Friday, November 27, 2009

How To Make A Shake, PRville, and Death by Ten Meters

So.  You've done a fine job crushing yourself into a heaping pile of sweat.  How does one recover from such magnificent self-destruction?  If you ask me, the answer would be food.  And I'd be right.

Without going into a whole slew of human physiology and biochemistry, after exercise, our body needs:
  • Glycogen (stored glucose) replaced that was used during exercise, and 
  • Protein to rebuild skeletal muscle broken down during said exercise.
Now in the immediate PWO (post work out) state, our body "up regulates" a couple of things.  One would be protein synthesis, for obvious reasons.  This is actually increased over a 24-36 hour period.  Also, our insulin sensitivity is REALLY increased.  And I hear you saying "So....what the hell does that mean???"

  Because we've depleted our muscle (and to an extent, our liver) glycogen, the body naturally wants to replace it; to get glucose into our muscle cells in the form of glycogen, we need 1) our cells to allow it to enter, and 2) a way to get it in there, because it' ain't an open-door policy.  Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas when carbohydrates (and protein, but we won't worry about that right now) are ingested, is like a "key" to the insulin receptors (think of these as the "door" to the cell) on our skeletal muscles.  In the PWO state, these receptors are sensitized, or up-regulated.  They work better, with less insulin.  In fact, despite countless nutritional "experts" stating you NEED to spike your insulin, you don't.  They just don't know enough about human physiology, specifically GLUT4 receptors and non-insulin mediated glucose transport.  This is in place in case we were to eat a pure fat and protein meal, which would be perfectly normal in paleolithic times.  But I digress.

Blah-blah-f-ing-blah, I know.  Coles Notes:  Sugar works better post workout.  Your muscles need it.  So eat it.  How?  PWO shake, baby!

All you need is a blender, a ripe banana, frozen fruit (I prefer a berry mix, lower GI, and higher phytonutrient content) water, and a whey protein of choice.  I added a powdered greens supplement called Greens+, but this is purely optional.  All it is is a whole-food greens supplement, once again, to up my daily phytonutrient, pro-biotic and anti-oxidant intake; it also affects pH and PRAL, but that's really neither here nor there.

Whey protein:  I like whey isolates, just based on their purity and ease of digestion.  whey protein concentrates are cheaper, protein per scoop is lower, and some folks have issues with digestion.  Hydrolyzed whey is the next step up from an isolate, but IMO (in my opinion) it ain't worth the cost-to-benefit ratio.  Plus it tastes like shit.  Even with a ton of sweetener and other garbage.

Blender:  Any will do.  That classic Osterizer has lasted longer than any of my relationships, all combined.  And it's not crazy, like 99.9% of the women I've dated.  I like that.

Macro breakdown:
      My shake is composed of about 45g carbs (30 for the banana, 15 for the berries) and 30g of protein.  The Greens+ adds a negligible amount of any macro, and the rest is water.

Suggested formula:  0.4g/kg Protein, 0.8g/kg Carb.  This is 30g Pro and 60g Carb for a 165lb person.  Which is me.  I like to go lower carb just out of pure convenience.  I used to use milk, which basically added up to the 60 (or more), but milk sucks, and unless your a damn baby on the boob, the dairy council can go to hell.  Not quite as pointless as grains, but close.  Still has it's uses (PWO, purposeful weight gain, point in case), but it's freakin' phenomenal at making people fat otherwise.

I'll follow this up with a small balanced P/C/F whole food meal within an hour or so, and then a few hours later another whole food meal, but larger.  This is the one time when multiple feedings make good sense---when your body can utilize what's being put into it.

CFLA, 1PM, Nov 27th
Low Bar Back Squat

I've been a bit of a physical wreck lately; my back, walking into the gym today, was STILL sore on the right.  I also had my MRI arthrogram on Wednesday, and had a radiologist digging into my shoulder capsule with 4" long epidural needles.  Needless to say, shit is sore.  Despite all that, today went surprisingly well, and I was in a semi-fasted state---last whole food meal was about 6:30PM last night.  Had some coffee/whey/coconut oil this AM, but that's it.

275#x3 Felt really solid
295#x3 Solid, good depth, no sketchy form at all.  10# PR  Ref Nov 11th for 285#x3
305#x1 Just to see; harder than hell, but *might* be a few more lbs in the tank here.

After this gift from the PR gods (not to be confused with the Crossfit gods, who are proven douche-bags and far from omnipotent), I was feeling pretty damn good.  Coach Brandt had a couple of clients he was doing some personal training with, so I had to keep the celebratory profanity in check.

Death By Ten Meters

10m sprints, on the minute.  1st minute 1, 2nd minute 2, etc etc.
Worked up to 15, which please the hell out of me; felt awesome till 8, then the legs started dying.  at 14, I had zero rest.  At 15,  I finished right at the buzzer, and threw the towel in.  Might have been able to pull 16 out of the bag, but it would have been massive.  There's mucho room for improvement here, as I felt I was dragging my ass in the later rounds.

I wasn't too sure how this would go; yesterday we had a massive grassfire just east-southeast of Lethbridge.  Trying to dodge walls of flame kicked up by the wind, dragging hose through burnt fields and sucking back enough soot to make a chain smoker gag, I feel like I've been chewing on a piece of charcoal all night.  This morning, I STILL had that taste and smell lingering, even after 2 showers and about 8 litres of water.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beat To The Punch, Punched in the Back, and Teaching Future Cops How To Punch

How's that for a totally geeky title? There's a loosely-related story behind each line, I promise.

First off: I had a post planned for the future titled "Things I hate About Crossfit". I kid you not.

Now, before you freak out and think the CF Gods (whom, you will find out shortly, don't exist) will strike me down, a disclaimer: I've been a member of CFLA since it's inception, and was hunting for an affiliate long before that; I had been in contact with one of the owners prior to opening date. Since then, it's literally changed my life...the training, the community, the atmosphere. It rocks. I'm in 100x better shape than I had EVER been in in my 36 years on this planet.  I believe in the methodology.  So much so that I'm now a trainer at that very gym, which I feel very privileged about.  I now teach the concepts I learned to new clients.  THAT'S how I feel about Crossfit.  At OUR gym.  (<--that's a key concept.  I'd write that down, it may be on the test.)

So why the hate? Robb Wolf basically stole my thunder out from under me this morning, but all I could do was laugh and try to not spill my coffee. I'd have to say, for anyone who has any understanding of Crossfit, CF HQ, and the players involved, this is a "Must-Read":  Robb's post on the Black Box Summit (That's where Robb beat me to the punch, but it's only semi-related) When I first saw this seminar, I thought "Jesus-Mother-n-Joesph that would be epic!!". I had no idea of the epicness (Yeah, that's a real word, hoss.) Anyways, read that. Now.  Then ponder, dwell, mull it over.  Was I right?  Epic.

Power Cleans/Squat Cleans, CFLA, Sunday, Nov 22nd, 1PM.

135#x3 PC
155#x3 PC
175#x3 PC/PC/SC. This is where I get punched in the back. Another "twinge" along my right spinal erector. Uncool.
195#x0 Why? because I was mad. Got the damn thing about as high as my clavicles. Should have been easy, but I shouldn't have even tried.
205#x0 Didn't even pick it up. Swore and looked at it for a while. That's all.

My back has done this before, and it's not a big deal; what it IS is a sign I need to see my chiro.  Yeah, I know someof you think they are witch doctors and all that shit, but Dr. Chelsea rocks (Power Health).  We have an understanding:  I see her when I need to, and I know when I need to see her.  That would be now, since there's obviously an imbalance.  Maybe I'll post more about that in a Recovery-based blog post.

This is my first time NOT PR'ing during my self-programmed Strength Bias trial; as I may have stated, I've subbed OHP for cleans, because of my shoulder.  Probably NOT a good idea, for a couple of reasons:
  • Power cleans are technically a helluva lot harder than a simple movement like OHP
  • Even though there's upper body involvement, it's still a pulling movement all through.
  • Throw in a Squat Clean, and then there's pushing, but lower body/front squat style.
Anyways, I decided to finish off the workout with some strict weighted pullups.  Haven't done these in a million years.  Used a length of chain with a quick-link, and added plates as needed.  The chain just sits around the hips, and as hardcore as it looks, it's actually pretty comfortable.


No Metcon.  Sunday In was between nights.  Zombie-land, the land of heightened cortisol, sub-optimal testosterone, and chronic hypoxia.  Well, it just feels that way.   Itching for a good lung-burning metcon.  I think I'll crush myself with Death By Ten Meters sometime in the near future.  It's a date, honey!

Instead of Power Cleans (which I love doing), I should be doing more weighted pullups..  This is where I'm learning through self-experimentation, though.  I talked a bit with Ryno about this yesterday, and once my lifts all start stalling, I'm going to move into a higher rep range to work muscular endurance.  I'll REALLY have to consider my programming then, because that, coupled with metcons, will slay me.  I may have more insight into what my future training will (can) be---I get my MRI Arthrogram tomorrow.  Arthrogram?  They jam a big-ass needle into my shoulder and pump it full of radio-opaque dye, and then do a standard MRI.  Good times.

I'm helping Cory and Heather do a couple of seminars for the Criminal Justice students over at LCI today (this is wear I'm teaching future cops how to punch.  Kinda.  Well, not really...maybe just harder.); I was asked to help, which is really cool, because I love doing this kind of stuff.  It's mostly just an intro into why Crossfit is tailor made for Police/Miliatry personnel, and running the students through a typical WOD.  I'll breifly relate my experiences with Crossfit and firefighting, and help out during the workout.  I thought about distratcing Cory with a extra-large pizza and then locking him out of the class while I tear into my nutrition lecture, but then decided against it.  :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Caffeine: The Definitive Blow-Your-Head-Clean-Off Guide.

Without going into the details of "why" (buy me a NorCal Margarita and I might spill the beans), I wrote this and the fish oil guide a few years back, prior to my Crossfit days.   I do have a couple of other "articles" in the works, like I've alluded to, (which includes the good and bad of anti-oxidants, just the plain ol' bad of fructose, and a basic what-the-heck-is vitamin D) but I'm just an amateur geek, so they take me a fair bit of time to compile.

I'll have some more recent thoughts on caffeine, though, at the end of the article.  This one is a big-'un, so strap in, top up your java, and get reading.

Plug "caffeine" into PubMed, and you get over 22,000 studies. Google it, and you get over 21 MILLION pages that reference caffeine in some way. It's clear caffeine is a popular topic. This guide will answer basic questions on caffeine and it's use in athletic endeavors.

Caffeine and exercise.
Paluska SA.
University of Washington, Department of Family Medicine, Roosevelt Medical Center, 4245 Roosevelt Way NE, Box 354775, Seattle, WA 98105, USA.

Caffeine is the most commonly consumed drug in the world, and athletes frequently use it as an ergogenic aid. It improves performance and endurance during prolonged, exhaustive exercise. To a lesser degree it also enhances short-term, high-intensity athletic performance. Caffeine improves concentration, reduces fatigue, and enhances alertness. Habitual intake does not diminish caffeine's ergogenic properties. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the physiologic effects of caffeine, but adenosine receptor antagonism most likely accounts for the primary mode of action. It is relatively safe and has no known negative performance effects, nor does it cause significant dehydration or electrolyte imbalance during exercise. Routine caffeine consumption may cause tolerance or dependence, and abrupt discontinuation produces irritability, mood shifts, headache, drowsiness, or fatigue. Major sport governing bodies ban excessive use of caffeine, but current monitoring techniques are inadequate, and ethical dilemmas persist regarding caffeine intake by athletes.PMID: 12834577 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

What Is Caffeine?

1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, or as it's commonly known as caffeine, is a naturally occurring substance found in the beans, leaves and fruit of various plants. It is classified as a methylxanthine alkaloid; theobromine, theophylline and paraxanthine are caffeine derivatives, and can also be naturally occurring in singularity. Guaranine, theine, and mateine, found respectively in guarana, tea and yerba mate, are synonymous with caffeine.

It's most commonly ingested in the form of coffee (beans), tea (leaves), energy drinks (guarana seed, kola nut), and chocolate (cacao beans). It is also readily attainable in OTC forms of pure caffeine tablets and in mixed preparations of analgesics.

"Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the western world."
-David Tolson

Consumption of caffeine worldwide ranges on average at 70mg/day, and in North America, 200mg/day, and in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, 400mg/day. Needless to say, the world is infatuated by it---and potentially addicted to it. To find out what YOU are drinking, here's a good link: The Really Big Caffeine Database

So the question begs to be asked: What does it do to us?

What Does Caffeine Do?

Despite the numerous studies on caffeine and human physiology, many unproven theories still exist; some have recently been disproven, yet are still perpetuated and taught.

Caffeine directly affects the CNS through multiple mechanisms; the primary effect is antagonism of the adenosine receptors. Adenosine controls the release of numerous neruotransmitters in the brain, including GABA, acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Antagonizing, or "blocking" of adenosine increases the release of these neurotransmitters. In layman's terms, it acts as a "disinhibitory" drug---putting the brakes on adenosine causes the wheels to spin faster and the motor to rev higher.

Through the action of increased cAMP, caffeine potentiates the effects of epinephrine; combined with the active metabolites theobromine and theophylline, strong beta-adrengergic stimulation occurs, including smooth muscle relaxation of the bronchioles in the lungs, increased heart rate (chronotropic simulation), and increase force of contractions of cardiac muscle (ionotropic stimulation).

Secondary effects includes potentiation of calcium, and intracelluar driving of sodium and potassium. This in turn, in theory, causes a delay in fatigue and increased force of muscular contraction.

Other effects, related to athletic performance, include analgesia and decreased RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion); the description is self explanatory---the less pain and discomfort one is feeling while training means one can continue to train at an elevated intensity. No pain, all gain? Works for me.

Caffeine And Weight Loss

While the main point of this guide is to educate on caffeine's use as an ergogenic, it would be erroneous not to point out the potential thermogenic and lipolytic effects.

Caffeine: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of its thermogenic, metabolic, and cardiovascular effects in healthy volunteers

A Astrup, S Toubro, S Cannon, P Hein, L Breum and J Madsen
Research Department of Human Nutrition, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, Denmark.
In humans caffeine stimulates thermogenesis by unknown mechanisms and its effect on body weight has not been studies. The effect of placebo and 100, 200, and 400 mg oral caffeine on energy expenditure, plasma concentrations of substrates and hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate was investigated in a double-blind study in healthy subjects who had a moderate habitual caffeine consumption. Caffeine increased energy expenditure dose dependently and the thermogenic response was positively correlated with the response in plasma caffeine (r = 0.52; p less than 0.018), plasma lactate (r = 0.79; p less than 0.000001), and plasma triglyceride (r = 0.53; p less than 0.02). Stepwise regression analysis with the thermogenic response as the dependent variable excluded plasma caffeine and yielded the following equation: thermic effect (kcal/3 h) = -0.00459 X heart rate + 0.30315 X (triglyceride) + 0.53114 X (lactate) + 15.34 (r = 0.86; p = 0.0001). The results suggest that lactate and triglyceride production and increased vascular smooth muscle tone may be responsible for the major part of the thermogenic effect of caffeine.

Through increased secretion of norepinephrine (NE), caffeine ingestion results in increased amounts of circulating free-fatty acids. Initially, this was the mechanism that was thought to induce the ergogenic results. While is has been accepted that adenosine antagonism plays the primary role, NE release does result in lipolysis from adipocytes (fat cells). This is the main reason caffeine is included in most weight-lose preparations, alongside other thermogenic stimulants like ephedrine. The increase in RMR (resting metabolic rate) through increased vasomotor tone and heart rate is probably an insignificant factor.

Ergogenic Effects of Caffeine and Athletes

Aerobic Training

It's well established that caffeine has a positive, ergogenic (enhancing physical performance) effect on endurance training. For the sake of space, I'm not going to post up studies regarding that. A search of PubMed under "caffeine" and "ergogenic" brings up 106 studies, so browse at your leisure. The mechanism of action for sub-maximal training is more than likely due to increase calcium release and analgesia, although this is just pure speculation.

Resistance Training

There is much less positive data on the effects of caffeine and resistance training, as shown in this study. Highlighted, for emphasis: The results indicated that the SUPP had no effect on 1-RM bench press strength or TRE at 85% VO2peak.

Keep in mind this is one study, used as an example of the typical results for caffeine and resistance training, and a reflection of the train of current thought. Without going into the flaws of single studies, one could easily find a flip side, as shown here. Note that while the conclusion states "Acute caffeine intake does not significantly alter muscular strength or endurance during intense bench press or leg press exercise," total weight lifted for the CAF group was 11% and 12% higher.

Anecdotally, there is a plethora of positive results. Just the fact alone that caffeine has the ability to increase muscular contractile force through intracellular Ca+, Na+ and K+ manipulation would be enough to assume a positive ergogenic response. Decreased RPE and enhanced mental clarity are enough to justify it's use to most lifters.

Anaerobic training

The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise.
Woolf K, Bidwell WK, Carlson AG.

Department of Nutrition, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ 85212, USA.

The study examined caffeine (5 mg/kg body weight) vs. placebo during anaerobic exercise. Eighteen male athletes (24.1+/-5.8 yr; BMI 26.4+/-2.2 kg/m2) completed a leg press, chest press, and Wingate test. During the caffeine trial, more total weight was lifted with the chest press, and a greater peak power was obtained during the Wingate test. No differences were observed between treatments for the leg press and average power, minimum power, and power drop (Wingate test). There was a significant treatment main effect found for postexercise glucose and insulin concentrations; higher concentrations were found in the caffeine trial. A significant interaction effect (treatment and time) was found for cortisol and glucose concentrations; both increased with caffeine and decreased with placebo. Postexercise systolic blood pressure was significantly higher during the caffeine trial. No differences were found between treatments for serum free-fatty-acid concentrations, plasma lactate concentrations, serum cortisol concentrations, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion. Thus, a moderate dose of caffeine resulted in more total weight lifted for the chest press and a greater peak power attained during the Wingate test in competitive athletes.

In a study on single and multiple sprints, found here, a positive result was found:
CONCLUSION: Although the effect of recovery duration on caffeine-induced responses to multiple sprint work requires further investigation, the results of the present study show that caffeine has ergogenic properties with the potential to benefit performance in both single and multiple sprint sports.

Caffeine, Exercise, and Hydration

There's a long-standing urban myth in sports performance circles than caffeinated beverages induce diuresis (increase urinary output) and cause dehydration. And as common sense dictates, dehydration is detrimental to optimal athletic performance. So what gives? Will that Red Bull or cup o' Joe kill or enhance my workout?

Larry Armstrong, an avid runner and professor of exercise and environmental physiology, is one of the foremost researchers on caffeine and athletics. In 2002, he completely debunked the idea of caffeine causing enhanced diuresis in this study:

Caffeine, body fluid-electrolyte balance, and exercise performance.
Armstrong LE.

Departments of Kinesiology, Nutritional Sciences, and Physiology & Neurobiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-1110, USA.

Recreational enthusiasts and athletes often are advised to abstain from consuming caffeinated beverages (CB). The dual purposes of this review are to (a) critique controlled

investigations regarding the effects of caffeine on dehydration and exercise performance, and (b) ascertain whether abstaining from CB is scientifically and physiologically justifiable. The literature indicates that caffeine consumption stimulates a mild diuresis similar to water, but there is no evidence of a fluid-electrolyte imbalance that is detrimental to exercise performance or health. Investigations comparing caffeine (100-680 mg) to water or placebo seldom found a statistical difference in urine volume. In the 10 studies reviewed, consumption of a CB resulted in 0-84% retention of the initial volume ingested, whereas consumption of water resulted in 0-81% retention. Further, tolerance to caffeine reduces the likelihood that a detrimental fluid-electrolyte imbalance will occur. The scientific literature suggests that athletes and recreational enthusiasts will not incur detrimental fluid-electrolyte imbalances if they consume CB in moderation and eat a typical U.S. diet. Sedentary members of the general public should be a less risk than athletes because their fluid losses via sweating are smaller.

He followed this up with another study in 2005:

Fluid, electrolyte, and renal indices of hydration during 11 days of controlled caffeine consumption.
Armstrong LE, Pumerantz AC, Roti MW, Judelson DA, Watson G, Dias JC, Sokmen B, Casa DJ, Maresh CM, Lieberman H, Kellogg M.

University of Connecticut, Human Performance Laboratory, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.

This investigation determined if 3 levels of controlled caffeine consumption affected fluid-electrolyte balance and renal function differently. Healthy males (mean +/- standard deviation; age, 21.6 +/- 3.3 y) consumed 3 mg caffeine . kg(-1) . d(-1). on days 1 to 6 (equilibration phase). On days 7 to 11 (treatment phase), subjects consumed either 0 mg (C0; placebo; n= 20), 3 mg (C3; n = 20), or 6 mg (C6; n = 19) caffeine . kg(-1) . d(-1) in capsules, with no other dietary caffeine intake. The following variables were unaffected (P > 0.05) by different caffeine doses on days 1, 3, 6, 9, and 11 and were within normal clinical ranges: body mass, urine osmolality, urine specific gravity, urine color, 24-h urine volume, 24-h Na+ and K+ excretion, 24-h creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, serum Na+ and K+, serum osmolality, hematocrit, and total plasma protein. Therefore, C0, C3, and C6 exhibited no evidence of hypohydration. These findings question the widely accepted notion that caffeine consumption acts chronically as a diuretic.
PMID: 16131696 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Final points:
  • When caffeine or a caffeinated beverage is consumed, the body retains some of the fluid;
  • Caffeine consumption causes a mild diuresis very similar to that of water (water, when consumed in large volume, increases urine output);
  • There is no evidence that consumption of caffeinated beverages causes a fluid-electrolyte imbalance that is detrimental to health or exercise performance;
  • A person who regularly consumes caffeine has a higher tolerance to the diuretic effect;
  •  The determination of safety or risk of consuming caffeine and caffeinated beverages depends on several factors, including the amount consumed and tolerance to caffeine.

      Pharmacokinetcis and Optimal Dosing Some important numbers:
      • The LD50 (the dose that'll kill 50% of the population) is 192mg/kg in rats; it's speculated that in humans, the toxic dose is 150-200mg/kg. For a 180pound guy, that's over 12 GRAMS on the low end.
      • The half-life, or how long it take for the body to metabolize half of the dose, is 3-4 hours in a healthy adult. This can vary greatly from person to person, based on weight, RMR, and age.
      • The onset of action can vary from 10 to 45minutes after oral ingestion. This is important for timing. Considerations include intake form (liquid or tablet), ingestion with a solid meal, and individual variances. Ingestion with fat will speed the onset of action due to the fact caffeine is lipophilic, which causes it to bypass heaptic metabolism and enter the bloodstream via the lymphatic system.
      So how much should one take? Based on the Really Big Caffeine Database, an average cup of coffee is around 145mg. Tablets are supplied in 200mg doses. Based on your own dietary intake habits, size, and age, YOU have to decide this through trial and error. If you've never had a cup of coffee in your whole life, never taken pure caffeine tablets, and never been blasted into orbit by a Redline Power Rush, then I'd suggest dosing SMALL. As stated earlier, tolerance builds rapidly, so what's good for me is NOT good for you. Common sense rules here, so use some.       But What About Building Up Tolerance?      It is a clear fact that tolerance to caffeine builds rapidly in users; the adenosine antagonistic activity of caffeine on the CNS is clearly evident in first time users, but is rapidly blunted in subsequent use. It is unknown if this is due to increased secretion of adenosine, or a compensatory up regulation of other neurotransmitters. High doses of 900-1200mg/daily for multiple days have shown a decrease in the effects of caffeine both centrally and peripherally. Incomplete tolerance has also been demonstrated in daily average doses. Complete tolerance, though, is highly unlikely at average consumption dosages (200-400mg/daily), as shown in this study. While the CNS and PNS effects are decreased, Some degree of stimulation is still noted. Longer abstinence times (20+hrs) decrease tolerance; theoretically, 48-72 hours would completely abolish tolerance.    

    This quote, taken from here, also demonstrates how perceivable effects are diminished through regular use, but CNS and cardiovascular benefits still exist:

    "Regular caffeine users who are physically active respond to an acute caffeine challenge by increasing plasma epinephrine and fat oxidation. Even on increasing caffeine consumption by 500 mg/day for 6 weeks caffeine challenge still increased fat oxidation, though epinephrine response was less. This might suggest that even if tolerance develops, it might not be complete tolerance to all the effects."

    Tolerance brings about some positive effects, though, as can be seen in the elimination of the minor diuresis from theobromine, and insomnia due to hypersensitivity.

    It must be noted that because a tolerance is built, dependency can result, and therefore, withdrawal symptoms can occur in abstinence. This generally isn't an issue, as caffeine has become a daily part of most people's lives and is readily available. Common withdrawal symptoms after 24hr of discontinued intake can include headache, malaise, and mood irritability. These generally dissipate within 48 hours.

    So, how can one avoid tolerance as much as possible, yet continue to utilize the positive stimulatory effects of caffeine in workouts? Much like nutrition, exercise, and nutrient timing, caffeine must be timed appropriately. These tips can help you maximize the effectiveness without losing your mind to withdrawal:
    • Only utilize supplemental caffeine preWO
    • Keep your dietary caffeine intake low to moderate
    • Do not take caffeine PWO
    • Cycle your caffeine, based on your workouts.
      Related Reading & Links

      Caffeine Roundtable With JB & Co. - A brainiac discussion on caffeine and athletics with John Berardi and friends.

      Caffeine Supplement Profile - An excellent article by David Tolson.

      Coffee Science Information Center - A website about the effects of coffee on health.

      Coffee Science - Another pro-coffee site with articles on coffee and health.

      Coffee, Diabetes and Weight Control - A review of various studies by Lyle McDonald on the connection of caffeine/coffee and diabetes and fat loss.

      The Effects of Caffeine on Physical Activity and Athletic Performance - An excellent review of various studies on athletes and caffeine by kinesiology student Ryan Gage

      Did you get through all that?  Impressive. 

      ***Ok, so what about Crossfit and NOW?  Personally, despite ALL the great shit caffiene does, it can be a double-edged sword; too much of a good thing is a bad thing.  I've felt great on some WODs, and SHITTY on others.  In the past, all of my martial arts training was roughly, give or take, the same pace, regardless of activity, opponent, or movement.

      Crossfit, on the other hand, is NOT like that, as anyone who has done more than half a dozen different WODs knows.  I haven't found the reason why supplementing with caffiene is hit-and-miss with metcons, but the max-effort metcon just doesn't leave much room for error in the rocket fuel category.  Heavy thrusters have an ability to fire you over the lactate threshold moon REALLY quickly; I have a sneaky suspicion that the reasoning lies behind this somewhere, but it'd just be pure speculation on my part.

      There's also the fact that caffeine is reputed to be PRO-arrythmic; that is, disrupts the electrical conduction of your heart.  This article states otherwise, but bear in mind, hundreds of young, perceivably healthy athletes drop from cardiac disrthymias of unknown etiology every year.  Caffeine?  Perhaps.  It DOES cause palpitaions and PVCs (premature ventricular contractions).  The potential IS there, so you are forewarned.  I have yet to see an automated defibrillator show up at CFLA, and when I'm there, I'm a trainer, not a paramedic, so I'd just scream like a 9 year old girl if someone collapsed.  No, not really.  But it would suck.

      What I do NOW:  I drink coffee, and I rarely, if every, supplement with caffeine.  The upside?  Coffee offers a decent amount of caffiene, aprox 150mg in a large cup of drip, and a plethora of health benefits.  It's has soooooo many health benefits that it's beyond the scope of this already too-long blog post.  Drink it.  Don't be stupid.  I kinda view it like fish oil:  You're and idiot if your not taking it.

      Downside?  No controlled dosing.  With a 200mg tab, I know I'm getting 200mg, every time.  Not so with a beverage, be it coffee or some of that canned shit.  Even if the labeling on a can of Blast-Off or whatever your choice is, it ain't gonna be controlled dosing like a tab.

      Alright, enough.  I talk too much.

      Nov18th, CFLA

      Front Squat

      185#x3  Felt
      245#x3  10# PR from Nov2.

      5 Rounds for Time:

      5 FS@50% 3RM (125#)
      250m Sprint row
      10 GHD Situps

      11:48. Time lost in transition was fairly evident, but the last couple of rounds were slooooooooow, especially the row and GHDs. Thurs/Fri I was MIA in my house in an ibuprofen-induced haze as I think the combo of heavy FS and FS in the metcon trashed my upper back.

      Tuesday, November 17, 2009

      Travelling, A Primal 5K, and a Seminar.

      Once again, I apologize for the lack of posts; Tam and I bombed up to Edmonton to visit family, and we just got back last night.  Back to our regularly scheduled programming!

      I knew you'd be happy about that.  Ha!

      Sherwood Park, Nov 15th, 11AM, 5K run.  In Vibrams!

      I've been meaning to do this for a while; it's something I've wanted to move towards, if only for the nostalgic, caveman-like freedom I percieve from it.  Yes, I'm a dork, but I'm a Primal dork, so that means baddass.  In my world.  The route was approx 5k; I had done it before while using a Garmin, and Tam and I did the same route.  We probably clocked in at around 25-30 minutes, which I'm pretty damn happy with.  Calves were a little "spicy" the next few days, but nothing major.  Did a mix of grass + pavement....LOVE the feel on grass.  Love it!

      MetCon, CFLA, Nov 17th, 1PM.

      AMRAP 10 Min of:
      3 DL, 225#
      10 Box Jumps, 20"

      15 Rounds; happy with this, but some of the firebreathers on our gym pulled 16, 17, 18 and an amazing 20 off.  Last few rounds my back was torched; I was hoping the 225# would feel "light" (LMAO), but alas, 225 is still 225.  Props to Nunzy, KT, Big Moah, and JT with the 20.   Taught the 11 and 12 classes, and I knew I wouldn't have time tonight, so I had to sneak this in.


      This afternoon at 4PM, I did  a nutrition lecture for about 60 or so folks, students and teachers, at a local high school; Cory Gillespie, one of the other Crossfit coaches, asked me to do this, and I felt really honored.  Anyone who knows me knows I'm a total geek about nutrition, and it's a huge passion of mine.  Anytime I can get an audience that can't leave, I'm all over it like Oprah on a loaf of bread.

      Some of the topics I covered included macronutrients, hormonal shifting through diet, Paleolithic nutrition, the Zone, hydration, and pre and post workout habits.  It was a little heavy on the biochem end, but nuts and bolts like that are essential for understanding nutrition.  I concentrated on the Paleo end, because I'm 100% convinced that has more merit than any other aspect of nutrition.  Even the science backs it:

      Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study.

      Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund, Lund University, Box 117, 221 00 Lund, Sweden.
      BACKGROUND: Our aim was to compare the effects of a Paleolithic ('Old Stone Age') diet and a diabetes diet as generally recommended on risk factors for cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes not treated with insulin. METHODS: In a randomized cross-over study, 13 patients with type 2 diabetes, 3 women and 10 men, were instructed to eat a Paleolithic diet based on lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, root vegetables, eggs and nuts; and a Diabetes diet designed in accordance with dietary guidelines during two consecutive 3-month periods. Outcome variables included changes in weight, waist circumference, serum lipids, C-reactive protein, blood pressure, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), and areas under the curve for plasma glucose and plasma insulin in the 75 g oral glucose tolerance test. Dietary intake was evaluated by use of 4-day weighed food records. RESULTS: Study participants had on average a diabetes duration of 9 years, a mean HbA1c of 6,6% units by Mono-S standard and were usually treated with metformin alone (3 subjects) or metformin in combination with a sulfonylurea (3 subjects) or a thiazolidinedione (3 subjects). Mean average dose of metformin was 1031 mg per day. Compared to the diabetes diet, the Paleolithic diet resulted in lower mean values of HbA1c (-0.4% units, p = 0.01), triacylglycerol (-0.4 mmol/L, p = 0.003), diastolic blood pressure (-4 mmHg, p = 0.03), weight (-3 kg, p = 0.01), BMI (-1 kg/m2, p = 0.04) and waist circumference (-4 cm, p = 0.02), and higher mean values of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (+0.08 mmol/L, p = 0.03). The Paleolithic diet was mainly lower in cereals and dairy products, and higher in fruits, vegetables, meat and eggs, as compared with the Diabetes diet. Further, the Paleolithic diet was lower in total energy, energy density, carbohydrate, dietary glycemic load, saturated fatty acids and calcium, and higher in unsaturated fatty acids, dietary cholesterol and several vitamins. Dietary GI was slightly lower in the Paleolithic diet (GI = 50) than in the Diabetic diet (GI = 55). CONCLUSION: Over a 3-month study period, a Paleolithic diet improved glycemic control and several cardiovascular risk factors compared to a Diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes.

      Trigs, BP, HbA1C, weight, waist circumference all dropped like ROCKS. And the USDA, AHA, and ADA all have their heads up their asses about treating patients. IT'S RIGHT THERE. At least there's current research going into this, which the pharmaceutical companies can't touch.

      Hopefully in the next few days I can get to a couple of topics I've wanted to write about for a while: caffeine (Love it!) and fructose (not so much!)

      Wednesday, November 11, 2009

      Remembrance Day, PRs, and more Paleo

      I'm not going to say a lot about Remembrance Day, but I'd like to share a quote that I thought sums it up best and does a damn good job of shutting people up when they get on their political soapbox:
      If you aren't willing to stand behind our soldiers, are you willing to stand in front of them??

      Nov 10th, #3 Firehall

      Sprint intervals on the treadmill, 9x9x9 fashion.  This would be a warmup of around 5 minutes, slowly increasing to an easy 7mph pace, then doing 9 sets of sprint intervals at 9mph at 9% grade.  Sprints last roughly 45 sec, give or take.  Longer at the start, shorter at the end.  And I actually have less space to workout in than the picture at the right.  But it's better than nothing.

      Nov 11th, Crossfit Lethbridge

      Low Bar Back Squat

      95# x10
      135# x5
      285#x3, 10lb PR, and felt great on it;  Ref Oct 24th, 275#x3


      5 Rounds for Time:

      15 BW deadlifts (165#)
      30 Double Unders

      9:36.  Had to fractionate the DLs, as I thought my back would start on fire.  And that would be bad, since we don't have any fire extinguishers.  Ha!

      Took a pic of a fleeting Sweat Angel; took 9:36 to make, and only a minute to disappear.  For the record, my head isn't the size of a tennis ball, and my traps ain't that big.

      Last Night's dinner:

      Exotic Ginger-Cummin Chicken with a simple mixed green salad like the previous night.  The chicken is even better the NEXT day, as the spices potentiate.  That means "get stronger" in English.

      All those books and papers in the left corner?  Workin' like a mad dog on the Nutrition Seminar for LCI.  Super stoked about it, and fairly happy with my progress both on the Power Point and my notes.  The Power Point is mostly just for images and topic header slides, since I'd like to slap down most of the info on a white board, a la Robb Wolf style.

      Working nightshift the next two nights, then I'm off to Edmonton with Tam for the weekend.

      Monday, November 9, 2009

      Eating Simple 5-Star Paleo, H1N1, and a Painful WOD

      First off, food porn.  Yes, food porn.  Behold:

      Pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms, Italian parsley, pecans, and Parmesan. Steamed green beans with butter. Mixed green salad with sliced almonds, crumbled feta, and olive oil.

      Simple, and paleo. Yes, I know cheese isn't "Paleo", but cheese also elicits a much, MUCH weaker insulin response than actual milk, feta cheese doesn't contain lactose, and the fatty acid profile of most cheeses is great. That ain't a green light to eat a whole block of Gouda in one sitting there, Mr. Piggie.

      I got my H1N1 vaccine on Friday; initially, a while back, I had some different views about both the vaccine and the actual virus itself. I thought:

      • The whole pandemic thing was overblown. I figured folks were freaking about nothing. and
      • The vaccine wasn't tested properly, and we'd have a huge outbreak of auto-immune disorders like Guillain-Barre.

      Well, so far I've been wrong about #1, and hopefully I'll be wrong about #2. I was also fairly sure I had H1N1 in early June; 3 times that month I had flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, headaches, and body aches after seeing a patient at the end of May with similar complaints. But did I? Now, I don't think so. I think I had *A* viral infection, exacerbated by overtraining (Crossfit + hours long mountain biking + high dose fish oil = suppressed immunity.)

      Wait, whoa, wha?  How does fish oil tie into this?  Isn't it the ambrosia of all things Crossfit?  Like anything, balance is key.  If you've done the homework I prescribed on fish oil (you read the WHOLE thing a few days back before getting bored and Googling some cheesy porn, right?  Right.), you'll know that the whole point of taking it is to balance PRO-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, like arachidonic acid(AA) and linoleic acid(LA), with ANTI-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic(EPA) acid and docosahexaenoic(DHA) acid.

      The issue lies with heavy viral loads and suppressed inflammatory response; while everything you read these days is in regards to chronic inflammation (Celiac, gluten, lectins, insulin, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc etc), these same inflammatory mediators are responsible for our kick-ass immune system.  What happens when you cut yourself?  Inflammation.  Bust up a shoulder?  Inflammation.  Have a cold due to a virus?  Inflammation.  THIS is how the human body deals with foreign pathogens.

      Suppress that system too much, and you have issues.  In my case, I was training too much, not eating enough (I'm normally fairly low carb, which isn't an issue with Crossfit.  It is with extended endurance type training, like mountain biking), and trying to deal with a virus.  So, lesson learned.

      I should go back and add to the fish oil post, because essentially it's not complete without a caveat about immunity suppression.

      Key Point:  If you're fighting off a virus, lower your fish oil intake, especially if you're high dosing (0.5-1.0g EPA/DHA per 10lbs BW).  Personally, I'd half the dose (at 8g?  take 4.  At 4?  take 2g.  Not taking any?  Guess what?  You're an idiot.  Yup.) should I encounter this issue again.

      Speaking of inflammation....

      It felt like I was hit by a bus on Saturday as the vaccine kicked in some flu-like symptoms.  I can't imagine what the fullblown would be like, but I know our EMS service has been run ragged, the ER had been full, and I seriously underestimated everything.

      Sunday WOD, since Saturday was a write-off:

      Push Press/Push Jerk

      I was inspired by Seano's 165#x5 push press, so I figured I'd see where I was at.  Did I say painful WOD?  Yup.  Mentally.
      135#x5  Starting to also auto-pushjerk this.
      155#x3, Split jerk
      175#x1.  That's all, folks.

      Fairly disappointed; I was hoping for 175#x3 in a split jerk, at least.  That push press, and anything strict overhead, just crushed my shoulder; my avoidance of training overhead to SAVE my shoulder is a vicious circle of  DE-training.  I have a MRA (magnetic resonance arthrogram---they jam a big-assed needle into my shoulder, inject radio-opaque dye, and do an MRI.  Sweet!) on Nov 25th.  All this shit started in Feb of this year.  Gotta love our super-speedy medical system.  No, not really.

      At any rate, my shoulder is throbbing today.  Sometimes, a guy needs a painful reminder.  Moving on...


      3 Round for Time:
      400m sprint row
      10 GHD situps

      6:34; pulled this one out of the archives, last time done was April, at 7:32. Nice improvement, but if I do this again, I'll either up the meters to 500 or increase the rounds, or both.

      Friday, November 6, 2009

      Catch-Up WODs and FUBAR'd Comments

      So, my comments still seem to be FUBAR'd; I've tried to fix the problem myself to no avail, and I haven't heard back from Intense Debate.  The issue seems intermittent, as I thought it was fixed with my "Test Comments Post".  Whatever.  If you click on the datestamp, the ID comment box pops up. Or it might be there already. Or not.

      Nov 3rd

      Hang Power Clean 5-5-5-5-5

      After teaching 5,6, and 7PM, I had to hit this up.  Worked up to 185#, which I was damn happy with.  Not that long ago, I couldn't even squat clean this for 1.  My strength hasn't gone up that much, so I'm assuming my technique is getting better.

      No metcon; by the time I was done BS'ing with Nunzy, it was about 8:30, and I was done the cleans at 9.

      Nov 4th

      Nada.  Feeling trashed from my front squat PR and metcon debauchery.  Had a few beers with a buddy, and gave myself insomnia.  Nice.  Not really.

      Nov 5th


      275#x3 switched to mixed grip
      355#x3 Pure 10lbs greedy-ass PR SWEETNESS.  Actually, this is still lower than where I should be, but I'm happy with it, and I'll take it.  With 385# being my 1RM back in May, I don't know if I'll hit 412.5lbs by Dec. (2.5x BW).


      3 Rounds for Time of:
      20 Pullups
      20 Pushups
      20 Box Jumps
      20 Situps

      9:30.  Some dude rolled in at exactly 1:34 into my WOD, asking about the previous renters and wanting to recharge the fire extinguishers that we, uh, don't have.  Christ, I should know better.  No, not about the fire extinguishers, but more important shit like LOCKING THE DAMN DOOR when I'm about to start a metcon by myself.  You'd have think I learned my lesson when Jacob Hoffer and his Hutterite Brethern walked in, all wide eyed, on me 4 rounds into a Cindy.  No, this ain't the colony boys, and I don't sell fencing material.

      So, I ended up doing an extra 20 pullups, pushups, and a few box jumps.  Time could have been way lower; I never really get a good feel for a metcon these days, since in some form or another, I'm pre-fatigued from lifting.  Really, though, my focus is strength' these metcons are for maintenance, not PR'ing anything.  I would like to go back and re-do these fresh later on, just to see the difference.

      Pullups were ok, but the bar felt like 4" thick pipe.  Grip was awful.  Situps were making the coffee in my stomach slosh like the Perfect Storm, and a trucker in the back alley witnessed the Perfect Hurl, post wod.  I don't think he was about to sign up for Fundamentals anyways, so it's all good.  Box jumps felt actually....good.  Odd. 

      Today has been a huge waste of time waiting around for the carpet cleaners, and I have to get my H1N1 shot, so I may or may not get into the gym.  Since everything from my biceps down hurts, I'd like to see what kind of thrashing I can give myself with Push Jerks.

      Thursday, November 5, 2009

      Everything You Wanted To Know About Fish Oil. Ever.


      Fish Oil. Is it just for the old man with a heart problem? No way.

      Omega-3 fatty acids and athletics
      Simopoulos AP.

      The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, DC 20009, USA.

      Human beings evolved consuming a diet that contained about equal amounts of y-6 and y-3 essential fatty acids. Today, in Western diets, the ratio of y-6 to y-3 fatty acids ranges from approximately 10:1 to 20:1 instead of the traditional range of 1:1 to 2:1. Studies indicate that a high intake of y-6 fatty acids shifts the physiologic state to one that is prothrombotic and proaggregatory, characterized by increases in blood viscosity, vasospasm, and vasoconstriction, and decreases in bleeding time. y-3 fatty acids, however, have anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, antiarrhythmic, hypolipidemic, and vasodilatory properties. Excessive radical formation and trauma during high-intensity exercise leads to an inflammatory state that is made worse by the increased amount of y-6 fatty acids in Western diets, although this can be counteracted by eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). For the majority of athletes, especially those at the leisure level, general guidelines should include EPA and DHA of about 1 to 2 g/d at a ratio of EPA to DHA of 2:1.

      PMID: 17617998 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

      So now that you want to take fish oil, you need some questions answered about omega 3's, essential fatty see these terms day in and day out in the news, on TV, on internet forums. So what's the big deal? Why should the aspiring athlete supplement with fish oil? Here's a breakdown on everything you need to know about it.

      Omega Three Fatty Acids

      Omega-3 fatty acids (sometimes seen as n-3, ω-3, or O3) are from the family of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA); both omega-3 and omega-6 are considered essential fatty acids (EFA), meaning humans must obtain them from diet.

      ω-3s can be further broken down into 7 separate fatty acids; ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid), EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) will be discussed here in the context of fish oil supplementation.

      ω-3s act as generalized anti-inflammatory agents in the body; their balancing (or unbalancing, as it is today) counterparts are the eicosanoids of the ω-6 family of PUFAs, which are involved in the inflammatory processes of the body. The issue in today's society is the ratio of ω-3 to ω-6 intake; by many accounts, this ratio is anywhere from 20:1 to 50:1 in favor of ω-6. In Paleolithic times, it was more along the lines of 2:1 or 3:1. This ratio, and the balance of, is essential to understanding why one should supplement with fish oil. It is also essential to note that ω-6, while being "pro-inflammatory", are also essential to bodily functions like clotting factors and immune response. As stated before, it is the ratio that is the issue.

      Dietary sources ω-6 are found in whole grains, eggs yolks, meats and nuts; the majority of the ω-6 that is over consumed by North Americans comes in the form of linoleic acid (LA), found in corn, sunflower, safflower and soybean oil.

      Dietary sources of ω-3 are found in fish, seed (flax), and nut (walnut) oils. In botanical dietary sources, EPA and DHA are not found (with the exception of microalgae); the ω-3 ALA is. While this is a beneficial EFA, the conversion to EPA and DHA in the body is extremely low, at rates of 2-15% and 2-5%, respectively. For those following a strict vegan diet, botanical sources of ALA may be the only rudimentary source of EPA and DHA.

      Why Fish Oil?

      Fish oil, specifically fatty cold water fish like mackerel, tuna, and salmon, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids from eating smaller prey fish like herring and sardines; likewise, sardines and herring contain O3's from feeding off of microalgae that produce it. No other food source on the planet contains levels of EPA and DHA as high as are found in cold-water fish. Krill oil also contains high levels of EPA and DHA ( they feed on phytoplankton, much the same as herring and sardines); at this time, though, krill oil supplementation producers are limited and not as cost-effective or available as fish oil. As it becomes more popular, prices may drop.

      Why Not Just Take ALA?

      As far as supplementing with ALA in the form of flax or other vegetable-based oils, unless one has a moral dilemma to consuming fish, it ultimately is a highly ineffective way of getting therapeutic amounts of EPA and DHA. To take from Dr. Eade's book, The Protein Power Lifeplan:

      "Some people refuse to take (fish oil) because they can't stand the taste or they are vegans and refuse to eat food of animal origin. For these folks, flax seed oil is great. It gives them a great source of omega-3 fats that they otherwise wouldn't get. But taking flax seed oil is like buying crude oil and running it through your home distillery to make gasoline for your car. If that's the only way you can get gasoline, then that's what you have to do. if you can buy the gasoline already distilled, though, it's much more efficient to do that.

      Lyle McDonald cites a recent study on ALA conversion, and also makes some excellent comments here.

      Another option for vegans are algae/spirulina based EFA supplements that contain both EPA and DHA.

      What Kind of Fish Oil Should I Take?

      There's lots of choices out there on the shelves, just like with any supplement. Which one should a guy (or gal) take, and which brands should one avoid? The answer is easier than you think; it's all in the label. Look for three things:
      • Molecular Distillation
      • Types of fish listed
      • EPA and DHA content per capsule

      Molecular distillation is essential; this can't be overstated. If it's not listed as such, the purity of the fish oil is questionable, and you may be doing yourself more harm than good. Molecular distillation (also called vacuum distillation) is used to separate oil from impurities like accumulated heavy metals at the cellular level. Centrifugal is the most common and effect method at the present time. Keep in mind Steam distillation, while sounding "cleaner", does not in fact, do a superior job. It also involved using extremely high heat for prolonged periods, effectively altering the structure of the fish oil.

      A very high quality brand of fish oil found in many on-the-shelf products is Meg-3; this can be compared to Creapure, an ultra-high quality creatine monohydrate found in reputable brands.

      Also look for the types of fish used; because so many companies are jumping on the fish oil bandwagon, the quality of products in general is likely to go down. As stated before, look for cold water fish, and preferably, smaller fish with shorter lifespans, like sardine and herring.

      The EPA and DHA content are self-explanatory; the most common strength is 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA (written as 180/120). Concentrated forms are available in the 400/200 dose.

      Another option is liquid fish oil; one clear advantage is that the quality of the oil will be readily apparent. One drawback from capsules is that you may not know if they have become rancid, which is an important concern that will be addressed farther down the page.

      Cod Liver Oil - If you're looking to get a decent amount EFAs, this is NOT a good option; cod liver oil contains vitamin A and D, and to get a therapeutic amount of EPA/DHA, you'd seriously overdose on the fat-soluble vitamin A. Some versions of cod liver oil now on the market HAVE decent amounts of EPA and DHA, but here's something to chew on:

      "Although activated vitamin D and vitamin A signal through common cofactors, they compete for each other's function. Retinoic acid antagonizes the action of vitamin D and its active metabolite. In humans, even the vitamin A in a single serving of liver impairs vitamin D's rapid intestinal calcium response. In a dietary intake study, Oh et al found that a high retinol intake completely thwarted vitamin D s otherwise protective effect on distal colorectal adenoma, and they found a clear relationship between vitamin D and vitamin A intakes, as the women in the highest quintile of vitamin D intake also ingested around 10,000 IU/d of retinol.

      In other words, don't take cod liver oil for it's EPA and DHA, don't take it for it's vitamin D (because essentially it's useless), and don't take it for vitamin A, because you should be eating more goddamn vegetables for that.

      Are There Dangers With Fish Oil?

      Generally speaking, no. But there are a few concerns people need to be aware of. One is possible rancidity of fish oil, and the side effect of blood thinning.

      Rancidity: - While the benefits of fish oil can't be refuted, on the flip side is spoiled, or rancid fish oil. Being a highly unsaturated fat, fish oil is extremely vulnerable to oxidation; this is the reason the fish in your fridge is only good for a few days, max. Free radicals LOVE unsaturated fatty acids, just like your 18 year old cousin from San Diego LOVES going across the border to Tijuana to get hammered. It's not a good thing, and it's kinda scary.

      When fish oil become rancid, it becomes a lipid peroxide; this turns a potentially helpful supplement into a harmful one. That last thing we need to do as athletes is add to our free radical load, especially with peroxides. So how does one avoid this? A number of ways:
      • Make sure the fish oil capsules you buy are of quality, and properly foil-sealed when you first open it.
      • Make sure the liquid fish oil you buy is in an opaque GLASS bottle and properly sealed when you first open it.
      • Put your fish oil in the fridge; with capsules, another option is to place them in the freezer. This will prolong the shelf life, as well as prevent oxidation.
      • Bite into your fish oil capsules. Yes, I mean it. This is to tell you exactly how fresh your capsules are, and if they are rancid, you will know it right away. Fresh fish oil will be clear, particulate-free, and tastes mildly fishy, as one would expect. Rancid fish oil tastes like licking the bottom of a garbage dumpster in central New York. Biting into capsules is recommended by the highly respected Dr Michael Eades, author of Protein Power.

        There's also been some studies done regarding fish oil intake and vitamin E; because of the potential for fish oil to oxidize, even in the blood, some have suggested that vitamin E be ingested along with fish oil. Other studies have shown a synergistic (enhanced) effect, and even others have shown a decrease in blood levels of vitamin E. Many manufacturers will combined fish oil and vitamin E to act as a preservative, so this may be a completely moot point.

        Excessive Bleeding - Fish oil directly affects the blood platelets in a similar manner to acetylsalicyclic acid (Aspirin); it causes platelet aggregation inhibition, or in layman's terms, causes the blood to become "less sticky". It's not a blood thinner per se, but more like a blood slicker.

        So is this an issue with athletes, specifically ones involved in contact sports? Probably not. To date, there's been no record of problems with excessive contusions, intracranial hemorrhage, or uncontrolled bleeding from taking fish oil. If you are dosing in a resonable manner, this shouldn't be an issue.  That said, if you are already taking something like Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or Coumadin (warfarin), then I'dcautious adding fish oil to the mix. The Combined Effects of N3 fatty acids & Aspirin

        Studies aside, if you experience excess bruising or bleeding, use common sense, and LOWER your dose.

        Raising LDL - Taking a quality fish oil supplement CAN cause a potential rise in your LDL level, but one must understand why before one freaks out like a 12 year old girl at a canceled Lady Gaga concert.

        In regards to fish oil intake and raising LDL, the actual method of calculating LDL is at fault, and varying levels of HDL, shifts in IDL and VLDL to LDL, and triglycerides all play a factor. The current and commonly used method of calculating LDL is just that---a calculation, not a specific measurement. Furthermore, it only calculates overall LDL, and not a specific type---there are 7 different subclasses of LDL, with VLDL being one of the few that's actually harmful. If your physician doesn't know this, and recommends you stop taking fish oil based on your LDL level, I would highly suggest a second opinion from a more knowledgeable physician.

        "Fish oil is a very effective method to clear IDL and VLDL, though sometimes it also causes a shift of some IDL and VLDL into the LDL class. Thus, the apparent increase in LDL."

        - Dr William Davis, Cardiologist

        Fish Oil Cloudy?

        Some fish oils become cloudy when cold because they contain monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids---which are naturally occurring in whole fish, and still extremely essential and healthy. Keep in mind all the healthy benefits of cold water fish were done using subjects that consumed WHOLE fish, not fish oil.

        Depending on how highly processed your fish oil is, this may or may not occur. If one is concerned, the "Bite" test is required---bite into a capsule. I've seen this in every single bottled liquid fish oil I've used, and none had been rancid.

        How Much Should I Take?

        There's a lot of variation in opinion on this; some recommend low doses in the range of 900mg EPA/DHA, others opt for extremely high doses of over 10g; Tolson recommends between 1-4g, and Berardi between 3-6g.

        For athletes, little data is available. Dr. Barry Sears and Robb Wolf both used to recommend a high-end dose of 0.5-1.0g/10lbs BW; this equates to 8.5g/day for a 170lb athlete. "Maintenance" dosing has been recently been thought to be more prudent, at 0.25g/10lbs BW.  Anecdotal reports of decreased DOMS, decreased recovery time, and accelerated BF loss are abound, but no well controlled studies exist.

          The most common dose, Wolf and Sears aside, is approximately 3g daily; this would translate into 10 capsules of 180/120 strength. So at 300mg of combined EPA and DHA (get it? 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA would equal 300mg combined EPA/DHA) per capsule, you'd have to take 10 a day. Break 'em up into 2 caps 5 times a day, or 3 caps morning/noon, 2 caps supper/bed, or whatever. I'm sure you're smart enough to figure that part out.

        When starting out, it would be prudent to "ramp up" your dose; start at 1 capsule 3x a day for a week, then 2 caps 3x a day for a week, etc, etc.  Give your body time to adapt to the fat intake, and (potentially) offset any coagulation issues.

         When Should I Take My Fish Oil?

        Based on this study, I'd say take it with meals for better absorption:

        Absorption of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid from fish oil triacylglycerols or fish oil ethyl esters co-ingested with a high-fat meal

        Lawson LD, Hughes BG. Murdock Pharmaceuticals, Springville, Utah 84663.

        The absorption of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oil triacylglycerols and fish oil ethyl esters consumed in a high-fat meal (44 g total fat) by male volunteers was measured and compared to values previously reported for consumption in a low-fat meal (8 g total fat). Absorption of EPA, but not of DHA, from fish oil triacylglycerols was significantly improved from 69% to 90% by co-ingestion with the high-fat meal. Absorption of both EPA and DHA from fish oil ethyl esters was increased three-fold, to about 60%, by co-ingestion with the high-fat meal, indicating that absorption of fatty acid ethyl esters is highly dependent on the amount of co-ingested fat.

        Personally, I take 3g x 3 a day (5 capsules of the Costco brand pictured), morning, later afternoon, and night, for a total of 9g of combined EPA and DHA.  This puts me at little over 0.5gEPA/DHA per 10lbs BW.

        Related Links and Articles

        Fish Oil Supplement Profile - David Tolson. Explanations on how fish oil works in body comp, cardiovascular disease, depression, and recommended dosages.

        Fishy Advice, Part 1 - Eric Cressey. Cites studies and stats on the benefits of fish oil in specific diseases.

        Fishy Advice, Part 2 - Eric Cressey. Continuation of above.

        Dr. Barry Sears on Fish Oil and Athletes - Interesting look at pro athletes and a combo of fish oil/GLA. Well worth the read.

        PUFA Intake In Humans - From Stephan at Whole Health Source. Great article.

        Oil Of Pisces - Website that reports on fish oil and specific disease processes.

        American Heart Association on Fish Oil - PDF article. 

        Essential Fatty Acids - Normally, Wikipedia is a risky source of info, but this link gives a good layout of EFAs, with links to omega-3 and omega-6 listings.

        American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition Study on Fish Oil and Exercise, full PDF - Well controlled study on the effects of fish oil and exercise.

        Dr. Briffa on Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratios and Body Comp Effect - Dr. John Briffa takes a look at O3 to O6 ratios and how this can affect body comp and cardiovascular health.

        International Fish Oil Standards - IFOS tests supplemental fish oil to exceptionally high standards. Click on "consumer report" to take a read.

        Alan Aragon On Fish Oil  - Alan Aragon does a thourough breakdown on fish oil; great read.