Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Women on Carb Back Loading

Carb Back Loading (CBL) is really taking off. It's a THING! And it's because it works.

If you spend anytime embedded in fitness or athletics, you know that low carb is a super fast and efficient way to lose body fat. While human health requires a baseline level of protein and fat, there is NO baseline need for carbohydrates.

Now, for most CrossFitters, weekend warriors, and people wanting to be sexy, that's quite enough. But if you're looking to get as strong as possible, jacked, or eventually compete in strength or aesthetics type competitions, you might notice that low carb makes strength training challenging.

That is when CBL comes in.

Seriously, it's not for CrossFit. It's not for endurance training. It's not for your typical gym go-er who focuses on yoga, light to medium weights. It's for people who TRAIN.

(If you think you fall into the CF/endurance/ casual gym go-er, check out Carb Nite by John Kiefer instead.)

Kiefer makes it pretty clear, though, that the standard CBL protocol outlined in his book and on his website isn't primed for women. It's really not THAT different, however, I've had several people ask me about the differences, so putting them in a place that is easily accesible might be the best route.

1) Women and muscle mass
This is the most obvious, women don't have as much muscle mass, so they aren't going to have as much storage space to put the glycogen during a back-load. That simply means that a man's whole pizza and full banana brownie split with beer right before bed might be a woman's beer and normal brownie sundae.

2) Estrogen changes things a little
It make our metabolism during bouts of exercise favor fat usage over carb usage. So it takes longer workouts to get women to use up our glycogen stores. It take more intense focus on training to failure, and it means that most women should include some sort of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into days they want to do CBL.

However, once the activity stops, we turn over to glycogen usage, so apparently, even when women train in the AM, they can still effective CBL at night, and it requires less fiddling with post workout nutrition than it does for men.

3) A hybrid CBL and Carb Nite is probably best.. 
Because of estrogen, muscle mass, and particularly if you take a hormonal birth control, you might want to do a hybrid of the two protocols. For instance, if you train hard three days a week, pick on of those nights to be your pizza, beer, and ice cream night, and then on the other days stick to a turn over or two right before bed after a normal low carb dinner.

4) Other resources
Here are some links I recommend for further reading. All are articles written by powerlifter Julie Ladewski. She has her own website, and if you need more detailed info from a lady in the trenches, she offers phone consultations, too.

This touches on how estrogen sort of messes with how our bodies process fuel:

These are Julia's account of how she uses CBL to optimize her strength gains and fat loss for powerlifting:

It's also worth looking at the BioJacked Radio section of Dangerously Hardcore. One of the Q&A sessions covers more specifics on how to tweak CBL for women. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Phenomenon: Clumsy Athletes

This is something I've noticed as a general trend. Dancers, judokas, capoeiristas, weightlifters, the skills in these sports and arts require a lot of agility and coordination. You would think these types of athletes would also have great coordination off the field, mat, or platform.

Not so much.

Maybe only because it stands out more, but it is also hilarious, and at this point not surprising, to see someone who identify as a dancer run into a wall with his or her shoulder. Or a judo player trip on something after stepping off the mat.

My layman and rather silly theory for this is that because they use up all their awareness in their heightened state of being while dancing, competing, or training, they just go totally slack in their attentiveness for the rest of the time.

Hell, often times after a trapeze class where I feel particularly awesome about what I did, I'll go to the bathroom stalls and totally run into the door frames. I know this seems to happen more to me within the hour or couple of hours after a training session that requires coordination, agility, and focus.

Anyone else notice this?

Monday, October 29, 2012

I'm admitting it out loud...

I'm ready to get back to CrossFit.

At the start of the year, going into the USA Weightlifting Nationals/ Olympic Trials, I knew there was a general malaise about how I was approaching my training. I've had a "jack of all trades" mentality when it came to athletics. Even when judo was my primary sport, I was still doing ballet, capoeira, rock climbing, and using CrossFit as my supplemental training protocol.

I've been a single mode athlete for close to 4 years now. It's all about strength. I lift heavy. I lift heavy fast. I lift heavy slow. I lift heavy overhead. I lift heavy lying down.

Now that the American Open is coming up in about a month, I realize that my mentality towards it hasn't changed. In fact, with the AO so close, I'm really looking forward to making big changes in how I approach fitness.

I want to recapture some of the more well rounded experiences I think I had when I was younger. Rather than worrying that a stint at the Tahoe slopes will leave me winded, sore, and with a week of ruined training ahead of me, I want to think "I'm going to nail this."

I have people ask me "aren't you afraid that will make you weak?" Well, perhaps I'll get a little weaker. Like my deadlift might go from 390 to 375 or something. But before I even knew proper deadlift technique and great strength training regimes, I was deadlifting 300 lbs. So really, my strength probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

And there there is ManFriend, "Uh, you're gonna keep squatting, right?" Duh. I can't have him squatting as much as me, so you can bet your ass (and my bigger one) that I'll be hefting a barbell across my shoulders at least three times a week.

I'm going to emphasis, you'll probably never see me doing the workouts on the main CrossFit site. Those workouts are too focused on endurance lengths. I'm looking to start a more mash up of Westside Barbell meets CrossFit Football, meets more contemporary weightlifting protocols with some bodybuilding shit thrown in for sexiness.

If I can stick to it and if I seem to be making progress across any number of metrics, I'll start posting my workouts.

Some goals I want to attack next year:

- More static trapeze, start putting a routine together
- Taking dance classes at either LINES Ballet or ODC
- Get a few snowboarding weekends in Tahoe
- Go to a few judo classes and maybe one master's competition by the end of 2013

Friday, October 26, 2012

SPF Pro/Am Powerlifting Meet: One Week Out

I hate tapering for meets.

1) When I'm forced to back off training, it makes me reflect on when I didn't have to back off and I can't help but think I could have put in more effort. This is the case regardless of how much I did or didn't train.

2) I have an illogical fear that a week of less than full on training will make me slow, weak, and fat.

3) It rubs in my face I'm not as far along as I'd like to be.

Then again, I never am.

But I am excited about competing in my second powerlifting meet, the first one I've properly prepared for. I feel like my bench and my deadlift are coming along nicely, getting that technique in line and all. The squat, however, is still rough. Since Coach Jesse went and changed how he wants me to squat, my numbers went down ~30lbs at first. I'm only just now starting to bring them back up, aaaaand it's already time for me to taper for the meet.

What CAN you do? I haven't stopped caring, but I have stopped fretting and I'll just lift what I lift and work my ass off for that elite level title.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I need these women to train with me...

It's hard to find really strong women to train with. Not that women can't be strong, but gaining competitive levels of strength is a challenge that takes years to attain. And let's face it, we're in a society that implicitly tells women we're the softer, weaker, "fair" sex. Men are to carry our bags and move our furniture. We're thin and dainty.

If you're here, you know that's bullshit. But still. It's often not until later in life that individual women learn their desire to be beastly. And that means for those of us in the strength game, there are a dearth of training partners.

We only have so many hours in the day, so traveling far is often out of the question, particularly if you're to train several times a week. Not to mention once you find your awesome training partner, you have to get schedules to match. No wonder it doesn't happen a lot.

So while I'm day dreaming, here are my dream team of strength training partners:

Katie Hogan - deadlifts 385lbs

 Erin Wallace - Hang Snatch 80kg x5,

 Cara Westin - Raw 325 lbs Squat  

Laura Phelps-Sweatt - Raw bench 300 lbs x3

 Danica Rue - 115kg Clean and jerk

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review of CrossFit|Reebok Attire

When CrossFit and Reebok got into bed together, there was quite a ruckus. Some said that CrossFit had sold out, but no one could really say what that means. Some said it was the demise of the brand. Blah blah blah. I said, well, if it gets more people practicing CrossFit, if it helps usher in a greater population to physical culture, then awesome. So long as they don't mess with the affiliates.

Reebok, however, isn't always associated with the utmost in athleticism. They tried to partner with some strange fitness movements:

But then they also has some wins in my opinion:

<Terrible Terry Tate: Office Linebacker>

So I was more "wait and see"... until they came out with this: The Reebok ReeZig, aka, the Clown Shoe.

Seriously. When 80% of CrossFitters are wearing minimalist shoes like Inov-8s and New Balance, they put on the market the bulkiest thing they could think up. I made fun of it.

Then they came out with this:

And frankly, it was too similar to the ReeZig in style to keep me from outrightly dismissing it. Plus, with it's soft forefoot and flimsy feeling upper, no serious weightlifter would ever wear these.

So I was ready to just dismiss this partnership as more misguidedness on Reebok's part. But then San Francisco CrossFit got sponsored. I still shrugged, I have lots of Adidas, Nike, and UnderArmor that is great. Then they started sending us stuff, and my mind was changed. Starting with these shoes:

And you know what? I love them. Seriously. I wear them over my Nike Free shoes almost every time. They are little to no drop, wide toe box, and I'm on my feet for most of the day and still feel great afterwards.

Which made me think more about the weightlifting shoe. You know, I was analyzing them from the point of a competitive weightlifter, not someone who does 15 overhead squats, then has to run a quarter mile. No one is going to do box jumps or serious sprints in a pair of AdiPowers, they're too heavy and stiff. So I officially reversed my opinion on the Reebok weightlifting shoe, it's the crossover between cardio and lifting, and I've actually recommended them to people at both boxes.

We also received drawstring bags, which I tend to routine destroy with my harsh ways. And this one is SOLID. I use it a LOT. I also have a men's shirt and a women's shirt. Obviously, the women's shirt fits better. In fact, it fits wonderfully. It's form fitting, not restrictive, seaming that is flattering but doesn't rub anywhere. I love it.

I ordered a pair of pants, a fleece jacket, and a tank bra today from the CrossFit|Reebok site. I'm excited to see how they measure up because Reebok apparel sure seems to be on the up and up to me. More updates to come.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lance, LiveStrong, and the doping ruckus

All this stuff is kind of old news. But I heard a discussion on NPR the other day that got me thinking about it again. Bullet points for thoughts:

1) The US Anti-Doping Agency CANNOT take away Lance Armstrong's titles.
There has been a lot of talk about his titles having been stripped. USADA cannot do this unilaterally. All they have done is write up a investigative report with the strong recommendation to the International Cycling Union to have the titles stripped. UPDATE: As of today, the ICU agreed and had all his titles stripped. It's said that the titles won't be given to another competitor and the winner in each year will simply be left blank.

2) Is it really cheating when everyone is doing it?
I can't find the exact numbers, but it seems that every person on that podium in the Tour de France, and in some cases the other runners up something like 7 people deep, are all dealing or are convicted of performance enhancement drug (PED) use. Hence, why they won't hand down the title and rather leave the space blank. So of course everyone asks "if everyone is doing it, is it really cheating? Are you just lynching yourself if you DON'T do it?"

3) PEDs are not the "easy way to the top"
I've predominantly competed in sports that don't allow the use of PEDs and have personally been piss tested. People in my sports have been caught. But I've also been around plenty of bodybuilders and powerlifters where their sports aren't tested. And those that use are some of the hardest working mo-fos out there.

I think there is this general societal feeling that people "cheat" and use PEDs because the athlete in question is too lazy to do the real work and wants a leg up. Yes, PEDs will give you a leg up, but only if you're giving yourself that initial boost! The people that seek out things like steroids, EPO, and growth hormone, those that are willing to take that plunge, are usually the type-A++ people that will train themselves into the hospital if it weren't for the recovery properties that these substances afford. These are people who work their asses off and want to ensure that all their effort is going to come out in gains.

4) The science of doping will always be ahead of the testing.
First there was BALCorp and "The Clear." Then there was Human Growth Hormone. We can detect both of these now, but for at least a few years, athletes were able to freely use these substances right up to the hour of competition, get tested, and come out roses. So what does it mean for organizations when they ban a substance they can't even test for. Should we only retroactively test those athletes we have "concerns" about? If we're all about fairness, should we be ready to retroactively test and ban stored samples from 10, 15, 20 years ago when a new test comes out?

5) Back to even competition.
I'm going to quote an old coach when he was explaining ex-US ideas on doping. There are three ways to think about clean athletes:

a. Never took anything
b. Didn't take them for this meet
c. Took them, but long enough ago that they can pass the test on the day of the meet.

USADA, the USOC, and other American agencies all (think they) adhere to point (a). Other countries, those that have been caught time and time again, adhere to either (b) or (c). Their athletes usually test clean, unless one of their regimes goes off-line.

Basically, the very manner in which we discuss doping, regulate doping, and allow or ban doping needs to change.

Book Review: Low Carbohydrate Performance

This is a short book with really good information. They get into the science enough for you to really get what is going on, but not so much that you get bogged down or cross-eyed from the level of detail. And they seam it pretty smoothly with the way to implement it for the reader (which I find clunky with Robb Wolf's "Paleo Solution" book). 

What I also very much appreciate is that they'll take studies and then write up a "hunch"section, saying basically "based on data a, b, and c, it would be logical you could implement for your performance this way or optimize by doing that." I appreciate this so much because in so many health, fitness, and nutrition book you get authors with incomplete data making an extrapolation and labeling it as The Way. 

The information in here is solid for any endurance athlete, CrossFit athlete, or general active lifestyle. The main exceptions I'd see is for the power athlete (powerlifters, weightlifters) and during certain phases of a bodybuilder's cycle. I won't get into my critique of those area, but it's enough to know that when you're working at the extreme end of strength training and in those metabolic pathways, your needs will be a little different over time. 

Regardless, I think this is a book everyone interested in best health and performance should read. It's short, fast, with plenty of information to implement immediately. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What I've Learned in Powerlifting (So Far)

Blogs are coming along slower than I'd like. With the upcoming United Barbell Open weightlifting meet, when I have free time that I'd normall be using to write, I'm organizing entries, contacting athletes, and talking with coaches.

Every new athletic of performance endeavor, I learn something new. I've been around athletics a long time, and I find it super exciting that I'll never learn it all because there really is so much out there. Here are some new learnings from my currently brief stint in powerlifting:

1) How to really GRIND out a weight
     You can't really grind out a snatch or a jerk. I supposed you can grind through the stand up of a clean, but for the most part, all the Olympic lifts require speed and finesse. As such, one never really learns how to truly grind your way through something tough. Even in squats, I see many competitive Oly lifters hit their sticking point, pause, then bail. It's a different sort of mentality and stimulus that lets a person drive through the tough part of a lift.

2) The importance of smart jumps
     This I knew, but it was really driven home during bench press training. This isn't just about over shooting a max attempt, but also about priming your system to handle the weight. Powerlifting has a serious central nervous system component to it, and as you get closer to a max weight, it's important for smart progressions.

3) Importance of being tight before the weight is on you
     I find that for me and my wonky shoulders in the bench press, this is particularly important. If I don't get tension in my body before the bar is lifted out to me, there is no regaining the proper form and my shoulder will scream through the entire rep. With that in mind, what could be happening in my back, hips, and knees when I don't get tight in the squat or deadlift?

4) Time under tention = exhaustion
     Again with the difference between powerlifting and weightlifting. After the clean, you actually want to take some time, make sure you're ready and mentally prepped to take the jerk. This, again, is about the mentality for something as technical as the Olympic lifts. But with powerlifting, a squat or a bench, you need to just GO once that weight is on you.

5) Hypertrophy is useful
     Very few Olympic lifters I know do any bodybuilding or accessory work to build up a base of support. Sure, there might be some sit ups and reverse hyper activity, but that's pretty much the extent of it. But think about it, the bigger and more solid the foundation, the more you can stack on top. Hence all the back work done on bench day in powerlifting.