Nutrition

Hormones and Training: What You Need to Know

There are two communication systems in the body, one wired, the nervous system, and the other non-wired, the endocrine system. Communication systems are used to decode the meaning of the environment that the organism finds itself in, and to communicate the environmental messages to the individual cells and DNA of the organism. Hormones do not make the cells do anything differently than what the cells normally do. Instead, hormones change the rate and the magnitude of physiological expression of cellular behavior. Hormones are released from a source cell, and make their way to a target cell where they exert their effect. Some hormones are released a great distance from their target cell, others are released from a neighboring cell, while others still are released in the same cell that ultimately is the target cell. The endocrine system utilizes glands, ducts, and the circulatory system to send its messages throughout the body. To exert its effects on the body, a hormone must bind to its receptor at the target cell. Hormone receptors are located either at the plasma membrane, the nuclear envelope, or inside the nucleus. Generally, peptide hormones have membrane bound receptors, steroid hormones have nuclear envelope receptors, and thyroid hormones have nuclear receptors.

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For all the types of hormones, the receptors are always proteins. Protein receptors are shaped in a way that makes them optimal for a specific class of hormones. When the hormone binds to the receptor, the receptor’s charge will be effected by the presence of the new hormone molecule, and the receptor will seek to change shape to find the shape associated with the next most stable charge. This changing of shape of the receptor protein will set off an intracellular/intranuclear physiological cascade effect that will ultimately effect one of the two phases of protein synthesis, transcription or translation.

Transcription is the copying of the genotype for a specific sequence of the genome, while translation is the construction of a protein from the genomic information at the ribosome. The post-translation folded protein is the ultimate phenotypic representation of the cascade effect featuring the cyclic effects of, environmental signal leading to organismal recognition, leading to secretion of a hormone, leading to migration of hormone to target cell, leading to binding of hormone to receptor, leading to intracellular messaging cascade, leading to change in the rate and/or magnitude of expression of DNA or ribosomal protein synthesis activity, leading to new proteins driving cellular behavior, leading to changes in organism behavior, leading to new interactions with the environment…and the cycle repeats again and again.

Due to the complexity of having a multitude of hormones being released from various source cells and reaching target cells simultaneously for a variable message that leads to an enormous number of concurrent intracellular effects, we need a working model to make sense of any of this concept, and to have a sense of what to do with it as a topic for exercise program design. In this article, we will focus on, what makes a specific cell a target cell, and what sort of internal environment is optimal for a robust anabolic hormone response. As with all models, they simplify complex topics to the point where there are occasions of inaccuracy. So the nit-picking evidence based troll may find several problems with this particular article; however, this article will generally serve as a strong guide for what conditions are appropriate to create on specific training days in a well-crafted training program.

A target cell is one that has the protein receptor for a specific kind of hormone. The attractiveness of a target cell to a circulating hormone becomes greater when the sensitivity and number of the receptors to that hormone is increased (upregulation). We are primarily interested in muscle cells in this article. Skeletal muscle cells are target cells for all of the major types of anabolic hormones. The sensitivity of receptors varies greatly depending upon the state of that particular skeletal muscle cell. Sensitivity of skeletal muscle cell hormone receptors is changed primarily by whether that cell has been recruited and fatigued. The greater the degree of recruitment and fatigue of that particular cell, the greater the upregulation of hormone receptors, and the more that cell becomes a highly attractive target cell for hormones. The next logical question is, how does one recruit and fatigue particular muscle cells.

The Henneman Size Principle is the guiding phenomenon regarding recruitment of skeletal muscle cells. The Size Principle states that at the lowest levels of force production, the slowest twitch muscle cells will be recruited to perform the task, and that as force increases within the task, faster and faster twitch cells will be recruited. At the highest levels of force production, the fastest twitch muscle cells will be recruited.

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Fatigue of muscle cells is based on repeatedly using the same cell for a task, and ultimately witnessing a drop off in performance from that cell. The greater the drop off in performance, the greater the overall fatigue. Not all of the mechanisms of what drives performance drop off are known, but some examples include substrate depletion and accumulation of metabolic byproducts. As a general rule of thumb, we can say that slow twitch cells are easy to recruit and difficult to fatigue, while fast twitch cells are difficult to recruit and easy to fatigue. The juxtaposition of responses between slow twitch and fast twitch cells to recruitment and fatigue creates an adaptable organism, but does present challenges to the exercise program design specialist. The program designer must determine what sorts of cells are necessary for modifying as target cells, and devise training schemes that maximize the receptor sensitivity for those cells to drive adaptive changes into them.

In his tour de force, Science and Practice of Strength Training, Zatsiorsky presents his fiber corridor concept. The corridor demonstrates methods that will lead to specificity of twitch type adaptations. Athletes who need to keep body weight low, and still display the highest levels of force production within their sport tend to employ training methods that systematically recruit and fatigue just the fast twitch cells. Athletes who are looking to put on as much mass as possible without caring too much for what cell type they are targeting can use methods that will recruit and fatigue slow, moderate, and fast twitch cells.

If you want to target just the fast twitch fibers for adaptation, you are generally going to choose resistance training methods involving the maximum effort method (repetitions using 90% or greater of 1RM), or the dynamic effort method (sub-maximal loaded repetitions performed at the greatest velocity possible stopping well short of failure). If you want to target moderate twitch fibers, you can start using the repeated effort method (loads under 90% with sets going to failure). Finally, if you want to target slow twitch cells, you can start using approaches like the stato-dynamic method (explained in greater depth later), which is low force, but high in duration for sets. There are many more methods, particularly when opening the playbook into realms such as plyometrics, change of direction, speed and agility related drills, and conditioning, but for simplicity sake in this article we will stick to resistance training drills only.

All of the methods described in the previous paragraph, perhaps with the exception of the dynamic effort method, have the ability to create dramatic hormonal responses to training through various pathways. The repeated effort method is the approach most commonly thought of for hormonal effects. Most classical research in the area of hormonal responses to exercise have focused on repeated effort method approaches, and have shown that multiple sets of approximately 10RM efforts with short rest periods seems to be the gold standard for highest possible endocrine responses to exercise. Performing 3 to 5 sets of 10RM with 60 to 90 seconds of rest between sets with compound exercises like the squat is one of the most stressful stimuli that you can impart on an organism. Such a protocol will stress every system in the human body to near maximal.

As was mentioned earlier in the article, the endocrine system is a communication system. What was not mentioned earlier is that the messages that the endocrine system primarily relays have to do with the maintenance of homeostasis. Homeostasis involves a select set of variables that cannot leave an acceptable range of values or the organism will likely die. Some variables considered homeostatic include temperature, blood pH, oxygen tension, and blood glucose. A protocol like 5 sets of short rest 10RM squats will threaten all of the homeostatic variables. In response to this, the body will mobilize defense strategies that will protect homeostasis. Activation of the endocrine system is one such response the body uses to ensure that homeostasis is not lost.

The primary purpose of the endocrine system is to return the body to optimal conditions that provide for the greatest safe haven wherein homeostatic variables remain unchallenged. Ultimately, with training approaches aimed at hormones, we can say that the best way to grow muscle tissue would be to recruit and fatigue the maximal number of muscle cells (now target cells), and threaten homeostatic variables to the greatest possible degree to magnify the absolute hormonal response to the highest possible level. Multiple repeated effort method sets are like a shotgun blast to the systematic steps of maximal protein synthesis. A huge number of cells within the Zatsiorsky fiber corridor are recruited and fatigued, a tidal wave of multiple organ systems stress is unfurled within the organism, and the enormous threat to a variety of homeostatic variables forces the creature’s hand to mobilize massive endocrine responses.

The hormonal response to the multiple bouts of repeated effort method work described previously is a mixed bag. This protocol will cause the highest cortisol and growth hormone responses to any regular training method. Catecholamines will also be powerfully elevated due to the massive sympathetic response to this protocol. The elevation of the catecholamines seems to be related to a downstream testosterone response. The growth hormone response will trigger an increase in insulin-like growth factor (IGF) through downstream mechanisms. In short, you see all of the hormones involved with cellular remodeling all at once in massive amounts. For some athletes, this mixed bag is not optimal. Greater specificity of hormonal responses can be achieved with some of the other methods.

Repeated bouts of short rest between sets maximal effort method training are very effective approaches for driving a significant testosterone response. Loads generally have to be at or above 85% of the 1RM in order to witness this testosterone response. In the past I have devised blocks that have been testosterone specific blocks. One such block featured a 3 week build-up. I would pair compound exercises, such as front squat and bench press (A day), and deadlift and incline bench press (B day). 60 seconds of rest would exist between the two exercises. Week 1 would feature 6 sets of 3 reps performed at 85% 1RM. Week 2 would feature 8 sets of 2 at 88% 1RM. Week 3 would feature 12 sets of 1 at 92% 1RM. Structuring the training week could be variable, but generally speaking, you want to get at least 3 training sessions in per week, and preferably 4.

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This seems aggressive, but I’ve personally done it, and witnessed many individuals perform it with extremely impressive responses. I caution participants to avoid getting fired up for sets. Remain neutral emotionally as much as possible. Such a testosterone specific block generally targets fast twitch cells. I recommend not doing more than 2 of these testosterone specific blocks in an annual training cycle. I believe that this is primarily a neural oriented testosterone specific block. In short, this is because neural cell bodies contain an abundance of androgen receptors, and testosterone exerts profound effects on neural cellular remodeling physiology. The three week build up is a good timing element. Synaptic neuroplastic changes will take place within this time period. Neural cell bodies generally take approximately one month to remodel, but a full month of this protocol borders on what I would consider dangerous, and my hope is that the hormonal surge speeds up the remodeling process at the neural cell body.

The stato-dynamic effort method uses loads of approximately 50% or less, and witnesses the participant moving the load at slow velocities. 2 to 4 second eccentric and concentric motions are typically used for this method. The low load and slow tempo makes this approach target the slow twitch fibers due to the very low forces. While the force variable is low, the duration of the set should be large. Slow twitch fibers are easy to recruit, but difficult to fatigue, and the longer duration sets are ideal for setting the stage to turn these slow twitch fibers into target cells. Sets are typically performed for 40 to 60 seconds, and participants can build up to performing multiple rounds of 3 to 5 sets. Typically the rest period is kept in a 1 to 1 ratio with the work duration.

The stato-dynamic effort method fits into the broader category of occlusion based training approaches. Occlusion techniques were made popular by the Japanese, Katso approach, also called Blood Flow Restricted Training (BFR). The overall findings from the various protocols that have been used in BFR approaches is that a substantial increase in growth hormone is typically seen, even when loads of approximately 30% 1RM are used. The thought behind this approach is that occlusion of venous vessels prevents the removal of metabolic byproducts from the local tissue area for an extended period of time, creating a larger than normal level of waste products and heat trapped in the blood that cannot escape until the occlusion is released. Once the occlusion is released, the blood that is loaded with waste products ultimately is circulated back to central regions, such as the heart and neck. Chemoreceptors in the carotid body and arch of the aorta register the high concentrations of metabolic byproducts in the blood, send an afferent signal to the nucleus tractus solitarius, which relays the message to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus perceives the internal environment of the body to be one that would threaten homeostasis. The hypothalamus then begins a signaling cascade to the anterior pituitary that unleashes a potent growth hormone pulse.

The stato-dynamic effort method asks the participant to never completely lock out the joints during performance of the tempo based exercise. Such an approach keeps the muscle tissue actively creating tension throughout the time period that the exercise is being performed. When muscle tissue is actively creating tension, it mechanically compresses the blood vessels that supply and drain the tissue, thus creating an occlusal effect. Eventually the set ends, and the occluded blood is sent back into circulation, leading to the mechanism of hormonal signaling described in the previous paragraph. Since only the slow twitch muscle was recruited and fatigued with this approach, only the slow twitch tissue is the target cell for the hormonal cascade.

Creating appropriate training templates for athletes of various types could easily be considered an act of cellular remodeling specificity. The wise coach is the one who determines the fiber type that primarily needs to be developed, the rate at which that fiber type needs to be developed, and how much of a hormonal driver for increasing rate and magnitude of adaptations needs to be imparted on the athlete at any point in time. All of the approaches listed in this article are considered to be advanced methods. Such methods may not be necessary for young athletes; however, once athletes are reaching advanced years in college or have been involved with professional sports and intensive training for several annual cycles, these approaches need to be considered. When sport specific skill and technical and tactical knowledge have reached their highest levels in advanced athletes, those with more specific fitness for the physiological demands of the game will have an advantage over their peers. At the highest levels, differences are measured with the edge of the razor. The thought that goes into the focus of training blocks should be just as exacting. If alterations in body composition need to be accomplished, we ultimately come to the concept that the morphology of the organism is largely a hormonally driven phenomenon. Those with the knowledge of specific hormones, and the techniques to create specific target cells will be better suited to help individuals with that need.

about the author

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pat davidson

-Director of Training Methodology and Continuing Education at Peak Performance, NYC.

-Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, 2009-2011

-Assistant Professor, Springfield College 2011-2014

-Head Coach Springfield College Team Ironsports 2011-2013

-175 pound Strongman competitor. Two time qualifier for world championships at Arnold Classic

-Renaissance Meat Head

5 Thoughts on Pre-workout Supplements

The popularity of pre-workout supplements has seen a significant boom over the past 5-8 years, and I'd be lying to your face if I said I've never taken them before.  While it's easy to take an "ultimatumist" view towards pre-workouts (DON'T EVER DO IT), that'd be inaccurate because like all things it lies somewhere on a bell curve.  In other words, you always have to consider context before saying something is good or bad.  Anyways...this isn't going to be a dissertation on pre-workout supplements, but rather a collection of random thoughts concerning their usage. 

The Danger of Dependency

So back in college when my biggest concerns in life were playing baseball, getting jacked and hanging out with my friends, I became somewhat of a pre-workout connoisseur.  And by connoisseur I mean I just took a lot of different kinds of pre-workouts because I enjoyed that "jacked up" feeling it gave you.

Now I was never "hooked" on it like some people I knew who would wake up in the morning and take NO Explode just because they needed it, but I did become dependent on it for workouts.

In essence, I felt like I couldn't workout without it because I had lost control over my own dimmer switch of "aggression," and here's what I mean by that.  Think of your aggression output like a dimmer switch (and by aggression output I'm talking about sympathetic vs. parasympathetic tone).  At some points, like when you're working out, you may need to ramp that switch up (boost sympathetic tone), and at others, like when you're chilling on the couch at night before bed, you need to ramp that switch down (boost parasympathetic tone).  The problem many people run into with pre-workouts is that they lose control of this dimmer switch.  They become dependent upon the pre-workout to ramp the dimmer switch up (partly because it's damn near impossible to match the feeling you get from a pre-workout naturally) , and lose the ability to do it themselves.

Ultimately, this isn't a road you want to go down, and if you're one of those people who can't self motivate without an artificial kick, then I'd recommend doing what I did and throw them all away.

*I'm not saying I don't ever use pre-workouts anymore because there can be a time and place for them when used correctly.

Ignoring Important Cues

Here's one of my favorites:

Random Bro:  "Dude...I was so exhausted this morning when I woke up.  I mean my body just felt like crap.  It was probably because I haven't gotten much sleep over the past several nights, ate like crap, and had a little bit too much to drink, but that's okay.  I woke up, CRUSHED my pre-workout, headed to the gym, and still got a good lift in."

Me:  Banging my head against a wall incessantly.

Now I'm not knocking the effort.  I think it's great that you still found time to make it into the gym, but let's just analyze what in the world you're doing:  ignoring every important cue your body is trying to send you.

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This, in case you can't tell from my tone, is really dumb.  It might work a few times, but eventually you're going to run yourself into the ground.

Takeaway:  listen to your body.  Don't tell it to f*ck off.

A Time and Place

Now there is a time and place when you can utilize pre-workouts, and that's strictly for your most intense sessions.

Please know that you should check with your doctor before making any decisions concerning supplements. Especially pre-workout supplements.

Assuming you've been lifting for a while, you should know what these sessions look like and when they're taking place.  If you don't have ability right now to cipher out your different types of sessions, then I'd highly recommend getting a coach who can help get you going in the right direction.

Coffee

While there are 100's of different pre-workouts on the market, I've honestly become a fan of just having a cup of coffee prior to lifting when it's appropriate.  The caffeine from the coffee does it's job of ramping up the central nervous system, and I sleep a little better at night knowing I didn't just ingest what might be cancer juice.  Granted, cancer juice is an extreme statement.  I'm merely referring to the fact that you have NO IDEA what's actually in the pre-workout you're taking, and considering how dramatic of an effect it has on your system, you need to respect that.

*If I'm looking for a pick me up that takes things to another level, however, I tend to go with Pre-Jym because it's the best product I've taken to date.  Please know I'm not endorsing this product, and that you need to check with your doctor before taking it.

Performance Over Health

Let's just go ahead and end with this thought:  if you're taking a pre-workout you are consciously making a decision to choose performance over health, and THAT'S TOTALLY FINE.  People have to respect that performance and health are vastly different things, and that individuals who have serious performance related goals will have to make decisions that play on this trade off.

about the author

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James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for the latest happenings.

Performance Based Nutrition: How to Forge Your Own Plan

“I’m absolutely stuffed; I feel like I’m going to explode. I’m so dead from eating all of this food but I can only eat so much (incredible laughter ensues)...On the way home, can we stop at a gas station to grab a few muscle milks?” While sitting in a Chipotle in Columbus, Ohio, Zach Hadge sat complaining about his “sour belly” from the bolus of food he just had. Except, bolus is an exaggeration and it was maybe more like a forkful

Immediately after hearing this I started laughing because I knew once I looked at his plate it was going to be full. Sure enough, it was, it literally could have been returned for full price. It looked like he did nothing more than twirl around some sour cream. He should have been starving, on account of the fact that he missed breakfast, and trying to gain weight for the Arnold.  Instead, he ate minimal food, and drank maybe two of the four muscle milks we got on the way home.

Now I am not sharing this with you to show that Zach is an elite level food waster, it is to show how incredibly intelligent and resilient the human body is. I also programmed for Zach leading up to this Arnold and I saw the stress from training Zach put on his body. How can sub optimal nutrition somehow fuel a world champ? Really...think about how big of a deal it is to be a world champion in something, even for a short period of time. Knowing how big of a role nutrition plays in performance, how is it possible that anyone can get to that level without perfect macros?

This is because everything works in nutrition. It has to...because if it doesn’t, you die.

It really is that simple: the human body is incredibly adaptive.

If your body couldn’t adapt to the non paleo, gluten filled, GMO stuffed food like substances we consume, you would slowly deplete to death. This adaptive process, however, is what makes nutrition so difficult to manage. You can count every macro and eat for absolute optimal health and still end up with a heart attack, and you can eat candy and be a world champ.

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At a lean 230 I can almost guarantee Zach was not taking in much more than 3000kcal leading up to the Arnold World Championships due to an inconsistent appetite. It's typical for Zach to eat sour patch kids and/or snickers intra workout. Some people just have the predisposition to put on lean mass very easily, while keeping body fat very low. Of course, I am picking out the worst nutritional habits Zach had, but his daily approach was far from what many would consider an optimal performance based weight gain diet.

With that in mind, anyone who is looking to take their performance or health to the next level should put some effort into their nutrition. With nutrition being the broad topic it is, most people are left with a few options:

  1. 1.  Hire a coach
  2. 2.  Forge your own plan
  3. 3.  Steal one from a teen girl magazine
  4. 4.  Go on without self improvement.

Well not everyone has the means or the desire to work with a coach, teen girl magazines haven't gotten anyone to an above average level in ever, and if you have any level of motivation, not making a change isn’t an option.

This leaves you with forging your own plan. Scary, huh?

With all of these different methods, it can be difficult deciphering exactly how to go about drawing up a nutrition plan. Thus, I have outlined the most important steps you must take into consideration to have an effective meal plan.

  1. Intake

There is a hierarchy of importance in nutrition. Many people will argue the amount of energy (calories) taken in each day will play the largest role in what direction a meal plan will take. The biggest misconception about this is the “clean eating” fad where people eat as much as they want as long as the food carries the healthy connotation. Yes, it is a step in the right direction for many people and it does drive results to some degree, however, it is far from the most important step.

To put this in better perspective we will use the example of John. John is a 190lb male that has been resistance training with intent for a few years and has developed some respectable strength. He is already relatively lean and follows the clean eating approach. Most lean individuals who train regularly do not necessarily have a haphazard enough habitual meal plan to see negative effects, like decreased body composition, getting weaker, tired all day etc. However, he is certainly not getting the most out of his meal plan.

The next step is to attack intake directly, or the amount of calories a person should be taking in. Caloric intake is completely dependent on the individual. Factors like lifestyle, genetics, body comp, training frequency, past nutritional habits, allergies, diseases...and the list goes on and on. In simplest terms, if you’re a shredded 250 you can handle significantly more calories than a sloppy 175.

Sounds simple, but that means there is a little bit of math involved using information you must obtain from yourself or your client. This means there should be an extensive and confidential exchange of information regarding current and past health, goals, current eating habits, activity level etc.

Here are two examples on how I came to find the appropriate caloric intake for two different athletes:

BW*1.5 easy estimation of maintenance kcal for a trained population

Female, 26, novice strength athlete, 130lbs:

Training Day: 2100kcal

Non Training Day: 1800kcal

Baseline: Approx 1900-2000

This is a simple meal plan:  she trains at the same times 4 times a week with her only goals being improved body composition and strength. I had previously worked with this client for some time trying to increase her intake, and based on how her bodyweight responded to the changes we made over several weeks I estimated she was between 1900 and 2000kcal to maintain her bodyweight. I simply did slightly under that for her non-training day to allow her to consume more on her training days. This should tip the scale slightly close to or over 2000kcal.

Male, 21, 166 NCAA Wrestler, 8-10 weeks out of a large tournament where he will cut to 157:

High Intensity Training Day: 2800kcal 3x a week

Moderate Intensity Training Day: 2500kcal 3x a week

Non Training Day: 2000kcal 1x a week

Weekly Intake: 2555kcal

This is a more complex situation to determine intake because of his goals and, more specifically, his lifestyle. Being a student athlete is difficult, being a student and a wrestler is very difficult, being a student and a competitive wrestler attempting to compete unaffiliated with the school while in school is insane. Adding a weight cut to that lifestyle demands special attention and a close relationship with the athlete to ensure success of the program. Especially when handling weight cuts it is important to have open and frequent communication with the athlete.

At this point, we are in a transitory period, switching goals from more off-season based to a specific tournament. Thus, I am putting minimal emphasis on weight loss, and focusing on maintaining weight while we transition in training.

As your training week changes and you intake different amounts every day it is simple to average your intake for the week. Just add up the kcal for each day of the week and divide by 7. This is a good indication of where weekly kcal is, and allows me keep a closer eye on his intake as his schedule changes.

As he transitions through a pre/off-season training block, where strength and general work capacity are high, keeping his intake high is essential to not only allow the adaptations to be more permanent but to ensure he can continue to adapt at a high rate.

The way you distribute their food is the next important concept. If you have someone eating 80% of their daily intake simply because it is easier to starve all day and binge eat at night, there is a 100% chance they will not comply long term to the plan. Creating an effective meal plan is about compliance.

  1. Macro Nutrient Breakdown and Distribution

The next step is the breakdown of your calories and how you distribute them throughout the day. Total calories is broken down into three macro nutrients: fat, carbs, and protein. At this point you must choose the type of meal plan you would like to use: high carb, carb cycling, high fat, intermittent fasting, and the list goes on.

Using your calories as 100%, convert each of the three macro nutrients into percentages that add up to 100.

Here are some general guidelines for a few common protocols:

Balanced:

Fat: 28%

Carb: 36%

Prot: 36%

High Carb:

Fat: 22%

Carb: 43%

Prot: 35%

High Fat

Fat: 50%

Carb: 10%

Prot: 40%

Once you’ve individualized your macro nutrient distribution and have your percentages, the next step is to convert them into grams. Take your total caloric intake and multiply it by the decimal form of the chosen percentage. This will give you the amount of calories of the chosen macro nutrient. Finally, divide that number by the amount of calories per gram:  4 for carbohydrates and protein, and 9 for fat.

For the sake of examples, we will use 2500kcal as the daily intake for the three examples I outlined above.

Balanced:

Fat: 77g

Carb: 225g

Prot: 225g

High Carb:

Fat: 61g

Carb: 268g

Prot: 218g

High Fat:

Fat: 138g

Carb: 63g

Prot: 250g

Now that you have daily totals you can begin tracking your intake. While there are many ways to go about doing this, I’m going to share with you what has worked best for my athletes and myself.

Create a meal database. This will give you the opportunity to do less and less thinking in making and managing your own meals the longer you are compliant with your meal plan.

*Side note: Grams is an effective way to measure your ingredients because every food substance will have an unchanging mass for the most part. If you are using cups or spoons to measure, you are in fact measuring volume, which can change under certain conditions.

As you begin creating meals that both fit your macros and you enjoy, keep track of them on your phone, laptop, and/or notebook in a database. You can use google sheets, microsoft excel…really whatever goes. The goal is just to make an easy reference book of meals that you can turn to.

Distribution can be as simple as dividing your daily totals by four to have four evenly based meals throughout the day. You may also track what you eat in accordance to your natural appetite using modern day apps. This is an okay method although it has some inaccuracies and mathematical issues, but it is a reliable measure of intake if you are consistent.

The important concept to understand here is eating for compliance. You will not adhere to a meal plan if you're eating 80% of your calories at night so you can binge eat cake and pizza. This will not only ruin your energy levels and appetite/satiety axis, but it can have lasting effects on your metabolism as well.

  • Peri Workout Nutrition

Outside of extreme cases, the goals of most meal plans involve some sort of physiological change related to exercise adaptation. Any sort of moderate to high intensity exercise, especially resistance training, gives major opportunity for a proper nutrition plan to synergistically work together and give you even better results.

There is an incredible amount of research to prove this, especially in diseased populations. That being understood, there is a lot to be said regarding nutrient timing in relation to exercise, this is coined peri-workout nutrition.

We can split peri workout nutrition into pre-intra-post in relation to exercise. The main variable in this equation is carbs. I will take you through my peri-workout training shake protocol, and give you some insight on the programming aspect of it.

If you are interested in learning more about the protocol itself, click here.

Pre Training:

This should be a bolus of fast digesting carbs with a small amount of protein and minimal fat. The goal is to raise insulin levels to facilitate glucose into the muscle cell. This should be anywhere from 20-30% of your daily carbohydrate intake and 10-15% of your protein. The distinguishing factor with the pre training approach is that food or liquid are an option, whereas for the other two, liquid is strongly recommended.

I often utilize a liquid pre workout option that has an even split of dextrose and highly branched cyclic dextrin combined with whey isolate. The 50/50 split provides more optimal glucose uptake into the cell without bogging down sympathetic drive.

I time this about 30-45 minutes pre workout with any stimulants I use coming 10-15 minutes later. I utilize isolate to save a bit of money primarily, but this is facilitated by the gap in time after drinking and before training (30-45 minutes) which allows for longer digestion of the only slightly more intact isolate chains.

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Intra Training:

Intra training nutrition is one of the most highly experimented with modalities. Plenty of research has shown efficacy to intra training nutrition in improving recovery, and decreasing the dip in peak performance during a training session.

Intra training nutrition, however, has a very unique twist to it: you don’t want to spike insulin often or too high.

This is related to the autonomics of training and how they are almost inverse to the autonomics of nutrition. Simply put, insulin is a chief anabolic hormone, however, it is also a driver of the parasympathetic nervous system. All carbohydrates elicit some sort of insulin spike, the trick is picking the right balance.

Training must be a catabolic process facilitated by the sympathetic nervous system in order to illicit adaptation. The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system work inversely, but one is always present. Ideally in training we want to minimize the parasympathetic system so we can further stress our bodies into adaptation.

Highly branched cyclic dextrin and hydrolyzed whey are my picks. While people have experimented with upwards of 70% of their daily intake for greater hypertrophy based adaptation, I tend to stick to 10-35% daily intake of carbs. As far as protein goes, keep the protein consumption low at roughly 5-10% of daily intake. Although it is not uncommon to see only BCAA’s used.

Post Training:

This is typically the best tasting shake, and should include a fast digesting carb that elicits a large insulin response. The parasympathetic system is what drives us to recover and adapt. After resistance training, muscle cells have a markable increase in insulin sensitivity, and this has even been been shown in diabetics. For that reason, I utilize a more balanced protein to carb ratio because utilizing them together can lead to greater glucose uptake (thanks to leucine and his friends), which drives recovery and makes you stronger for your next training session. 25-30% carbohydrates and 20-25% protein should suffice and refresh you after a tough session. I use dextrose and hydroylzed whey.

If we continued using the 2500kcal as our example my peri training shake combo would look like this

Pre:

28g of dextrose, 30g of HBCD, 35g whey isolate

Fat: <2g (Incidentals due to protein)

Carbs: 56g (21%)

Prot: 28g (14%)

Intra:

50g HBCD and 17g hydrolyzed whey

Fat: 0g

Carbs: 48g (18%)

Prot: 15g (7%)

Post:

67g dextrose powder and 48 hydrolyzed whey

Fat: 0g

Carbs: 67g (25%)

Prot: 41g (19%)

Something to Keep In Mind: Gut Health

Anatomy is typically what most people have memory lapses on, so here's a list of the organs of the gut: the gall bladder, large intestine, liver, oesophagus, pancreas, small intestine and stomach.

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This is the system associated with digestion, nutrient absorption and expelling waste.  Basically all of the organs in which food related substances travel through (they're kind of a big deal)

The most important tie in for gut health in nutrition is that it's a direct window into the immune system. This is incredibly important because it can really help or hurt you. If you're sick, putting the proper food into your system can help mitigate symptoms and improve recovery time.

We see this profoundly in our recovery to training. In fact, you can test this yourself:

Scenario 1:

Next time you have big training session make sure to start your recovery with no liquids and nothing but taco bell.

Scenario 2:

After your next big session have a shake of hydrolyzed whey, dextrose, and some salt.  Follow that up with a large chicken breast cooked generously in coconut oil with some white rice 30-60 minutes later.

It's important to note that the immune system can also be nasty to bite back. Any food coming into the system that's not recognized properly will elicit an immune response causing inflammation. Over time this chronic, low level immune system activation can severely impair recovery and training readiness, as well as lead to a slew of cardiac and health based issues.

Luckily, it’s very simple to avoid. You just need to make sure you’re adequately, not under or overly, hydrated and eat foods that you can easily define.

If you have no idea how the food you're eating was made, its safe to say you should limit it. A very easy way to manage this is just prep a good majority of your own meals.

Also, you should not have excessive bloating or gastric distress from the foods you eat. Great foods to help this process are leafy green vegetables and fermented vegetables (saurkraut, kimchi, pickles).

For those who really want to optimize gut health, try not drinking water 10 minutes before or after a meal and limit it during. Water can dilute the enzymes in the stomach and change the PH to less than optimal for nutrient absorption.

The End

There is nothing that pains me more than seeing people work their ass off just to have a lack of knowledge limit their success. While nutrition can be scary, there is a beautifully creative side to it as well.

And if you make sure you're properly managing the above criteria, then you're well on your way to creating an effective nutrition plan.

Don’t ever let knowledge be your limiting factor.

For more information on how to pick the right meal plan for you, see another of my articles:

http://rebel-performance.com/nutrition-pick-plan-works/

about the author

Andrew Triana “The Leucine Frog” is a promising young coach who has an intense passion for his clients success and writing. It is evident in his work that he is relentless in his pursuit of excellence. At 20 years old Andrew has produced National champions, World champions, Pro strongmen, and has helped many others reach their goals.  Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewTriana) and Instagram (@andtriana).

The Top 5 Mistakes Semi-Experienced Lifters Make that Limit their Gains

You’ve been training for a while now. You’ve noticed gains in strength, size, and body composition. So have your sex partners. But progress has come to a screeching halt. Personal records (PRs) are few and far between. Training is fun and all, but it seems to be going nowhere.

I’ve been there. Years back, I remember having read a few training articles on T-Nation.com and thought I was the shit. Kept working out, pushing my limits, only to get hurt what seemed like every week.

Man, if I could have those days back…

Now that training other people is my career, it is my goal is to prevent you from making the same mistakes I made. Here are the five most common mistakes I see intermediate lifters make.

Mistake #1: They don’t have a structured plan

Everything you do in the gym should have a purpose. To find out what that purpose is, you first need to have an end goal in sight.

Set a goal

I used to bounce around from program to program, spinning my wheels and never making progress.

Find something you’re good at—powerlifting, strongman, intramural co-ed volleyball, whatever—and start heading down that path.

Focus on building strength instead of testing it

You’ve already realized your newbie gains. PRs will not come as easy anymore. They will be hard fought… and much more satisfying.

Your training needs to be planned over the long-term. The term we use in the fitness industry for this planning is “periodization”.

The idea is that you figure out when you’re going to compete, then you work backwards from there.

When your next competition is far away, your training should be focused on building up general qualities that transfer well to all sports, such as work capacity, aerobic power, and general strength. As you get closer to a competition, your training should become more and more specific and focused. Specificity is one of the guiding principles of smart, effective training, but spending all your time being specific with your training doesn’t give you a foundation upon which you can build. You have to do the things that you don’t like to do if you want to get better.

You have to go back to basics.

Track your progress

If you’re not making progress that you can track, then whatever you’re doing is not working.

Talk to a professional to figure out how to accomplish your goal

If you remember only one thing I say in this post, remember this: If you’re serious about your goal, you need a coach.

If you broke your leg, you would go to the doctor. Why would you not refer your training out to a professional who spends all of their time trying to get better at what they do?

Mistake #2: They never learn how to move well

Quality movement is absolutely essential for long-term gains.

Learn how to squat and bend

When squatting or bending under load (like when you’re deadlifting), keep your spine stable and load your legs by “pushing” through the floor instead of trying to pick the bar up. Avoid leading with your shoulders and arching your back.

If you need to relearn how to squat and bend, try a Kettlebell Deadlift.

Learn how to press

When pressing (like with a bench press), keep your shoulder blades stable and elbows tucked. If you don’t do this, it’s like you’re trying to shoot a cannon from a rowboat. A good exercise to try is the Dumbbell Floor Press.

Learn how to row

When rowing, always lead the movement with the shoulder blade. You should feel the muscles in your upper back working. A good exercise to try is the 3-point Dumbbell Row.

Learn how to be move on one leg

Single leg work isn’t fun, but it IS important. A good, albeit difficult exercise to try is the Single Leg Rufus Deadlift.

Do more reaching exercises

If you want to stay healthy, you’ve got to remember how to reach. This is especially important for those general phases of training we were discussing earlier.

When doing push ups, think about pushing your hands “through” the ground (all the way to China) before you finish your rep.

Mistake #3: They don’t get enough sleep

Training hard is only effective if you can recover from it. Restful sleep is essential to the recovery process.

Sleep quantity

Shoot for 7-9 hours each night.

Sleep quality

Avoid electronics before bed. Try to get on a schedule so that you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If you have sleep apnea, go see a doctor.

*Here's a good post by our buddies over at Precision Nutrition if you want to read more about sleep.

Mistake #4: They forget about their nutrition

In addition to sleep, nutrition is also essential to your recovery. Quicker Recovery → Harder Training → More Progress.

Become conscious of what you eat and why you eat it

I like prescribing a 3-day food log. Record everything you ingest, when you ingest it, and what you were doing at the time of ingestion. This is all the info you need to determine the number one change you can make to optimize your food intake.

Fill your gas tank with premium, not crap

If you’re trying to make your body a high performance machine, you should fill it with premium fuel, not sludge.

*Further Reading:  Nutrition:  How to Pick a Plan that Fits Your Goals

Mistake #5: They do the wrong type of conditioning work

Improper conditioning is a pet peeve of mine. Coaches everywhere run their athletes into the ground, making them worse instead of better.

What are you training for?

There are three basic systems in the body that produce energy. Determine the ones that your sport uses and then train those systems.

Don’t fall into the trap of doing conditioning simply because it “feels hard”. Any coach can make you puke, but can he or she make you better?

*Further Reading:  How Do You Train For the Long Haul?  Develop an Aerobic Base

Summary of the Top 5 Mistakes Semi-Experienced Lifters Make

Mistake #1: They don’t have a structured plan

Mistake #2: They never learn how to move well

Mistake #3: They don’t get enough sleep

Mistake #4: They forget about their diet

Mistake #5: They do the wrong type of conditioning work

Don’t fall into the same traps that I and so many others have fallen into. My goal is to teach, so if you know someone who you think would benefit from this, please forward it to them.

P.S. I made a whole 16-week program that is great for these intermediate lifters who need some guidance. You can even get the ebook, presentation, and first month of the program totally free of charge.

about the author

Lance Goyke, CSCS, is a Nerd Extraordinaire and secret admirer of lesbians everywhere whose expertise focuses on the human body. His clientele ranges from other trainers to kids to house moms to fighters to baseballers to anyone who needs to be taught how to exercise. Go invade his home base at www.LanceGoyke.com.

The Biggest Mistake I Made as an Athlete and How You Can Avoid It

To say I’ve made mistakes as both an athlete and a coach would be an understatement. Hell…I’d even feel comfortable handing someone my track record and telling them it’s a pretty good blue print on “how not to do things.”

While the list is long, and continues to growly weekly, today I’d like to just focus on the biggest mistake myself and my coaches made in my athletic development journey throughout middle school, high school and college.

Notice I say my coaches and myself because this is a two way street. Growing up you do as you’re told, but at the same time I was pretty stubborn and often did my own thing, so yeah, I’m also to blame.

Before we get to the number one biggest mistake being made in training facilities around the world, however, I’d like to give you a little backstory.

The Backstory

I first found the weight room when I was in 6th grade, and have been in love ever since.

In fact, I can still remember reading an SI for Kids magazine when I was like 9 that talked about The Rock and how us kids had to wait for this beautiful thing called testosterone to kick in before we could be as jacked as him.

Granted, they didn’t use that exact language, but it’s a good synopsis.

Anyways, I found the weight room in 6th grade and have been training ever since. My ultimate goal was to play baseball professionally, and I knew the weight room would play a large part in that journey.

As opposed to boring you with the details, let’s skip to the good stuff.

My time in the weight room “paid off.” I trained my as off and became a very good athlete because of it (well….that and genetics). For example, by my sophomore year in college I had a 33” vertical, ran a 6.6 sixty, deadlifted just shy of 500 lbs, squatted 405, cleaned 305, benched 335, could do a lot of pull ups and all that other jazz. Needless to say I was happy with these numbers. Especially since I had to balance them with a roughly 100 game competitive season.

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In essence, I was a very good athlete on paper and had numbers to back it up….that is until I realized I was a big Trojan Horse.

The Trojan Horse

*I really hope you know the legend of the Trojan Horse, or else my analogy is going to make no sense.

Myself, and athletes all over the world, made the mistake of building ourselves into real life Trojan Horses.

On the outside we looked beautiful, and people would be in awe of what we could do, but on the inside we held a dirty secret.

And that dirty secret is the Inverted Performance Pyramid.

In other words, we were ticking time bombs (just killing the analogies today). We had a lot of performance stacked on top of dysfunction, and it was only a matter of time until the whole thing came crumbling down…and did it.

I attained my first real, non-fluke injury my Sophomore year of college, and from there it didn’t get any better. I had stress fractures in my back, pulled quads, and all sorts of things that just kept popping up.

Granted, injury is a part of athletics. If you truly push the envelope you are at risk of getting injured. But there’s a difference between being chronically injured and coming down with the occasional fluke injury.

I fell in the chronically injured category, and thus spent the majority of my collegiate career injured (remember when I said I was good on paper?).

Want to know the best part? It followed me after college. I can honestly say that the past 3 months is the first time I’ve truly trained unhindered since my early days in college (all because I followed a program similar to what you’ll find at the end of this article).

The first time I’ve been able to really be aggressive, throw weight around, and not be in pain or dealing with a nagging back issue.

If you’ve never been injured, then hats off. I truly envy you. But there are many people out there, maybe even you, who fall in the same boat I did. You work your ass off, you do everything you’re told, and for some reason it just can’t all come together. For every step forward you end up taking at least one step back, and you fall into a viscous cycle of

Train-->Make Progress-->Hit Setback-->Train-->Make Progress-->Hit Setback

Almost like you’re trying to walk up a mountain and continuously slide back down.

Where I Had It Wrong

Where had I gone wrong? Where I had fallen off the tracks along the way?

Because in my mind, and my coaches, I had been doing everything right.

It’s not like I was spending time on machines. I was doing squats, deadlifts, cleans, lunges, dumbbell work, kettlebell work and all this other “functional” stuff that was supposed to make me a “bulletproof athlete.”

While the list of “things I did wrong” is rather long, I’d like to bring your focus back to the inverted pyramid because that’s where it all starts.

If you were to build a pyramid, how would you do it? You would of course start with the foundation and make it as big as possible because that gives you the most room for upward growth. Granted, I’m not an expert in pyramid building, but I’ve never seen one that has a smaller base than a peak.

Well when we’re developing athletes, or ourselves for that matter, you have to approach the matter in the same way. You have to lay yourself the most monster foundation possible to both prevent injury and allow for peak performance to occur.

This is what myself and my coaches failed to do. We chose to go after the top of the pyramid from the get go, which is where you’ll find all the sexier elements of performance: things like max strength, power, strength speed, speed strength and sport specific skill/fitness.

Where we should have started, and hopefully you agree, is with the base of the pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is where you’ll find the foundational elements of performance: movement quality, energy system capacity, autonomic balance, and strength, just to name a few.

Without these elements in place, you’re asking for trouble. It may not happen today, but at some point it will catch up to you.

What To Do?

While I’d love to sit here (in Starbucks I might add) and continue espousing on how to build a monster foundation for performance, I’d be wasting my time because Coach Lance Goyke just came out with such a product.

And it’s FANTASTIC.

I had the pleasure of giving it a read last weekend, and needless to say it’s spot on. In it he goes over the 6 pillars of performance and how you must adequately handle each of them to give yourself the opportunity to reach your full potential.

Oh, and it includes a full 16 week training program so you don’t even have to worry about the implementation side of things. You just show up to the gym, pull out your phone, see what day you’re on, and go to work.

But what if this isn’t for me?

I’ll go ahead and stop you right there. This program is for everyone. And that’s hard to say seeing as I’m obsessed with assessing people and writing individualized programs. But somehow Lance managed to craft this thing so that it can help anyone.

If you’re in pain, it can help with that. If you’re new to training, it’s the perfect program to start with. If you’re already a high level athlete, this is the perfect program to hit during a de-load. And obviously this is the perfect program for anyone looking to build themselves a foundation that allows them to train with no limits.

Anyways, be sure to go check that out (p.s. he’s been awesome enough to offer a large chunk of it to you for free):

about the author

812f4cb124c2dda65e33a5f1c2f087ef.jpeg

James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for the latest happenings.

Peri Workout Nutrition: Managing Training Centric Shakes to Optimize Recovery and Gains

Everyone knows recovery is truly essential to facilitating adaptation. No matter how hard you work one day, if you aren’t properly recovering from the stress imposed on your body then it can, and will, negatively impact your whole training week. In a nutshell, adaptation happens because you’re imposing a similar stressor over a prolonged period of time, which then forces mechanical and neural changes throughout the body. These adaptations, however, can plateau or even decline when major imbalances in stress and recovery exist. Let’s start with the training week since it’s essential to making real change. Week after week of continued and varied stimulus is the driving force behind your gains. And while a single training day is simply not enough to induce adaptation in your body, it’s the summation of many good training days over the course of several weeks that make big things happen. In order to adequately recover from these individual sessions, and show up fresh day after day, your nutrition must be spot on. Here’s an easy way to think of this: the more effectively you recover from the training day the more you will be able to handle next session, and the more able you are to handle the next session, the greater your gains will be over time.

Photo Credit:  quickmeme
Photo Credit: quickmeme

A very effective way to improve recovery from session to session is via pre-intra-post workout nutrition (also known as peri workout nutrition). While there are literally thousands of potential options for nutrition throughout the training window, it’s important to understand that proper nutrition can fuel you to adapt better to the training stressors being imposed.

Better Adaption= Better Gains

I typically find myself training later in the day after already consuming 2-4 whole food meals. On these days, I prefer liquid nutrition around my training because it will digest easier and faster. Not only that, training shakes have proved time and time again to be incredibly convenient when meal prepping or in a rush.

Two of my favorite sources for training centric nutrition are highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD) and whey hydrolysates.

Whey Hydrolysates

Now whey hydrolysates have been around for some time, and about 15-20 years ago there was word on bodybuilding magazines that hydrolysates could induce greater skeletal muscle growth versus other protein sources. Their popularity has phased in and out over the years, but more and more quality research has been fueling their most recent surge. Specifically, hydrolysates from di and tri peptides are the choice recommendation for supplementation. And just so we’re all on the same page: hydrolysates are basically protein molecules that go through a filtration process that cleaves most of their peptide bonds making them much easier to digest.

Photo Credit:  Wedding Crashers, New Line Cinema
Photo Credit: Wedding Crashers, New Line Cinema

These broken down protein molecules are not only utilized faster than intact whey (isolate, concentrate), but they are more effective when combined with high glycemic liquid carbohydrates:

  1. They have a substantially greater insulinotropic effect than intact whey and carbs.
  2. They significantly increase glycogen stores in skeletal muscle.

A very interesting study using male bodybuilders found that they recovered peak contraction force in only 6 hours following100 maximal quad contractions while supplementing with hydrolysate. This is only one study, but its results are relevant to the performance field, and it also shows the direction hydrolysate studies are taking which gives the results more efficacy.

Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD)

Highly branched cyclic dextrin has been gaining a lot of popularity in the performance community as well. It is a chemically changed amylopectin molecule to actually give a cyclic look to the chain. The real efficacy for using these intra workout specifically comes from their lack of insulin response. The chains are very dense, and in your shaker bottle have a low osmolality, this means they can quickly bypass the osmo-receptors of the stomach. Also, due to their cyclic structure the chains are broken down at once.

Here’s something else worth noting: training is a catabolic process and needs high amounts of sympathetic drive in order to overcome stress. Insulin, however, is the chief anabolic hormone, and happens to be closely linked with the parasympathetic nervous system. This is often where the sugar crash conflict comes when using certain carbohydrate sources intra workout. So…by using highly branched cyclic dextrin we can avoid the sugar crash and maintain sympathetic drive.

Training Centric Shakes

  *The macro-nutrients in the below examples are specific to me. They are based off my my daily caloric intake, macro distribution and my own meal plan. If you want help coming up with your own plan, then feel free to contact me via our coaching page.

Here’s the kicker:  I’m kinda broke.  I can’t always afford 4-5lbs of HBCD a month along with 4-5lbs of hydrolysates to use for all of my training shakes. The great part about the protocol I’m about to show you is its affordability. Replacing hydrolysates and HBCD at opportune times decreases the amount you will need per training session substantially.

The first shake, coming 30 mins before training, utilizes intact whey isolates and only 50% of the carbs come from HBCD. By the time your workout hits, the amino acids have been broken down from the intact whey and help facilitate the driving of glucose to the cell. The dextrose will also help spike insulin to drive glucose to the cell, however, cutting it with the HBCD makes coming down from the insulin spike much more manageable. This ideally should create an even environment for total uptake of the pre training macros.

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The autonomics of intra training nutrition make it more difficult to cut the shakes with anything, but it is the smallest shake of the trio. By using whey hydrolysates and HBCD intra workout you can recover better during and after your training.

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The post workout shake uses only dextrose for the carbohydrate source to obviously help shuttle nutrients to the cell, but also facilitate the recovery process by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. The whey hydrolysates will immediately begin rebuilding the mechanical damage done to the body, and will be exaggerated by the dextrose based insulin spike.

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This is only my attempt to interpret the research I’ve seen and somehow apply it to a real training scenario. I could be totally wrong, but for me, everything is way more fun when I step out of the box. I know this article had a lot of science, and I’m sure you’ll have some questions, so feel free to drop them below in the comments and I’ll help you out.

Also, below are two links if you’re interested in reading more on either HBCD and/or Hydrolysates:

For more info on HBCD click here

For more info on Hydrolysates click here

about the author

a6e74214c64ac43e243b48d050a11cec.png

Andrew Triana “The Leucine Frog” is a promising young coach who has an intense passion for his clients success and writing. It is evident in his work that he is relentless in his pursuit of excellence. At 20 years old Andrew has produced National champions, World champions, Pro strongmen, and has helped many others reach their goals.  Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewTriana) and Instagram (@andtriana).

Food Prep: 5 Tips To Help You Dial In Your Nutrition

Want to know something funny about nutrition? It has less to do with food and more to do with habits.

Here's what I mean:  the vast majority of people know enough about nutrition to get by.

For example, just about everyone and their mom can tell me they need to be eating lean meat, veggies, some fruit, and quality fat.  While that approach won't cut it for the advanced athlete looking to flirt with the boundaries of his or her potential, it'll get the job done for the "average joe/jane" in the crowd.

So what gives with all these people having shitty diets?

Although the list is long, one near the top is habits.  People simply don't have the habits in place to carry through when it's game time.  They have "enough knowledge," but fail to act on it when it comes time to eat--they merely fall back on their normal routine.

While habit building is a science within itself, here are 5 things I've found to be extremely helpful not only for myself, but with my clients as well:

1.  Have a Shopping/Cooking Day

What's the hardest thing to do during the week?

SHOP and COOK.

It's a major pain in the ass right?  You bust your ass all day at work (or whatever you do during the day), and the thought of cooking a full meal for yourself when you get home is laughable.  Add in having to stop by the grocery store and you have a recipe for failure.

You're going to get home, grab whatever is most convenient, and then chill the fuck out in front of the TV and watch some Netflix.

While it'd be great if you we're motivated enough to come home and cook a full fledged meal, sometimes you have to be honest with yourself:  IT ISN'T HAPPENING.

Don't worry, you're really not alone in this.  I'm the same way.  The last thing in the world I want to do after a long day is shop and/or cook.

So...how can you get around this?

Designate Sunday (or some other day of choice) to be your shopping and cooking day for the entire week.  Yes, you'll get strange looks at the checkout counter, but that's all part of the game:

Fantastic convo with awesome online client.
Fantastic convo with awesome online client.

Believe me, you'll thank yourself when all you have to do is throw something in the microwave to have an awesome meal.

2.  Start Loving the Grill, Oven and Crock Pot

There's an obvious next question at hand:  how in the hell do I cook all that food without wasting an entire day.

This is fair, but something you don't need to worry about.  In fact, I've gotten it down to where I can prep and cook all my food in under 1.5 hours.

How does this happen?  I cook with things that allow me to do a lot at once.

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Here are your three best options:

1.  The Grill

2.  The Oven

3.  The Crock Pot

Learning to use those wisely will save you tons of time, and make food prep a walk in the park.  For example, when it's nice out I can often cook all my meat and veggies on the grill in one go.  I just turn on some country music, grab a good craft beer, and go to work.

If you can't get outside to a grill, or just don't have one, then fall back to the oven and crock pot.  Both are very easy to use, and allow you to cook all your food in bulk.

Cook Breakfast the Night Before

This one depends on your morning routine/schedule.

For early risers such as myself, making breakfast in the morning isn't an option.  When I get up at 5:20 I'm not trying to make myself an omelette.  Thus, I make myself breakfast the night before (usually while I'm eating my pre-prepared dinner), put it in some pyrex, bring it to work, and eat it whenever I want.

Embrace Supershakes

side note:  I tend to love anything with the word "super" in it

Depending on your goals, it can be incredibly difficult to cook enough meals to get in all the quality calories you need.  In fact, my max is cooking three meals a day.  If I have to go beyond that I'm screwed.

This get's problematic if I'm trying to gain weight though because I need more than three meals worth of calories to put on the lbs.

Enter the Supershake.

A fast, convenient, and super easy way to get in a quality meal with minimal effort.

Here's what you need:

A blending device (nutribullet)

A protein source (protein powder)

A veggie (spinach)

A fruit (blueberry)

A dense carb (oatmeal)  *optional based upon your macronutrient needs

A fat (almond butter)

A liquid (almond milk)

Simply throw all the goods in the blender, mix up to desired consistency, and drink away.

Have an Ample Supply of Quality Snack Food

One of the hardest things to do throughout the day is satisfy yourself between meals.  Granted, if you're meals are set up right you should have minimal "hunger spurts" throughout the day, but they do happen and you need to be prepared.

Instead of stocking your shelves with Cheetos, why not be a step ahead of the game and have quality snack options in the event you want/need to snack.

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Here are some of my favorite options:

Greek yogurt

Beef jerky

All kinds of nuts, seeds and nut butters

Berries

Apples

Oranges

Protein shake with almond milk

And that list could easily go on.  I just try, and you should to, to fill your cupboards with easily accessible proteins, fats and carbs that you can eat on the go.

That's a Wrap

The moral of the story today is to plan ahead.  It's very difficult once you get into the week to put a quality nutrition plan into action.  BUT don't feel down about that.  Just understand and respect the limitations that exist, and do what is necessary on the front end to set yourself up for success.

about the author

812f4cb124c2dda65e33a5f1c2f087ef.jpeg

James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for the latest happenings.

What's the Big Deal with Fitness and Why You Should Want More

The growth of Crossfit, Bootcamps and other GPP (general physical preparedness) programs have truly erupted onto the scene over the past 5 years.  Crossfit, or the sport of fitness, serves as a great example.  It started as a simple website back in 2001 with no affiliates, and now can be seen on ESPN and has thousands upon thousands of affiliates scattered across the world.  This fast paced growth merits a deeper look at what fitness truly is, whether or not you need it, and if you should want more.

What Makes Up Fitness

For starters, let's take a look at several of my favorite attempts to define fitness (these are the first definitions listed by the way):

www.dictionary.reference.com:  "health"

oxforddictionaries.com:  "the condition of being physically fit and healthy"

www.merriam-webster.com:  "the quality or state of being fit"

Hopefully you find those as comedic as I do, and want a better answer.

When attempting to define fitness, you must first determine the separate pieces that form the whole.  An easy way to think of this is to consider what grouping of general physical skills added together most adequately forms fitness.  Mel Siff goes into great depth on this subject in Supertraining, but to keep things simple we'll turn to the Crossfit Training Guide because it's user friendly and provides a well rounded list.  There are more technical lists out there, but this will get the job done.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify that I'm neither endorsing nor telling you to do Crossfit.  That's a topic for another day.

But on page 19 of their training guide they list the following as the 10 general physical skills that make up fitness:

  1. 1. Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance
  2. 2. Stamina
  3. 3. Strength
  4. 4. Flexibility
  5. 5. Power
  6. 6. Speed
  7. 7. Coordination
  8. 8. Agility
  9. 9. Balance
  10. 10. Accuracy

If we think long and hard we may be able to come up with one or two items to add to the list, but top to bottom it's pretty solid.  We can say with a fair amount of confidence that an individual displaying adequate ability in each of these categories is physically fit.

A Definition And Why It's Important

Knowing the components, let's consider an adequate definition.  I'm personally a huge fan of Tadeusz Starzynski's and Henryk Sozanski's definition of physical fitness in Explosive Power and Jumping Ability For All Sports:  "Physical fitness is movement potential that determines an athlete's readiness for solving tasks (1)."  This makes perfect sense and immediately answers the question of whether or not you should care about fitness or GPP.

If we slightly re-word the definition it may become clearer:  your overall fitness level determines how suited you are at solving different athletic tasks.

Think of fitness as a toolbox.  The greater your fitness level, or the better you are at the 10 general physical skills from above, the more tools you have in your toolbox.  The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more prepared you are to solve various tasks.

Likewise, if you focus on only one of the above general physical skills, say cardiovascular endurance, then you turn into a one trick pony with limited ability to perform any other task.  BUT...that's not necessarily bad depending on your goals.  If you want to be an elite distance runner, you HAVE TO SPECIALIZE, or else you'll never be able to compete at the highest level.

And the same goes for powerlifters, olympic lifters, and every other sport on the face of the earth--in order to be truly great at something, some form of specialization must occur.

We're going to talk more about that in a minute though, so let's come back to why fitness (what I prefer to call GPP) is important in the first place:  it builds a foundation for continued success.

The Pyramid Approach

pyramid.jpg

Think of your training life as the above pyramid.  Fitness or GPP goes on the bottom and must be broad, or else the pyramid will be built upon a faulty structure.

It's your chance to build a movement foundation by playing and performing a large variety of tasks, so that you're brain has a chance to learn.

This is opening up an entirely different can of worms, but it's a travesty the number of kids now who start playing one sport and one sport only from the time their 8 years old.

Where's the variability?  Where's there chance for them to learn how to move?  It's no wonder injury rates are through the rough in youth sports these days because kids are skipping the foundational stage and going straight for high level performance.

Sorry, but you're 8 year old kid will get way more out of participating in multiple sports, and engaging in unstructured play.

The base of the pyramid is also where you build up work capacity.  Think of it this way:  you want to have a large gas tank that can refill itself rapidly so you can train hard, recover, and push the envelope more often.

To review:  your overall fitness level dictates your propensity for long term success and performance.  The people who skip this step entirely usually see some moderate gains in performance on the front end, but typically get injured or fail to see continued progress because they have a faulty pyramid.

You Want More

Over time, however, it's natural to specialize in certain tasks over others.  People will naturally gravitate towards tasks they perform well or enjoy doing.  It's at this point in time people begin to move up the pyramid.  They take whatever the end goal is and put it at the top.

The rest of the pyramid will be filled with whatever specialized tasks are important and necessary to move up the levels of the pyramid.

For example, say somebody wants to be a competitive olympic weightlifter.  The clean and jerk, and snatch will fill the top spot because that's the final goal, and the other levels of the pyramid will be filled with more specialized traits like absolute strength and strength speed.

Although specialization is necessary to truly become exceptional at something, you must first build a base that gives you an adequate chance to succeed.  You can't skip over levels when building the pyramid.  You have to be methodical and fitness/GPP is the first step.

But herein lies the problem:  fitness may make you good at a lot of things, but in order to be truly exceptional you have to specialize.  Tradeoffs have to be made between certain fitness qualities because physiologic adaptations are incredibly specific.

This is why you train a football player different than a soccer player, and a baseball player different than a basketball player.  There's just no such thing as an "athlete" program that will prepare you for any and everything.

Now you may be reading this and saying:  "James, that's all fine and dandy, but I'm very happy with just training for overall health and fitness"... And to you I say awesome.  Whatever your goals are I encourage you to pursue them.

But I know there are many people out there, and maybe even you, who are tired of the general fitness trend.  You have specific high performance goals that you just can't seem to reach, even though you bust your ass in the gym x times a week.  And for this I blame the fitness trend.

99% of the time these people come to us with questions about why they haven't been able to reach a certain goal it's because they're trying to be "everything" all the time.  I can respect your desire to be well rounded, but you have to remember there will always be tradeoffs in training.

Are there genetic freaks out there who tend to be pretty damn good at a lot of things?  Absolutely, but I'm not throwing my programming methodology behind the top 1% of the human population.

So...what's the point of today's post?  Be specific with your goal setting, and then draw out a pyramid that'll get you there.  Start at the bottom, and then get more specific over time until you have acquired/built up the necessary skills and fitness qualities to allow you to succeed at your desired skill.

Oh, and be willing to call B.S. on the fact that everyone and their mom trains "fitness" since it's technically everything.  Ask more questions, and demand specific answers as to why you're doing what you're doing, and why you're working on what you're working on.

Now that my mini rant is complete, go have an awesome weekend.

about the author

812f4cb124c2dda65e33a5f1c2f087ef.jpeg

James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for the latest happenings.

 

 

 

References

1. Starzynski, Tadeusz, and Henryk Sozanski, Ph.D. "What Is Fitness Preparation."

Explosive Power and Jumping Ability For All Sports

. Island Pond, VT: Stadion, 1999. 3.

Enjoying the Holidays: 3 Must Try Thanksgiving Recipes

Today's guest post comes a good friend of mine Kelsie Ross.  Kelsie is a working professional, figure competitor, and one of the best cooks I know.  I can't wait to give these recipes a try, and hopefully you can't either.  Enjoy!

HOLIDAYS!!! The most glorious time of year – fun, family, friends and FOOD!

If you’re like me, this time of year brings so many great warm and fuzzy feelings and also a little anxiety. When I first started my healthy lifestyle, I never knew how to approach the holidays. Do I throw my hands up and say “YOLO,” or do I stick to the plan and avoid all the foods that bring so many great memories and food coma feels to my heart.

The answer – neither. The beautiful thing about our bodies is if we treat them right 90% of the time, the other 10% we can indulge a little. Am I giving you license to eat the entire pumpkin pie? No, but I am saying a slice won’t hurt!

Growing up, Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. My extended family lives in Georgia, so it was always a time for the New England Ross clan to get together and reconnect from the craziness that is our lives; ham for Haley, macaroni pie for Bethany, green bean casserole for Dad, pumpkin pie for Mom and stuffing for me.

We all have something about the traditional meal that makes us look forward to getting together and chowing down. Throughout the years we’ve all become a little more conscious of our decisions, and have found ways to make our favorite dishes healthier without sacrificing the taste. For my family, Thanksgiving is a full day affair. Big breakfast in our PJ’s, Disney movies and football all throughout the day, playing with the dogs in the yard and then we all chip in to get dinner ready.

Below you’ll find three of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes that you can use to bring a warm feel to your home this season without the guilt!

Butternut Squash Protein Pancakes

TRUST ME – One of my old coaches taught me to substitute flours in pancakes for either butternut squash or sweet potato and it completely changed my breakfast making abilities (thanks Elle!). Try it! It doesn’t give the pancakes an overwhelming flavor and keeps them nice and moist. I promise it’s worth it. Macros will depend on the type of protein powder you use. I use a 100% whey isolate protein powder in this recipe.

Serves 1 – includes NO toppings; 266 calories; 1.6g fat, 38.9 protein; 26.8 carbs

125g Roasted/boiled butternut squash

½ cup liquid egg whites

2 tbsp oat flour

1 scoop vanilla or cinnamon protein powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp baking powder

Sprinkle of salt

2 tbsp of almond milk (Only if needed! Mix the batter first)

Mix all ingredients in a food processor or mini blender. If you don’t have a food processor, I recommend you boil your butternut squash so you can easily mash it then whisk in the other ingredients.

Spray a medium skillet with coconut oil or pam and warm over medium heat. Make as many pancakes as you’d like – big, small, Mickey shaped, one gigantic pancake pie. Add any additional toppings (I recommend raspberries or mini chocolate chips) and wait for them to start to bubble before you flip them. Enjoy!

Try your favorite nut butter between pancake layers – you won’t be sorry. 

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Biscuits

I created this recipe based off of PaleOMG savory biscuit version (which I HIGHLY recommend as well).

Serves 6; 108 calories; 5g fat; 4g protein; 9g carbs

1 ½ cup mashed sweet potato (Roast whole potatoes in the oven at 425 for 45-60 minutes or until you can easily run a knife into the center. Make sure you poke holes into the side of the potato before roasting.)

½ cup pumpkin puree

4 tbsp coconut flour

3 eggs

1 tbsp coconut oil melted

2 tbsp stevia/xylitol

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pumpkin spice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 375

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another. Slowly combine them until you begin to get a doughy consistency.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and drop 1/3 cup of the mixture onto the pan.

Bake for 22-27 minutes and let them rest (very important as there isn’t much flour to bind these).

Smother in butter, gravy, mashed potatoes or whatever makes your heart happiest.

Note: Store these in the refrigerator if there are leftovers. They’ll keep longer!

Rosemary Roasted Vegetable Medley

Say that five times fast! A lot of people underestimate the delicious simplicity that vegetables can bring to Thanksgiving. Hearty vegetables prepared in the right way can completely transform a meal. Not to mention mixing in cruciferous vegetables that are high in fiber can really help you digest all of that pie I mentioned earlier.

Serves 4; 151 calories; 5.1g fat; 5.5g protein; 23.3g carbs

5 red potatoes (you can substitute any potato of your choice)

1 bunch of brussel sprouts (the ones I get come in a pre-cleaned bag; but shoot for about 2 cups once they are cleaned and halved)

3 large carrots

2 medium zuchinni

1-2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 minced cloves of garlic

3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Dice your potatoes, half your brussel sprouts, slice your carrots and zucchini on an angle.

Put potatoes and carrots in one bowl and brussel sprouts and zucchini in another. In each bowl add ½-1 tbsp. of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and one minced garlic clove.

Pull the rosemary needles off the sprig onto a cutting board and run your knife through them to really open the flavor. Add half to each bowl and toss the vegetables.

Put each bowl of vegetables on separate baking sheets. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The potatoes and carrots may need a little longer to cook then the zucchini and brussel sprouts depending on how large they are. Bake to the consistency that you and your family like! Ross clan goes real crispy on the brussel sprouts and zucchini – if you’ve never had a crispy brussel sprout leaf you are missing out.

Toss all the vegetables in a dish and sprinkle a few extra rosemary springs over the top to make it pretty. I personally also like to drizzle flavored balsamic vinegar over these as well to give them a little extra something. My favorite is apricot balsamic!

Happy holidays!

Header photo credit

Nutrition: How To Pick A Plan That Fits Your Goals

Everyone understands the importance of proper nutrition and how it can benefit your body composition as well as your overall health. However I find a lot of people drowning in the vastness of nutrition and proper diet.

There is an overwhelming amount of research and methodologies that are all correct and valid, but the application to the individual is poor.

As opposed to blaming research, I find the biggest obstacle in people reaching their nutrition goals is often the misuse of the method they are utilizing.  They've found some new diet or trend, and then begin implementing it without having a true understanding for how to manage it.

Far to often I see elite collegiate athletes eating no carbs, and then failing to compensate for the complete loss of a macronutrient by eating enough fat and protein. Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to improve body composition, decrease visceral fat and optimize insulin health, but it's important to note that low carbohydrate does not have to mean low calorie.

Low calorie for an elite athlete means lower energy levels and decreased performance. This is only one example, but represents a major issue that impairs many from reaching their goals.

To prevent this, as an individual, you must look at yourself and your goals objectively, then pick the nutrition plan to fit those goals. This is where things can get tricky.

Looking into details like:

What energy system do you primarily train in?

What type of volume will you be utilizing?

How long do you have to recover?

Suddenly the thousands of good ideas and nutrition fads seem to fade.

To simplify some of these questions for you, I have come up with 3 of the most common types of people I work with and the type of meal plan I would utilize with them:

Elite Collegiate Athlete

The elite collegiate athlete is going to be my model for high volume activity. They have all of the stresses and constraints normal college students have with classes and work load, and then they expend extremely high levels of energy in their training.

This high stress routine could easily occupy 6 days of the week and is incredibly taxing on all of the systems of the body.

Such high volume and stress demands a caloric surplus, and at the very least a moderate intake of carbohydrates...if not high.

This need for carbohydrates comes from looking at the autonomics of this lifestyle. So much stress imposed on the body causes levels of glucocorticoids and other sympathetic related hormones to be elevated throughout the day, and out of their natural rhythm.

Not only can that lead to a plethora of diseases, but it can put a severe damper on performance--especially in the area of arousal. Carbohydrate consumption can help combat some of the negative effects related to these excessive stress levels.

In addition, properly timing carbohydrates around training can help any athlete expect to see far improved energy levels and recovery.

The Average Joe

The average joe is the modality I will use for the general population of regularly active people. They work full time five days a week and engage in some sort of resistance or aerobic based training three to five times a week.

This is a great group of people to work with because there are so many potential options for a meal plans.  It really allows lifestyle and personal choice to take some control, which we rarely find in the elite athletes.

This person can choose something as simple as evenly divided meals throughout the day or get as complex as an intermittent carbohydrate cycling and fasting approach, and everything in between. The main parameter for this group will be total caloric intake.

Hybrid Athlete

The hybrid athlete is a group of people with gobs of potential.

Work occupies the majority of their day and can prove to be stressful, but they also tend to crush training sessions at the bookends of the day.  They have a more than fit attitude, but have to fit their performance and physique goals within the confines of their professional schedules.

This allows for plenty of effective methods of manipulating the placement of their bulk carbohydrate and calorie consumption. Depending on the time they hit the gym, a fasting-loading protocol could be very effective at improving body composition while improving performance.

Here is an example meal plan for this population with the following attributes:

Looking to increase fat free mass

Train in the morning before work

Vigorous resistance training with some type of conditioning work mixed in

Pre Training Shake

1.5 servings BCAA’s, 2 cups of black coffee

Protein (g)0

Carbs (g)0

Fat (g)0

Intra Training Shake1 serving BCAA’s with 1 serving liquid carbs

Protein (g)0

Carbs (g)40

Fat (g)0

Post Workout Shake1.5 servings of hydrolyzed protein, 2 scoops liquid carbs

Protein (g)40

Carbs (g)80

Fat (g)0

Meal 1- 9-10am4 hardboiled eggs, 4oz of chicken breast, 1oz of cheese

Protein (g)56

Carbs (g)10

Fat (g)35

Meal 2- 12-1pm6oz of 88/12 beef, 45g of uncooked rice, 1 serving greens

Protein (g)43

Carbs (g)35

Fat (g)17

Meal 3- 5-7pm6oz turkey burger with 1oz cheese and 1 baked potato

Protein (g)43

Carbs (g)35

Fat (g)17

Meal 4- 7:30 PM8oz chicken breast, 6 slices of bacon, 84g of uncooked rice, 1 serving greens, 1oz cheese

Protein (g)56

Carbs (g)62

Fat (g)35

Daily Totals

Protein (g)238

Carbs (g)262

Fat (g)104

Calories2936

The beautiful, and confusing, thing about nutrition is there are hundreds of options, and with proper consideration and compliance to the plan, they all work.

Objectifying your nutrition and performance goals, and then using that info to pick a nutrition plan, is the key to actually reaching them. Whatever your nutrition goal may be, question yourself, pick a plan and stick to it.

*Note from James:  For more on nutrition I'd recommend checking out our free Webinar.

I know this article had a lot of info in it, so feel free to hit me up below with questions you have about the article or the sample meal plan.

about the author

812f4cb124c2dda65e33a5f1c2f087ef.jpeg

Andrew Triana “The Leucine Frog” is a promising young coach who has an intense passion for his clients success and writing. It is evident in his work that he is relentless in his pursuit of excellence. At 20 years old Andrew has produced National champions, World champions, Pro strongmen, and has helped many others reach their goals.  Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewTriana) and Instagram (@andtriana).