Three Things You Should Be Doing in 2016

three things you should be doing

Most people reading this have one or more social media accounts and will be bombarded by lists of things NOT to do in 2016, but I want to start the year on a positive note, so this blog is going to focus on three things you should be doing in 2016.

1) Whether you are just beginning to train or are a seasoned veteran, make 2016 the year that you focus on perfecting form/technique for every exercise you practice.

Strength training is my first love so I will speak to that, but the principle is equally applicable to any movement or exercise.

Strength training and the heavy loads inherent to it can wreak havoc on your joints and connective tissues, but use of proper form/technique can greatly mitigate and even eliminate said damage.

Nearly all strength-trained athletes incorporate the barbell bench press and back squat into their strength training regimen. Bad technique and crap form are the norm even at the highest professional levels (read NBA, NFL  etc.).  While this concept may boggle the mind, I can only assume it is ill-informed coaches/trainers who either don’t teach or refuse to enforce proper technique with their athletes.

A note of caution to the young and those whose hubris may cloud their ability to be objective: the fact you have done something a certain way for a prolonged period and not yet experienced injury does NOT indicate you will continue with your current streak of luck. Sure, some people have nearly superhuman connective tissue and or more advantageous anatomical leverages such that they can get away with poor form.  Some of these people are even top-tier athletes, and thus someone that others will want to mimic in the hopes of achieving even a modicum of their success.  Chances are very good you are NOT like them.  Change your evil ways before they catch up to you :).

I am a huge fan of Louie Simmons, strength coach extraordinaire, inventor, entrepreneur and one hell of a strength athlete (Louie’s company site is www.westside-barbell.com). One of Louie’s finest proteges is Laura Phelps Sweatt. Laura and her trainer husband Shane own gyms and work with athletes worldwide. Laura herself is one of the most dominant strength athletes ever. She has set so many all-time powerlifting records it boggles the mind. One of the things I have always admired about Laura is her literally flawless execution of virtually every strength training movement. If you want to learn correct form, you either consult with her, or at the very least watch her videos.

Below are two videos of Laura demonstrating first the box squat and then the barbell bench press.

A quick note on the box squat: if you strength train the box squat should make up the majority of your squat training (unless you are an Olympic lifter). The box squat is safer and just as effective as any back squat variety.  It’s safety advantage lies in the physics of the movement. Less stress is placed on the knee joints.

This is Laura demonstrating good and bad form for the box squat (with me narrating):

I encourage you to search for more videos with Shane and Laura and to visit Louie’s site to learn all you can about proper form.

2) Make sure your diet best meets your needs.

Don’t get caught up in the fad diet of the moment especially if it does not help you to meet your goals.  For instance, a “Paleo” based diet is not an optimal performance diet.  Paleo style diets as a rule lack the carbs needed for top performance and recovery by athletes who require strength and endurance.

Consume a diet which consists of foods which are as minimally processed as is reasonably possible, are varied in makeup, and has a macronutrient content that best supports your physical goals.

3) More is NOT better, better is better :).

The above concept is true universally when it comes to training, but especially so regarding strength training. Training volume and intensity are inversely correlated.  If you train with higher volume, intensity must be reduced and vice versa. Before you “there is no such thing as overtraining” nuts get all riled up, the data on this phenomena is overwhelming and virtually indisputable EVEN for doped athletes.

Why strength training volume and intensity are inversely correlated is equivocal. The prevailing theory proffers that the nervous system is the limiting factor and increased intensity stresses the nervous system to a greater and greater degree. Whatever the reason, if you want to be successful, especially over time, moderating your high intensity training volume is key.

Now, get offline and get to the gym and make 2016 your best physical accomplishment year ever!

THREE TRAINING MYTHS TO AVOID IN THE NEW YEAR

This goof seems to be working "stability" AND foam rolling...

1) You need to foam roll, stretch, and God knows what else to warm-up prior to training.

NO!  Was that clear enough?  Crushing your flesh, fatiguing yourself with endless repetitions etc. will NOT decrease your chances of injury, nor will it enhance performance.  With strength training, exercise specific warm-ups are all that are needed.  If you are going to squat then a couple of sets of squats will give your body the movement specific warm-up it needs.  If you feel you need more you are doing something wrong.  Your training is damaging your joints and changes must be made.

By the way, for other sporting activities and less intensive exercise the same principal holds true.  An “easy” version of said activity to get started will be more the sufficient to prepare the athlete for the increased intensity of activity to come.

Gee, this will make ALL the difference in your training session...
Gee, this will make ALL the difference in your training session…

One final note, I am not calling all such activities worthless.  I am specifically referring to timing.  If you feel said activities help you with mobility and recovery then by all means do them, but don’t do them immediately before training.

2) If you don’t go all out, psyching yourself out of your mind and pushing yourself beyond fatigue with every training session you are wasting your time.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Training like that will quickly lead to stagnation, overtraining, and eventually injury and or regression.  The majority of one’s training should be done in a non-elevated psychological state.

Does that mean training should be light or easy?  Heck no!  Training should not be easy, nor should it wipe you out.  Met-Con based athletes, bodybuilders, and powerlifters take heed, killing yourself might make you look cool and even be beneficial in the short term, but you will not reach your goals if you don’t modulate the intensity and volume of your training.

Mike Mentzer - the right combination of intensity of effort and volume can lead to some very impressive results.
Mike Mentzer – the right combination of intensity of effort and volume can lead to some very impressive results.

3) Training for “stability” will improve your functional fitness.

This is one of the STUPIDEST and WORST myths…  Squatting on a Bosu Ball will NOT improve anything other than your ability to squat on a Bosu Ball.  Adaptation, or response to training stimuli is extremely specific.  If you want to get better at a specific activity practice that specific activity.  Use strength training to either increase the general force production capacity of the musculature you are training, or to get better at a specific lift for competition purposes.  If I see you doing any kind of balance crap while strength training I will be forced to slap you silly…  Thank you.

This goof seems to be working "stability" AND foam rolling...
This goof seems to be working “stability” AND foam rolling…

 

Chris Mason

Author Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines.

STRENGTH TRAINING ON A LIMITED SCHEDULE

Scott Wilson

For the past couple of years the amount of time I can commit to training has been severely curtailed. My business life literally runs from about 8:15 A.M. to 9 P.M. (or later) six days per week. I have thus been relegated to primarily training on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings (I will sometimes get in late mini-workouts in my basement).

As you may know I am a huge advocate of Louie Simmons’ Westside training methodologies (www.westside-barbell.com). The Westside program when properly adhered to calls for at least four training days per week. Mini workouts to add additional volume (especially for weak points) are also indicated and can be done on otherwise “off” days. Following this protocol is optimal, but not viable due to work and other life considerations for many individuals interested in increasing their absolute size, strength, or both.

I don’t promote excuses or weakness. Many people who claim they can only find the time to train once or twice per week simply lack the will to do what must be done. With that said, there are some people who truly cannot devote more time to their training and yet want to see results. For those of you who are in this category, take heart, it CAN be done. In fact, it has been done at the highest level. I remember reading some time ago that one of the greatest strength athletes in history, Jon Cole, trained twice per week at his peak. Jon set powerlifting records that stood for 40 years!

Jon Cole
Jon Cole, one of the strongest men who ever lived.

If Jon did it, so can YOU. Well, not set records that stand for 40 years, but get darn big and strong training only twice per week. The key is the right mix of intensity, volume, and exercise selection.

For the purposes of this article I am going to focus on a blend of size and strength. What follows will provide you the information you need to train twice per week and add both lean muscle mass and strength.

Total Body Sessions

When your training time is limited to two sessions per week it is imperative that you hit all of the major muscle groups each session. Training the total body in one session requires a low volume of work by body part. As the target reader of this article has a severely curtailed amount of training time, the length of a given session is necessarily short. Even if one had more time, sessions much in excess of an hour have been shown to produce diminishing returns (hormonal and other considerations being the presumed culprits). The good news is that despite what you may have read and heard, given a proper level of intensity and mix of rep schemes etc. the actual amount of volume required to add size and strength is much less than commonly accepted.

Prescribed volume for the vast majority of trainees on a twice per week system is 2-5 working sets by body part/group. Working sets are defined as post-warm-up work. See below for more specific recommendations:

Chest – 3-5 sets
Upper back – 3-5 sets
Whole body movements such as squats and deadlifts – 2-5 sets
Accessory work – 2-4 sets

Each of the above sets should be taken to near concentric failure (concentric failure defined as the inability to complete a rep). Rep counts should be varied targeting absolute strength with reps in the 1-3 range, and then following up with higher repetitions to promote growth of the contractile myofibrils and conditioning/thickening of the connective tissues. Here is a sample chest workout to illustrate this concept:

* Only working sets will be noted. The set and rep scheme will be presented in this fashion – 4 x 3/3/12/12 – this indicates four working sets of 3 reps for the first and second sets to be followed by 12 reps each for the third and fourth sets.

Floor Press: 3 x 1/5/12
Incline Press: 2 x 8/15

In the case above the floor press is the primary movement of the day. After an appropriate (specific to the individual) warm-up the first working set is a training one rep maximum/near maximum (max) attempt. A training one rep max attempt by definition involves very little psychological stimulation. In other words, the lifter doesn’t get “crazy” for the attempt. He or she simply concentrates and handles a very heavy load in a calm state. Training singles should consist primarily of such attempts as excessively psyched max attempts are very draining in general, to the nervous system in particular, and can quickly lead to training stagnation.

A heavy training single is very important to, if not optimal for, the building of maximal strength. The ability to move a near maximal load for one repetition requires neural optimization relative to the specific movement pattern and loading. While multiple repetitions can and do build absolute strength (up to a point), only heavy single attempts can optimally stimulate the adaptation required to maximize absolute strength. This is the S.A.I.D. (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) principle in practice. Human physical adaptation is highly specific and the neural coordination required to move a maximal load through a specific movement pattern can only be peaked with single repetition practice (yes, repeated for emphasis…).

Absolute strength is a combination of neural optimization and the force production capacity of the contractile myofibrils (actin and myosin – the contractile components of skeletal muscle). Maximal individual demonstrable strength is thus achieved via a combination of contractile hypertrophy and neural adaptation. This is the reason for the combination of both heavy singles and moderate and higher repetitions. Moderate reps (4-8 or so) target both maximal strength and hypertrophy while higher reps stimulate what is commonly referred to as non-contractile hypertrophy (hypertrophy of the non-contractile elements of muscle fibers) and the maintenance/hypertrophy of the very important connective tissues. The importance of the repetition blend cannot be overemphasized.

To clarify the force production capacity statement, the contractile components of the muscles cells are known as the aforementioned myofibrils actin and myosin. Individually speaking, the larger the myofibrils the greater the force production capacity, but greater capacity does not automatically equate to greater expressed strength. A automotive analogy is appropriate to illustrate the concept. With an automobile engine and transmission the transmission is required to take the force production capacity of the engine and translate it to the wheels so the car will move. In the body the nervous system is loosely analogous to the automobile transmission and the myofibrils to the engine. The myofibrils need to have the capacity for high force production and the nervous system must orchestrate everything in one of life’s most beautiful symphonies, the symphony of physical expression.

Want the laymen’s translation? If you want to be really strong make your muscles big and practice heavy singles…

Varying Movements and Intensity

Followers of Westside know that exercise variety is one of the cornerstones of the program. Maximum Effort movements are varied weekly by cycling through 3-4 primary movements. Twice per week trainees should approach things a bit differently. The reduced volume dictated by the program changes the paradigm such that repetition of the same movement is beneficial, at least for a longer period of time than with a standard Westside protocol.

The legend Louie Simmons holding court.
The legend Louie Simmons holding court.

Westside switches Max Effort (ME) movements weekly because Louie Simmons’ research led him to the conclusion that it is optimal for the vast majority of those practicing his program. The higher the level the athlete, the less frequently a one rep max attempt can be made for the same movement. In practice, Louie observed that for most of his athletes the same movement one rep max cannot be repeated for more than 2-3 weeks before stagnation occurs. Weekly rotation proved to be superior as it permitted the most consistent progress with a minimization of injuries from overuse as an added benefit.

This brings us back to some specific verbiage I used earlier in this article. I noted the use of the training one rep max/near max. The reason for the inclusion of the “near max” terminology is that with my program the prescribed one rep max attempts differ from those practiced at Westside in that majority of them are lower in intensity. With my program instead of only one max effort weekly for either a bench or squat variation there are two such attempts. The performance of two very heavy singles per week dictates a reduction in intensity when compared to a true training one rep max. In practice I have found that doing so leads to more consistent progress.

Not to confuse the issue, but my program also relies on a degree of autoregulation. Performing two near max singles per week by body part weekly can overwhelm even those with above average recovery ability, so I encourage practitioners of my program to monitor their progress and make adjustments as needed. When I feel that my body is getting too beat up with heavy singles, and or stagnation sets in, I will switch to a higher rep scheme. In most cases only a week or two of less intense work is needed to right the ship.

A Sample Week of Training

Wednesday:

Rack pulls (from about 2″ off the floor): 1/5
Floor press: 1/5

Giant Set (3 rounds)*:
Original Nautilus pullover: one arm at a time – 12 reps
Close grip pulldown: 10
Machine chest press: 15-20
Machine lateral raise: 10
* No rest is taken between exercises. The trainee moves as quickly as possible from one exercise to the next.

Scott Wilson
Bodybuilder Scott Wilson built those boulders with low volume and frequency.

Leg press: 15-20/15-20 – these are done using a rest pause style. Reps are continuous until fatigue demands a break and then the load is held at lockout just long enough to take a few deep breaths and to allow the burn to subside. A few more reps are then done until fatigue again demands a brief break. This is repeated 2-3 times per “set” until the target rep count is hit.

Overhead cable crunches: 20/20

Sunday:

Box squat with various bars: 1/5 (I will normally switch bars every 3rd-4th week)

Bench press with pause: 1/5

Giant Set (3 rounds):
Seated cable rows with the two handed rope attachment: 10
Seated machine chest press: 10
Machine lateral raise: 10
Seated Nautilus shoulder press: 10

Leg curl: 12/12/12

Triceps pushdowns: 1 set performed in a rest pause fashion for 15-25 reps. Choose a load which allows for 10-12 strict, unbroken reps.

Overhead cable crunches: 20/20

Wrap

You can get bigger and stronger training twice per week. Is it ideal? No, but if your schedule truly precludes a more expansive training regimen a twice per week program can and will be effective if properly executed.

No excuses, you can get bigger and stronger no matter what your life schedule looks like.

Chris Mason

Author Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines.

#TeamALN athlete Anna Khudayarov at the WRPF Pro World Championships

Anna K

#Team ALN – AtLarge Nutrition female powerlifter extraordinaire Anna Khudayarov competed this past weekend in Russia at the WRPF Pro World Championships. She had the highest women’s total of the meet with the following lifts (raw with knees wraps):

Squat – 484 lbs
Bench – 281 lbs
Deadlift – 501 lbs

(R) Anna
(R) Anna

Anna K

5 Protein Pumped Holiday Recipes

ALN_Holiday_Recipes_v3

The holidays can be a trying time for those of us that are serious about training. As an AtLarge athlete you more than likely have no intention of letting the plethora of saturated fats and empty carbs associated with holiday feasts throw you off track and deter you from achieving your goals, and for that we salute you.

Being dedicated to your goals and wanting to look and feel your best doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the wonderful flavors associated with holiday eating. In fact some of the most famous holiday dishes can be turned into protein-packed power meals, if prepared correctly.

Enjoy one of these five amazing meals that will not only help you stay fit, but will also satisfy your cravings for all of those traditional holiday delicacies.

1. Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

P Pancake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 scoop AtLarge Nutrition Nitrean Natural Raw Protein– Vanilla
  • 1 whole egg + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup organic canned pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp stevia
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

Directions

  • Mix all of the ingredients in medium sized bowl until smooth.
  • Spray non-stick cooking spray into a griddle or skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Pour two dollops of batter onto your cooking surface; these should be 4-5 inches in circumference. Cook for 90 seconds or until the top starts to bubble.
  • Continue to cook for 30-60 seconds or until the pancake is completely cooked through.
  • Serve warm and enjoy.

2. Chocolate Protein Bars

P Brownie

Ingredients

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease an 8 x 8 baking dish.
  • Combine through salt in a large bowl, set aside.
  • Combine eggs and stevia and whisk together until fully incorporated in a medium bowl.
  • Add remaining wet ingredients to the medium bowl and whisk together.
  • Pour wet into dry ingredients and add in chocolate chips and walnuts if using.
  • Pour batter into baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Let cool completely in pan and then cut into 9 squares, wrap individually and store in refrigerator.

3. Protein Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, regular skim milk or fat free milk
  • 3 scoops AtLarge Nutrition Nitrean Natural Raw Protein– Vanilla
  • 1 ½ tsp instant coffee granules
  • ⅛ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 no-calorie sweetener packet
  • 1 ¼ cup crushed ice

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients and ice in blender.
  • Blend at highest speed.
  • Blend until consistency is frothy, smooth and free of lumps.
  • Serve and enjoy chilled.

4. Pumpkin Protein Cheesecake Ice Cream

P Ice cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup regular skim milk or nonfat milk
  • 2 scoops AtLarge Nutrition Nitrean Natural Raw Protein– Vanilla
  • ½ cup low fat cottage cheese
  • ½ cup plain low-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar free vanilla syrup
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender.
  • Blend at highest speed.
  • Blend ingredients until smooth and free of lumps.
  • Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to your machine’s instructions.
  • Serve and enjoy.

5. Eggnog Protein Shake

P eggnog

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup full fat coconut milk
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 scoops AtLarge Nutrition Nitrean Natural Raw Protein– Vanilla
  • **1 whole egg, raw (optional, consume at your own risk)
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions

  • Add all ingredients to Blender.
  • Blend until smooth without lumps.
  • Serve in chilled glass.

Now Operated by Team True Nutrition

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We are committed to making AtLarge Nutrition even better!

“We saw AtLarge Nutrition as a ‘right fit, right time’ company, and recently joined their team as majority owners. We entered into this collaboration with Chris Mason with the intent of applying the same True Nutrition commitment to product quality and customer service to support and grow the AtLarge community. Most people know the TN deal… we source the best damn products in the world; products that are known for their validity and quality. We are committed to making AtLarge Nutrition even better! Come along for the ride.”

– Dante Trudel & Doug Smith, Co-Founders of True Nutrition

Over the last 15 years, True Nutrition (TrueNutrition.com & True Nutrition Brand Products) has organically grown into one of the most trusted nutritional supplement companies in the world.

The Reason? Transparency; an ongoing investment to lab test all raw materials, a grassroots global following, superior customer support, and a core team lead by industry pioneers, Dante Trudel and Doug Smith. This dynamic team set out on a path over a decade ago to legitimize the supplement and health food world, creating a movement that continues to redefine the industry.

They now bring this same commitment of truth, quality and legitimacy to the AtLarge Nutrition brand and look forward to expanding their passion to support the goals of athletes both men and women around the world. 

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Post Workout Nutrition – Keeping it 100!

POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION – KEEPING IT 100

Let’s talk about nutrition and supplementation as it relates to performance enhancement, but for a real change of pace let’s keep it 100. Yes, I went there and used that term. What of it? 😉

Supplement company owners and their proxy shills have written a LOT of information over the years on the topic, but the end game was almost invariably to promote their products via massively overstated claims of what would happen if you used them. They most certainly were NOT keeping it 100…

Larry Wilmore of the The Nightly Show Keeps it 100
Larry Wilmore of the The Nightly Show Keeps it 100

Post-Workout

It has been touted for years that consuming protein after training is a necessity for improved and or optimized recovery. This idea does have some merit, but it is not the entire truth. It first came about as a result of protein supplement companies seizing upon research that showed consuming protein post-workout could more quickly place your body in an anabolic state, and additional research showing whey in particular can powerfully promote enhanced protein synthesis.

The thing about studies is that to be scientifically valid they have to be highly controlled. The studies which show the most potent impact of post-workout consumption of protein were done with trainees who had fasted beforehand. Most of them had fasted for 12 or more hours before an intense training session and then consumed the requisite amount of protein after the session was complete. That is not how it goes in real life for the majority of trainees. Sure, some train in a fasted state the first thing in morning, but the majority have consumed a meal, or several meals prior to their training session. Most meals consumed in Western culture have a fair amount of fat content and will take 4-6 hours to be fully digested. That means that amino acids from the foods consumed will be deposited into the bloodstream for roughly that period of time.

Aminos?

One of the reasons post-workout protein consumption is theorized to be effective is that it provides the substrate, or fuel (in the form of amino acids) for the enhanced protein synthesis environment which is realized after an intense training session. Another reason is that specific amino acids such as leucine are know to be a catalyst for an enhancement of protein synthesis even beyond that already present in the post-workout state. If said amino acids are already present in the bloodstream from a previously ingested meal will the consumption of additional protein make a meaningful difference? The answer is probably not. Probably not? What is this heresy?

Bodybuilders and strength athletes in general have been brainwashed into believing they must ingest WAY more protein than needed in order to facilitate optimized recovery and potential super-compensation. The truth of the matter is that barring a low calorie pre-contest diet in which a bodybuilder might be engaged, the vast majority of strength athletes consume more than enough protein in their daily diets and do NOT need to supplement them with additional protein.

So Why Does AtLarge Nutrition Sell Supplements?

If the above is true why do we sell protein supplements (Nitrean and Opticen Natural)? I/we sell them because they DO have a purpose and use, it just isn’t what the industry has drilled into your minds for decades. Protein supplements are a product of convenience. They truly are a SUPPLEMENT to a sound diet and training routine. Despite what I noted above I DO feel it is a good idea to consume protein (and carbohydrates) post-workout as a form of insurance that your body has what it needs to optimize recovery. A protein shake is a great way to get that protein. I don’t know about you, but after I bust my ass in the gym I’m not necessarily in the mood to eat right away, but consuming a shake is no problem.

Protein shakes also have value as the lowest calorie possible source of quality whole protein. If you are on a calorically restricted diet a quality protein shake will thus provide a complete protein with minimized caloric content. Incorporating such a shake into your diet can allow you to hit your daily macronutrient goals while concurrently consuming a more varied diet and thus potentially more healthful and satisfying fare.

What About Carbs?

Protein is not the only macronutrient which can help to optimize post-workout recovery. Carbohydrates, a blend of quick, moderate, and slow absorbing with an emphasis on the quick is the best way to go. The previously stated meal absorption argument still applies here, but perhaps to a slightly lesser degree. What many individuals don’t know about carbohydrates and the post-workout environment, and this is especially true with the recent popularity of low carbohydrate diets, “Paleo” diets, and so on, is that carbohydrates and the insulin spike they can elicit serve multiple beneficial purposes after an intense training session. First, the quick absorbing carbs you consume will provide nearly immediate substrate for glycogen replenishment. Glycogen is a stored form of glucose in the muscles (and liver) and used to fuel intense training. The replenishment of glycogen is considered to be integral to overall recovery, and the more quickly it occurs the better. Second, quick absorbing carbs elicit a potent insulin response by the body. Insulin is a highly anabolic hormone which can enhance recovery both by enhancing glycogen AND protein synthesis. Its specific effect(s) on protein synthesis is equivocal, but at the very least it has a permissive effect. Its effect on glycogen synthesis is incontrovertible, it essentially “supercharges” it. End game, the presence of insulin in the post-workout physiological environment is profound as it further enhances the already enhanced synthesis of both protein and glycogen. Anabolic state anyone?

Bodybuilding legend Mike Mentzer knew the importance of carbs post-workout
Bodybuilding legend Mike Mentzer knew the importance of carbs post-workout

What is the Take Home Message?

The take home message is the consumption of both protein and carbohydrates after an intense training session is a good idea and doing it with a shake is a convenient, and efficient way to do so. In the case of my company and products the solution for post-workout shakes is Opticen Natural (which contains 30g of protein and roughly 41g of a carbohydrate blend), Nitrean Natural plus RESULTS 2.0, or Opticen Natural and RESULTS 2.0 for the athlete with higher carbohydrate requirements (endurance athletes etc.).

Do I want you to purchase and use AtLarge Nutrition’s products? Heck yes I do, but I want you to do so for the right reasons, in the right way, and I want you to have a solid understanding of what is occurring in your body after you train. I hope this short article has done just that.

The author being pensive...
The author being pensive…

Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.

POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION – KEEPING IT 100

Shades of Rosie the Riveter

                     POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION – KEEPING IT 100

Let’s talk about nutrition and supplementation as it relates to performance enhancement, but for a real change of pace let’s keep it 100.  Yes, I went there and used that term.  What of it? 😉

Larry Wilmore of the Nightly Show knows how to keep it 100!
Larry Wilmore of the Nightly Show knows how to keep it 100!

Supplement company owners and their proxy shills have written a LOT of information over the years on the topic, but the end game was almost invariably to promote their products via massively overstated claims of what would happen if you used them.  They most certainly were NOT keeping it 100…

Post-Workout

It has been touted for years that consuming protein after training is a necessity for improved and or optimized recovery.  This idea does have some merit, but it is not the entire truth.  It first came about as a result of protein supplement companies seizing upon research that showed consuming protein post-workout could more quickly place your body in an anabolic state, and additional research showing whey in particular can powerfully promote enhanced protein synthesis.

Drink a shake and you will look just like this guy. Errrr... maybe not...
Drink a shake and you will look just like this guy. Errrr… maybe not…

The thing about studies is that to be scientifically valid they have to be highly controlled.  The studies which show the most potent impact of post-workout consumption of protein were done with trainees who had fasted beforehand.  Most of them had fasted for 12 or more hours before an intense training session and then consumed the requisite amount of protein after the session was complete.  That is not how it goes in real life for the majority of trainees.  Sure, some train in a fasted state the first thing in morning, but the majority have consumed a meal, or several meals prior to their training session.  Most meals consumed in Western culture have a fair amount of fat content and will take 4-6 hours to be fully digested.  That means that amino acids from the foods consumed will be deposited into the bloodstream for roughly that period of time.

One of the reasons post-workout protein consumption is theorized to be effective is that it provides the substrate, or fuel (in the form of amino acids) for the enhanced protein synthesis environment which is realized after an intense training session.  Another reason is that specific amino acids such as leucine are know to be a catalyst for an enhancement of protein synthesis even beyond that already present in the post-workout state.  If said amino acids are already present in the bloodstream from a previously ingested meal will the consumption of additional protein make a meaningful difference?  The answer is probably not.  Probably not?  What is this heresy?

Fuel baby!
Fuel baby!

Bodybuilders and strength athletes in general have been brainwashed into believing they must ingest WAY more protein than needed in order to facilitate optimized recovery and potential super-compensation.  The truth of the matter is that barring a low calorie pre-contest diet in which a bodybuilder might be engaged, the vast majority of strength athletes consume more than enough protein in their daily diets and do NOT need to supplement them with additional protein.

This guy is probably brainwashed...
This guy is probably brainwashed…

So Why Does AtLarge Nutrition Sell Supplements?

If the above is true why do we sell protein supplements (Nitrean and Opticen Natural)?  I/we sell them because they DO have a purpose and use, it just isn’t what the industry has drilled into your minds for decades.  Protein supplements are a product of convenience.  They truly are a SUPPLEMENT to a sound diet and training routine.  Despite what I noted above I DO feel it is a good idea to consume protein (and carbohydrates) post-workout as a form of insurance that your body has what it needs to optimize recovery.  A protein shake is a great way to get that protein.  I don’t know about you, but after I bust my ass in the gym I’m not necessarily in the mood to eat right away, but consuming a shake is no problem.

Protein shakes also have value as the lowest calorie possible source of quality whole protein.  If you are on a calorically restricted diet a quality protein shake will thus provide a complete protein with minimized caloric content.  Incorporating such a shake into your diet can allow you to hit your daily macronutrient goals while concurrently consuming a more varied diet and thus potentially more healthful and satisfying fare.

What About Carbs?

Protein is not the only macronutrient which can help to optimize post-workout recovery.  Carbohydrates, a blend of quick, moderate, and slow absorbing with an emphasis on the quick is the best way to go.  The previously stated meal absorption argument still applies here, but perhaps to a slightly lesser degree.  What many individuals don’t know about carbohydrates and the post-workout environment, and this is especially true with the recent popularity of low carbohydrate diets, “Paleo” diets, and so on, is that carbohydrates and the insulin spike they can elicit serve multiple beneficial purposes after an intense training session.  First, the quick absorbing carbs you consume will provide nearly immediate substrate for glycogen replenishment.  Glycogen is a stored form of glucose in the muscles (and liver) and used to fuel intense training.  The replenishment of glycogen is considered to be integral to overall recovery, and the more quickly it occurs the better.  Second, quick absorbing carbs elicit a potent insulin response by the body.  Insulin is a highly anabolic hormone which can enhance recovery both by enhancing glycogen AND protein synthesis.  Its specific effect(s) on protein synthesis is equivocal, but at the very least it has a permissive effect.  Its effect on glycogen synthesis is incontrovertible, it essentially “supercharges” it.  End game, the presence of insulin in the post-workout physiological environment is profound as it further enhances the already enhanced synthesis of both protein and glycogen.  Anabolic state anyone?

What is the Take Home Message?

The take home message is the consumption of both protein and carbohydrates after an intense training session is a good idea and doing it with a shake is a convenient, and efficient way to do so.  In the case of my company and products the solution for post-workout shakes is Opticen Natural (which contains 30g of protein and roughly 41g of a carbohydrate blend), Nitrean Natural plus RESULTS 2.0, or Opticen Natural and RESULTS 2.0 for the athlete with higher carbohydrate requirements (endurance athletes etc.).

Nitrean Natural
Nitrean Natural

Do I want you to purchase and use AtLarge Nutrition’s products?  Heck yes I do, but I want you to do so for the right reasons, in the right way, and I want you to have a solid understanding of what is occurring in your body after you train.  I hope this short article has done just that.

 

 

Chris Mason

Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines.

Strength Training Application for Improved Athletic Performance

Louie Simmons still kicking ass well into his 60s.

Strength Training Application for Improved Athletic Performance

by Chris Mason

I hate to appear to be a name dropper, but I want to give credit where it is due.  So, at the risk of appearing to be the former I was recently visiting with my friend Louie Simmons.  As the majority of readers will know Louie is one of the most famous and brilliant strength coaches in the world.  The man has been responsible for an innumerable number of strength training processes and innovations which permeate the athletic world (board presses, accommodating resistance in the form of chains and bands, his patented Reverse-Hyper devices, box squats, and the list goes on and on).

Louie Simmons still kicking ass well into his 60s.
Louie Simmons still kicking ass well into his 60s.

Louie is also a noted author in the field with a mountain of published articles as well as several books (you can buy them at www.westside-barbell.com).  When discussing one of his soon to be released books we got back to the basics of his methodology in terms of how strength training relates to enhancing athletic performance.  One of the first statements Louie made on the subject related to how many strength coaches simply don’t seem to get it.  For instance, sprinting coaches often run their athletes into oblivion.  He said if you want to get faster you have to get stronger, period.

Put that last sentence on social media and watch it get vehemently attacked by most of the “experts” in the strength training industry.  You would see statements like strength only increases speed up to a certain level of strength and then a further increase does virtually nothing.  That is partially accurate, but as with most things in life there is much more to it than that, and now we have reached the crux of Louie’s success.  You see, over many years of study and application with the all-time record setting athletes at his gym and from all over the world, Louie has learned that if you want to improve any end of the strength spectrum optimally you have to improve the entire spectrum simultaneously.  In other words, if you want more strength endurance you also have to improve your starting strength, explosive strength, absolute strength and so on.

If technique is perfected the only way to get faster is to get stronger.
If technique is perfected the only way to get faster is to get stronger.

To be clear, if one particular portion of the strength spectrum is the primary goal that should be the main focus of the training regimen, but not developing the other forms of strength will retard progress and reduce results.  So, in the initially mentioned example of a sprinter above, absolute/maximal strength must be a component of the training program because strength endurance, starting strength, reactive strength and so on cannot be optimized without simultaneously increasing maximal strength.

I think a good way to visualize the strength spectrum and how to best increase any particular point on it is to envision filling a bucket with sand.  You can pour sand in the middle, but you can’t appreciably increase the height of any particular point of the sand in the bucket until you fill in the diameter of the bucket throughout the full circumference.  In the same way, you can’t maximize maximal strength without increasing starting strength, explosive strength, speed strength, strength speed and so on across the spectrum.

While the above concept may seem intuitive, it is anything but in the strength training and athletic performance world.  Most performance coaches focus almost exclusively on the portion of the strength spectrum specific to their sport and thus dramatically limit the results which can be achieved by their athletes.  Louie Simmons’ Westside methodology addresses the entire spectrum with a focus on the specific portion of the spectrum most relevant to the sport of choice.  THAT is why Louie’s methods are the most effective in the business.

In case you missed it, the moral of this story is to train the entire strength spectrum (and do the research so you know how) and focus on the portion which is specific to your sport of choice.

Chris Mason

Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines.

Sequence Your Training for Optimal Results

Sequence Your Training for Optimal Results

by Chris Mason

With the recent massive increase in the popularity of training multiple fitness components simultaneously (CrossFit being the driving force of this movement) the topic of exercise sequencing for optimal results has become particularly poignant.

CF gals

Physical fitness and performance are comprised of many different specific attributes. For example, strength has many forms all of which contribute to the body’s ability to move through space. Strength can be viewed as a spectrum ranging from starting strength (the ability to produce maximal force in the first 30 milliseconds of movement), to explosive strength (the ability to very quickly, albeit not quite as quickly as starting strength, generate a high degree of force), to maximal strength (the ability to volitionally produce the highest force possible). Muscular endurance, the ability to produce relatively low levels of force for prolonged periods, also has a strata with things like speed endurance and strength endurance.

Clean

Each attribute above and more must be trained in order to excel physically across a broad spectrum of performance markers. In short, you must get good at a lot of stuff to be a well-rounded athlete. The decathlete has historically best exemplified the all-around athlete, but the best of the best CrossFitters now equally well personify one.
As training time is limited for most athletes those that seek to be all-around machines must organize their training to permit optimized adaptation to all physical traits which are being worked. If all, or multiple attributes are to be trained in a single session the order should be as follows:

1) Technique or skill work
2) Speed work
3) Strength work
3) Endurance work of all forms with speed endurance work being done first to be followed by lower intensity prolonged exercise

Following the order prescribed above will allow for maximized results within the confines of training multiple attributes in a single session. A similar order should be followed when training will target multiple attributes via individual sessions over the course of several days. Care must be taken in those situations to permit recovery of the nervous system after endurance work prior to the next skill, speed, and or strength session. Either a day or two of rest or active rest are recommended.

A Special Note about the Nervous System and Performance

Technique or skill work for athletics are generally understood to be essentially wholly a function of the nervous system. What is perhaps less generally well known is that strength and speed work are also almost exclusively the domain of the nervous system. They may be less known in the scientific sense, but we can all empirically appreciate it as each of us have tried, at one point or another, to perform a high intensity activity when already fatigued from a lower intensity effort and know the sense of a lack of coordination and explosiveness which are manifest at such times.

The Why

In a simplified nutshell, lower intensity prolonged activities exert a negative effect on the nervous system in the short and mid-term. They reduce coordination, increase reaction time, and increase the chance of injury when higher intensity activities succeed them prior to complete recovery.
There is a paucity of scientific explanation for the specific causes of this central nervous system fatigue (central fatigue). One generally agreed upon factor is an increase of serotonin (5-HT) in the brain. This is thought to occur due to an increase in brain levels of free tryptophan (f-TRP) which is an amino acid precursor for 5-HT production.

During prolonged exercise f-TRP transport across the blood brain barrier increases due to two main causes. One has to do with tryptophan and albumin. Tryptophan (TRP) binds to albumin in the blood. During endurance exercise, blood borne fatty acid levels increase. Fatty acids displace TRP from binding to albumin thus increasing f-TRP.
The other main cause relates to branched chain amino acids (BCAA). F-TRP (i.e. unbound TRP) competes with the BCAA for transport to the brain thus a decrease in circulating BCAA will result is more f-TRP being able to pass to the brain. Prolonged exercise decreases circulating BCAA as the skeletal muscles take them up and oxidize them for energy.

A Wrap

While the science as to the specific physiologic cause(s) of central fatigue is scant, there is no lack of scientific and empirical evidence verifying the existence of central fatigue as a result of prolonged endurance exercise. There is also no lack of scientific and empirical data verifying the proper sequencing of exercise for specific adaptations. Take care to properly sequence your training and you will permit the best results possible.

Chris Mason

Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.