Working Out Hungover. Yay or Nay?

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Working Out Hungover. Yay or Nay?
Written by: Coach Slater

Workout hungover, they say. You’ll sweat out the toxins, they say.

Not so fast.

Working out to get rid of a hangover really isn’t a good idea. First, let’s look at what’s happening when you have a hangover. The modern research says that two chemicals called acetaldehyde and acetate are produced by your body when metabolizing alcohol, and these chemicals are toxic and pain-inducing. They’re the reason you feel drowsy, have concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, sweating, nausea, excitability, and anxiety.

The formation of acetaldehyde is complicated, but one thing important to know is that the process inhibits or diminishes two important enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Increasing these chemicals to their pre-drinking state appears to be the key to hangover recovery.

One thing NOT to take? Green tea. It’s often consumed as a lighter caffeine stimulant to ease our bodies back to normalcy, but green tea actually increases ADH levels and slows the removal of acetate.

Instead, Sprite and 7-Up are shown to increase ALDH activity, thanks to an common additive: taurine.

Gatorade or Pedialyte aren’t miracle cures, as they’re not any more effective than plain old water at rehydrating you, but your body does indeed need fluids; so, drink them if you wish. When drinking, an anti-diuretic hormone is suppressed, so your water balance is thrown out of whack by the frequent bathroom breaks. But, something with taurine is your best bet for reducing that low, dull pain you’re feeling.

Now, if you’re debating working out on a hangover, restrict your workout to a half-effort. You will inevitably get a slight endorphin rush from the workout, which will make you temporarily feel better. But, if you aren’t rehydrating before/during/after this workout, then you may be doing yourself a disservice by further dehydrating your already aching body. Use the workout to slightly raise your heart rate and get your muscles working to stimulate the release of those endorphins and even adrenaline. You’re not going to “sweat anything out” though. By morning, all of last night’s alcohol has already passed through your system.

Afterwards, get your body back on track by having a normal meal with protein, fats, and carbohydrates and a Sprite/7-Up. Then get some rest. You need it.

In Search of a Cure for the Dreaded Hangover, Scientific American
Role of Acetaldehyde in Mediating the Pharmacological and Behavioral Effects of Alcohol, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Sleep Better. Titles Are Dumb.

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Sleep Better. Titles Are Dumb.
Written by: Coach Evan

Sleep. The thing we want and need most but can’t get enough of. There are plenty of reasons why we all need to get enough sleep, around 7 hours a day, and at this point if you aren’t taking sleep seriously you need to fix that. If you still need more convincing, here is another reason to add to the list:

If you are trying to change your body composition and you don’t sleep enough or get poor sleep you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.

Why dial in the macros and eat as clean as ever and only get 4-5 hours of sleep? It’s like washing your car inside and out and never changing the oil or getting the motor serviced. You’ll still get somewhere, but there are too many variables to explain why your progress might slow or completely halt.

There are the obvious positives from sleeping enough: you’ll feel great and you’ll be ready to work out harder and more often. Let’s dive into other reasons why losing sleep means losing out on muscle gains and fat loss.

First up is the secretion of growth hormone (GH). You may know GH as the hormone responsible for developing size during childhood and especially puberty. You’ve probably also heard of it being used as a steroid. Your body creates it naturally and its secretion increases during sleep. Again, the longer we’re sleeping, the longer GH will be secreted and help us recover, help us rebuild the muscle, help us grow the muscle, help us get stronger.

But did you know that GH helps utilize fat as an energy source? Related to the after burn that I talked about in this article, the elevated levels of GH will help use excess fat as the energy needed for repairs, recovery, and any metabolic processes. More sleep means more GH, more GH means burning more excess fat, which means lowering body fat percentage. Has that not swayed you yet?

Important processes happen during sleep that are directly related to efficient metabolic processes or are the catalyst for those efficient processes. Lack of sleep directly decreases the effectiveness of insulin, the hormone that takes sugar out of your blood and uses it for recovery and metabolic processes. This means slower metabolic processes and more blood sugar going into storage. In laymen’s terms, the less you sleep, the slower your body with utilize energy from carbohydrates and fats, creating excess fat.

One catalyst for efficient metabolic processes is the release of a hormone called leptin, a hormone that subdues appetite. This hormone’s secretion increases during sleep. It’s safe to suggest that if you sleep less, less of this hormone will be secreted, you’ll feel hungrier, and end up eating more than you should. Pair that with your decreased insulin effectiveness and you’ve created more excess fat.

Whether your nutrition is totally dialed in or not, more and/or better sleep will push you further towards your body composition goals. If your nutrition is dialed in, even better. There are too many uncontrollable variables to knock you off track, take charge of the ones you can control. Sleep more, be healthier by creating a more efficient environment in your body, feel better, get fitter, smash goals.

If you’re interested in the science behind these ideas, check out this article: “Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview

Is the Comp Class Right for You?

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Is the Comp Class Right for You?
Written by: DCCF-er Phil Newton

As summer creeps in and everyone is on that mad dash to finalize that hot beach bod to show off on the ‘gram, I have had a few people ask me about the Comp Class and what it’s done for me. I’ve been doing the extra programming for a solid year now, and I can tell you, it pays off. With that being said; I can’t say that it’s right for you. There are a few questions you should ask yourself before you dive into the additional programming:

1. Are you going to the gym consistently? 4-5 days a week minimum?

If the answer to that question is no, then stop reading this article and get sweaty in a class! Doing more work on fewer days is not going to get you the results you want.

“Pfft, whatever Phil, I’m always up in there getting my fitness on.”

Well alright then chief, buuuuuuut…

2. Are you consistently hitting the workouts each day you train with high intensity?

You should be giving everything you have in the normal classes before adding additional programming. The class workouts are enough, if you have the desire to push yourself for the hour you are in the gym each day. Hit the sport weight, do the extra rounds, push yourself to do the difficult movements that you avoid. Give everything you have in class and you might just see that you don’t have the energy for extra work.

You may have seen a post I made on the DCCF Social Page during regionals about Max Bragg, the guy who made it to the East Regional and competed against Mat Fraser (You know who he is) and held his own. Well, he only did affiliate programming and look how far he got! Trust me, that dude is fitter than you.

You may be saying, “But Phil, obviously he’s a genetic freak with a job that supports his fitnessing!”

Well, you’re right, but before you think adding more work will get you where you want to be ask yourself this…

3. Is your nutrition dialed in?

If you’re eating a Whizzburger and a chocolate shake for dinner after you leave the gym every night, you’re not going to fuel yourself with the energy that you’ll need for high volume. I’m not saying you have to go strict paleo or get out the scale every time that you’re sitting down for lunch to weigh out if that extra bean sprout in your kale salad is gonna ruin your macros, but you should be mindful of the things you are putting into your body.

So, your nutrition is good, you’re hitting it with intensity, and you’re hitting it often. Surely that’s it, right? Au contraire…

4. Are. You. Recovering!?!?!

This is probably the most important step and it’s often the most overlooked. Are you taking the time to do mobility work outside of the class? Are you taking care of nagging injuries? Are you getting enough sleep? There’s a lot to consider about how much stress your putting your body through.

If you aren’t treating your time outside the gym as just as important to your training, you will see diminished results inside the gym.

If you’re nailing all the first four points, then I just have one last question for you.

5. Why?

This is a question that I ask when people say they need extra programming and almost always I get the same response.

“I want to get better/stronger/faster.” I support that decision 100%, that’s why we all show up in the first place. What you should think about is, why is this extra programming going to be the element that gets you there? Slater had a great article a while back about goals and habits that is really worth a read if you missed it.

So what goal will this extra programming help you achieve that would not be accomplished from the regular class? You want to work on additional skills under fatigue to help your chances in upcoming competitions? Yep, that’s a good reason. You want to get your bi’s and tri’s lookin’ sweet for the honeys out on the lake? A little less so. Be specific in your goals with the extra work, because it IS WORK.

The extra accessory pieces are tough, and if you aren’t ready to suffer, you’re not going to get anything out of them. But if you’re ready to sweat a lot, cry a little, and work hard; then I’ll see ya in there. I’ll be the guy almost throwing up coming off the assault bike.

Comp Class runs Mon, Tues, Wed at 5:30p & 6:30p; and Fri at 5:30p.


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CLICK BAIT! HERE’S HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT FAST!!!! -or- Why high intensity workouts are better for losing fat.
Written by: Coach Evan

You may have heard the idea that you burn more calories after a workout than during it. In theory, this is true. However, generally people view “burning calories” as actively doing work. How can we be burning calories if we’re not working? Technically, your body is constantly burning calories, but that’s a different conversation. What’s really happening is your body is doing more work to restore itself to a pre-exercise state.

When we jump into a super-intense workout, our bodies rely mostly on energy systems that don’t require oxygen, for a bit. Although these energy systems are super fast acting, they are REALLY inefficient. They can’t bear the brunt of the work load for long and eventually the energy systems that do require oxygen start taking over the majority of the work.

Because of how inefficient the first responder energy systems are, a lot of “damage” has been done to your body, especially because they don’t call it quits after the late responders show up and just keep plugging away. The more intense the exercise, the worse the damage.

Now let’s clear the air here and define “intensity”. Strictly speaking, in this situation, intensity refers to a percentage of your maximum power output. You may feel like an exercise or workout is intense, but that is really ambiguous and it could feel intense for so many different reasons. Here in this conversation, we have to be specific. The closer you are working towards your maximum capacity, for longer, the more damage is done to your body.

But this damage isn’t bad. It’s not permanent, or even that long lasting. Your body is good at clearing the rubble. It’s called recovery. Your body’s energy stores have been so depleted that your body turns to any readily available source of energy. This is where the fat loss comes in. Your body wants to get rid of excess fat. When we are resting and recovering, fat is the easiest energy source to use. So what better source to pull from to replace those energy stores? Now, not only is your body using the fat stores to run the normal show, as long as your diet is in check, it’s using even more fat, “burning more calories”, to replenish the stores and help rebuild and recover your body from that really intense workout.

“The high intensity workout doesn’t burn as many calories as a long, slow, steady workout. Wouldn’t it be better to do that long workout, not have to kill myself, and reap the benefits of the “afterburn”?” says the skeptic.

You’re right, you could sit on the rower or bike or go on a run for an hour and burn more calories during that time than you would in the 5-10 minute high intensity workout. But the “afterburn” from that low intensity workout doesn’t exist. You would have to spend an exorbitant amount of time running or rowing or biking to make up for the afterburn you experience at a near maximal effort workout for just 5 minutes.

High intensity workouts are the best form of exercise if you’re looking to lose fat. The more intense the workout, the better the results will be because of the afterburn, concurrent with the right kind of diet. The higher the intensity and the longer the duration, the longer the afterburn, meaning the time it takes your to body to fully recover will be longer, which means your body will be burning that excess fat even longer. Now, this doesn’t mean you won’t be recovered enough for your workout the next day, but it does mean that this debt that we create does build up over time and we eventually need prolonged rest, aka rest days. If you don’t give your body time to fully recover, you’ll begin to work at a lower intensity, even if it still feels intense, which screws up the whole process. Push the intensity, push the weights, feel the burn, lose the weight.

Understanding the Shoulder and How to Strengthen It

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Understanding the Shoulder and How to Strengthen It
Written by: Coach James

Many of you may have noticed that on Monday we brought back the banded shoulder accessory movements. These movements include sword pulls, face pulls, and snow angels. What you may not realize is how important these movements can be. It does not take much to strengthen your shoulders as a whole and using the thin orange band will get the job done, if done properly. Strong shoulders are essential in CrossFit, as there are a lot of movements that require us to be stable in the overhead position (snatch, OHS, pullups, jerks). Strengthening these small muscles will greatly improve both your stability and overall weight which means big PR’s!! CrossFit has received a bad reputation for individuals getting hurt. This is not because CrossFit itself is bad, but that the individual could have been weak in a certain position or doing the movement wrong. Something we hear a lot is the word “impingement”, but do we really know what this term means and what it actually is?

  • From renowned strength coach, Mark Rippetoe: “Shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff tendons get “pinched” between the head of the humerus and the AC joint, formed by the end of the collarbone and the bony knobs at the end of the shoulder blade. Impingement means an entrapment of soft tissue between two bones in the area of a joint. You can safely experience this entrapment feeling for yourself: sit or stand up straight and raise your arms from your sides to a position parallel to the floor, with the palms of your hands facing the floor and your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Now, raise them just a little more. The pressure you feel in your shoulders is the impingement of your cuff tendons against the AC.”
  • “Now, rotate your hands up so your palms face forward, elbows still at 90 degrees, and raise your hands up over your head. Then shrug your shoulders up at the top, like you’re trying to reach the ceiling with your hands and shoulders. Pressure’s gone, right? This is the lockout position of the press, and notice that at no time in this process did your shoulders feel impinged. This because the shrugging of the shoulders at the top pulls the AC knobs away from the head of the humerus, so that impingement is anatomically impossible in the correct press lockout position. The press simply cannot impinge your shoulders.”
  • Even if you have good position, is it still very important that we strengthen all those small muscles that are a part of your shoulder as a whole, including all the rotator cuff and shoulder girdle muscles. The muscles that make up the rotator cuff include: supraspinatus muscle, the infraspinatus muscle, teres minor muscle, and the subscapularis muscle. The five muscles that comprise the function of the shoulder girdle are the trapezius muscle (upper, middle, and lower), levator scapulae muscle, rhomboid muscles (major and minor), serratus anterior muscle, and pectoralis minor muscle. Now, I know I am getting a little technical with all these muscles, but it is important to realize how many small muscles you have working when you’re pressing something overhead. All these small muscles play a huge part in how you move. If one is weak that means another muscle has to pick up the slack. This is where you see instability and mobility overhead.

    As I stated in the beginning, we are incorporating these banded drills every Monday. It is important to understand that these muscles are not very big and it does not take very much to fatigue them. The small orange band will provide plenty of resistance if done properly. We are just hitting on 3 common movements but there are plenty more exercises you can do to help strengthen your shoulder, as well. I have a weak shoulder and tore my supraspinatus a while back. The two that I like most and use EVERY DAY is internal and external rotation of the shoulder with the small orange band (video below). Personally I can only complete 15-20 reps of these two movements before my shoulders are on fire. I know that these movements can seem “silly” or “stupid” but if you want to have a strong overhead game, or just strong shoulders with little to no pain while overhead, these movements will help you. I recommend that you do these every day.

    What Happens After Your Newbie Gainz Stall (and when under-eating no longer works)

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    What Happens After Your Newbie Gainz Stall (and when under-eating no longer works)
    Written by: Coach Slater

    Newbie Gainz
    When you first start at Derby City, it’s almost a guarantee to PR every time you step in the gym. In the first 8 months, you’re gaining muscle and losing body fat at a crazy pace. You’re exposing your body to new stimulus, learning new techniques every single day, and your body is physiologically adapting as a result. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that these gainz will continue in a linear fashion forever. You’re going to clean a gazillion pounds in six months, or you’re going to win the CrossFit Games in two years.

    What’s happening in this newbie phase is called neurological adaptation, which means that you are causing a large number of neurons to fire rapidly in a more synchronized way, enabling you to rapidly lift heavier weights. So, your muscles aren’t necessarily growing yet, you’re just training your nervous system to create more efficient pathways. After your body begins to cement the neurological adaptations, then you’re able to push yourself harder and harder, triggering muscular adaptations, which is when muscles grow and get stronger. That’s why it’s important to focus on technique when just beginning, so you’re not neurologically adapted in poor positions. You want to give your body the ideal opportunity for future growth when those newbie gainz slow, to not create muscular imbalances by recruiting the wrong muscles in a particular movement.

    So, when your typical neurological adaptations slow (aka, your newbie gainz stall), you begin to rely on muscular adaptations. This is the phase where discipline and dedication are needed, because you’re no longer setting new PR’s every time you walk in the gym. It “feels” like you’re flat-lining, but you’re not. You’ve just progressed to the next inevitable step in your training evolution. Now is when you need to find discipline to stay consistent with your workout frequency, nutrition, sleep, and stress reduction. Whereas you were once focused on achievement every time you first walked in the door… “first pullup, first bodyweight back squat, first snatch over whatever pounds”… you need to discipline yourself to focus on “progress” now. Achievement is so ingrained in our culture that we often ignore progress. But, you’re in this for the long haul, right? Now’s when you prove it with discipline and consistency. That’s what you do when you newbie gainz stall.

    Ruining Your Newbie Gainz
    Let’s go back to the beginner phase I mentioned earlier to talk about how you could be hurting your future progress by undereating. You can make gainz in that neurological adaptation / beginner phase while in a caloric deficit. You could come into Derby City, undereating because you think that’s what you have to do to maintain the body you want, while actually doing damage to yourself, and still make gainz. You could eat only 500 calories a day and still PR your back squat every week because your brain is just learning to do the movements efficiently. You haven’t really hit overload yet. But… when you finally do hit that point, you’re going to regress and you’re not going to like it. Now you’re under-recovered and going into a negative hormone state. Maybe you’re wondering why that awesomeness couldn’t last forever? Well, you have to adapt. What works today isn’t going to work next year.

    This is the first time your body has done this kind of training, and your body doesn’t know any better than to adapt. Now the next bikini season rolls around and you think, “Well, 1,000 calories worked last year. Let’s do 800 calories this year.” But, you find that you can’t lose weight, or worse yet, you gain weight. Your body learned to create homeostasis at 1,000 calories, so there’s no longer a caloric deficit which will work. Your body is going to remember the stimulus that took you into adrenal fatigue and it’s not going to allow you to get there again. So, typically, you dig harder and add more volume via running or extra “cardio” outside of the gym, without fixing the real issue related to your recovery/nutrition. You’ve metabolically adapted to undereating and now you have to start from scratch to reteach your body how to eat and produce.

    So, using this theoretical 1,000 calorie human, they can’t just start eating 2,200 calories tomorrow, like maybe they should have been doing the entire time. What if they’ve been eating 1,000 calories/daily for years now? Well, if they start eating 2,200 calories now, they’re going to gain weight incredibly quickly and lose trust in the process. Instead, they need to slowly adjust by gradually increasing calories, basically starting a metabolic repair program. Specifically, I suggest keeping your protein intake constant at around 0.8g/lb of bodyweight and adding 5-10% to your total carbs and total fats each week until you get to a “more reasonable” total number of macronutrients based on your lean muscle mass, body fat, and activity level. I like to suggest Carbs at 0.5g/lb of bodyweight for Off Days, 1.0g/lb for Easy Days where you’re moving slowly just trying to get loose for the day, and 1.5g/lb for Moderate Days at Derby City where you’re working hard, getting in a good sweat, etc… I typically hold beginners and intermediate athletes to “Moderate Days” and never progress to Heavy Days or something higher, because honestly, most people overestimate how hard they’re working.

    Bringing It Home
    To summarize, let me say that you needn’t be disappointed when those newbie gainz slow. It’s a natural part of your progress, and it marks the point in your fitness development where you need to learn discipline. Working out, eating right, and sleeping well should become a part of your daily regiment, just like brushing your teeth, showering, and going to work. I included “eating right” because you could be harming your future progress by messing up your nutrition during this beginner phase. In reality, I should have said “eating right” before anything else, because nutrition should be at the base of your fitness pyramid. It’s importance can’t be overstated. If your newbie gainz stall completely, the answer is always the same: you’re not eating enough, and you’re not recovering. Recovery is made possible by food and sleep. Set yourself on a path for future success.

    Predicting metabolic adaptation, body weight change, and energy intake in humans”, Hall, Kevin.

    Changes in Energy Expenditure with Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Humans”, Muller, MJ.

    The Truth About Metabolic Damage”, Teta, Dr. Jade.

    Coach, I Can’t Hit 80% Today (or, Gauging Your Rate of Perceived Exertion)!

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    Coach, I Can’t Hit 80% Today (or, Gauging Your Rate of Perceived Exertion)!
    Written by: Coach Slater

    Not every day is the same. Not every day progresses the way we’d like. Maybe you didn’t sleep well because your kid was up sick all night, or you forgot to eat all day because your boss has you on a new project, or you drank too much over the weekend.

    As a result, sometimes the percentages on the board just *aren’t* going to happen today. You try to make it happen, but you end up walking a few steps to catch that last power clean or kinda good-morning-ed that last back squat. But hey… you got the lift, right? Not really. We want every rep to look the same, just as it does for high-level CrossFitters, Olympic Weightlifters, gymnasts, track & field athletes, you name it. We want to see consistent mechanics in order to see progress. But, our bodies don’t always comply, and that’s fine. That’s part of training.

    When 80% feels like 286%, go down to 70% and finish the sets/reps while moving well and ingraining that proper movement, rather than moving poorly and potentially starting a bad habit. Today’s workout isn’t the end-all-be-all. What’s more important is the hundreds of workouts you’ll perform over the course of a year.

    Rate of Perceived Exertion (or RPE)
    So, why does 80% feel like 286% sometimes? Let me now tell you a little about RPE. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says that “the RPE scale is a psycho-physiological scale, meaning it calls on the mind and body to rate one’s perception of effort… The RPE scale measures feelings of effort, strain discomfort, and/or fatigue experienced during both aerobic and resistance training.”

    Said plainly, RPE is a subjective measure of how hard you feel like you’re working during a set or workout. While you may assume that 225lbs should always feel lighter than 275, 315, 355, 405, that’s not always the case. As mentioned before, if you slept poorly or didn’t eat, then that 80% is going to feel much heavier.

    But, here’s where you can better use our listed percentages as a guideline to help you lift more efficiently, based on how you feel that day.

    RPE Scale
    Instead of seeing 80% on the board, think of it like an 8 on a scale of 10, in terms of effort.

    Effort Level:
    7: Weight moves quickly when maximal force is applied to the weight; “speed weight”, 4-6 reps left in the tank
    8: Weight is too heavy to maintain fast bar speed but isn’t a struggle; 2–4 reps left in the tank
    9: Last rep is tough but still one rep left in the tank
    10: Maximal, no reps left in the tank

    Hopefully this scale can help you be honest with yourself and see that what’s important isn’t just the weight on the bar, but how the weight on that bar feels at this exact moment. The flip-side of this new knowledge is that sometimes your 80% will only feel like 60%. And on those days, crush it. Add more weight. Having the ability to increase (or decrease) you intensity based on how you feel is great for making better progress. Our programming will fluctuate percentages, but you have the freedom to adapt on the fly, based on how you’re feeling.

    What’s the Deal with Different Whey Proteins?

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    What’s the Deal with Different Whey Proteins?
    Written by: Coach Slater

    Quick post to answer a question I’ve overhead about whey proteins: “What’s the difference between whey concentrate, whey isolate, and whey hydrolysate?”

    First, there’s major marketing dollars behind protein supplements, so brands may want you to believe that one or the other is far superior. In reality, the differences in absorption rates seem to be extremely minute, so it doesn’t appear that there’s really a difference between any of them. All three can result in muscle growth, but there are some differences in lactose, fat, and carb content.

    Whey Concentrate
    This version is typically 80% protein by weight, and contains some carbs (in the form of lactose) and fat. It’s generally the cheapest whey protein out there.

    Whey Isolate
    This version is more than 90% protein by weight, so you get more protein per scoop compared to the Concentrate. One version of isolate is called “ion exchange” which just means it’s lost some important recovery substances during production. The other version of isolate is “cross-flow microfiltration” which maintains some integrity during production and is more easily digestible with essentially no carbs or fat.

    Whey Hydrolysate
    This version is predigested so it will absorb faster into your bloodstream compared to the other two, but how much faster is up for debate, and since you only workout once a day, it probably doesn’t even matter. Nonetheless, this supposed speed increase is the primary reason it costs more than the other versions.

    Bottom Line
    As long as you don’t mind the few extra grams of carbs and fat, and you’re not lactose intolerant, whey concentrate is the most economical choice for you. The protein we sell at Derby City, from Stronger Faster Healthier, is a whey concentrate made from grass-fed cows. Is the fact that it’s grass-fed important for your whey protein? Frankly, not really… but, until we find a better protein alternative, we trust SFH and trust that each scoop gets you the amount of protein it says you’re getting – which we can’t say with every brand.

    Heart Rate Recovery: An easy way to track your fitness

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    Heart Rate Recovery: An easy way to track your fitness
    Written by: Coach Slater

    We know you watch our TV monitors to see how your heart rate escalates during WODs, but do you watch it as closely AFTER the workout to see how quickly it deescalates? Didn’t think so… let me tell you why you should.

    The time it takes for your heart to return to a normal, resting heart rate is a strong indicator of fitness and mortality, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. The decrease in your heart rate two minutes after exercise is known as your Heart Rate Recovery (HRR). In general, people who exercise regularly, and therefore are more likely to have healthier hearts, have faster HRR times than people who do not regularly exercise. Hopefully that’s obvious.

    To learn your HRR, check out the TVs in the gym to see what your heart rate is immediately after you finish a workout and write this number down. Watch the clock or grab your phone and watch for a minute to pass. At the end of a minute, write down your heart rate again. Wait another minute and write down your heart rate after two minutes have passed post-WOD.

    The difference between your heart rate immediately post-WOD and two minutes later is your official HRR, but you want to see AT LEAST a 12 beats per minute reduction per minute for each of the two minutes you’re tracking. (Sorry for writing “minute” so many times there.) If your heart rate decreases less than 12 bpm each minute post-exercise, then you might have a hidden heart condition that warrants a doctor’s visit.

    Here’s a scale to consider for judging your HRR:

    You have a healthy heart if your HRR is between 53-58 bpm two minutes post-WOD.

    You have a healthier heart if your HRR is between 59-65 bpm two minutes post-WOD, you exhibit a greater fitness level, and your physical age is moderately less than your calendar age.

    Very Healthy:
    You have a very healthy heart if your HRR is more than 66 bpm, you’re considered very fit, and your physical age is a lot less than your calendar age.

    Here’s what you can do with this new info. If you’re someone whose heart rate takes longer to recover, it may be a good strategy to pace your workouts until your recovery rate increases. However, if you recover quickly, you should be increasing your intensity to see how high you can allow your heart rate to reach.

    Happy monitoring!

    (1) “Heart-Rate Recovery Immediately after Exercise as a Predictor of Mortality”. Cole, Chris. N Engl J Med 1999; 341:1351-1357.

    (2) “Cardiovascular System Science: Investigate Heart-Rate Recovery Time”, Scientific American.

    (3) “Heart rate recovery after aerobic and anaerobic tests: is there an influence of anaerobic speed reserve?” Del Rosso, S. J Sports Sci. 2016 Mar 28:1-8.

    Combating Soreness

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    “Coach, I’m still sore from that Open workout. What the hell?”

    So, what can you do to reduce that delayed onset muscle soreness? First, let me explain what you’re feeling. That soreness is caused by inflammation due to microtears between your muscles and their surrounding tissues. It’s not uncommon, and our programming intentionally adds volume/intensity weekly so your body is exposed to new stimuli allowing for a compensation period which results in muscle growth and/or fat loss.

    Soreness is most typically brought on by “eccentric” movements, or when a muscle forcefully contracts while lengthening, like when lowering a deadlift, or sinking into the bottom of a squat or pushup. These damaged muscles release chemicals that trigger inflammation, which awakens your pain receptors.

    Now, let me tell you some easy things you can consume/do to counter that soreness.

    Fish Oil
    The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are widely accepted as having a positive effect on inflammation; but, research is mixed on its effectiveness at reducing soreness, per se. Proper dosage is also a sticking point for researchers, but the wide majority of evidence says that a higher dose of fatty acids has the greatest effect; “higher” meaning more than 3g daily. So, take it to reduce inflammation caused by our American diets, but don’t necessarily expect it to help reduce soreness.

    Curcumin is a buzz-supplement for the reduction of muscle soreness, and there’s growing research supporting its effectiveness. 2.5g twice daily has repeatedly been shown to decrease muscle soreness and actually offset some of the performance deficits caused by exercise-induced muscle damage. You’ll likely find curcumin bottled with turmeric, which also has anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure you take both with black pepper extract as neither are absorbed well without it.

    Magnesium Sulfate / Epsom Salt Bath
    Epsom salt baths are shown to have a significant effect on perceived pain, and cause a dramatic drop in blood lactate levels. Magnesium is a muscle relaxer, and as it’s absorbed thru your skin via a warm bath, it flushes lactic acid from your skeletal muscles. As a side benefit, magnesium helps convert tryptophan to serotonin, which balances mood. So, if you’re low in magnesium, you might also suffer from sadness or moodiness. One caveat… I wouldn’t recommend Epsom salt baths post-workout. Save these for at least a couple hours later.

    Ice Baths
    Ice baths definitely reduce “perceptions” of exercise-induced fatigue and soreness, especially when you plan to workout again later that same day; but, ice baths aren’t recommended as a long-term strategy for managing inflammation and muscle soreness. Repeated use of ice baths may actually hamper muscular adaptions to exercise. So, if you use them, do so sparingly, for a short duration, and not at excessively cold temperatures.

    Vitamin C
    Research on Vitamin C’s ability to reduce muscle soreness is mixed, but I’ve seen enough research saying that taking a minimum of 1,000mg pre- and post-workout can’t hurt with regard to muscle soreness, so I say try it out for yourself. Vitamin C is dirt cheap, after all, and you can even supplement your Vitamin C intake by adding an orange into your post-workout nutrition.

    While research is mixed on the effectiveness of vitamins on muscle soreness, research seems to be pretty conclusive about the positive effect that polyphenols can have. They’re the nutrients found in blueberries, cherries, and pomegranates. A daily dose of 1 or 2 tablespoons (1/2 oz) of pomegranate juice concentrate or cherry juice can result in reduced markers of muscle soreness. 96 hours post-workout, your cortisol levels (the “stress hormone”) will be markedly lower.

    Taurine & BCAA’s
    Earlier, I mentioned that fish oil shows a significant reduction in inflammation but none really in muscle soreness. Well, taurine and branched-chain amino acids are the exact opposite. Research on these two show a significant reduction in muscle soreness but none really in inflammation.

    A review of nutritional intervention on delayed onset muscle soreness. Part I.” Kim, J., Kim, L.
    Effect of high dose vitamin C supplementation on muscle soreness, damage, function, and oxidative stress to eccentric exercise.” Bryer S., Goldfarb A.
    Does combined antioxidant vitamin supplementation blunt repeated bout effect?” He F., Hockemeyer J., Sedlock D.
    Supplementation with a polyphenolic blend improves post-exercise strength recovery and muscle soreness.” Herrlinger, K., Chirouzes, D., Ceddia M.
    The effects of polyphenol supplementation on muscular strength, power, and soreness following eccentric exercise.” Machin, D.
    Cryotherapy and Exercise Recovery: Part 1.” Cressey, E.
    The acute effects of flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique on recovery from maximal eccentric exercise.” Morgan, P.
    Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).” Nicol, L., Rowlands, D.
    Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.” Davis, J., Murphy, E.