Monday, July 19, 2010

Magical Magnesium, Healthy Alcohol, 24 Hours of Fun and a Few Notes

It's Essential

Biol Trace Elem Res. 2010 Mar 30. [Epub ahead of print]

Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Testosterone Levels of Athletes and Sedentary Subjects at Rest and after Exhaustion.

Karaman High Medicine of Physical Education and Sports, Selcuk University, Karaman, Turkey,


This study was performed to assess how 4 weeks of magnesium supplementation and exercise affect the free and total plasma testosterone levels of sportsmen practicing tae kwon do and sedentary controls at rest and after exhaustion. The testosterone levels were determined at four different periods: resting before supplementation, exhaustion before supplementation, resting after supplementation, and exhaustion after supplementation in three study groups, which are as follows: Group 1-sedentary controls supplemented with 10 mg magnesium per kilogram body weight. Group 2-tae kwon do athletes practicing 90-120 min/day supplemented with 10 mg magnesium per kilogram body weight. Group 3-tae kwon do athletes practicing 90-120 min/day receiving no magnesium supplements. The free plasma testosterone levels increased at exhaustion before and after supplementation compared to resting levels. Exercise also increased testosterone levels relative to sedentary subjects. Similar increases were observed for total testosterone. Our results show that supplementation with magnesium increases free and total testosterone values in sedentary and in athletes. The increases are higher in those who exercise than in sedentary individuals.
PMID: 20352370 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in over 300 enzymatic activities; it's vital for everything from blood pressure regulation, neurotransmission, skeletal and cardiac muscle contraction, and aerobic AND anaerobic energy production.  Needless to say, it's damn important---and obviously, even more so in the aspiring athlete.  And, interestingly enough, athletes are the most prone to Mg deficiency; a military study as far back as the 60's showed a 2.3mg loss through sweat per hour.

So how does one prevent deficiency and optimize levels? (Current RDA sits at roughly 350mg, gender/age dependent.  Optimal levels?  Some say 500mg and up)  Through diet, of course!

Some of the best dietary sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds being king!), dark leafy greens, dark chocolate (jackpot!) fish, and various legumes and grains.  A great database of magnesium content can be found here.

Important Point: Grains and legumes, while technically having high sources of magnesium, are also extremely potent sources of inflammatory lectins, gluten, and anti-nutrients like phytic acid, which bind to minerals like zinc and magnesium.  Don't eat them.

Is Supplementation Necessary?  No, supplementation is never necessary; as you can see from the massive database, it's pretty damn easy to get magnesium from food sources.  BUT---some points to consider:
  • Athletes are prone to deficiency due to loss through exercise and sweating
  • Soil depletion leads to much lower levels of naturally occurring Mg in foods
  • Actual required optimal levels in athletes is unknown
  • Current RDA is more than likely sub-optimal for both health and performance
My Thoughts:  If you train intensely 4-5x/week, are an endurance athlete, live and train in a hot environment,  do NOT follow a Paleo diet AND eat grains and legumes (phytic acid, remember?) you should consider magnesium supplementation.  Yes, I understand that just about covers everyone.  :) To add to this, if you are male, you should consider ZMA supplementation, which is zinc, magnesium, and B6; zinc is the second most deficient mineral in athletes, and zinc has a direct tie-in to testosterone production and immunity.  Poliquin harps on this continually, and really, who is going to argue with Poliquin?

  If you're going to take it, take it before bed to maximize sleep quality (Zn, Mg and B6 all play roles in sleep quality).  Also, if you don't use the ZMA formula (a patented formula designed by Victor Conte of Balco Labs.  Remember "The Clear"?  Yeah, same dude.), steer clear of magnesium oxide, which has low bioavailability.  The standard dose of ZMA includes 450mg of magnesium aspartate; I'll leave you, savvy reader, to figure out what YOU need, if YOU deem supplementation appropriate.

Martin Berkhan, author of LeanGains, enjoying some healthy vino

Everyone knows I fully endorse low to moderate intake of quality alcohol.  Why? Because, looking from the health/longevity end of the spectrum (and not the athletic performance end), there's countless proven benefits, some of which I've posted here in the past.  Most folks, though, unjustly shun it like a Crispy Creme doughnut just due to plain ignorance and misinformation.

One of the most well-written and researched websites I've come across is Martin Berkhan's LeanGains
.  His topics normally focus on achieving and maintaining lean body composition through diet and intermittent fasting; however, looking beyond that focus leaves a wealth of incredible information and knowledge in regarding to nutrition.  Trust me, this guy is no dumb bodybuilder.  When he writes a book, I'll own it.

And speaking of writing, instead of reading my own mediocre middle-man regurgitation, I'd invite you to read his latest post:
                                                       The Truth About Alcohol, Fat Loss, and Muscle

24 Hours of Fun?  Damn Straight!

So in less than a week I'll be taking part in a 5-person team doing a 24 hour mountain bike race at the Canmore Nordic Center; it's a relay type event, where I'll do a lap (16KM per lap.....AHH, I get why Mike always does 16km rides now!!!) then my team mate, etc etc for 24 hours.  Team with the most laps wins.  There's different categories, with the most extreme being the solo.  And to think some guys do it on single-speed bikes.  Insane!

Why, do you ask, would I do something like this?  Well, one, I love mountain biking.  Two, I was asked last year on short notice and couldn't do it because of work, but the bug was planted.  And Three, the captain of the team, John Power (owner of Power Health with his wife, Dr. Chelsea Layden-Power) is a super positive guy with a similar mindset to myself in regards to health and nutrition.  Super stoked, and can't wait to hit the trails.
Recently, the 2010 CFLA Showdown took place; huge props to the winners:
Men's Division
1) Curtis Manning
2) Joey Lutz
3) Kris Fraser
Women's Division
1) Becky Clark, CF Gig Harbor
2) Heather Scott
3) Anne-Marie Young
Men's Scaled
1) Tim Craddock
2) Kirby Cochrane
3) Eric Ong
Women's Scaled
1) Kim Bennetts
2) Neena Rossbuger
                                                                      3) Theresa Molnar
I was only able to make it to the "Showstopper" WOD, but it was a crazy intense day that ran so smooth it was unreal.  Super cool that Dan Rogers, #1 Canadian Crossfitter, popped by to take a crack at the workout.  Next year will be even better!  Complete results can be found here.

Also of note:  2010 Crossfit Games winners were Graham Holmberg and Kristan Clever; I would have like to have seen Annie Thorisdottir (Thor's Daughter?) win, well, because she's just a big sexy viking, and Chris Spealler because he's an amazing athlete who, by the way, did earn a 3rd place podium finish.  Mikko Salo, the beast of a firefighter who won last year, took a very respectable 5th.  The depth of competition at this level is just frightening.  Consider this:  James "OPT" Fitzgerald placed 28th, and Dan Rogers placed 29th.

My predictions for next year:  Clever and Thorisdottir will still place high, if not 1/2.  Guys?  No idea.

Various Training

First off, a real Confession: I've been slack in documenting my training; I'll sometimes post on the CFLA site if I do the main site (main being ours, not that other one with brutal programing) WOD, but if I either do my own at the firehall or ride, like I have been, I find myself staring at the wall calender and reaching into the dusty depth of my coconut trying to remember.  Do as I say, not as I do.  Write down your training.  Ha!

July 12th, Monday, Lethbridge Coulees, 2PM
16.5KM mountain bike loop, approx 75min.  This is the wicked loop John showed me, north of the bridge.  It's perfect, lots of tight singletrack, longish uphill grinds, and short steep sections.

July 13th, Tuesday, CFLA, 1PM
21:19.  Hit the Wall of China on the Burpees (at the 16 min mark, no less) that chewed away a nice sub-20 time.  Best time I've had yet on this benchmark.  Had to step down from the 24" box because my left foot is still fubar'd.

July 14th, Wednesday, Lethbridge Coulees, 2PM
16.5km loop with Jacob; frequent breaks (and a flat tire fix), along with frequent falls----by me.  It's amazing what fatigue does to technique, even in just trying to keep a bike in a straight line.  Had a nice bail down some steep exposure, which luckily I was entangled in my bike and didn't roll far.  Good Times!

July 16th, Friday, #1 Firehall, 11AM
5 Rounds, 30s on/15s off of:
-Wall Ball Shots, 20lbs ball, 10ft target
-Renegade Rows, 35lb DB
-Goblet Squat, 65lb DB
-Push Press, 35lb DB
-Dumbbell Two-Hand Swing, 55lb DB
-Anchored Situps

Nice circuit with short breaks that I did solo---couldn't get any buy-in from the other guys at the station. :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Dirty Dozen (and clean 15), Finding Truth, and a SHOWDOWN

It's easy to be confused

SO it's summer, farmer's markets are in full gear, you're training is dialed in, and you've decided it's time to delve into the organic produce.  Bravo!  But...damn, son, that shit is EXPENSIVE!!!  How can one eat "clean" without taking out a second mortgage?  Here's how, via the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen:
If you can't remember these when shopping, think of it like this:  Anything thin skinned, buy organic.  Like apples and strawberries.  Anything thick skinned can be conventional, like avocados.  Personally, as a general rule, I buy spinach, strawberries, bananas, avocados, celery and broccoli organic; the price isn't vastly different, and I eat these items regularly.

For a full list, check the Environmental Working Group's website.

And I'm looking for it!

If you'll note the sidebar to the right under "About Me", I have the cheesy line of "looking for the truth in nutrition and athletics 24/7".  Why?  Because unlike any other science I've come across, it seems like black and white doesn't exist in nutrition.  Lots of variables, lots of opinions, and lots and LOTS of bad science.  But I digress.  I have found some truth, and I'm more than happy to share it.

One of my most highly recommended books is Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S. Wiley; I came across it via Robb Wolf, and was lucky enough to borrow a copy from the well-read co-owner of CFLA, David.  One of the recommendations was to avoid taking melatonin, due to down-regulation of endogenous (your own) secretion.  To me, this was profound, as a TON of folks, including myself, have sleep issues, and a TON of folks take melatonin.  Down regulation of natural secretion?  Bad JuJu, Hombres.

Seeking the Truth:  Being who I am, I flipped to the back endnotes, looking for the study reference (of which there is a plethora in the book) to the melatonin statement, but there was none.  Hmm.
Seeking the Truth, pt2: I was catching up on my Paleolithic Solution Podcasts (episode 33, to be exact) when Robb mentioned this exact issue, and stated he's never come across anything that mentioned down regulation (or not).  Hmm!!!
The Truth
J Pineal Res. 1997 Jan;22(1):42-4.

The amplitude of endogenous melatonin production is not affected by melatonin treatment in humans.

Department of Psychiatry and Neurology, Asahikawa Medical College, Japan.


A physiological dose of melatonin (0.5 mg) or placebo was given at bedtime to night shift workers (n = 21) for seven days, and endogenous melatonin profiles were measured on the eighth day. The amplitude of endogenous melatonin secretion was unchanged by treatment. Also, a melatonin treatment trial using a 50 mg daily bedtime dose for 37 days to a blind subject resulted in no change in the endogenous melatonin profile. We conclude that circulating melatonin can shift the phase, but does not alter the amplitude, of pineal melatonin secretion.
PMID: 9062869 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Huge props to my man behind the scenes, Adam, who got me the full copy of this study; while the follow up of the subject after cessation of the exogenous melatonin was short, I think the dosing, especially for the blind subject, speaks volumes. 

This weekend marks the First Annual CFLA Showdown!  Cory has put a HUGE amount of work into organizing this event, and it's going to completely kick ass!  We have roughly 38 competitors (at last count) coming from all over Alberta and possibly some from Montana!!!  I want to send a big shout-out to Dawn, owner of Sister's Pub and Grill, for putting together a Paleo-friendly menu for the athletes and spectators this weekend.  Very cool!

While I love my job as a firefighter/paramedic, which enables me to work as a Crossfit trainer during the middle of the week, there's times I curse shiftwork.  Like this weekend.  I have to work dayshift on Saturday, so I'll miss the triple-play WOD day.  Luckily, I'm on nights Sunday, so I'll be there until my captain comes looking for me and drags me to the station at 6PM.

See you there!

Various Training
June 28th, 1PM, CFLA
5 rounds bodyweight benchpress (165#) superset with max pullups. No time limit between rounds.
4/20 for a total of 157. Wish I could have busted out 3 more reps, but I was at pretty much max failure that last set. Fun Wod!

July 1st (CANADA DAY!), approx 1PM, Lethbridge Coulees

Did a wickedly fun run through the coulees with David; we hit singletrack, hills, gravel, some pavement for what I estimate was around 6-7km.

Felt fantastic---until I bashed my foot on a rock hidden in the grass.  Vibrams are pure heaven to run in, but don't offer much in the way of protection.  Thought it was initially busted (5th metatarsal, my pinky toe/joint/bone above) based on the bruising and swelling, but I'm thinking just a major sprain.  Walking sucks, but thankfully, I can still ride, as pressure on my forefoot doesn't aggravate it.  Carry on!

July 2nd, CFLA, 1PM
Snatch Grip Deadlift
305#x3  Previous PR of 275#, but this movement is strictly limited by tolerance to hook grip.  Thumbs?  Bah, they'll grow back.

Weighted Chinups

July 3rd, 10:30PM, Lethbridge Coulees
7KM Coulee nightride.

An obvious part of the 24 Hours of Adrenaline is that, well, it's 24 hours....and that means nightriding.  And let me tell you, nightriding is a blast...but a seriously trippy blast when you are alone.  Ripping through the coulees with just a tight beam of light ahead of you and black all around is a wicked rush.  I gotta admit, I love it!! 

July 6th, 10PM, Lethbridge Coulees
16KM Coulee nightride

Rode with John Power, captain of our team for the 24Hr, and owner of Power Health.  John is a wicked rider, both mountain and road, and blazed some trails that I had never come across in Lethbridge.  Super fun ride, so fun, in fact...

July 7th, 2PM Lethbridge Coulees
16Km ride
...that I repeated it the next day, just to check the terrain in daylight.  Legs gassed, but damn, fun loop!