Where it all begins…Mitochondria

  

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.
MitochondriaThink 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:


Or spend your last years living in this like that:


It’s an easy choice for me. More mitochondria please!!!!

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Training with Intent

INTENT. 1 a : the act or fact of intending : purpose; b : the state of mind with which an act is done

When you go to the gym and exercise/train, what is your intent? That is, what do you intend to accomplish? Do you even think about it, or do you just go to the gym and “do a bunch of stuff” and hope for the best? If so, have you thought about what you’re actually hoping for?

It’s shocking how many people in the gym never think about any of this. Working out without intent is akin to being given a destination to a town somewhere in North America that you never heard of, and told to find your way there without using a road map, gps, or any other device more complicated than asking random people for directions. Good luck finding your way. You might, but it’s not likely.

Intent can be very personal if you actually have any, but I’m going to try to break it up into a few categories; some specific and some necessarily broad and vague, in alphabetical order since importance is an individual decision:

1: Anaerobic- body building/body shaping
2: Aerobic/anaerobic-weigh loss/weight management
3: Aerobic/anaerobic-cardiovascular health
4: Aerobic-Athletic endurance performance
5: Anaerobic-Athletic performance for strength and power
6: Aerobic/Anaerobic-sports specific performance
7: Anaerobic-anti aging
8: Aerobic/Anaerobic-Health
9: Entertainment
10:Social

Once you’ve chosen the intention of your exercise, you have the opportunity to make an informed choice about what kind of exercises to engage in. Want to train for the next NYC marathon?  Do you want to just finish, or are you trying to see how fast you can finish? #’s 2,3,4,6 apply to you for sure, #’s 9 and 10 might if performance isn’t an issue. Engaging in exercises that adhere to #’s 1,5,7 could prove very counter productive to your immediate goals.

In the coming weeks I’ll touch on training methodologies to best carry out each of the above categories.

NYTimes: A Call for a Low-Carb Diet

While this is far from the final word on the subject of nutrition, it is an important one. We continue to fixate on finding a magic bullet cure all, instead of looking at nutrition in relation to lifestyle.

Science is constantly re-examining its own conclusions. That doesn’t mean individual scientists or practitioners don’t become wedded to preconceived ideas or conclusions based on the best evidence at the time, but other scientists and researchers will challenge and sometimes upend the most fervently held beliefs. That’s science. The low fat dogma needs to die, the low carb dogma needs to die, too. What we need is long term examinations of different diets based on lifestyle. Real athletic coaches and competent experienced trainers already have a pretty good understanding of some of this, even without the controlled studies. Put a competitive marathon runner on a low carb diet and we can predict the disaster awaiting their performance. Put a power lifter on a low protein diet and we can predict that failure too. Most people are neither. Most people are sedentary for 20 out of 24 hours every day, if you do the math. What’s best for them? Anything that keeps their weight low, since according to the Harvard School of Public Health, the single biggest risk factor for cardiovascular disease is not cholesterol or even arterial plaque, but simply being overweight. Being too fat is the single biggest risk factor, so instead if putting the cart before the horse, let’s tackle that problem up front. And then, let’s discuss why shopping for healthy food is so expensive.

Enjoy the article. Please read related posts on cholesterol and fat, and a good Wikipedia entry on ketosis here

.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/health/low-carb-vs-low-fat-diet.html?smid=nytcore-iphone-share&smprod=nytcore-iphone

In a finding that upends long-held notions about a healthy diet, a major study shows that avoiding carbohydrates and eating more fat contributes to weight loss and fewer cardiovascular risks.

“We have art in order not to die from the truth.
—NIETZSCHE”

High impact exercise is good for you. Yes, it is.

A recent article in the health section of the NYTimes highlights how important high impact exercise can be for improving bone density. This goes hand in hand with the overwhelming evidence that weight bearing exercise can dramatically improve and restore, or at least minimize the loss, of bone density.

Th article goes on to point out how difficult applying these protocols are to the populations most at risk, since this is the same population most likely to sustain injuries from these very activities. Here’s the article, followed by my advice to older populations who want to safely follow the research in their personal workouts:

http://nyti.ms/1ceYdAi

If you are over 50 and have been warned about your bone density, start a traditional strength training/ muscular conditioning program. Minimize cardiovascular exercise to the minimum necessary to insure heart health, because too much aerobic training can reduce your body’s ability to build muscle.
Train 3 times per week, doing two or three exercises per body part for the legs and torso, and two exercises for biceps and triceps. Each exercise should consist of three sets of 10-15 reps each set, for 2 weeks. Each week thereafter attempt to increase weights incrementally; don’t over-expose yourself to injury; as long as you can complete a minimum of 6 reps. For the next three months your goal is to train 3 times per week on non consecutive days with weights that pose a significant challenge between 6-8 reps each set.
After the 3rd month, begin adding some small jumping movements into your routine, in small doses (box jumps, jump ropes, etc.) gradually adding more jumps over a period of months, not days or weeks, and always on non consecutive days!

If you experience joint pain during or after any session, take 3-5 days off before resuming any jumping, and start your jumping type activities over from the beginning.

There you go.

NYTimes: In Struggle With Weight, Taft Used a Modern Diet

Such a compellingly modern story from the American past.

http://nyti.ms/1gfKJFX

William Howard Taft, the United States’ heaviest president, used a weight-loss program that researchers have found to be startlingly contemporary.

“ Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. ” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Is Foam Rolling Bad For You?

“ Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. ” – Arthur Schopenhauer

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Good or Bad? Coach Mike Boyle’s Take on Foam Rollers
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Is Foam Rolling Bad For You?
By Mike Boyle

I wrote this a while ago but finished it after getting three different versions of “Stop Rolling Your IT band”. As is always the case in life an on the internet, someone has to decide to take the other side of an argument. I often think that those who do so are simply looking for recognition in a crowded field.

We have had two widely distributed “articles” critical of foam rolling. The word articles is in quotes because both so-called articles were actually blog posts.

I find it funny because it seems difficult to me to criticize something that universally makes people feel better. In one article (which was actually written five years ago), the author, Mike Nelson, makes the very basic case that pain is bad and the foam roller causes pain; therefore, the foam roller must be bad too. However, in reading the authors bio, I can’t help but notice that he has been a student for the last 16 years as opposed to a coach, and carries a clear bias toward the neurological origins of pain.
I am not discounting the neurological basis of pain as that would be as illogical. However the author’s primary premise seems to be that pain is bad and should be avoided at all costs. It is also worth noting that the author is a paid practitioner of a technique he feels is better than foam rolling.
It is obvious that I don’t agree and, I intend to make a scientific case for my disagreement rather than a personal one.
I am also of the belief that pain is bad. However, I will qualify that statement and say that most pain is bad. In the case of the foam roller, I will go so far as to say that pain is good. I frequently tell my athletes that the foam roller is the only violation of our Does It Hurt rule. In a nutshell, my normal reaction to any question as to whether someone should do any exercise is to ask “Does It Hurt”? If the answer is no, then the exercise is generally acceptable. In the case of foam rolling, however, I think we actually need top seek out painful spots. Foam rolling is very counterintuitive.
Mr. Nelson’s theory is based on the belief that pain is neurological and that pain causes reflexive actions, all of which are negative. However, in the world of physical therapy, the belief is widely held that often painful techniques of soft tissue mobilization are in fact essential to produce long-term healing. What Mr. Nelson fails to acknowledge in his treatise on foam rolling is that in the end, the process is about chemistry, not electricity. All mechanical and neurological inputs become chemical inputs. It is clear scientific fact that the disturbance caused to tissue via mobilization (rolling, massage, Graston. ART) in effect irritates the tissue. This irritation is painful in the short term, but the response is often a healing one, not a negative one. In soft tissue mobilization, the tissue is deliberately disrupted in order to produce the exact substances that tissue needs to heal and to realign.
Mr. Nelson attempts to draw a line between massage and foam rolling by saying that the skilled hands of a therapist in essence make soft tissue mobilization OK. His premise is that soft tissue work done by a person is infinitely better than pressure provided by an inanimate object. Again, this logic is flawed.
Mr Nelson makes the case that a skilled therapist knows how much pressure to utilize while a person working on themselves will produce so much pain as to render the technique useless. To be honest , I think most people are much easier on themselves than a therapist would be on them. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a bruise produced by a foam roller but I have seen numerous bruises produced by a well meaning massage therapist.
The second, more recent, anti-rolling article focused on the IT band. The author, a muscular therapist, focused on the fact that the IT band could not be changed through foam rolling. He implores us to stop rolling the IT band. Again this “anti” article was widely distributed on the internet.
However, if you continue to read into the comment section of the post, the author makes two critical points. In one post, he says that he is ranting and is not sure if he even believes himself. (Yes, I read all the comments). In another, he eludes to the fact that maybe he just wrote this when he was having a bad day. In any case, both blog posts were widely read and widely distributed without the accompanying comments.
So, back to why we foam roll. In the simplest sense, rolling is step one on the preparatory process. Our goal pre-exercise is to prepare the tissue for the stresses about to be applied. Proper tissue preparation allows an athlete to perform a workout without injury. I think or hope that we can accept the position that tissue changes in response to stress.
If the tissue is stressed optimally, the resulting adaptation is positive. If the tissue is overstressed by inappropriate volume (too many reps), speed of lengthening (too fast), or inappropriate overload (to much weight) the tissue response can shift from positive to negative. Although tissue soreness is deemed normal, we must acknowledge that there is an ideal amount of that normal response, and the response should be limited to the muscle tissue and not be present in the connective tissue. In other words, sore quads would be OK, but sore knees not be OK.
In addition, muscle soreness and tissue damage can be the result of blows to the tissue instead of the planned application of stress. This tissue damage must also be mitigated, not just by time. It is important that tissue maintain its ability to deform properly. Loss of this tissue deformation ability results in what is called a stress riser. These stress risers set up us up for later injury.
The big take away point is that thousands of athletes are rolling every day and getting a good result. Two blog posts should not be enough to relieve us of our common sense. Pressure to tissue when well applied seems to produce positive results. Even if we are not confident of the exact physiological response, the results of thousands of athletes speak for themselves. Don’t be fooled by internet writers looking to take a contrarian stance to get site hits. Focus on results. Massage works and so does foam rolling. Just ask anyone who does it.
Quick note. I have often said that the density of the roller corresponds to the density of the athlete. If you lack muscle, try Yamuna balls or white soft rollers (yes, I know they don’t last, but it’s a compromise). Progress to the Perform Better black as your tolerance improves.

–Coach Mike Boyle

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Skim Milk Is Healthier Than Whole Milk, Right? Maybe Not | TIME.com

There is so much misinformation and mythology passed along as true simply because it’s been repeated by so many for so long. But nobody checks the sources, and when someone finally does check it’s always the same result: conventional wisdom leads to moronic decisions.

http://healthland.time.com/2013/07/03/skim-milk-is-healthier-than-whole-milk-right-maybe-not/

“ Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. ” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Nutrition is critical

Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, or improve athletic performance what and how much you eat is of critical importance.

If you’re interested in building muscle you have to over eat tremendously. You also have to lift tremendously heavy weights (relative to your personal ability). If you eat a lot, but don’t lift a lot, you will not build muscle. You will get fat instead. It’s the exercise, or lack of it that determines how your body uses the excess calories.

If you’re interested in athletic performance you have to eat a lot more than normal to be able to fuel that performance (marathon runners carbo load before race days).

If you’re trying to lose weight you must eat less than you burn off .

Here’s a great article by a great coach who’s workshops I attend every chance I get:
http://nicktumminello.com/2013/09/personal-trainer-myths-nutrition-isnt

Interval Training: More evidence that working out harder in shorter time periods is better for you than working out for longer time periods

The interesting NYT article below, about recent studies on the efficacy of intense interval training for weight loss and weight management, is well written. It clearly states that this study is preliminary, used a small sample of young males only, and so no long term conclusions for the general population should be assumed.

It also pointed out that these intense intervals (which many people erroneously conclude last 4 minutes or 7 minutes only) actually last 30 minutes alternating between short bursts of 100% intensity with longer intervals of low intensity activity in-between.

These conclusions are not new or earth shaking. Any track and field athlete or coach engaged in sprinting events could have told you most of what this study says. Read on.

http://nyti.ms/1ap1ZlW

NYTimes: How Exercise Can Help Us Eat Less

Strenuous exercise seems to dull the urge to eat afterward better than gentler workouts, several new studies show, adding to a growing body of science suggesting that intense exercise may have unique benefits.

Training Gimmicks and Training that Works

Training Gimmicks and Training that Works

Exercise should be fun is a common sentiment I hear all the time from clients, prospective clients, health club members, and trainers trying to build their client base, but should it be fun?

That depends on what you consider fun, I suppose. Some people love grueling hard work and find enormous physical efforts bordering on the impossible to be fun. Most people don’t.

The argument is often made that any activity that gets a person doing more than they normally would have, must also be beneficial; hence *exercise classes like Zumba and SoulCycle*

[Wendy Learns to SoulCycle – YouTube](

“Wendy Learns to SoulCycle – YouTube”)

that are only marginally more intense than a fast paced walk are promoted as fun alternatives to the harder workouts associated with traditional weight lifting, Spinning, running, etc.

On the other end of the exercise spectrum you have the *extreme intensity activities like CrossFit [What is CrossFit? – YouTube](

“What is CrossFit? – YouTube”)

[The Problem(s) With Crossfit – Gawker](http://gawker.com/5928989/the-problems-with-crossfit “The Problem(s) With Crossfit – Gawker”)

and all its derivatives*. These encourage you to workout at extreme intensities with no real specific goal in mind beyond getting better at doing those specific workouts, unpredictable body shaping results (maybe you’ll bulk up or maybe get skinny), no transferable improvements for sports or other athletic activities, and an extremely high risk of injuries.

Michael Boyle is one of the most highly respected strength and Conditioning coaches in the world of NCAA collegiate athletics and professional sports, with dozens of published books to his credit. This is what he has to say about CrossFit.

Members and inexperienced trainers often fail to understand that the chronically out of shape civilian has no concept of what exercise intensity means. They actually believe that coming to the gym 2 hours a week is a lot of work. They believe pushing 50 lb. on a leg press is tremendous, even though they might weigh 180 lbs themselves. It’s not their fault. They have no reference points at all. Also, they’re really not that interested in whatever goals they might tell you and themselves, they have. Anyone who really cared about fitness and athletics would likely have been engaging in fitness and athletic activities most of their lives to begin with. And then there is belief. Most of our clients don’t really believe they can get in shape. They don’t really have goals. They have fantasies that deep down they believe are impossible to achieve, and so undermine their own efforts every chance they get by consuming junk food or too much food or exercising without consistency or jumping from fad diet to fad workout to discouragement and abandonment of any effort.

Many believe it is just strictly the luck of good genetics or bad, and there is some truth in that. But good genetics that get you by when your 20 will fail you when you’re in your 30’s unless you take action. The sooner you start the better, but it’s never too late.

Photo 1

Photo 1

First, I’d like to thank Monica for the kind praise, as it was all her hard work and willingness to follow my slightly sadistic advice to the letter.

Monica isn’t an actress or professional model. She’s a “real” woman with a real job and has a real commitment to her workouts and getting the results that she wants. She doesn’t live in the gym 4 hours a day, and she knows that when it’s time to work out you work out damn hard and real smart (or hire a real smart trainer like me) and then you go home. I won’t be specific about her age, but she wasn’t a child when we started, and 10 years later she looks better than she ever did. Period.

Forget the trends. This isn’t rocket science. I’ve been at this for 29 years and the fundamentals haven’t changed. Do what I say you need to do in order to achieve your goals (or whatever shorter term measures I deem more appropriate for each individual) and you will.

Train smart. Train hard. Don’t be a mark for every con game that comes around.

See you in the gym.