Bro Science: 1 Science: 0.5 (The Mind Muscle Connection)

It’s been a long thought among the bodybuilding community that, in order to maximize GAINZZZZ (aka hypertrophy), you need to establish a “mind-muscle connection”. What that means is the person who is performing the exercise is actively “thinking” about contracting the muscle as opposed to simply going through the motions. Now, in 2018, there is empirical evidence to support this idea.

The concept has long been touted by bodybuilders such as Kai Greene and Arnold Schwarzenegger (pictured here) that it’s essential to eek out those small, fine details of building muscle. Interestingly, last year at the International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference that was held in Phoenix, Arizona was the first time I heard about this study. Brad Schoenfeld, the lead researcher and OG of muscle science, talked for a short time about the findings of the study; however, since research takes a long time to publish, it was only recently made publicly available. So here we are! Let’s see what the study said!

To begin, let’s talk about where this idea fits in the scope of science. The broader term for this concept of mind-muscle connection is known as “Attentional Focus”¹. This is simply what floats through people’s minds while performing a task. It’s broken down further into an External and Internal focus¹. In a hypertrophy and bodybuilding context, an internal focus is what we consider the mind-muscle connection. It’s thinking about squeezing the working muscle and contracting it as hard as you can to “maximize gainz”. An external focus, the way I see it, is more motivational/supportive in that either yourself or someone else is keeping you focused on the outcome of the exercise¹. In this study, external focus was enforced by a trainer instructing the lifter to “Get the weight up!”, so you can see that it’s more focused on finishing the lift and completing the exercise as opposed to the muscle contraction¹.

“Okay, but how did they do it?”

Great question! The researchers took 30 males who were untrained (meaning they don’t normally exercise) and put them through 3 day/week training sessions for 8 weeks straight of barbell bicep curls and leg extensions (these exercises are easy to measure and isolate the muscles being studied)¹. As mentioned earlier, both internal and external groups were given different cues by the trainers depending on which group they were in (“squeeze the muscle!”) vs. (“get the weight up you weenie!”[no participants were called weenies during this study])¹.

Biceps and quadriceps muscles were tested to by an ultrasound machine for muscle thickness (MT)¹. MT is an indicator of muscle growth.

Side note: Could you imagine only doing curls and leg extensions 3 times a week for 8 weeks straight? I personally would get so bored! Applause to these guys who did it, because that sounds boring to me.

“So they made them do this boring routine..what happened?”

What happened next may shock you! (Are you tired of those headlines like I am?)

After the trial, the participants saw some interesting results. In the biceps, the internal focus group saw greater increases in hypertrophy over the external focus group¹ via increased MT. The study also found what was called a large effect size favoring the internal group for the biceps muscles¹. A large effect size basically reinforces that the cause of the increase in hypertrophy is actually because of the internal focus rather than something else.

The quadriceps muscles observed did not differ greatly in hypertrophy between both groups¹.

“But WTF does any of this mean?”

It means that the bodybuilders were right! However, this is only one study that has tested the mind-muscle connection theory in this manner with the machines and methods that they did. Nevertheless, this is exciting to see that the concept of actively thinking about contracting and “squeezing” your muscles may have some validity to it! Next time you’re in the gym doing some curls, benching, or leg curls, stop listening to your music and have that voice in your head (I know I’m not the only one) tell you to SQUEEZE!!! Try it for yourself! You may get more gainzzz that way.

A word of warning though: from my own experiences playing with this, I have had to use a lighter weight because the concentration does make the exercise feel harder, so you may want to try with a lighter weight than you normally do.

As for why there were no differences in the groups for the quadriceps muscles, the researchers offered a potential explanation for this phenomenon: Lower-limb muscles are not used for small, meticulous, and fine movements like muscles in the upper limbs are (think careful movements with your fingers and how precise you can be with the muscles and actions of them)¹.

We don’t have that precise control over our leg muscles like we do the muscles in our upper-limbs, so it may be more difficult to actually “squeeze” the muscles harder than you already do. Not to say that it’s impossible! Another reason might be because the subjects were untrained and had not a lot of experience exercising and learning how to “squeeze” the muscles like an experienced bodybuilder may have¹. I believe we would see a different picture if bodybuilders could be tested.

Takeaways

  • The mind-muscle connection has long been a theory among bodybuilders about thinking about the muscle you’re training to make it work harder and therefore, get more gainzzz.
  • This study supports the idea for upper-limb muscles only because that was the only area where internal focus (aka mind-muscle connection) appeared to make a difference.
  • Lower-limb hypertrophy may be greater if an internal focus is taken if the subjects are trained, but this study can’t say that. More research must be conducted first.
  • Consider trying it for yourself!

As always, thanks for reading!

References

¹Differential effects of attentional focus strategies during long-term resistance training

Flexing muscle with blue background graphic Created by Dooder – Freepik.com

 

How Do We Acquire and Use Energy From Food? Part 2

Welcome back to our discussion of energy systems! I appreciate you coming back and your desire to learn! That’s the whole goal of this website: to learn ya’ somethin’! Upon reading a comment from the first post, a reader enlightened me on my neglect to go into detail about what ATP is or what is stands for. So, before I dive into the final energy system, aerobic glycolysis, I’m going to briefly talk about what ATP is! Let’s begin!

ATP Revisted

ATP stands for Adenosine TriPhosphate. This is the molecule our body synthesizes from all these different energy systems in order to make us move in all the ways that we do. Chemically, it is composed of a DNA molecule known as Adenine (in this case, adenosine), ribose, and phosphate groups.

Adenine is one of the four components that create DNA (Only four things known as nucleotides make up your entire DNA sequence! That’s amazing!). Adenine then binds (connects) to ribose, a sugar molecule. Finally, this sugar is bound to a chain of 3 molecules known as phosphate groups.

What makes ATP the OG energy molecule is those phosphate groups. These are known as “High-energy bonds” that, when broken off the ATP molecule, release A TON of energy that our muscles, cells, etc. use to do all the activities that we do.

When a phosphate group is removed from ATP, it becomes ADP (Adenosine DiPhosphate) and AMP (Adenosine MonoPhosphate) when two groups are removed. Here’s a nice visual from Khan Academy¹ to summarize what I mean by molecules, phosphate groups, etc.

Untitled design (8)

Phew. Okay. That covers ATP. Now! Onto the star of the metabolic show, aerobic glycolysis!

Aerobic Glycolysis

Why do I refer to this energy system as the star of the show? This is the system that not only provides the most energy, but it is also in use the most amount of time because typically, we aren’t jumping, sprinting, etc. We only do that for a relatively short period of time (even though it may feel like it never ends).

When we’re just walking, sitting, working, doing normal people stuff, we’re using this energy system. ADDITIONALLY, this is the primary energy system in use when we’re doing light to moderate-intensity exercise for a long period of time.

What’s the reason behind this? Well, for everyday stuff, we’re not in dire need of energy at that very moment like we may be if we’re sprinting away from a bear or angry girlfriend (which are equally dangerous).

Our bodies are built for survival. If it doesn’t need energy ASAP, it’s going to break it down slower but provide more of that energy on a per-cycle basis. What I mean by this is for each “cycle” completed of aerobic glycolysis, we get more energy molecules, meaning more energy for us! Woohoo!

After the lactic acid cycle is depleted/unable to work further, this system kicks in for the remainder of the exercise. Interestingly, long-distance runners can actually notice when their metabolism “switches” to aerobic glycolysis. It’s characterized by fatigue, tiredness, and a feeling of “hitting the wall”. They feel this way because energy isn’t being produced as quickly as we need it.

Also a fun fact, this system is aerobic which means it requires oxygen to start working. Ever notice that you start breathing more the longer you exercise?? You’re taking in that oxygen for a reason. Your body knows when it needs oxygen, and so your brain will tell you to breathe more to take in more oxygen! BOOM!

Why does it take so long to acquire this energy? Aerobic glycolysis relies on fat consumed in the diet or from body fat stores once dietary fat is consumed in order to synthesize glucose and/or ATP. I say ‘and/or’ because when we use fat as energy, it actually breaks into its two components (glycerol backbone and three fatty acid chains, refer to this article on fat for a refresher on the structure of fats).

Glycerol produces a small amount of glucose while the fatty acid chains cannot be converted into glucose; so they have their own metabolic pathway to produce ATP. Creating glucose from sources other than carbohydrate (protein, glycerol, lactate) is known as gluconeogenesis². We actually saw this during the lactic acid cycle! Lactate becomes glucose during the cycle!

Back to the question, fat, as an energy source takes a while because of those damn fatty acid chains. These chains are composed of a lot of carbon atoms that go through a lot (a lot!) of steps to become usable energy. This metabolic pathway is known as Beta-oxidation or fatty acid oxidation.

Why Does This Matter?

Well I’m not going to teach you something if it’s not important! Also, this information will be on the test next Thursday, so make sure you study it.

It’s important because if you do long-duration exercise, you will be using this energy system for most of the time. Additionally, this is the system in use most of the time throughout daily life!

Yeah. So what?

So what? SO WHAT?! This is a sign for you to see that dietary fat is not bad for you. It’s an energy source that is very important for prolonged energy production! Also, if you know that you’re going somewhere without food for a few hours, having fat in a meal prior will help you stay energized. ‘Energized’ does not equal ‘full’ though, keep that in mind. Combat stomach emptiness with fiber and protein!

But, if you need energy for a long time because you won’t get to eat, having some fat from nuts, peanut butter, oils, avocados, seeds, etc. will keep you moving forward! THAT’S why this is important, dammit.

Here is a helpful graph from Precision Nutrition³ to summarize what these last two posts were about. I encourage you to read that linked article too. It’s super informative!

As you can see, ATP stores in the muscle are used up almost instantly, followed by the ATP-PC system (Creatine Phosphate) in purple, then the lactic acid system in green after about 2 minutes. Finally, aerobic glycolysis kicks in for the remainder of the activity at the expense of exercise or activity performance aka “Hitting the wall”.

Image result for energy system use over time

Takeaways

  • ATP is the primary energy molecule made of adenosine, a sugar molecule, and phosphate groups
  • Aerobic glycolysis kicks in after the lactic acid system and continues pumping out energy for the duration of exercise or the activity being performed.
  • Dietary fat and body fat are the primary fuel sources for aerobic glycolysis (Does not mean you can sit on your ass and claim you’re burning body fat. It doesn’t work like that.
  • When used for energy, fat is broken into two components that enter two different metabolic pathways (gluconeogensis for glycerol and beta-oxidation for fatty acids)
  • If you can understand what system is used, you can better prepare meals for exercise or if you’re going to be out for the day!

Do you like posts like this where I explain nutrition science topics?? I love talking about this stuff because I feel that science needs to be communicated to the public more often and in a better way. That’s one purpose of this blog if you couldn’t tell by now! Let me know what you think in the comments! All feedback welcome! Thanks for reading!

References

¹Basic concepts in bioenergetics: phosphoryl group transfers and ATP hydrolysis

²Glucose Can Be Synthesized from Noncarbohydrate Precursors

³All About High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

How Do We Acquire and Use Energy From Food? Part 1

Ever think about how we, as the crazy people we are, get energy to do everyday stuff? Walk, run, jump, pick up kids, throw said kids because they’re annoying, even getting out of bed! Everything you do takes some bit of energy!

Where do we get that energy? Caffeine? Well, it may seem like it, but caffeine provides no ACTUAL energy. It’s just a stimulant that makes you FEEL energized. There’s a huge difference. We derive our energy from food in the form of calories from carbs, protein, and fat (and alcohol)!

But, let’s dig deeper..how exactly does your body break food down into components that it can use for energy? More importantly, why is this important? Well, if you know what and how your body fuels itself, you can provide it better fuel at better times to feel better, without stimulants!

So, what gives us the energy to live the awesome lives we live? These awesome things known as energy systems!

Energy systems are typically discussed in the context of exercise because that’s one of the few times that all the systems may be utilized during one time period. Typically, at rest, only one (aerobic glycolysis) is used; but, keep this in mind, whenever you’re doing strenuous work like moving or lifting heavy objects, the other sports-related systems may be in use.

There are a few ways our bodies use the different fuel sources. It all depends on the activity you’re doing and the amount of energy needed to perform that activity. Let’s begin by talking about what our body actually uses as energy. Hint: It’s not glucose (technically).

ATP

ATP is THE energy molecule. Whenever we’re doing literally anything, we’re using ATP. While we can acquire ATP from different forms (carbs, fat, protein, alcohol, etc.), it all funnels into ATP and some other secondary molecules. This happens because we have different systems in our bodies to break down the different macronutrients. With that in mind, let’s talk about what they are, when they’re used, and why this applies to you.

In part 1 of this series, I’ll talk about the exercise-focused energy system, Anaerobic Glycolysis; but remember, whenever you’re doing intense, strenuous work, these systems are working, so don’t skip this if you don’t exercise! Part 2 will cover the more general system known as Aerobic Glycolysis.

Anaerobic Glycolysis

To begin, we discuss Anaerobic Glycolysis. This refers to systems that generate energy WITHOUT the use of oxygen. Oxygen is the primary distinction between aerobic and anaerobic systems. Oxygen as a chemical has some interesting properties to it that allows us to create energy in different ways. The next two systems-Creatine Phosphate and Lactic Acid Cycle-do not need oxygen to create energy. Let’s begin!

Creatine Phosphate System

This is the very first system used when doing typically high-intensity exercise or activity. Anything from deadlifting 1000lbs to picking up some heavy furniture. This system is used for, as Deadpool says, MAXIMUM EFFORT. Creatine phosphate is made up of a few atoms-the things on the periodic table-to make a molecule (Chemistry 101 lesson right there, you’re welcome). This molecule, Creatine Phosphate, will donate some atoms to make ATP.

All of this occurs inside the muscle tissues, so energy is able to be generated very quickly, hence why it’s used first; but there is a very limited supply of creatine phosphate in muscles, so this system will deplete in a matter of seconds. So why does this matter? Well, if you’re an athlete, or someone who just likes to exercise (running, lifting, etc.), then this is what jumpstarts you whenever you start your exercise! If you’re going to sprint, that quick jolt of energy is this system at work. Knowing what systems are at work can allow you to better fuel up for training! Creatine is most commonly found in meats. Vegans and vegetarians may have to supplement it.

Creatine supplements work by flooding your muscles with creatine, thereby allowing this system to last longer than a few seconds and continue to produce energy quickly which can lead to better training sessions since your endurance is improved! This is some seriously cool stuff. Think about it next time you pick up something heavy, or move some furniture!

Lactic Acid Cycle

After the Creatine Phosphate system is exhausted, the body shifts over to the lactic acid cycle for up to roughly 2 minutes of continuous work (think two minute run or two minutes straight of lifting). This is typically when someone will start to “Feel The Burn”, especially in terms of weight training. The reason this occurs is because there is an accumulation of hydrogen in the muscles, which causes the muscle tissue environment to become more acidic.

What this results in is that fatigue and tiredness experienced when lifting weights. The acidic environment inhibits the working muscles from contracting and causes that burning sensation and fatigue.

So why do we use this system if it’s just going to burn us? That’s some BS.

Not quite, dear reader!

The lactic acid cycle is great in its ability to produce energy quickly and for a relatively long time. If we couldn’t produce energy this way, we’d be pooped much quicker. Here’s how it works:

The cycle is between the working muscles and your liver. The things that are cycling are glucose and lactate. Remember glucose? That’s the primary source of energy and ATP and guess what? It still is in this case! As glucose enters the muscle cell, the glucose will produce some ATP for the immediate energy demand and then be converted to lactate.

Then, this lactate will travel to the liver to be converted back into glucose. When converted back to glucose, the lactate also produces some ATP for immediate use. The lactate (now glucose) will travel back to the muscle cell to produce more ATP and continue the cycle until the hydrogen atoms inhibit further muscle contractions.

As you can probably imagine, this system pretty much produces energy on demand, meaning that there is none stored for future use. The ATP that is synthesized is immediately used.

Takeaways

Once again, this system only lasts for a few minutes, then the aerobic glycolysis systems kick in and produces a TON of energy but at a slow pace. This will be the topic for part 2 next week! Stay tuned! Check out my other articles about the sources of ATP (Protein, carbs, and fat) to learn more about the awesomeness of our body’s interaction with food! Thanks for reading!

  • The body utilizes the macronutrients through different energy systems for different demands of energy
  • Higher energy demand is derived from anaerobic glycolysis systems
  • The Creatine phosphate system is the initial system used for high-intensity work but only lasts a few seconds
  • The Lactic Acid Cycle allows us to work at high intensities for a couple of minutes until muscle contraction is no longer possible. This is accomplished by cycling glucose and lactate between the liver and muscle cells.

 

3 Types Of Misinformation + How To Protect Yourself From The BS Part 2

Welcome back! I’m glad you’re interested in checkin’ yourself before you wreck yourself! Let’s jump right into it. A lot of what I discuss here is mostly just personal experience and observations, so it may be a bit more informal than usual. LET’S DO THIS.

If you don’t have the time to read the full article, summary points are at the bottom of the page

Protecting Yourself From The Interweb Snake Oil Salesman

Too Good To Be True?

My personal favorite screening process to do when I come across something questionable is this: Ask yourself if the claim you’re seeing is too good to be true. “Lose 20 pounds in a week, eh? This seems too good to be true.” If an analysis like that goes through your head, It’s very likely that the claim/product doesn’t work and the company or person is just trying to make money to no benefit for you.

 

“All-or-nothing-ers”

Next up is the “All-or-nothing-ers”. What I mean by this is if someone tells you that a certain Thing A delivers Result B 100% of the time or that Result B ALWAYS happens, run away. Almost nothing in any field of science (nutrition and exercise included) is absolute. Even that previous statement wasn’t absolute! This means that there is always an exception to the rules in science.

For example, when someone says “All sugar is bad and sugar will make you fat rah rah rah!”. That’s a statement that falsely encompasses all foods containing sugar as “bad”, whatever that means. If someone can say that an entire nutrient is harmful, they better have some damn good evidence to support it. HINT: They won’t because they don’t know what they’re talking about.

To summarize, words like “always, never, it’s proven that.., believe, every time”. Anything that boxes your choices down to “this or that” is likely a red flag. There’s over 7 billion people on the planet, I can’t think of anything that can be narrowed down to just two options that would categorize everyone in the world properly.

The mark of a credible (and sometimes frustrating) source are key phrases like “may, could, potentially, theory, likely, etc.”. The difference here lies in the degree of certainty in each word. The only thing we can be certain of is our uncertainty! Feel free to use that quote. I said frustrating because we just want a precise answer, but credible, no BS people know that that usually isn’t the case, unfortunately.

If you are unsure of the source, claim, whatever it may be, ask the person pushing the product or idea why this thing is effective. Ask them to provide evidence in the form of peer-reviewed research, the creme-de-la creme of credibility!

Now, not all credible things or people are supported with science 100% of the time. There’s that exception again! It’s your job to make an informed decision on who and what to trust. One thing you could to is to look at past clients or users of a product/service and ask them if they liked it and found it effective. If you’re still unsure, that’s probably a sign from your intuition that it isn’t the right choice for you.

Fear not! That doesn’t mean you should stop your fitness journey! This information should arm you with knowledge to help me wage war on the internet gurus and BS people of the world. That’s what I feel like I’m here to do.

Anyway, back to the goodness.

My Way Or The Highway

This person is closely related to the “all-or-nothing-er” in that they believe the “schools” of nutrition and/or exercise they ascribe to are the only righteous way to train/eat. If you go against them, you are wrong and stupid.

If a person is very close-minded about other ideas and viewpoints, especially when presented evidence that goes against their ideas, run away from them.

Fear Mongering

This one makes me sick. This is where people prey on the lack of knowledge of someone and make them feel like they need a certain product or service in order to be healthy, lose weight, not get cancer, whatever it may be. It’s very sad because not everyone has the time to study nutrition, so it’s up to those who do to provide the correct information. Rather, these assholes exploit that lack of information for financial gain.

If someone is trying to scare you into buying/doing something, it’s likely BS and they just want money.

Cookie Cutter BS

Next on this list of BS-I apologize in advance if this web page smells whenever you open it because of all the BS-is cookie cutter programs! It’s very easy to be a fitness/nutrition coach nowadays, just look good and people will ask how you got there! Often, the person doesn’t actually know, so they just hand out programs based on “what worked for me” or they just put together some quick list of exercises or foods and want $200.

Don’t fall for the trap. If they’re an online coach and it seems like they always have spots open, that likely means that people are dropping them and/or they’re taking on WAY more people than they can adequately coach, lowering the quality of the service.

Proprietary Blends

Another red flag is what is known as a proprietary blend. Typically, you will find this term on supplement labels. A proprietary blend is a special chemical formula that a supplement company will use to create products.

The problem with these blends is that the company can put whatever quantity of ingredient they want without making it clear the amount per serving. For example, a pre-workout may contain caffeine, a common ingredient in this supplement that stimulates and increases focus in many people. If the product is a proprietary blend, they can put either 500mg or 5mg of caffeine. You’ll feel 500mg while the 5mg likely won’t affect you at all. But, they don’t have to tell you how much is contained per serving because of the “proprietary blend”.

My advice? Just don’t buy products that hide behind this label.

To summarize

  • Ask yourself if the product/claim is too good to be true. It often is
  • Proprietary blends for supplements usually mask a gimmick disguised as an exclusive formula.
  • “Always, never, it’s proven that.., believe, every time” BAD
  • “May, could, potentially, theory, likely” GOOD
  • Close-minded people don’t deserve your attention in the fitness world jut as much as they don’t in the political world.
  • Cookie cutter programs and constant open coaching spots are a big red flag for low quality

Did I miss anything? Have you come across misinformation-read:bullshit-in a different form? Share it here and help me fight the crap!

References

¹ Celiac Disease Facts and Figures-University of Chicage Medicine

 

 

3 Types Of Misinformation + How To Protect Yourself From The BS Part 1

(See meme above)

Alright. Now that you had a formal introduction, let’s get down to it.

There’s so much misinformation (formally called quackery) out on the internet, TV (*cough* Dr. Oz *cough*), you can’t escape it! However, that doesn’t mean you have to become a victim of it either. According to the American Dietetic Association, there are 3 major types of misinformation-read: bullshit-out on the interwebz and other places.

  • Food Fads
  • Health Fraud
  • Misdirected claims¹

Keep in mind, there may be only 3 overarching types, but these problems take many different forms. So today, we’re going to define these three types of misinformation-read: bullshit-and discuss some of the ways you can protect yourself from falling victim to the snake oil salesman.

Food Fad

“Food fads involve unreasonable or exaggerated beliefs that eating (or not eating) specific foods, nutrient supplements, or combinations of certain foods may cure disease, convey special health benefits, or offer quick weight loss”¹

That’s taken straight from The ADA’s position stand on misinformation-read:bullshit. Here’s my definition: “Food fads derive from a zealot who believes that their way is the only way to eat, live, etc., and you’re wrong and an idiot if you think or do differently.” You see this a lot in politics too on either side, unfortunately. Food fads are perpetuated because a group of people for whatever reason think the whole world needs to do what they do or they’re going to get cancer, toxins, whatever. You mostly see food fads in the guise of diets (keto, vegan, paleo, etc.).

Let me get one thing straight: I don’t have a problem-nor do I care how you eat-with any of these diets. As I discussed in a previous article, diets of many types have all been shown to be effective. That includes fad diets. Often, the basis of the diet isn’t bad. Take paleo for example: more whole, unprocessed foods like nuts, seeds, meats, vegetables, etc. Doesn’t that sound like what the government has been telling us for years? It’s because this diet CAN be healthy and sustainable. BUT the problem arises when a cult-like following of pompous assholes tries to push their ideals on other people (sound like politics yet?).

Bottom line: Food fads can take many forms, but the basis of each is that there is a magical food, diet, supplement, workout routine, etc. that will give you all of these health benefits that sound amazing (“melt away body fat!” comes to mind).

One note: Sometimes, people fall victim to, or create, a food fad because they truly believe it works. Maybe it did work for them! But, that’s not strong enough evidence to say everyone should do it. If this occurs, be sure to kindly help the person understand that their way isn’t the cure-all for everything and to allow people to eat/live however they want to live.

Health Fraud

Health fraud and food fads often overlap, because often, the person pushing the food fad has a financial gain to make from the person buying their supplement, meal plan, food guide, etc¹.

Here’s an example: What the Health. There are many a “credible sources” in that documentary who stand to benefit financially from more people going vegan because they sell vegan meal guides, recipe books, and other vegan-related products. Especially with that documentary, a lot of the information presented is either just straight up wrong or misleading and an example of cherry-picking information (more on that later, don’t let me forget).

The documentary frames veganism as the panacea to all ailments. But it’s not true. Vegan diets are fine if you enjoy it, but they don’t cure cancer.

Health frauds know their product-diet, supplement, what have you-either doesn’t work at all, or hasn’t been shown to work with scientific and peer-reviewed data¹; but they market it as though it does work and produces AMAZING results that normal food, your doctor, or other supplements can’t replicate. SO I HAVE TO GET IT, RIGHT??? No, silly reader, you don’t.

Misdirected Claims

These are annoying. A good example of this is slapping the “A gluten-free food” sticker on a bag of pre-cooked broccoli. WELL NO SHIT IT’S GLUTEN-FREE STUPID IT’S A VEGETABLE. Misdirected claims aim to mislead the consumer into thinking their product is healthy or produces some type of health benefit when really it’s just a cousin of health fraud¹.

Going back to my broccoli example, of course broccoli is gluten-free, however, what they don’t mention is that that broccoli was cooked with a ton of butter and salt for taste. Well now you get broccoli, which normally has a very small amount of protein and carbs, that has a bunch of fat and sodium. The “healthiness” of the broccoli has been negated by the high sodium and ton of saturated fat. FYI: Butter and salt can be a healthy component to a diet in moderation. I’m not demonizing butter. But thank God it’s gluten-free right?? Now I can enjoy my hypertensive broccoli knowing there’s no gluten in it!

To reiterate: Misdrected claims do exactly that: they direct your attention to the wrong idea or something unimportant.

“How do I know what’s BS and what’s not?”

Fear not, dear reader, all of this and more will be explained next week. I’m giving you some homework. As you scroll through your social media or webpages, try to identify misinformation-read: bullshit-in your everyday feeds. You’ll be surprised on what you find.

Next week, we’ll go over how to identify BS and stay safe from all the misinformation-read: bullshit. Thanks for reading!

References

¹”Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food and Nutrition Misinformation

 

The Journey To Improvement Begins With A Goal: Program Design Pt. 1

There are many nuances to creating an exercise program that need to be tailored in order to bring out the best in each individual athlete. However, I think that too many people (coaches included) fall into the “putting the cart before the horse” trap, where they worry too much about the small details and completely miss the very basics of program design. Let me give you an example;

Beginner Joe: “Hey brah, when hitting bench should I go 2-0-1-2 or 3-1-1-3 tempo? Also do you think I should throw in some bands or chains for ‘dat there accommodating resistance?”

Some of you are probably thinking that Joe should just go fucking bench first, work on technique and put on some quality muscle mass before he worries about any of that other shit. Be honest with me though brahs, you either know someone (or multiple someones), who approaches program design like this or, you yourself have probably fallen into this trap at one point in your training career, getting too complicated and fancy when you’ve only been lifting for a few months to a year. Personally, my answer to both questions is yes and it took one-too-many dumbass mistakes before I realized that the basics needed to come first before I drizzle in some of the details. To illustrate a clear picture, think meat and potatoes (basics) first before throwing in your seasoning (small details). Don’t get me wrong, the seasoning is important because it highlights the flavor of each of the main ingredients in the dish. Good seasoning can be the difference between a plain old meat and potatoes casserole and brisket hash, but ask Gordon Ramsey and you’ll probably get an earful of profanities if you talked about seasonings first before even mentioning the type of potato or the cut of beef you’re using for the dish.

So how do we approach program design to get the most gains for the time we spend in the gym? Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about. Let’s start from the very bottom of the pyramid to cover the basics and then slowly work our way up towards the top to where we’ll cover the details.

Part 1: Goal Setting

Designing an exercise program without a goal in mind is analogous to driving without knowing where the fuck you’re going. Good luck trying to get anywhere because you’ll probably end up going around in circles. Establishing goals gives both the exercise program and athlete direction. The more specific the goal the better. General fitness goals are ok too, but try to nail down exactly what you want (or if you’re a coach, what the athlete wants) to get out of training because it will make it that much easier for you to tailor programming so you (or they) get the most return for the time invested in training.

Example 1

“I want to increase my general fitness to improve my overall quality of life”.

There are many ways to accomplish this. For example, walking and eating a sensible diet can pay dividends on improving general fitness. However, there are other modalities that can also be used to reach this goal such as running, lifting weights, hiking, dancing etc. It’s important to find what type of exercise you enjoy and do it consistently.

Example 2

“I want to become stronger because my job involves a lot of lifting weights overhead of up to 50lbs”.

As a coach, I like this goal because it allows me to choose the proper exercise modality. In this case strength training and, more specifically, training movements to move loads (weight) overhead. We can even take this a step further and choose movements that improve and maintain shoulder health and overhead stability to minimize the risk for injury.

Example 3

“I want to compete in a powerlifting meet. I also want to qualify for USAPL Raw Nationals in the 74kg weight class.

In the previous example, the client wanted to improve general strength. In this scenario, the athlete competes in the sport of powerlifting so their exercise selection changes from a broad, inclusive list of movements to a more specific, exclusive set of exercise modalities that revolve around their sport. In powerlifting, those movements are the squat, bench and deadlift. Exercise selection will focus on the 3 main lifts and doing variations of that lift. Additionally, there are accessory movements that help improve positions and form during the execution of the movements which can also address weak points. As a powerlifter, we also know that the athlete needs to improve on maximal strength which indicates working within a certain intensity of their 1-rep max.

Lastly, because the athlete wants to obtain a qualifying total (the sum of their best squat, bench, and deadlift in competition) for USAPL Raw Nationals, we are able to train in a way that is directly in line with the requirements of the federation. For example, some federations allow the athlete to assume either a flat footed or heel up position during the bench press. However, because this person competes in USAPL, we must train bench in only the flat footed position as per USAPL federation rules.

Finally, since the athlete wants to qualify for nats via their total, we know how much we need to add to their current total in order to qualify as a 74kg lifter.

Notice, as the goal becomes more specific, we are able to include more details and get a clearer picture of where we have to go to reach that goal.

Tl;dr

To summarize, as an athlete, recreational gym-goer, weekend warrior, etc., if you want to maximize the returns for the time invested in training, be specific with your goal setting so you know exactly what direction to take with programming. As a coach, the same thing applies but it also benefits you in client retention. Reaching specific training goals is an objective way to quantify progress. If your client sees that they’re continuously making improvements in training, they’re more inclined to stay with and/or recommend you to others.

If you’re still with me, that pretty much concludes part 1 of programming basics. Next week, I’ll cover part 2 of the series which includes choosing a start-end date once you’ve established specific goals and exercise selection. Until then, thanks for reading fam. Don’t forget to like, subscribe and share this post if you found it helpful in some way. Do it!

 

Kick The Semester (Or Fall Season) Off With Good Habits

It’s upon us…SCHOOL. It’s back and approaching eerily quickly. Or, if you’re not in school, the Fall season is approaching, and that means the holidays (and a thinner wallet). During this time, it’s very easy to get caught up in life’s happenings and put your own personal health off to the side; however, this may generate its own problems which may dip into other areas of your life. This week, I don’t have a super scientific article for you, but something that I feel is overlooked: habits.

Often, people see lack of motivation or willpower as the reason someone can’t stick to a diet plan or exercise program or some other thing that they said they would do ad ended up not doing. I believe that we, as humans, can’t rely on willpower all the time. We need to internalize actions and behaviors as habits if we truly want to do something long-term. Here’s an example: (hopefully), you’re brushing your teeth every day. Typically, this happens at the same time without question every single day because it’s just something that you do. It’s as natural to you as waking up! This is a habit. It’s a behavior so deeply embedded in you that you put no conscious thought or effort into brushing your teeth. So how do you make habits out of other things? Here are a few practical strategies which you can use to internalize behaviors and create habits out of them.

*Disclaimer* A lot of the information I’m going to share with you, I obtained from Sohee Lee, specifically her talk at the ISSN conference I attended in June. She’s a fantastic figure in the fitness world that strongly believes in habits for success (Soheefit.com).

 Okay, here we go!

Optimize Your Surroundings

The first strategy is to change your immediate environment. We will use the example of wanting to lose weight, but think about how you could alter your surroundings to support a good habit. One simple thing you can do to increase chances of weight loss is to remove trigger foods in your home. Trigger foods are anything that may cause an episode of binging or something you have trouble controlling the intake of when you eat it.

Another example of changing the environment would be to put foods that you may overeat on in the back of the fridge, making it harder to access them and reducing the incentive to get them. I can remember the study that did this, but I remember seeing a study that tested this by placing soda in the back of the fridge and water in front of it. Before, it was the other way around with soda in the front. When they switched, workers were more likely to take a bottle of water over a soda. Crazy right?? Small things like that can have a great effect!

Intention Statement

Create a statement that helps you stay on track with your desired habit in the form of “if…then”. For example: “If I get more sleep, then I will be more productive during the day”. Repeat this to yourself over and over so you clearly understand the benefit of the attempt to form this certain habit. It will be hard to make a behavior change, but an “if…then” statement helps you stay focused and reinforce the reason behind the behavior.

Write Down Your Why

This is similar to the intention statement, but this is more so a reflection on why you want this behavior to happen. Maybe you want to sleep more so you have more energy throughout the day to work, exercise, play with your children or spend time with your friends without being drowsy. These are all great reasons that should be written down and reflected on often until you don’t feel the need to because the behavior is now a habit!

Flexibility

There will be times that you mess up. It’s inevitable in any situation in life that’s worth pursuing. You set out to create a habit because it was important to you; so it’s also important to understand that while the process of creating this habit is going on, you may mess up and go against what the behavior is, for example, overeating when you’re trying to lose weight or improve your diet with more nutrient-dense foods.

This is okay! It’s completely fine. The important part of this situation is you realizing that you’re human and that you can continue shaping the habit and making positive change. One step back can lead to many more steps forward.

There was a TED talk I watched about habits; I’ll link it here. One interesting takeaway I obtained from it was this: When you perform a negative behavior or even a negative habit, take the time to reflect on your current feelings about it. Do you feel good about yourself when you do it? No, right? Remember that. Remember how that feels and understand that you don’t want to feel that way again, so work to make a change!

I hope these tips and TED talk help you to make positive changes in your life. It’s never too late to make a change for the better! Share this with someone who could use some help making good changes in their lives! Enjoy the video and thanks for reading.

The 2017 ISSN Conference (Upcoming Blogs!)

HOLY COW!

This year, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference in Phoenix. The leading minds in the fields of sports nutrition and exercise science came together to share their research, observations, and best practices for athletic performance, building muscle, and weight loss, among other topics. I was like a sponge, attending as many of the lectures as I could and frantically typing as much as I could into a Google Doc. I also met a few of my favorite researchers and figures in these fields (see below). I am confident that some of them will make an appearance on the podcast. Super excited!

I came out with 7 pages of notes that I am really looking forward to share with all of you. Some of the lectures were tough to follow as I’m still learning myself, but I’m going to post about as much as I can while making sure you get some good information out of it that you can use in your own life. So get excited! Here is the list of topics that I’m going to be covering that were inspired by attending the conference:

  • Different diets and how to utilize them effectively to reach your goals.
  • What should I use to track my weight loss and fitness progress?
  • Want to build muscle? Caloric surplus is the answer.
  • Which diet works?
  • Most diets are effective
  • How much protein should I consume as an athlete? All of it.
  • Focus on a long-term approach to dieting rather than the short-term for success and health
  • Losing weight isn’t the problem in the US
  • Rep Ranges…What’s the best approach?

I am very excited to roll out these posts and information for everyone to learn and get better. Be on the lookout for more posts and podcasts from The Agora and check out some of the amazing people I met at the conference below!

 

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