This is going to be a heavy post. It will require paying attention. It might be confusing. If you make it to the last paragraph you’ll learn how to work out in a way that will supercharge your physical power in almost every aspect of your life.
There is so much crap. On the web…in magazines…in books. You have no good way to to figure out the good information from the bad, the legitimate experts from that hucksters and charlatans. If you have very clear fitness goals like I want to body build or I want to run the NYC marathon it’s all actually pretty simple. You don’t need to know that much. You don’t need to understand that much. You can easily find workout programs online to build you up or get you moving mile after mile. Those sites and programs will likely even tell you how to eat, what to eat, how much to eat. And you’ll get to wherever you want to get…up to a point. You’ll be able to complete a marathon, but probably won’t get skinny, or finish it in an impressive time. You’ll be able to pack on muscle, building strength and size in your quadroceps and pecs and lats and deltoids. Up to a point. You probably won’t get ripped. Or as big and strong as you hoped.
You’ll either settle for what you get in that first year and plug away trying futilely to maintain your early improvements or you’ll gradually lose motivation and quit. Or you can keep reading. Learn what’s happening to you, deep drilling into the chemistry of life. And along the way, you may even learn how to spot bullshit when you see and hear it.
Mitochondria. Think back to your high school or college biology. I know, most of us tried our best to forget this stuff as soon as the tests were over, but this is kind of important. If you want to give yourself a headache click on the word for an in depth scientific description of what it is and what it does. But I’ll keep it much simpler and specific to its role in exercise.
Mitochondria is a part of almost all human cells. It is where cellular energy is made. It is where ATP-PC (adenosine triphosphate – phosphocreatine ) is synthesized. There are many mitochondria in the cells where mitochondria are present; up to 2000 mitochondria in every heart cell! And mitochondria can replicate. The more mitochondria present in a cell, the more ATP energy that cell can create. And mitochondria replication occurs as a result of regular intense exercise, and most commonly as a result of intense aerobic exercise or extreme high intensity anaerobic training. This is the true fuel of life and movement and human power. Everything you do is, ultimately, dependent on ATP, and almost every cell in your body is designed to synthesize this stuff for you to use. In terms of stored human energy, it is the high octane super charged turbo injected rocket fuel of the human body. When confronted with a fight of flight life threatening situation, ATP is what’s gonna get you thru whichever choice you make. It is the first source of energy your body will tap into for any physical activity, and part of a grand conveyor belt of energy that your body utilizes to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your brain thinking, and your muscles moving.
Roughly speaking, our body’s energy systems flow like this: ATP-glycogen (muscle & liver)-Body Fat. This is referred to as the ATP-PC/Glycolitic/Oxidative (or Aerobic) systems (http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-three-metabolic-energy-systems).
The human body can tap into other sources of energy in emergencies, most notably proteins (muscle tissue) and calcium (bone mass), but this is always undesirable unless you’re at risk of starvation. This can occur in extreme endurance athletes like ultra distance runners and cyclists who log hundreds of miles a week in training. It’s also why sports nutritionists recommend marathon runners, iron men competitors, and their even more extreme ultra brethren consume the highest amounts of protein; on par with power lifters, body builders, and strength athletes; some experts claiming that 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is needed to help protect their bodies from the muscle wasting effects of their activities. Keep in mind, that athletic activities at these extremes are not about enhancing health. These are tests of the human condition, and pushing to these limits repeatedly almost always come with long term, physically debilitating, consequences. Yes, there are examples of individuals who can perform at the extremes almost to the day they die. Do not bet you are one of those. You will likely lose and finding out if you are a member of that exclusive 1% of the top 1% physically is probably not worth it to you. If it were, you wouldn’t be reading this and would be ignoring everyone else’s advice, regardless.
Body builders and Power Lifters like to imagine they need the most protein, but that scrawny marathon runner who runs 10-20 miles every day needs practically as much. Even the somewhat conservative nutritional dietary establishment supports large amounts of protein for this reason: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Another interesting fact about mitochondria is that they can multiply through fission. This is both good and bad, in a way. Give yourself another headache and click on this, and pay attention to the third paragraph for the bad news. In a nutshell, as mitochondria reproduce through fission, the risk of genetic mutations in new cells goes up and causing the formation of free radicals (some evidence suggests free radicals are bad, as I’m sure you’ve heard, though the science is actually quite sketchy in reality). The good news is that the more mitochondria your body possess, the more ATP-CP you have available, and the more efficiently your body replenished depleted stores of ATP-CP. More mitochondria mean you can ultimately train longer, harder, and more frequently.
So now we come to my opinions. If you’re under 60 years old and your worried about free radicals possibly causing cancer you are being stupid, thru no fault of your own. The media has sent you so many confusing and contradictory messages it’s largely impossible to discern good information from bad. For instance, you probably believe there is an epidemic of Cancer and cardiovascular (heart) disease in the USA. But you’re wrong. There are no such epidemics. If there were an epidemic of cancer (really cancers since there are thousands of completely different kinds of cancers unrelated to any other except for one basic characteristic they all share: harmful cellular multiplication), we would see young people dying by the hundreds of thousands every year of this or that cancer. If heart disease were an epidemic we’d be seeing 12-30 years old dying by the hundreds of thousands every year of heart disease. We do not see this. What we have an epidemic of is old people! People living into their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond is the epidemic, and something will, eventually, kill us all. Medical science, good nutrition, and basic hygiene, are great at extending our lifespans, but the longer we live the greater the probability that something will go wrong mechanically or on a cellular level. That’s, unironically, life. So, do you wanna grow old like this: