded lift and carry and you’re set.

A final point. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Lifestyle
I’m living in Melbourne, Australia. It’s my fourth year at home and I’m loving it. Being around family and friends definitely makes life more enjoyable. The importance of good social connections is often overlooked when it comes to optimising ones health and how they perform on a daily basis.

I love a cup of coffee and can be always found at cafe on the weekend post workout catching up with friends. I also don’t mind entertaining friends with the occasional get together at my apartment. The annual Hot Cider and Christmas Cocktail nights were a lot of fun and both had good turn outs.

A key point to note here is having flexibility. No-one is perfect and it’s fine to make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from these experiences. Everyone is human, and we all have to live in the present day. I make mistakes, just like everybody else. I always try to seek constructive criticism so I can make a better, more informed decision the next time a particular event crosses my path.

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Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown. At about 1450m elevation, on the way to roughly 1700m.

Travel. Last June I was fortunate enough to travel to the southern island of New Zealand for two weeks. It was my first time visiting. I spent time in Christchurch, Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Queenstown and Dunedin. During that time I was able to conduct multiple hikes saw some amazing country. I was also able to catch up with a good friend towards the end of my trip in Dunedin.

As usual, I also spent some time at the family holiday home on Mornington Peninsula. Always a great option for a lazy weekend getaway and some valuable beach time.

My studies. In December 2019, I completed a Diploma level qualification in Nutrition. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, my graduation ceremony was postponed indefinitely. I have since received my qualification in the mail.

The global COVID-19 outbreak. As I mentioned earlier, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced the government to lockdown the community in an attempt to slow the infection rate to reduce the burden on the medical system. It’s a global problem. Almost everybody has been effected in one way or another.

I’m lucky enough to still be employed and have some sort of normal daily structure. Defence provides a critical role within many areas for the nation from national security to logistical and medical support. Many industries however, are not as fortunate and many people have been out of work for several months now.

The lockdown has changed the modern way of life as we know it. No travel. International travel has stopped. Gyms, social sports, cinemas, cafes, restaurants, bars are all closed… and the list goes on.

Forced social distancing means less face-to-face human interaction and more online interactions through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Zoom.

The thing here is that humans are innately social creatures. Telling people to stay away and isolate from each other during an incredible stressful time is kind of counter intuitive. People generally want to help each other and offer support where they can to benefit those in need, but in this case, the message has been to stay home and isolate. I haven’t seen the statistics, but it’s safe to say there will be an increase in mental health conditions relating to extended social isolation.

Some really good lifestyle tips that I’ve picked up from other people much smarter than me on keeping both mentally and physically healthy that can be applied during the lockdown and other periods of isolation:

  • create daily structure with regards to time management;
  • get daily sun exposure;
  • daily physical activity;
  • eat nutrient dense foods;
  • read more;
  • build a consistent sleeping pattern;
  • keep up social connectivity, face-to-face or via video conferencing.

Who knows what the next 12 months will bring? Hopefully, the world has found a way to better manage the whole COVID-19 situation and we’re all out and about again returning to somewhat of a normal life. One thing is for sure, society will be different in 12 months time.

Until then… Live well. Train hard. Enjoy life.

Nutrients to boost the immune system

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Feeding your body with right foods may help activate proper function of the immune system. If you’re looking for easy ways to reduce the risk or even prevent illnesses such as the common cold and other flu-like illnesses, your first step should be a visit to the local grocery store.

Some foods are better than others when it comes to priming the immune system. Here is a quick look at a few key nutrients that are critical for proper immune function and which foods you can find them.

Vitamin A
A fat soluble vitamin, vitamin A promotes good vision, gene replication, healthy immune function and proper skin health.

There are two ways in which vitamin A is available to humans:

  • preformed vitamin A;
  • carotenoids.

Preformed vitamin A is found predominantly in animal sources like liver and butter, while carotenoids are found in plant sources.

Vitamin A is essential for healthy mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts, which all help the body to protect against infections. It regulates the immune system and plays a key role in producing white blood cells which fight off infections within the body.

Top foods for vitamin A

  • Lamb’s liver (735% RDA per 3oz)
  • Sweet potato (214% RDA per cup)
  • Carrot (148%)
  • Tuna (143% DV per 6oz)
  • Pumpkin (127% DV per cup)

Vitamin C
An essential nutrient, meaning that the body is unable to synthesize it on its own, humans must on rely on their diet for an adequate source of vitamin C.

Vitamin C performs a variety of functions  throughout the body. Primarily by donating electrons in biochemical reactions. It is required by the body for the development and maintenance of scar tissue, blood vessels, collagen synthesis and proper iron absorption. It’s also an antioxidant. Antioxidants help fight free radicals, a type of molecule known to damage and disrupt the immune system.

Studies have shown that high doses of vitamin C can boost immune function, and in turn reducing the severity and duration of cold and flu like symptoms.

Top foods for vitamin C:

  • Guava (419% DV per cup)
  • Red and green peppers (211%)
  • Kiwi fruit (185%)
  • Strawberries (108%)
  • Oranges (106%)

Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it is required to be consumed with fatty acids to be absorbed by the body. Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and is also important in proper heart function, protection against heart disease and a reduction in chronic inflammation.

Top foods for vitamin E:

  • Almonds & sunflower seeds (49% DV per oz)
  • Avocado (28% DV per avocado)
  • Spinach (25% DV per cup)
  • Pumpkin (18%)
  • Kiwi fruit (18%)

Zinc
Zinc is an extremely versatile mineral required as a cofactor by more than 300 enzymes. Virtually all cells contain zinc, with the highest concentrations being found in muscle and bone.

Zinc supports many functions including the production of certain immune cells, building proteins, wound healing, reproduction and creating DNA. Zinc is also essential for creation and activation of T-lymphocytes, which are the core of adaptive immunity, the system that tailors the body’s immune response to specific pathogens.

Several studies have shown that supplementing with zinc can protect against respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. Similar to vitamin C, Zinc may also reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu like symptoms.

Top foods for zinc:

  • Oysters (327% DV per half dozen)
  • Beef chuck steak (140% DV per 5oz)
  • Chicken leg (49% DV per leg)
  • Tofu (36% DV per cup)
  • Pork chop (32% DV per 6oz)

 

Olive Leaf Extract

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Olive leaf extract has had a long history in traditional medicine, being used to prevent, treat or manage inflammation and infections (such as the common cold or influenza), diarrhoea, cardiovascular system function and osteoarthritis.

Produced from the leaves of the olive plant, research shows that the major active ingredient Oleuropein, has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties.

The benefits
Olive leaf extract has been used traditionally in western herbal medicine for:

  • Coughs, colds and influenza. Relieves symptoms of coughs, colds and influenza, sore throats and upper respiratory tract infections;
  • Immune support and general wellbeing. Supports the immune system and when taken daily, it also helps maintain general wellbeing;
  • Natural antioxidants. Olive leaf extract has powerful antioxidant properties to fight free radical damage;
  • Insulin sensitivity. Olive leaf extract may improve insulin sensitivity and overall blood glucose response, reducing the risk of developing diabetes and improving overall weight management;
  • Cardiovascular system function. Olive leaf extract can also be used to help regulate blood pressure, maintain normal heart and overall cardiovascular system function.

How to supplement with olive leaf extract
You can purchase olive leaf extract in capsule and liquid form. There is no actual recommended dosage, however the standard dose ranges from 500mg to 1500mg daily.

Doses can be divided into several smaller doses if required.

Are there risks or side effects
If you are currently taking blood pressure or blood thinning medication, or have diabetes it is recommended that you consult with a medical professional prior to trying olive leaf extract.

In extreme cases, it is possible to develop a respiratory allergic response.

My two cents
Olive leaf extract is just about the only supplement that I have personally found to noticeably reduce the severity and duration of colds and flu-like illnesses. On occasion, I’ve noticed a difference within 24 hours of supplementation. As a result, I’ll keep a bottle in the fridge and supplement daily throughout the cold and flu season.

Anecdotal and n=1 yes, but this stuff works for me.

Finally, this isn’t a cure-all supplement, but it may help with the reduction of the severity of colds, improved blood glucose response, leading to improved weight management, overall health and performance, along with some boosted immunity.