Post-Workout Nutrition: Does the “Anabolic Window” really exist?

Anyone who’s tried to gain any appreciable amount of muscle mass is most likely familiar with the concept of the “anabolic window”. You know, the first 30-or-so minutes following your workout where you sprint to the locker room and inhale that tasty protein shake (tasty being subjective of course).

Why do you do this?
– It’s all about the gains, man! Right?…

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Batman was most likely just under-caffeinated that day…

Well, what’s been observed from the collection of studies covering this very subject is somewhat conflicting.

While its been widely accepted that in order to gain muscle mass, a protein/carbohydrate supplement should be consumed within the first 30-60minutes following a workout; it turns out it’s not quite that simple…

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Public service announcement from supplement companies

Current research is conflicting, but shows that rather than focusing primarily on post-workout nutrition/nutrient timing that the duration between pre and post workout nutrition may play much more of a significant role than post-workout nutrition alone. A recent article (1) written by Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld shows us that the timing of your meals surrounding your workout has a much greater impact on gains in muscle mass/protein synthesis. There are some exceptions though.

Here’s what you need to know:

– Consuming a pre-exercise meal/amino acid or protein supplement can be enough if it is ingested within 1-2 hours prior to training

– Minimal-moderate pre-exercise supplementation has been shown to be effective in elevating blood amino acid levels (6g of Essential Amino Acids taken immediately pre-workout elevated blood and muscle amino acid levels by 130% for 2 hours)

– If there is a 3-4 hour gap between your last meal and your workout/training, then consuming a protein supplement before training is recommended to create an anabolic environment

– If you train first thing in the morning/in an overnight fasted state – then consuming a protein/carbohydrate supplement before training is beneficial to create an anabolic environment in the body

– Glycogen replenishment is necessary for athletes who train the same muscle groups twice a day within an 8 hour period

– Consuming a post-workout meal 1-2 hours after training is sufficient as long as the previous meal was consumed 1-2 hours prior to training. There is overlap!

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So what’s the take home message from all of this? In a nutshell, as long as you’re eating well and getting enough protein throughout the day, you should be fine. The point here is that you don’t need to obsess over your post workout shake. Instead, pay attention to what really matters – YOUR DIET!

References:

(1) Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):5.

Pick up something heavy.

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The Goblet Squat:

Anyone who’s engaged in a resistance training program has most likely heard about the multitude of benefits obtained from squatting. The squat is an amazing exercise capable of building copious amounts of muscle mass, increasing total body strength, burning body fat, maintaining and enhancing mobility/stability/flexibility, and improving just about every aspect of our physicality.

Basically, doing a set of squats is like taking a sip from the Holy Grail – You remember what that did for Sean Connery in The Last Crusade, right?

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“Oh good, some pre-workout. Junior, throw 405 on the bar!”

However, despite the cornucopia of benefits and super powers squatting bestows upon us, there is a time and a place for everything. Barbell squatting may not be the best choice for everyone, even if it is the most badass. With this in mind I would like to direct your attention to an incredible exercise for both beginners and advanced trainees – The Goblet Squat.

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The goblet squat is an exercise created by Lifting and Throwing coach, Dan John. This squat variation is typically much easier to perform as a beginner, but can be made challenging enough for advanced trainees. The squat is a complex movement pattern that blends strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility together. Despite the many benefits of performing this exercise, the reality for most people is that if they don’t “groove the movement pattern” regularly, they lose the ability to perform it correctly over time. This is unfortunate, because squatting is awesome. It is for this reason that the goblet squat can and should be performed often, even daily if possible.

Performing the goblet squat is fairly simple compared to its counterparts (Back Squats and Front Squats). The way the weight is positioned and loaded through the body makes it a more comfortable exercise for beginners. It can be performed as a warm-up exercise and as an alternative to traditional squats. Of course, you typically won’t be able to use the heavy loads that you would in a traditional barbell squat, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging or beneficial (split squats anyone?).

Bret Contreras is a certified strength and conditioning specialist who wrote a great article detailing the goblet squat; which can be found here. I would highly recommend you check out his website and blog if you haven’t already. Seriously, do it now

If you are a beginner, the goblet squat should be a staple in your exercise program. One of the biggest mistakes a new lifter can make is to jump right into barbell squatting (Back Squats or Front Squats) too soon.

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He chose…poorly…

If you don’t currently possess:

– Ankle mobility (dorsiflexion)
– Hip mobility
– Strong Spinal erectors and thoracic extensors
– Core strength/stability
– Strong/responsive Glute function
– Strong Quadriceps

Then you have no business performing a barbell loaded squat yet.

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Let’s take a closer look at why each of the above attributes is vital for squatting:

– The ankles must be mobile to allow the knees to travel forward
– Mobile hips to allow for adequate depth and hip flexion
– Strong spinal erectors and thoracic extensors to maintain a neutral spine, keep the chest up, and to maintain lumbopelvic stability throughout the movement
Core strength/stability to keep from folding forward (excessive forward lean), maintain neutral spine, and to support the load
Strong glutes are needed to keep the knees tracking properly, the eccentric load stable, and to extend the hips as you come back up
– The quadriceps have to be strong to aid in the ascent and to help maintain an upright posture

If you’re lacking in these areas, you should address those issues first, and then try the goblet squat. All too often I see people performing a barbell squat that have no business performing the movement yet. It’s well worth it to put in the time developing the movement pattern correctly, rather than to jump right into a squat rack and getting under a barbell. Don’t get me wrong, the absolute last thing I want is to shy people away from working with a barbell, but if you’re new to lifting and your squat pattern is poor – you need to start with the basics. If you’re a trainer, simply cuing the bejesus out of your client may actually do more harm than good. Especially if they’re new to lifting in general. You need to take the time to address the deficiencies in the movement pattern first.

When performing the goblet squat, focus on the following:

– Keep the weight (Dumbbell or Kettlebell) close to the chest
– Feet should be positioned just outside of shoulder width apart
– Feet can be turned out up to 30 degrees
– Keep the chest up and core musculature braced
– Sit down into the squat position
– Keep your elbows in
– Keep knees out, tracking over the feet
– Push through your heels

Doing goblet squats regularly will help you improve and maintain the mobility, flexibility, stability and strength required to perform them. Depending on your goals and limitations, goblet squats may be an introduction to barbell squatting. Either way, whether you reach the promised land of the power rack or not, goblet squats should always be a tool in your training regiment. Now excuse me as I majestically ride off into the sunset wearing my fedora.

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To the squat rack!

Pick up something heavy

Why the floor beats the Bosu: A look at “balance training”

So, I originally wasn’t going to write about this, but a recent “discussion” came up between a few individuals and myself on the use of “balance training” in the gym setting. Mainly the use of a Bosu trainer or foam pad. For those of you who may not be familiar with the Bosu, it’s essentially half of an exercise ball with a flat plastic surface underneath. There is a legitimate time and place for using unstable surface training, and it’s typically in the rehabilitation setting. Lets take a simple look at how balance works. Mechanoreceptors are sensory organs found throughout the body that respond to mechanical stimuli such as tension, pressure and displacement. Proprioceptors are receptors within the body (specifically in our muscles, tendons, joints, and inner ear) that detects motion or position of the body or the limbs by responding to the stimulus within the organism. Proprioception is defined as “The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. In humans, these stimuli are detected by nerves within the body itself, as well as by the semicircular canals of the inner ear”(1).

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Observe the evil that is the Bosu…

So, what started off as a healthy discussion quickly became a somewhat heated debate. The argument for utilizing the Bosu or balance training went something like this… “I use the Bosu because my elderly clients benefit from the proprioception and core activation that comes with Bosu/balance training. They fire muscles they haven’t used in years when they’re on an unstable surface”. Sounds good, right? It would make sense that training on an unstable surface would offer increases in balance, proprioception, and coordination. The thing is, it DOES – but its biggest benefit is for those who have lost most of their proprioception, strength, and stability. One study (2) conducted on institutionalized elderly individuals found that introducing wobble board training for 9 weeks increased their standing balance. That’s great, but again, we typically don’t come across elderly clients who are in need of being institutionalized.  Although, I’m sure some trainers DO come across this population from time to time, but again – this type of training and population is found in the rehabilitation setting. Typical “balance training” that we see in the gym, or as I like to call it, “Swiss ball circus maneuvers” is best used for those of us looking to join the Ringling Brothers.

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They wanted me to go to rehab, so I said yes yes yes…

My stance or “mantra” has always been to work as hard as you can within the confines of your ability/physicality. This doesn’t mean I’m going to have a 70-year-old severely kyphotic man deadlift 600Lbs – although that would be awesome. Instead, we do what we can with what we have, and try to improve to the best of our ability. So, with this mindset my argument against the overuse/overly prescribed Bosu/Swiss ball training was to utilize other means of creating instability while operating on a stable surface. Stability, balance, and core activation can be improved by standing on both feet while on a stable surface. The main benefit from working on a stable vs a non stable surface is that force production increases while on a stable surface. A study (3) was conducted comparing the activity of the muscles of the core in 12 trained men. Each participant performed the back squat, deadlift, overhead press, and curl lifts on stable ground and on a Bosu. Guess what? They concluded that core activation was greater in the group that performed the exercises on a stable surface. Floor wins, your move Bosu… Another study – free PDF download (4), showed that when stable and unstable environments were used to test unilateral balance on healthy individuals, that the stable surface produced greater gains in balance (See page 6, figures 3-6).

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Goblet Squat…On the floor…FTW.

Simply put, there are better ways to improve stability and balance without having to stand on a Swiss ball or Bosu. Trust me, you weren’t really cut out for the circus life anyway. Instead, try offsetting the load and performing exercises such as: suitcase deadlifts, bottom-up kettlebell variations, in-line chops/presses, and pallof presses. I love the supine pallof press shown here by Tony Gentilcore (5) (He’s awesome, and you should read his stuff if you aren’t already). You can improve proximal and distal stability, core strength/stability, and total body strength. In doing so you will be – strong and stable!

So the next time you see someone squatting on a Bosu or curling 2.5lb dumbbells while kneeling on a swiss ball, just remember. You have better options available to you. Offsetting loads and performing Squats, deadlifts,  and overhead presses are all great ways to build stability and balance throughout the entire body. When performing these exercises on a stable surface, your force production and core activation increase, and you can lift more weight (6). I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty great.

Pick up something heavy.

References:

(1)  proprioception. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Retrieved January 13, 2014, from Dictionary.com website: http: dictionary.reference.com/browse/proprioception

(2) Ogaya S, Ikezoe T, Soda N, Ichihashi N. Effects of balance training using wobble boards in the elderly. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(9):2616-22.

(3) Willardson JM, Fontana FE, Bressel E. Effect of surface stability on core muscle activity for dynamic resistance exercises. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2009;4(1):97-109.

(4) Journal of Sports Rehabilitation, 1993. Copyright 1993 Human Kinetics Publishers Inc. Unilateral balance training of noninjured individuals and the effects on postural sway. Emily D. Cox, Scott M. Lephart, and James J. Irrgang: https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.pitt.edu/~neurolab/publications/1992-1996CoxED_1993_JSportRehab_Unilateral%2520balance%2520training%2520of%2520noninjured%2520individuals%2520and%2520the%2520effects%2520on%2520postural%2520sway.pdf&sa=U&ei=sSLUUqKMM6OiyAH42oCQAw&ved=0CAUQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNFoVKS604QDgb8uQbkPwxEBjNi5pQ

(5) Tony Gentilcore: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/exercises-supine-pallof-belly-press/

(6) Kohler JM, Flanagan SP, Whiting WC. Muscle activation patterns while lifting stable and unstable loads on stable and unstable surfaces. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(2):313-21.

Ringing in the New Year, with barbells!

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As 2013 comes to an end and many individuals find themselves making a pilgrimage to the gym for the first time, I’m preparing myself for the inevitable. Pretty soon the gym will be alive with the hum of ellipticals and the heavy heel striking of newcomers on the tricked out treadmills.  I’m not bashing these people, instead I’d like to try and shed some light on one of the most common misconceptions that new gym-goers encounter -“cardio”.

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Year after year, people come into the gym seeking to improve their health and change their bodies. One of the first things they often seek out is the “cardio area”. Don’t get me wrong, if you enjoy running, jogging or hiking, more power to you; but if you’re looking to change your physique and truly improve performance, traditional cardio isn’t going to cut it. That’s right, the 30-60+ minute monotonous cardio sessions aren’t going to miraculously change your body, but there’s hope!

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"I'd rather be deadlifting..."

In order for the body to change, you have to present it with a catalyst that will facilitate adaptation. Or as I like to say, “Give your body a reason to change”. If your goal is to burn fat and improve body composition, then you’re going to have to present the body with an environment and a stimulus that will give it no other option than to adapt accordingly. Hill sprints, pushing a prowler/sled around, lifting weights – faster, a kettlebell circuit, and interval training are all great simple alternatives to “traditional cardio”. The point here is that there are other ways to elevate your heart rate and give you more “bang for your buck”. In the process, you’ll be adding lean muscle mass to your frame, which in turn will elevate your metabolism, and generally make you a more awesome person 🙂

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So, if you’re looking for a great way to burn fat and improve your physique, do yourself a favor and give these alternatives a try! Besides, most of the cardio equipment is going to be occupied for the next few months anyway. In the meantime, PICK UP SOMETHING HEAVY!

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Welcome!

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Welcome to my blog! If you’re new here, I hope you find the Information provided to be useful. I created this blog as a way to share knowledge and information for anyone looking to further their health and performance.

A quick background on myself. I’ve been training since 2007. I am certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Having worked in the physical therapy setting, I’ve worked with many individuals in the rehabilitation stage of treatment.

I mainly train individuals who are looking to become stronger and more fit. However, a portion of the clients I see have recently been released from physical therapy or have an old injury. So it’s not unusual for me to be working with someone who initially has limitations on what they can do.

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I hope you find the information here to be useful. Please feel free to like and share!

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