Sorry for the paltry offerings with regards to writing of late. In addition to my usual work we moved out to the Lazy Lobo Ranch (small farm) about a year ago and we have been busting our humps getting a legit permaculture operation going. I’ll do a separate update on that but in addition to that process being a ton of fun it’s also consumed just about every last shred of time I have. I’ve had a few folks ping me about where my training, chow etc are currently, so let’s dig in!
If you follow the blog and podcast at all you are likely (painfully) aware of my love/hate relationship with Brasilian Jiu-jitsu. I love the process, other than the activity tends to kick my ass. I’ve found it challenging to fuel for BJJ, a highly glycolytic (read carb demanding) sport, while also producing my best cognitive function, which seems to be eating on the lower-carb side of things. I’ve fiddled with a lot of variables and what seems to be working well is a low carb breakfast, sometimes using a decent amount of MCT/coconut oil. If I feel like I need some carbs I tend to go for cashews or small amounts of fruit. 20-40g of carbs for brekie (max) generally seems to work well for me. I tend to do either BJJ or my S&C work around 1-2 pm and I follow up that session with the lion’s share of my carbs for the day. I find i do best with things like yams, squash or certain types of fruit like bananas. In a pinch I’ll do some corn tortillas as I seem to do pretty well with those. I base the carb amount on my volume and intensity for the day and that PWO carb feed can be anywhere from 50-200g of carbs, although I’d say that top-end is pretty rare and only when I’m knackered. I’ve fiddled with white rice and potatoes and they work ok so long as I keep the amounts relatively small. If those are my PWO options I tend to cut my carb intake about in half or I feel like crap. I finally started doing some post meal blood glucose monitoring and it was jaw-dropping how much higher white rice pushed my blood sugar vs say corn tortillas or yams. Not earth shaking stuff but here are a few take-aways:
1- Post workout is a good time to take in carbs
2- Dial in carb amount based on volume and intensity of work.
3- Keep an eye on individual differences…some foods will NOT work as well for you as other people.
Dinner tends to be low glycemic load veggies (a lot of them) protein and fat. I still tend to get 20-30g of effective carbs at dinner, but it’s from a metric-ton of veggies. I’ve really been into beets lately which has a spectacular effect on my pee and poo! I’m probably getting in 130-150g of protein per day and I seem to have found a good middle ground between optimizing my cognition and my performance doing BJJ. If I broke down my macro ratio it’d likely be in this neighborhood: Protein 20-30%, Carbs: 20-30%, Fat: 50-60%.
Although I’m going to spend a decent amount of time talking about how I structure my training to support BJJ, you can find insights into how to tweak your process, regardless of your goals. So even if grappling is not your thing, there are good lessons here. I’ve finally set up a schedule that allows me a decent number of BJJ sessions each week. I do a private on Mondays, and after a year of hounding my coach to set up a “drills and skills” class this has finally happened two days per week. I’ve seen a similar problem with BJJ schools as I saw in Crossfit type gyms and that’s when ego overrides common sense. People need to spend time not only developing their fundamentals but also their metabolic engines. Folks are launched into these highly competitive settings and are (IMO) exposed to far too much intensity, too soon. They do not hone and develop non-attribute based fundamentals and what this does is select for only the strongest, youngest and toughest. If that’s how folks want to orient their programs, that’s fine, but I notice a lot of people complaining about how few clients they have yet they ignore the fact they have had hundreds, perhaps thousands of people roll through their doors, only keeping a tiny percentage of these folks. This drills and skills class can change all that:
We warm up by having folks do 2 min drills in each of the major positions in BJJ (Back, side control, mount and guard). We hit the SAME fundamentals each time and folks work in a progressive resistance format. At first one person is providing minimal resistance to allow the partner to get in some good reps. Then, the resistance is slowly ratcheted up with lots of feedback between the partners. This allows for a warm-up that is actually sport specific, not a bunch of jumping jacks and low-skill activities people can do on their own. You are getting quality reps on the thing you actually want to get good at (BJJ). About every ten minutes I lead a mobility drill that is aimed at addressing the common problem points for folks doing grappling: Neck, shoulders, hips knees. We then hit our “focus” section where we take a particular piece of the BJJ game and again work that in a progressive fashion for 2-3 min rounds. Here are the benefits of a class like this:
1- Folks gets lots of quality reps in all the key positions as part of the warm-up. This builds work capacity but also reinforces the basics. I have found this process to be incredibly helpful as people will often go months without seeing a particular position if they are going to “regular” class. If you miss the week that back control is the focus, you may not see that again for months, which means you never really develop fundamentals in the basic positions, or if you do it takes a looong time and it tends to be pretty hap-hazard.
2- Structuring the drills in a progressive fashion defuses the ego. If people are being a shitty partner or a spazz they get called out and instructed to be helpful, not a pain in the ass.
Everyone wants to “win” and if the format of a class is “here are three techniques, ok let’s live roll…” the ego’s come out and new/old/small people get smashed and decide their time would be better spent doing just about anything else. People only use their “A game” as the rolling can be a near-death experience if you do not watch your ass. It does not, and IMO should not be this way. It’s not good for the business, nor the students.
3- People build technical proficiency. We drill a lot of the same basic stuff, again and again. We focus (when I have some sway on things) on concepts, not techniques. People who are gifted movers can do well by seeing a technique once and then live rolling. 99.999% of people do not do well with that. If you want to get good at an instrument, a language or just about anything you need to practice, be progressive and focus on the big-picture commonalities, not the ten million bits of minutiae.
4- People build work capacity. We do our best to keep the work rest intervals and intensity in ranges that are mainly “aerobic” in nature. Grappling is a highly intense sport and can push into the glycolytic range very easily. If you want to progress in the art you need to develop that engine, but smart exercise training builds an aerobic base before dropping people into a lactate hell. Tough/young people will hang in on the glycolytic hell, older/deconditioned people will bounce. Again, I know a lot of facilities that scratch their collective heads wondering why more people do not “sign-up” when they have chased off hundreds of people by beating them down and making the process uninviting. The folks at Straight Blast Gym have an amazing grasp of all this and I’m modeling a lot of what I’m talking about around the way they roll out curriculum. Another person who is at the top of this process is Henry Akins. Henry received his black belt from none other than Rickson Gracie. I did a three day seminar with Henry last year and it is likely the reason I stayed in the BJJ game. Henry has a very paired-down, simple, non-attribute way of teaching BJJ. By “non-attribute” I mean that you do not NEED to be strong, explosive, flexible nor have massive cardio. If you have those traits, great, it’ll be an advantage, but the techniques are not BUILT around attributes. I’ve seen a lot of BJJ that is incredibly attribute dependent…lots of movement and if you are, again, young, strong and tough, this may work for you. But as you age, as those attributes wane, you will need to modify your approach or get frustrated enough to quit. I highly recommend Henry’s online training program. Yes, some of the upfront ad-copy is a bit over the top, but trust me, you will love the curriculum.
Now that I’m rolling a fair amount, I have neither the time nor the inclination to do much in the gym. Our garage is cold, dark and for me lifting is pretty damn boring at this point. That said, I do appreciate the benefits a smart S&C (strength & conditioning) program can provide both for athletics but also injury prevention and effective aging. I was thinking about how to streamline this process and I thought back to a technique Art Devany uses called “a-lactic sets.” You warm up with a given weight or movement and then get a load that you can do for a few good reps. You do a set, rest 5-10 seconds do another set etc. I will use a load that I can get 5 GOOD reps with (bar speed is fast, no grinding) and I’ll do say 5 reps. Rest a few moments, do 4-5 more reps. Rest. do 3-4 reps. I keep doing this until i get about 20-25 total reps and then I’m DONE with that movement. So, a session of front squats might look like: 5,5,4,3,3, 2,2,1. I never grind on a rep, the movement speed is always reasonably fast. This allows for a stimulus, but tends to not smash me. I do this process 2x per week and do a lower body movement and then some kind of pressing and pulling movement, so I do three groups of these “cluster” sets (talked about by Charles Poliquin) in a given session. The whole workout tends to take less than 20 min and I actually enjoy the process. I tend to stick with a given load until I can get 5 sets of 5, then I increase the weights or change the movement. I have no idea how long I’ll run with this but given it’s time efficiency it’ll be a tough one to beat. I’m not going to set any power lifting records doing this but one can get plenty strong on a program like this while devoting a minimum of time.
On the conditioning side I’m still fiddling with aerobic intervals, using a variety of gadgets like rowers, airdynes, versaclimbers and jump rope to keep a nice steady heart rate while getting in 30-60 min of “cardio.” This has been a game-changer for me as I’ve never devoted much time to developing my aerobic base and well, that was pretty clear given how I’d be smashed from rolling. If I miss a day at BJJ I will do my best to get in some time indexed circuits that push into the glycolytic realm a bit, but I’m really careful to leave gas in the tank, no matter what I’m doing. A really heroic day will leave me smashed for several days, which means my technical training suffers and I increase my risk of injury or illness. Not worth it. Again, younger people may have more latitude on this, but I’ve found most people benefit from more quality and really picking the days when they are going to seek the “White Buffalo in the Sky.”
Other projects: The Next Book
So, I’ve been fiddling with an outline for a 2nd book for about three years. I was never too sure If I’d tackle another project but some fantastic research has lit a fire under me to get back into that fray. The broad brush strokes of the book include the neuroregulation of appetite as well as methods for dialing in one’s individual nutrition. I’m going to be a bit vague on details as my stuff tends to get pinched (and not well attributed…) but I’ll flesh out details as we get closer to release, which is looking like spring of 2017.
In working on the book I’ve discovered a work process (I refuse to call it a “hack”) that I’d like to share with y’all. A few caveats on that:
1- I’m not saying you should do this, just sharing my experience.
2- If you DO fiddle with this, please do let me know what your experience is.
3- Please do not lose your shizz over what I’m about to share. Read the attached articles before you launch into a knee-jerk reaction. I’ve studied the toxicology and health implications pretty rigorously. I’m wide open to questions but I’ll tease people mercilessly if they are freaking out and clearly have not researched this topic.
Ok, all that out of the way, here goes:
I find I do my best work early in the morning. The low-carb brekie tends to help that. My two additions to the writing/work process are:
1- The Brainwave app. These “binaural beats” apps are pretty damn cool. I put mine on “creativity boost” and I’ve got to say it provides a remarkable degree of focus. I goose that process with:
2- Nicotine gum. I researched nicotine about 6 years ago when I started doing speaking gigs for the military (Naval Special Warfare) and what I found was pretty striking. Nicotine’s main problem appears to be delivery system. Tobacco is bad, be it smoked or chewed. Bill, over at Calories Proper has done a few posts on nicotine and makes the point that were it not for the potential to alter the reward centers in the brain, nicotine would be “a vitamin.” Discover magazine had a solid piece on nicotine that you can check out as well. WebMD did apiece on nicotine gum, and after several pages of going back and forth between the dangers of tobacco and the fact the gum is not tobacco, here is one of the closing thoughts from a doctor interviewed for the piece:
“If the gum were something we knew to be harmful, I’d get upset about its chronic use, and insist that they get off it,” adds Hughes. “But it doesn’t seem to be harmful.”
I use a 2mg piece of gum every few hours and my focus and productivity are nothing short of amazing. I have messed with every nootropic imaginable and for ME they have all paled in comparison to what I get from the nicotine gum. I know people will not take the time to actually “read” those links so I’ll tackle a few things here:
1- Tobacco is a carcinogen (or more accurately is home to many carcinogens) but nicotine as a pharmacological agent is not a carcinogen.
2- Gum and lozenges CAN be addictive and habit forming. So are coffee and tea. You need to balance your risk reward matrix with that in mind, but for me, it’s a pretty clear choice.
I’ve noticed the gum has helped my digestion and my productivity is better. Again, use your best judgement, but this has been a serious game changer for me so i felt compelled to share it with y’all.
Ok! That’s it for this year, and I’ve likely destroyed any and all credibility with that last piece, but hey, there is always coconut farming! Perhaps I’ll come out with a nicotine gum line that is “mycotoxin free” and folks will think I’m a genius…
Let me know if you have questions about the training, chow etc.
I’ll be at this event with Joel Salitin and the folks from Singing Frogs Farm on April 23rd. It’s be great to see you there! http://tarafirmafarms.com/events/
I’ll also be at this event with Henry Akins on April 30-May 1. In addition to the two day Brasilain jiu-jitsu seminar I’ll be giving a talk on performance optimization and there will be a dinner Saturday night which is included in the price.