Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ketones, TBI, and brain function


I'm not a doctor of any sorts.  Hell, I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  In fact, on my trip back home to see my family we ended up staying at the Hampton Inn on two separate occasions (which promoted fat baybay to say on the drive home "we better not stay at another freaking Hampton Inn!").

Nevertheless, I read an enormous amount of studies and research articles to do my best at understanding the various facets of hypertrophy, nutrition, and of course as of late, all the benefits that come with the intake of exogenous ketones.

I've documented much of the success I've had with them in regards to physique competitors in the depleted stages of contest prep.  I've used them to help people get over nagging injuries, and even helped people overcome hypoglycemia with them.

But as of late, the one area I've spent the most time reading about in regards to them, is how they function in regards to those that have suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

The reason for this is because it has become a serious issue with players in the NFL.  And from my outside view, the league has done very little to actually address the seriousness of the issue.

Let me be clear here about one of my biggest problems with the NFL before I delve into this.

I abhor the NFL's policies on performance enhancement drugs.  But all the while having no problem prescribing narcotic drugs to their players, some of who end up with serious addiction and dependency issues on them well after their careers are over.  I'm going to put on my tin foil hat here and just take a stab that the NFL somehow is in cahoots with big pharmacy from a financial perspective.  I mean it just makes too much sense to me.

We can't have players taking growth hormone, or peptides.  Which have been proven to speed up healing and would get them back on the field faster.  But it's fine to load them up with a various cocktail of drugs that numb them down but don't actually address the problem causing the pain.  Players know their livelihood depends on playing, and playing at a high level.  So they will do whatever it takes, and play through a litany of injuries to keep their jobs because they are all aware that their time in the league most likely, is going to be very short lived.  The average NFL career I believe, is a little less than three years.  So if a guy is always in the trainers room, he won't be on the roster for very long.

The NFL has made some rules now about players and concussions.  As they are required to leave the field and get clearance before they can return to play.  However, even if the doctor rules they can't return to play that day, it doesn't take away the fact that the player is going to deal with the aftermath of said concussion.

Even worse, by the time a guy reaches the NFL, it's very likely he's already suffered concussions all the way from high school, through college.

There's actually a list of former players who, upon post post-mortem inspection, were found to have suffered from something called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

From wiki..........

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have had a severe blow or repeated blows to the head. The disease was previously called dementia pugilistica (DP), i.e. "punch-drunk", as it was initially found in those with a history of boxing. CTE has been most commonly found in professional athletes participating in American football,rugby, ice hockey, boxing, professional wrestling, stunt performing, bull riding, rodeo, and other contact sports who have experienced repeated concussions or other brain trauma.

This hits slightly home with me, because one of the players who was diagnosed with CTE was a friend of mine.  Jovan Belcher.  The middle linebacker for the Chiefs, who was involved in a murder-suicide.  He killed his girlfriend at the time, then drove to the Chiefs facility where he shot himself.

Junior Seau, the all time great for the San Diego Chargers, shot himself in the chest, so that his brain could be examined.  



On January 10, 2013, Seau's family released the NIH's findings that his brain showed definitive signs of CTE. Russell Lonser of the NIH coordinated with three independent neuropathologists, giving them unidentified tissue from three brains including Seau's. The three experts along with two government researchers arrived at the same conclusion. The NIH said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people "with exposure to repetitive head injuries."

Seau had no prior reported history of concussions.  Junior was a football warrior.  Anyone that ever watched him play knew the kind of wreckless abandon he played with and he was admired and feared as a tenacious player.  But in the end, his brain just couldn't take the damage that had been caused by all the human car wrecks he had subjected himself to.  

Neither Jovan or Junior are alone in this regard.  All it takes is a google search to find all of the players whom, upon autopsy, suffered from CTE.  

Sports related concussions occur when there is a sudden acceleration or deceleration or rotational forces imparted to the brain.  The connection between TBI and CTE is clear.  CTE is caused by those who have suffered repeated concussions or traumatic brain injuries, such as those in contact sports, and even our military personnel.  

http://www.protectthebrain.org/Brain-Injury-Research/What-is-CTE-.aspx

The brain of an individual who suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy gradually deteriorates and will over time end up losing mass. Certain areas of the brain are particularly liable to atrophy, though other areas are prone to becoming enlarged.


The symptoms of CTE can be debilitating and may have life-changing effects for both the individual and for his or her family. Some of the most common include loss of memory, difficulty controlling impulsive or erratic behavior, impaired judgment, behavioral disturbances including aggression and depression, difficult with balance, and a gradual onset of dementia. An individual with CTE may mistakenly ascribe the symptoms to the normal process of aging, or might receive a wrong diagnosis due to the fact that many of the symptoms are similar to other conditions such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. CTE has been diagnosed in several notable cases which received widespread media attention, including the suicide deaths of NFL player Junior Seau, and professional wrestler Chris Benoit who committed suicide after murdering his wife and son.

Obviously,  this is a very disheartening thing to read.  And it's one of the reasons I detest when people start talking about how "watered down" the NFL has become because they don't allow people to "spear" people anymore, or lead with their head in tackling.  I mean, I played ball.  At no one was I ever taught to lead with my head in tackling drills.  The guy sitting on the couch drinking his Coors Light on Sunday afternoon complaining about how "pussy" the league has become, will never ever sit in a trainers room after the game wondering what his name is, where he is, or deal with the incredible migraines that come in the post concussive state.  

With all that said, one of the things I happened across when I became involved in using exogenous ketones was the fact that the brain uses ketones in a very preferable way for fuel.  

So what's the tie in here, you ask? 

During a TBI, glucose metabolism is depressed.  

Mild traumatic brain injury results in depressed cerebral glucose uptake: An (18)FDG PET study.



Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in humans and rats induces measurable metabolic changes, including a sustained depression in cerebral glucose uptake. However, the effect of a mild TBI on brain glucose uptake is unclear, particularly in rodent models. This study aimed to determine the glucose uptake pattern in the brain after a mild lateral fluid percussion (LFP) TBI. Briefly, adult male rats were subjected to a mild LFP and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose ((18)FDG), which was performed prior to injury and at 3 and 24 h and 5, 9, and 16 days post-injury. Locomotor function was assessed prior to injury and at 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 days after injury using modified beam walk tasks to confirm injury severity. Histology was performed at either 10 or 21 days post-injury. Analysis of function revealed a transient impairment in locomotor ability, which corresponds to a mild TBI. Using reference region normalization, PET imaging revealed that mild LFP-induced TBI depresses glucose uptake in both the ipsilateral and contralateral hemispheres in comparison with sham-injured and naïve controls from 3 h to 5 days post-injury. Further, areas of depressed glucose uptake were associated with regions of glial activation and axonal damage, but no measurable change in neuronal loss or gross tissue damage was observed. In conclusion, we show that mild TBI, which is characterized by transient impairments in function, axonal damage, and glial activation, results in an observable depression in overall brain glucose uptake using (18)FDG-PET.



http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2652873/

In contrast to dietary approaches to re-establish TBI-induced deficiencies in brain metabolites, diets have also been used to replace or redirect essential brain substrates. TBI-induced impairments of the glucose metabolic machinery may make glucose a less favorable energy substrate. In fact, hyperglycemia has been long associated with poor outcome after TBI. Early administration of glucose after severe TBI suppresses ketogenesis, increases insulin and increases lactic acid production (Robertson et al., 1991). TBI patients who were fasted or maintained on a ketogenic-like diet to minimize hyperglycemia showed significantly lower plasma glucose and lactate concentrations, elevated ß-hydroxybutyrate levels and better urinary nitrogen balance compared to standard fed patients (Ritter et al., 1996). Similar plasma substrate changes were observed with 24-hr starvation in the adult rodent after controlled cortical impact injury. The fasted animals showed significant cortical tissue preservation, improved cognitive outcome and improved mitochondria bioenergetics (Davis et al., 2008).


As I've had to read through all of these very, very scientific/medical studies, what I learned was that post TBI there is an immediate but transient elevation in cerebral glucose metabolism, followed by a prolonged period of glucose metabolic depression. The brain is metabolically flexible. So it has to ability to tab into various fuels for different needs.

For example, during fasting (not starvation, but fasting!) two thirds of the brain fuel is derived from ketones. The rest come from lactate, pyruvate, amino-acids, glycerol and other gluconeogenic precursors.

Post TBI, we have seen in studies on rats (and humans) that there is a tremendous demand for energy to restore homeostasis. To repeat myself, there is a depression in glucose metabolism during this period. Meaning, the brain cannot use glucose as needed in order to meet the demands required for said repair. This is something seen in studies over and over again.  

So where does it try to derive fuel from? 

Apparently, lactate and ketones.

TBI-induced impairments of the glucose metabolic machinery may make glucose a less favorable energy substrate.

But what I found interesting, is that the brain had no problem using ketones and lactate as the fuel sources to help return it to homeostasis, and that the ketones also had neuroprotective effects after a TBI had occured.


Whether ketosis is achieved by starvation or administration of a ketogenic diet, the common underlying conditions of low plasma glucose in the presence of an alternative substrate (ketones) have consistently shown neuroprotective effects after various types of brain injury.

Allow me to lead you down a rabbit hole for just a second, but I promise I'll round you back to the main point in all of this eventually.  


A dietary therapy for pediatric epilepsy known as the ketogenic diet has seen a revival in its clinical use during the past decade. Although the underlying mechanism of the diet remains unknown, modern scientific approaches, such as the genetic disruption of glucose metabolism, are allowing for more detailed questions to be addressed. Recent work indicates that several mechanisms may exist for the ketogenic diet, including disruption of glutamatergic synaptic transmission, inhibition of glycolysis, and activation of ATP-sensitive potassium channels. Here, we describe on-going work in these areas that is providing a better understanding of metabolic influences on brain excitability and epilepsy.

I bolded that part for a reason.  Because it is related to the cascading issues that come with brain injuries.  

Glycolysis and TBI - 

The postinjury period of glucose metabolic depression is accompanied by adenosine triphosphate decreases, increased flux of glucose through the pentose phosphate pathway, free radical production, activation of poly-ADP ribose polymerase via DNA damage, and inhibition of glyceraldehyde dehydrogenase (a key glycolytic enzyme) via depletion of the cytosolic NAD pool. Under these post-brain injury conditions of impaired glycolytic metabolism, glucose becomes a less favorable energy substrate. Ketone bodies are the only known natural alternative substrate to glucose for cerebral energy metabolism. While it has been demonstrated that other fuels (pyruvate, lactate, and acetyl-L-carnitine) can be metabolized by the brain, ketones are the only endogenous fuel that can contribute significantly to cerebral metabolism.

ATP and TBI - 


http://dmm.biologists.org/content/6/6/1307

Glucose is the primary fuel source of the adult brain and its processing through the glycolytic pathway provides carbons for the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle for energy production in the form of ATP. 

Comparison of glucose metabolic changes in TBI between different age groups within the pediatric population, or a comparison between adults and children, has not yet been made in humans. Regardless of age, the prolonged glucose metabolic depression reflects a period of time during which glucose uptake into the brain is compromised. This could cause downstream negative effects if the energy demands of the brain are not sufficiently met.


Pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) is the enzyme that connects the glycolytic pathway to the mitochondrial TCA cycle. Phosphorylation of the E1 subunit of PDH, which inhibits PDH function and therefore carbon entry into the mitochondria, has been shown to occur at a higher frequency than normal at 24 hours after CCI injury (Xing et al., 2009). These TBI-induced alterations in glycolytic enzyme functioning ultimately decrease the ability of glucose to be efficiently processed for oxidative metabolism, and thereby contribute to the post-TBI energy crisis, reflected by reductions in ATP production (see poster, panel D).




Free radicals and inflammation - 

The other issue involving TBI is the increase in both inflammation, and free radicals.  


In addition to increasing ATP production while reducing oxygen consumption, ketone body metabolism can also reduce production of damaging free radicals [14,16,48]. The semiquinone of Q, the half reduced form, spontaneously reacts with oxygen and is the major source of mitochondrial free radical generation [14,51]. Oxidation of the Q couple reduces the amount of the semiquinone form thus decreasing superoxide production [14]. Since the cytosolic free NADP+/NADPH concentration couple is in near equilibrium with the glutathione couple, ketone body metabolism will increase the reduced form of glutathione thus facilitating destruction of hydrogen peroxide [14]. The reduction of free radicals through ketone body metabolism will also reduce tissue inflammation provoked by reactive oxygen species. Thus, ketone bodies are not only a more efficient metabolic fuel than glucose, but also possess anti-inflammatory potential.

Ok so where am I going with all of this?

First off, despite the fact that death via TBI is a major issue in this country, and a major issue in contact sports, believe it or not it's not at the forefront of research in regards to finding the most effective therapeutic solutions for it.  

What we have, for the most part, is a lot of research done on rats, and some research done on humans.  This is quite puzzling to me because TBI is, once again, a major cause of death in the world.  

But even if someone doesn't die, the amount of damage done after repeated bouts of TBI like in Rugby, boxing, football, hockey, etc means that those athletes tend to live an exceptionally poor quality of life after sports. With many, such as Jovan and Seau actually resorting to suicide.  

I'm not saying that exogenous ketones will fix all the problems associated with TBIs.  But if you look at the fact that they reduce free radicals, reduce inflammation, and provide the brain with a more preferred fuel source while glucose metabolism is depressed, then I can't understand for the life of me why more people who are responsible for the health and well being of our pro athletes aren't at least including exogenous ketones as part of dietary therapy for their players who have or do suffer from brain injuries.  

What we're currently doing is not working.  And when you add up what evidence we do have, I do see promise in regards to the inclusion of exogenous ketones as part of therapy to help players suffer minimal damage in the post TBI stages.  

Or they can just keep feeding them prescription pills from big pharma.  That's clearly working.  /sarcasm.

If you want to learn more about exogenous ketones..........


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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The modalities of training efficiently


Specific goal prioritization - Decide on one thing

Wanting to squat more weight and wanting bigger quads are not the same goal.  Squatting more weight might not even be an efficient means to that end.  And yet so many guys that say they are interested in growing get caught up in the trap that if they aren't hitting PR's at every training session, that they weren't stimulating growth, or getting better.

Strength and hypertrophy are more like, distant cousins than identical twins.  Basically there are some connective ideologies but there's also a lot of things that make them very dissimilar.  I mean ping pong is called table tennis but I doubt Serena Williams is going to challenge any Olympic level ping pong players.

Training for maximal strength in order to grow is a lot like trying to get better at tennis in order to be better at ping pong.  Yeah, you might find some carryover but for the most part you're not maximizing what is most effective.

A good example of this would be someone who say, does distance running.  They might throw in some track work intervals once a week or twice a month, but the majority of their training is built around doing the things needed to get better at distance running.  That's because whatever it is you are trying to maximize with training has to be geared towards maximal responses.

Strength training has a large neurological base associated with it.  Training for size, does not.

One can actually train with relatively low intensities (as little as 30% of 1RM) and stimulate growth via muscle protein synthesis.  But you cannot develop maximal strength at loads that low.

There's at least a dozen other things I could write out that separate training for strength vs size, from training frequency, to volume, to how the movements are even executed, but without doing that I am just going to say that your training should always be focused on a singular goal to achieve as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

If you are training for strength, training for strength.  Do not plan on getting "ripped" at this time.  There might be some growth as a side effect, but again it absolutely will not be maximized because training for maximal strength is not training for maximal growth.  Generally this means training in low to moderate rep ranges using intensities between (give or take) 75-90%.  Volume can be waved throughout periodized blocks all depending on where the intensity zone is being utilized at the present time.  Training should be centered around being explosive, refining technique and motor patterns and not generating fatigue through training to failure.

If you are in a fat loss stage, then muscle retention is a priority.  That means you must give your body a reason to hold on to the amount of lean tissue it is currently in possession of, while using your diet and probably some form of conditioning to put yourself into a hypocaloric state.  This means you should still train hard, but understand two things - neither increased mass (you cannot get big and ripped at the same time) nor increased strength should be counted on at this time.

If  you are training for maximal growth, then (obviously) you will have to have an excess of calories coming in to support the growth process.  Training should reflect the fact that you are training for maximal growth via efficient training modalities like increased time under tension.  Emphasis should be placed on putting the muscles into fully lengthened and shortened positions (through various movement selection) and generating as much tension as possible on the muscles you are trying to work.  Generally speaking this also means rep ranges of 8-20 or possibly even more.  Generating fatigue in some fashion (where failure is hit, or something close to failure is achieved) is also highly desired as well.

As you can see, whatever phase you feel like you need to concentrate on, they have very different approaches in order to maximize efficiency.  Of course, none of these are completely set in stone or are "rock hard facts" but through both anecdotal evidence and what we've seen through research these are solid starting guidelines for most.



Cognizant selection - Know why you are doing what you are doing

A training program or methodology is generally made  up of a myriad of properties.  And you should be able to answer the questions under each one without hesitation.

Training volume.

Why are you using X amount of sets?

Training frequency.

Why are you training Y number of times per week?

Training intensity (both perceived effort and percentage of 1 rep max).

Why are you using certain loading in  your training or training with a certain RPE?

Movement selection.

Why are you performing each movement in the manner that you are?

Rep range (which could also fall under the volume umbrella).

Why are you using certain rep ranges for both warm ups, and working sets?

Movement execution.

Why are you performing each movement in the manner that you are?

For every single part of your training, you should have a clear understanding of what you are doing what you are doing.  Why you are training X number of days per week, why you are doing your chosen rep range, why you are using Y amount of volume, and why you are using certain training intensities.

All of these variables should be defined by you for very specific reasons.  Even to the point of having variation within training sessions built on how you feel for the day.  For example, if you got very little sleep or nutrition was sub par for the day (or the day before) or you're just generally feeling very under the weather, then "going for it" on such a day is probably not a good idea.

Being aware of your own natural recovery rhythms is a huge factor in sustaining progress.  Getting injured because you refused to deviate from a plan that called for you to do a max set of 10 reps on bench press, when you could "feel" things were off that day, means you refused to leave your training ego at the door.

This too means you know why you are pulling back on training intensity for the day.  So you backed off because you knew you your body was not going to be capable of putting forth a significant amount of effort.  This is not an excuse to be lazy.  It simply means that you're aware that the nitro button shouldn't be pushing during a time when the engine was sounding clunky.

This is where so many people lose out on months, years, potentially a decade or more of productive training.  Because they often just copy what someone else is doing without ever questioning why they themselves are doing it and/or never learn what would be best for them.  Copying what someone else is doing means  you've decided to put your logical reasoning to the side and just be a training zombie.
I'm not saying you can't borrow something from someone else that does in fact work well for you, but using wholesale routines "because that big dude trains that way" doesn't make a lot of sense.  You're not that big dude.  And he probably didn't become that big dude training the way he does now.

One of the most important aspects of creating an efficient training program or ideology that paves a faster way to goal actualization is to breakdown every facet of what you're doing, and identify the reasoning for it.

If you cannot answer the questions provided, then take some time to think about it until you can.  Then start to apply the answers in your own training, and see what it produces.


Individual bias - What resonates with you

Perhaps the single most important factor in regards to training efficiently, or shall we say, maximizing results, is to embrace what resonates with you.

Some people will find that some sort of DUP or block methodology will really appeal to them.  And some won't.  Some people will love training lower volume with brutal all out intensity techniques.  And some will prefer a much higher degree of volume in their training, avoiding failure all together.

Despite all the studies you will ever read, the one thing none of them can take into account is what resonates with each individual.  In regards to pretty much everything.  That's life, and training.

Some people like cats.  Some people like dogs.  Some like both.  Some don't like either.

If you asked each person their reasoning for such, you'd likely get some simple answers as to why, but believe it or not, most of those things are just surface level responses and the majority of people cannot really tell you the deep meaning of why they gravitate towards certain things in life.  They know they do, and they have their own answers, but they cannot explain to you why they like "red headed women".

"Because I'm attracted to them."

Yes, that's a really surface level answer, but truthfully people can't really tell you the why behind their answers.  And let's be clear, with everything in life you don't have to.  The person who loves country music, and hates metal can't tell you why they do.  They just do.  And vice versa.  Again, one person may say "it's all a bunch of screaming I can't understand" or the metal guy may say "country sucks because it's a bunch of whining."

Again, surface level answers.

People can't really answer the "why" to those answers.

"Why don't you like all that screaming in metal music?"

"Because I don't."

To them, that's enough.  And it is.  No one has to justify their reasoning for their preferences.  But there tends to be reasons deeper than "I do/don't like..." certain things.  But I'm not a psychologist and I don't intend to ask  you about your relationship with your mom/dad or your childhood fears.

Training is no different.  People are going to gravitate towards certain training "styles" because it speaks to them and they enjoy it.  There's probably a deeper reason "why" to all of that, but I can't answer those things for every person.  Some people are more analytical in their approach to things, and like structure.  Some people gravitate towards a more haphazard brutality style approach and tend to often live their life with a bit more edge to it as well.

That's just my own observations and is in no way factual.  I'm just never surprised when I have a chance to get to know someone personally, what training style they tend to favor.  It's almost always a reflection of the actual person I know.

But here's the thing.  You will be the most consistent with whatever training program resonates with you the most.  Even if the training program is sub-par in some aspects, if you're applying it will consistency and exceptional effort, then results will manifest themselves in some way.

Dieting is no different.  People have been debating low fat/low carb for fat loss for decades now and there have been a zillion studies done with each side trying to prove one is more effective than the other.  When the fact is, the most effective one, is the one someone can use on a consistent basis because they enjoy it (I mean to whatever degree you can REALLY enjoy dieting).  From satiation to food selection, people will be more likely to stick to the diet that for whatever surface level reasons, resonate with them.


Conclusion - 

These three things are basically the pyramid or trinity or trifecta in regards to outlining a complete training/diet strategy to reach your goals the fastest.  Within each of these there is of course, a complicated set of questions and answers that you must ask, and be willing to answer.  Once  you can effectively "fill in the blanks" to all of that, you'll be well on your way to smashing through roadblocks and understanding how to apply the things that best suit you and your individual needs.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

And not a single mountain was ever climbed......


There is an idiom most often used to describe people as pessimists or optimists.  

And it's commonly "glass is half full" or "glass is half empty".

I try not to use absolutes in my life now.  By that I mean, the words and phrases "never" "always" "all the time", etc.  Because for the most part, they are rarely true (see, I had to be careful right there not to say they are "never" true).  

The reason why is because using absolutes distorts our perception about how true a situation really is, or isn't.  

And most people are not always half-full or half-empty types "all the time".  We tend to see the liquid in the glass quite differently based on different situations in our life.  

When we are in a glass-is-half-empty state, we tend to over analyze every word, action, and reaction involved in whatever situation is plaguing us.  We do this, I believe, because we often find ourselves at a crossroad in our life that requires us to make a decision that we feel like will be life impacting.  That once we take that step off the proverbial cliff, we accept that we are in a free fall and have no idea what our landing is going to be like.  It would be nice to know well ahead of time that a mountain of cotton is at the bottom, just waiting to cushion our fall.  But we can't know that.  And depending on where our mindset is at in the time of that free fall, we either envision said mountain of cotton (glass is half full), or envision razor sharp rocks (half empty) that are going to slice us into bits and disembowel us.  Even worse is that we don't die from it.  We just get split wide open and lie there bleeding eternally in a lake of our own blood and pain, metaphorically speaking, and think "this is going to be my life."  Pain, misery, anguish, and suffering.....eternally.  

Now that's a rosy ass picture I just painted, let me tell you.

But that is rarely the case.  If ever.  Yeah, I used an absolute there (sort of, I did add the "if") because I think I'm ok in saying that at some point, the misery does end.  At least for a while before life presents us with a new set of circumstances that will require us to make a choice to have faith in yet another free fall.



Most of the time, life gives us a bit of both, however.  The razors and the cotton.  

Generally speaking, taking big risks and big decisions usually means getting split wide open for a while until we find ourselves in emotional comfort.  Or we get comfortable being uncomfortable.  And there's good and bad in that as well.  Sometimes we aren't aware of how unbearable the discomfort is until something awakens us to it.  

I heard a story about a woman a few years ago who, by all accounts had a fairly good life.  That is, until her husband died.  Now I know what you're thinking at this point.  It all went into the shitter for her at that point.  But actually, it was the opposite.  Once she was unshackled from the chains of the discomfort she had grown so used to in that marriage, her life blossomed and she began doing all the things she had ever wanted to do in her life, but was never free to explore.  The person who was closest to her said of it all "it was a bizarre duality of joy and complete sadness.  Joy, to see her with the ability to feel free to explore who she wanted to be, and what she wanted out of life without limits, without reservations, without oppression.  And sad at the same time, that she let so many years get washed away by not finding the strength to actually make the choice to free herself from that emotional slavery."  

People can and do willingly chain themselves to life draining situations for sometimes illogical and inexplicable reasons.  Or let me rephrase, illogical to everyone else from the outside looking in.

I can't read minds, and I do my best not to speak for others, but in the time I've spent on this Earth, and in my own experience in life, most of us end up in those prisons because we are paralyzed by the fear of change.  

Exceptionally cliche thing to write, I'm aware.  But cliches exist for a reason.  They exist because most of us live some sort of the same situations throughout life, just painted with slightly different colors and patterns.  One person's mauve is another person's thistle. 

The paralyzing effect in people's life isn't just fear, but habit.  

The FBI's database shows that about 8% of people who are taken hostage end up developing Stockholm syndrome.

If you don't know what that is, I can enlighten you.......


Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon described in 1973 in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.


Essentially, there is a sort of illogical bonding that happens in spite of the fact that the person being held hostage is in fact being abused by their captors.  Symptoms include but are not limited to.....


  • Positive feelings by the prisoner toward the captor.
  • Negative feelings by the prisoner toward his or her family, friends or authorities attempting any rescue.
  • Support for the captor's reasons and behaviors.
 
The most common thought behind the development of these irrational and illogical thoughts come back to one of the two things that we as humans, are designed for, physiologically.

1.  To procreate.
2.  To survive. 

It's #2 that psychologists agree on (for the most part) that causes this phenomenon.  In essence, self preservation.  

Once the hostage is in the clutches of the abductor, they are isolated from the outside world.  Everything now, in regards to survival, is dependent on that relationship.  The longer the abduction goes on, the more reliant the hostage becomes.  Their life depends on it.  So there is a shift in their mental and emotional state that creates a coping mechanism.  Most of us do in fact develop coping mechanisms for physical, emotional, and mental stress in our life.

Hell, let's go ahead and break the rules here and use an absolute (shit I'm breaking that rule all over the place in this article).  We ALL develop coping mechanisms for the hostage situations we have in our life.  Whatever they may be, we will find a way to cope.  It may be healthy, or unhealthy, but it will happen.  

Unfortunately, as I've seen all too often, people that become aware of such issues and find themselves lying on a therapist's couch, end up trying to fix all the coping mechanisms, rather than addressing what's actually causing them.  This should make sense, if you understand how the world of therapy and therapists can and is often filled with people who don't desire you to get off that couch.

I read an article a while back, which I cannot seem to find now so I will have to paraphrase, where the author (who is a therapist) was railing on the entire field of therapy because people should not find themselves in therapy for weeks, months, or years.  I'm not talking about things like drug addiction or such, I'm talking about getting through normal, yet difficult life situations.

Her stance?  Make a fucking choice.  

That's it.  That's all.  

And her problem with most of the people working in the field of therapy was that it wasn't their desire to help these people make a choice.  Her pet peeve was the common question asked by therapists to their patients.

"Well how does that make you feel?"

Her retort was basically, "this is fucking stupid.  I already know how it makes them feel because they told me.  So my question back to them was "and what are you going to do about it?""

Her success rate was pretty high.  Her style of counseling was to essentially force people to recognize the root of the problem, rather than worrying about the coping mechanisms, then make a choice to change the actual problem.  To get them to actually say what they needed to change, then actually act on it.  To understand what their control in life was, and to seize it, and make it work for them.  To stop waiting for things to "magically change".  To stop trying to put band-aids on the problem by addressing the coping mechanisms and to actually kill those off, by making a choice to change what was causing them.

Her average number of therapy sessions per client? 

Two.

In other words, "shit or get off the fucking pot."  Amazing that she was smart enough to go to school all those years and arrive at a saying most of us already knew, but have trouble applying.

The problem is, most people really do already know the answer, but don't have the courage to break away from their metaphorical or real life in-person captors.

People stay shackled to jobs, marriages, friendships, and all sorts of shit in life because of fear, habit, and the development of an ideology that their self preservation is dependent upon these things existing.  In other words, they can't imagine their life without those things in place.  No matter how bad or horrible or shitty they may be.  No different than the hostage.

How many people have you ever known that were in a life sucking relationship but would not get out of it?  

The most common answer as to why, that I've ever heard is "well I love them."  To those people, I don't think they understand the concept of what that word means.  And it can mean a lot of things.  But I don't often associate love with destruction or the tearing down of someone in a way that lessens them.  I mean wiki told me this.......

Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection ("I love my mother") to pleasure ("I loved that meal"). It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment.  It can also be a virtue representing human kindness, compassion, and affection—"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another". It may also describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one's self or animals.

I mean just borrow from that..........

"I loved that meal".

Pretty sure no one has ever said that while gagging on a food their taste buds rejected like your intestines rejects Chipotle (and while you may love Chipotle, your intestines usually do not).

This isn't to say that you don't love that person.  But it shouldn't be reason, the sole reason, you keep arriving at to stay in that state of Stockholm syndrome with them.  There's been enough articles written about toxic relationships on the net that you could have found a few and come to the conclusion if you happened to be in one or not, and found the courage to get out of it.  Why on Earth would you waste another minute of your life in something that consistently takes more than it gives back?  

Wait.  That's how Casinos stay in business.  But I digress.  Even then, people end up in therapy for gambling because they watch their life crumble due to their "love" of gambling.  Everyday that you stay in a relationship with someone you "love" that causes you to empty out your emotional bank account, the closer you get to being broke(en).  And once that happens, just like in gambling, you will have to take a long hard look at your own self worth.  

Ugh.  This article is really uplifting isn't it?

I've worked with people who bitched daily about the jobs we were in.

"I hate this fucking job so much."

"Well go get another one."

"Well rabble rabble mumble mumble....stuff, things, you know."

I get it.  Change is fucking hard.  We like routine.  We like habits.  We wouldn't have habits if they weren't habits!   Get your mind around that for a while.  But routine and habits that cause us to be hostages is no way to go through life.  I mean that's really deep (sarcasm) and should be on a Pinterest meme somewhere with a chick walking on the beach in the background, but at the core of it, the message still rings true.

And it's not until that moment, that epiphany, that paradigm shift that happens that causes our eyes to be wide open to it all, and creates pause long enough to let fear sink in that maybe, possibly, probably....we need to make a change.  We need to step a step off that ledge, and embrace that free fall.  That whatever comes with that decision, fuck it, we will deal with it.  Cotton or razors, cut open or cushy, I'm making a choice to change things.  

No one ever climbed a single mountain by just looking at it.  Not one person.  Ever.  Yes, I used a few absolutes there because that is an undeniable truth.  



You will never ever climb a single mountain just by standing at the foot of it.   And life can't improved by living in self imposed victimhood.  Choosing to change things to accept happiness is not selfish.  And a lot of people in your life that you may have to remove to find happiness, may tell you that you're being selfish.  Most of the time, those are your captors.  The ones you've been so reliant on.  The ones who have shackled you and imprisoned you and made you believe that your self preservation depends on them.  

It doesn't.  

Empowerment is something people can find if they are willing to embrace change.  If they are willing to embrace that fall.  If they are willing to go through the myriad of pains life will bring with change.

But the journey up that mountain has to start with the first step.  The free fall has to start with that first step.  

Every major change starts with that one first step.  That one usually proves to be the hardest.  And if you're ever to find  yourself in a place where you carved out the life you really wanted, you'll look back and realize that step was indeed the hardest, but absolutely the most important one.


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Friday, July 15, 2016

The competitor and keto/os


The last year I've been involved with a company that distributes exogenous ketones called keto/os designed by Pruvit.

Like most supplements, and rightly so, they have undergone a lot of scrutiny and lashing across the net for being the product of an MLM based company.

I myself was very reluctant to get involved for those exact reasons and it took me a long time to get on board with it all because I am a skeptic by heart.  Especially when it comes to supplements.

I wrote an article before outlining how I ended up buying in and I will link it here.

One of the common misconceptions about using exogenous ketones is that you need to be on a ketogenic diet in order to use them.  The only reason I feel like people can arrive at such a conclusion is just because of the fact that the supplement is in fact a ketone itself.  Beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

The entire point of using an exogenous ketone (exogenous meaning it comes from outside the body, where endogenous means from inside the body) is to get the benefits that ketones provide without actually having to get into a state of ketosis.  In other words, you can have your carbs and derive the benefits you get from that ketone BHB itself.

To be completely up front, I am not a fan of ketogenic diets.  Or let me state, not from an athletic or muscle building standpoint.  And I will tell you why.

Carbohydrates have a protein sparing effect in regards to the fact that the keep the body from using amino acids through the process known as gluconeogenesisto create glucose.

In the absence of glucose, gluconeogenesis essentially robs Peter to pay Paul.  If someone is interested in growing as much lean tissue as possible, then robbing muscle of the very building blocks needed to grow is not a great idea.  Let us also not forget that carbohydrates serve as a catalyst for the pancreas to secrete insulin, which is responsible for reducing muscle protein breakdown.

Yet at the same time, there's actually no such thing as an "essential carbohydrate".

We have essential amino acids, the ones that cannot be created by the body and must be found through food or supplementation. Those being histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

And we have essential fatty acids, Omega-3 and Omega-6.  Just like the 9 essential amino acids, these cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained through diet.

In fact, as we break down what the essentials are by the body, you actually won't find carbohydrates in the list anywhere.

- Water.  Without water well, you die.
- Essential amino acids
- Essential fatty acids
- Vitamins and minerals
- Trace minerals

The only knock here is that reducing your diet to protein and fats is said by some to cause deficiencies in some of the areas listed above.  Potentially potassium, zinc, selenium, and vitamin D.  However let's be clear about something here - if  your diet doesn't contain a variety of foods in it then regardless of the "style" of dieting you choose,  you'll end up deficient in something somewhere. So even if you decide that a keto diet is right for you, make sure to do your homework in regards to food selection so that you have your bases covered as thoroughly as possible from this standpoint.

With all of that said, from both an athletic performance standpoint and muscle building standpoint, carbs really are king, but only when working in conjunction in a synergistic way with proteins and fats.  You need an optimum supply of all three macros in order to either grow muscle, or perform athletically at a high level.  Carbs supply an immediate and "cheap" source of energy that is easily converted into ATP which is the driver for fast and explosive muscular contractions.

So while carbs may not be "essential" their role in regards to sports performance and building muscle cannot be overstated.

So where in the hell does that bring us back to in regards to exogenous ketones?

Those on keto diets and those not - 

Well this one shouldn't be too hard to figure out.  Anyone that decides to implement a keto diet, which has been proven to be an excellent choice for rapid fat loss, can use the exogenous ketones to achieve a high rate of ketosis in that state.

But what about those who either subscribe to a higher carbohydrate diet, or someone just going low carb for the sake of fat loss, either for physique competition or just using a low carb/high fat paradigm to shed more fat?

I'm glad you asked.  Or maybe you didn't.  But here you are, reading this tripe anyway.

The brain uses about 120 grams of glucose a day (give or take).  When the body is low on glucose, such as in a state of low carb dieting, the brain competes with the glucose supply for normal functioning.

Anyone who has ever done a contest diet should understand the manifestations of this quite well.  When someone is only ingesting 50-150 grams of carbs a day, then training, then doing cardio, there's not a lot of that "cheap energy" to tap into.  When I was in contest prep and carbs were at an all time low, I had times where I had no idea where I was driving to or what my cats name was anymore.

If you doubt the impact on glucose availability for proper brain function, have a lookie at this guy here......

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21636015

Previous research has found that the ingestion of glucose boosts task performance in the memory domain (including tasks tapping episodic, semantic, and working memory). The present pilot study tested the hypothesis that glucose ingestion would enhance performance on a test of prospective memory. In a between-subjects design, 56 adults ranging from 17 to 80 years of age performed a computerized prospective memory task and an attention (filler) task after 25 g of glucose or a sweetness-matched placebo. Blood glucose measurements were also taken to assess the impact of individual differences on glucose regulation. After the drink containing glucose, cognitive facilitation was observed on the prospective memory task after excluding subjects with impaired fasting glucose level. Specifically, subjects receiving glucose were 19% more accurate than subjects receiving a placebo, a trend that was marginally nonsignificant, F₁,₄₁ = 3.4, P = .07, but that had a medium effect size, d = 0.58. Subjects receiving glucose were also significantly faster on the prospective memory task, F₁,₃₅ = 4.8, P < .05, d = 0.6. In addition, elevated baseline blood glucose (indicative of poor glucose regulation) was associated with slower prospective memory responding, F₁,₃₅ = 4.4, P < .05, d = 0.57. These data add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that both memory and executive functioning can benefit from the increased provision of glucose to the brain.


To clear this up, once you remove carbs, brain function drops if there is not an alternative source for improving cognition.

Now when I write "remove carbs" I'm talking about low carbohydrate diets, and not ketogenic diets.  The brain cannot use fatty acids for fuel.  [1]Fatty acids do not serve as fuel for the brain, because they are bound to albumin in plasma and so do not traverse the blood-brain barrier. In starvation, ketone bodies generated by the liver partly replace glucose as fuel for the brain.  So if someone is going low carb, but not in a ketogenic state, then essentially brain cognition is going to be in the shitter.

Ketosis can only happen once your body no longer as the ability to draw upon glucose for a fuel source, and then a switch in the metabolic pathways happens so that ketones can be used instead of glucose.  The process here is that fat gets broken down in the liver, and glycerol and fatty acid molecules are released.  Ketogensis happens, then and a ketone body called acetoacetate which is then converted into BHB and acetone.  Acetone is the one that makes your breath smell like you've been feasting on the flesh of rotting corpses in a truck stop bathroom.

BHB however, is quite amazing.

The therapeutic uses for ketogenic diets have been documented quite thoroughly, like right here....

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11569918

Surprisingly, D-beta-hydroxybutyrate (abbreviated "betaOHB") may also provide a more efficient source of energy for brain per unit oxygen, supported by the same phenomenon noted in the isolated working perfused rat heart and in sperm. It has also been shown to decrease cell death in two human neuronal cultures, one a model of Alzheimer's and the other of Parkinson's disease. These observations raise the possibility that a number of neurologic disorders, genetic and acquired, might benefit by ketosis.


But to expound on BHB, is in fact the preferred fuel source by the brain.  But even more than that, BHB appears to suppress brain glucose function.  Yah, this was done on rats, but I will follow up with some people stuff after this as well........

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874681/

It is hypothesized that ketone bodies play a neuroprotective role through an improvement in metabolic efficiency, by sparing glucose, and the degradation of muscle-derived amino acids for substrates15. During hypoxia, ketone bodies have been shown to be neuroprotective16,17 by depressing glucose uptake and CMRglu possibly due to metabolic bocks as a result of oxidative damage. Ketone bodies are thought to stabilize the lactate/pyruvate ratio and bypass the metabolic blocks associated with oxidative stress induced impairment of glucose metabolism.

So over the last many months, what I've seen with competitors who are in a very depleted carbohydrate state is this very thing when they added in the ketones during those times.

And while it's true that the brain draws upon different fuels for function, a brain trying to run on trace amounts of glucose that is being constantly depleted through cardio and training will be a brain that isn't working all that well.

So as I dispersed this product out to competitors in a state of severe carbohydrate depletion, they all kept coming back amazed at what happened.  Brain fog gone, the ability to generate hard mind to muscle contractions during training had returned, and the feeling of death washing over them every hour of the day was gone.  Or at least, for the hours that the exogenous ketones were running through their system.  

This didn't happen once, or twice, or even three times.  It happened with every competitor that ended up using the product.  

When the brain cannot draw upon enough glucose for efficient functioning and the ketones are implemented, it now has a fuel source that it actually prefers.  Especially in the times when the body is depleted of glucose.  


In summary, this is the first study directly showing acute utilization of BHB in human brain. The concentration of tissue BHB is in agreement with earlier acute hyperketonemic (nonfasted) data, with concentrations of brain BHB quite low. At the plasma levels of 2.25 ± 0.24 mmol/L BHB, the appearance of the 13C label into the brain and into the amino acid pools is rapid, reaching a steady state for Glu4 and Gln4 at fractional enrichments of 6.78 ± 1.71% and 5.64 ± 1.84%, respectively. The distribution of label resembles that of glucose, consistent with the view that BHB is metabolized primarily within the large neuronal compartment. Modeling the glutamate and glutamine steady-state fractional enrichments based on a single compartment gives oxidative rates of BHB of 0.032 ± 0.009 mmol kg−1 min−1 that are consistent with whole brain human brain measurements made earlier using AV difference methods. Analysis of aspartate labeling is consistent with the view that in these compartments of BHB consumption, aspartate and glutamate are not equally distributed. We anticipate that information gained from these BHB studies will contribute towards defining the extent of BHB accumulation and the metabolic contributions that are not glucose dependent, which may be helpful towards understanding and managing clinical situations where glucose is not readily available, for example, the ketogenic diet and hypoglycemia.

^ and the above is exactly what competitors are often dealing with, and why it is they see such dramatic results when implementing keto/os as part of their competition cycle.  And it's exactly what happened to me when I hit the "wall" in prep for my show as well.  

But even if you're not a competitor, or do enjoy a diet rich in the delights from places like the Cheesecake factory or Olive garden, the benefits of BHB go far beyond that of just supplying the brain with an amazing fuel source.  From appetite suppression to its very well documented anti-inflammatory properties, it's not just a supplement to be thrown in by guys and gals trotting around on stage 95% naked.  You can still keep your clothes on and derive tremendous benefits from an overall health perspective with the inclusion of said product, and drastically improve your quality of life.

Or don't.  I don't care.  

But if you want to, try a pack out here.........



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[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22436/


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Tomato plants, weeds, and life....


This past weekend I sat in a hotel room with my brother from another mother, Fred Smalls.

Fred was getting ready for the IFBB Wings of Strength show, and I had flown in to see my friend and help him out with some final preparations.

We had a day before his wife arrived, and if you read my past article about contest prep, you know that basically you're pretty much exhausted at that point so we just sat around and talked about life, our kids, and all sorts of deep shit that I don't think women think men sit around and talk about.

I told Fred about a metaphor that had hit me a few days earlier in regards to people and life, and how some people are tomato plants, some people are weeds, and some people are the support for the tomato plants.

"Tell me what all this means." he said.

I went on to expound on my metaphor by explaining it to him like this.

If life were a garden, or specifically a field of tomato plants, then most people you know fill some sort of metaphorical role within that garden.

Tomato plants, properly watered and fertilized can grow delicious fruit, obviously.  And I'm not talking the store bought kind.  Anyone who has had farm grown tomatoes knows they don't taste like store bought tomatoes.

But a tomato plant can't grow their fruit to its fullest potential without a stake, or wire cage you can tie the plant up to as it grows.  If you don't do this, the tomato gets very heavy, and can pull limbs or the entire plant to the ground.  Potentially snapping the branches in the process.

If any of those things happens, the fruit it bore sits on the ground, and is vulnerable to various diseases that will rot away at it.  That or some animal comes along and eats it.  Point being, without the support system, the tomato plant can't grow to its fullest potential without the support system in place.

At various times in our life, we are the plant.  And in order to grow and fulfill our greatest potential, we will need a support system to do so.  One we can tie ourselves to, and keep us protected, and help keep our branches strong, and free of as many problems as possible.  A support system that will keep us off the ground, away from diseases and predators that certainly don't have our bests interests in mind, and want nothing more than for us to fall to the ground, so they can devour us or take part in helping to rotten our lives.

We aren't weak for needing that support system.  After all, with it, we have the potential to grow into something grand and magnificent.  There's nothing detracted from our ability to reach our potential because we had support to help us climb up while we did so.  Not every battle has to be fought alone.  Not every growth spurt in life has to be done in solitude.

Most of the time, it's going to take a support system for us to find our greatest potential.  The kind that will be steadfast in the rains and wind, and tie us off so that we can focus on becoming the very best version of that damned tomato plant that we can be.

With such a support system, we can not just survive, but thrive.  And bear fruit that we couldn't have done so without it.

Of course, even with that support system, we will have weeds in our life too.  And their purpose is to do nothing but try and suck as much of the nutrients out of the soil away from us as possible. Without a good gardener, another part of the support system - who cares for and loves the plants, the weeds can take over really fast.  And eventually the tomato plants can succumb to the weeds.

At various times in our life, we need a gardener.  Someone who will alleviate the weeds that rob us of our nutrients, that keep us from growing.  Someone that will tend to the soil, and prepare it for us ahead of time to make sure we are given the best chance to succeed.  Someone who will get their hands dirty for us, and get on bended knee and do laborious work with their hands so that our foundation is strong.

As kids, it will be incredibly difficult to reach our potential as adults without a strong support system in place to help us grow.  This is why, our jobs as parents is so fundamentally important for them.  We are the stake in the ground.  We are the gardener.  We are the one that is supposed to tie them to us so they feel protected and loved and taken care of.   We are the one that is supposed to work tirelessly to pull the weeds from around them so that they have their best chance to grow without succumbing to what is trying to rob them of their potential.

It doesn't mean all out protection.  The rains and wind and storms will all test both the plant, and the support system.  They need each other to thrive even without the weeds trying to overcome them.

But even as adults, we need  to find our place with the people we love and care about in regards to these things.  Sometimes we need the support, and sometimes we need to be the support.  We need to understand when we need to tie ourselves off to that support system because our problems have made our branches heavy and wary.  And we need to know when to tie our loved one off to us, so that we can be the broad shoulders they need, and the strong arms that can carry them for a while.

Most importantly, we should never find ourselves becoming weeds.  We shouldn't find ourselves sucking the life out of the people we claim to love and care about, due to feeding our selfishness.  Yes, there are times where we need to be selfish enough so that we pull away from the weeds, but that's not really being selfish as it's more about personal survival.  People can and will suck the happiness and life right out of you if you do not pluck them from the ground they are trying to overcome from you.

It's not selfish to want to grow into something that is the best version of  who you can become.  It's not selfish to want to disconnect from people who wants to tear you off that stake or your wires because they want nothing more than to see your fruit lay rotting on the ground.

It's selfish to be the weed.

After explaining all this to Fred, he simply said "I see."

Nothing more.

But we sat in silence for a few and I could see him ruminating on the whole thing.

Fred is part of my support system, and I am part of his.  We've both been there for each other throughout various struggles and sufferings and have learned how to lean on each other for issues related to both training, and life.



Family, friends, romantic partners....the relationship should represent the stake, the gardener, and the ever growing plant.  The roles should all be intertwined and interchangeable at times.

Without surrounding ourselves with people who want to be those things for us, out of nothing more than their love and desire to see us grow, then we will struggle to grow the best to our ability.  And so will they.

Be a good stake.  Be a good gardener.  Be a bad ass tomato plant too.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why we won't or can't fix the problem of obesity in America



Anytime the talk of particular age and nutritional habits come up, there's usually that ONE PERSON that chimes in with the fact that their grand-pa is 184 years old, and smokes 2 packs of camel a day and lives by drinking a gallon of bacon grease each day and eats a pound of hot dogs and is "in perfect health".

To me, the short circuit in this argument has always been obvious.

You're talking about someone that grew up in a totally different era, in a different way of life, and set a standard of health via different means than the people living now, who are either dying at a far younger age, or if they do live as long the quality of life is much lower.


According to research led by Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, Americans often have to cope with a range of medical problems during those extra years of life.

They are "not necessarily in good health", he told the Wall Street Journal.

Obesity, diabetes, kidney disease and neurological conditions like Alzheimer's are all on the rise, both in the US and in much of the developed world.

So while we can expect extra years, they may not necessarily be golden - which is itself a good reason to stay away from the pies.


However, the New England Journal of Medicine, which is made up of kinda smart people, actually don't even agree we're living longer.  As far back as 2005, they were already sizing up the fact that we are scheduled to check out earlier than most of our parents will.  


For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents, according to a new report, which contends that the rapid rise in childhood obesity, if left unchecked, could shorten life spans by as much as five years.

The report, to be published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, says the prevalence and severity of obesity is so great, especially in children, that the associated diseases and complications -- Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, cancer -- are likely to strike people at younger and younger ages.


People can debate about the actual numbers until the cows come home, but you really do not have to be a scientist or researcher to understand that technology has changed our way of life in first world countries.  

My dad is now 75 years old.  He grew up walking to school, then would come to work all day in the garden where his parents grew most of the food they ate.  They spent the winters hunting deer, and the summers fishing and working in the fields.  I think he had 4 thousand brothers and sisters, so it was basically a sweat shop for farming, hunting, and fishing.  But that's how a lot of families lived back then.  

My dad is currently around 6' and 230 pounds.  So he's not thin.  But his health is pretty darn good.  So I will be that guy.  My dad still eats like shit, and is overweight, but his health is good (watch his heart explode through his chest next week like something out of Aliens after I write this) and he's still exceptionally active.   He still works his own garden, he still hunts all winter, still goes fishing, and up until just a few years ago, he was still officiating baseball, football, volleyball, and softball games all year.  That's on two knee replacements as well.

The point is, our parents or our grandparents grew up in a time where they usually established a work ethic that became a part of their daily life.  My grandmother is still alive, 96 years old, and she still tills her own garden.  She's thinner than an ironing board, but her brain is still sharp and she's still spunky.  She might eat once or twice a day, and it's usually from her garden and livestock she has raised or someone else brought to her for meat.

When you parallel that to the generation of kids growing up now, it might as well be like they are being raised on a completely different planet.  

Kids go home now to Xbox1, play on their computers or iPhones all day, get very little time to exercise at school, and have a high level of access to calorie dense low-nutrient foods.  

But I don't even need to go back to my parents or grandparents time in order to draw such a strong contrast.  

I grew up riding my bike all summer.  Playing tackle football (without pads), pick up baseball and basketball games, and going hiking through the woods with friends.  We ate what we wanted and as much as we wanted, and still usually stayed pretty scrawny.  I miss those days.  

We didn't have access to a McDonald's and we didn't drink 1,000 calorie "coffees" from any franchise because they didn't exist.  We drank Coke here and there, ate tons of sammiches, and generally every night most of us went home to a family that cooked a very large, complete dinner that usually consisted of beef, chicken, pork, along with tons of veggies, rice, or potatoes.  

I've written a lot about obesity here, and sometimes it has caused a ruckus and sometimes....no it still did each time.  

But the fact is, society actually makes it more difficult on a lot of levels to not be obese, despite the fact that there is a constant outcry to get the obesity problem under control.  

First off, despite the fact that we are currently living in a time where crime is basically at its lowest, people are scared as shit to let their kids go outside and play alone.  Growing up, during the summer the street in front of my house was like a virtual parade of kids all summer who were on their way to "play" or just "do stuff".

The street in front of my house today?  I never see anyone, despite the fact that I know there are lots of families with kids in the 8 to 15 year old age range.  Sometimes I will see a few kids here and there that are forced to ride their bike in a 12 by 12 foot area in front of the house, lest they get kid napped immediately by the thousands of predators just waiting to throw little Johnnie into the trunk.  

I'm not minimizing anyone's pain that has lost a child to abduction here.  I cannot imagine what that would feel like.  However, the odds of your child being abducted by a stranger are about....1 in 610,000. 

This doesn't stop the fear mongering, however.  On my own facebook wall I've had parents chime in with the fact that they basically don't let their kids out of their sight for any reason ever.  And while I commend them for being responsible, in some ways helicopter parenting could be contributing to the obesity problem.  

I'll tie all this together, so just hang in there with me.

Right now, Americans work more than anyone.

We're overworked, and overstressed.  

Recent studies have painted a grim picture of the American working world: Longer days, less vacation time, and later retirement, and — and that was all during the good years of the 1990s.

The last few months have done nothing to ease those conditions, adding job insecurity to the mix as an increasing number of companies lay off workers to "downsize" in the slumping economy.

Those lucky enough to still have a job can expect to be asked to do more, to make up for the "streamlined" workforce.
Not only are Americans working longer hours than at any time since statistics have been kept, but now they are also working longer than anyone else in the industrialized world. And while workers in other countries have been seeing their hours cut back by legislation focused on preventing work from infringing on private life, Americans have been going in the other direction.



Nowadays, most kids are victims to convenience of use.  In other words, its far easier for the parent(s) to make something quick and easy for dinner, rather than actually cook a well balanced meal for the family each evening.  To add to that, because people are often working more hours and are still scraping by, food selection will often be of the cheapest variety.  Lots of processed foods and heat up dinners and pizzas can be the regular in most homes every night.  

Kids are now overburdened with mounds of homework, because apparently that's how you make them smarter.  


A Stanford researcher has found that students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance, and alienation from society.

So actually, it looks like schools are in fact doing a great job of teaching kids what life as an adult will really be like.  Too much stress, too much work, not enough time to enjoy family, socialize normally, and grow into a well rounded individual.  

I see this at expos and events I go to, where I've met people with hundreds of thousands of followers who seem perfectly normal posting online, but are socially awkward in person.  

But I'm getting off track here with that.

Right now, there's no one single answer to fixing the problem of obesity in America.  It would require a massive social and ideological shift in order for change to happen.  

Jobs would need to stop asking for 50+ hour weeks.  A huge emphasis on the importance of the nuclear family would have to be put at the forefront again (buh bye feminism), kids would need more time for activity both at school, and at home where parents would need to stop hovering over them and being overly protective.  In other words, they would need to be allowed to go outside and play unsupervised.  I know, that's crazy talk but that's how normal people used to grow up.



And emphasis on educating about food would need to be made starting at a young age by qualified individuals.  I'm against making franchises change their menu because that's wrong to me.  I'm about educating people so that they can make better choices.  

Basically, we'd need to revisit our past in some ways and think that maybe our grandparents and great grandparents generation lived as long as they have because of the dynamics they grew up in, were pretty simple.  You moved a lot, you played a lot, you worked a physical job, you went to Church on Sunday, you ate highly nutritious foods, you let your kids run around the neighborhood, and you didn't spend 30+ hours a week watching TV.

There's really no simple answer here because the complexities in "solving" the obesity problem isn't singular by any means.  It's complicated and layered in problems all the way from food selection to social habits to work, school, and family.

I don't have an answer to be honest.  Education can only solve so much.  

American needs a bit of a reboot button if it wants to fix this particular issue.  It's not a single issue vote.  And I don't think as a society, as a whole, we're going to be willing to push that particular button.  At least, not right now.  




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Friday, June 17, 2016

Earn your offseason

Ahhh, the "offseason".  A time when one can relax a bit on food selection, training intensity, and basically half ass it until it's time to get your game face on.

If that's your attitude, then you can definitely expect to fall short of your strength of physique goals when the time to "turn it on" does come around.

The offseason is actually the "onseason" in regards to improvement for the competitive strength or physique athlete.  The worst thing you can do is treat this time with a lackadaisical attitude that many approach it with once the competition is over.  I too fell into such a mentality, and realize in retrospect that I wasted many years being highly unproductive during the times between competition.

For a lot of people, once the competition is over, there is a certain amount of drive that is lost because there may not be an eye-on-the-prize at that moment.  This doesn't mean one has to get online and sign up for a competition right away.  However, if you do plan on competing again then you need to approach the offseason with the mentality that it's the most optimal time to set yourself up for success on the stage, or the platform.

There's a lot to be said for what you do with this time in comparison that you do with the time leading into competing.  Some of the issues that can, or need to be addressed in the offseason are the following....


Address weaknesses - Any muscular area that is creating a weak link either in your physique or strength movements.  The offseason is the time to put them at the forefront of training so that when competition time rolls around, this is no longer a problem.  For strength athletes that means assessing the musculature that is often the secondary or tertiary mover that is holding you back.  For the bodybuilder or physique competitor, this is where you put that lagging bodypart on the training version of a nuclear meltdown mode for a few months to bring it up to give you balance.

Once in prep, the time to do so has either passed or it will be far less efficient due to either needing the time to specialize in certain movements, or a lack of calories.  Prep time is when focus should be centered around working the movements you will perform in competition, or muscle retention while fat is stripped off for the stage.  This is not the time where energy should be taken away from those things so you can fix something you knew was broken after your last competition.

Address mobility issues - This is another assessment.  Are you immobile, or just too weak to hold a position? Everyone thinks they have mobility issues, but most often what I've seen is that it's the weaker guys that tend to have these problems more than stronger guys.  I'm not saying this is the case 100% of the time, but the guys squatting 225 often think they need to foam roll, and do 17 mobility movements in order to squat, when the fact is, they are probably just too weak to hold the proper position when executing the technique.

However, I'm not bypassing legitimate mobility issues.  So if you have one, use the offseason to address becoming more mobile in whatever area needs that attention. . This should be something that helps with injury prevention.  And injuries are probably the biggest issue in regards to setbacks that  there is.  Time spend in rehab is less time spent improving at whatever it is you are preparing for.  Again, once competition prep time comes around, this should have been taken care of.

Address technique - This is far more paramount for the strength athlete.  If you're in meet or strongman prep mode, that is not the time to be changing around technique and tweaking your movements.  That's a great way to second guess yourself on game day, and end up failing due to overthinking, or falling back into old habits that were causing you to fail.

The offseason is time that should be spent drilling technique every time you set foot in the gym.  It should be second nature by the time you are getting ready for competition.  You should have training blocks during the offseason where technique is drilled at high volume and moderate to low intensity blocks.  By the time you start getting ready for your next competition, your new and improved technique should be an afterthought.  If you're tweaking and playing around with technique during the preparation process then your focus is not where it should be.  And that is executing the movements in the manner you're going to perform them with on competition day.  If you are tweaking your squat every workout going into the competition, what squat is going to show up on game day when it's max effort or max repetitions?

Address specialization - This could essentially be the 2nd part to addressing weaknesses.  Specialization means you're going to be spending the majority of your training time working on improving musculature that is lagging or weak.

For the strength athlete that is weak off the floor in deadlifts, this is the time where they would work on quad size and strength, because that's actually what creates more power off the floor.

However I want to be clear on something here, both the strength athlete and the competitive bodybuilder should have the same goal in the offseason.  And that is, building lean muscle mass.  This is not a time for doing 1 rep maxes for YouTube likes.  Strength athletes should be doing movements that help build the musculature involved in the competitive lifts, and bodybuilders should be specializing in building muscle mass in their weak bodyparts.  It's hard to grow in a calorie deficit, and basically impossible unless you're a noob.  And it's hard to specialize with extra training days a week if you're already doing three or four big training sessions based around the competitive lifts.

Have a training block in the offseason that is designed for overall hypertrophy, but also one designed for addressing a particular bodypart that is holding your strength or physique goals back.

 Recover from injuries and implement preventative measures - Again, this could be an extension of the mobility part, except that maybe you don't need to do mobility, you just need to give the joints a break from pounding a heavily loaded bar in fixed mechanical positions for those movements.  I once had a hip injury that no matter how much I rehabbed it, got any better.  Everytime I squatted it would flare up.

I tried everything under the sun and worked with two physical therapists to fix it.  Nothing helped.  Eventually, I just stopped squatting and left it alone for a few months.  When I went back to squatting it was fine.

Part of assessment, especially when it comes  to overuse and chronic pain from training, is to be smart enough to know that you need to stop doing certain movements, and let go of the notion that you have to marry yourself to them.  There's nothing more bewildering to me than someone so stupid (ahem, me) that they won't stop doing a movement that causes them pain, because they've convinced themselves that they will shrink or lose all sorts of strength if they stop doing it each week.

If you're a very advanced lifter, and have spent years and years building a foundation, it will take all of about 2 sessions of bringing a movement back before it feels natural again.  And if you're smart, it will take all of about 4-6 weeks to be back at your baseline level of strength for it.  The body is smart, and does not forget.

This is also the time to sit down and figure out, if you can, how you ended up injured.  Is it overuse?  Stop doing it so damn much.  This whole mantra that has taken over in regards to strength that you have to do the lifts 10,293 times a week is baffling to me.  If you're playing the long game, then part of that is understanding that longevity means not putting the gas pedal to the floor all the time.  That's a great way to cut your lifting career short.  Just ask Ronnie Coleman.

Remember training gives and takes.  And the type of training you are doing, if it is extreme, will end up taking a lot more than it will give back.  If slow and steady does indeed win the race, then understanding how moderation works is imperative.  This doesn't mean not to train hard, or train heavy, or train with low volume, it means finding balance among those things that keep inching you forwards, without putting  you on the ropes later because you got silly and stupid with your training ideology.

Implement conditioning and eat properly - Once again, once people think "offseason" they can often become a sloth in regards to conditioning, and undisciplined when it comes to their habits at the dinner table.

If training in the offseason is going to be as productive as possible, then your work capacity needs to be high.  After all, this is the time when growth should be taking place due to extra calories.  If  you're gassed after a set of 5 reps on the squat, then you're short changing yourself in regards to growth.  You need to be able to recover from balls out sets within a few minutes, and do another if possible.  And possible another.  For decades 20 rep squat workouts were the staple for growth.  If you want to throw up at the mere thought of doing a set of 20 reps on squats, then what does that say about your work ethic and work capacity?  How about two sets of 20 reps?

Without some level of conditioning then doing a significant amount of volume, or doing gut busting sets is going to be a wash.  This doesn't mean you need to turn into a marathon runner at all.  But you should at the bare minimum have two or three days a week where 20 minutes of your training is dedicated to improving your work capacity through cardiovascular work.  That can be a fast paced walk, sled pulls and pushes, or sprints.  But it needs to be something.

This should also be a time where you keep your bodyfat in check, or get it in check, and implement the 90% rule in regards to whole, nutritious food.  Here's an idea - earn a cheat meal in the offseason.  Most people equate cheat meals during a dieting phase only.  But your surplus in the offseason should still be made up of whole foods and not processed garbage.  Force yourself to earn your cheat meals in the offseason as well.  I know, that's an alien concept but if you're going to diet down later on then you've used the offseason to implement the ideology that cheat meals still need to be earned.

Conclusion - The offseason in some ways is actually far more valuable and important than the time being spent just preparing for competition.  This is where you continue to work on your foundation of strength and muscle mass, implement techniques for injury prevention, address current injuries or nagging pains, address weaknesses, and set the stage for a better performance come competition time.

This is a time where you should be training as hard as possible and eating in a very disciplined manner in order to make sure those things come to fruition.  Don't treat your offseason like time off.  Use it wisely and destroy your old performance easily when it rolls back around.





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