Some Nerdy Shit about Supplements

For your reading pleasure, we have compiled some information on 7 common dietary supplements:

  1. Multivitamins: The quality of food today is not the same as the quality of food we had 100 years ago which is also not the same as the quality of food we evolved to eat as cavemen/women. Because of this, the nutrient profile in our foods is severely lacking (thank you pesticides and growth hormones). Therefore, it could be extremely beneficial to take a daily multivitamin to ensure that your body is getting the necessary vitamins and minerals to perform it’s daily functions. In fact, the FDA recommends taking a multivitamin to fill the nutrient gap.
  2. BCAAs: As discussed slightly in the Whey protein section of this article, Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are nutrients that are useful for reducing muscle breakdown during intense exercise, has been found to improve mental concentration, and decrease fatigue [2,3]. They are amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) with a branch of a carbon atom bound to two more carbon atoms [2]. During exercise, tryptophan is produced by the body and enters the brain causing fatigue. However, an increase in concentration of BCAAs in the body decreases the amount the available tryptophan entered into the brain and subsequently decreases fatigue [3]. Furthermore, these three amino acids increase the rate of protein synthesis, which is likely to be caused by changes in signaling pathways controlling protein synthesis [4]. BCAAs are great to take during strength and endurance training as they will help make you feel less sore the next day and allow you to keep the same exercise intensity to make greater improvements to your workouts.
  3. Creatine: This is a naturally occurring organic acid that is produced by the body from L-arginine, glycine, and L-mathionine to be transported in the blood for use by muscles. Extensive research has been done on the effects of oral supplementation of creatine and has found that it is mostly devoid of adverse side effects while improving the physiological response to weight training. Furthermore, some studies have shown that consumption of creatine has significant improvement on cognitive ability. Creatine is often used as a treatment for people with neuromuscular disorders. However, when taking creatine (specifically creatine monohydrate) it is VERY important to make sure you are consuming plenty of water. It increases the water content of your muscle cells, making you look more toned by promoting muscle fiber growth, but if too little water is consumed, creatine will sit outside those cells and bloating may occur [5,6].
  4. L-Carnitine: An amino acid that is required for the transport of fatty acids from the cytosol into the mitochondria during the breakdown of fat to generate energy and is a building block for protein synthesis. In short, it is great for burning fat as fuel in your workouts! Carnitines also exhibit an antioxidant effect and has been proposed to treat a variety of health conditions [7,8]. It can be found naturally in red meats, dairy products, nuts and vegetables. 
  5. Glutamine: One of the 20 amino acids that is essential for the recovery process and is consumed naturally through beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and some vegetables. The body can make enough glutamine for its regular functions, but if you are active or do heavy exercise, your body may need more glutamine that you can consume. It is vital for removing excess waste, usually ammonia, from the body and can also boost your immune system [9].
  6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Holy Moley, these are such an important fatty acid. Not only does it improve brain function and improve the health of skin and hair, it also is vital for normal metabolism regulation, reducing inflammation, and promotes heart health among a number of other benefits.
  7. CLA: Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a naturally occurring group of isomers found mostly in meats. There have been countless studies on the effect of CLA and body composition and it has been found that CLA helps your body utilize calories efficiently and improve how your body uses the food that you eat. I will eventually write more on this but I am exhausted at the moment!

 References

[1] Marshall, Keri. Therapuetic Applications of Whey Protein. Alternative Medicine Review, 2004.

[2] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1005-BRANCHED-CHAIN%20AMINO%20ACIDS.aspx?activeIngredientId=1005&activeIngredientName=BRANCHED-CHAIN%20AMINO%20ACIDS

[3] Blomstrand, E., Hassmen, P., Ekblom, B., Newsholme, E.A. Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise-effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids. Eur J App Physiol. 1991.

[4] Blomstrand, E., Eliasson, J., Karlsson, H., Kohnke,R. Branched-Chain Amino Acids Activate Key enzymes in Protein Synthesis After Physical Exercise. The Journal of Nutrition. 2006.

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creatine

[6] http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/creatine.html

[7] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1026-L-CARNITINE.aspx?activeIngredientId=1026&activeIngredientName=L-CARNITIN

[8] http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/glutamine

 

Why your Handstand Pushups are Shit

  1. You don’t practice enough – How frequently do you attack your weaknesses? Do it often so they become strengths. 3x a week minimum.
  2. Practice hollow holds more – Learning what “hollow” means and maintaining it throughout the handstand is paramount to developing fluidity in the movement.
  3. Your hands are too wide –  with the new CrossFit standard, it’s more important than ever to keep your hands narrow. Get your hands as close to your shoulder width as possible.
  4. Hypermobility in the lumbar and/or thoracic spine – as athletes get tired they lose midline stability. This is a problem especially for female athletes whom already have hypermobility issues. Keep your core tight and squeeze your glutes. It’s better to take extra time to rest here than to get a NO-rep.
  5. Do more push-ups – this should probably be number one. Strength is everything here. If you don’t posses the strength to do ten strict push-ups from your toes then you don’t have what it takes to do a handstand push up. Start a push up program.
  6. Pull your toes down – Want to do all of the work, lock your arms out with your feet on the wall and get a NO-rep? Of course not, so pull your toes down and lead with your heals.

The Difference Between Whey and Casein Protein

One of the single most important supplements any athlete or active person should consider consuming is a high quality protein source. Ideally this comes from natural, organic foods like chicken or turkey or beef. But there are many other types of protein (dairy, soy, pea, etc.) that you can choose from as well if you are finding it difficult to cook so much meat all the time. I tend to prefer the dairy proteins whey and casein, as I think they are more palatable. Whey and casein are milk proteins that have been studied and researched extensively over the past few decades. They are simply a byproduct of the cheese and curd manufacturing process and their benefits are many:

  • Whey: A popular post-workout protein drink that is purported to provide antimicrobial activity, immune modulation, improved muscle strength and body composition, and to prevent cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis [1]. Whey protein is the perfect post workout meal because it is a fast absorbing protein, which will give your muscles the protein it needs when they are most hungry, and it is chock full of amino acids. Whey proteins have all the essential amino acids and in higher concentrations compared to other protein sources. Furthermore, the amino acids found in whey are efficiently absorbed and utilized by the body. In addition to the essential amino acids in whey protein, it has high concentrations of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). BCAAs such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are important in the tissue growth and repair process [1]. And because whey protein is rich in sulfur-containing amino acids, the immune system is enhanced through intracellular conversion to glutathione. I’ll spare the super nitty gritty details of all the biological processes and just get to the point - hydrolysis (aka degradation and digestion of the protein) of whey in the small intestine allows for the greater absorption. Another positive effect of whey protein is it’s anti-tumor and anticarcinogenic potential from the available glutathione that detoxify potential carcinogens.
  • Casein: A slow digesting protein due to it’s coagulation under the acidic conditions found in the stomach which slows the entrance into the intestines. Due to slow digestion relative to whey protein, it is generally a good protein to drink at night before you go to bed. That way, your muscles will be fed with high-quality protein and nutrients throughout the night when you sleep.

Protein powders are often useful if you need a high quality protein source in a hurry. Or if you are on a calorie-restricted diet, they can provide a large quantity of protein (which will help keep you feeling full) for a small amount of calories.

 

 

Don't Be A Dick: Gym Etiquette

Here are some cues to mastering gym etiquette:

  1. Put your weights away when you are done using them. No one likes to clean up after you.
  2. If someone is about to perform an lift (particularly an Olympic/Power lift), do not stand directly in front of them. That eye contact is awkward and it can be distracting to them.
  3. Wipe you sweat off of equipment. Again, no one likes to clean up after you...especially bodily fluids.
  4. Don't leave a pile of chalk on the floor. Unless you want Jake to make you do burpees.
  5. Don't fart in a closed space where others are (ahem Jake). 

6 Benefits of Staying Hydrated That Most People Don’t Know About

There are dozens of benefits that come from drinking plenty of water. Here are the top six:

  1. Backaches. The back of our body rests on the spinal cord. The spinal disk core is made up of a large volume of water and dehydration, which leads to back pain in many individuals.
  2. Improved athletic performance. Since muscle is about 80% water, it’s important to keep your muscles fueled with what it needs. Even slight dehydration can lead to altered body temperature and increase fatigue. Furthermore, during exercise, your body will sweat in an attempt to keep your core temperature low. This can lead to even more dehydration. It’s a vicious cycle
  3. Smoother bowel movements. If you tend to have difficulty pooping, it could be caused by lack of sufficient water intake
  4. Weight loss. Yep! Drinking more water can help you lose weight as it can increase satiety and boost your metabolism.
  5. pH Balance. The human body maintains a pH range of 7.35-7.45 for proper physiological processes. An acidic shift may lead to sickness and an inability of the body to assimilate vitamins and minerals.
  6. Prevents Cardiovascular Disease. In order to maintain the proper viscosity of blood, plasma, and fibrinogen, it is important to drink adequate water to make sure the blood is moving through the pipes properly!

So how much water is enough water? There are a handful of online calculators out there like this one and this one but the general rules are:

  • If you are a sedentary person (low-activity job with little to no exercise) - ~64oz of water each day
  • If you are a moderately active person (low activity job with medium to intense levels of exercise for 30-60 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week) - ~100-150oz of water each day.
  • If you are a very active person (high activity jobs with high intensity exercise for 30-60 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week) - ~120-170oz

Everyone’s body is different so these numbers might not be the most precise for you. Looking at the color of your pee is a good gauge as well. If your pee is more yellow/dark yellow, you need to drink more water. If your pee is a light/very light yellow, you should be good.

Why you need to stop doing CrossFit to get better at CrossFit

There are two types of Crossfitters – the first type, where most people land, is “I do CrossFit to be healthy and/or look good naked.” The second type is a complete different and dark dark universe filled with endless hours of lifting heavy ass weights, ensuring your toes are pointed on your gymnastics training, and training your mind to endure the hard work. If you fall into the first category, then this article does not pertain to you. You keep doing what you are doing and lookin’ good doin’ it! But if you aspire to be the best at exercising then continue reading.

I remember a few years back. At the time, I had already been doing five or so years of Crossfit. My friend and I had the silly notion that we were on the cusp of making it into regionals. We trained our asses off that year, did multiple lifting programs, focused on gymnastics and made sure our cardio was “open ready”. That year my numbers were:

  1. Deadlift: 405
  2. Back squat: 325
  3. Clean and jerk: 275
  4. Snatch: 215
  5. Fran: 3:30
  6. Grace: 2:30
  7. Max pull ups: 45

Looking back, those numbers are still respectable for a the average human. But man, we were wrong about being close to making it to regionals. Those numbers landed me at 6,780th place. Not exactly the results I had hoped for. My buddy didn’t do much better as he had to pull out of the competition due to injury. It was about that time when a study of the statistical analysis came out that broke down athletes that made it to regionals by the numbers, specifically the bottom 3% of athletes. What they found was eye opening and changed they way I and many people approached the sport of Crossfit. These were their numbers to the best of my recollection:

  1. Deadlift: 505
  2. Back squat: 450
  3. Clean and jerk: 335
  4. Snatch:275
  5. Fran: 2:30
  6. Grace: 1:36
  7. Max pull ups: 75

These numbers represented the BOTTOM 3% OF REGIONALS ATHLETES. After this, it became more apparent than ever that it didn’t matter how big your engine was or how much heart you had, if you want to be a competitive CrossFit Athlete, you need to be strong AF and focus on weightlifting and gymnastics and skill. Don’t get me wrong I love a long strenuous chippers or a good team WOD but believe it or not those WODs are hindering your strength gains.

So what should you do then to get better at CrossFit? Throughout the year you need to be practicing cleans, jerks, snatches and all the accessory lifts. Learn and master the fundamentals of gymnastics – do hollow holds, hand stand holds, push ups, pull ups, dips and all that other good stuff. Keep your WODs and interval training between three and five minutes. As the CrossFit Open approaches, you can increase the length of your WODs and begin the necessary cardio training needed to keep you moving in those long Open workouts (this can typically be done 6 to 8 weeks out from the Open). So when the Open rolls around, you will approach it much like a fighter getting ready for a fight. If you followed the plan throughout the year, you will be stronger than ever with much improved gymnastic abilities at this point. I guarantee if you take this approach you will greatly improve your score and set yourself up to compete with the best.

So, remember if you want to get better at Crossfit, stop doing Crossfit!

What Are Supplements and Should I Take Them?

We aim to shed some light on what dietary supplements are, the benefits they could provide, and some things to consider when thinking to add a supplement into your routine. What we are not aiming to do is to tell you that you should go out and buy all of these and start taking them all the time. What you put into your body depends on what your goals are and what you need. For the most part, you will see the most dramatic improvements to your health and physical performance by eating nutritious­ foods. And if you want to add in supplements to your routine, add them in one at a time so you can see the affects of each. In that way, you will be able to better judge whether it is the right thing for you.

The word “supplements” can often provoke a negative connotation and, for some people, their mind goes straight to steroids. However, supplements are different than steroids because steroids (specifically anabolic steroids) are drugs that directly affect the nucleus of cells to alter testosterone content in the body. The results of taking steroids typically include increased muscle mass, increased strength, hepatotoxicity, immune dysfunction, glucose interolerance, in addition to a myriad of other psychiatric, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal effects. Supplements, on the other hand, are vitamins and powders of ingredients that can normally be found in the food that we consume or naturally in our bodies. Examples include, but are not limited to, Vitamin C, protein powders, Fish Oils, multivitamin pills, etc.

Whether or not you do choose to add in a supplement, I would recommend researching it as much as you can to evaluate for yourself the benefits. Supplements will definitely not cure any diseases, but they could help you with getting the right nutrients you need. If you do choose to take a supplement, it is important to drink plenty of water. In fact, drinking plenty of water is SUPER important regardless of whether you are taking supplements or not (maybe we should write another blog about water intake….). Water allows your liver, kidneys, brain, stomach, etc. to function properly and helps these organs efficiently process any supplement you are taking. In addition, water helps flush out the body and remove waste products generated when performing high intensity exercises. And just like the bottle might say “consult your physician if you have questions on if this is the right thing for you”.

How To Do Better in the CrossFit Open

Every year we get together for 5 weeks and put the past year's training to the test. There will be no faking it here - the bro reps wont be counted and only if you’ve put in the sweat, tears, and sometimes blood, do you even stand a chance to compete with the best. Even then your chances are bleak unless you are strong AF, your gymnastics is on point, and you’re a fucking machine.

            In order to get better in the Open, your focus should be on getting stronger in the Squat, Deadlift and Press for the majority of the year. You will also want to pay close attention to the Snatch and Clean & Jerk. This is tricky though, Olympic lifting for technique and Olympic lifting for Crossfit is much different but you need to practice both. Olympic lifting with technique makes you better at Crossfit, but Crossfit doesn’t make you better at Olympic lifting.

            Simultaneously you should be working on your gymnastics skills. Everyone will have a different focus here but a good place to start, as with everything, is with the fundamentals. Do hollow holds, handstand holds, strict pull ups, push ups, dips and arch to hollow swings. For a more detailed program check this one out.

            Now, we can’t forget about your cardiovascular endurance. To get the most out of the years lifting and protect your precious gainz, keep metabolic conditioning workouts to under 10 minutes. Start ramping up around November-ish by adding in some longer and more frequent MetCons. The Open starts at the end of February and you will want be have world class conditioning by then. You should follow a program that consists of running, rowing, swimming and all sorts of others sucky shit.

            So to recap: lift heavy and often, work on your gymnastics, film yourself, analyze, make adjustments, watch all the videos (of the experts) and work your ass off. And remember -this is supposed to be fun, so loosen up and enjoy the ride.

Top 3 Reasons Why You Can’t Overhead Squat and How to Fix Them

The overhead squat requires just the right combination of flexibility, strength, power and coordination. If you have ever attempted one, you know all too well.  Performed correctly it can be a powerful tool in the development of an athlete’s ability. When done wrong it is not only dangerous, but very frustrating. While all lifters tend to be a little different and require a slightly different approach, there are a few simple things to take a look at when trying to improve the overhead squat.

  1. Your air squat sucks! Many lifters skip mastering the fundamentals on the basic lifts, which make the more complex, such as the overhead squat, snatch clean, lifts possible. Go back to the basics and perfect your technique from the ground up.
  2. You don’t do it enough. Unless you were one of the lucky few that came to the party flexible, this move requires many hours of practice, evaluation and hard work to master. To become proficient at anything 10,000+ hours are needed. So, get to work!
  3. Your core is weak! Do you fold in half when you squat? This is a problem. Developing a strong core that can keep your back vertical is essential to safely progressing in the overhead squat. Do supplemental core exercises. Everyday.  
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Why Your Squat Sucks

The squat is the essential movement of any true and tested fitness program. While all lifters were not created equally there are some simple rules to abide by. So let’s start from the ground up (literally) and look at a few of the most common faults seen in the squat and how to fix them. 

  1. Your feet are all wrong. Your feet should be as narrow as hip-width apart and as wide as shoulder-width apart. If you pick a stance that is to narrow it requires an extreme amount of hip mobility. Too wide and you start wasting energy. Play around and find what is comfortable for you, just be mindful of how wide you go.
  2. Your weight is not distributed through your foot correctly. This one is huge and probably one of the most common faults. The foot is the base of the squat and having a solid foundation here is paramount. If the base of the squat is off then chances are the rest of the squat is suspect as well. Your weight should be on the outside of the foot and in the custom heal. Arches are up and NOT collapsed.
  3. Not using your butt to squat. If your knees start to come towards each other at any point during your squat, then you aren’t using your butt to it’s fullest. Everybody squats for a better butt so get those knees out!
  4. Your knees come forward. Not only is this a surefire way to hurt your knees, but it is also very inefficient way to squat. Stick that butt back and get those hamstrings to do some of the work for you.
  5. Your chest collapses when you squat. This is what we call an immature squat. Fixing it is essential to improve not only your squats but also your olympic lifting. To rectify this, try to engage your thoracic spine (which is the area of your mid and upper back) to keep your chest up. One exercise that might help increase the strength and flexibility in that area is holding a 10 pound plate outstretched in your hands when you squat. Not only will this engage those muscles, but it will also increase your stability during this movement.
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