I remember an episode from the Twilight Zone where this 40-year-old guy runs into his 20-year-old self. Neither can stand the other one. 20-year-old guy thinks 40-year-old guy has sold out and is working for the man. 40-year-old guy thinks 20-year-old guy is a judgmental, self-righteous jerk.
It's an interesting concept. What would we think of our younger self if we were to meet? And what would our younger self think of us? It speaks to the concept of growth. Sometimes I'll look back at a previous version of myself and compare how that guy thought and behaved. If you don't think your former self was a little bit of an asshole it means you haven't grown.
I went through a pivotal period about six years ago, so that's a convenient point to look back at. What's interesting to me now is how that guy thought he was a finished product... that he pretty much had things figured out. That guy was a little bit of an asshole.
This has nothing to do with being single. I just like the beat and the way Beyonce is calling to all the ladies out there. It's in a similar vein that I'm writing this post. One of the most unfortunate fitness myths perpetrated on women is that lifting weights will turn them into bulky, musclebound freaks. This simply isn't possible. Women produce one-tenth of the testosterone that men do. Even men can't reach Schwartzeneggerian proportions without chemical assistance (steroids).
Now let's talk about why women should want to train with weights. And I'm not talking about the cute, little pink dumbbells either. I mean weights. "I just want to be toned" is the common battle cry. Here's the thing. Our bodies don't have tone. They have muscle and fat. When we say toned what we really mean is to increase the ratio of muscle to fat. Weight training is the most effective way to build muscle. It's also the most effective way to burn fat because muscle is metabolically active 24/7. More muscle, less fat... greater tone.
The hidden gem that many women find once they engage in weight training is that getting stronger is an empowering experience. It builds confidence that bleeds over into other parts of life.
All the single ladies
Now put your hands up
Oh, oh, oh... Oh, oh, oh
Hormones are the master switchers. They regulate every process in our body. We often think of insulin and cortisol as "bad" hormones, but that isn't true. Both are essential to our well being, but context is important. Cortisol ramps up the immune system when foreign invaders are present. Insulin is needed to convert T4 into the active hormone T3 used to regulate metabolism. The interplay between hormones is complicated, so it's important to minimize things in our diet that can disrupt their activity. The following foods either have direct or secondary impacts. It's best to avoid them.
I'll be honest. I used to eat all this stuff. I thought all that mattered were calories and macros, but that isn't the case. Anything that messes with your hormones undermines your health in unpredictable ways.
The ketogenic diet has risen in popularity lately. It can be very useful, but it's important to keep in mind that it isn't a natural diet. As such, you should view it as a tool rather than a permanent way of eating. At its core, the keto diet is a hack. It tricks the body into thinking you're in starvation mode by restricting carbs. This is a stressor on the body that triggers several positive adaptations. The main benefit is that it improves insulin sensitivity which can help to correct the hormone imbalance caused by a carb-heavy, processed food diet.
You have to be careful, though, because tricking your body into thinking it's in starvation mode permanently has some negative side effects. Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels will typically rise. Most importantly, keto can lead to a hypothyroid condition - low T3 hormone production - which will lower metabolism. The thyroid damage can be permanent, so this is a real concern.
Once you are keto-adapted (ketone bodies over 0.5 mM with low and stable levels of insulin and blood glucose) it's a good idea to introduce some weekly days where carb intake is high. This will help to avoid the negative side effects I detailed above.
If you workout daily at a fairly high intensity (ahem... crossfitters), you can try an advanced technique that takes advantage of a certain biorythm. In the morning fat cells are more insulin sensitive, while muscle cells are more insulin sensitive in the evening - especially if you have depleted them of their glycogen via exercise. Therefore, keep your diet ketogenic during the day, but for dinner enjoy a serving of carbs. This hybrid approach allows you to benefit from daily periods of ketosis while still providing the swag you need for your daily workouts.
Recently I listened to an interview with a guy named Jacob Schoen. He is a practitioner of something called the ELDOA method. The idea behind ELDOA ties into something I came across recently while reading the book Natural Born Heroes. Our muscles are encased in a leathery bag-like structure known as the fascia. This fascia is essentially continuous running throughout the body - kind of like a Power Ranger suit just underneath the skin. Tugging on any piece of the suit affects the tension everywhere else.
Since the spinal column has muscles, this fascia suit is also woven into the vertebrae. In the ELDOA method there is a specific body position designed to target a release in each of the spaces between the different vertebrae segments. When in the particular position, that specific segment (L4-L5 is a problematic one for people with lower back pain) will be decompressed. This allows fluid to re-enter the disc which should help to alleviate chronic pain. Chiropractors take a similar approach except they use a machine to decompress vertebrae segments.
The technique was developed by a French physician. The positions are similar to those in yoga. Many people can vouch for yoga having improved their back condition. I like to do the L5-S1 hold before going to bed. It makes my lower back feel great and helps with sleep quality.
Remember this classic episode? Of course, what George really meant was, "It's not me... It's YOU". If you struggle with weight, it's not you. It's the world you live in. You are an incredibly advanced biochemical machine optimized through millions of years with tools that maximize your ability to survive. You are a marvel.
One of the tools you were endowed with is something called optimum foraging strategy. You are hard-wired to seek out food with the highest caloric payload while minimizing the effort used to obtain it. This strategy guided us through the harshest of environments allowing us to provide for ourselves and our children.
However, you have been dropped into a world that turns everything on its head. The conditions have become too favorable for acquiring calories. You are perfect... but the world you live in is not perfect for you anymore. So, take the emotion out of it. There is nothing wrong with you. The challenge is simply to develop an understanding of your hard-wired instincts so that you can create a personal environment conducive to maintaining your health and reaching your fitness goals. I'm not saying it's easy, but I am saying there is absolutely no reason for feelings of guilt.
I read an article recently about the negative side effects they're starting to find associated with proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec and Nexium). These drugs are used to treat acid reflux. It brought back a memory from several years ago. A friend of mine was going through some health issues. One of them was acid reflux, and his doctor had prescribed Nexium. He said something that at the time didn't have much impact on me, but that I now realize was very wise of him. He said, "Yeah, I'm going to take what the doctor prescribed for now, but I'm going to look into more natural ways I can address this because our stomachs make acid for a reason, and taking away their ability to do this will surely create other problems".
He was right, and all he did was use a little common sense while taking responsibility for his health instead of blindly following orders. It's a good thing he did, too. These proton pump inhibitors are now shown to impair nutrient absorption, allow pathogens to pass into the gut, and increase the risk for heart disease and dementia.
You are your own sailor. The reality is, if you're not looking out for your ship then nobody is. You have to do your own thinking.
If you're ever having a bad day and need a pick-me-up, just replay this story. The atoms that make up your body were formed in the crucibles of stars that lived long ago. Under extreme heat and pressure, lighter elements like hydrogen and helium fused together to form heavier elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. At the end of their spectacular lives, these stars exploded - scattering their precious life-forming ingredients across our galaxy. You are made of stardust... literally. When you look up at the sky, know that you are not only in the universe. The universe is in you.
When I first got serious about working out my focus was on building muscle - hypertrophy. This is pretty typical for us dudes unfortunately. Nowadays I focus on performance and long term health. I view hypertrophy as more of a side benefit. In the muscle bound world of bodybuilding there is endless debate about how you make those suckers grow.
Why so much debate? Well, it's because most people don't understand that there is more than one way to get the job done. There are actually three different mechanisms whereby protein synthesis is stimulated - three different avenues to build muscle.
Mechanical tension refers to the load applied. Simply put, lifting heavy shit (1 to 5 reps) will build muscle. Muscular damage refers to inducing micro tears in the muscle fibers. Spending more time under tension will drive muscular damage. This means lifting lighter weight for more reps (8 to 15). It also means little tricks like drop sets, forced reps, and negatives. Bodybuilders refer to these as intensity techniques.
Most experienced lifters understand the first two mechanisms, but they will often overlook the third. Metabolic stress refers to applying a high cardiovascular demand on the body. Good examples of this are sprinting, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and Crossfit WOD's. Here you are stressing your body's energy delivery system which will also stimulate muscle growth.
There you go. Now, instead of getting sucked into endless debate with bro types, you can just go out and incorporate these mechanisms into your regimen. Any of them will work, but you'll maximize your results if you incorporate all three.
I love everything about coffee. I love brewing it. I love the taste. I love the infusion of energy. And I love the health benefits. Coffee beans come from all over the world, and people drink coffee all over the world. When I have my morning cup of joe I feel like, in a small way, I am participating in being a world citizen.
I've tried lots of coffee in search of one that is both economical and good. I've bought beans from the grocery store, coffee shops, local roasters, the internet... you name it. A couple months ago I stumbled onto the best stuff that has ever come out of my trusty, little Mr Coffee maker. I look forward to it every morning. The first sip makes the taste buds on the back of my tongue do summersaults. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you... Trader Joe's Organic Breakfast Blend.
Look, I know coffee is extremely subjective. My best bud and I debated this recently while hopping between coffee joints in and around Union Square, New York. By the way, Everyman Espresso and Irving Farm Coffee Roasters are def worth a visit if you're ever in the area. But if you feel like you haven't yet found the one... I don't mind sharing.