BodyWorks: Just Get Fit.

How Do You Decide Which Protein Powder To Use?

This answer isn’t going to tell you which brand to buy, just how you may want to go about choosing one that might be the best option for you. Like getting at the right answer for almost any question concerning training and nutrition…it depends.

Borderline level protein intake for anyone other than a desk jockey is about 1g. protein/kg. bodyweight. Drop below this level, you are very unlikely to ever get optimal results from your fitness and training endeavours. The closer you are to this line, the more important protein supplement quality becomes. If you have a reasonable varied and balanced diet, not on some weird restrictive diet, the quality (i.e. “completeness” of essential amino acids available from the protein used) is of less importance. Your body is quite happy to chop and change what it needs from the quantity of peptides supplied to it.

We need to consider the fact that we are living in the real world and are obliged to consider the way things actually are, rather than what we see or hear on TV:

  • Is it likely that you might be suffering from a protein deficiency and experiencing, in danger of experiencing kwashiorkor-like symptoms? No, not very unlikely, as long as you live in a 1st World Country.
  • Is more better? Yes, to a point.
  • Are you assured of getting a better, higher quality protein powder by paying more for it? Not necessarily.

How do you decide which to buy? That’s a hard question. Let’s first answer an easier one:

How you should not decide which protein powder to buy.

Sellers of protein powders will throw jargon at you to convince you to buy their stuff:

  • Nice packaging. Yes it is nice, appreciate the pretty colours as you’ll be paying for them.
  • Terms like BV (biological value, basically digestibility);  PDAA (digestibility quotient plus amino acid relevancy) and most lately DIAAS . These are mostly ways to measure things in vitro (in the test tube) or rather ex-vivo, i.e. not in the real world. In real world situations these measurements, as far as you-the-bodybuilder is concerned, are not really relevant to the way things are;
  • Big Guy endorsements. Yeah, I like The Rock and Scarlett Johansson, too. But they’re actors and while probably not as pretty, I am going to prefer a Food Scientist to advise me on this particular job.

So the milk protein concentrate looks pretty good here. It looks even better when it comes to cost, as it is also not the most expensive. The problem is that protein concentrate has a high lactose content. And you all know what that means: farts.

Especially, if you are like most of us, lactose intolerant.

Ok, considering protein powders and which is best now seems less trivial than we thought. We still require an answer to our question about which is the best type of protein powder to buy.

Read the label:

  • A mixed protein “matrix” source is best. Choose a product with many protein sources rather than just a single protein source;
  • A Low lactose or delactosed product is best. You don’t want to pay for things that cause digestive problems and make you fart;
  • Get one that tastes good. Don’t be macho and say that you don’t care. This is untrue, you actually do care and if your intent is to use your supplement regularly, taste will certainly become a factor as time goes on.

For starters, that’s the way to look at it.

What is better for your heart long term – steady state cardio or HIIT?

In general, the wiser choice is going to be HIIT and this will be true not just for the heart but most of your other fitness parameters as well. Good news for busy people who are not lazy.

But there is also a caveat. If you go at HIIT in FULL METAL GONZO mode without doing the prep work, you’ll probably end up with a few bruises, if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, a soft tissue injury of some description that might put you out of action for awhile.

So you may have to work up to a level of fitness that you are able to really push your HIIT training hard and get the most out of it.

Most people do steady state cardio at sub-optimal levels, sort of jogging merrily along at a nice slow pace, or on a cross-trainer doing the same thing in the same way day after day. Certainly better than staying on the couch binge watching GOT.

But not much.

Anything is better than this, even steady state cardio!

Gym Psyche: What should your mind be focused on to optimize a training session? What is an ideal gym mindset?

An important and good couple of questions.

I’ve always found a combat or warrior-spirit oriented focus the most fun and useful one in my mindset repertoire. It requires the same confident, switched-on, ears and eyes open, body oriented, sense prioritized, equal to your opponent and ready-for-anything state of being and readiness that while entering a potential battlezone, an experienced soldier might feel.

For me, with my rather naturally lazy, semi-introverted personality, this sort of prep provides the energy and sense of power and of purpose that, after 40 years of almost non-stop training, I still respond favourably to.

The process most resembles the way an actor might prepare for a well defined role, one that he has played many times.

Or, if you prefer, a singer in a rock band gearing up to sing that song he has sung a 1000 times before.

Yeah, you know which one. The favourite one. The one that still manages to send shivers down your spine and get the punters whooping and up on their feet.

I’m just starting out at the gym. What mistakes can I avoid making?

Starting out at the gym is a strange adventure into unknown territory.

Where am I?

I began training at Gold’s Gym in the late 70s just after its move to 2nd Street in Santa Monica from the original Venice location. I suppose that you could have plunked me down in the wilds of Madagascar and the landscape would have seemed more familiar. Name a way to make a mistake and I found a way to make it.

Beginning trainers make all sorts of mistakes, but the prime ones, or at least the main ones that evolved to become the most costly in my case, were ones that I have seen many individuals, who take lifting seriously and intend to stick with it for the long game, often make since:

  • Training long is the same as training optimally. The more time you spend in the gym, the better. A guy who puts more hours in, gets bigger than the guy who puts in less.
  • Rest and recovery are pillows for the lazy.
  • Pain is just weakness leaving the body and has nothing of importance to teach me.
  • People who take a long time to get fit don’t know what they’re doing. I do, it’s simple.
  • Injuries are for old people. Champions ignore, move on and outclass them.
  • Genetics are for the handicapped. Will and ambition can and will inevitably overcome genetics.
  • Weight lifting is just about lifting heavy weights.
I just started and look at how much I can already lift!

How do I train effectively when my gym is packed during the only times I can go?

  • Depends how serious you are about training.
  1. You either change gyms or
  2. Figure out how to train the areas that you want to train with the tools free and available for you to use.
Ever feel like you’re lost in a crowd?

If all else fails, you can always politely but determinedly ask to work in with the current user(s) of the equipment you are after. Most experienced trainers are aware of gym etiquette and will know just where you are coming from, others will…well, just move on to other things when they see you mean business.

Most decent gyms will have a certain amount of redundancy built in for peak time usage or equipment that can be, with perhaps a little determination, imagination & inspiration, adapted to purpose.

For instance:

  • A squat rack is a great venue for working legs with squats, but there are other ways that can be put to use to get in a reasonable leg workout (using a dip belt with a chain slung over your hips and attaching it to a ground pulley system. Takes a bit of playing with, but works).
  • The Flat Bench Press. Probably the most ridiculously mythically overrated chest exercise in history. Take your pick: pulleys, dumbbells, dips et. al. will usually produce better chest development for most people.
  • Shrugs. You can use almost anything in the gym to do a shrug. There are many more tools available that can be used for shrugs than ones that you can’t in some way figure a fix with.
  • I could go on all day offering up suggestions for alternatives. It is better for you to think about the work needing to be done and what at hand might be adapted to do it. This often leads you to surprisingly useful discoveries. Discoveries that you wouldn’t have made if you just used the standard equipment in conventional ways.

I have lived most of my life in gyms, from the most basic using rebar and concrete as dumbbells and barbells to others that you’re unsure whether they are actually supposed to be gyms or a weightlifting billionaire’s idea of Aladdin’s Cave.

Now, I run my own and what I have found is that as long as a trainer is motivated enough, he or she will find a workaround almost anything that might prove an obstacle.

Whether that obstacle proves to be a crippling injury…or just a crowded gym at peak time.

If this is your gym, go to another one.

What is the probable effect of a KETO diet on LDL (bad) cholesterol, if any?


One man’s meat is another’s poison.

Anonymous

It is likely to vary pretty wildly and probably be dependant on what your genetics are.

Many authors who are proponents of a long term Keto lifestyle, in particular guys like Volek and Phinney like to show you all manner of data that they interpret as proving that HDL goes up and LDL goes down whenever the word “KETO” is mentioned.

I’ve experimented with the diet quite a bit, both on myself and with clients, and while it undoubtedly affects body fat levels and many other physiological parameters positively, it doesn’t work that way with all of them or equally with one person to he next.

In my case , long stays (over 5 weeks or so) in ketosis having a surprisingly deleterious effect on my cholesterol levels. Blood work showed a quadrupling of  Cholesterol Ratio values from around 4.5 to 17+, sending LDL soaring while HDL remained pretty stable. My GP was rather astonished and mentioned that he hadn’t seen many patients with scores that impressive.

Triglycerides did pretty well and body fat % dropped to an all time low of % 8.1 (DEXA measurement) within about 8 weeks, though That was very nice.

An additional worrisome side effect was that my Cortisol levels went zooming up, but strangely enough, this was not in evidence until a week or so after I had ended my 8 week kept cycle.

Most of my customers and clients haven’t taken the trouble to do anything in the way of blood profiles, so I can’t mine much data from that source but, in my case, it was a pretty mixed bag.

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How can I naturally increase my metabolism, what exercises are best to speed up metabolic activity?

Depends on how fast you want it to go.

Faster than it is when you’re sleeping?

Faster than when taking a spin on the Lex Luthor Drop Of Doom?

Faster than the moment that you heard that yours was the only winning ticket for the recent Mega Millions Powerball drawing?

Faster than considering a situation where Scarlett Johansson calls you up out of the blue and asks you if you’re busy tonight?

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Your heart begins to race and your metabolism goes into overdrive when she makes her first move.

Faster than it was when you were 12? Faster than after that awful 7 day fast? Faster than a speeding bullet?

Faster than what? Faster for just how long?

Listen, the point lamely trying to be made here is that there are a lot of variables to consider in order that this question produces any answer is practical and will stick. Perhaps, some simple advice resulting in actions taken by you to develop a mindset that will help you improve your fitness and lose body fat. Who knows, we’ll give it a quick try.

The question itself is a very general and non-specific one. Here’s a few non-specific general suggestions, in no particular order, which may prove useful:

  • The more lean muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism will be. So lift weights to get some more valuable muscles to aid you in upping your metabolic game.
  • The higher the intensity of an activity or exercise and the longer the duration that activity is sustained for, the faster (to a point) your metabolism will become in order to service the demands that activity exerts on your body. So engage in any activity that suits you. Just make sure that you do it hard enough, for long enough. “With A Purpose,” as they probably still say in the army.
  • Complex, higher protein foods require more metabolizing than twinkies and cokes. Eating the right things will be necessary to optimising your metabolism.
  • Your brain is one of the most energy hungry organs that you possess. But there is a catch.

You have to push yourself a little and use it.

See what I’m driving at?

Creatine: Are Natural Sources, The Best Sources?

Offal, muscle & organ meats are your best bets, with some fish sources doing reasonably well and dairy products coming in a pretty piss poor 3rd.

There is so little to be found in vegetable sources that, as far as creatine content goes, we can forget about them. The problem is this: to get any significant amount of excess creatine from natural sources, a hell of a lot of meat will be required to be acquired (and consumed) by you [1*]. And if it happens you are a vegan or vegetarian, that sucks.

Which begs the question:

Why?

These days Creatine Monohydrate is so dirt cheap, in comparison with natural sources, as to be laughable.

If creatine is your main concern, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be, why not just bite the bullet and be practical about it? In order to benefit from creatine, it is necessary to use it in significant amounts. In this sense, it can almost be classed as a macronutrient. Why would you not want to make things easy for yourself and concentrate on something more pressing than how much creatine that particular piece of Ox Tongue has?

If you want to take in enough to see results, just go out and buy half a kilo or so of it for less than a good steak would cost you and mix it with something that tastes good.

  1. How much? This much:
Amounts of Creatine from various natural sources.

You could reasonably expect to see some effect at a minimum daily dose of about 5g.

Notice the amount of Pork that you’d need to eat to get even this modest amount, about a Kilo…and that’s raw. Yum.

Not a big fan of raw pork, you say? Right, then how about Herring? Hell, we can switch to an imperial measurement for that, only a Lb. of so of that nice little fish…a day.

Is It Easier To Get Muscle & Strength Back Once You’ve Had It?

Voila! the infamous concept of MUSCLE MEMORY, or neuromuscular conditioning, is born.

Of course, this idea shouldn’t be so unusual or very startling. The effect is probably down to the way humans form skills and habits, rather than some miraculous and mysterious physiological hocus pocus. Although there is, of course, more than a little myocellular magic going on within the portmanteau of the above stated neuromuscular conditioning term.

Here’s a, perhaps illustrative (if not apt), comparison: if you have ever spent any amount of time practicing Stairway To Heaven on the guitar, your expectation will probably be that it’ll be easier to play next time you pick up a guitar than it was the first time you tried it…furthermore, that the longer and more often you had practiced this skill in the past, the easier and faster that it is likely to come back to you in the future. Perhaps, maybe not as successfully as it would return to say Jimmy Page, but better than the first attempt.

Just remember, that stronger doesn’t automatically mean bigger or more muscular. They’re not always equivalent, even if people usually take it for granted that they are. These processes tend to make their growth comebacks at different rates of speed. And all muscles, areas of the body and other physical manifestations won’t immediately pop back to the same extent. But as previously mentioned, you can alway expect a better rate of return than that awkward first attempt.

It Didn’t Go Anywhere That You Can’t Get It Back From!

ALEX’S CORNER-The Myth of Sisyphus as it applies to training.

Here’s a quick foray into a little ruthless optimism for the gym. I suppose it could be put to work in a few other areas of life outside as well. But what I know well is how to get by in the gym, the rest is just a little speculation and probably beyond my brief.

The Myth of Sisyphus

Because he had not kept up his end of a bargain and didn’t returned to Hades as promised, the Gods condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock up the side of a mountain.

Before he reached the top, the rock would always roll back over him and down to the foot of the mountain. Weary, crushed, dejected and hopeless, Sisyphus crawled back down the mountain to start this awful and pointless labour all over again.

The Gods laughed. They  snickered and simpered like girls, for they considered nothing worse or more soul-destroying than futile & unending labor.

Now, let’s just hold that picture in our minds while reading the next little bit.

Mindset is probably the most important asset for self-improvement that one  possesses in his/her mental and emotional arsenal. It is also a sword that can cut the other way, becoming a very keen tool, indeed for self destruction.

Mindset, along with its handmaiden Imagination, are arguably two of the main qualities that enabled humans to survive in the dangerous swamps and threatening landscapes of a savage world that does not wish them well.

As I sit at my desk and watch people saunter, burst and shuffle through the door of BodyWorks, I begin to think that they may be classifiable into two simple categories (for the purposes of today’s blog on training mindset, at least):

  1. Those who get their mind right;
  2. Those who don’t.

If you allow unnecessary obstacles into your path, those obstacles will probably deflect your attention, like piles of shit that get stuck to your boots on the way to your desired goal. And if those piles are big enough,  you end up spending much of your time and energy getting unstuck from places that do you no good and don’t really belong in the gym experience. Then, all you are looking at is a hopeless uphill struggle pushing some heavy weight uphill.

I can’t imagine this being anything else other than a depressing experience. Hopelessly slogging away and getting nothing for it. Nothing could be more demotivating

Therefore, along with your favourite pre-workout concoction, a little pre-workout ritual may be in order.

Maybe do something like this:

Before you hit the gym, begin a little exercise in self-discipline to focus your awareness. Start by breathing deeply and evenly to help get rid of the unnecessary flotsam and jetsam of the day. Clear your mind of petty annoyances. Don’t multitask, it doesn’t work in the gym, bring your intention to heel, bend it to your will, sharpen it to a knife-edge. If you must think and worry on things, think and worry about things that you need to think and worry about after you’ve finished training.

This is mindfulness, as far as training goes. If you haven’t figured out how to do this type of mind training or fail to practice the right mental warmup exercises to clear your way, you might well be struggling with an unnecessary handicap. You will not be working with the necessary resources that a productive training session demands.

If failure happens often enough to you, if you allow this to happen, your path fills with unwanted residue of these failures until eventually it becomes impassable. Your intention waivers, your confidence fades, it lacks the power of the necessary positive driving force required. You lose direction, run out of steam and start to give up. And once the engine of a positive mindset is turned off, it’s pretty hard to get it restarted.

If you do not find or create this correct atmosphere within yourself, if you fail to summon up the required ruthless optimism that is a match for your goal, if you fail to exercise the discipline required to set your mind on the right footing, if you don’t take care to stoke the fire of motivation, you default to a level of existence that is less than you are capable of. You are allowing something to die off that is essential for you to move forward, succeed and win.

And if you let this happen, your spirit atrophies and without doubt you court derision & laughter of the Gods.