Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Trifecta Balance, Whey and Muscle Damage, and BOOKS!

Athletes Need Balance

Everything on this planet strives for balance; this is the unwavering rule of homeostasis that is weaved into every aspect of our natural world.  Unfortunately, humans are too damn smart for their own good, and generally always try to screw this up, or think they supersede Ma' Nature.  It just ain't so, Joe.

Civilized cultures, particularly North Americans and Japanese, are totally awesome at destroying their health through stress; the 40 hour work week has become the 60 hour work week that's become the 80 hour work week.  (Weak!)  This isn't an "unknown"; it's fairly well documented.  Because of this, we now have to "find more time" to unwind.  Read that last sentence a few times, and let it sink in.  FUBAR'd comes to my mind.  This is why, in my next life, I'm coming back as a European.  They seem to actually understand the term "leisure".  But I digress.  

Athletes.  Do they need balance?  Sure.  Muscle imbalances cause all sorts of mechanical havoc.  Dietary imbalances?  Huge, of course.  "Don't get him started", as my co-workers will often warn the naive.  But what about the balance between life, training, and play?  A complex question that can be answered in a multitude of ways.

What I'd like to hear, if I asked this question of someone, is that Life, Training, and Play are all separate, but intertwined and dependent, entities.  Take a look at that symbol; each corner is needed for structural stability.  The triangle cannot exist with a corner missing.  But if one of the angles is stronger than the other, strength and stability are altered---it will no longer be a "balanced" equilateral triangle with 60 degree angles.

In Crossfit, we Go-Go-Go; it's always about faster, stronger, more intense.  PRs, faster times, bigger lifts.  In essence, we do this so we can play more effectively.  But what if we leave nothing left to play?  What if "The Gym" is our play?  Are we becoming unbalanced?  Fairly personal question I'll leave open. 

But what about the flip side to intensity?  Graham Homberg, 2010 CF Games winner, gets it:
Crossfit Journal Video: Om and Holmberg (If you don't have a CF Journal subscription, don't be a cheap bugger.  25$ a year is beans.  I know fools that spend that on coffee per week.  I don't pimp out many HQ things, but I have no qualms about the CFJ.)

I've posted on "Play" before; I think it's pretty damn important to utilize your fitness outside of the gym, and not for the sake of "getting fitter".  This is a concept that really goes beyond what I can verbalize, but it's an integral part of what makes us mammals---look at kids, look at puppies, look at dolphins.  "Play" makes them what they are.  It's a primal concept that Mark Sisson has talked about before.

An Athlete's Trifecta:  Training, Play, and Unwinding.  For me, this is Crossfit, Rock Climbing/Mountain Biking, and Yoga.

Post your thoughts to comments.

Whey protein isolate attenuates strength decline after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:30doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-30

Published: 22 September 2010

Abstract (provisional)


We examined the effects of short-term consumption of whey protein isolate on muscle proteins and force recovery after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals.


Seventeen untrained male participants (23 +/- 5 yr, 180 +/- 6 cm, 80 +/- 11 kg) were randomly separated into two supplement groups: i) whey protein isolate (WPH; n=9); or ii) carbohydrate (CHO; n=8). Participants consumed 1.5 g/ supplement (~30 g consumed immediately, and then once with breakfast, lunch, in the afternoon and after the evening meal) for a period of 14 days following a unilateral eccentric contraction-based resistance exercise session, consisting of 4 sets of 10 repetitions at 120% of maximum voluntary contraction on the leg press, leg extension and leg flexion exercise machine. Plasma creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels were assessed as blood markers of muscle damage. Muscle strength was examined by voluntary isokinetic knee extension using a Cybex dynamometer. Data were analyzed using repeated measures ANOVA with an alpha of 0.05.


Isometric knee extension strength was significantly higher following WPH supplementation 3 (P<0.05) and 7 (P<0.01) days into recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage compared to CHO supplementation. In addition, strong tendencies for higher isokinetic forces (extension and flexion) were observed during the recovery period following WPH supplementation, with knee extension strength being significantly greater (P<0.05) after 7 days recovery. Plasma LDH levels tended to be lower (P=0.06) in the WPH supplemented group during recovery.


The major finding of this investigation was that whey protein isolate supplementation attenuated the impairment in isometric and isokinetic muscle forces during recovery from exercise-induced muscle injury.

My Thoughts:  This is a pretty interesting study for reasons I'd normally be spitting mad and flingin' coffee around for:  The participants were untrained, and diets were NOT controlled.  The reason these issues are good is that untrained subjects are naturally going to have more eccentric damage from whatever they do, and uncontrolled diets, are, well, pretty damn normal in the real world.  This leaves the PRO and CHO groups fairly controlled, as far as supplementation.  The PRO group (signified as WPH) is actually a bit misleading---it's a hydrolyzed isolate with a very small amount of carbs thrown in, not just a straight whey protein isolate.  What would have been REALLY interesting was to have a third group, a PRO+ CHO, in the realm of 0.4g/kgPRO and 0.8g/kgCHO.  The PRO group (signified as WPH) is actually a bit misleading---it's a hydrolyzed isolate with a very small amount of carbs thrown in. 

Yay Books!

I recently just received two separate books in the mail, similar topics, yet vastly different for various reasons.  I've had the first book pictured, The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf, on pre-order since I first heard about it.  Robb has been a MASSIVE influence on the direction of my coaching focus, and his advice basically re-shaped the way I eat.  I plan on crushing this book, cover-to-cover, tonight at work if I have some downtime.

The second book, Food and Western Disease by Dr. Staffan Lindeberg, caught me completely off-guard when it came in the mail; as much as I wanted it, I didn't order it, as it's nearly a $100 textbook, and I enjoy being married.  It was actually a gift from a close friend, obviously one that knows me well.  It even had snazzy gift wrap and a bow!  This is THEE textbook of textbooks on hunter-gatherer nutrition and the issues with modern diet.  Lindeberg has done a shwackload of awesome research, including the famous Kitava study.

I've got geek material to last me a while with these two!

Various Training Sessions

Thursday, Sept 17th, Firehall #1, 1030
Did a really short circuit of mobility work/light strength work with MH, another firefighter and WICKED triathlete.  Right now, his training is consisting of rebuilding/strengthening via Core Performance Endurance; this consisted of sliding lunges, one-armed bench press, ab planks, and various mobility drills.  I always like joining in on other guy's workouts to get new ideas, and Verstegen's stuff is always solid.

3minx5 kickboxing with KH; went over more defensive maneuvers/evasions.  My hands are getting faster and crisper, and I feel like I'm starting to get a decent right hook.

Tuesday, Sept 21st, U of L
Rock climbing x 2 hrs; still working on various 5.10c routes.  Wicked fun, but relaxing, at the same time.

Wednesday, Sept 22nd, CFLA, 1PM
5/3/1 Press
135#1RM x 0.9=121.5#
115.5#x5. Would have liked to squeeze out a few more, but not today.  

500 m row (1:27.  Bah, 2 sec off my PR.)
rest 2 minutes
400 m row(1:17)
rest 1:30
300 m row (59s)
rest 1 min
200 m row (40s)
rest 30 sec
100 m row (19s) (total time, 4:42)
Rest 3 minutes
Row for Calories in 2 minute (44cal)

Thursday, Sept 23rd, CFLA, 1PM
AMRAP 20 minutes of 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats
26 rounds + 1.  Damn happy with this, as my last full Cindy was 20 rounds in Jan, and then back in May, a 10 minute version at 14 rounds.  Shoulder felt awesome and wasn't an issue at all, but legs were trashed from the get-go from the previous row.  I think I can hit 28 full rounds, someday.

3PM, U of L
Rock climb x2 hours.  While this wasn't too bad, the next 4 days I was smoked.  Speaking of balance...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Morrison's Take on Nutrition, Ketogenic Diets & Cancer, and a Mini Protein Review

Being Anywhere Fit.

Blair Morrison, 2010 European Regional winner and 23rd in the 2010 CF Games, has just put up a great post on how he fuels himself. I'm always saying you can make it as complex as you want, or as simple as you want.  I urge you to read the post in it's entirety, but here's some take-away bullets:
  • First off, we must acknowledge that different aims require different approaches.If one person wants to lose 30 pounds and the other wants to gain 30 pounds, their methods will be necessarily distinct.What most can agree on, however, is that this distinction typically hinges on quantity not quality.
  • I think it is important to mention here that the predominant benefit one gets from fruits and vegetables go unnoticed.Micronutrients are all the rave these days in anti-cancer circles and I am on the bandwagon.  Give me all the green I can get.
  • For one, I eat a ton of potatoes. Mostly sweet potatoes and yams because they have a milder effect on blood sugar, but plenty of the regular brand as well.  As far as I’m concerned, potatoes are still high quality food.  
  • And, before you say it, I’m not one of those cases where anything will work.  Flour knocks me out cold.  If I eat pizza, pasta, or garlic bread I’ll be horizontal on the couch before my grandparents finish their desert wine.
  • Point is, some developments are positive and not using them is plain stupid; those include post workout supplements like protein and creatine.  I know this because of how I feel after a workout when I take them compared to when I don’t. (Not to mention the overwhelming majority of scientific research). It’s night and day.  The only other supplement I take is fish oil, simply because I don’t eat enough fish and the human diet is wildly out of its Omega 3/Omega 6 balance.
My Thoughts:  Blair's take on nutrition is solid.  While one could split hairs on certain topics, the key here is that it's simple, and it works for him.  I like it.

The Ketogenic Diet Reverses Gene Expression Patterns and Reduces Reactive Oxygen Species Levels When Used as an Adjuvant Therapy for Glioma

Nutrition & Metabolism 2010, 7:74doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-74
Published: 10 September 2010

Abstract (provisional)


Malignant brain tumors affect people of all ages and are the second leading cause of cancer deaths in children. While current treatments are effective and improve survival, there remains a substantial need for more efficacious therapeutic modalities. The ketogenic diet (KD) - a high-fat, low-carbohydrate treatment for medically refractory epilepsy - has been suggested as an alternative strategy to inhibit tumor growth by altering intrinsic metabolism, especially by inducing glycopenia.


Here, we examined the effects of an experimental KD on a mouse model of glioma, and compared patterns of gene expression in tumors vs. normal brain from animals fed either a KD or a standard diet.


Animals received intracranial injections of bioluminescent GL261-luc cells and tumor growth was followed in vivo. KD treatment significantly reduced the rate of tumor growth and prolonged survival. Further, the KD reduced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in tumor cells. Gene expression profiling demonstrated that the KD induces an overall reversion to expression patterns seen in non-tumor specimens. Notably, genes involved in modulating ROS levels and oxidative stress were altered, including those encoding cyclooxygenase 2, glutathione peroxidases 3 and 7, and periredoxin 4.


Our data demonstrate that the KD improves survivability in our mouse model of glioma, and suggests that the mechanisms accounting for this protective effect likely involve complex alterations in cellular metabolism beyond simply a reduction in glucose.

My Thoughts: This is a bit of a deviation away from the typical studies I post, but it's a topic that's had my interest for quite some time. For a long, long time we have known about the Warburg Effect; in a nutshell, the fact that cancer cells run almost solely on glucose, even in the presence of oxygen. The conclusion of this study points to a mechanism outside of this effect; one involving an anti-angiogenesis effect secondary to reduced ROS formation.

My question is this:  If we know how to treat cancers effectively from a nutritional standpoint, WHY AREN'T WE DOING IT???  I'll leave you with that (high fat) food for thought.

Protein Review

I've had the chance to try a fair number of different protein powders over the years; what I've done here is just thrown down my thoughts on each.  There's nothing scientific or quantitative, just my opinion.  If there's a brand here you cherish and love and I've pissed all over it, well, all I can say is it ain't religion, it's just protein.

First off, a mini-primer on different proteins:
Whey Protein Concentrate: The lowest grade. Think of it like crude oil. I make this metaphor because- like crude oil- the isolates and hydrolysates are derived from WPC. They all start as concentrate. It has the lowest % of protein per gram, so it's more difficult to increase your protein ratio by supplementing WPC as compared to isolates.
Whey Protein Isolate: Refined concentrate. There are varying degrees of refinement. Think of it like gas- there is a range from basic to premium.
Hydrolyzed Protein: Usually from whey, this is processed to break up the protein chains (of amino acids) into shorter chains. The shorter the chain, the more readily it can be absorbed by your body, making this the ideal post-workout protein.
Casein Protein: The primary protein found in milk (whey is secondary). Casein clots in the stomach meaning it is digested over a longer period of time.
Milk Protein Isolate: MPI is simply an isolate of milk protein, so it mirrors the ratio of casein to whey (80:20) found in milk.

Note: All brands tested are the "vanilla" flavor, or a similar facsimile of; I generally only use it in my coffee preWO, or PWO in my staple shake.

Biotest's GROW Bioactive Whey - Recently just tried this for the first time; It's a WPC, so the serving size only offers 20g PRO per scoop, and the damn thing is huge.  Really sweet-tasting vanilla.  Sweetened with sucralose.  Pretty damn cheap, but you get what you pay for.  I won't buy this again. Mixes like crap in my coffee, which I do everyday when coaching.

Dream Whey - This is thee fuckin' Cadillac of proteins: made from whey from hormone free New Zealand cows---and all they feed 'em over there is grass. It's a combo of WPI/WPC, and sweetened with stevia. Mixes well, tastes damn good, and lightens your wallet like no other: nearly 50 bucks for a pathetically small 1.5lb container. I like it, but hey, I have my name embroidered on my shirt and I get paid by the hour. I'd love to use this all the time, but I need to stock the fridge with real food.

Jarrow Whey  - A shitty knock-off of the above, plus it's sweetened with fructose. Knowing what we know about fructose, I think I'd rather take the Ace-K and Splenda. Crappiest vanilla flavor I've had to date, plus it's a pure WPC.  Not impressed.

MuscleMed's Carnivor - This was one of those Damn-I-Regret-It-But-I-Did-It impulse buys. Carnivor is...wait for it...a BPI (beef protein isolate); I should have done my homework here, as the BPV (biological value of protein) and PDCAAS (protein digestibility corrected amino acid score) of beef vs whey is a no-brainer.  Plus, it's hard to hide the fact it's DRIED AND POWDERED beef.  Well, they try to hide it, with a brutal "blue raspberry" flavor. WTF, Mike. Seriously. Needless to say this one ONLY has been tested in my PWO shake. 

Ultimate Nutrition's IsoSentation93 - This, by far, has been my standard go-to protein; microfiltered, cold temp processed high-quality isolate with a shwackload of other goodies thrown in, like protease, lactase, and alpha lipoic acid.  The vanilla bean rocks, there's a whopping 30g of protein per scoop, and it dissolves in coffee quite well.  And, at 45 bucks for a FIVE pound tub (where I get it online), it's totally affordable.

True Nutrition Custom Blend - Currently, I'm using a WPI sweetened with Stevia in a vanilla flavor.  5lbs for 58 bucks.  There's a bazillion different options to design your own.  Probably the cheapest way to get away from stuff like sucralose and Ace-K.

Extra STUFF: 
  • Don't be a fool---buy online.  You'll get raked over the coals if you buy from a health food store or some juice monkey establishment.  Some stuff, like the Dream, you have no option.  
  • Whey is a byproduct of dairy processing; much like your fish oil (you take fish oil right?  Right.), the more processed the better.  Why?  It REMOVES impurities, namely because it's devoid of fat, and in the case of hydrolyzed whey, it's processed even further by denaturing.  So, that top dollar you just paid for organic, grass-fed, hormone free cattle raised by 1000 flaxen-haired virgin Kiwis?  Yeah.
  • Don't get your panties in a knot over the fact it states "Contains Soy and Wheat".  The soy is from soy lecithin, a fatty emulsifier, which is devoid of xenoestrogens.  Plus, lecithin contains phosphatidylcholine, which is needed for the production of the essential neurotransmitter acetylcholine.  S-M-R-T, yo.  The "wheat" could be glutamine peptides, which are usually manufactured from hydrolyzed wheat gluten.  Yup.  If you are seriously gluten intolerant, test it out first.  Chances are, it'll be fine: glutamine, while being nearly completely fucking useless as an oral supplement for recovery/muscle mass/yada yada yada, is an EXCELLENT supplement for GI health and reducing gluten-mediated inflammation.  Yay science!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Henry Rollins vs McDs, Tea Science, Education Update

First off, a short, hilarious, but oh-so-true rant from Henry Rollins.  Just to warn you, there's a few F-bombs.  Hide the children, THEN turn the volume up:

Effects of green tea, black tea and Rooibos tea on angiotensin-converting enzyme and nitric oxide in healthy volunteers.

Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Drug Research/Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, SE-581 85 Linköping, Sweden.


OBJECTIVE: Tea has been reported to reduce cardiovascular mortality, but the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. The aim of the current project was to investigate the effect of green tea (Japanese Sencha), black tea (Indian Assam B.O.P.) and Rooibos tea (South Africa) on angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and nitric oxide (NO).
DESIGN: Seventeen healthy volunteers received a single oral dose of 400 ml green tea, black tea or Rooibos tea in a randomized, three-phase, crossover study. ACE activity and NO concentration were measured (at 0, 30, 60 and 180 min) in all phases. ACE activity was analysed by means of a commercial radioenzymatic assay. Nitrite was analysed as a marker of NO concentration. In addition, ACE genotype was determined using a PCR method.
RESULTS: Oral intake of a single dose of Rooibos tea significantly inhibited ACE activity after 30 min (P < 0.01) and after 60 min (P < 0.05). A significant inhibition of ACE activity was seen with green tea for the ACE II genotype 30 min after intake of the tea (P < 0.05) and for the ACE ID genotype 60 min after intake (P < 0.05). A significant inhibition of ACE activity was also seen with Rooibos tea for the ACE II genotype 60 min after intake (P < 0.05). No significant effect on NO concentration was seen.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that green tea and Rooibos tea may have cardiovascular effects through inhibition of ACE activity.
PMID: 20144258 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

My Thoughts: By no means is this a performance enhancing effect; had there been a rise in NO, then maybe.  The ACE-inhibitory effect (ACE inhibitors are commonly prescribed blood-pressure lowering medications) could have potential implications in the PWO recovery periods, but that's just speculation on my part.  Nonetheless, it's just more ammo and reason why one should include various types of tea into their diet.  Personally, I'm a huge fan of Rooibos, Green, and White tea.  From the ECGC, anti-cancer, thermogenic, anti-hypertensive, and anxiolytic properties, one really has no reason NOT to drink some form daily.  I love my java, but tea just has too many benefits to ignore.

Education Update

Despite the fact I just finished up OPT's Nutrition cert, there's some pretty cool things on the horizon for the coaches at CFLA.  The education never stops!
  • Coming up at the beginning of October, Larry Mather from the Alberta Weightlifting Association will be putting on a NCCP (National Coaching Certification Program) Level-1 Olympic Lifting certification; I'm crazy stoked for this, as I absolutely LOVE Oly lifting, but it's also one of the most complex things to teach clients.
  • In November, we have a local physiotherapist coming to CFLA to do a certification in Gray Cook's Functional Movement Screen; I already have some training regarding this, and utilize it yearly with the fire department physical fitness testing. While all the coaches at CFLA are excellent in spotting dysfunction and/or restricted movement, this will be another extremely valuable tool in the toolbox to improve our athletes and identify weakness and potential injury locations.
  • I'm currently on ANOTHER nutrition journey---this time, with John Berardi, PhD.  I had started this a while back, but had to put it on the backburner to prepare for OPT.  The Precision Nutrition Certification will be an excellent adjunct to the OPT cert; I've been following Berardi's material for years, and have never been steered wrong.  He's counseled everyone from Olympic athletes to NHL players to UFC fighters in the realm of athletic performance related to nutrition.  It'll take me a long time to tackle this one, but it'll be well worth it.
Various Training

Aug 23rd, CFLA, 1PM
Squat Clean
Worked up to a heavy single@215#.  Ugly form, but tied my PR from May.

AMRAP 15 Min
6 Pullups
12 KBS (53#)
7rd +3 +6 +2.
Aug 30th, CFLA, 1PM
High Bar Back Squat
275#x1, 295#x0.  Got stuck halfway OUT of the hole, so I feel 295# is doable.  305# is my low bar PR, but it's been a while since I've work on my squat.  I'll be using 295# for Wendler's 5/3/1.  I wouldn't say my squat is a "goat", but it sure ain't my strong point.  Yet.

10 Rounds for Time:
3 Squat Cleans (105#)
5 Box Jumps (24")
5:14.  Fortunate enough to have Coach Fyfe join me at 1PM; I made the mistake of taking a couple of greedy breaths on the 3rd round, and never caught up to him again, as he came in with a wicked sub-5min time.

Aug 31st, CFLA, 1PM
Worked up to a heavy single of 135#, failed at 140#.  Very, VERY happy with this, despite the pathetic weight; my shoulder strength is improving, and my shoulder pain, or lack thereof, is good.  It gets sore after a workout like this, but it seems to disappear quick.  I'll take it.

Double Unders
Situps (anchored + abmat)
6:10.  Tripped up once on the set of 40, and situps seemed faster.  Gotta bust that 6 min mark someday.

Sept 1st, Firehall #1, 10:30AM
30s on/30s off, 5 Rounds
Med Ball Slams(20#), Renegade Rows (45#DBs), Plyometric Lunges, Push Press (35#DBs), Med Ball Situps(20#)
Myself, KH, and SG tackled this one.  After, KH and myself hit the pads for 5x3min each.  I'm getting faster and smoother with the hand combos, something that I totally lacked from my traditional martial arts background.  Jab-Cross-Bodyshot-Hook-Uppercut, goodnight!

Note:  I was seriously crushed for the next few days; Annie seems to do this, for whatever odd reason. A few shitty nightshifts over the long weekend didn't help, either.

Sept 6th, CFLA, 1PM
No classes today, but had a gym full o' friends: Team G, "The Body", Jake, PB, Al and Mich.
HB Back Squat, 5Rep, using Wendler's Percentages:
1RM295# x 90%=265.5, 75%=199, 80%=212, 85%=225
135#x10, 185#x5, 185#x5
75%(used 205#) x5, 80%(used 215#)x5, 80%(225#)x AMRAP, 8 reps.

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 of:
KBS, 70#
5:46.  Had Heather, Cory, Jake, and Patrick join me, which just rocks.  I'm normally fighting myself, mentally, during my solo metcons; having folks sweating, swinging, and flying around me is like a contagious energy. Love it.