My Training at 39
I receive quite a few emails asking what I’m up to with training and nutrition. Now seems like as good a time as any to do a little update on that. Birthdays are always a good point for reflection…see what’s working, what’s not and what trajectory you are on. (Note-I know the videos look terrible, I’ll try to get that fixed.)
After the book tour I was about beat to death. Don’t get me wrong, it was an exciting time but between wrapping up the book, doing the PSS, pimping the book, time zone changes and the random gluten exposure while eating on the road…well, I was a mess. My biosignature showed high Cortisol, insulin resistance and the testosterone levels of an 80 year old. Woman.
I was NOT in good shape. I did not at that time do an ASI test which I now regret as I know things have improved dramatically but I’m just not that into reaffirming via diagnostic measures what I know already by observation. I’ll be better about that in the future as solid numbers ARE important for benchmarks. For sure I was not in great shape, about 170 lbs and body comp was around 15% body fat.
I was not digesting of my food very well, energy levels were low and on days when it was cloudy in Chico I got VERY squirrely. Luckily I had 5 weeks ahead of me with no travel so I decided to really get my shit together and do whatever it took to get healthy and strong again. The areas that I focused on supporting were sleep, adrenal function, digestion, and androgen production. Here is what I did:
I started going to Chico Community Acupuncture 1x/week to support digestion and “kidney yin building.” In Western terms this relates to adrenal support. Each week my Doc would, in addition to the needling I received, mix up a bath of herbs that I took 3x/day. I felt better immediately when I started this and really wanted to shoot myself because I could have been going to this place for the past few years instead of letting things get so bad. I preach prevention every day but how often do I listen to my own advice? Not enough, but as my responsibilities grow I owe it not only to myself but also our NorCal staff, the blog readers, my wife and The Gato to stay on top of my maintenance, whatever form that may take. This is a gentle reminder to you trainers, coaches, caretakers, parents (is there anyone left?) who need to prioritize YOUR health so you can be better for the folks who rely upon you.
These came from some of the biosignature recommendations for Cortisol management and increasing testosterone production. I’ll give you the amounts I was taking but you need to keep in mind this was for MY unique situation. I think you can get a lot of mileage out of various nutriceuticals but it’s not a one size fits all gig. You need to know what you are doing and know how to modify the program as your body changes and adapts. Ok, with that, here is what I did:
Before breakfast-2 caps of Yang R-alpha lipoic acid. You can find good varieties of R-ALA+ N-acetyl L-Carnitine many places. If you read the book you’ll notice this is one of those things that I think might benefit most folks. This stuff clears the AM fog and decreased my need for caffeine, which I’ll talk about later. I also took about 500mg of Pantethene for the beneficial effects on adrenal health.
NowFoods Super Enzymes. I started off with 6 caps and felt NOTHING. Like I said, I was a mess. Over time I titrated down to 1-2 caps per meal and I’ve stabilized there.
CoQ10- 100mg the Jarrow Q-sorb variety. This stuff is very fat soluble so it went down with breakfast. Scotty Hagnas mentioned that he really felt an energy boost when he added this to the mix, I gave it a shot and like it.
OrthoAdapt-3 capsules after breakfast and lunch. This is a “kitchen sink” supplement aimed at adrenal health and it’s phenomenal. I used this for a month and then rotated to the Gaia Herbs Stress Response. This product is built around Holy Basil, Ashwaganda and Rhodiola; all potent adaptogens. In talking to Ido and Scotty they recommended switching this adaptogen blend as the OrthoAdapt works via different mechanisms than the Stress response.
DHEA-50mg from MRM. I suspected that the symptoms of low testosterone I had were from Cortisol depleting the substrates that build T. So, I tinkered with the DHEA, but only used it until I was feeling good, about 3 weeks. You run a big risk of seeing this stuff cascade into estrogen (yes, there are ways of blocking the process, all with their own problems) so I played that fairly conservatively. If you are a guy and tinker with DHEA keep your “eyes open” for prostate problems.
NowFoods Tribulus 1000. I took 3 tablets with breakfast and lunch. The research on tribulus is a bit inconclusive as to how much if any T boost you get. It DOES seem to increase luteinizing hormone and this has effects on dopamine, focus libido etc. What I do know is my testosterone sights improved on my Biosignature and everything that you’d expect from increased T levels (libido, muscle mass, recovery, focus) improved.
NaturalCalm-Fizzie orange water just knocks me out! Go easy on this, it can give you the trots. Unless you LIKE the trots, in which case, knock-yerself-out.
Melatonin-I’ve experimented with this a good bit and found results with levels as low as 5mg and as high as 30mg. I talked to Grace about this and I’m no longer worried about down-regulation of normal production. I do not sleep as well when I do not have it and have had a really busy day. Cortisol is antagonistic to serotonin, which is why melatonin can be so beneficial ina Cortisol management program. BUT, it is not a fix-all. Some sleep issues can be GABA related in which case melatonin could actually worsen your situation. Again, it pays to know what the heck you are doing.
Like I mentioned, I was not digesting my food very well and I could take large does of the SuperEnzymes so I knew my HCL levels were low which means the normal signaling that governs the pancreas and gall bladder was lacking (remember most digestion takes place in the small intestine). I also suspected some dysbiosis (overgrowth of the wrong type of bugs) So I ate VERY low carb for a few weeks to starve any of the nastier bugs and started supplementing with some beneficial flora. I used Jarrow’s probiotic and a product from NewChapter. I know the Jarrowdophylis has a bit of dairy in it, but I’ve always liked the product. In the future I’d like to start making some homemade kraut and kimche as a probiotic. I just loves me some kraut!!
Macro wise I shot for 1gProtein/lb BW, lots of well cooked veggies ( to aid in digestion) and a “little fat.” This should look familiar to y’all. I took this in typically three meals although occasionally it was four or two. Because of the adrenal issues I had I was not pushing the intermittent fasting other than I tried to finish eating early (5-6pm) as it seemed to help my sleep. No food in the system allows for les competition with the melatonin passing the blood brain barrier AND it allows for your body temp to drop. At this point I was chubby and needed to lean out. So, I used the same plan I’d recommend to pretty much anyone. BEWARE the person who does not follow their own nutrition and exercise recommendations.
CrossFit and metabolic conditioning are very powerful and very beneficial when properly used. They can also take you down at the knees if improperly employed. Because tapping into the glycolytic pathway releases adrenal-cortical hormones, it’s not a good idea to push ANY type of met-con during an adrenal recovery phase. It’s tough, you feel “out of shape” but you really need to keep things to strength training and not much more than a brisk walk if you want to get the best, fastest results. Then you can get back to beating yourself to death.
So, I focused on strength work and playing. Here are a few examples of some playing, very MovNat inspired. In the first video I’m jumping onto a 42” pommel horse, then jumping about 8” to a rope. I’d then walk around and do it again when I felt fresh. I did not count reps, or track time, I just had fun.
This would be some play time after stuff like squats, DL’s, dips or standard strength stuff. I was staying in the 1-3 rep range and just playing with volume and intensity. Pushing one element forward for a few sessions (say 3, 4 then 5 sets of three on a given movement at a given weight. Each session adding a set) then I’d add a little weight and start the process over. I did a fair amount of open-ended gymnastics type stuff like this video of some “depth jumps” for the pulling muscles of the upper body. I was feeling pretty damn good by this point, had put on some muscle and lost some fat. This is definitely an advanced move, even when I’m a fat out of shape slob I am a very strong climber/puller. If you try to do this without the strength base and preparation you will seriously injure yourself.
Ido and Scotty Visit
Scotty and Ido came to town for a few days and we got to do a fair amount of training. Ido set me up on a template I’ll describe below but I’m not going to go into too great of detail. The moves are certainly scalable but we can get Ido on here at some point to describe where you should start. At this point I was getting pretty lean (below 10%) so I tinkered with some PWO nutrition to help recovery and minimize Cortisol production. I used a few different whey proteins mixed in coconut water. You may realize this but not all proteins are created equal. Easily the best tasting, easiest to mix was Mark’s Primal Fuel. Mark sent me a can, it’s about the best protein I’ve tried. I know some folks had their panties twisted when he released Primal fuel…don’t know what to tell you, but “Chill-ax-the-Frack-out” seems appropriate.
Try Mark’s, try some of the other popular brands. Give it an honest review. If you are working for CrossFit HQ…well, be smarter than me and say whatever will not get YOU fired.
As to results, I really felt like I bounced back from training faster, but the whey protein gives me acne. Is a little systemic inflammation and tweaking on the IGF axis worth the benefits? Depends on the situation. When I grapple it is so demanding it’s worth it, especially if I will not be able to eat for a while post workout. So, I will tend to save this for very hard training only, and I may tinker with whey and no coconut water in the future to see how that goes on medium intensity days. My message with shakes and liquid foods remains the same: if you are lean play with them if you want, if you are overweight and trying to lean out, you are not doing yourself any favors taking in liquid nutrition.
I’ve been doing a rotating template with two different upper body gymnastics days and a lower body weights+OL day.
Day 1- Straight arm: I work a ton of isometric holds on the rings, handstands, scapular protraction and retraction movements. Mixed into this is also front/back lever work and planche work. It does not look like much on paper but it’s very demanding. I use a few bands to aid the planche work. I’ll shot some video on a few of these when I get a chance. Reps are in the 1-5 range, always progressing movements to more technical variants when I can consistently get more than 5 reps.
Day 2-Bent Arm: This video shows me doing some 1-arm pull up work using a rope and a 30#DB as assistance weight. I do 1 rest 1 minute, switch arms, do another. When I make 3 total reps on each arm, that’s a set. I have progressed to using a 20lb DB and doing 2 reps per arm. I can do an unassisted pull up with my right arm, close on the left. Then I do some straddle planche push ups. These are super hard and I had no mojo on them initially, but can actually do a few now. I am doing sets of 3-4 on this, just trying to make the movement harder.
Day 3-Lower: I forgot to mention that I do a ton of warmup and mobility work before all of these sessions. Scotty and Ido have some great sequences specific to which day I am working.
After warming up I do some activation/speed work. This may mean doing jumps from kneeling to standing (I had trouble doing this initially, I can now jump onto a 10” box). I also use box jumps and round offs. This is all to further the warm up and prime the nervous system for some speed-strength work in the form of an OL derivative. I’ve mainly been using a power clean. I’ve worked up to doing 110kg for a triple in the PC which is plenty for me at this point. Some days when I’m not feeling good it’s 80kg for the top end. Other days, I feel good and go for it. I just play with volume and intensity as I described above. I finish with back squats, DL, RDL or similar moves. Reps are 1-3, sets 2-8.
Day 4-For about 6 weeks I just repeated the template or took a day off and started over. Lately I’ve been doing a conditioning day comprised of either sprints (if the weather permits) or heavy bag work. I’ve been keeping the work either low intensity to avoid lactate or I make the rest periods quite long. I want to get back to jits again and am slowly building some conditioning before going back.
*Achtung!!!Every 3rd time I do a given WO I take a half volume day from the previous effort. Feel good that day? Doesn’t matter, take a back-off day.
I cannot describe how much better I feel. I’m productive again, want to write, enjoy my training, feel creative and I know I’m a better person for my wife and the Gato to be around. Digestion is much better, not perfect but better. I had a few gluten exposures while traveling but it did not affect me nearly as badly as when I was beat down. I greatly credit the acupuncture and herbs in this specifically but it’s obviously the whole package. My body comp has gone from 170 15% BF to 176 and 8%. I’m not usually one for posting shirtless photos of myself, but I’m pretty stoked with the progress.
The challenges as always are managing stress, sleep loss (I’m on a plane for NY while I’m writing this) dodgy food etc. What is different now however is I’m sipping on some of the tea I got from my acupuncturist, I have a number of supplements I’m traveling with and I protect my sleep like a mad-man. Oh yea, I’ve really cut back my coffee consumption. I do a double Americano in the morning, perhaps another a little later and that’s about it. It’s interesting; if I am on vacation (we spent a week in Nicaragua a few years ago) I can drink coffee all day long and feel great. Add the stress of travel, work and sleep deprivation and I think we have a problem.
I hope that helps answer the questions folks have, thanks for the continued interest. I do not hold myself up as a paragon of fitness, but I do try to lead by example. I had some very important projects to attend to this past year and “fitness” had to take a back seat. Unfortunately however, I did not do things which could have kept the fitness in the backseat and not bouncing down the road like a discarded gum wrapper. As with all this stuff, I hope you can learn from my success and mistakes to achieve your goals more efficiently than I have tackled mine.
364 days till 40!