Monday, March 30, 2009

Creatine, Beta Alanine, Citrulline malate, and more b2d

Hi folks who read b2d.

Please forgive the delay in a new article. This is a placeholder just to say what i'm working on at the moment in the midst of a sea of deadlines in the real world, and that is, to look at research on what may become known as a super trio for strength work. The first is Creatine, an established supplement for strength work. The second is beta-alanine, something that a couple of years ago was being propped as "the new creatine." In this regard people weren't suggesting that BA was the same as creatine, but that it was looking to establish as consistent a testing record to help support strength work. That's the biggie: consistent, strong research results. Citruline Malate is both the newer and older kid on the supplement block, but again, the research suggests there's something interesting going on here.

Of the three, creatine has been the most studied and citruline malate the least - part of the issue with citruline malate apparently has been the cost of producing it. It's still not cheap, but it's apparently substantially cheaper than when excercise scientists were first looking at it. If you look at pubmed, for instance, you'll see the last human study is 2002, and the latest study, 2009, is in rats. So why's it worth looking at? because of who's been talking it up.

The goal of the article will be to look at the differences in each of these supplements - a bit about why they do what they (seemingly) do, and why they may just be such an awesome and safe combination not only to enhance strength work, but just to be good for us.

Fast take away: creatine really is a useful supplement for power lifting work. Beta-Alanine, seems to let one work harder longer for HIIT type work, and more hypertrophic set work; CM *seems* to be promising for general fatigue reduction in aerobic exercise. This last point is a big deal because it seems to suggest that it is keeping phosphocreatine/ATP levels up so that that energy source can be used longer before fatiguing. I'm really curious about that one.

Oh, a quickie on BA - i've been using it lately in my own HIIT work, and maybe it's psychosomatic or maybe it's that i've just gotten stronger, but i can hit higher levels for longer it seems when i've been doing BA. That's totally anecdotal folks, but i'm fascinated.

So, it will take a little while for me to get this article together for y'all due to work commitments but wanted to let you know what's on the stack.

Also, in a related note to techno that helps recovery - awhile ago i reviewed centerpointe's holosync recordings for getting brainwaves into slower sleep-related wave patterns. Well, i've recently been investigating some other approaches for well being, including some stuff around the notion of "letting go" of a feeling. It's called the Sedona Method, and the free cd actually lays out the approach. Letting go and drawing in and allowing one'self to have and other urfie flurfy terms end up being pretty grounded in rationale way-clearing to get at the actual work we might want to do towards a goal.

Will come back to that when i have more direct experience of the protocol, but in the mean time, two things to consider that i'm getting from this. First, feelings are just feelings, and they can be dropped. How does that sound to you? Say you're angry, and a voice says "could you imagine not being angry? when? how about now?"

Rather shocking, eh?

And another one: if you do say to yourself "i allow myself to be happily successful" - what feelings come up around that? doubt? fear? pride? are they related to issues around security? approval?

The idea it seems (i'm still investigating) is that, so called "positive thinking" doesn't do enough to acknowledge the stuff that comes up around such "positive thoughts" that may be blocking us from our own success. i wonder how this might operate around things like my quest to press the 24 - or to pistol it (ha!. no really. that's a toughie for me mentally). Lots of folks say "you have to believe to be able to achieve" right? But the thing here is, letting go of that desire. So "i allow myself to get to pistoling a 24" just to say "and can you let go of that?"

Now that letting go of the goal to achieve the goal seems contrary to what most of us work on whether in strength goals or any other goals, so i'm curious to see where this approach may lead. Hmm.

Oh and one more thing: if i can (they don't know it yet), i'd like to get Mikey T and Georgie Fear talking about Vitamin D here. You literally read that here first, but here's why i'd like to talk with them: they've both talked about vitamins, they're both smart folks doing their PhD's in related areas, and Vit D (and vitamins generally) are a topic of concern - especially in the context where folks feel they get their Daily Requirements from real food (Georgie, Mike, if you're reading this, i will email)

Anyway friends of b2d thanks for reading, and lots on tap.

(who has pressed a 20kg kb all of four times total now. i mean that's it. ever - not in a row, but the latest was two days in a row :))

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Vibram FiveFingers Weather and Airport Update: keep your VFF's ON!

Ok, so on this ides of March (vale, Ceaser) yet another post about vibram fivefingers (previous one here), but what the heck. This is two surprises: airports and freezing cold streets.

COLD WEATHER - just add sox.
Much to my surprise, i've found that even in -1C, the Flows are great outside on pavement when paired with a pair of injinji sox. These were the temperatures i found myself experiencing in Indiana this past week when the temperatures dropped from 21C to below freezing. That my vff footwear still protected my toes from frost bite made me very happy.

One thing that is a bit of a challenge is the polar opposite of that kinda dry cold: up in Canada, the weather went from -20C (very dry veeeerrry cold) to +1. Slush resulted. Puddles with every ice melting step. This is not fun for flows - the toes will get wet as the gunk comes up over one's tootsies.

Take away: bare feet can do around 4C well; colder, just put your sox on in the flows and as long as it's dry, well you've just extended the wear life of free feet.

I've recently gone through 10 security checks in one week. Each time i had my vibrams on. Not once was i asked to take off the flows. Indeed, most security staff commented on how great they looked and how comfy. They took them to be sox, and i did not dissuade them. Maybe it helped that i had a pair of sneakers in the bucket (was carrying these around for the -15 weather).

Anyway, VFF's are fabulous for being on a plane - you just feel more stretched out and loose and comfy. best ever. way better than just sox. And now, here's one more EXCELLENT reason to wear them for travel.

I need cards with VFF links on 'em the number of times people in airports ask about 'em (by the way Vibram doesn't pay me a cent for promoting their foot ware; it's just the right thing to do).

So, go ahead, if you travel much, you'll be glad you have one less thing to manage after stripping down, pulling out a lap top, pulling out your liquids and all the rest. Keep your VFF's on (the flows do look the most sock like).


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Vibram FiveFingers - Review 5 months on - New Body?

After five months of wearing vibram's fivefingers (vff) footwear pretty steadily anywheres indoors over the winter, and now again finally outdoors, a few things have happened: my gait has improved (i credit z health drills with free footing footwear like the vff's), but in particular
i don't like wearing shoes anymore - even sneakers. They feel - funny. And what's weirder still - heavy.

Since i wrote about how to fit vff's , it's been cold and wintery, or cold, wet and wintery, and i've been wearing the vff's mainly at the office and at home - not outside. And they've been great. They've been particularly super in long haul airline flights - so nice to wiggle toes, get a bit more comfortable and be able to go for an aisle stroll to stretch. I've been glad of the Injinji toe socks as liners for these to keep the feet a treat warmer, but the main thing is, these shoes induce positive change not just at the feet, but in overall being-in-the-bodiness. This enhancement/awareness may be in part because my feet are now connecting more with the world more of the time. That perhaps enhances or better enables the proprioceptors in my feet to say where they are in space. Also, because the foot is more free to move, a more natural and appropriate gate is coming back. It's a treat to ditch the orthotics. Why is wearing thin soled foot wear with toe pockets such a big deal?

Proprioceptioning the World through Sole(s)
One of the issues with shoes is that they separate us from the environment. Now most of us would see this as a good thing. For those who like their kodiaks or other steel-toed work boots for office attire, we fear something could drop on one's foot - a block of photocopier paper perhaps - and that would smart. And outside, there are hazards on our streets, we feel. Broken glass must be everywhere. We want to protect ourselves from that. That's what a thick sole provides. Or because these concrete roads and walks are SO unnatural, we want shoes with extra cushioning to protect ourselves from these surfaces. Similarly, standing on our feet all day, surely we want the best cushioning?

Everything affects everything?
The costs of each of these foot binding strategies is two fold: awareness and gait. If we wear padding we don't have to be so aware of moving around objects that might bump into us. If we don't have to watch where we put our feet and can be casual about our stepping - in fact step poorly because there are no consequences to our feet, does this lack of movement subtlety or envirnoment awareness start to impact the rest of our bodies?

Take gait: problems with gait in running - such as over pronation - are often addressed by orthotics - and artificial support placed in the shoe - rather than on thinking about the whole movement and improving the gait itself - as if gait can't change. Gait is not just something that happens in the foot. It's a whole body movement. If something is hinky in the foot, it will work its way up the chain through the rest of the body's connections with stride and each step we take. Orthotics (by way of example) also only focus on the foot as both the site of the problem and the solution. But what if the problem starts in the shoulders or the lower back and just manifests in the foot that seems to over pronate? So what does this have to do with thin soled shoes?

When our feet are in inflexible, well padded sneakers, say, we actually have less awareness of our gate - we are protected from it - that awful heal strike is counteracted in some respects by the Super Cushion, for instance.

What happens when we take off our shoes and run barefoot - outside. Most folks i've chatted with would not even contemplate going shoesless on sidewalks - never mind the oceans of rusty nails and broken glass, it's "the impact" of course that is feared.

And yet there are growing numbers of barefooting runners. Are they built differently than the rest of us?

Running Outside on Pavement without the Cushion
Here's where i've really noticed the change that z health and vff's hath wrought. I used to run alot of x-country. Now i occasionally run to work or home. When i first wore the VFF's and had my first run experience in them, ya it was a little funny - couldn't do the heel down at all without jarring myself silly - had to run up on the balls of my toes. But from what i read about gait and stride, that's not entirely "natural" either not to have the heal come into play.

Then the winter really kicked in and it became too cold to wear the VFF's to work. In the past few days, it's become warm enough a 7C to wear 'em again. And so i ran home - including a big down hill pounder that should really test heal work. And it was easy. Simple. Dare i say natural. Was not thinking about stride.

So intriguingly, at least to me, after walking around daily in VFF's *indoors* my stride is such that it's now easy to run outdoors. On pavement. In as near to barefeet as one's likely to get with some kind of foot covering.

Now i've been doing z drills to work on the over pronation that i have in my asymmetrical stride, and i'm looking forward to getting the improvement checked in a few months, but in the interim, i know that having barefoot like footwear has made it possible for me to be more aware of my stride - to feel the whole foot move. That awareness is both challenging to achieve in shoes, and then challenging to apply in shoes, since shoes are typically too ridgid to respond to the whole foot move.

Consequences are that the issues with my back are also finding greater relief.

So in the end, here's what i'm thinking: i had a z health assessment that helped me find appropriate drills to address my gait issues; i practice these drills. But i also practice walking. It's something most of us do every day, everytime we stand up to move to somewhere else. Where i work it's a long building. So walking from one end of the building to the other (90 secs) is a lot of steps. That's good practice. With the VFF's i can be far more aware of my feet - feel what they're doing across each joint. IT's very cool. Really. I feel like i am more in my body, more aware and just feel better as a result.

The down side - if it is a down side - is that i just reached a point the other day where i couldn't stand wearing my winter shoes anymore. They just felt heavy and it felt like my feet were all trussed up, and i just said ok that's enough. Lucky for me, i guess, the weather has turned sufficiently in the centigrade to allow me to wear a pair of VFF Flows. It felt quite daring the other day wearing them in the real world - onto the train platfrom, onto the train, walking around an unfamiliar city. But it was great. It was really great. My feet did not feel weighted down or tied it. It may be difficult to believe that one's feet *could* feel so encumbered by cross country goretex runners (what my winter "boots" are), but that's how it's been feeling.

I'm not quite sure what i'm going to do about some time i have to spend this coming week where it's currently -20C. Suck it up and wear the shoes, i guess, until Vivo gets its boot sizing worked out, and be glad it's only for brief jaunts.

There have been a number of places where people have said "those look really comfortable - wish i could wear them, but i'd never get away with it where i work"- I wonder if that's true. If one could wear black pumps, why not black vibrams? or black crepe soled shoes, why not black vibrams?

Not that one has to wear VFF's - there are it seems a variety of thin soled shoes that many folks in the z community and other free-feet-is-best spaces suggest. My past 5 month experience has been with VFF's - i've enjoyed how light and easy they are to shove in my pack to get to work or take on a trip. I also like how my feet have adapted to learning how to be multi-jointed instruments again.

So, if you're contemplating freeing your feet, only half a year-ish on, at least in my experience, it's been entirely worth it. Recommended highly.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Carbs or Protein before Bed? Not what you think

Most of us have heard that having some slow digesting protein in our guts at night, making amino acids available for muscle repair after a hard day's training is a great thing.

We may likewise have been told to avoid carbs "they aren't necessary" i've heard one person write (yes i hear writing. all the time. creepy)

The thing is, some work around recovery suggests that it's just as important to get a good sleep - undisturbed and deep - for that growth hormone to release and do it's thing to. And guess what helps a good sleep? Yup. Carbs. Oatmeal and honey before bed, deeper sleep assured.

So, i'm gonna be looking into this further to get a handle on optimal ratios for best muscle/recovery blend...

to be continued...


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