Keto. The newest diet. What does a keto practitioner, an atheist, and a crossfitter have in common? They will all tell you. So for those of you who have heard of Keto diets, sit down, put your reading glasses on, and follow along.
READY SET GO. Keto is a shortened term used to describe ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet is a diet that inspires the process of ketosis. Ketosis is a natural survival response that your body initiates when food is scarce causing the production of ketones. Ketones are water soluble molecules produced by the liver using fatty acids as the raw material. These ketones are then used for energy. BOOM!!!!
For anybody who is not a doctor, what does this mean to you? Keto is based on the premise that by limiting carbohydrate intake specifically, not caloric intake, your body will utilize the fuel source it is meant to use (fat stores) for energy. A keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet. It focuses on eating meats, greens, above ground vegetables, high fat dairy, nuts, seeds, avocados and berries while straying away from grains, sugar, fruit, and tubers. If you didn’t get the title, I will explain further. Much like all of my titles, it is a pun. Keto diets pride themselves on not only allowing you to eat bacon but encouraging it. This focus on consuming fats removes calorie dense carbohydrates from the equation essentially shifting your body's fuel source and the process it uses to obtain energy.
Intermittent Fasting vs Paleo vs Keto
Intermittent fasting focuses on the limiting feasting and increases fasting windows to cause the body to fall into the survival response (just as the keto diet does). However, intermittent fasting is about the time windows more than the raw material you are eating. Paleo is as simple as it gets, if you find it in nature ,without any form of processing other than cooking, you can eat it. Keto focuses on your energy source. All of the aforementioned are “diets” with varying premises. They can be used separately or combined to enhance effectiveness.
What you need to know?
If I said it once, I will say it a thousand times. Stop looking at your diet if you are not exercising. There is no amount of good eating that can help you if you are inactive. If you are active, stop measuring your meals and counting your calories. Walk into the bathroom. Shut the door. Take all your clothes off. Look into the mirror. If you are not seeing results, your diet is not working. Every human body is different and a diet that works for me will not work for you. There are people on the Keto diet, intermittent fasting, and paleo diet that see no results. Simply put, stop measuring your meals and start measuring your results.
Form is an aspect of the billion dollar fitness industry where personal trainers spend their careers publishing movies, videos, and literature on the proper way to execute athletic movements. If you type in “how to deadlift” on any search engine it will return over a million matches. DISCLAIMER: I am not saying form doesn’t matter and I highly advise you do your research before executing any compound movement. However, I am highlighting that there is no absolute way to complete any movement and these cookie cutter steps are not doing you any favors.
Therefore, I wrote this short blog to clear up my stance on some of the information being released to the public.
1. KEEP YOUR FEET FLAT ON THE FLOOR.
For the love of thor, keep your feet flat on the floor. I can’t say it enough. There are so many videos that utilize movements of the feet in conjunction with heavy compound movements to better “Feel the Burn”. If you are squatting than rolling to your tippie toes or deadlifting and pulling your toes towards the ceiling, the only thing you are going to feel is pain. Just like a building, your body is heavily reliant upon its foundation (the feet). It is where balance starts. Therefore, movements in the feet will be compensated by larger muscles that try keep you from falling over. This compensation is directly related to injury. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
2. Use your back that’s what it’s there for.
This is probably the most controversial statement I will make in this article and I will stand by it. Society has ingrained it into us that back injuries are the worst thing that can happen. Therefore, we have been trained to do movements improperly to over protect our backs. Your back is a joint just like any other. There needs to be movement in this joint to strengthen the stabilizing muscles that surround the spine. I am not advocating deadlifting with a curve in your spine so you resemble a question mark. I am saying the deadlift is a back workout and therefore the back should be used in its entirety. Not utilizing your back will weaken it, culminating in a common imbalance that manifests itself as SI joint dysfunction and hip tilt.
3. If you can’t do it its probably you… not the weight.
The main thing that every fitness book or specialist will say when you are having trouble harnessing proper form is ,”just lighten the weight and try it again.” This pisses me off because it is a true disservice to everybody. If you are having issues completing a movement it is often not the weight, it's you. In my experience, I will say that 99% of the time that a person is struggling with form it's due to a lack of flexibility. The best way to overcome this is to utilize other tools to supplement the compound movement itself to inspire flexibility and full range of motion within the inhibited joint. If you lighten and try it again, you will spend the rest of your life lifting no weight and still having poor form.
4. If it hurts its wrong.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is….If it hurts...it’s wrong. When your mom told you that you are one in a million, she wasn’t lying. Your anatomical structure is unique. Therefore, just because there is a standard way to “squat” doesn’t mean your body is going to necessarily respond or react to the movement the same way as the spandex clad woman in the video. Proper form is going to require repetition after repetition to develop the stabilization and muscular coordination to effectively complete the movement. Do not attempt to push through pain simply because you have been advised this is the proper way to do it.
5. Just Do it.
Last but not least, there are points in time where you just have to do it. I am speaking about the highest level of competition with that phrase. Once you are an experienced lifter, you will have to use sound judgement on when to push yourself. There is a point in time in competition when the body is fatigued and the only thing that stands between you and victory is a modest 600 pounds. At this point in time, leave it all out there and lift like you have never lifted before! Do not make a habit of this and this should be solely reserved for the most experienced lifters in a competition setting. Finally, if you have never lifted that much you will never understand so do not comment on “form” in this instance.
The title is worded correctly. The attempt I made to clarify the way I view proper nutrition in my recent blog post seemed to cause more questions than answers. In continuation to that post, I will better explain the nutritional discipline I use. The long periods of starvation combined with short periods of monstrous binging have made me dub the term “Intermittent Feasting”. DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or medical professional. Extreme changes to your normal eating habits can be both uncomfortable and dangerous. You must know your body and ease yourself into things.
A normal day. The principle basis of intermittent fasting is having cycle that includes a period of fasting followed by a period of feasting. In a typical day, I will fast for 16 hours and eat for 8. The sixteen hours of fasting are not supplemented with snacks and sugary drinks. It is a 100% fast. No food… just water. I start my fast at night where I will stop my feasting phase at 10 P.M. This allows me to fall into an insulin induced coma (this is a joke…kind of) and sleep like a baby all night long. I will then wake up and be on my way not having to stop for breakfast. I will work all day until roughly noon where I will begin my workout. For this principle to be successful, you must workout at the very end of your fast. Finally, after about a two-hour workout I will be depleted and ready to refuel. Now the fun part…eating. I will then binge from roughly 2 P.M. to 10 P.M. When I say binge, I mean eat an unrealistic amount of food, including hitting all of my macronutrients, from the beginning to the very end of my eating period. Although I do have cheat days, I am not consuming ice cream and fat snacks for the entire 8 hours. Newcomers to this principle will try that and find out very quickly how painful it becomes. At the end of my eating period, I drink some water to aid in digestion (your body utilizes a lot of water to process this amount of food), and then fall into a nice long slumber where the cycle starts all over again.
Your body. Intermittent fasting works based on the primal principle of biological design. Despite the fact that you can drive a car and operate a computer, you are still an animal. By that, I mean that your ancestors did not have the luxury of a grocery store to have a continuous supply of food. Therefore, the human body evolved and adapted to its surroundings the best way it could. The biological mechanisms put in place by our body are now seen as detriments. Excess fat stores, cholesterol, and insulin insensitivity (diabetes) are just some examples. In the most basic sense, our lifestyle has evolved beyond or body’s design.
Your body wants you to live. Your body only wants what’s best for you and will do anything it takes to keep you alive. Therefore, your body will never turn away free energy. Energy is the most precious commodity in our universe (it’s not money…even your body knows that) and will store as much of it as it can as fat. Our ancestors would need these fat stores to provide energy over an unknown period until the next meal. In the modern day, your body barely has enough time to process the previous meal before it is receiving the next batch of energy. We are in a constant state of energy surplus causing excess fat stores and an overexposure of insulin. Insulin is a peptide hormone that regulates metabolism of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Essentially, insulin the chemical precursor that tells our body to process the food you eat. When constantly eating, your body is flooded with insulin and becomes insensitive to this hormone. This insensitivity is more commonly referred to as diabetes. Much like the most overprotective family member you have ever had, your body will do everything it can to protect you by continuously processing storing food even if it is to your own detriment.
The fix. Simple, intermittent fasting. By using your body the way it is meant to be used, it will respond the way you want it to. The benefits are endless but here are a few. The fast causes your body to reach survival mode daily. Survival mode forces your body to utilize excess fat stores as energy. The utilization of these fat stores is what keeps your body at a natural equilibrium allowing you to look both strong and healthy. Additionally, your mind and body operates at a much higher capacity on an empty stomach. Insulin is the direct enemy of key health hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone. During a fast, your body will flood your system with these beneficial hormones. From its perspective, you have to be bigger, faster, and stronger to find that next meal. From your perspective, you see increased muscle growth and performance in every area of life. Finally, your mind operates at a much higher capacity when fasted. The studies on this phenomenon are still in the work. However, the most obvious finding is that blood in your body is limited (mind blown). When you are digesting food, blood is diverted to your stomach and intestines to aid in this process. When fasted, you have additional blood that can be diverted to your brain to improve cognitive ability.
Try it out, you might like it. I hope that this cleared up some of the questions that arose from the previous post. If you are contemplating trying intermittent fasting, I would advise easing into it. Start with 12 hours fasting and 12 hours feasting then work your way up. The Guru who introduced me to this system (SHOT OUT JOESEPH PATTERSON), would fast for up to 72 hours with a 24-hour eating period. That extreme level of fasting is not advised for the average person with average fitness goals, but does provide an example of the possibilities of this program. On a personal note, fasting has improved every area of my life by allowing me more time to focus on my goals. With only 8 hours devoted to eating, I had 16 hours straight that I could devote my uninterrupted attention to the gym, the military, and school allowing me to excel in all three. In terms of school, I noticed a direct correlation between a fast and performance. I thought much more clearly and had a nearly photographic memory. Know your body, understand your body, and be smarter than your body. Once you get this, your body will work for you rather than you working for it.
Anybody who has ever experienced pain radiating along the sciatic nerve understands the title of this post. Also, if you have never experienced this sort of pain let me put it into perspective how bad it is. Vets often have dogs who will bite through their own limbs in an attempt to relieve the pain caused by nerve damage. Luckily, the average human being lacks enough flexibility to bite through their own leg but may consider it on days when this condition is flaring up (this is a joke).
Story Time. In 2014, I experienced a serious back injury causing the most severe chronic pain I have ever had in my life. While lifting a large piece of equipment at work, I ended up bulging my L5-S1 disc. The doctor told me I would never lift ever again. I was left with two options: quit lifting (not a real option) or develop a solution to my problem. I was not going to spend the rest of my life trying to find a magical pill or surgical treatment that would fix me. So after years of self-administered rehabilitation, I proved that doctor wrong.
In order for you to fix your own problem, you need to identify what imbalance is causing this pain. Sciatic pain can be caused by a number of issues but fortunately the location of this nerve limits to scope of the search. Possibility number one: you have a discfunction (get it veterbral disc and dysfunction combined). A vertebral disc pressing on the nerve is causing the pain in your leg. Possibility number two: Sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Believe it or not, your spine is connected to your hips at a joint. YOU ARE NOT A SOLID MASS OF BONE. This joint is incredibly neglected because the movement in it is very limited and should not be noticeable. However, when the hodgepodge of muscles that inserts at this joint are imbalanced they often wreak havoc on the sciatic nerve bundle. Possibility number three: you have both. Whenever one of these injuries occurs, the body will compensate and cause the other functional disorder from imbalanced repetition.
The fix. You must resist every instinct to become sedentary from the pain. This is the worst thing you can do. Your muscles surrounding the injury will lock up in an attempt to protect the injured area and will only cause more damage than good. Be smarter than your body. Remain active and identify what caused the injury. All of us favor one side of our body. This can cause a complete lack of coordination on the opposite side of your body (try throwing a ball with your non-dominant hand…..you will look like an idiot). Additionally, a tell-tale sign is an abnormal gait when you walk. If you ever close your eyes and try to walk in a straight line you will eventually make a large circle due to the discrepancy in stride length. Your mind has built a subconscious comfort with over utilizing one side, therefore causing a functional imbalance, culminating in chronic pain. More often than not, this pain is from years repetition rather than a single instance. You must restore balance through flexibility and strengthening exercises. This will require a number of training methods but I have provided a few that proved very beneficial in managing my pain.
1. Nerve Flossing. In short, the process of nerve flossing mobilizes the impinged nerve and muscles surrounding it. This relieves a substantial amount of pain, especially if habitually practiced.
Step 1: Sit down in a chair.
Step 2: Extend your leg with your toes pointed up, while simultaneously curving at the back by looking down at your hips.
2. Cat-Cow Pose. This simple Yoga Pose will induce flexion and extension in your spine. Vertebral discs are cartilage discs that provide cushion. By flexing and extending your spine, your vertebrae will grind and wear down the damaged piece of cartilage relieving pressure on the nerve.
Step 1: Begin on your hands and knees.
Step 2: Raise your back like a cat while bringing your gaze towards your hips.
Step 3: Lower your spine towards the ground while bringing your gaze up to the ceiling.
3. Trunk Twist. This stretch will improve the twisting function of your spine and provide the same benefit of the cat-cow pose just in a different dimension.
Step 1: Lay down flat on the ground with your arms out as a T.
Step 2: Raise your knee to your chest.
Step 3: Rotate the inside of your knee to the floor while transferring your gaze to the opposite of your body.
Complete all of these exercises in 3 sets of 20 at least two times per day. For these to work you must remained disciplined. After all, this is to relieve your pain. Your commitment will be directly related to your decrease in pain.
40% of people are being treated for sciatic pain in the present day. So if it happens to you, make sure you get the correct diagnosis from a medical professional. Serious issues such as spinal tumors can be diagnosed by the presence of this pain. Additionally, if you have this condition and you ever lose control of your limbs, bladder, or bowel this a serious symptom and must been treated by a doctor immediately. However if none of these apply to you, the presence of sciatic pain should not limit your life or well-being. Accept the problem and correct it through the proper means. Listen to your body but, DO NOT allow your body to control you.
The word diet can go DIE. I hate the term diet because the fitness world has developed a hybrid term that encompasses both weight loss and nutrition. Weight loss and nutrition are two separate goals that should NEVER be confused. Weight loss is the desire to decrease body mass in the form of body fat (no body desires to lose muscle or bone mass). Nutrition on the other hand, is defined as the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for HEALTH and GROWTH.
Weight loss is a simple goal. If you seek to lose weight, eat less. Weight loss is 100% based on energy intake vs. energy expenditure. If you eat more than you use, you will gain weight. If you eat less than you use, you will lose weight. Don’t believe me, keep reading. Mark Haub, a professor in human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate a diet consisting totally of Oreos, Doritos, Twinkies, and Soda for 10 weeks and ended up losing 27 pounds. What was the only variable in this experiment? Intake. He decreased his intake to 1,800 calories while maintaining an energy expenditure of 2,600 calories per day. Not only did he lose weight but he actually became healthier by improving his cholesterol levels (Nordqvist, 2010). The only limiting factor in this program was the lack of vitamins and minerals in these food sources.
Nutrition on the other hand is a very complex goal. Almost every athlete will plateau, more often than not, because of his or her food intake rather than his or her training methods. The body will only grow with sufficient resources. Therefore, any strength athlete will eat a gram of protein per pound of goal body weight. A 250-pound man will eat 270 grams of protein to continue growth. For those of you who do not know, 270 grams of protein is an immense amount and incredibly difficult to attain (that’s rougly 45 large eggs in a day). With this intake goal also comes monitoring your other macronutrients as to not create an unhealthy balance. Eating 45 eggs will give you the protein you need while exponentially also increasing your cholesterol and fat. Nutrition is not simple and requires a metric ton of discipline and calculation to get it down.
People always ask me how I eat to maintain the performance level I do. More often than not I eat relatively well. At the same point in time, my cheat days would probably make you sick. In one cheat day I will eat an entire pizza, a quart of ice cream, a bag of cookies, and on certain days Krispy Kreme bacon sandwiches (1. Make bacon 2. Cut original glazed Krispy Kreme Donut in half 3. Place two pieces of bacon in the middle 4. Sandwich the halves 5. Eat and repeat until you run out of bacon or Krispy Kreme’s, which ever happens first). Again, I do not do this daily, nor do I advise this as a successful nutritional plan. However, I am trying to articulate that I have used these above principles to outsmart my body with intermittent fasting. After eating like this, I will not eat for 16 hours. Then after fasting for two-thirds of a day, I put myself through a workout from hell including 500 pound deadlifts on a completely empty stomach. This will cause my body to consume the fat stores I have just created while simultaneously flooding my body with muscle building hormones.
In summation, please stop paying for these bull$#!+ diet plans that break the bank, make you incredibly uncomfortable, and ultimately don’t work. Know the difference between diet and nutrition and use those principles to outsmart your own physiology. Listen to your body but make conscious decisions with an understanding of how your biology works. Once you get your nutritional and training principles in line, you will reach your highest performance potential.
So there’s an elephant in the room. The answer is yes…I am a man and I wear tights. I have proudly worn them across three continents and do not plan on changing anytime soon because I really do not give $#!+ what people think. The reason? They make my butt look good. In the most indirect way possible, this brings me to the point of this post: Flexibility and balance as they pertain to the strength athlete.
First, flexibility is essential when it comes to strength training. Flexibility is the ability of your joints to move freely and uninhibited throughout their full range of motion. In weight training, a lot of people are unable to execute movements based solely on their inability to move their body into a mechanically advantageous position. For instance, when squatting many people lack flexibility in their hips causing them to be unable to truly engage the necessary leg, trunk, and back muscles when executing this lift. This limits the body’s true strength potential and even more importantly can cause injury due to overcompensation by other muscles groups.
Next, let’s talk about balance. Balance is much more complex than can be explained in this simple blog post, however for the sake of brevity, it is the body’s ability to activate muscles in an equal and opposing manner to keep you upright and in place. When executing the squat with smooth and equitable muscular contractions throughout the motion it will be easier and ultimately achieve a greater result (more weight). Imbalances will not only limit your potential but will grow worse if not corrected culminating in injury and functional disorders.
The Fix. There are many ways to correct flexibility and balance inconsistencies. From one man in yoga pants to whoever might be reading this, I recommend Yoga. When I say Yoga, I do not mean Yoga in the sense that you need to change your whole entire lifestyle. I mean it in the practical sense with practicing poses that focus specifically of increasing flexibility and balance. There are many programs, both self and professionally administered, that can greatly benefit your strength game and keep you out of a wheel chair. Many high functioning athletes have adopted this technique and seen great benefit. So even if you’re a division one linebacker (which many colleges force their football players to practice yoga), put your pride aside, do your research, and implement some simple poses into your routine. Your joints and PR’s will thank you for it. Who knows… maybe you’ll find yourself in tights too.
The fitness industry has become on over-inflated (get it...another pun) with unnecessary and most importantly ineffective systems. These systems focus so heavily on achieving a single goal, such as carving your abdominals or building your arms, that the very muscles that keep your body in alignment are neglected. Fitness and the Human Physiology is no different than any other aspect of life, you must maintain balance. The B.E.A.S.T System focuses on functional strength and building a well-rounded healthy individual.
When it comes to building strength and explosiveness you don't need to break the bank with high tech gear. Look no further than a field and an old tire of your choosing. This week The Bar worked on the overhead tire throw. Of the several different workouts that can be accomplished with a tire, The Overhead Tire Throw is the one of the most beneficial while simultaneously being the most tiring. When completing the throw, the body is forced to recruit all of its muscle groups instantaneously while focusing on the posterior chain in particular. Due to the posterior chain being located in an area that we do not see every day (your backside), it is commonly and most often neglected. Some of the muscles that encompass this chain include the hamstrings, glutes, and the erector spinae group. Despite the fact that this chain is crucial in strength, it is also crucial in everyday life as it maintains your posture and keeps all the important things like your spine and hips in alignment. Additionally, explosive compound movements such as these are essential in flooding the body with all of the muscle building hormones that are often supplemented in the wrong manner. Finally, due to the intense nature of this movement you will really only need 30 minutes of set work before you're all tired out.