A Nutrition Manifesto

NUTRITIONAL venn

“You can’t exercise away a crappy diet.” – anonymous

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

There is SO MUCH information available nowadays about diet, nutrition, exercise, getting lean, etc… it can be overwhelming. AND, there is so much potentially incorrect information floating around, that it can inhibit a person’s ability to understand what is really going on, and how to come up with an approach that makes sense for him/herself. Unless a person really wants to fall down the rabbit hole and try to learn the basics about what drives our biology, the default will be to trust the advice of the mainstream, and (god forbid) follow the “standard american diet.”

Many of my friends/colleagues like to pick my brain about what exactly it is that I do in terms of fitness and nutrition. They see me as the relatively fit/strong guy that participates in a ton of athletic activities. So, as people usually do, if they see a person doing something that they want to do, they start to ask questions. They know that I’m not a professional in either area, but they do know that I’m obsessive about reading and researching topics that interest me, and I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to fitness. Or, at least that is the assumption. They know that if you get me going about anything related to fitness or nutrition, I’ll talk your ear off for an hour.

What I’ve learned in the past 6+ years of researching health, fitness, and nutrition is that you need to balance the two. It’s possible to be overall fit, but have poor nutrition; and, it’s also possible to have good nutrition with poor overall fitness. I firmly believe that you need a synergy between the two, and you need to have a clear way to measure your success. I’ve moved way beyond using the number on the scale to tell me how I’m doing. Overall body weight is such a false idol when you are trying to gauge your health/fitness.

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Fasted workouts = fast track to success???

I’ve personally been doing fasted workouts for about two years now, and I’m a strong advocate for them. Granted, I typically workout in the early AM, so my fasting period is usually a good ten or so hours before I workout (if you start the clock from my previous night’s feeding). Aside from liking the feeling of NOT having food sloshing around in my stomach while I’m killing it during my workout, I’m a believer in the science/biochemistry behind why it may lead to overall improved fitness performance, as well as stoking the fat burning furnace.

The first-responder type fuels that are tapped during exercise are glucose and glycogen (the stored form of glucose). These are typically stored in the liver and the muscles. These are anaerobic fuel sources, and can be converted to energy w/o the help of oxygen. Think fight or flight – if you spring into action quickly before the body has a chance to increase respiration and oxygen consumption, something if fueling the action – that is your glycogen stores at work. If you haven’t eaten anything, the only glucose/glycogen in your body will be the stored stuff. The body burns through what it can, and then needs to switch to alternate sources of fuel. Fat is the next (and preferred) energy source, and is aerobic (requiring oxygen) in order to convert to energy.

fasted workout fuel tank

So, when I structure my workouts to get my heart pumping pretty quickly by doing (as a warmup)…

  • 3 minutes high knees jump rope with target heart rate (HR) of 140+ BPM, or…
  • 3 minutes half-mile run with target HR of 140+ BPM…

…I feel like I’m setting myself up to burn through stored glycogen quickly, and thus can turn on the fat fuel reserves quicker.

I will note that my first many HIIT sessions when I started with fasted workouts were pretty grueling. Everything thing I read supported this experience. It did get better/easier over time. Once fully transitioned, I’ve ran half-marathons in a fasted state, and even participated in a duathlon in a fasted state. In neither case did I feel like my performance was hindered by a lack of food. I just stayed properly hydrated, and plugged along.

It’s also worth noting that this type of meal-timing strategy works very well with my intermittent fasting lifestyle.

***VERY IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION – if you suffer from any type of metabolic disorder, diabetes, hypo/hyperglycemia, etc…, you should talk with your doctor before considering this type of nutrition strategy.***

Bodyweight Begins: Park workout 3-31-18

Bodyweight calisthenics. I wish I had learned about this type of training when I was a teenager. The BEST fitness advice I’ll ever be able to give my son, and the BIGGEST fitness thing I’d tell myself if I had a time machine would be…

START…DOING…BODY…WEIGHT…TRAINING…NOW!!!!!

Agility. Mobility. Flexibility. Symmetry. Balance. STRENGTH. A well-constructed bodyweight training program can not only correct muscle imbalances, but it can also strengthen the supporting tendons/ligaments in a way that traditional single-plane weight lifting exercises won’t.

To quote Mark Lauren, “You Are Your Own Gym.” Great book. Great way to start yourself off on a bodyweight path. Buy it here on Amazon – You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises

If you want to be inspired, watch these people move…

And yes, women can kick some ass too…

I used to think that I had a decent exercise program, and that I was relatively fit. Then I started doing regular HIIT (high intensity interval training) work. I quickly learned that I didn’t have a very high VO2 max threshold. When I shifted to mostly bodyweight training and calisthenics inspired workouts, I quickly learned that I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. Many years later, I have such an appreciation for the amount of work and training that goes into what you saw in those videos. It has changed my perspective on what actual fitness is. In my humble opinion, the ability to MANIPULATE, MOVE, and CONTROL your bodyweight through space is a true sign of fitness.

In addition to our weekly garage workouts, I scoped out a calisthenics park in the greater Kansas City area, and now we have a standing Saturday AM workout (weather permitting). And, working out outside is awesome to boot.

When we have the apparatus available, I like to program in some skill training, as well as mobility work, and a circuit to reinforce the skills while raising our heart rate. I also might throw in a special “burner” which I am today.

Warmup:

  • Jump rope 2 min – freestyle skills
  • Side twists (holding band or JR) – 25 sec
  • Chair squat (holding band or JR) – 25 sec
  • Side bend (holding band or JR) – 25 sec
  • Combo move (plank walkout -> spider lunge right -> side angle pose right arm -> side angle pose left arm -> left hip dip to ground -> return to plank -> spider lunge left…..repeat cycle – 50 sec
  • Scorpion twist – 25 sec
  • Soldier kick – 25 sec
  • Side leg raise – 25 sec
  • Gliding lunge – 25 sec
  • Egoscue shoulder sequence (elbow curls – 20 count, arm circles forward – 20 count, arm circles back, 20 count)

Skills:

Pulling – dead hang, scapular hang, hang w/knee raise hold, tuck lever hold, skin the cat – HOLD UNTIL FAILURE

Pushing – plank hold, one-arm plank hold, beginner planche hold work (lean shoulders out over hands in plank), frog stands – HOLD UNTIL FAILURE

Push/pull circuit do one right after the other, rest for 2 minutes between cycles):

  • Dip (assisted dip) – 3 x 6-10
  • Inverted row – 3 x 6-10

or…

  • Handstand (or pike) pushup – 3 x 6-10
  • Pullup (assisted pullup) – 3 x 6-10

Leg burner (3 min):

  • 20 seconds squat, 10 seconds squat hold x 2
  • 20 seconds squat jack, 10 seconds squat hold x 2
  • 20 seconds squat jump, 10 seconds squat hold x 2

Heart rate circuit (5 min):

  • High knee jump rope – 1 min
  • Double battle rope slam – 1 min
  • Jumping jacks – 1 min
  • A-skips – 1 min each leg

There were 5 of us, so we did it circuit style and moved station to station. My rotation was:

  • A skip (R)
  • A skip (L)
  • Double rope slam
  • Jump rope
  • Jumping jacks

I like this HR chart (max HR in the 170’s)…

HR 3-31

Overall, the group found this challenging, but liked it. The most visceral responses came from the leg burner circuit. At one point, of the participants was just kind of pulsing and shrugging (during the squat jacks), and it looked like she was kind of miming the sequence (I’m sure in her head she was doing the full movement).

You know it’s a good workout when one of your compadres asks you to pour their coffee for them during the victory omelet because her hands are still shaking.

Garage Workout 3-30-18

Email to Brad…

“Can we do a WOF?” (basically asking can we do a workout on Friday)?

Ask and ye shall receive!

My company spent a good amount of $$$ last year putting in a gym. Its mostly a collection of cardio machines, but they did get two things right:

  1. They put in a pullup and dip tower (HOORAY!)
  2. They put in 3 water rowers (AWESOME)

Whenever possible, I like to incorporate one or two of those features since pulling movements (in my experience) are one of the least trained movements out there. Its a shame how many “fit” people can’t do a single pullup. Pullups are one of those desert island exercises for me (if you were stranded on a desert island, and could only do a couple exercises for the rest of your life, what would they be?). Easy.

  1. Burpee
  2. Pullup
  3. Hollow body hold and/or rock

desert island

“Yes Wilson, we are doing burpees again.”

On to the workout…

Row 5×500

rest 1 minute between each 500m

————————–

3 rounds total, rest 1 minute between rounds

Jump rope active recovery for 1 minute between exercises

20 pushups

10 jump lunges (each leg)

20 frog leg raises

10 single leg RDL (each leg)

 

Overall this was a GREAT workout, and the group loved it. It checks all of the boxes. We burned through stored muscle glycogen with the 2500m row, and trained some pull movements at the same time. THEN, we moved onto training some push movements, as well as hip/knee movements, AND some great core work. We did all of this with active recovery in between each exercise. I really like this heart rate chart:

HR garage 3-30

Nice heart rate spikes during the 5x500m row session. Then, notice the misc peaks during the rest of the program. Those are the jump rope intervals.

Good Friday!

Buy a jump rope!

If you don’t have a jump rope, you are really missing out.

It’s great as a warm up, its great as a primary workout, its great to take on the road. I’m serious – whenever I travel for work or vacation, it goes in my bag. I get a ton of use out of my jump rope.

It might be one of the best pieces of exercise equipment you can buy. And, they are pretty much dirt cheap.

There are two kinds – regular jump ropes (PVC coated cables) and speed jump ropes (some are bare metal cables). I personally have a speed rope with the cable coated in PVC because I like to do a bunch of different stupid human tricks with mine, and the bare speed rope hurts when it hits your body at high speeds. My buddy had the bare metal cable, and that thing tore me up.

You can get a good inexpensive jump rope here from Amazon – ACCTREND Jump Rope Kit – Adjustable Steel Cable Skipping Rope With PU Coating.

There really is no shortage of ways to workout with a jump rope. Just search the internet for jump rope workouts, and then fall down as many rabbit holes as you’d like. I first got exposed to hardcore jump rope workouts when I dabbled with the Insanity: Asylum Volume 1 workout (review here). Shaun T really takes you through the paces with your jump rope. I became hooked.

These guys are pretty good jump rope technique models:

In my humble opinion, the jump rope provides these benefits:

  • Improved cardiovascular performance (your heart rate will remain relatively high if you are doing sustained bouts of jump roping)
  • Improved hand/eye coordination (your brain is doing double duty as its trying to sync your hand and jump movements – you will create new neural pathways in your brain – give it time)
  • Improved speed and agility (depending on the mode you choose, you can train any number of speed and/or agility drills)
  • Improved lymphatic system and bone health (yes, there are health benefits to jumping on a daily basis – check out this article)

At the start of most of our garage workouts, I’ll program either a 5 minute period of freestyle jump roping to practice skills, or I’ll prescribe a set number of jumps you have to do without stopping (usually 300-500). Some of my favorites include:

  • high knees
  • butt kicks
  • scissor jumps (scissor your feet front/back as you jump)
  • hip flexor jumps (cross your feet in a cross/neutral/cross pattern)
  • one foot hop to scissor (4 hops, then 8 scissors)
  • low abductor squat jumps (you’ll have to slow down your hand motion)
  • double unders

If we do 300-500 reps for the warmup, my goal is to cycle through all of the skills above as one big flow w/o stopping.

I’ve been known to program jump rope as the active recovery during a regular workout. For example:

  • 20 pushups
  • 1 minute jump rope
  • 20 alternating jump lunges
  • 1 minute jump rope
  • 20 drop lunges
  • 1 minute jump rope
  • 20 glute bridges (per leg)
  • 1 minute jump rope
  • 10 rolling planks
  • 1 minute jump rope

Repeat for 3 rounds.

I had a guy do this workout with me and 3 other people, and he was fried the next day. AND, he was a self-proclaimed Crossfitter. He whined about his calves for days afterward. I don’t know what his deal was – the rest of us were fine.

If you are just getting started out, there is a very nice program (for free) on the Darebee website. Click here for Darebee jump rope challenge. Other than that, my advice is to have some fun with it, and try to do it every day. You won’t regret it.

Garage workout 3-28-18

I found a bunch of CrossFit movies on Amazon Prime recently, so I binge watched a show called “Killing the Fat Man.” The dude was an ex-marine that completely let himself go, and ballooned up to about 280 lbs. And, he may or may not have run some type of arm-wrestling website. I never could figure that out. Anyway, the series tracks his progress from his first day of CrossFit up to about 5 months later. If you separate the fact that this was one huge commercial for CrossFit, and that this guy is OBSESSED with how much sex he can get now that he isn’t fat, you can distill it down to a pretty inspirational story. I’ve known about the different WOD’s for sometime now (you can find them online if you just search), and I was particularly interested in the “Baseline” workout that he did on his first day, and on the last day of the series. The “Baseline” goes like this…

  • 500m row
  • 40 air squats
  • 30 sit ups
  • 20 push ups
  • 10 pullups

Do it for time. Aim for 5 minutes or under.

So, I decided to program that workout as our “warmup” for the hell that would happen next. None of us had ever done it before, so the times we put out…

  • 4:35
  • 5:14
  • 5:16

…weren’t too bad.

After that, we moved out to the parking garage and performed a workout called, “Death by Burpees.” I first read about the “death by…” protocol in Bobby Maximus’ book called “The Maximus Body.” Buy it here on Amazon – Men’s Health Maximus Body.
I highly recommend this book. Bobby is the owner of Gym Jones, and will teach you how to go about kicking your ass old-school style. No frills here – just hardcore horse-power. You might cry. Or puke. Or both. Bobby doesn’t care – he drinks your tears.

burpees

Any of the “Death by…” protocols are EMOM (every minute on the minute) programs. Basically, once you start your stopwatch, you should be starting a new set every time a new minute ticks over. Early on, you think its a joke, but, once you get about 10 minutes into the workout, you understand what is happening – your work interval is overtaking your rest interval. So, this is how Death by Burpees looks…

0:00 – 1 burpee

1:00 – 2 burpees

2:00 – 3 burpees

3:00 – 4 burpees

and so on…

16:00 – 17 burpees

Okay – i’ll stop there – you get the point. And, that is where I stopped. The rule in this EMOM program is that if you don’t finish your prescribed work from the prior minute, and the new minute starts, you are DONE. You are BEATEN.

For me, I finished my 16th burpee of the 15th minute at 15:53. That left me 7 seconds to catch my breath, and prepare for 17 burpees. I decided to fall over, and join my cohorts who tapped out at 11 and 14 burpees.

After we stopped retching, we finished off the workout with a nice recover jog up 5 ramps of the parking garage. Then we ate our victory omelets at First Watch.

It was a good Wednesday.