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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