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Thursday, 25 September 2008

Tiredness during workouts

I get quite a few emails a week about various issues & as I try to answer everyone who mails in. I suddenly thought today why not put up some issues that some of you might have & my suggestions. Well here's the first. This guy contacted me suffering from lack of endurance during workouts. Like most mails I get, it doesn't cover a lot of the issues that I really need to zero in on a problem, but it gave me a chance to give some general advice on what bases you should have covered if you suffered general fatigue - especially during or soon after exercise:


Let's start with the basics & work from there. Basically what I would
do is implement only 1 thing & see if that's the cause, if not keep on
with that & add the next. You can try out any, or all, of the things I
mention, but it's best if you find the cause, so you're not stuck
thinking you need to do everything on the list, as I suspect you
First the most important for your health is B12, if you're not taking
it, you need to. I have all my trainees; meat-eaters, veggies, vegans
& raw food eaters take B12 daily. There is a technique to taking B12,
that isn't common knowledge. Under the tongue & at the back of the
throat are modified lymph capillaries, these can absorb (amongst other
things) B12 directly into the blood stream (via the lymphatic system).
So, the best way to take vitamin B12 is to buy a capsule or pill
containing B12 & B-complex, open the capsule or crush the pill & swill
the contents around your mouth for about 1 minute before swallowing,
that way you get a lot more B12 into you than just swallowing the
pill/capsule straight down. If you are low in B12 it will take a
while to feel the effects, as it needs to slowly get back into all the
trillions of cells in your body. one final point don't take B12 with
vitamin C pills, the C disrupts b12 assimilation, so if you are taking
both leave a little time between taking the two things (you can take
low level vitamin C, like in a multi vitamin/mineral pill with B12,
but not something like a 500mg + pill).
The second thing you need to address is your EFA (Essential fatty acid
levels & ratios). Most people are low in the omega 3 fatty acid
group. Most nuts, seeds & oils contain high levels of omega 6 fatty
acids, but are low in omega 3's. To balance this up I recommend that
you get hold of a cheap coffee grinder & every morning grind up 1 or 2
tablespoons of flax seed (linseed), you can add it to a morning shake,
to cereal, to porridge or just mix with soya milk & drink it,
whatever. You can add it to any hot thing, but do NOT heat it, always
add it after you've finished heating the product or you'll damage the
fats & waste your time.

The two things above are the 2 basics everyone should be doing
regardless of anything else. From now on expect to be doing this
every day!

Let's assume these are not the problem for you. The next obvious
thing is your diet. First off how often do you eat & when do you eat.
You should be splitting your eating into 6 feeds a day:

Mid-morning snack
Mid-afternoon snack

You should try & get decent food down you for every feed, not junk.
Plan on having a 'cheat' meal once or twice a week, like if you are
going to a party having one or two drinks & a few roasted nuts or
crisps (chips if you're from the US). That will be ok, providing the
rest of the week you're pretty strict & plan out your eating so you're
getting healthy food down you for most of the time.
Let's get to the workout nutrition specifics:


About an hour or 2 before you workout the meal you have should have
some protein & contain complex carbs. The carbs will give you energy
to finish your workout.
The exact timing depends on your digestion. People digest at
different speeds, so workout how long it takes after a meal before you
feel ready to hit some weights.

I've covered my ideas on workout nutrition on the vegan bodybuilding
blog on this page
click here & click here

Post workout nutrition is THE most vital feed of the day. My views on
that are also on the blog on this page click here

Bear in mind these are what I'd consider IDEAL intakes, you don't need
all the supplements, but having at least some protein powder & a
simple carb source for when you train is a good idea. I don't
recommend any specific protein powder, soya, pea, hemp, rice protein
powders all work, for a simple carb source I tend to go for red grape
juice. It's high in glucose, contains antioxidants & other
phyto-chemicals that are useful to the body. I personally only use it
for training, so I freeze a carton of red grape juice into icecubes.
I add 1 or 2 cubes to my drink during training, then several cubes to
my after training drink.

Next up we'll move onto recovery. First off have there been any
changes in your life. Increased stress, different working or
recreational activities? Are you sleeping ok? Any other changes in
your life that could account for a loss in training ability? Have a
think, try & pinpoint any changes, next see what you can do to change
The other option is could it be you training? Have you changed that,
have you been doing the same thing for a long time? Strangely enough
these 2 things can have similar effects on the body. If you've been
doing the same thing for a long time, your body gets stale & you need
to change your routine, if you've recently changed your routine it may
be that you aren't thriving on the new system & need to change things
up a bit.

Let me give you a few examples of possible issues, if they apply to
you, then think about how you can change things:

1/ Your working hard at work & the training on top is just wearing you out?
A/ Try an abbreviated routine of 1 or 2 exercises & see how you get
on. Focussing upon just a few exercises hard is better than many exercises in
a lacklustre manner.

2/ You're not eating properly?
A/ Today plan out your eating, get to the shops, buy the food you're
going to need & from tomorrow switch to a better eating plan. You may
need to cut back on training duration for a while as you recover, or
even take a few extra days off while internal supplies of nutrients build up.

3/ Haven't been using the proper nutrition before, during & after training?
A/ Getting these in place will increase your training intensity &
recovery. Expect good results over the next few weeks!

4/ Stress in my life is very high?
A/ If you can sort out the underlying issues you should be working on
getting the problems sorted out, if possible. If that is unfeasible
at the moment (such as work/domestic issues etc), then consider
abbreviating your training to allow for more recovery. Consider some
stress management practices such as meditation, positive
re-enforcement, visualisations etc.

5/ Inconsistent training?
A/ Write a plan you can stick to. Give yourself something that will
motivate you. Plan goals, short term, mid-term & long term, write
them down & maybe even tell someone. That will drive you towards your

Finally we'll move onto supplements. These do have their place, but
only after everything else is in place. They SUPPLEMENT your other
efforts. In order of importance I rate:

Protein powder
beta alanine
citrulline malate

Although I do try out others as part of my research (you can't really
write about things without having tried them out), these are the one's
I've found work for most of my clients & myself. Let's look at these
a little more closely:

Protein powder:
You can take this whenever. A small amount during training & also
taking 30grams or so after training are the most vital, but you can
have them as part of a meal or snack.

I've found this to be an excellent immune booster & recovery aid in
both myself & clients. I tend to recommend that it's vital pre-post
workout, & if you feel the need AM/PM 5 grams per serving seems around
right for most people.

These are basically a fuel source doing activity. The body burns
these as well as fats & carbs during any activity, so having them
before/during training can spare these amino acids. Why do we want to
'spare' them? Well the main source of BCAA's is the amino acids in
muscle. So, by exercising you are burning muscle! Taking BCAA's you
can offer the body an alternative source, so the muscle isn't going to
be broken down to be burnt as fuel.

I'll start off by saying I prefer creatine ethyl ester (CEE). To be
honest there is no reliable research to prove this is the most
effective version of creatine, but anecdotally just about all the
bodybuilders I've met & talked with backstage at bodybuilding shows
over the last few years have moved over to CEE & I myself have found
it more effective than other versions out there. You can take
whichever form you prefer though. Follow the dosing rules on the
package, but if you are trying out creatine monohydrate (CM) then
don't bother with the loading phase as it's just likely to cause you
cramps & bloating as anything else, go straight to maintainence levels
8 weeks on 4 weeks off.

beta alanaine:
Basically this increases strength & muscular endurance & delays
fatigue. A lot of guys are stacking this with creatine.

Citrulline malate
Another one that delays fatigue, but also can possibly increase NO
production. Also increases arginine levels more than taking arginine
directly. So, you can possibly get the increased pumps associated
with arginine with this product without the associated risk to herpes
(cold sore) sufferers.
That was one reply I gave to a guy who had a problem & thought it might of interest to some of you out there?
Often, especially the new vegan can feel added fatigue. This is usually down to the fact that vegan food is less calorifically dense that a meat based diet (you need to eat more folks!). In most cases increasing the amount on your plate &/or adding more feeds per day will sort out your tiredness. I often hear excuses like the flora in your digestive tract is changing, you’re detoxifying etc. This might be true, but more often than not the actual cause, when we get down to real-world fixes is to eat MORE. Pick healthy food & keep an eye on your protein intake, like anyone training you do, in my view, need a decent amount of protein. Keep your protein up & calories high & you tend to lessen these fatigue symptoms. Finally, if you’re suffering on your diet, you are doing something wrong, don’t suffer, or live with it, get it sorted out! Seek advice about nutrition from someone who’s had some experience with vegan athletes or nutrition for very active people.
For some useful advice you could try asking on the veganbodybuilding email list we have nutritionists, competing bodybuilders, powerlifters & strongman competitors click here

Monday, 22 September 2008

J.C.Hise - a new perspective?

Over the years & my fondness for old time physical culture I've read some articles by J.C.Hise, but today I read this from a guy who was in direct contact with the man & here is a few of his thoughts:

"...He often spoke of the Eastern doctrine of ahimsa. This is living your life so that you never harm any creature..."

There’s much anecdotal evidence, some of which is supported by epidemiological studies, that those races or peoples who stay strong and healthy even in extreme old age live on diets that are low in calories but high in nutritive value. In particular, those populations that consume diets that primarily consist of fruits and vegetables have healthy blood pressure, low glucose levels and low total serum cholesterol levels..."

Now I've read a little about Hise in my time & a couple of things struck me as odd:

First of all Hise was never really what you'd call a low calorie guy...In fact I've read several times about the incredible appetite the guy had. Maybe that was the odd occasion & maybe he followed a less hectic eating program most of the time, but had, kind of, binge sessions when going for maximum growth?

The other was his ahimsa attitude. I seem to remember he actually pushing a meat diet (hardly never harming another creature!), but I could be wrong as I'd have to dig through some old magazines to find the articles in question.
I just thought I'd mention a few doubts I have just so you don't uncritically read the article which I did find very interesting.

You can read the article by going here

A few points about Hise, if you've never heard of the man before. He was the first man to use heavy 20 rep squats to build his body. His influence inspired Mark Berry to champion the squat (especially for high reps) & for Peary Rader (editor & owner of ironman magazine) to take up squatting & pushing the idea in his magazines. He inspired Strossen to write the book "Super squats" & used a form of abbreviated training that has been the basis for guys like Stuart McRobert. Basically he is one of the founders of bodybuilding & strength training as we know it, although today mainly forgotten. He invented (or popularised) many exercises, like flat footed, heavy high rep squatting & Hise Shrugs being the most enduring two of his ideas.

Anyway, I have decided to try & find out more about the guy, so I’m going to try & find out if there are any books about his life, useful articles about his philosophy or any other avenues of information I can explore to see if I can discover the true J.C.Hise.

Post workout nutrient intake

Ok before we start I’ve had a few people emailing me about nutrition. I’d just like to point out that these observations are not the definitive answer for your training needs. These observations are an ongoing study that is occurring in the field of training nutrition. I expect they will mutate over time as we gather more information. Also, like everything else, individual variation plays a part as well. So, bear in mind that although these are the finding we can draw from today’s research, there could be some changes over time.

Now on with the show:

Most of the information for this has come from the books “Power Eating” by Kleiner & “Nutrient Timing” by Ivy & Portman & I recommend everyone who has an interest buy both these books.
Like last time we’ll split our plan into first goals we wish to achieve from our Post-workout nutrition:

After training get (or keep) us in an anabolic state
Speed elimination by increasing blood flow
Replenish glycogen stores
Initiate tissue repair
Reduce muscle damage & boost the immune system

First let’s look at how easy it is to fall into a catabolic state

Notice how timing plays such a crucial role in your post exercise nutrition plan. Just a 3 hour delay in getting your post-exercise nutrition can push you into a catabolic state. 1

Insulin levels are also raised most by consuming a protein/carb drink 2. This actually causes blood flow to the muscles to increase, so you get more nutrition to the cells & remove waste faster. 3

For the immunity we have increased levels of plasma L-glutamine when protein-carbohydrate is consumed 4.

Also there is performance enhancement on your following training session when you consume a protein-carbohydrate post workout shake instead of simply carbs 5.

So, you can see there is some evidence about mixing simple carbs & proteins for a post workout recovery drink.

Here are the guides I would suggest at the moment:

Protein 30 grams
High glycemic carbs 40-50 grams
BCAA’s 1-2 grams
L-glutamine 5 grams
Vit c 60-120mg
Vit E 80-400 IU.

The best way to consume these:

Here’s the best way to consume the above after exercise nutrition.

Straight after your exercise, but before your cool-down stretch have your BCAA’s , l-glutamine (also a good time if you supplement with creatine to take that as well).

Now do your cool down

After cool-down now consume your protein-carbs-vitamins.

(NOTE: there has been some possible concern raised about vitamin E & health issues, so these rules may be modified if these prove to have some foundation).

New research recently

New research in the American journal of Physiology, Endocrinology has found that co-ingestion of carbohydrate during recovery does not further stimulate post-exercise muscle protein synthesis when ample protein is ingested 6, which has thrown the whole issue open once again, but this is one study that is against the general tide of research, but do bear in mind that this subject is not a closed book & a definitive answer is still some way off.

1 Levenhagen, D.K., Carr, C., Carlson, M.G.,et al., “Postexercise protein intakeenhances whole-body and leg protein accretion in humans.” Medicine and Science in Sports and exercise, 34: 828-837, 2002.

2 Zawadzki, K.M., Yaspelkis, B.B., Ivy, J.L., “Carbohydrate-protein complex increases the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise” Journal of Applied Physiology, 72: 1854-1859, 1992.

3 Laakso, M., Edelman, S.V., Brechtel, G., Baron, A.D., “Decreased effect of insulin to stimulate skeletal muscle blood flow in obese men: a novel method for insulin resistance.” Journal of clinical Investigation, 85: 1844-1852, 1990.

4 van der Schoor, P., et al., “Ingestion of protein hydrolysate prevents the post exercise reduction in plasma glutamate.” International Journal of Sports Medicine, 18: S115, 1997

5 Williams, M.B., Raven, P.B., Donovan, L.F., et al., "Effects of recovery beverage on glycogen restoration and endurance exercise performance," Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17: 12-19, 2003

6 Koopman R, Beelen M, Stellingwerff T, Pennings B, Saris W.H., Kies A.K., Kuipers H, van Loon L.J., "Coingestion of carbohydrate with protein does not further augment postexercise muscle protein synthesis." American journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and metabolism, Sep;293(3): E833-42, 2007.