Thursday, April 29, 2010

Compression Research, Poliquin Humor, and HAWT Chocolate

 Ok, so at the not-so-subtle cattle prodding of my friend and fellow fire-breather Kris "The Machine" Fraser, I'm back for another kinda-weekly (weakly? Ha!) installment.  I've come across some interesting and entertaining stuff since the last post, so grab a cup o' organic java and enjoy.

Compression Clothing: Scam, or Truth?  OPT says Truth.

If you've watched any Crossfit competitions, you've probably seen chicks and dudes wearing some totally dorky neoprene-looking knee-high socks and shirts.  Return of the Under Armour nightmare?  No, not quite.  First off, buff Crossfit chickadees can wear any combo of spandex/neoprene/lycra/latex they damn well please, in my book.  BUT---there's way more to it than that.  I had looked into it briefly after this abstract floated into my Google Reader.  Meh, just what I figured: "This was the first study to evaluate the effect on endurance performance of different types of compression clothing with increasing amounts of compressive surface. Overall, there were no performance benefits when using the compression garments."  But then James Fitzgerald, aka OPT had a blog post endorsing the recovery merits of compression gear.  Has OPT gone mad?  Did he sell out?  WTF.  Time for some Sciencey Goodness to the rescue:
J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Mar;24(3):804-14.

Effects of a whole body compression garment on markers of recovery after a heavy resistance workout in men and women.

Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA.


The primary purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the influence of a whole body compression garment on recovery from a typical heavy resistance training workout in resistance-trained men and women. Eleven men (mean +/- SD: age, 23.0 +/- 2.9 years) and 9 women (mean +/- SD: age 23.1 +/- 2.2 years) who were highly resistance trained gave informed consent to participate in the study. A within-group (each subject acted as their own control), balanced, and randomized treatment design was used. Nutritional intakes, activity, and behavioral patterns (e.g., no pain medications, ice, or long showers over the 24 hours) were replicated 2 days before each test separated by 72 hours. An 8-exercise whole body heavy resistance exercise protocol using barbells (3 sets of 8-10 repetition maximum, 2.0- to 2.5-minute rest) was performed after which the subject showered and put on a specific whole body compression garment one designed for women and one for men (CG) or just wore his/her normal noncompression clothing (CON). Subjects were then tested after 24 hours. Dependent measures included sleep quality, vitality rating, resting fatigue rating, muscle soreness, muscle swelling via ultrasound, reaction movement times, bench throw power, countermovement vertical jump power, and serum concentrations of creatine kinase (CK) measured from a blood sample obtained via venipuncture of an arm vein. We observed significant (p < or = 0.05) differences between CG and CON conditions in both men and women for vitality (CG > CON), resting fatigue ratings (CG < CON), muscle soreness (CG < CON), ultrasound measure swelling (CG < CON), bench press throw (CG > CON), and CK (CG < CON). A whole body compression garment worn during the 24-hour recovery period after an intense heavy resistance training workout enhances various psychological, physiological, and a few performance markers of recovery compared with noncompressive control garment conditions. The use of compression appears to help in the recovery process after an intense heavy resistance training workout in men and women.

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Apr 8. [Epub ahead of print]

Lower limb compression garment improves recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in young, active females.

School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, St. Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 2LU, UK,


This study aimed to investigate the efficacy of lower limb compression as a recovery strategy following exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). Seventeen female volunteers completed 10 x 10 plyometric drop jumps from a 0.6-m box to induce muscle damage. Participants were randomly allocated to a passive recovery (n = 9) or a compression treatment (n = 8) group. Treatment group volunteers wore full leg compression stockings for 12 h immediately following damaging exercise. Passive recovery group participants had no intervention. Indirect indices of muscle damage (muscle soreness, creatine kinase activity, knee extensor concentric strength, and vertical jump performance) were assessed prior to and 1, 24, 48, 72, and 96 h following plyometric exercise. Plyometric exercise had a significant effect (p </= 0.05) on all indices of muscle damage. The compression treatment reduced decrements in countermovement jump performance (passive recovery 88.1 +/- 2.8% vs. treatment 95.2 +/- 2.9% of pre-exercise), squat jump performance (82.3 +/- 1.9% vs. 94.5 +/- 2%), and knee extensor strength loss (81.6 +/- 3% vs. 93 +/- 3.2%), and reduced muscle soreness (4.0 +/- 0.23 vs. 2.4 +/- 0.24), but had no significant effect on creatine kinase activity. The results indicate that compression clothing is an effective recovery strategy following exercise-induced muscle damage.
My Thoughts: 
Pretty compelling stuff, from a recovery angle.  I don't know James personally, but from what I've gathered following his methods of training/nutrition/teachings, he doesn't do anything unless the data proves it.  Should every Crossfitter, fire-breather or weekend warrior run out and buy some compression gear?  Nope, not a damn chance.  This is no different, in my mind, than the category of "supplements"---unless you have your diet 100% tightly dialed, your training programmed perfectly, sleeping patterns that would make a caveman envious, and your stress/emotions totally in check, I see no need to drop mucho dinero on skin-tight compression gear.

That is, unless you are a buff Crossfit chicka.  Then, by all means.

Charles Poliquin: Humor Sprinkled With Pearls of Wisdom 

I came across this list today, and found it both entertaining and educational; keep in mind Polquin, while being scary smart, has a very sarcastic sense of humor.  

Top 10 reasons how women get fatter despite good intent

1.  They do spinning classes. That and disco fly swatting will get you nowhere fast in your pursuit of lean physique.

2.  They have Kashi for breakfast with skim milk for breakfast. Eat the cardboard box, it is higher in nutrients.

3.  They go for coffee after training. Coffee is great pre-training, horrendous post training. You want high cortisol when you train, not after.

4.  They follow a low fat diet, fearing that fat makes you fat. In the process, they avoid nutrient dense foods like avocadoes that would help much raster.

5.  They consume soy products that shrink their brains not their hips because of the toxic levels of manganese.

6.  They eat bagels because they are low fat. Gasoline is also low in fat. Would you drink that?

7.  They don’t make time for themselves. Here is the best fat loss tip for women: take a week off just for you, no boyfriend/partner/husband and no kids.

8.  They consume grains. Part of a healthy and balanced fat butt.

9.  They use beauty products loaded with harmful chemicals such as parabenes.

10.  They don’t follow the axiom: You are your schedule.

P.S. Men are dumb, but not that dumb. For example, I can’t believe that women think we fall for the following camouflage combo:

Diversion 1: sweatshirt tied with sleeves around butt to hide the fact that you should actually hang an orange triangle on it.

Diversion 2: 150-350 dollars hair cut.

Reality check:

The 150-350 dollars haircut does not attract our attention from the wide load. We actually don’t even notice when you get your hair done. If a male notices your hair cut, he is gay, or he has not admitted it to himself. Proof? When he gets up from your couch, he rearranges the pillows.

 Chocolate:  Does a Brain Good.

For quite a while now, my wife and I have enjoyed a square of 90% dark chocolate after dinner; one just needs to plug "cocoa" into either PubMed or Google, and you get a schwackload of hits on the positive health properties.  I recently had a phenomenal meal at a friends house, and was pleasantly surprised when he pulled out the 90% Lindt (along with some espresso!  Jackpot!).  So, I thought this was fitting:

Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects.

Nestle Research Center, Vers-chez-les-Blanc, CH-1000 Lausanne 26, Switzerland.


Dietary preferences influence basal human metabolism and gut microbiome activity that in turn may have long-term health consequences. The present study reports the metabolic responses of free living subjects to a daily consumption of 40 g of dark chocolate for up to 14 days. A clinical trial was performed on a population of 30 human subjects, who were classified in low and high anxiety traits using validated psychological questionnaires. Biological fluids (urine and blood plasma) were collected during 3 test days at the beginning, midtime and at the end of a 2 week study. NMR and MS-based metabonomics were employed to study global changes in metabolism due to the chocolate consumption. Human subjects with higher anxiety trait showed a distinct metabolic profile indicative of a different energy homeostasis (lactate, citrate, succinate, trans-aconitate, urea, proline), hormonal metabolism (adrenaline, DOPA, 3-methoxy-tyrosine) and gut microbial activity (methylamines, p-cresol sulfate, hippurate). Dark chocolate reduced the urinary excretion of the stress hormone cortisol and catecholamines and partially normalized stress-related differences in energy metabolism (glycine, citrate, trans-aconitate, proline, beta-alanine) and gut microbial activities (hippurate and p-cresol sulfate). The study provides strong evidence that a daily consumption of 40 g of dark chocolate during a period of 2 weeks is sufficient to modify the metabolism of free living and healthy human subjects, as per variation of both host and gut microbial metabolism.
PMID: 19810704 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

My Thoughts: Do yourself a favor, and get on the dark chocolate, post-meal; in addition to giving you a kick ass amount of  anti-oxidants, it causes a spike in the LOVE hormone, dopamine.  Woo!

Recent Training
Apr 23rd, 1PM, CFLA
5RM Overhead Squat
175#x3 Grrr.  Solid 3, with an easy 2 more in the tank, but my left wrist felt like it was going to snap off.

AMRAP in 8 minutes
5 Power Snatch 95#
5 Clapping Push Ups
5 Ball Slams 20#
7 rounds +10 reps.  Meh.  You know how I feel about Oly + Metcon.  That aside, 95# felt not too bad.  Probably looked horrendous.

Apr 27th, U of L, indoor rock climbing x2hr.
Haven't gotten out as much as I'd liked, but feeling WAY better on the 5.9 and 5.10 routes.  Worked some crazy overhang problems in the bouldering cave, and fried my grip; forearms are still aching today (29th)

Apr 28th, 1PM, CFLA
3RM Push Press, 165#
Was hoping for more, but 175# wouldn't even get past my forehead.  Disappointing, but it's coming along.

150 Double Unders
30 Thrusters 95#
30 Chest-to-Bar pullups
9:20.  WOW.  This was ugly, and I mean toss-your-cookies ugly, and I even scaled from 135# thrusters to 95#.  Thrusters have always been a killer for me, but this really sucked.  Morale of the story?  DO MORE THRUSTERS.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rule#1: Cardio, The Best Condiment Ever, and Saving Your Steak

First off, Late Edition Edit:  I realize I have a wicked case of dyslexia, and I'm actually not even joking.  Re-reading this post 5 hours later, I can't believe the grammatical errors.  So, if a sentence doesn't make sense, just assume I meant what you thought I meant.  Capeesh?  Ok then.

Back to completely cryptic blog titles!  Yay Me!  Ok, first up, some completely gratuitous bike porn, for no other reason than the weather is beautiful and singletack is calling my name!:

This is my main steed, a 2009 Santa Cruz Nomad; I spent waaaaay too much on this bike last year, but it's worth every cent.  The geometry, the stiffness, how it climbs, how it descends...unreal.  I had  a custom built Gary Fisher Cake 1 DLX before, and that can't even touch the Nomad.

This was actually my first hardtail; a 1999 Kona Explosif.  Made from 853 Reynolds steel, it has nearly the same strength:weight ratio of titanium.  Right now I'd got street slicks on it, and this baby is what gets me to Crossfit and the fire station.  Huge amount of positive Chi infused in that beauty steel frame.

I was trying to follow the CFE (Crossfit Endurance) programming in addition to our CFLA programming, but it's damn near impossible with my shiftwork; what I've been doing instead is hitting various intensities while commuting.  I'm lucky enough to have a steep hill both ways (Only a true Crossfitter would consider "uphill both ways" as a good thing!"), and fairly empty side-streets to hit sprints.  My reason for all this?  I've blathered about it a bit, but it's for this, happening July 24th:

And, what would a post by Mike be without some sciencey goodness?  From the vault, a classic that every Crossfitter should know.  In fact, one could say almost the whole methodology of metabolic conditioning could be based on this study: (In case you're wondering, this is the original Tabata protocol, named after the lead researcher, Dr. Izumi Tabata)

Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.
Department of Physiology and Biomechanics, National Institute of Fitness and Sports, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.


This study consists of two training experiments using a mechanically braked cycle ergometer. First, the effect of 6 wk of moderate-intensity endurance training (intensity: 70% of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), 60 min.d-1, 5 d.wk-1) on the anaerobic capacity (the maximal accumulated oxygen deficit) and VO2max was evaluated. After the training, the anaerobic capacity did not increase significantly (P > 0.10), while VO2max increased from 53 +/- 5 min-1 to 58 +/- 3 (P < 0.01) (mean +/- SD). Second, to quantify the effect of high-intensity intermittent training on energy release, seven subjects performed an intermittent training exercise 5 d.wk-1 for 6 wk. The exhaustive intermittent training consisted of seven to eight sets of 20-s exercise at an intensity of about 170% of VO2max with a 10-s rest between each bout. After the training period, VO2max increased by 7, while the anaerobic capacity increased by 28%. In conclusion, this study showed that moderate-intensity aerobic training that improves the maximal aerobic power does not change anaerobic capacity and that adequate high-intensity intermittent training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems.

The Best Condiment Ever

Mustard. It really is the best condiment ever. Why? It's about as close to a bottled, processed Paleo condiment that you'll ever get. Quick, run to your fridge, and grab the yellow plastic squeeze bottle you have,(or the $18 dollar tiny glass jar of expensive imported French Dijon, for you hoighty toighty folks) and check the ingredients.

Ingredients: Vinegar, Water, Mustard Seed, Salt, Turmeric, Paprika.

That shit is badass!  Simple, and falls under Michael Pollan's Food Rule of "Avoid foods containing ingredients you can't pronounce."  Ok, but what's really so great about mustard?  The highlighted spice, Turmeric, which contains an active ingredient called curcumin; Google that, or plug it into Pubmed, and you'll get a shwackload of hits.  Like this(yeah I know it's mice but whatever.  The general public is more related to rats than humans, anyways.):

Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage

J. Mark Davis,1 E. Angela Murphy,1 Martin D. Carmichael,1 Mark R. Zielinski,1 Claire M. Groschwitz,1 Adrienne S. Brown,1 J. David Gangemi,3 Abdul Ghaffar,2 and Eugene P. Mayer2 1Division of Applied Physiology, Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health and the 2Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of South Carolina, Columbia; and 3Department of Microbiology and Molecular Medicine, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Submitted 8 December 2006 ; accepted in final form 26 February 2007

Downhill running is associated with fiber damage, inflammation, delayed-onset muscle soreness, and various functional deficits. Curcumin, a constituent of the Indian spice turmeric has been investigated for its anti-inflammatory activity and may offset some of the damage and functional deficits associated with downhill running. This study examined the effects of curcumin on inflammation and recovery of running performance following downhill running in mice. Male mice were assigned to downhill placebo (Down-Plac), downhill curcumin (Down-Cur), uphill placebo (Up-Plac), or uphill curcumin (Up-Cur) groups and run on a treadmill at 22 m/min at –14% or +14% grade, for 150 min. At 48 h or 72 h after the up/downhill run, mice (experiment 1) underwent a treadmill performance run to fatigue. Another subset of mice was placed in voluntary activity wheel cages following the up/downhill run (experiment 2) and their voluntary activity (distance, time and peak speed) was recorded. Additional mice (experiment 3) were killed at 24 h and 48 h following the up/downhill run, and the soleus muscle was harvested for analysis of inflammatory cytokines (IL-1beta, IL-6, and TNF-{alpha}), and plasma was collected for creatine kinase analysis. Downhill running decreased both treadmill run time to fatigue (48 h and 72 h) and voluntary activity (24 h) (P < 0.05), and curcumin feedings offset these effects on running performance. Downhill running was also associated with an increase in inflammatory cytokines (24 h and 48 h) and creatine kinase (24 h) (P < 0.05) that were blunted by curcumin feedings. These results support the hypothesis that curcumin can reduce inflammation and offset some of the performance deficits associated with eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.
Not only does it have implications in training, but due to it's potent anti-inflammatory effects (it acts much like a natural COX-2 inhibitor, like common NSAIDs...think ibuprofen, naproxen) it's currently being researched and studied for uses in everything from renal disease to Alzheimer's.

 Save Your Steak.  With Spice!

Well, since I'm on a sciencey goodness roll, I'll just keep a-rollin', BBQ style:

Antioxidant-rich spice added to hamburger meat during cooking results in reduced meat, plasma, and urine malondialdehyde concentrations1,2,3,4

Zhaoping Li, Susanne M Henning, Yanjun Zhang, Alona Zerlin, Luyi Li, Kun Gao, Ru-Po Lee, Hannah Karp, Gail Thames, Susan Bowerman and David Heber
Background: Emerging science has shown the effect of oxidation products and inflammation on atherogenesis and carcinogenesis. Cooking hamburger meat can promote the formation of malondialdehyde that can be absorbed after ingestion.
Objective:We studied the effect of an antioxidant spice mixture on malondialdehyde formation while cooking hamburger meat and its effects on plasma and urinary malondialdehyde concentrations.
Design: Eleven healthy volunteers consumed 2 kinds of burgers in a randomized order: one burger was seasoned with a spice blend, and one burger was not seasoned with the spice blend. The production of malondialdehyde in burgers and malondialdehyde concentrations in plasma and urine after ingestion were measured by HPLC.
Results:Rosmarinic acid from oregano was monitored to assess the effect of cooking on spice antioxidant content. Forty percent (19 mg) of the added rosmarinic acid remained in the spiced burger (SB) after cooking. There was a 71% reduction in the malondialdehyde concentration (mean ± SD: 0.52 ± 0.02 µmol/250 g) in the meat of the SBs compared with the malondialdehyde concentration (1.79 ± 0.17 µmol/250 g) in the meat of the control burgers (CBs). The plasma malondialdehyde concentration increased significantly in the CB group as a change from baseline (P = 0.026). There was a significant time-trend difference (P = 0.013) between the 2 groups. Urinary malondialdehyde concentrations (µmol/g creatinine) decreased by 49% (P = 0.021) in subjects consuming the SBs compared with subjects consuming the CBs.
Conclusions: The overall effect of adding the spice mixture to hamburger meat before cooking was a reduction in malondialdehyde concentrations in the meat, plasma, and urine after ingestion. Therefore, cooking hamburgers with a polyphenol-rich spice mixture can significantly decrease the concentration of malondialdehyde, which suggests potential health benefits for atherogenesis and carcinogenesis. This trial was registered at clinical as NCT01027052.

Bust out the grill, whip up a baddass dry spice rub, and pull the mustard out of the fridge.  Add to that some polyphenol-rich organic Argentinian Malbec (my fav right now, tequila aside), and I'd call it summer, baby.

Various and Random WODs

Like I stated, a lot of my focus has been on riding as of late, and it's a bit hard to quantify gains, or lack thereof, in that department.  It's subjective to me, and day-to-day, based on the typical variables of sleep/food/stress and all that.  I did blast past a couple of huffing and puffing teenagers biking up the westside hill, but that's neither here nor there. :)  Some notables:

Monday, April 12th, CFLA

1RM Front Squat, 265#.  Reference Dec 1, 2009, 250#.
I'll take it; Had 275#, but bailed in the hole.

Tuesday, April 13th, CFLA

10,000m row, 40:40.
I've never done this for time, so had no idea how it would feel; I wanted to just maintain a good pace, but it's hard NOT to get fixated on the time, as a Crossfitter.  I had interesting ups and down in how I felt, which I should have documented better; last 2500m I felt awesome.  Sub-40 would be my next goal.

Thursday, April 15th, CFLA

Overhead Press, 1RM, 130#.  Reference March 22nd, 130#
At this point, just happy I can do this.  Eventual goal, 165#.

Petranek Fitness Test
500m row
40 Squats
30 Situps
20 Pushups
10 Pullups
3:46.  Left some in the tank off the row, so I might be able to shave a few seconds off.  Felt good, though.  Andy Petranek, from Crossfit LA has made standards based on this test, but I won't bother listing them here.  A good little test of pure anaerobic endurance.

Friday, April 16th, CFLA

1RM Deadlift
405#x1 Holy Hell Booya!  Came up fast, lock out easy!!  
410#x1 Tough, and ugly, but got 'er done
415#x0. Came off the ground, but couldn't lock it out.  Odd.

Totally, utterly stoked about this, as my goal has been 412.5# (2.5x my BW of 165#) for a loooooong time.  The way 415# came up, I have no doubt that more is in store.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How To Optimize Your Recovery

Now To Fix This.

1. The act, process, duration, or an instance of recovering.
2. A return to a normal condition.
3. Something gained or restored in recovering.
All of these definition pretty much fit the role of what happens AFTER we work out. Why is this important? Well, think of it this way: We spend roughly 1 hour working out, but 23 hours recovering. That's 4% vs 96% of our day.  Personally, I'd say recovery should be on everyone's mind a LOT more.  We, as Crossfitters, do a fine job of demolishing ourselves on a near-daily basis, but we should be even more cognizant of how to recover properly.  So we can do it again.  :)

Caveat Lector: While many of these recovery modalities have direct carry-over to any training goals, what I'm emphasizing here is performance.  Want to be a Crossfit Rockstar?  Then giving a shit about body composition has no place.  It's about faster and stronger.  So keep that in mind, especially in the PWO nutrition point.

I'm going to hit on a few very basic tips on optimizing recovery:

 Get Some.  Get LOTS


I can't even begin to place enough emphasis on this; there's a reason sleep is #1 on every single recovery list  from guys like Dan John to Robb Wolf to James Fitzgerald to John Berardi.  If sleep is not adequate, nothing, and I mean NOTHING else you do will matter.  No amount of supplementation, nutrition, or bizarre techniques will take the place of sleep.  Why does it matter so much?

   The actually process of sleep and athletic recovery goes far beyond both my understanding and the scope of this article,  but it involves far more than "just rest".  Hormonal regulation and secretion of cortisol, melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, testosterone and growth hormone, to name just a few, are all dependent on quality sleep.  Many studies have been done on sleep deprivation, and from 15 years of personal experience, I can tell you the effects are acute and drastic.  Couple HIIT-type training + sleep debt, and you massively and chronically spike your cortisol levels; this leads to an accelerated phase of over-reaching, possibly overtraining (there's a difference), and potential adrenal fatigue.

How do we fix this?  Get your 8 hours.  In fact, shoot for 9.  One of the best books I've ever read on the importance of sleep is called Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival by T.S Wiley. Treat your sleep just like your Paleo diet: Think caveman. Where you sleep should be as dark and cool as a cave. Get black-out blinds. Get to bed BEFORE 10pm.  TV is shit, and whatever porn you're surfing on the computer will be there tomorrow.  Lower the temperature. Turn your clock away from your face.  Our DNA still thinks it's 2 million B.C.  When that sun goes down, our bodies are programmed to shut down, too.  If you're smart, you eat like a caveman.  Shouldn't you sleep like one, too?

PWO Carbs:  Earned, and Enjoyed.

2) PWO Nutrition

In any nutrition lecture I do, I always place a huge emphasis on PWO (post-workout) nutrition.  Why?  Because, besides sleep, there is nothing else as important for recovery.  And we can 100% control this.  In the PWO state, a multitude of things are going on, and our body is already frantically trying to return to homeostasis; two of these are increased protein synthesis to repair muscle damage, and increased insulin receptor sensitivity to enhance the speed of glycogen repletion.  Simplified?  Our body wants to fix damage and top up the gas tanks, ASAP.  And we can help this process by giving it what it needs:  Carbs and Protein!

I've always been a big fan of PWO protein shakes; they are fast, easy to make, easy to chug down, and offer both simple carbs and fast-digesting whey.  While everyone is different, a LOT of folks have a hard time crushing a 10 oz steak with a side of sweet potato and a spinach salad; HIIT (high-intensity interval training) tends to crank the sympathetic system up for quite a while, and this causes a drop in appetite.  Solution?  Blender time, baby.  I've talked about this before here.

Now any of you out there that listen to Robb Wolf's Paleolithic Solution podcast know that he pretty much demonizes "liquid food"---and with good measure, but you have to understand the context.  Jane Smith, soccer mom of 3, with goals of improving body comp and general functional work capacity, DOES NOT require a PWO shake.  Johnny Rocket, 21, 7% body fat at 180lbs, soon to be the next local MMA title holder, DOES require a PWO shake.  It's about goals.  James Fitzgerald of Optimum Performance Training has a simple kick-ass lil' formula that he uses for PWO pro and carb, based on your BF%...which is basically how carbohydrate tolerant you are:
post wod fuel male:
above 12% - 30g prot/10g carb
8-12% - 30g prot/25g carb
below 8% - 30g prot/40g carb
post wod fuel - female:
above 16% - 20g prot/10g carb
12-14% - 20g prot/20g carb
below 12% - 20g prot/30g carb
eat a balanced PFC meal 45-60 min after post wod fuel for everyone (P=protein, F=fat, C=carb)

Can't argue with anything at all in that formula; there's enough pro and carb to kick-start repair, and a solid whole food meal an hour after.

John Berardi has a similar take, albeit in larger quantities: 0.4g protein per kilogram of BW, and 0.8g/kg carbohydrate PWO.  If you take an easy round number like 75kg (165lbs), that's 30g pro and 60g carb PWO.  His protein recommendations line up with OPT's, and while his carb recommendation is higher, it's not off by much.

My advice?  Find a formula you like, try it out, and base it on how you feel and how you recover.

Of note: If you're thinking that post-workout insulin spike from the shake will be the death of your health, think again:  Insulin attenuates cortisol release.  Hard training?  Causes a huge cortisol spike, as would any form of extreme stress (I think Crossfit applies well here).  Sleep + Feed  = Low Stress, therefore low cortisol.  Half the battle is already done with these two.

Pre. Post. 24/7. 
3) Hydration

I'm not going to spend and whole lot of time here on hydration, other than to recap a post I did a while back on it:

Half your BW (pounds) in ounces of water.  I LIKE this equation.  Why?  It works, it's EASY, and it's not overboard.  So, for me, 165lbs BW * 0.5 = 82.5 ounces; so, if 1 US fluid ounce = 29.5735296 ml, then I'm drinking roughly 2400mL a day.  Yup, 2.4L

Obvious stuff:  PWO, you are 1) dehydrated, and 2) have metabolic waste from protein breakdown to H+ (acid) accumulation floating around ye' old body.  Replacing lost fluids is paramount to recovery, especially to stave off any symptoms of excess soreness of swelling, which could be the beginning of rhabdomyolysis.  Chances are you've probably dabbled in this and didn't even know it.

And it doesn't stop in the PWO period.  Come to the gym WATERED, like any cute flower would.  Dehydrated?  You'll take a major hit in performance, and you'll feel even crappier after.

Foam Rolling is HAWT recovery.
4) Back-off/Periodization/Active Recovery

I'm going to lump these all together, because essentially, they are all related: it's about doing less, so we can do more...not NOW, but LATER.
  • Back-Off Period: Everyone likes to hit the WODS with 100% intensity, 100% of the time, on a perfect 3-on, 1-off, right?  Right.  Is this feasible, from a health/power output/longevity point of view?  Hell No!  One thing that you WON'T see in standard Crossfit-esque programming is a back off period.  YOU, as the client, have to insert this time period appropriately.  LISTEN to your body.  LOOK at your numbers.  See how you FEEL when you wake/sleep/preWOD/postWOD.  These are keys telling you when to back off.  And when I mean back off, I mean lower either the frequency of your workouts, the intensity, or both.
  • Periodization: One thing that, unfortunately, Dot-Com programming completely lacks is periodization; This concept is neither new nor revolutionary, as the Eastern Bloc countries like Russia, East Germany, and Poland among others have been doing this since the early 50's.  What is it?  In simple terms, it's focusing your training on one aspect for a set amount of time, and then shifting that focus elsewhere at the end of that time frame.  It can get either as simple (like the aforementioned) or as complex as one wants, involving meso, macro, and microcycles.  An example would be Wendler's 5-3-1 powerlifting cycle---which we are incorporating right now at CFLA, albeit a simplified version.  My whole point here?  Have focus, and change it up.  It prevents stagnation and enhances long-term recovery.
  • Active Recovery: Recovery doesn't mean just sitting on your butt pounding back PWO shakes.  Getting that blood flowing, even at extremely low levels of intensity, can enhances and speed recovery, and even eliminate DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).  Ever hit a WOD hard, then jump in your car are drive 5 hours?  Remember how sore you were?  Active recovery can eliminate that.  This can entail anything from therapeutic massage to foam rolling to an easy 2k row.  And for some pure fire breathing beasts, like Mikko Salo, 2009 Crossfit Games winner, well, he runs 5-6km on his days off.  I don't advise this, but you get the point:  Move, even a little, for better recovery.
Don't be This Guy.  Supplement Wisely.

5) Smart Supplementation

While I'm hesitant to actually recommend supplementation, I would be negligent not to discuss it, as there are potential pros (and cons) to supplementation.  If you ever caught a nutrition lecture from me (be it formal, or an off-the-cuff, foaming-at-the-mouth type rant), you may have seen a version of the nutrition pyramid.  Supplements?  Right at the very top, in writing so little you can barely read it.  Yup, not that important, in the grand scheme of things.  But there's a few I consider helpful:
  • ZMA - In a nutshell, this is zinc and magnesium with some B6 thrown in.  Why do I recommend it?  It hits recovery from a number of angles.  First, because of the crappy produce available and dietary habits of most folks, we get neither enough Zn or Mg.  Secondly, due to physical exertion, athletes exacerbate this deficiency.  Thirdly, Zn is involved in immunity and testosterone production.  Fourthly, Mg is involved in pretty much every cellular activity you can think of, from oxygen uptake to ATP production to skeletal muscle contraction.  Fifthly, Mg dosing causes deep tendon muscle relaxation.  Add a sprinkle of B6? Enhanced conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin.  Take it at night?  Better sleep.  'Nuff said.
  • Fish Oil - Oh, I've talked about this before.  If you come to me asking for advice on supplements, but you're NOT taking fish oil, I may just strangle you like Homer Simpson does to Bart, just to see your eyes bug out.  Read, Buy, Take.  Rinse, Repeat, and Reap the Benefits.
  • Vitamin D - While it's the prom-princess celebrity flavor of the month as far as supplements go(and with SOLID science backing it), one might initially miss the reasons why I've included it in recovery.  Lets just say thisIncreased power output, optimal testosterone levels, and enhanced immunity, anyone?  I've been meaning to do a lengthy post on everything about Vitamin D, but honestly, it's a massively overwhelming topic, and new stuff pops up everyday.  The Canadian Cancer Society recommends 2000iu, but that's still pathetically low for us pasty-white northerners.  For reference, Dr J. Cannell, vitamin D researcher, recommends 1000iu per 25lbs BW.  Yup, it's lots.  Find a dose in between, of at least 2000iu D3 daily.  I'll post more about this in the future.
Pros do it.  So can we.
6) Contrast Showers/Cryotherapy

Studies on cryotherapy and contrast therapy (using alternating hot and cold) once again go back to the Eastern Bloc countries; there's some crazy interesting studies and modalities of use in Supertraining by Siff and Verkhoshansky and Science of Sports Training by Kurz.  Without actually undertaking the insane training of a Bulgarian Oly lifter, a weekend warrior athlete can still reap the benefits from this.

Cryotherapy, aka cold therapy, utilizes the anti-inflammatory action of cold application, coupled with vasoconstriction.  In the PWO state, our muscles and tissues are highly inflamed secondary to microtrauma and acidosis.  Cryotherapy reduces the inflammation, which while essential, also causes secondary cell hypoxia, leading to increased cellular death---a secondary theory in DOMS.  The vasoconstriction is hypothesized to cause a "flushing" action, reducing the amount of metabolic waste and H+ ions (acid).  Also of note, a "restoration" of CNS (central nervous system) fatigue is purported to occur, but this is really, really hard to quantify.  But who am I to argue with a Soviet exercise physiologist?  Plunging oneself into an ice bath, like the way-too happy NFL football players above, is one method of doing this.

Now, not everyone, not even your favorite Crossfit coach (not the short fat guy using big words, the tall skinny guy using big words), has access to a ice bath post-work out.  Enter contrast showers:

Contrast showers are a much more accessible (and humane!) way to incorporate cryotherapy; also, in my opinion, it doesn't exacerbate the cortisol spike that ice baths can potentially do.

Contrast Showers, simplified, is the alternating of cold and hot for varying lengths of time.  The theory behind alternating cycles is a vasoconstriction-vasodilation action---much like the "flushing" action of cryotherapy, enhanced with the dilation of heat.  Think of it like a whole body treatment of a hot, then cold, compress for a soft tissue injury at hour 72.  There's a ton of different regimes outlined in Kurz' book, but I prefer a 30s cold, 60s hot x 5 cycles.  Depending on when I train makes the difference of what temp I end on....if I train at night (rarely), I end with hot.  Any other time, cold; this is only for the single reason that cold will stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (to a degree), so I'd rather not do that before I try and sleep.  In the afternoon it's a helluva good way to re-vibe after a killer WOD.

Post your thoughts, questions, and other modalities to comments.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Things I Hate About Crossfit, Part Deux

It's That Time Again

I figure it's about that time again...time for me to rant and rave atop my beloved soap box.  If you haven't caught part I of Some Of The Things I Hate About Crossfit, you should go read it, because it sets the tone.

So without further ado, here is the continuation of some things I hate about Crossfit:

 6) Glassman On A Pedestal

This is one that's bugged me from my inception into Crossfit---I had found thee most effective system I had ever come across, it was kicking my ass daily, and I wanted to know everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, about it.  Where it came from, who invented it, the source, the guru at the top of the mountain.  Then imagine the discordant short circuit my brain went through when it became obvious it was a short fat man that used big words and dropped a lot of f-bombs. WASN'T Greg Amundson?  Seriously, for the longest time, I thought it was.  I mean, dude is a badass athlete, ripped to the gills, was showing up in every Crossfit Journal article at the time...I just assumed when folks were talking about "Greg", it was Amundson.  Alas, no.

  Ok, physique, athletic ability, and dietary habits (or lack thereof) aside, there MUST be a reason people talk about Glassman like he's some omnipotent deity.  Yup, he uses big words in his diatribes.  Coined ye old "across broad time and modal domain".  Ok, great.  But WHAT THE FUCK?  Something just didn't sit well with me.  And still doesn't.  And the "Drunk At The Chalk Board" series ain't convincing me otherwise.  And I'm not even kidding about the title.  My suspicions were recently confirmed by folks I don't even know when I walked into a conversation about that very series. I've watched that painful series twice, and am still boggled as to why it was even posted.

Redemption: I will give him this: He is the mastermind behind the juggernaut that Crossfit has become; everything from the "Girls" to the GPP-to-Stopwatch, to open-source info, to ease of affiliation.  Can't take that away, ever.  Plus, I came across a pretty damn good article on core training while digging through the Crossfit Journal from 2003.  Author?  Glassman.  Ahh, the good old days.

7) Dot-Com Programming

I've got a few personal beefs with the dot-com; first off, actually trying to find any info on the "how" "why" "who" just doesn't happen.  Much like my naive impression of Crossfit's founder, I assumed a lot of thought, planning, and wisdom went into the dot-com programing.  After all, think of ALL the soundbites where athletes that stated "Gee Whiz, I just do dot-com, it's the best programming out there".  Jump forward a couple of years.  News flash:  Top CF athletes do NOT do dot-com, and soccer moms do NOT do dot com.  Who does dot com?  I don't know.  The randomized, chaotic mess of stupid volume metcon screams "Cortisol!!!!  Get Your Cortisol!!!!  By The Bucket!!".   Yes, the "girls" are fun benchmarks.  Yes, I get the concept, and respect, the Hero wods.  Yes, I get scaling and substitutions. (Can't do 30 muscle ups for time?  Aw, hell, chicka, just do 120 dips and 120 pullups.  Its just that easy).  I also get periodization, specificity, and individualization.  And I haven't come across an affiliate page in a looooong time that uses dot-com. 

Redemption:  Ok, so dot-com put CF on the map, and a whole ton of folks started to learn more about different levels of metcon.  Dot-com from 2002 vs 2010?  Yeah, two different beasts.

8) The Firing Of Robb Wolf

The stupidest thing CF has ever done, and they are still reeling from the aftermath.  While the true reasons behind the departure of Wolf as the main Crossfit nutrition SME (Subject Material Expert) will never be known, it's fairly clear that Robb is a stand up guy that held true to his principles.  He brought a HUGE amount of knowledge to the masses about nutrition and athletics, and (as everyone who knows me knows this well) it's the essential flip-side to performance, health, and longevity.  Nutrition is everything.  Athletics is nothing without it.  Robb knows this.  Does Barry "I-Can't-Take-My-Own-Advice" Sears know this?  Christ, besides the Drunk At The Chalkboard series, I haven't watched a more painful series on nutrition.  I've never liked the Zone, and all it's ever been is a form of caloric restriction with (possible) adequate nutrition.  Ok, I'm digressing, but I get pretty fired up about this point.  I haven't watched the series with Dr. Scott Connelly, but I'm hoping it'll be good.  I bet HQ is, too.

I had the luxury of seeing Robb present one of his last CF Nutrition seminars (it's a SEMINAR, not a CERTIFICATION), knowing that he had recently blasted the Zone.  Yet he presented the material in a professional, unbiased way.  Thank GAWD he still cranks out a wealth of info weekly via the Paleolithic Solution.

Redemption: None.  Do not pass Go, Do Not Collect $200, Go Straight To Hell.  It should also be mentioned the loss of Rippetoe, Everett, Twight, and de-affilation of Dallas and Mellisa (among others) is boggling to the mind.  Conform or be Cast Out?  Looks like the boys from Rush pegged that one with their lyrics nicely.

9) Level 1 "Certifications"

Okay, shooting myself in the foot with this one, but it's gotta be done.  A level one "certification" is no more than this:  A two day seminar of lecture combined with group teaching, with a t-shirt thrown in, all for the low low price of $1000USD. (1500 Canuck bones, at the time, for me.)  After the weekend?  Hell, you can open a Crossfit affiliate, just fork over $2000 more.  Yup, you're good to go!!!  Holy quality control issues, Batman.  Props to the HQ instructors, as they are probably thee most organized group I've seen trying to hit up a large variety of folks with the basics in a short amount of time.  But it just scares me that this is the level that you need to run an affiliate. Theoretically, one could pay, sit at the back of class, not take part, and bust open a box the next day.  And people wonder why Crossfit gets a bad rap???  Level-1 is a mere awareness course.  Hell, there was a guy sitting next to me that had never done a wallball or put a barbell over his head before.  On the same hand, there were folks with multiple (actual) certifications and degrees and sub-3 minute Fran times (um, not me on that later point, ha!).  At the end of the weekend?  We we all level-1 "certified".  This goes for every other CF education...cert.

Redemption:  Lots, because this weakness is actually one of Glassman's mastermind moments: Easy level 1 has enabled the exponential (albeit quality-uncontrolled) growth of Crossfit.  Also, Level-2, from what I hear, has an extremely high failure rate based on rigorous testing.  Rumor mill states that in the future, all Level-1 coaches will have to undergo testing.  Totally not confirmed, but I very much look forward to that.

10) LuLu Lemon.  On GUYS.

Ok guys, lets have a nice sit-down talk about this.  LuLu Lemon rocks.  I mean, thank the f-ing GAWDS for LuLu.  Why?  Because it turns the most mundane, boring female ass into a f*cking work of art.  And I'm not even joking.  I don't know if it's that strategically placed horizontal strip, the material, or what, but it's magic.  This, as it stands, is a fact.  Couple a Crossfit gal with Lulu?  S'all good, hombre.

What is NOT cool is guys wearing Lulu.  Why?  Well, lets hit on a few points:
  • It's LULU.  It's LEMON,.  It's a girls name coupled with a fruit.
  • The symbol looks like a UTERUS.  C'mon now.
If it was called "MiMi Mandarine" and it had a some fancy rainbow symbol, would you wear it?  Fuck!  No!  Women's name?  Fruit?  Uterus?  I don't give a shit if it's the best godamn pair of freakin' yoga pants you own, and your girl bought it for you.  Wear that shit at home.  I also don't care if OPT is sponsored by LuLu, or if you have a 450# deadlift.  IT'S JUST NOT RIGHT.
Redemption For Guys:  None.  You're ghey.  That's GEE-ATCH-EE-WHY.  Ghey.  Not gay, 'cause that's just fine by me.  But GHEY.