Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Six Pack Abs! How to Get Them and Why They Are Terrible For You! Part 2.1 The How to Diet Without Dieing Edition

In the final installment of this series (I guess), I want to talk about dieting. I think it was the great and wise Richard Simmons that said, "The first three letters spell die... you don't wanna die, do you?"

One of the greatest minds of our time? Or a closet serial killer... one or the other.

The US weightloss market grossed $68.7 billion dollars in 2010. This includes weightloss drugs, diet plans, fad diet book sales, trips to the vomitorium, those vibrating belt things that I hope to God no one reading this actually bought, and, of course, p90X. The average weight lost in the first 6 months of venturing out on one of these weightloss excursions is 5%-10% of your total bodyweight. Those are pretty good results and 10% reduction in weight would greatly improve body composition (i.e. get ripped, brah) for most of the population. The problem is that 66% of people that diet gain the weight back in a year or less... and 97% gain it all back in 5 years or less.

This is a lot like every time I get a new cellphone. It works for a little while, something breaks, then I either spend money to get it fixed or have to get a new cellphone entirely. This is how diets work. They draw you in with fast results, sell you on the idea that you will keep making progress, then you are hopelessly hooked. Now they have a customer for life. Imagine how much of your own money you have contributed to that $68.7 billion dollars.

In short, most diets do not work.

The key to losing weight, gaining weight, or basically being successful on any journey to accomplish any goal you may ever have is changing your life style to maximize the possibility of achieving that goal. You know you are almost 2x more likely to be obese if you hang out with obese people? I am not saying ditch all of your fat friends but maybe stop partaking in the daily pizza roll eating challenges with them:

Did you make it through the whole video? Because I sure as hell didn't.

Ok so, the purpose of this post is to share with you some diets (like I said before, most diets don't work) that include an eating plan and also changes in life style to get you to where you want to be. The first one I have personal experience with:

Carb Cycling Diet

I partook in a powerlifting competition last year that did not have any specific weight classes. So, the winner was completely determined by amount of weight lifted compared to the lifters bodyweight. I was 15 weeks out from my competition and decided to see how much weight I could lose, while hopefully maintaining or gaining some strength, in that period of time. After discussing my goal with several of my meathead cohorts, I decided Carb Cycling was the way to go. I knew very little about this diet so I decided to hire Shelby Starnes to help me out. He can be reached at or Hiring him was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. From July to October, I lost 51 pounds and did not lose any strength. Which for any one who participates in strength sports can understand, this is a pretty incredible feat. I dropped from 280lbs to 229lbs and ended up finishing 5th place overall.

I would like to re-iterate, if you are serious about your goals, spend the money and hire Shelby. He knows his stuff.

Anyway, the diet itself is very simple to understand. It involves only keeping track of your macronutrients (fats, carbs, and protein) and the carbs are cycled from day to day in order to keep complete control over your blood sugar and insulin levels. Carbs are cycled in three dosages, high, medium, and low. Protein intake stays about the same everyday. Fats are increased on low carb days in order to fill the caloric gap that is created by the lack of the other macronutrient. Also, high fat diets a lot of fat... I'll explain this one in a future post.

So how does it work? Here is how it works:

High Day:
Carbs: 2-3 grams per pound of bodyweight (0.9-1 gram for women)
Protein: 1-1.25 grams per pound of bodyweight (0.75 grams for women)
Fats: No added fats

Moderate Day:
Carbs: 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight (0.5 grams for women)
Protein: 1.25-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight (1.0 grams for women)
Fats: .15 grams per pound of bodyweight (0.1 grams for women)

Low Day: I like to call this day "Cranky, Yell at Everyone Day." Try it, you'll see what I mean.
Carbs: 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight (0.2 grams for women)
Protein: 1.25-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight(1.0 grams for women)
Fats: 0.35 grams per pound of bodyweight (0.2 grams for women)

Some carb choices: Brown rice, sweet potato's, oats, gluten free bread, basically anything with low (or no) sugar or gluten.
Some protein choices: any lean meat and protein shakes
Some fat choices: all natural peanut butter, almond butter, olive oil, and walnuts

Split the numbers up and eat 5-7 meals a day. Try to eat all of the carbs in the first three meals of the day. Drink a ton of water.

The big reason I like this diet is because there are cardio recommendations that go along with it. No, not cardio like jogging. Cardio like low intensity (50-60% Max HR for 30mins) which can be done dragging sled, doing smaller workouts, or walking on an inclined treadmill 3-4 days a week. Also it is recommended to do high intensity interval cardio 2-3 days a week (an example would be getting on an exercise bike for 15 minutes with an interval of, 15 second all out sprint, 45 seconds at 50%). All cardio is done either first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to take advantage of the ideal fat burning environment you are in after fasting all night (i.e. sleeping... unless you sleep walk to the fridge and sleep eat an entire honey baked ham... yes, I have done this before).

Like a mentioned before, go hire Shelby Starnes at if you are interested. At the very least check out some of the books he has written on dieting here:

The Slow Carb Diet

I don't want to give too much away about this one because all of the information can be found in Tim Ferris's book "The 4-Hour Body." Everyone who even cares a little bit about their health and well-being needs to go get and read this book.

Anyway, the general outline of this diet:

6 days a week:
No carbs other than vegetables (minus starchy ones like baked potato's and corn) Except for after you workout. You want faster, crappier carbs ASAP after a workout. Protein should come from lean meats and high quality protein shakes. Fats should come from high quality oils. Eat as much as you want and shoot for as many meals a day as you can. That's about it... until...

1 day a week:
Go nuts. Eat everything in site, drink a keg of beer, fill a kiddie pool with butter and try to eat your way out of it, do whatever you want! The goal of this day is to drastically increase calories for one day and then take advantage of the rebounding effect the rest of the week. You may notice a few pounds gained the day after but it quickly drops back off and then some.

There are many tips, tricks, and supplements that Tim Ferris recommends in his book to help accelerate the weightloss processes and mechanisms but, again, I don't want to give too much away. Just go get the damn book:

I plan on trying this diet out November through March to get ready for a competition. I am already excited for my first "cheat" day.

If All Else Fails, Go On The Don Fyre Diet

Who is Don Fyre? This guy:

Whatever he was looking at is dead now.

Don "The Predator" Fyre was one of the first big American MMA fighters. He was very good and kicked a lot of ass. He was always known for being a pretty big guy, 6'1'' weighing around 230lbs when he fought, while being very lean for his size. In one interveiw when asked how he was able to have so much muscle and so little fat when he fought, he replied: "I ate 5 steaks a day and all my carbs came from beer." So, there you go. The Don Fyre diet. It seemed to work out ok for him.

I wonder if it was the beer or the steak that kept his mustache so thick. I heard he won three fights because of that thing alone.

That's it for this one. I will try to update more frequently. I have been very busy chasing animals down, beating them to death with my bare hands, and eating them on site.

Sprint. Kill. Eat like a maniac.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hydration Recommendations That Aren't Stupid

I don't know about the rest of you out there but, I train primarily in my garage. My uninsulated, un-air conditioned, 12x12 death box that has been more like crossing the precipice in to Hell than a home gym.

A picture I took on one of the cooler days this summer. At least the humidity wasn't too bad.

Training in an environment similar to an active blast furnace really gets you thinking about hydration. Especially when you look down and see that you have sweated out a puddle on the ground that looks like more water than you have drank in a month. I remember reading a study one time that said over 85% of college athletes are in a mild state of dehydration all the time. These are some of the healthiest, strongest (supposedly) people on Earth. I am willing to bet, for the average population, that number is somewhere in the high 90's.

A couple of tips that have helped me keep death at bay this summer:

1. Drink 1oz of water for every kilogram of body weight you have. 1 kilogram equals 2.2lbs. So, for a big fella like myself, I weigh 275lbs on average, that's 125oz everyday. At first it will feel like you are choking down water but it gets much easier the more you stick with it. Eventually it will become routine. Just always have a bottle of water (or gallon in my case) and sip it all day long.

2. Don't pee. The more you pee the less water you keep in your body. So, hold your pee all day... just kidding. Don't actually do that. The reason you do pee a lot when you drink a lot of water is, the water gets sent to the filtering system of your body, which is the kidney's. There, the water collects, basically turning your kidneys into water balloons. Your kidneys are not very big so they empty often. Hence, a pee pee happens. An easy way to cut down the frequency to which you go potty and also utilize the water you are chugging into your system is to add a little salt to your water. Salt helps retain water in your tissues. You don't need to empty a shaker into your bottle of Fiji, just a pinch per every 8oz or a teaspoon for every 16oz should do the trick. A good guideline to follow is if your water tastes too salty... you probably put too much salt in it.

On a side note, you are basically spewing salts out of your body 24/7 during hot summer days. Salt is extremely important, not just for hydration. There is a relationship between sodium and potassium (which is also lost somewhat in sweat) that determines the efficiency of muscle contraction and also every message (action potential) sent and received by your nervous system. Take that low sodium foods.

3. Replenish after you workout. Weigh yourself before and after each workout. With every pound of sweat you lose, drink one pint of water. A pound of sweat weighs 16oz (or one pint). You've got to get that stuff back in there. This water loss is how you get dehydrated in the first place. Don't count this in your total ounces for the day because this water is just meant to return you to normal hydration, not help keep you hydrated all day.

Try to limit stuff that dehydrates you. For example, anything that makes you pee more like coffee, tea, standing inside of a human sized dehydrator, whatever else there is out there. Don't take them out of your life forever, just maybe cut them out until you rehydrate yourself or until it stops being a trillion degrees outside.

How do you treat dehydration?

He looks like he is having a good time. Just drink water...

Now that the general population is covered, on to some cool meathead stuff:

Dehydration and Muscle Contraction

Muscle contraction (like flexin' your bi's in the mirror while taking a cell phone future facebook profile picture, brah) occurs due to something called the Sliding Filament Theory. Basically all it says is, the flexing of a muscle happens because of thousands of tiny filaments (myosin and actin mainly) get pulled in towards each other, overlap, and develop tension in the rest of the muscle. In a hydrated muscle, there is plenty of space to move around (contract and slide) for these filaments. In a dehydrated muscle, the tissues basically collapse and shrink, decreasing the space the filaments have to move in. This causes three problems:

1. The amount of force a muscle can create has a lot to do with how far a muscle can contract (length tension relationship). With shriveled up, beef jerky muscles, the length the muscle can shorten (contract) is greatly reduced because of the decreased space the filaments have to slide over one another.

2. This limited space also cause these filaments to excessively rub against one another. This creates and unnatural friction force between normally easily sliding filaments. So, not only has the distance that the muscle can shorten (contract) decreased but, the time it takes the muscle to shorten to the decreased distance has increased due to friction. Basic physics (Work=force*Distance) tells us that this situation is much more stressful on the muscle (friction), increasing the amount of work that it has to do to perform tasks that would be much easier if hydrated (shortened contraction distance), thus, decreasing the amount force the muscle can exert.

3. Most importantly, when in a dehydrated state, the instance of significant trauma to the muscle GREATLY increases. In other words, if you don't stay hydrated, you are going to tear all of your muscles off all of your bones.

The above recommendations aren't the most scientific, I guess. I can tell you from personal experience that I haven't died of heat stroke yet so something must be working. Drinking a lot of water sucks. That's how you know it's good for you. So start doing it and stop complaining about the heat. It's hot for everyone.

Sprint. Kill. Eat. CHUG!!!!!!.

Creatine for Weight Loss... Wait, What?

No. That is not a typo. This post is going to be an explanation of how to supplement with Creatine to help accelerate weight LOSS and how it could, theoretically, help with endurance oriented sports/training. There is literally no information out there about how this could possibly work but, through some common sense and a short exercise metabolism lesson I think I will make a pretty good case.

First off, for the love of God, Creatine is NOT A BANNED SUBSTANCE by any governing sport body. This includes the NCAA, the Olympics, and any sport associated with WADA (the world anti-doping agency). These organizations basically ban only three types of substances: anabolic steroids, stimulants, and illegal street drugs. So, as long as you aren't taking your Creatine with rhinoceros testosterone and a crack rock, you don't have to worry about failing any drug tests.

Creatine is a combination of three amino acids (arginie, glycine, and methionine). Amino acids are just broken down proteins and they are used to make pretty much every tissue and cell in your body. The average person eats at least 1g of Creatine a day. What foods contain Creatine? Beef, pork, and fish have the highest amounts with up to 10g of Creatine per kg of meat in some cases. Surprisingly, there are trace amounts in milk, vegetables, and other carbohydrates as well. As you can see, this is what makes it impossible for Creatine to be a banned substance. In order for it to actually happen, the foods that contain Creatine would have to be either banned or restricted. If, for some reason, these governing bodies actually made meat illegal in sports, I think I would have to sit in front of The White House with 100lbs of steak, bacon, and ground beef and eat myself to death in protest...

In a meatless world, the 100lb Cheeseburger is King! Mmmmm... sweet, delicious protest.

What does Creatine actually do?

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what Creatine actually does in your body. In order to clear it up, I will give you a simple diagram:

There, that should clear everything up.

Just kidding but, by the end of this post, you will have a pretty good understanding of what is going on up there. Here comes that short metabolism lesson I was talking about earlier:

Your body uses a substance called ATP for energy. The problem with ATP is that it breaks down quickly during exercise. If ATP was not replenished in your body via metabolic pathways, we would burn it all up in less than 10 seconds of sprinting and less than 3 minutes of low intensity aerobic activity. Want to know what happens when you run out of ATP? Finishing your workout will be difficult because you will be dead. It is the break down of the high energy third Phosphate bond (ATP actually stands for Adenosine TRI-Phosphate, meaning 3 phosphates) that makes this substance so important for all human movement and activity. Once the Phosphate is removed, you are left with ADP (Adenosine DI-Phosphate, or 2 Phosphates). ADP can't do much in terms of cellular energy but its accumulation in your body signals other metabolic processes to become more active and help replenish ATP via different substrate/product pathways. Let's just consider short duration, intense activity for now.

So, ATP is being broken down into ADP during your highly anaerobic (no oxygen present due to high intensity/short duration of whatever physical task you are performing) exercise making it so your aerobic systems (oxygen present) are not working as much to replenish ATP during exercise. Your anaerobic energy systems do replenish ATP quickly but only in short bursts and only a very limited number with each cycle. Aerobic energy systems work much slower but supply much larger amounts of ATP over longer periods of time. This means some other mechanism needs to be replenishing your energy stores. Here is where Creatine comes in like Mighty Mouse to save the day.

He doesn't really seem to be doing a good job, actually.

ADP kinda sucks at getting phosphate on it's own (which would create a high energy third phosphate bond, making an ATP molecule). Creatine, on the other hand, binds very easily and rapidly to phosphate (creating phosphocreatine). An enzyme that hangs around ADP, kinda like it's wingman, is Creatine Kinase. This enzyme breaks apart the Creatine from the phosphate, pushes the creatine away, and shoots the phosphate towards nearby ADP. So, you don't take creatine to get "Jacked Up!" before workouts. You take it in order to make sure you have enough of it floating around to help ADP and phosphate to bind in order to, hopefully, keep a positive supply of ATP for energy.

Phew. Hopefully I haven't completely lost too many people, on to the cool part:

Creatine for Weight LOSS

Now, all recovery from all exercise happens aerobically. It doesn't matter if you just finished a Tri-Athalon or if you just did a 5 second maximal sprint. Think about it, what is the first thing you do after you do very intense strenuous work (like sprinting, heavy lifting, bare-handed lion hunting, speed eating, etc.)? You take a huge deep breath. Almost like you are fighting your lungs to pull air into your body... which you basically are. When you do intense exercise, the air is squeezed out of your muscles, creating a hypoxic (no oxygen) environment. Once you finish your intense efforts, your body goes into breathe or die mode until that oxygen is replenished. Sometimes, if the exercise is intense enough, this can take up to 36 hours. During this time, your breathing is elevated, the processes and mechanisms that work to replenish oxygen are in overtime, and you burn a significantly larger amount of calories while at rest.

Here is the question though: When doing high intensity anaerobic work, what activates your aerobic systems to kick start your recovery? One very big answer is a mechanism called the Creatine Shuttle. This mechanism takes that leftover Creatine from the breakdown of phosphocreatine and shot-guns it into your cellular mitochondria (part of your cells where aerobic metabolism initiates). This is basically a switch between anaerobic metabolism and aerobic metabolism. But, the thing is, they both start going nuts trying to replenish as much ATP as possible. When you go out jogging, energy primarily comes from aerobic pathways (unless you are running 3 minute miles or something ridiculous).

The common sense portion of this post: More Creatine in your system means more Creatine available for the Creatine Shuttle mechanism. This may or may not cause a 1)faster and more often activation of this mechanism at rest and once exercise has ceased, 2) a kick start to the excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) phenomena (responsible for the increased in calories burned up to 36 hours after intense exercise has ceased), and/or 3) a more intense and/or longer lasting EPOC effect.

Do I have any proof of any of this? Nope. Do I care? Nope. It's my blog, I can say what I want. Poop. See?

I can however tell from personal experience that there is a lot of misinformation on Creatine out there. "Don't take that, it's steroids" or "It's bad for your *insert organ here*" or "You're going to gain a lot of weight when you take it."

It's not steroids. Hopefully that has been cleared up now. There no research that suggests any negative side-effects from taking suggested doses in the short term. As far as weight gain, I lost 51 pounds from July 15th to October 23rd last year while taking Creatine. I increased the amount I was taking leading up to a Powerlifting competition. My weight loss had stagnated for 2 weeks before the increase and then fat was literally melting off again after.

So, there you go. Keep in mind, just like any other supplement or drug, Creatine is not the magic bullet and not everyone responds to it. I guess the point of this whole post is to always be thinking and always be critical to the information you get from media sources or stupid people (basically the same thing) in regards to what is best for YOUR own health and well-being.

Sprint. Kill. Eat several Kilograms of Meat a day.