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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Things I've found useful over 2012

This is going to be a bit of a mish-mash of things I've found interesting & useful for training.

First on the list is my Lions lifting shoes I'll actually write a proper blog post about these at a later date as they are pretty good.  The heel makes squatting (or snatching & cleaning) much easier for some people, it is a biomechanical thing, I feel rock solid as I've been learning Olympic style squatting using them & no issues (I'm still lifting fairly light, but I've been arse to grass knees forward - which is kind of alien to someone who's powerlifted).  Well worth the cash in my view & of course finding vegan Olympic lifting shoes aren't that easy.  One hint is to buy 1 size under your actual size.  I bought a size 8 (I'm size 9) & they fitted perfectly! (that's UK foot sizes)

Next up is a tricky one.  I was trying to think of which company I thought was the best supplement company?  Worst is easy, I was ripped off by Discount vitamin & herb on an order so I'd avoid them at all costs!  But vegan bodybuilding has had some great interactions with a few companies over the year.  One of my favourites is Veganicity, a totally vegan company with a good range of stuff.  One of the reasons that swings this one as best this year is the fact that they actually asked us what we'd like as a supplement that wasn't already easily available (we said a vegan vitamin K2) & they made it for us!  Now that is support from a company.  Not say our other sponsors aren't awesome, but this year veganicity has pulled out all the stops & really done 120% effort in working with the community! So they were pretty good.

Next thing I've liked this year is my new portable pull-up/dip station.  This isn't one of those 'fit in the door frame' types it is a totally portable, use outside model.  You can use it at full height for pull-ups, suspension work (think TRX or similar), hanging with the knees bent over the bar, hanging from gravity boots etc.  You can also lower it & do things like dips, inverted rows etc.  The list just goes on.  The good thing is that during the nicer weather you can go out & train in a park or similar.  Just some bands, some rope, some suspension stuff (I have adjustable gymnastic rings personally) & something heavy like dumbbells ,kettlebells etc. This is pretty good & it should get a lot of use in 2013 assuming we don't have a summer like this year (summer?).

The start of Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine is something to celebrate for 2012! Having our very own magazine is a great step in the right direction, so subscribe if you want the latest & greatest vegan fitness info available!

Let's see what else have I enjoyed this year?  Obviously I've enjoyed the Vegan Bodybuilding events including a fab trip to Oslo earlier this year!
I have also moved this year to electronic record keeping for my training due to a 'cat accident' (fur-balls have a LOT to answer for!).  That has been interesting, at the moment I'm using MS Word for writing up training & weekly checks (weekly checks are weight, blood pressure, pulse rate etc).  I think I'll probably be looking to improve that over the next year or so as it's still a little unwieldy.  Generally though having it on computer has made things run fairly smoothly, so I've no complaints (it takes some time to sort out initially so bear that in mind if you are planning on something similar).

OK back to the best stuff - best info is hard?  I've been moving towards more Olympic lifting (I'm not an Olympic lifter by any stretch of the imagination, but I am starting to develop interests in that direction), Gregg Everett has some useful books (I've read 'Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches' & I'm reading 'Olympic Weightlifting for Sports' both of which are pretty good), back to powerlifting I've finished Andy Bolton/Pavel book 'Deadlift Dynamite' which was very good (& as I'm avoiding deadlifting VERY frustrating to read).  Mark Rippetoe Strong enough & the new edition of Starting Strength are both good.  Obviously no one agrees with everything any one author says & that's as it should be.  We're all a little bit different & so even looking back I find I don't even agree with myself from a few years ago!
Ross Enamait has done one of the best Sandbag training DVD I've seen so far, it cuts through the rubbish & gets to the heart of the whole sandbag idea, so if you're interested in that style of training I'd choose that one. I also like Dr Yessis, he has some interesting ideas I watched his Explosive plyometrics  dvd (I could only find the link to the book?) earlier this year.  It was great to see someone who actually understands how to do plyo-stuff unlike the 1001 other trainers out there who don't know the difference between plyometrics & 'jump' training.
I know I'm missing loads of things I've read & watched this year as I usually read a book or two a week & view DVDs very often as well (I learn better by seeing, than reading when it comes to lifting).  Hopefully though this has given you a little insight into my thought processes over 2012.  I will be exploring some new avenues in training over 2013 including more stuff outdoors & maybe even some working with groups (never worked with a large group before), we'll have to see how that develops.
Oh yea my final finds for winter 2012 are neoprene knee sleeves & nuique warming-up cream that's been the hit of the cold weather this year!  Really helped get me get ready for the increased workload .  If you are suffering getting ready in this colder weather give those a go, also elbow neoprene or warming-up cream works (using both may be over-kill on a single joint for some people as under neoprene warming-up cream gets HOT!), but I've used both since the start of the colder weather & it's been great (& I've been hammering Olympic style squatting multiple times a week & no issues with the joints), so consider them as options if you're in colder climates.
Anyway, feel free to add anything below that you've enjoyed over 2012 that is training related.  Hope you have a great holiday season & a fantastic 2013!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Animal Aid Christmas fayre 2012

 Here's what a vegan runner looks like topless

We had a fab day at the Animal Aid fayre.  There were many new faces & the contest was possibly the loudest we've ever done with people screaming & chanting!  To check out the whole story of our day simply click here

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The secret of success - giveaway!

 As we're getting close to Thanksgiving in the US I thought I'd give away THE secret to successful training.  It's only known to a few, but if you put this into practice you are virtually guaranteed to achieve great results!
If you can follow the real secret to training success, your gains will skyrocket & your results will improve beyond anything you've seen before.  If you do this between now & summer 2013 (for example) & if your goal is getting a beach body, you will have a real chance that you will stride onto the beach looking like an Adonis (from the neck down, exercise can't do much above that).
So, onto the real secret to successful training...."Showing up"
Yep, it sounds stupid, but for most people the hardest thing is actually getting there & doing the work.  Most people are happy to plan it, but rarely do they follow through & do it.  If you choose the other path though, if you commit to hitting the gym every planned session between now & summer 2013 (I'll let you have time off if you're ill), then you are so much more likely to achieve that goal.  So, why not really set aside that time, hit the gym every day you plan to.  Sure, go lighter if you feel a little burnt out, go heavier when you're feeling like a Kryptonian, but turn up, get into your training gear & have at it without fail & the goal will be achieved.  As a nice side effect often getting strict with the training leads to other positive traits developing, like better dietary choices (as you need to fuel those sessions), better rest (you will need that rest trust me!) & taking better care of yourself.  So, if you can do one thing, I'd say just show up, it will make the rest fall into place so much more easily!
I hope everyone in the US has a wonderful Thanksgiving & then get to the gym! SHOW UP!!!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

West Midlands Vegan Festival 2012

Here's our day at the West Midlands Vegan festival - includes a talk by Vegan Bodybuilder Alex 'Mitch' Mitchell, the Viridian dynamometer challenge, vegan fitness rowing event, the push-up contest & much, much more! Go check it out!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Losing fat & training:sucking it up

 This could be real 'training life' saver - a way to squat!
Here is a little training update - Today I actually measured my waist (Oh yea! Feeling that bodybuilding pump dudes - actually I was measuring someone else & it came up :-).  I am at 29 inches around the waist, which is down by around a 1 & a half inches.  I did zero cardio, so you want the secret?....ok here's what I have been doing.  Basically I filled my plate with huge amounts of mashed potato (mashed with a whole avocado, a little soya milk & some raw spring onion mixed in - also a protein source & veggies), besides that I've been having a whole coconut every day or two (& of course all my other meals).  Just ignore the fact I'm an outlier & high fat &/or high carbs ramps up my metabolism to a ridiculous degree.  I can up my calorie intake & I can lose fat.  Sure my weight stays the same, or goes up a little, but I can eat a lot more & lose fat.  So, to be honest my 'eating system' would make 99% of you dough-boys...I was honestly not bothered about fat levels, actually the opposite.  I've been focussed more on trying to get my head around my limitations & 'sucky' exercises.
Today I found a way to squat!  That may not sound like a lot to you, but at the moment I fighting against some functional scoliosis - that is a muscular imbalance that pulls the spine over, it is not the permanent kind, but something you get if your back muscles get REALLY jacked up - I've had it on & off for a couple of years now.  I have tried a few therapies to sort it out, but basically it is finding that 'key' that will balance out the issues & things will get back on track (I can go into this more if you like, but we'll leave it there for now).  I think a lot of the reason the issue has lasted this long is that you need to do a load of 'sucky' exercises to help fix it.  I'll be frank, in training terms I am a 'meat & potatoes' type of trainee.  Give me squat, deadlift, bench, shoulder press, row & chin & I'll be happy.  Alternatively give me planks, side planks, shoulder bridges & endless stretching & I am unhappy.  That is just the way it is with me, so I have not been 100% happy going to the gym to hit a load of planks for time, then stretching out like a yoga guru.  At times the mood hits me I will 'just test out' something heavy & be back to square one, so today I decided I really had to get this fixed by 2013 so I can go for goals of seriously increasing my deadlift & possibly trying out Olympic weightlifting before the joints get too worn to consider it.  So, I have been playing around with versions I might like better of these exercises.  I have been doing planks in all four directions off of a bench (I hook my feet under a squat rack safety bar set at the correct height & do timed holds facing directly upwards, facing directly downwards, to each side & I experimented at also doing them with the body at 45 degrees, so think facing 10 O'clock, 2 O'clock, 4 O'clock, 7 O'clock, those were tough I had to learn how to support my weight at the unusual angles, I barely managed 30 seconds the first go), so I've got those to work with.  I'm going to include more things like ab roll-outs as those are kind of interesting, maybe work up to standing as at the moment I am on the knees.  As I mentioned earlier (see picture at the top) I also found a way to squat.  I own an ironmind squat squat hip belt which is an awesome tool, but the only way I've found to use it is to drag two benches together & use a loading pin in a rack, it's also tough getting up on the benches with the necessary weight (for a guy with back issues this causes REAL issues), today I experimented using bands & a jumpstretch platform, using this method doesn't involve climbing with weights around your waist onto a pair of benches, I did get stuck at the bottom as I underestimated the strength of the bands a little, but once I had that sorted I could do it ok.  Sure, the 'weight' ('tension' if you want to be more accurate) is a little light at the bottom, but the top it is tough & zero back involvement, also lightening up at the bottom is kind of good for now as I have issues towards the bottom, so I can live with that for now.  I will still keep trying out various weighted versions on the belt & see if I can get a floor based version that works, if I do that will be included in a month or so.  I'm also practising the position at the bottom of the snatch (a snatch squat stance with a stick for timed holds at various heights) & once I get better at those I'll begin including a 'snatch squat press' (think of being at the bottom of a weightlifting squat - rock bottom - then using a snatch grip pressing a very light bar overhead.  Again this will NOT be for strength, but kept light so you are doing what would be a form of dynamic stretching.  That won't be for a while yet. 

For the stretching I'm honestly still not sure of the best way to go?  Maybe I'll have to buy a yoga video or something?  I hate stretching, it's slow, it's dull, you don't lift big metal's really no fun for me, but it needs to get done.  I suppose 'sucking it up' is all about that.  Lifting heavy isn't so much about sucking it up if you want to do it, but stretching is all about it to me as I really loathe it & so I really do not do enough of it (or sometimes ANY of it!).

So, my training hasn't been heavy or consistent enough, but that will change from today (well the consistency, the heavy will have to wait a few more months).  I will be hitting things very regularly, until the end of the year.  It won't really be heavy weight training for a while yet.  I need to get the all-clear on the back before I can even consider a bar on the back or heavy overhead work, but stuff like inverted rows (Australian pull-ups to some of you), bodyweight pull-ups are ok, but weights around the waist causes too much traction & can cause issues, but I may test out a weight vest later in the year, that might just be ok as the traction moves from waist focus (which is bad for me right now) to shoulder traction (which is fine), I can also do push-ups, bench press (without an arch), ab work (flexion style) will be there as well as even with a bad back (no offence to Dr McGill here) flexion seems to be good for my back in moderation.  I've not got anything like a programme right now, nor really a progression pattern, which is very unusual for me, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what works & what doesn't, so this is an ongoing experiment.  I am really hoping the experience will make me better at coaching others & it certainly has given me a better perspective on people when they say they hate doing stuff.  The answer isn't always "I hate doing stuff, so do something else", sometimes the answer is "suck it up".   If you have a goal & that goal involves  doing a small part of 'sucky stuff' to reach the 'good stuff', then you either forget the goal or wade through that sucky mess you hate & drag yourself towards that good stuff on the horizon!  So, my answer to that has actually changed, like Captain Kirk, I always thought you could avoid the decisions you wanted to avoid (star trek reference!), but sometimes you have to take the hard, long windy route to get to your goals & this is one of those times.  My goals will hopefully be met in 2013, but from now until then I have a serious battle to fight.  If I truly want to make those goals I have to strip off & wade through the 'mess' of stretching daily (or several times daily), doing boring timed holds, grasp the brief pleasure with the band squats & a very few other selected exercises that will be my 'bread & butter' for a few months (I'm using a lot of very un-vegan references on this today, sorry!).  So I'll be 'sucking it up' for those months, but even after that I think I'll have to change to include a lot more of these things to keep myself healthy as I push towards a three times bodyweight deadlift & possibly an experiment with some Olympic style weightlifting (assuming I ever find a coach in the area that's any good & not just some guy who did a weekend course & got a 'cert' to teach O-lifting...really?...oh yea, there are a load of them out there!).

I thought you might be interested in what was going on as I've been kind of quiet of late about my actual goals & thought this might help you if you are going through issues of some kind.  Hopefully we can all work towards a 2013 that will give us awesome results!  So, if you know you have been avoiding stuff you should be doing, let's all get down doing the stuff that needs to get done.  Time to suck it up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

REVIEW: Veganicity Digestive aids

Many of us into training eat...I mean eat a LOT!  If you are bulking or trying to hold onto a weight above what would be normal sometimes cramming down chow can be harder than training.  One downside of this eating style can be digestive issues.  Not major, but sometimes eating for mass can cause a little bloating or discomfort.  This is down to cramming in so much, so often.  I know some will argue just eat less, but if you are trying to grow beyond what nature intended then eating to extreme is the only option.  Other people may not eat so much, but have issues with digestion.  Both of these people may benefit from digest enzymes & probiotics.

With all this in mind I was looking into digestive enzymes & probiotics by veganicity (a vegan supplement maker).  For full disclosure I did get the three products above for free to try (one of each) ...but I have since reordered as I found them pretty useful.  I'll cover them all below.

Digest-ase digestive enzyme

This product supplies enzymes that aid the breakdown of the macronutrients.  So, in simple terms these ingredients aid carbs breaking down into glucose, proteins breaking down into amino acids & breaking fats into small enough globules to be assimilated.  One thing that will be useless to any vegan in this product is the inclusion of lactase, the enzyme that helps break down lactose (milk sugar), but that is standard for all digestive enzymes (basically baby enzymes you had to digest your mothers milk).  That is the one thing I found 'negative' about this product from a vegan point of view (obviously the product itself is completely vegan!).  Unlike many digestive enzymes this one contains some probiotics as well as the usual enzymes, it also tastes fantastic.  I wouldn't be lying if I said this is possibly the best tasting supplement pill I've ever tasted!  If you like peppermint, then you will love this product, it tastes awesome (to me, bear in mind that your taste-buds may be different to mine).  It did also seem to make digestion easier when going for that 'gut buster' meal (obviously placebo might have had an effect, if you believe something will make things better, then things can appear better, I can only say that for me things seemed better taking them when I eat heavily).  So, yes, I am adding these to my diet.  If I'm gaining then I need to eat a lot, so would want to use them & if I was dieting I would want to get the maximum nutrition from the diet & so again it would make sense to include them (also these are like little treats they taste so good!).

Next up we have Megadophilus & Multi Probiotic both are probiotics,

I have written about these together as they are both related products Megadophilus is acidophilus & Multi Probiotic is a group of different probiotics.  Personally I am going to use Multi Probiotic as you get a selection of different friendly bacteria.  Here is a weird fact, there are actually more bacteria cells in you than human cells.  That's right, if you were being classified by an alien, would you be classed as a being inhabited by bacteria or a bacteria colony with a slight mammal involvement - infact it is commonly believed that there are 10 times as many bacteria cells than human cells within & on the surface of the average person (see wiki for some details), so you can see bacteria are pretty important to the human condition, in fact without your bacteria allies you would soon die!
The main issue with taking any bacteria supplement is a lot die going through the acid environment of the stomach.  There are a few ways to get around this.  One way is to include a glucose containing food in the diet as glucose seems to increase bacteria survivability in stomach transit (see here for study), so you could eat a meal (which usually has some glucose in it), or even add glucose if you prefer.  Bear in mind that it is possible that ALL bacteria survive the transit of the stomach better, so as well as friendly, you could get less friendly bacteria making it across this defensive barrier.  There is another option.  Most of the bacteria in the gut lives in the large intestine, so theoretically you can approach the adding of probiotics from the 'other end', so to speak. I have used this method when I have had very bad digestive issues in the past & it does seem to work...but there is no proof that I have so far found that shows that adding probiotics from the 'rear end' actually allows the bacteria to escape the anus.  My method has been to use those disposable gloves, puncture a capsule with a pin many times, then using coconut oil as a lube use the finger to slip it up there after you have defecated (so it has many hours to breed & spread).  As I said I have tried this out, but as far as I know there is no science to back it up, you may just be wasting a pill, but it does seem to work at firming up stools when that is an issue & generally getting you back to normal, regularity.  The main advantage I can see to the acidophilus is that is seems better suited to stomach survival being more acid resistant than some of the other strains & so more may survive.  You may want to consider taking a probiotic if you have recently ended a course of antibiotics (as these kill a lot of your gut bacteria & leave you open to attack from yeast or other unfriendly bacteria), if you suffer from yeast infections as bacteria is the natural enemy of yeast, if you have any mild occasional tummy issues (any serious or ongoing stomach issues go & see a health care specialist).  As I said my choice would be the Multi Probiotic.  Keep these in the refrigerator as they are a live bacteria.

Last bit on probiotics is I have heard of an ongoing study focussing on taking probiotics & cancer reduction - this study will take many years as people are being asked to take probiotics daily (orally), so the results won't be known for many years yet, but that will be interesting if there is a link between gut bacteria & cancer.

Final points

I think that the digestive enzymes are going to become a regular in my diet.  I won't go crazy & carry them about with me (unless I'm on some crazy bulk type eating pattern), but when I'm indoors these are going to become a regular.  The probiotics I didn't notice such an obvious effect (unless I get stomach issues then I have used them in the past with noticeable effect).  I don't think they will become a staple quite as much as the digestive enzymes, but they will be fairly frequent visitors.  I'll stick with the Multi Probiotic mostly I think.  The digest-ase has some probiotics in, so going for a while just using those probably won't lose you anything.  If I had something like IBS or similar I'd certainly consider hitting both the digestive enzymes & probiotics very hard (I'd also go & see a nutritional advisor see about getting some allergy testing done, also some stress management etc), it might be the first stage in a recovery plan.
Anyway, obviously veganicity are a vegan company, so if you can support them do. They also come along to many of the big vegan events around the UK & are great guys so check them out & give them your money if your after guaranteed vegan supplements.

You can check out Veganicity here

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Affiliates, referrals & integrity

WARNING: this is a rant post alert, it is an opinion piece about the state of the web-based side of our industry.  You have been warned :-)

This is a personal post.  I am not 'having a pop' at anyone else, but I have been asked a few times about the products & stuff that are put up as adverts & reviews on the various VBB sites.  I have a personal view about affiliate programs, this is not 'the right' answer, it is an opinion.  I believe referrals should be earned, not bought. I do not use affiliate links, I have endorsed products that have sent affiliate links, but I try to always remove the affiliate link.  Every product mentioned on here & on the other VBB sites are actually used by me &/or VBB members, or the product is created by a vegan athlete, bodybuilder or similar so might be of interest.
All the adverts on all the sites are again not done for cash, they are products members support.  We make no cash for adverts.
To honour full disclosure there are two 'kind of' exceptions to this rule.  The first is that on occasion a company will send out a product to test for free.  We're happy to try it out, but we always state we will only give honest reviews, if we don't like it we'll not put up stuff we don't feel about a product.  The second way is we do put up adverts for companies that sponsor our events.  This sponsorship is not in cash, but in the products they make & the companies we approach are chosen because members have used their products & find them useful, all of their product goes to people entering our contests, not to people within VBB.
So, the point is every product we review on this blog & on every site we run is actually a genuine referral, in the old school way, we get nothing for putting up something about a product & they have certainly been used, read or watched before reviews are written.  We do not use affiliate links & we do not make profit from adverts.  All the stuff written about reflect our honest thoughts, as we gain literally nothing by lying!
One thing that annoys me on websites, is you read a bit that sounds interesting, you are then told "To read more click here..." & it's an affiliate link to buy a product.  Often this is not made explicit at the start of the article, blog post etc.  We will NEVER do that!  I do not believe you need to do that, it is irritating to me & I tend to think, these people do not care about the product, they are just doing the affiliate thing & making cash - so probably the product is worthless.  It is sad when you are forced to these cynical conclusions, but I have bought too many of these affiliate-type products, they often turn out being a waste of cash, they are basically a blogpost, that has been expanded with puffery into a book, or a youtube clip expanded into a video.
The thing to look for in a review is that when they reach the part with the link see if there is a bit at the end (usually with the word 'hop' in there somewhere amongst the jumble of letters & numbers), this is an affiliate link, sometimes affiliates can get over 50% of the sale cost of a book!  Think about that, an affiliate can be getting more from the sale of that book than the author, just for putting a link on their website!  How good can that book REALLY be?  I tell you that sucks!   I want to see referrals done the old-fashioned way - you looked at a product, it was good, so you recommend it.  That's how we do it here, why not elsewhere?
So, I do thank everyone who has written (even the odd one's who have written suggesting we might be cashing in putting up these reviews...sorry guys, we aren't making a penny on those reviews, all read, watched or taken & then written about for nothing).  You may not agree with our reviews & we're fine about that, we are like you; students in the art of training & nutrition.  Like you we are learning & sharing what we've learnt, so it may not apply the same to you, if so let us know in the comments section of the article you have found an issue with, that way we can all learn a bit more & grow together towards being better coaches, trainers, lifters or athletes.
Sorry about the rant...but one too many emails asking the same I can refer them here...Yes, I do endorse this post 100% I recommend you read it :-) hee hee.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Summer Vegan Fete 2012

We've done a write-up about the first Summer Vegan Fete & the shoulder press contest we ran there.  Check it out here

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Is there a need for unstable training?

Is there ever a need for unstable training?  Well first off we have to define what unstable training is.  First off it can be divided into two 'camps':

1/ There is instability under the feet (or lower body if you are using kneeling for example)
2/ There is lifting an unstable object (think sandbag or weights on a barbell attached by bands etc)

I generally divide them into 2, but you can sub-divide as much as you want.

The first question you should ask is how often will I need this training & is it specific enough to transfer to the real world?
In terms of rehab all forms of unstable training have a use, but we are not really talking about that.  I'm talking about a healthy person & real world applicability, so let's look at the real world & see what we find.

Well for one thing we do often lift & carry things that are unstable.  It can be that bag of cement, that wheelbarrow, those heavy bags of shopping, loading that bag into the plane or train overhead, or onto a wardrobe, even carrying a sofa or mattress (the other person is ALWAYS an idiot - don't worry you are not being rude, they thought you were an idiot as well :-).  So, already we have two real world applications for unstable loads.  Carrying unstable loads & static overhead lifting of an unsteady load.  It would be odd to move with an unstable object overhead, possible on the shoulder, but rarely overhead.

But what about under the feet?  We could carry a load on sand or through mud, but I can't think of too many applications where you would statically lift a load on an unstable surface unless you worked on a ship possibly?

If you look at everyday life you will see that actually the vast majority of your unstable lifting is actually lifting an unstable load from a stable base, not lifting on an unstable surface, so it would make sense to actually practice lifting unstable loads more than it would to practice lifting on an unstable surface as it would apply to the real world (unless you work on a ship).

I'm sure leaping onto a bosu with a barbell on your back might be something you've seen on youtube, but honestly as you face-plant you will really regret that choice.  Lifting a sandbag may not be as cool as some of the newer wobble boards, rocker boards, bosu & other toys. Play with them if you like, but the (fake) meat & potatoes of your training should be done on a stable surface with a stable load to get the most strength gains.  One important note is I would never do power moves either with an unstable load or on an unstable surface, power is not only severely compromised by instability, but you increase the risk of injury a lot, it simply isn't worth it in my view.

So, if you should mainly do stable work & most of your unstable work should be mainly using an unstable load, not standing on an unstable surface is there a place for training while unstable under-foot?  I can think of a couple of obvious reasons.  One of the reasons I thought of writing this post was that I was recently diagnosed with a serious big toe issue (goes back to dropping a heavy weight on my toe years ago), anyway, there was some nerve damage & range of motion issues.  This has led over the years to me lifting asymmetrically, so bi-lateral lifting (lifting with both legs - think a normal squat or deadlift) & a lot of pressure is on one leg & little on the other.  Over the years this has begun to show itself with lower back pain as the two sides develop at different rates & I have all sorts of crazy compensations that will take a long time to fix.  One way to help will be to spend a little time lifting on some form of inverted bosu deadlift or similar as for the bosu to stay flat you HAVE to push equally with both legs.  I wouldn't suggest lifting heavy or even using a barbell without something to catch the bar if you fail.  I could only find this youtube clip (below).  I wouldn't suggest going heavy as you are trying to retrain the body to lift symmetrically on a stable surface, THAT is when the really heavy weight should be used.  On a bosu you should think of the time as 'technique training' not 'strength building'.
Here's a clip, but as I said if using a barbell think of doing it inside a power rack with the pins set to catch the bar, or use dumbbells & be  prepared to drop them (away from the body) if you lose control.

If you work at sea you might also need some time to practice this as well, or if you work on an unstable surface...BUT you can only train statically & in most unstable environments you are actually moving, so the transfer wouldn't be that great I don't think.  If you think about it moving is mainly a one leg activity, you walk, which means most of the time is on one leg in motion, this is very different to how you react when static.  Obviously anyone with ankle issues may benefit as it could be with a few other conditions.  Also if you enjoy doing unstable stuff then I'd say include it (unless it's really dangerous, then be sensible).

Here are a few versions you might find useful:

 OK I was doing rehab - yes the weight is tiny

(Above pic) Shoulder press with weight on a band (the band bounces a little & so causes instability), you can use a barbell, extended length shrug bar (sometimes called trap bar or parallel grip deadlift bar etc) or anything else you can figure out.

Bench press with weight on a band

Flye with weight on a band (not very 'real world', but you might like the change of pace for fun)

Pull-ups with a weight on a band might be useful to some

Farmers walk with weights on a band

I've not fathomed out how to do a DB or BB row with a band quite yet, but it might be possible?

Sandbag press overhead

Sandbag clean  (no handles taxes the grip a lot more)

Sandbag farmers walk (if you use a sandbag with no handles this is a real grip test as well!)

Slosh pipes (you can make your own with PVC piping, some water & few other bits & bobs to seal the ends)

For instability under the feet you can try out

Stability ball


Rocker board

Wobble board

My last point is if you are unsure about it then check the research.  I would suggest this resource as it's pretty good (& something I need to re-read now I've thought about it :-).

So, what are you experiences with unstable training?  This is purely an opinion piece so I am totally open to corrections & pointing out areas I've missed, so feel free to speak up.

And if anyone has a spare bosu they no longer need my imbalances would thank you for it as I've still not got round to getting one yet!

Who do you trust?

 Yes I may start giving training advice on the internet

This blog post came up in a discussion I was having with a person.  I was giving references from pubmed (a place where they gather medical, health & related studies that are all peer reviewed), they were using random pages they found on the internet.  So, I asked the question "That site you just referenced, do you trust the person to actually design you a training routine & use it?".  I never got an answer, but it did bring up a really interesting question.  The internet is vast, it has everyone on it, from the 8 year old to the 108 year old.  Anyone of them could start a blog.  For example I could start one about needlework.  I know nothing about it, but given the right spin I could become a needlework guru :-).
So, what I'd like you to do is start considering who you trust in the field of exercise & nutrition.  Basically you need to find out who you would want to actually train you or give you nutritional advice (these are often not the same people).

 Training advice anyone?

First of all anyone giving you training advice should have trained someone.  I know this sounds stupid, but there are a lot of voices out there that are actually just people who have either trained themselves only, or not trained even themselves!  Occasionally you can get the exception of some advice from an academic who may not train, but is in the field of sports science, but most of those work with athletes as well, but apart from that you want someone with some experience.  Often a person is, or has been certified by an organisation, it can be ISSA, NASM, ACSM, etc.  These at least give you an idea that they have learnt the basics & aren't going to do something too stupid (I was ISSA, but I'm considering a move to ACSM as the ISSA was pretty expensive to keep up).  Extra education in things like anatomy is great.  I took a year doing anatomy & physiology - looking back I kind of wish I'd done some form of 'functional anatomy', something that covered the body in motion, as I know the muscles, bones, major nerves etc, but have less knowledge of those structures in action which is what I'm really interested in.  I've also taken specialist courses in things like fibromyagia working with special populations & several others that have been pretty useful.  I think most people really interested will have taken other qualifications just expand their base of knowledge, but maybe some are more 'practice led' & may have learnt more by doing.
So, how do you pick someone you should trust in the field of training? It is hard, but I'd suggest you first check if they have or had a certification of some sort (they may not need to keep it up once they are in the field).  They probably should have some interest in continuing their education, this can be academically or practically - you can get a lot going to a seminar by a well known presenter, training with a someone as well as hitting the books!  Look at who respect the author, are they known by other people you already respect?  Also does what they say actually make sense?  Find a group of authors you would actually be willing to be trained by, from there you will often find others who also share those sound training ideas.  They may not have identical training methods, that isn't the issue, but they should have sound reasons for doing the stuff they do.
The final point is you have to spend enough time learning this, you need to be able to tell the genuine article from the pointless internet article.  Below I'll put a few names of people who I think are decent sources of training (not dietary) advice.  You may not agree with these choices, there are certainly other voices out there with different ideas that are probably valid, but these people work in the fields I am interested in, so check them out & see the differences & commonalities between them, it will at least give you a starting point:

Cassandra Forsythe
Dan John            
Eric Cressey
Mike Boyle 
Dr Yessis 
Mike Robertson 
Gray Cook 
Coach Dos (who is also vegan :-)

You will notice a few things about these people.  They are all athletic, not bodybuilding coaches.  I have nothing against bodybuilding coaches, there are a great many excellent bodybuilding coaches out there.  The main thing I am finding, especially as I age is function has to play a larger part & should actually have come in before I felt a need for it, most bodybuilding coaches do not cover this very much (if at all), so I find more directly applicable information using coaches who cover things like dysfunction, activation, imbalances & other issues like that, rather than just bodypart splits.  Also the progression models used by these suit me better & make more sense to me personally.  I have found that using the 'progression/regression' model to be an awesome way to train people (& myself), for those who do not know I'll use a simplified example, lets take a lunge:

1/  Start by perfecting a static lunge (a split squat) using only bodyweight
2/ Next move onto a walking lunge (again just your own bodyweight)
3/ Lunge to the rear &/or laterally using only bodyweight
4/ You might add a pair of dumbbells & first do a split squat
5/ Once mastered move onto a walking lunge with dumbells
6/ Lunge to the rear &/or laterally with dumbbells
7/ Lunge to the rear with a deficit with a single dumbbell (stepping backwards off a small box with the dumbbell in the opposite hand to the leg that stays on the box-the 'deficit' is the extra depth stepping off the small box gives you)
8/ Other variations like using a barbell(across the shoulders or held on one shoulder), lunges with one dumbbell, lunges with a dumbbell or kettlebell in the waiter-walk position (held overhead like a waiter bringing a tray) etc.

Just remember that 'regression' is not a bad thing & progression along this list isn't the goal exactly, the goal is getting you into the best physical shape, so you may have 'progressed' to number 7, but you may find that actually doing number 5 is giving you better results, so 'regressing' is actually giving you better results (I do not really like  the terms 'progression' & 'regression', but they are industry standards now,so I am forced to use them).

In most cases I'd teach a bi-lateral movement first (like a squat using both legs) before I teach a unilateral movement (like a single leg squat) & a static exercise before I introduce movement.
I'm not saying this is the only way to train, or even that it is always the best method, but it does work fine for me.  If you train very differently I suspect you'll have your own group of trainers you trust, so listing them in the comments below would be awesome. 

He's not a trainer, he's just a very naughty boy!

OK, I've gone off track a little it on this post :-/  So next up let's look at nutrition.  This can be trickier as many of you have different notions of what you consider 'healthy'.  Some go for 80:10:10, some go high protein, some go lower carbs, some are starting out with the vegan paleo versions of eating.  My dietary stance is pretty basic.  For the average person just eating whole food is a great starting place.  If you've been eating McD all your life then a salad & some quinoa is going to make your body think it's gone to heaven!  I prefer as much organic stuff as you can get, but do not avoid food just because it's not organic (it's better to eat than to not eat!).  I understand if you have a different view.  I try not to be dogmatic about my eating protocols, if you have clients then I find that for most a graduated approach to making changes. The easiest meal to change up for most clients is breakfast, so I usually start there, from there I get them into checking out cookbooks (or no-cook books if you are raw :-)  finding stuff they like, while the rest of the diet stays static.  One thing you have to keep an eye on is calories as clients often do not notice that their calories drop as their diets improve.  This can be good for the obese client, but for the person wanting to add or even maintain muscle this can be the 'kiss of death' to their body composition, so be aware, remind a client they will need to eat more to maintain the calories they were previously eating, this is vital or you will lose a client, or if you are your own client you WILL lose that muscle!
So, who do I trust with my diet.  I have had a lot of help getting my dietary ideas sorted out with the help of Pat Reeves.  Some of you may not know that she is not just a World record holding powerlifter, but also a nutritional expert, others I have had help from are Robbie Hazeley & Gareth Zeal.  I have also got a lot of information from books & I am also a qualified sports nutritionist & clinical nutritionist (in '13 I am going back to uni to do some more nutrition/human biology stuff - assuming I get in of course!).

Notice the common theme in all this is continuing education.  It doesn't have to be formal education, set aside 1 hour every day just to do 'learning stuff'.  It can be nutrition, exercise, recovery or whatever.  I buy a lot of educational stuff.  I read a lot, I view things virtually everyday to do with physical improvement in one way or another.  This isn't a chore to me as it's something I really, really enjoy doing.  You may not..& you do not need to, what you need to do is just find a few people who do & use them to help you achieve your goals.  Do not blindly follow anyone though, learn just enough to know that what you actually reading makes sense, then if that comes into question know how to validate the statements or prove them wrong.  A couple of resources you might want to use are:

Google scholar
Vegan bodybuilding list of resources   (we've gathered a list of places for you to use to do your own research)

Be aware you can get animal studies pop up on these resources & it may take you a bit of time to learn how to use them & understand the language used (google is great for helping you find words they use & getting used to the language :-).

So, now hopefully you have a better understanding of how to decide what is or is not valid information & you will be less likely to fall for things on the net.  If you hear a view that is challenged first look at the science (pubmed, google scholar etc), next up go to your list of trusted coaches & see what they say.  Find a consensus, that may not be the correct answer, but it is more likely to be than believing what John Smith said on his blog when you do not know John Smith & for all you know John Smith does not even train himself (or may be 13 years old!).

Hopefully this has bee useful to you & you can use it to help you make reasonable choices & not fall for all the hype, lies & misinformation on the net.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

REVIEW: Nuique DHA/EPA pills

The brand new algae-based DHA/EPA pill on the market is from Nuique.  But before I get into that lets talk about DHA/EPA in general terms.  DHA & EPA are the oils that gained fame through fish oil products.  You can actually create DHA & EPA yourself from oils found in walnuts, flax seed (linseed), hemp seeds or chia seeds.  I suspect a lot of you are taking at least one of these regularly so why do you need a DHA/EPA pill at all if you can make it yourself?
For those in training (whether for health, competition, muscle gain or fat-loss) it is a matter of getting 'optimal' amounts.  Everything from gut health, stress, enzyme limitations & even activity levels can affect the transition of the omega 3 fatty acid ALA into DHA or EPA.  These fats are actually vital to health & for anyone in training you could think of these fats as great for repair & creation of cells, for maximising hormones & they are also used by the brain for nerve repair & synapse function.
Assuming you eat something like walnuts, flax seeds or hemp you probably won't become deficient in DHA/EPA, but you may not reach optimal levels, so you may be training your butt off, resting enough, cutting down on stress, but still not getting all the gains you are after.  Having enough DHA/EPA also seems to affect fat storage this is because when you are short the body switches up fat storage to try & grab every ounce of omega-3 fatty acids it can find & any other fat is just stored away as a by-product of that process, so if fat-loss is a goal you could be short changing yourself by not taking DHA/EPA pill.
So, with that in mind I prefer everyone I train to be taking DHA/EPA whatever their goal is, unless they a specific issue like excessive bleeding or similar as DHA/EPA can thin the blood, so consult your doctor before starting this supplement if that is the case.
Now you have some idea why you may want to take a DHA/EPA pill, but why take an algae-based pill as there are so many fish-based ones out there?  Well, first of all there is the obvious ethical issue.  Fish are animals, so avoiding killing them for a pill is always a good idea!  Secondly fish actually get the DHA/EPA from algae in the first place, but whereas algae are at the bottom of the food chain, krill & fish are both much higher up that chain & so toxins can build up in fats the higher up the food chain it goes, so whereas DHA/EPA from algae is ultra pure & free from virtually all contamination, you cannot guarantee the same sort of purity in any of the krill or fish based oils out there, so getting an algae-based oil makes total sense whatever dietary choice you make.  Finally you have to remember that DHA/EPA makes up only some parts of krill or fish oil which also contains saturated fats & other non-vital fats in their make-up & so some of the product is just extra fat in your diet.
There are several brands of algae-based DHA/EPA on the market right now, so let's look at the differences.  Most of the pills have around the same amount of DHA & EPA in them, but a couple of advantages with the Nuique brand are:
1/  They contain nothing but DHA & EPA - no other oils are added to bulk the product, so you get zero unnecessary added fat in your diet, you only get the Essential Fatty Acids you are after with nothing added, nothing taken away.  Some of the other brands have things like added omega-6 fatty acids, which are an essential fatty also, but everyone easily gets enough of them already.

2/ The second point relates to the first.  Due to the pills being only filled with DHA & EPA, with nothing else, they are also the smallest & easiest pills to swallow in this class that I have seen, so if you have any issues swallowing pills, then this could be vital to you.  I must admit I did a test of biting one open & it did kind of taste of the sea, that is about the best description I can give.  It was not horrible by any means, so if you really cannot swallow any pill then you can always pop it & either squeeze it into your mouth, add to a shake or similar.

Taking DHA/EPA could help achy joints, could help brain function, could help the immune system & could  help cells repair or replace as necessary.  Any one of these reasons should be enough for a person to consider adding this supplement to their list of regularly taken.  Adding a couple of pills costs pennies & could save a person so much that it hardly seems worth considering 'not' doing it!  So, if you are looking for a pill that contains only DHA & EPA & doesn't contain any fillers or other products you may not want, then this should product should definitely be one on your list to check out.
For more details check out & at the time of writing they are offering a 3 for the price of 2 offer, so it really is dirt cheap to try out!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Stress & training

Today I am going to talk about some factors that are often overlooked in training.  You know how you can be going along nicely, all those gains are coming like clockwork & that new PR seems just around the corner, then suddenly WHAM! the gains dry up, the strength goes down & you are like a shadow of yourself just a week ago?  There are obviously a multitude of reasons for this to occur, but I would like to talk about one.
I would like to talk about stress.  Stress is a misunderstood term in many ways.  When you train you are in fact causing stress, every action or inaction results in a 'stress load' & each human has a unique 'stress threshold' which they cannot rise above, or can only do so briefly & with dire consequences.
Below I am going to use a really oversimplified example to get the idea across, so do not take this as literal, but as a means to get the idea lodged in your head.
First off with stress the body does not appear to differentiate between physical & mental stress, it appears to be lumped under one 'stress' banner.  This means that worry about a debt can be as hard on the body as say a serious deadlift session.  Secondly you have a set upper limit to the amount of stress you can recover from, if you go above that you will then cause serious repercussions to both your physical & mental well being.
So, let's move on to our hypothetical trainer called Bob.  Bob training 3 days a weeks pretty heavy & has made some decent gains, his job is ok, his relationship is ok & so is his life in general.  You could say if you had to draw it out the stress in his life would look something like:
His total stress is such that he can hit it hard in the gym & still recover really well.  Remember things like lack of sleep & partying can be stress (these can be piled into 'Life Stress'), but Bob doesn't party hard very often & is generally ok with his sleeping.  So, Bob trains, he makes gains slowly, but fairly steadily, obviously there are ups & downs, but generally Bob is doing ok.
Unfortunately Bob is in for a bit of bad news.  Bobs wife suddenly announces she is leaving him.  Bobs is shocked, he didn't expect this!  Suddenly, the 'Relationship stress' is through the roof!  If Bob tries to continue with his usual routine he may for a while be able to push through, but more than likely something will give!  He knows he has to continue with his job, possibly his 'Life stress' will go up as some things they shared, Bob now has to do.  The only thing that can really give is the training, so Bob's new stress pie chart could look something like:
Notice in this example Bob now has much less capacity to hit it in the gym. We used the simplified version where his work stress remained the same & so did his life stress, just to make this simple idea to understand, but obviously everything changes.  If you think about it this pie chart actually changes everyday.  There is also some spare capacity built-in to the system as you are not working with 100% of your maximum stress load everyday, but you get the idea - if stress increases in one area, it can adversely effect another area.  So, sometimes, during times of crisis (high stress) it is not only ok to back-off, but fairly vital.  You can create a basic, abbreviated routine using a couple of compound movements & work just on those.  I would not suggest quitting training, but modify them to suit times of stress.  If you have an exam, or a vital deadline, then working out out quickly can be a double bonus as you'll have more time to get the vital thing done.  If it's a death in the family or a divorce then you could find that you have little option other than backing off as the strength may be well down.
Remember higher stress also affects sleeping, eating & focus, so your training can be hit badly from multiple effects & it can seem that you fade to nothing in a week or so.  You just have to remember that this is just a temporary thing, you have not 'lost' that strength in one week, you have just put that capacity into recovery from another issue.  Once you are back on track you can regain & supersede that strength, but you have to give yourself time to get past the present issue.  Take things slowly, try to hold onto what strength you can, but do not 'stress it' (that will make things worse), it is better to crush 75% of your previous best & still be a winner in the gym, than fail at 90% & feel that extra stress of failure.  Lightening &/or shortening your routine will keep most of your strength during stressful periods & keep you ready to hit new highs when circumstances change.
Hopefully you can refer back to this the next time you hit a stressful patch in your life, or if you have friends who are going through this, then help them sort out their training, reassure them that this is not a permanent situation & advise them on ways they can survive & still come out with their training intact ready to fore fill new, exciting goals.
Finally there are ways you can lower stress.  Taking walks in nature, meditation, massage (not deep tissue), relaxing hobbies, sometimes reading, you know the sort of thing that calms you down & relaxes you, or find some new things that may lower that overall stress.  Lowering overall stress will aid your training goals, so take the time to discover a few ways you can ditch the stress & those gains will come in leaps & bounds!
So let's stay calm out there :-)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

REVIEW: How to give a shit about your health (book)

As far as I know Karina Inkster is new to the field of health writing, at least I've never come across her before.  The book title might be a bit off-putting to some of you, but remember having names like "Skinny bitch" didn't do that book much harm, so if the name isn't to your taste, just ignore it & get into the what the book is all about.
The book is 100% plant based dietary information & is obviously written by someone who eats & trains, so they know our goals & understand the best ways to achieve them.  It is more of a 'getting started' book, but even for those of us who have been into it for a while it's still nice to read someone else's take on what needs to be done.  She advocates basic vegan wholefoods, nothing too weird or wonderful, covers basic foods you'll need to get you started, ways to avoid falling for sugary drinks cravings, covers the essential fatty acids issue, even includes recipes & of course basic training.  The only issue I found missing was I don't remember reading about the importance of B12 (which should, in my view be added to every athletes diet whether they are meat eaters, veggies or vegan). 
One other fact is the book is cheap.  Karina obviously wanted the book 'out there', so priced it in a way that means, you can easily buy one for yourself & a couple of friends who may be interested in moving towards a healthier lifestyle (that can either be a vegan in need of some health tips, a non-vegan in need of diet &/or health advice).
I would recommend this as a good starter pack if you want to move towards a healthier lifestyle.  I would actually say this is a much more sound program than say the 'Skinny bitch' approach, this program will actually get you heading towards optimal health.
To get the book click here & to check out more about Karina go to here site here (just a hint she also does personal training & nutritional advice if you need it).
As usual I get nothing for reviewing this, I just read the book & liked it & hopefully you will too!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

REVIEW: Reflex Nutrition's Vegan Protein

I got a tub of this new protein powder just the other day.  I went with the strawberry flavour as I am quite fond of the old red berry.  It's unusual to have a product called something like "Vegan Protein" rather than "mega-pump 10,000" or similar, which made for a nice change & for once you do not have to ask if it is suitable for vegans :-)

So, let's look at what's in it first, you can read a full list here.  It is basically a souped up pea protein that is lightly coloured (natural colouring), sweetened with stevia & has added stuff like probiotic, digestive enzymes etc.  It is 18.5g of protein per serving with a 1% carbs & 1.5% fats.  I think adding the digest enzymes & probiotic is a really good idea as large amounts of protein hitting the stomach without all those little micronutrients sometimes does need a little help getting into you (especially if you have several shakes a day, getting bad gas can be a bitch!).

Obviously with protein you don't get anything like a caffeine rush or similar "Wow! this is working man!" type of effect, so we'll get onto to taste.  As I said I have only tried out the strawberry, but that is pretty awesome!  It might be the best tasting protein out there (certainly top two or 3!).  If you have been put off by taste before then I'd suggest you give this one a go.  I actually played about a bit & found adding a banana or two & mixing with soya milk gave you a pretty good milkshake!  I'm guessing you could play about & make desserts with this product as well, maybe making a mousse-like effect or other treats that can be made using a flavoured protein powder (that's a challenge to all you cooks out there-let's have some recipes).
Other good points about Reflex Nutrition is that it uses green technology to produce their products, so less energy is wasted & it uses only renewable energy!

I give a big thumbs up to this new protein & I will be getting the other flavours over time, if you've tried them post below!

Between the 8- 13 July 2012 we will be running a contest to win your own tub of this fab new protein, so pop over to the facebook group here & check out the contest!
If you don't win, no worries simply pop over to here & check out the different flavours.  I can 100% recommend the Strawberry & hopefully the others will be just as good!

Vegan Health & fitness magazine

Is a new magazine produced in the US.  I've seen the first issue & it's pretty good.  We need a magazine like this, so if you can support this by subscribing then that would be great.  Paper copies are available in both the US & now UK!  In the rest of the world you can still enjoy the magazine in e-magazine format.  As a member you get the magazine & access to the members area of the website.
To get the magazine or to just a peep into some of the first issue pop over to here & see what all the fuss is about!

REVIEW: Matt Vincent Training lab (book)

This was a book I got simply out of interest.  I am not into highland games, nor do I have any plans to train for or work with anyone interested in highland games.  I have never even been to a highland games event before.  Saying all that this is an interesting read.  It is not a long read (I was done in an evening), it does give you an idea of what you would have to do if you have compete over a long season, how to peak & also mentions the point that you cannot 'peak' for a whole season, you have to pick the time to excel during that season (a point missed in many, many publications).  I found it a useful guide for any strength athlete with a longer session & it could be used as such (you simply swap out the throwing with the skill work of your choice).  The concepts were pretty sound & as it's an ebook you could have it in moments if you think this might be of interest to you.
I'm not sure how many vegan highland games athletes there are in the world (if you are one I would love to hear from you!), but if you are then get this book, if you are interested in different styles of strength training then get this book.
It uses a form of block periodisation system with strength, speed/power & volume sections.  It also covers CV work, recovery, even what to take to highland games 'event' ('meet' or whatever you call a collection on competing highland games athletes?)
Final points, this book does have a few swear words in it (but if you've read any modern powerlifting stuff you know what to expect), just ignore that & find the useful nuggets.
You can get the book from here as usual we gain nothing from this review, just thought you'd find it useful.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Oslo Vegetarfestival 2012

Last week we headed North into Norway to attend the Oslo Vegetarfestival.  You can check out the full story at

Monday, 11 June 2012

The importance of Vitamin K2

This is basically a post to thank the guys at veganicity.  I wanted to find a vegan vitamin K2 & these boys went out of their way to supply it!  So, this post is dedicated to them going the extra mile to supply something that I think will improve performance & longevity for all plant-based athletes over the longer term, so thanks guys!  & if you want to get a guaranteed vegan society approved vitamin K2 then I suggest you check out veganicity first.  The vitamin K2 can be found here & the main site for there substantial range of 100% vegan supplements can be found here.  You can get everything from multi-vits to digestive aids & everything inbetween (& they are nice blokes in person as well) so go check them out ... & they didn't even pay me for saying all that :-)
Now on with the actual post...

Would you like something that helps the blood clot, protects you from heart disease & arterial congestion, can fight off cancer & helps the bones stave-off osteoporosis? Welcome to the world of vitamin K!
Let’s start with the basics.  Vitamin K comes in several ‘flavours’; first off we have vitamin K1 (phytonadione).  If you are eating a variety of green leafy vegetables, then the chances are you will be getting enough of this vitamin.  It is found is chard, spinach, parsley, brussel sprouts & many other green, leafy foods.  If you are eating a variety of greens then getting this vitamin should not be an issue.
So, we have the first recommendation, eat you greens!

Let’s jump to the third member of the vitamin K family.  Vitamin K3 is a synthetic version (menadione).  It is used as a drug rather than a supplement & so we don’t really need to talk about it in this article.

The vitamin K that has people dancing in the streets right now is vitamin K2 (menaquinone).  This has two branches to its family tree MK4 & MK7.  MK4 is the easiest to cover as you can convert vitamin K1 directly into MK4 within the body & so as long as you are getting enough vitamin K1 you are likely to be getting enough vitamin K2 (MK4 type) – Note, that this is not gut dependant, it occurs within certain tissues of the body[i].  So, we can leave the MK4 version vitamin K2 behind as well for now & move onto the big player in the vitamin K2 family MK7.  So, why is MK7 different?  MK7 is produced by fermentation.  So, it can occur in some fermented foods[ii] & can also be produced in the gut by bacteria[iii].  

So, if we can produce it via gut & we get it from fermented foods, then why the hype about it?  First let’s look at some of the foods we can get it from.  Natto is fermented soya beans.  It is by far the highest source of vitamin K2 you can eat, the down side is it has the consistency of lumpy snot.  The way you can eat it is to mix it into soups, stews or rice after cooking.  Don’t try to eat it neat (like some of us did when we first got it!), it is pretty bad unless diluted & even then some people cannot stomach it.  Next up we have things like sauerkraut, this is a fermented cabbage; it is not as packed with vitamin K2 as natto, but still ok.  Again, this food is an acquired taste if you aren’t German (every German I know has eaten this).  I’ve contacted many of the major soya yoghurt manufacturers & so far they all say that soya yoghurt contains no vitamin K2 & I’m not sure about foods like tempeh as I’ve been unable to find any research done on the K2 levels in this food.

So, if you like natto & sauerkraut & are willing to eat those on regular basis, that, plus the bacteria in your body will mean that most people will probably have reasonable levels of vitamin K2.  Issues can arise though.  The first one is I’m betting that many of you do not fancy the idea of natto or sauerkraut on a regular basis.  If you don’t then there it is unclear exactly how much vitamin K2 is synthesised in the gut even though it has been shown to be a source of vitamin K2[iv],[v].  There are also several issues that can affect assimilation.  Gut health, bacteria in the gut, liver disease, even stress[vi] may affect gut assimilation.  So, if in any doubt you can always get take a vitamin K2 pill.  They are cheap & cover you just incase (always eat some food containing fat with your vitamin K supplement).

So, now you know all the differences between the vitamin K types, what does vitamin K2 do?  It seems that vitamin K2 has a special place in bone care, you can protect those bones by having vitamin K2 regularly[vii],[viii], so for those who may have bone issues or are post menopausal or are slightly older then taking note of your vitamin K2 may be something you should think about.  Next up we have cancer protection.  Cancer is one of the biggest killers in the western world, so if there is something that can help lessen your chances then everyone should be taking notice!  There are  many studies now where vitamin K2 has been shown to help cause the death of cancer cells before they get a chance to multiply & kill you[ix],[x]!  It can also help protect the liver[xi], it also helps alleviate calcium deposits in the cardiovascular system[xii], protects a person from heart disease[xiii]   & we are finding other benefits every day!
So, my final take home points are:
  •         Make sure you are eating enough vitamin K1 foods (green leafy stuff),every day 
  •          Eat a vitamin K2 source daily (natto, sauerkraut etc) or take a supplement
  •         If you have any issues with cardiovascular health, liver illness, heart problems or cancer then talk to your medical professional about taking extra vitamin K2 (talk first, you may be on medication that doesn’t mix well with vitamin K2)
  •        Blood thinners interfere with vitamin K utilisation & so consider talking to your medical professional about vitamin K supplementation if you are on any of these medications

[i] Okano T, Shimomura Y, Yamane M, Suhara Y, Kamao M, Sugiura M,Nakagawa K. Conversion of Phylloquinone (Vitamin K1) into Menaquinone-4 (Vitamin K2) in Mice. The Journal of Biological Chemistry VOL. 283, NO. 17, pp. 11270–11279, April 25, 2008
[ii] Kaneki M, Hedges SJ, Hosoi T, Fujiwara S, Lyons A, St.John Crean, Ishida N, Nakagawa M, Takechi M, Sano Y. Japanese fermented soybean food as the major determinant of the large geographic difference in circulating levels of vitamin K2.  Nutrition, Volume 17, Issue 4, Pages 315-321
[iii] Conly JM, Stein K, Worobetz L, Rutledge-Harding S. The contribution of vitamin K2 (menaquinones) produced by the intestinal microflora to human nutritional requirements for vitamin K. Am J Gastroenterol. 1994 Jun;89(6):915-23.
[iv] Conly JM, Stein K, Worobetz L, Rutledge-Harding S. The contribution of vitamin K2 (menaquinones) produced by the intestinal microflora to human nutritional requirements for vitamin K.  Am J Gastroenterol. 1994 Jun;89(6):915-23.
[v] Conly JM, Stein K.  The production of menaquinones (vitamin K2) by intestinal bacteria and their role in maintaining coagulation homeostasis.  Prog Food Nutr Sci. 1992 Oct-Dec;16(4):307-43.
[vi] Stress and the sensitive gut. Harvard Medical school
[vii] Plaza SM, Lamson DW.  Vitamin K2 in bone metabolism and osteoporosis.  Alternative Medicine Review : a Journal of Clinical Therapeutic [2005, 10(1):24-35]
[viii] Shiraki M,Shiraki Y, Aoki C, Miura M.  Vitamin K2 (Menatetrenone) Effectively Prevents Fractures and Sustains Lumbar Bone Mineral Density in Osteoporosis.  Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.  Volume 15, Issue 3, pages 515–521, March 2000
[ix] Yoshida T, Miyazawa K, Kasuga I, Yokoyama T, Minemura K, Ustumi K, Aoshima M, Ohyashiki K.  Apoptosis induction of vitamin K2 in lung carcinoma cell lines: the possibility of vitamin K2 therapy for lung cancer.  Int J Oncol. 2003 Sep;23(3):627-32.
[x] Yaguchi M, Miyazawa K, Katagiri T, Nishimaki J, Kizaki M, Tohyama K, Toyama K.  Vitamin K2 and its derivatives induce apoptosis in leukemia cells and enhance the effect of all-trans retinoic acid.  Leukemia : Official Journal of the Leukemia Society of America, Leukemia Research Fund, U.K [1997, 11(6):779-87]
[xi] Habu D, MD, Shiomi S, Tamori A, Takeda T, Tanaka T, Kubo S, Nishiguchi S. Role of Vitamin K2 in the Development of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Women With Viral Cirrhosis of the Liver.  JAMA. 2004;292(3):358-361. doi: 10.1001/jama.292.3.358
[xii] Schurgers LJ, Aebert H, Vermeer C, B├╝ltmann B, Janzen J. Oral anticoagulant treatment: friend or foe in cardiovascular disease? Blood November 15, 2004 vol. 104 no. 10 3231-3232
[xiii] Gast GC, de Roos NM, Sluijs I, Bots ML, Beulens JW, Geleijnse JM, Witteman JC, Grobbee DE, Peeters PH, van der Schouw YT.  A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Sep;19(7):504-10. Epub 2009 Jan 28.