Exploring the Alactic, Lactic, and Aerobic Systems

Exploring the Alactic, Lactic, and Aerobic Systems

As a living, breathing, blog reading individual you’ve probably learned the basics around how food provides the body with energy. There are actually several different ways that this can occur and they depend on the activity being performed. Depending on our sport or activity, nutrition, genetics, and level of training will each play a role which energy system is primarily utilized. Regardless of which energy system  is predominantly used, all energy is stored in the form of ATP.

Adenosine Triphosphate or “ATP” is the energy currency of the body. Each of the energy systems in the body have their own way of producing ATP to power our daily activities. There are pro’s and con’s to each energy system but ultimately having a better understanding of how our body uses energy can help us make informed decisions on diet and exercise. Let’s learn about each energy system…

  • Alactic System aka the Creatine Phosphate System
  • Lactic Acid System aka Glycolytic
  • Aerobic System aka Fatty Acid Metabolism

 

“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” —Tony Robbins

 

Alactic System

(aka the Creatine Phosphate System)

What is it: The alactic system utilizes creatine phosphate (CP) as an energy source. It fuels high intensity efforts. Creatine is able to donate its phosphate molecules to the the Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) molecule allowing it to return to ATP, with potential energy stored in its chemical bonds. Creatine comes from the food that we eat with the highest levels in red meat, pork, poultry, and fish. It can also be supplemented for vegetarians and vegans.

Time domains: This energy system is exhausted in 8-12 seconds for most individuals and you will fatigue when your CP and ATP stores have depleted. It is great for quick bursts of energy.

Efficiency:It requires 30 seconds to 2 minutes to replenish energy stores.

By products: Heat released from the breaking of chemical bonds.

Examples of activity: You may see this energy system in action through the short powerful bursts seen in weightlifters, powerlifters, pitchers, and shot putters.

What training looks like: Training the CP system means using short time domains with long rest periods in between. In the gym this means keeping rep ranges to sets of 6 or fewer reps.

 

Lactic Acid System

(aka Glycolytic system)

What is it: The lactic acid system utilizes glycogen (glucose stored in the muscles and liver) as a fuel source. It is for longer lasting high intensity activities. Our body is able to store about 500 total grams of glycogen in the muscle and liver tissue which provides around 2,000 calories worth of energy. Running out of this fuel source is commonly referred to as “bonking.” Some athletes consume carbohydrate foods, drinks, and supplements during training and competition to prevent running out of this valuable fuel source.

Time domains: It is the primary fuel source for activities lasting from 30 seconds to about 3 minutes. You know you have fatigued this energy system when hydrogen ion accumulation causes a burning sensation in the muscles.

Efficiency: The lactic acid system is very efficient at providing fuel but fatigues quickly. Due to the long recovery time it is favorable to alternate levels of intensity between glycolytic and aerobic dependence to sustain high output.

By products: The byproduct of this system is pyruvate. Which must be cleared from the blood to continue to utilize this energy system. This can take 30-60 minutes.

Examples of activity: This energy system would rule during a 400 or 800 meter sprint, a hockey lines time on the ice, or most CrossFit workouts. It is seen in mixed use with the aerobic system during longer workouts or soccer and basketball games where the players alternate between a slower jog pace with periods of intense sprinting and jumping.

What training looks like: To train this energy system you can utilize interval style training. Intense bursts of energy followed by a recovery period that allows you to stay at a threshold of high output. These athletes tend to have increased muscle mass and ideally lower body fat percentage.

 

Aerobic System

(aka Fatty Acid Metabolism aka Krebs Cycle aka Citric Acid Cycle…)

What is it: This is the creation of energy from fat, glycogen or protein in the presence of oxygen used to power low and moderate intensity activities. The mitochondria present in muscle cells takes the available fuel source through a variety of reactions to produce ATP. Since fat molecules packs 9 calories per gram they tend to be the main choice for this energy system. Even the leanest individuals carry enough body fat to fuel many days worth of activity.

Time domains: Any activity lasting more than 3 minutes in duration.

Efficiency: This system produces energy much more slowly than the others. The good news is it can utilize an unlimited fuel supply of fat.

By products: The aerobic system only produces water and carbon dioxide when generating ATP.

Examples of activity: This energy system is your predominant fuel source for jogging, cycling, swimming long distances, and most of your daily activities.

What training looks like: Athletes who have become efficient at using fat as a fuel source are able to convert the energy from fat more quickly, allowing them to sustain higher levels of work capacity for activities with long durations. These athletes are usually easy to spot as they have exceptional muscle definition and extremely low body fat.

As you can see from the graph, our average work capacity is dictated by the length of time we are performing an activity.By training in all three energy systems we can become more efficient in all areas, thus increasing our work capacity across the board.Individuals who only try to utilize cardio or lifting heavy weights to improve work capacity will fall short of their well rounded counterparts. If you’re an individual who wants to improve general health it is beneficial to train each of the energy systems.

 

If you’re ready to increase you work capacity and become more fit, give us a call today and we’ll help you get started!

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3 Key Steps To Starting An Effective Daily Routine

“I’ve been thinking about taking up a meditation practice.”

“I really need to drink more water…”

“I feel so good when I exercise, I want to go to the gym more often, but can’t find the time!”

If you’re like most people you probably have considered starting a new daily routine to optimize one or more aspects of your life. In a world where time has become more and more valuable, distractions are at an all time high, and to-do lists are as long as ever – people are looking for ways to better themselves. One of the most common ways that folks use to make a change is by adopting a new routine.

Routines are actions or a combination of actions that yield a specific outcome or result. They are the surest way to make an impactful change in our lives. By the end of this article you will be familiar with the 3 key steps to consider if you want to start an effective daily routine!

 

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”

-W.H. Auden

 

Step 1: Keep the end result in mind.

As humans we have hundreds of little routines we practice each day. Most of these we don’t care to or need to focus on, they simply happen. Adopting a new routine is usually in pursuit of something new that we wish to attain. The benefit of successfully completing the routines could improve us physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Make sure to keep the end result in mind as you select your routine.This life changing benefit will keep you motivated and excited to stick with your routine!

Some common results people shoot for with their routine include:

  • Decreased stress
  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Improved mental clarity
  • More time
  • Better performance at school/work/sport

 

Routines to achieve these outcomes might look like:

  • Take 10 deep breaths before beginning a new project at work.
  • Exercise at least three times each week.
  • Turn my phone to airplane mode 1 hour before bed.
  • Make a list dividing each job into its constituent parts.
  • Plan out my daily schedule every morning while I drink my coffee.
  • Visualize what a successful outcome would look like for my upcoming event.

 

rou·tine
ro͞oˈtēn/
noun
a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.

 

 

Routines are most effective when practiced daily. Sometimes we need to focus extra hard on following through with a new routine until it becomes a habit. This is an important factor to consider in both the selection and implementation of your new routine.

 

 

 

 

Dr. BJ Fogg, a behavioral scientist from Stanford, has a basic behavioral model he uses to describe the steps to change. He claims that in order for a behavior change to happen you need to have the right mix of motivation, ability, and a trigger.

If we are highly motivated to complete a task then the odds are that when a trigger occurs we will produce a successful outcome. Likewise we tend to be successful at tasks that are easy to complete even if we are not so motivated to get them done.

Makes sense right?

The challenge many of us face is that we fail to set up routines that take into account the motivation required to complete a task requiring a higher level of ability. We shoot for the stars and quickly burn out after our initial gusto wears off.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t aim to make big dramatic change with our new routine?

Kind of…not exactly…but yes.

At least Dr. Fogg would advise against it. Instead he suggest focusing on the smallest possible change available to you in your new routine. Consistency wins the long term change game so you should pick a routine that you know you you can complete every single try. This will generate momentum and a new skill that you can apply later to more challenging target areas.

Action Step: Get out a pen and paper and spend 5 minutes brainstorming some ideas of areas you would like to implement a routine. Think about the end result you would like to achieve and make note of the top 2 or 3 new routines that would be a first step on the path. Then let’s move on to step 2!

 

 

Step 2: Determine the lay of the land

This is a chance to take inventory of your assets and keep an eye out for potential pitfalls. Implementing a new behavior is challenging because it requires knocking our brain off of autopilot. Rather than coast through our day following the usual agenda we are throwing a strategic interruption to our thought pattern that lets us try something new. This step can be split into two categories:

Supporting Factors, things that can help you implement your routine. Some examples could be:

  • A supportive partner or best friend
  • A commute to work that offers some alone time
  • Sticky note reminders you place all over your house
  • A trainer, coach, or mentor who wants you to succeed

And

Distracting Factors, barriers, or common faults that would get in the way of you completing your daily routine. This might look like:

  • Social settings where you may feel awkward practicing your new routine.
  • People who interrupt you and take up your time (EVEN IF YOU YOU LOVE THEM)
  • Physical struggles with things like exercise or waking up early.
  • Bad influences on your diet, behaviors, or actions.

Action Step: List the top 3 assets you have that could help you start your routine and then the top 3 distractions that may keep you from succeeding. For the distractions, find a solution for how you could overcome it (eg. Coordinate workout schedules with a friend, sIgn up for a class the night before, or prep healthy lunches for the week on Sunday afternoon)

 

 

Step 3: Track Your Progress

Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the founding father of using routines for personal development knew the importance of tracking and measuring his daily practices. Each morning Franklin asked himself, “What good shall I do today? And in the evening, “What good did I do today?” Taking the time twice each day to check in on his progress created more opportunities for growth and self-improvement.

Not only that but Ben cycled through a list of 13 virtues he chose to improve his morality. He would focus on one for a week at a time and document any infractions to the redeeming quality. He noticed significant improvement in his adherence cycling through each virtue four times a year.

As you prepare to start your new routine you want to keep track of your progress. Having clear defined parameters will make you more likely to succeed and recreate the process again for future habits.

Action Step: Make a plan to track your progress. What is the the key aspect of the routine are you measuring. What time of day will you log your results? Are you writing it in a notebook or on your phone or laptop? What will you write on days when you forget to adhere to your routine?

 

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”Archilochos

So now that you have the 3 key steps to starting an effective daily routine how are you going to implement them?

How Focusing On Your Breathing Can Improve Your Fitness

Breathing is a unique process in the human body. It can occur voluntarily or involuntarily, be a conscious or unconscious decision, and is constantly responding to feedback from sensors in your body. Oftentimes, our breathe is being stifled by our emotional state, body position, or posture.  With a little effort, focusing on breathing can improve your fitness.

When you inhale your diaphragm contracts and moves downward expanding the chest cavity and giving the lungs space to expand. This simultaneously lifts the ribs and sternum. When you exhale the diaphragm relaxes and expands into the chest cavity as the ribs and sternum lower.  The key muscles or primary movers in this process are the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, and abdominal muscles. Secondary mover muscles include upper trapezius, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, and pectoralis minor.

Poor posture categorized by rounded shoulders and a forward head position can cause these secondary movers to become tight and overworked. This leads to a decline in respiratory function which can further exacerbate the breathing muscles and contribute to even worse posture.

To jump start your muscles involved in breathing try out this stretching and breath practice from Jill Miller at Yoga Tune Up: The Abdominal Vacuum.

So you might be wondering why you should worry about your breath when it’s so easy you can literally do it in your sleep?

Let’s start with the the one we all care about:

1. Improved performance

A study at the University of Portsmouth showed that runners who performed inspiratory muscle warm-ups and training experienced a whopping 15% increase in performance after just 6 weeks.

2. Energy

Bringing a mindful focus to breath can also help improve energy. Individuals who practice deep breathing exercises report more energy, improved mental acuity, and getting a better night’s sleep.

3. Digestion

An improvement in breath capacity will lead to a healthier digestive tract. The body has more energy to allocate towards digestion and is more efficient at eliminating toxins.

4. Decrease Stress

Breathing techniques that are designed to bring increased awareness the breath can carry over to other areas of life. It trains the mind to be less emotionally reactive while simultaneously reducing cortisol levels.

5. Heart Rate

Breathing practice has been shown to lower resting heart rate and blood pressure. Try deep belly breaths where the stomach fully expands and holding in at the full exhalation and inhalation points.

Many breathing techniques are geared towards unwinding, shutting down, and moving away from the flight or fight response we are used to feeling. Breath work also has many powerful applications to get us fired up and improve our u

When lifting heavy weights, a full belly breath can be held inside the abdomen throughout the lift. This Valsalva Maneuver provides internal pressure that supports the spine and braces the skeletal muscle throughout the lift. Limit this maneuver for maximal exertion efforts (eg. greater than 80% of your 1rm and 5 reps or less in your working set).

Breathing can also be used to prime your body into a peak state. Using rapid forced inhales and exhales through the nostrils will stimulate the immune system, increase circulation, and leave you feeling alive, alert, and awake.

Now that you know a little about how breathing affects your daily life and the systems of your body what areas do you want to incorporate a breathing practice into? Whether its for our health, relaxation purposes, or to improve our athletic performance, we could all benefit from taking a deep breath now and then!

Don’t wait another day to start improving your life!  Reach out to us today!

 

How To Master Your Mind

What do you think about during a workout?

How heavy the weight feels?

The daunting number of reps remaining or time left on the clock?

A creaky knee or that shoulder that always flares up?

Whether you’re in the gym to improve your health, gaining strength and conditioning for your sport, or you are an aspiring professional exerciser, you can stand to benefit from improving your mental game. Mental Game is the self talk that dictates how you execute, the inner voice calling the shots. If there have been times in training, competition, and life where you walked away feeling like you could have performed better then maybe it is time to consider improving your mental game.

In his podcast “Finding Mastery,” Michael Gervais interviews 4x worlds fittest man Rich Froning. When it comes to the mindset of a champion, there is no one better to listen to. Rich discusses his approach to training, competition, and his journey from being a relentless individual competitor to a team champion and family man.

“In training, you listen to your body. In competition you tell your body to shut up.” -Rich Froning Jr.

Rich mentions that he hates losing. In fact, he goes so far as to say that he hates losing more than he loves winning.

This is a common occurrence in top athletes that relates back to a very basic human instinct. That is, all decisions that we make are performed in the name of avoiding pain or seeking pleasure. In this case Rich could not bear the sting of losing after a second place finish in his first CrossFit Games appearance. Even after taking home 6 titles proving his dominance as the fittest man in the world, you can still hear the bitterness in his voice as he discusses that fateful day almost a decade behind him.

What separates Rich and makes him such a great champion is what he did with that experience. When most people could have complained, or quit, or cried, Rich let that experience fuel his fire. He did this by attacking his weaknesses in training so that way the next year he could show up with confidence.

Rich goes on to mention that he believed he wasn’t always the best athlete in competition, but that it was his willingness to push himself harder when it mattered most that lead him to victory. This is a skill he has been cultivating his whole life. Growing up in a family surrounded by older, stronger cousins, RIch constantly found himself competing.

To succeed against a stronger opponent, effort becomes of the utmost importance. Like the old saying goes, “hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” We can all benefit from this maxim and train like the underdog. In the training environment, you can create situations that will push you into an uncomfortable place. The more time you spend in an uncomfortable place the less uncomfortable it becomes. This allows you to push deeper and find new thresholds.

Are there any areas in your life that you find uncomfortable? Do you find yourself shying away from those situations or coming up with excuses?

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

Everyone’s favorite Mr. Olympia has the mindset of a champion, there is no denying that. As a successful bodybuilder, businessman, movie star, and governator Arnold shows us that with the right mindset we can achieve success and apply those principles to all areas of our lives.

So what does the mindset of a champion look like? Arnold suggests 6 rules for success:

  1. Trust yourself​, have a clear vision of the outcome you want and go for it.
  2. Break some rules​, be the exception, be the first, one of a kind.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail​, if you are not failing you are not aiming high enough.
  4. Ignore the naysayers​, if you are serious about your goal there is no space.
  5. Work like Hell​, harder and smarter.
  6. Give something back​, what lessons have you learned that could benefit others?

Following these principles will benefit you regardless of your goal or undertaking. Every day is a chance for improvement and you get a fresh start right now.

Are there any areas in your life you need to start to trust yourself? Do you have toxic influences in your life keeping you from trying? What are you focused on besides your goal?

“I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot… when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.” -Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan was focused on making the shot. Not the win.
Not the loss.
Not the miss.

Just making the shot.

It’s a pressure cooker. To have the ball in your hands with the game on the line. Maybe you have been there before…maybe you have never been there, but always wondered what it would be like.

In life we aren’t always faced with such clear moments of decision, but that does not mean that there is any less pressure or less important outcomes. Every day there are perhaps dozens of little decisions we make that have shaped our character and crafted the life that we live.

Whether it is fighting for one more burpee in the workout, double checking our work before shipping a project, or even getting out of bed instead of snoozing for that 5 extra minutes. Each day we get the chance to take the shot. So many times though we don’t take it because we are caught up in our own heads.

By changing our focus to an outcome that we desire, we invite in the opportunity for that change to occur. Our bodies adapt to the stories that our minds create.

Is your self talk keeping you from playing your best in any area? What is a new story you could tell yourself instead?

“If you can see yourself doing something, you can do it. If you can’t see yourself doing it, usually you can’t achieve it.” -David Goggins

David Goggins in no stranger to overcoming obstacles. From losing 120 lbs to becoming a Navy Seal, pull-up world record holder, and running 203.5 miles in 48 hours this man has what I would call mental warfare more than mental game.

How did he do it?

By facing his fears head on. Goggins recognized that by making decisions in fear he was headed down a path that he was ashamed of. He made a choice to become the opposite of all his worst fears, but this change did not happen overnight.

He describes the early days where he couldn’t run around his neighborhood block without stopping and returning to the couch for a chocolate milkshake. He was able to transition and improve by telling himself to be better and try it again. He internalized the message that he was not going to quit by training it every single day. Just like a muscle it grew over time. David would rely on this muscle every time he tackled a new challenge that felt insurmountable.

These are the lessons and tips from some of the best in the world. So how can you start flexing your mental muscles and change your self talk?

Next time you are talking yourself through a workout or challenging project keep these lessons in mind. Focus on the outcome that you want, not the negative result if things don’t work out. Break things down into small manageable chunks. Focus on your most immediate action and doing it to the best of your ability. And of course, work like hell. The challenges in life are there for growth, tackle them head on.

3 Key Steps To Starting An Effective Daily Routine

“I’ve been thinking about taking up a meditation practice.”

“I really need to drink more water…”

“I feel so good when I exercise, I want to go to the gym more often, but can’t find the time!”

If you’re like most people you probably have considered starting a new daily routine to optimize one or more aspects of your life. In a world where time has become more and more valuable, distractions are at an all time high, and to-do lists are as long as ever – people are looking for ways to better themselves. One of the most common ways that folks use to make a change is by adopting a new routine.

Routines are actions or a combination of actions that yield a specific outcome or result.

They are the surest way to make an impactful change in our lives. By the end of this article you will be familiar with the 3 key steps to consider if you want to start an effective daily routine!

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”

-W.H. Auden

Step 1: Keep the end result in mind.

As humans we have hundreds of little routines we practice each day. Most of these we don’t care to or need to focus on, they simply happen. Adopting a new routine is usually in pursuit of something new that we wish to attain. The benefit of successfully completing the routines could improve us physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Make sure to keep the end result in mind as you select your routine.This life changing benefit will keep you motivated and excited to stick with your routine!

Some common results people shoot for with their routine include:
  • Decreased stress
  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Improved mental clarity
  • More time
  • Better performance at school/work/sport
Routines to achieve these outcomes might look like:
  • Take 10 deep breaths before beginning a new project at work.
  • Exercise at least three times each week.
  • Turn my phone to airplane mode 1 hour before bed.
  • Make a list dividing each job into its constituent parts.
  • Plan out my daily schedule every morning while I drink my coffee.
  • Visualize what a successful outcome would look like for my upcoming event.

rou·tine     ro͞oˈtēn/     noun     –     a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.

Routines are most effective when practiced daily. Sometimes we need to focus extra hard on following through with a new routine until it becomes a habit. This is an important factor to consider in both the selection and implementation of your new routine.

Dr. BJ Fogg, a behavioral scientist from Stanford, has a basic behavioral model he uses to describe the steps to change. He claims that in order for a behavior change to happen you need to have the right mix of motivation, ability, and a trigger.

If we are highly motivated to complete a task then the odds are that when a trigger occurs we will produce a successful outcome. Likewise we tend to be successful at tasks that are easy to complete even if we are not so motivated to get them done.

Makes sense right?

The challenge many of us face is that we fail to set up routines that take into account the motivation required to complete a task requiring a higher level of ability. We shoot for the stars and quickly burn out after our initial gusto wears off.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t aim to make big dramatic change with our new routine?

Kind of…not exactly…but yes.

At least Dr. Fogg would advise against it. Instead he suggest focusing on the smallest possible change available to you in your new routine. Consistency wins the long term change game so you should pick a routine that you know you you can complete every single try. This will generate momentum and a new skill that you can apply later to more challenging target areas.

Action Step: Get out a pen and paper and spend 5 minutes brainstorming some ideas of areas you would like to implement a routine. Think about the end result you would like to achieve and make note of the top 2 or 3 new routines that would be a first step on the path. Then let’s move on to step 2!     

        

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Step 2: Determine the lay of the land

This is a chance to take inventory of your assets and keep an eye out for potential pitfalls. Implementing a new behavior is challenging because it requires knocking our brain off of autopilot. Rather than coast through our day following the usual agenda we are throwing a strategic interruption to our thought pattern that lets us try something new. This step can be split into two categories:

Supporting Factors, things that can help you implement your routine. Some examples could be:
  • A supportive partner or best friend
  • A commute to work that offers some alone time
  • Sticky note reminders you place all over your house
  • A trainer, coach, or mentor who wants you to succeed

And

Distracting Factors, barriers, or common faults that would get in the way of you completing your daily routine. This might look like:
  • Social settings where you may feel awkward practicing your new routine.
  • People who interrupt you and take up your time (EVEN IF YOU YOU LOVE THEM)
  • Physical struggles with things like exercise or waking up early.
  • Bad influences on your diet, behaviors, or actions.
Action Step: List the top 3 assets you have that could help you start your routine and then the top 3 distractions that may keep you from succeeding. For the distractions, find a solution for how you could overcome it (eg. Coordinate workout schedules with a friend, sIgn up for a class the night before, or prep healthy lunches for the week on Sunday afternoon)

 

 

Step 3: Track Your Progress

Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the founding father of using routines for personal development knew the importance of tracking and measuring his daily practices. Each morning Franklin asked himself, “What good shall I do today? And in the evening, “What good did I do today?” Taking the time twice each day to check in on his progress created more opportunities for growth and self-improvement.

Not only that but Ben cycled through a list of 13 virtues he chose to improve his morality. He would focus on one for a week at a time and document any infractions to the redeeming quality. He noticed significant improvement in his adherence cycling through each virtue four times a year.

As you prepare to start your new routine you want to keep track of your progress. Having clear defined parameters will make you more likely to succeed and recreate the process again for future habits.

Action Step: Make a plan to track your progress. What is the the key aspect of the routine are you measuring. What time of day will you log your results? Are you writing it in a notebook or on your phone or laptop? What will you write on days when you forget to adhere to your routine?

 

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”Archilochos

So now that you have the 3 key steps to starting an effective daily routine how are you going to implement them?

 

Neurotransmitters, Recovery, And Your Training

Do you ever have days when you feel like all you could do is sleep no matter how much coffee you drink?

Or maybe you’ve been on a new strength program for the past 8 weeks and feel weaker than when you started?

Maybe you find yourself walking around the gym in a daze not wanting to get started?

If you said “Yes” to any of these you may have experienced a deficiency or imbalance of your neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitter are chemical messengers that get released in our body. They allow our cells to communicate and work together. There are 4 primary neurotransmitters: Dopamine, Acetylcholine, Serotonin, and GABA. They are both excitatory (speed our cells up) and inhibitory (slow our cells down).

All the neurotransmitters are constantly in fluxuation and balance with one another. This can have a huge effect on our mood, energy, and ability to focus. Some activities like lifting a heavy weight or taking a challenging test use up the neurotransmitters we have on hand.

Strength coach Charles Poliquin is a huge proponent of specific program design built around the athlete. Knowing which of the neurotransmitter types you are dominant in can help you adjust loading parameters, frequency and intensity of training, and plan rest days. Even having a basic understanding of which neurotransmitter type you are dominant in will give you a framework for decision making around your training goals.

Now lets learn a little about each neurotransmitter type.

Dopamine

Dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter making it a huge factor behind your motivation towards training and activity levels. Individuals who are dopamine dominant tend to be the ones who are always fired up to exercise. They handle high volume and intensity well but tend to adapt quickly to a stimulus which can cause them to overtrain quickly if their workouts are not constantly varied.

Dopamine synthesis can be promoted by eating foods such as almonds, peanuts, soybeans, avocados, bananas, watermelon, yogurt, beef, tuna, chicken, chocolate, eggs, coffee, and green tea.

Acetylcholine

Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter responsible for intercellular communication between the muscles in the nervous system. Acetylcholine levels can make a huge difference in our ability to recruit the maximal number of muscle fibers. On days where you might not “feel strong” could be because your cells are having a hard time communicating to coordinate on a lift.

Meats, dairy, poultry and fish contain high levels of choline, with the highest levels coming from liver. One 3-ounce serving of meat contains approximately 70 milligrams of choline. Chocolate, peanut butter, brussels sprouts and broccoli also contain significant levels of choline.

GABA

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and is responsible for shutting the body down for rest and recovery. You may be experiencing low GABA levels if you find your mind racing or have trouble sleeping at night.

GABA levels can be promoted through probiotic rich foods like yogurt that improve gut health. Foods that increase GABA levels include berries, bananas, and Pu-erh tea.

Serotonin

Serotonin is another inhibitory neurotransmitter and really a jack of all trades. It helps regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to fatigue and depression.

Foods like chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, nut butter, eggs, and green peas all contain high levels of Tryptophan a precursor to serotonin production. One other way to boost serotonin production? You guessed it…exercise!

 

Want to talk more about training and recovery? Get in touch with a coach today!

Your New Diet in the Real World – The CrossFit Journal

When I attended the CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Course, one of the Seminar Staff members asked attendees raise their hands to indicate how long they had been doing CrossFit.

When he got to the few who had been doing CrossFit for less than six months, he cracked a joke: “Oh, you still have friends outside the box!”

We all laughed.

Then we began to mentally tally the friendships that have fallen by the wayside since we dramatically changed our lifestyles.

Not long ago, I happened upon a couple of friends who were discussing a recent party.

“We didn’t invite you guys because you don’t eat. I mean you don’t eat like regular people.”

I chuckled, but it reminded me how much we link social interaction to food and drink—family traditions, special meals as a couple, happy hour with your buddies. Food and drink are often so strongly entwined with events that most people cannot separate the former from the latter.

It’s almost like we are programmed: This is when we eat that thing.

Mom always makes biscuits and gravy on Sundays. Friday lunch is Mexican food. Buttered buckets of popcorn and Milk Duds at the movies on Friday night.

We celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and holidays with copious amounts of food because that’s what we have always done. It’s familiar and comfortable.

But then you want to be healthier, and you make a change. You’re doing CrossFit, and you’ve learned that you need to eat better to accomplish your goal. This can be very challenging because the changes affect your entire social circle. You know this, and so do I.

When you decide your nutrition needs a major overhaul, it will affect those closest to you even if you aren’t asking them to change a single thing. While they might respect and ultimately admire your desire to be healthier, they are unprepared for you to change when, how and where you eat. They have come to terms with the hour a day you spend at the box, but when you turn down pizza and beer with the gang, you’ve crossed a line.

Too often, we’ll stick to our commitment for a few weeks, only to be derailed by something we just couldn’t decline. It’s a pattern you’ve likely repeated. I know I’ve been down that road. Maybe you start to feel like it’s hopeless unless you become a hermit.

So it’s time to be realistic: You aren’t going to avoid restaurants, parties and family events forever. They are all part of life. But with the right strategies in place, you can continue to spend time with your friends and still move toward your goals. It’s all about a battle plan.

At my heaviest, I was over 300 lb., but I was trying desperately to make a change, and I had to overcome the feeling that my family and friends were inadvertently working against me. In the beginning, the box of fresh doughnuts a co-worker left on the front desk felt like a personal assault on my crumbling willpower. When my husband suggested dinner at a steakhouse, I wondered why he wanted to put me through that. And so on.

If your current circle of friends spends every night at the bar and then hits the drive-thru on the way home, it might be hard to find common ground. But there’s quite a range between habits like that and a monthly girls’ night out or family dinner.

On days when I knew I didn’t have the mental fortitude to resist my old favorites, I would simply turn down an invite. As I became more comfortable managing my food choices, that happened less and less. I devised a set of go-to plans to help me navigate the junk-food jungle. I know you’re trying to change your habits, so I’ll share them with you.

ALT TEXTIf you’re tracking your food intake, you’ll know how to make adjustments for the occasional dinner at a restaurant.

Dining Out

The time to determine your plan is not when you are already at Taco Del Fiesta staring down tortilla chips and queso dip.

If you plan to dine in a restaurant, check out the menu beforehand. Decide before you walk in the door what you are ordering—and stick to the plan.

Remember how I told you to track everything you eat? You know how quickly a few bites add up. Now use that info to make the best decisions you can.

If it’s a chain restaurant, its nutrition information is online, and you can make educated choices. Sometimes that means eating really lightly the rest of the day so you can “save up” for the meal you have selected. Other times, it might mean eating a healthy meal beforehand and ordering a small appetizer or salad. You might even find that a few choices fit perfectly into your plan as is.

In a strange but wonderful twist, you’ll be amazed at the freedom that comes from predetermined choices. Never again will you have to stare at a menu, willing yourself to stick to water before giving up and diving head first into the bread bowl.

Plus, when you order with confidence and obviously enjoy your meal, your friends won’t feel like you are on yet another crazy diet. They probably won’t even notice what you do and don’t eat or drink.

You’ll be there with them, and that’s the most important thing.

Family Dinners and Potlucks

If you’re going to dinner at someone’s house, bring a sharable dish that fits your plan. Make it something you really like so you’ll be satisfied even if it’s the only thing you can consume with confidence. Stay away from the all-or-nothing mentality. If you have a few bites of lasagna, you aren’t going to lose your progress, but if you have a few plates of lasagna, you are going to feel it.

As in restaurants, have a strategy in place. If you know you want a piece of Aunt Sally’s carrot cake, plan for it. Make it fit in your day. Don’t swear off it and then punish your “failure” by using artichoke dip to test Doritos for structural integrity.

With a buffet of choices, I try to stick to food I can identify. Fruits and veggies are obviously better choices than anything covered in chocolate or cheese, anything deep fried and anything poured from a plastic package.

Lastly, stop hanging out by the food table. Situate yourself on the far side of the room and enjoy the company.

Your New Lifestyle

As you apply these strategies—and others you devise for yourself—the situations that used to loom as giant tests will evolve into what they actually are: everyday life.

Life includes good food and drink, family and friends, but it also includes a new and improved you.

This article is Part 5 of 6.

Part 1: “An Open Letter to Those Who Need to Lose Weight”

Part 2: “Change Your Life in 24 Hours”

Part 3: “I’m Working out but Can’t Lose Weight”

Part 4: “When You Never Rx Anything”

About the Author: Kai Rainey lives with her husband of 21 years in Tucson, Arizona. At 42, she was over 300 lb., with a BMI of 49.9. She lost over half her body weight through CrossFit and healthy eating. In November 2017, she earned a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certificate. She hopes to reach others who are battling obesity and help them take steps to reclaim their lives. 

When You Never Rx Anything – The CrossFit Journal

The timer beeps, signaling the end of your workout.

You normally feel pretty exhilarated after it’s over, but this was one of those workouts. One where there wasn’t a single movement you could come close to performing.

The rest of the athletes had hung from the rig, doing variations of toes-to-bars and hanging leg raises. Unable even to hang, you were on the floor with a medicine ball between your knees, trying to raise it to your chest.

When the coach saw your frustration with single-unders and quickly switched you to calf raises, you swore the whiz of all the double-unders in the room was even louder than the Metallica blaring overhead.

Shaking arms perched on the edge of a box, your performed “dips” that were barely perceptible. Across the room, your classmates looked far steadier as they moved up and down between the wooden rings.

Trudging toward the wall, you dread the novel you will write to describe your modifications when you log your workout.

All the fist bumps don’t change that feeling. That feeling that you’ll never get “there.” That it’s taking too long to see any improvement. That maybe you are actually in over your head.

I had more than a few of those days early on. A lot of it was due to my own unrealistic expectations.

ALT TEXTJacque Mulleitner in November 2016 (left) and July 2017. She lost 72 lb. and was finally able to fit an autographed jersey Margaux Alvarez gave her at the CrossFit Games in 2015. Keep your eyes on the horizon and keep moving forward. (Mark Tablang)

I had been trapped in the binge-diet cycle and thought anything could change drastically in 30 or 60 days. Even though I started CrossFit morbidly obese, I initially imagined I’d have things like pull-ups and double-unders in a few short months if I came three times a week.

Of course, I quickly realized my imagination had to do some negotiating with reality.

That didn’t mean days like the one described above didn’t sting. After one particularly trying day, I seriously considered asking the owner if he could please, please make sure there was at least one thing I could actually do in each workout. I just couldn’t muster up the boldness to admit how crushing it was to me to modify a workout to the point it was unrecognizable from my perspective.

The first time I heard the phrase “leave your ego at the door,” I didn’t apply it to myself. I assumed that advice was for the strapping bodybuilder who just suffered through Nancy for the first time or the spin instructor who paid tribute to DT.

But the phrase was absolutely meant for me. And it’s also meant for you.

It was during one of those early pity-fests that I found myself reading the words below on the wall at Cross Fixx, and they can probably be found somewhere in your box, too:

Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance. Stamina. Strength. Flexibility. Power. Speed. Coordination. Agility. Balance. Accuracy.

I’d seen those words for weeks, and it finally dawned on me that the list didn’t include muscle-ups, pull-ups, double-unders and handstand push-ups. It didn’t say a thing about Fran, Cindy, Angie or Jackie. Those movements and workouts provide the constant variation that produces fitness and the benchmarks that test it, but mastering a movement or workout isn’t truly the end goal.

We want to live longer, avoid chronic disease and be able to thrive when faced with a challenge. In the gym, that challenge might be Fight Gone Bad. In real life, it might be racing to get help or pulling someone to safety. It could be as profoundly simple as setting an example that keeps your children from becoming obese or makes your aging parents rethink what a healthy meal looks like.

After this realization, things changed dramatically for me. CrossFit had already educated me on the importance of record keeping so I could identify any and all metrics that were improving. I just needed a personal set of benchmarks to record and—hopefully—crush on a regular basis.

Endurance improvements were easy to measure: Row or run/walk for a set period of time and try to go further each week. Or I could run or row a set distance and then re-test to see if I could complete it faster. Sound familiar? These are your basic AMRAP and for-time workouts.

For accuracy, I would see how many wall-ball reps I could complete in a row before a no-rep appeared. When I increased the height of the wall-ball shot, that was a strength PR for me.

For stamina, I would regularly multiply the total reps completed in a WOD by the weight I was using, then divide it by the total minutes to get a weight-per-minute number to try and beat. Yeah, I’m a numbers geek, but seeing the upward trend was motivating and made me care less and less about being able to click the Rx button.

ALT TEXTThis CrossFit Kennesaw athlete lost about 100 lb., and this lift is a PR. (Courtesy of Kelly Johnson/CrossFit Kennesaw)

Five months into CrossFit, I did get to click the Rx button.

I remember being almost dismissive of the accomplishment initially: “Of course you Rx’d this. It’s an easy one.”

It was 10-minute AMRAP of 10 kettlebell snatches at 26 lb. and a 10-calorie row. That day it was easy. Five months prior, I hadn’t been able to strap myself into the rower because my belly blocked me and I lacked flexibility. I hadn’t been able to squat below parallel. In May 2014, when I walked in the door of CrossFit Fixx, there was no way I could have squatted down and pulled a 26-lb. kettlebell to my side. Never mind using the power of my hips to throw it overhead 50 times.

I felt like a freaking rock star.

You will, too—as soon as you realize that you only need to compare yourself to the person in the mirror. No one else. It’s not that hard to become a little better every single day. A little stronger, a smidge faster, slightly more coordinated.

You can only build the body of your dreams with thousands of good nutritional decisions and hundreds of workouts that make you utter phrases such as “pain cave.” There is nothing fast or easy about the process. But it’s not hard, either. Hard is living obese. Getting fit gradually is glorious compared to that. And living fit? I maintain that an entire year of working out and eating clean is easier than any single day of living in the obese body I had for over a decade.

Instead of focusing on all the things you can’t do today, start celebrating the ones you can. Start challenging yourself to add to that list every week until all the can’ts are in the rearview mirror.

This article is Part 4 of 6.

Part 1: “An Open Letter to Those Who Need to Lose Weight”

Part 2: “Change Your Life in 24 Hours”

Part 3: “I’m Working out but Can’t Lose Weight”

Part 5: “Your New Diet in the Real World”

About the Author: Kai Rainey lives with her husband of 21 years in Tucson, Arizona. At 42, she was over 300 lb., with a BMI of 49.9. She lost over half her body weight through CrossFit and healthy eating. In November 2017, she earned a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certificate. She hopes to reach others who are battling obesity and help them take steps to reclaim their lives. 

“I’m Working out but Can’t Lose Weight” – The CrossFit Journal

You’re getting the hang of this CrossFit thing.

You’ve been to several classes and you’re sleeping well, moving easier, breathing better.

You’ve learned the difference between an AMRAP and an EMOM.

If only the scale would move.

How can you do CrossFit—the hardest workouts on the planet—and not lose weight?

Here’s the answer: The foundation of CrossFit is nutrition.

Those bodies you’ve been admiring weren’t built just by burpees. They were molded by something far more mundane: high-quality whole foods in appropriate quantities. Meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.

As much as you might want someone to lay out a meal plan for you and give you a list of what you can and can’t have, that method seldom leads to long-term weight management.

Trust me, I’ve tried all the plans. It wasn’t until I educated myself on what I was actually eating that I learned how to make adjustments and decisions that allowed me to achieve my goals. Once I was truly in the driver’s seat, things became remarkably easy.

Do you know what you ate yesterday? You might be able to recall with some accuracy your meals and snacks, but do you know exactly how much you ate? Do you know how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat?

ALT TEXTTry it. Just for a couple of weeks. Track everything and get a clear picture of what you’re eating.

If you’ve never tracked your food, it can be a bit time consuming in the beginning, but a couple of basic tools will shorten the learning curve. All you need is a food scale, an account on a site such as MyFitnesspal (the free version works just fine) and a commitment to recording everything you eat and drink. Every bite and every sip—at least for a while.

If you are overweight, you are probably eating more than you think you are. Portion sizes can be very deceptive. Just because it’s a serving to you doesn’t mean it’s the serving size listed on the package. You need to determine exactly how much you are consuming before you determine what you should be eating. For this reason, I recommend you just log your intake for the next 10-20 days. No changes. Just logging.

Don’t forget to include the condiments, the olive oil that you cooked your veggies in, the butter on your bagel, or the bite of Ben and Jerry’s you accidentally downed when you went to get ice. Don’t forget the calories you drink: juice, soda, alcohol. Measure everything, weigh everything. No judgment. Just record it.

Accuracy and consistency are important. During this phase, stay away from restaurants that don’t have their nutritional information available online. You need to be able to account for every meal, and a cheeseburger from one place might contain 600 calories while something that appears identical contains 1,500. Ideally, you’ll be prepping your own food for the greatest accuracy.

With a few weeks’ worth of accurate data, you can analyze your current intake and decide where you need to make changes.

When you are ready to adjust your calories down after a period of tracking, you’ll likely decide pretty quickly to give up or limit high-calorie, low-nutrition foods. Soda and sugary snacks and desserts, chips, fries, deep-fried whatever—when you see the caloric impact they have on your diet, you will be moved to switch things up.

This time, you won’t make switch because some book told you to cut Captain Crunch out of your life. You’ll change because that nightly margarita is keeping you from losing an extra pound this week, and you want that pound gone more than you want that drink.

ALT TEXTAccomplishing your goals will be more satisfying.

When you plug in those two Big Macs and realize that 12 bites of “food” could have been traded for 12 oz. of grilled chicken, an enormous green salad and a generous portion of sweet potatoes or rice, you will come to a singular conclusion: Bad food isn’t worth it.

The second you find yourself uttering those words, your diet—the foods you decide to eat—will change.

In the beginning, you might just serve less of the same foods you are already eating—10 chicken nuggets instead of 20, diet soda instead of soda, less peanut butter. I had to observe a moment of silence when I learned how small a serving of peanut butter actually is.

Whatever direction your newfound knowledge takes you, it will be an improvement.

Before you know it, you’ll be filling your cart with fruits and vegetables and gorgeous cuts of meat. You’ll create vibrant and colorful plates of food and wonder how you ever subsisted on a “meal” received at a drive-thru window.

I’m not saying you’ll never have a slice of chocolate cake again. I’m not even saying you’ll never have a weekend defined by nachos and beer. But those things will become the exception, and they will no longer derail you from the path you are on.

That’s right. You will still be on the path even if you take the occasional detour.

No more starting over on Monday. No more Nov. 1s when, after having failed your candy-abstinence pledge for Halloween, you throw in the towel and decide you’ll start over after the holidays.

You will have conquered the binge-dieting cycle that most of the world doesn’t even recognize as futile. You won’t be on a diet ever again. Imagine the freedom of that.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When you start on a journey, you have to know your point of origin. So spend the next 20 days educating yourself on what you actually eat. Log everything, no matter how horrible you think it is. You deserve the revelations that will come from complete honesty. It might be a little painful, but you can handle it.

Heck, you’re a CrossFitter.

This article is Part 3 of 6.

Part 1: “An Open Letter to Those Who Need to Lose Weight”

Part 2: “Change Your Life in 24 Hours”

Part 4: “When You Never Rx Anything”

Part 5: “Your New Diet in the Real World”

About the Author: Kai Rainey lives with her husband of 21 years in Tucson, Arizona. At 42, she was over 300 lb., with a BMI of 49.9. She lost over half her body weight through CrossFit and healthy eating. In November 2017, she earned a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certificate. She hopes to reach others who are battling obesity and help them take steps to reclaim their lives.

Change Your Life in 24 Hours – The CrossFit Journal

You’ve almost decided to try CrossFit.

You’ve picked out the gym. You’ve been to the website to get familiar with the trainers. Maybe you even walked past during a class and admired what appears to be choreographed chaos.

You have one step left, and it’s through the front door.

I know you have a dozen reasons why you think you can’t do it. Running and jumping aren’t in your wheelhouse at present. You’ve surmised that those things appear regularly in CrossFit, as do pull-ups and burpees. A voice is telling you that you can’t do it.

But I know another voice is urging you to try CrossFit—and you need to listen.

One thing is certain: If you don’t try it, you definitely won’t create the body you envision. The path to that body—that healthy, capable and fit body—runs directly away from your sofa.

I know exactly how you feel.

The first day I walked into CrossFit, I was so obese I couldn’t jump. At all. My body wasn’t capable of creating enough force to propel myself even an inch into the air.

I felt like an imposter.

ALT TEXTThe author, once 300 lb., made a commitment to diet and exercise and lost more than half her body weight. (Courtesy of Kai Rainey)

If you are worried that you’ll stand out because of your lack of fitness, I have a secret to share with you:

CrossFit humbles everyone daily.

This is not a secret inside the CrossFit community. Ask the fittest person at your new gym about his or her first workout. You’ll hear stories about not finishing, almost puking and being shocked about how much harder it was than it looked.

Here’s another secret: You have a bit of an advantage over the typical fairly fit person who drops in to try a CrossFit class. You already know it’s going to be hard.

In truth, the workouts are always going to be hard because when they start to get easy, you’ll make them harder again. That’s what we do, and that’s how we get fitter and accomplish our goals. We aren’t a bunch of genetic freaks with a high pain tolerance. We don’t love the actual workout while we are doing it, but we love its effects, and the reward is worth the effort.

I want you to experience this transformation, but it’s going to take more than a session or two before you notice the changes your body will start making on Day 1. The space between your first few classes and the first look-what-I-can-do-now moment can be a challenge.

Maybe you’ve even gone to a class here or there but stopped for whatever reason.

I have a proposal for you: Give yourself 24 hours in the form of 24 CrossFit classes.

That’s enough classes to get you past the initial what-was-I-thinking panic and through the week or two when your body threatens to go on strike in protest of your new hobby.

Likely, you will question your decision during every class for at least the first 10 sessions. You’ll be sore. You’ll be sure you are never going to remember the difference between a clean and a snatch. You’ll curse gravity and wall balls. You will swear that you will always hate burpees.

Somewhere between classes 12 and 20, things will start making sense, and you might even find yourself looking forward to the next challenge written on the whiteboard. Trust me.

ALT TEXTReclaiming your life won’t be easy. But it will be worth it. (Megan Hales)

Think of the struggle you feel as an airplane fights nature to climb into the air. Your first 24 classes are like that takeoff. You’re going to have to fight excuses, old habits, the desire to quit. But just like the airplane overcomes gravity, you’ll fight through your excuses and reach “cruising altitude.” Once there, you’ve created a routine, and quitting won’t be on your radar.

Three or four days a week for the next six to eight weeks—that’s all I’m asking for. Don’t look beyond that. The time is going to pass whether you get off the couch or not. How much better for it to pass as you grow stronger and healthier?

Any structure that is meant to last requires a solid foundation at its base. Think of each class as another brick you are adding to the foundation of your health and fitness. When you fill in that 24th brick, your basic foundation will be complete and you’ll be ready to really start building the body and life you want.

Every day, CrossFit cures chronic disease, reverses obesity and saves lives. Spend 24 hours and see what changes CrossFit can make in your life.

Part 1 in this six-part series: “An Open Letter to Those Who Need to Lose Weight”