Buy green tea locally and drink more of it

There is no shortage of articles, blog posts or even entire blogs dedicated to sell you on the idea that you should be drinking green tea if you aren’t going to die tomorrow – fat – lonely with only a stray-cat for company. So I won’t dig too much into that.

As a general rule of thumb people will drink things that tastes good or things that have a desired effect – even if this may bear the adverse effect of vomiting or causing you to have a mini-me show up after 9 months – and just to be clear, that’s alcohol – not green tea.

So where am I going with this? If you want to drink more green tea or green tea at all – then it needs to taste really good or have a huge impact to outweigh any lack of seductive taste. And then finally it needs to be relatively easy to make. Matcha tea is probably one of the most beneficial of all green teas, but it is very expensive and quite complicated to make. Some days you may have the time to go through a half hour tea ceremony but to make it a stable part of everyday we probably need to minimize the use of Geishas, Chashitsues(Japanese tea house) and stick to teas that give a somewhat better ROI.

But with that being said – don’t go all cheap-skate and buy bagged green tea from Lipton or any other big-name tea producer. Some of them may taste close to okay, but often times they get very bitter easily and is in my book a bit too far in the “ease-of-making” category compromising on quality and taste.

Green tea is such a good candidate for buying more local and supporting small business owners. I have moved a few times over the last couple of years and each time I have spent some time looking for a cosy, small tea shop where I could buy my favorite tea.

Walking into these shops is an event in itself. My favorite shop these days is like walking into a little part of Japan in the middle of Copenhagen. This cosy small shop that is owned by the most hospitable little Japanese lady, mellowly submerges your senses in a mix of smells varying from the sweetest of teas to the strongest of herbs all the while you are surrounded by rice lamps and Japanese art all giving life to the experience of buying such a small and trivial thing as tea.

Buying from these shops instead of buying from big supermarkets or online both lets you indulge in the comfortable feeling of buying from specialists as was the way everything was sold back in the day, as well as enabling you to smell all the different varieties of tea and getting expert advice from people who is specialised in exactly the type of goods you are there to buy. Supermarkets and online shopping are great for convenience in everyday shopping but for more specialised goods the nothing beats small distinct shops both in terms of overall experience and quality.

The types of tea you can buy here tastes so much better than mass-manufactured bagged tea. You can buy small bags to put the tea into or filters that then has to be cleaned – but this just adds layers of complication. Most green teas bought in these shops can actually just be put directly in the cup and then poured over with hot water. The quality of tea ensures that it does not get bitter from being in the cup too long. Then when you have consumed your tea you just throw the used leaves in the bin and brew a new cup – easy!

Do yourself the favor and go out into the world and enter one of these shops – I will almost guarantee that you’ll get both better quality goods as well as a more rewarding buying experience. It also makes it more likely that you’ll consume more of the holy nectar of life enabling you to grow old while being surrounded by beautiful people and doing backflips.

 

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Drinking water vs absorbing water

Most people probably drink too little water. They kill their thirst with some sort of bottled or canned alternative containing either none or lots of calories. Steering somewhat clear of that discussion I will focus on the ones who actually do turn to water whenever they feel thirsty and only uses the bottled and canned alternatives as a treat once in a while.

Once you find yourself in the latter group, you’re golden right? Not quite – but if you feel you’ve already done all you need to – then do not read on – but if you’re interested in one little missing piece of the puzzle, then please; read on.

There are somewhat differing views as to how much water we actually need each day. Of course this also heavily depends on who you are and what you do. Luckily our body is pretty well suited to telling us when we are thirsty – if then only we remember to answer this calling with the right substance – meaning water. But adding to this, a little tip is that you can also monitor the color of your pee as this is a pretty good indicator of your current water levels in the body. It should be almost clear – the more yellow it is the more you’re in need of water. Of course your morning urine will almost always be yellow – but from there it should be pretty close to clear.

But even this advice will not necessarily keep you in the sweet spot – because you can also have too much water – then you start excreting all the nice vitamins in your body – which by no means is the goal. I was in this group. I drank lots of water and had always done so. But my frequent trips to the toilet left me questioning whether I actually absorbed any of this water or it just sort of had a fast-track route through me.

Researching a bit on this lead me to a somewhat controversial mineral; salt. Lots of people almost swear that this kills you as fast as saturated fat did some years back. They will scan through all ingredients in everything they buy looking for this big read flashing sign saying “RADIOACTIVE” or “salt” as they sometimes spell it. Of course this is not the way to do it – just as well as only eating food covered in salt isn’t. As with anything – moderation is king!

Your body needs salt especially in regards to the topic of this post – absorption of water. Salt plays a vital role in your cells absorption of water. And why is this important – the important part must be just drinking the water, then the rest takes care of itself. Well not quite. As mentioned earlier if you aren’t absorbing the water it just sort of runs through you without actually doing any good – or as much good as it’s supposed to.

For your cells and your muscles to work properly they need the water, but not just running past them – they need it to enter. This is where salt comes into play [reference].

But then how should you go about having the right amount of salt to absorb the water? Is it a matter of putting more salt on your meals?

In my experience this doesn’t quite solve the problem. It is as if you need rather large quantities of salt on your food to get around this issue and to be fair you probably do not drink all your water around your meals. And now you can probably see where we are going…

Adding salt to the water itself. But if you’ve ever heard good ol’ advice on how to make people puke you will probably connect the dots and look like a big question mark. Saltwater is very efficient at making people puke if they have eaten something they shouldn’t – but the amount and quality of salt is key here.

You shouldn’t add kilos of ordinary table salt to a small glass of water and call it a day – or you may – because you’ll be feeling very bad afterwards if you manage to drink it. What you should be doing is buy some quality salt and only adding very little to your water. My go-to type is himalayan salt like this: Himalayan Crystal Salt – Dark Pink but no need to buy it of the internet you can probably find it in your local shop. If it looks something like this – then you’re probably golden. Billede 09-08-15 15.02.07

I add a small pinch between two fingers to my can of 2 litres – which equates to 8-10 small pieces. It doesn’t taste like salt at all and I am very adverse to the taste of saltwater, so I wouldn’t be able to drink it if it did.

After doing this my frequent trips to the toilet has stopped. I do not drink as much water but feel better. My body seems to actually make good use of the water instead of just being a fancy water fountain that carries the water from the tap to the toilet. If you can recognise any of the symptoms then try it yourself.

Stop cravings – the unexpected effect of L-Glutamine

The claimed benefits of L-Glutamine are numerous, including; reduced recovery time, increased metabolism, increased muscle growth and many others – the experienced benefits from my point of view at least are somewhat of a shorter list. But in one area it actually delivered.

My main reason for trying it was the reduced recovery time. Having a rather packed schedule, even though I try not to pack too many workouts in each week, I was rather welcoming a supplement that may reduce my recovery time and make me feel more energetic and less burned.

Being already quite aware of not over-training or burning out, it was not supposed to get me from total zombie to absolute superman, but only just make me actually feel as if i recover easier. Doing a combination of strength training, Track & Field sprinting and Teamgym gymnastics there was a lot of settings that I could have felt a difference. But it somehow just did not make any difference even though I really wanted it to do so.

Another area where it could have helped was fending of the common cold. Probably because of pushing the body on such a regular basis and being pretty close to burnout(a subject I will cover later as I have since changed my training philosophy a bit), I almost as certain as clockwork run into a common cold once or twice a year. One of the benefits of L-Glutamine should be enhancing CNS and thereby helping your own body fight of disease. But I still got the same old common cold even though I was taking L-Glutamine and even upping the dosage did not help in fighting it off. This could of course have been a very strong common cold or whatever – but point remains – it disappointed.

One area where it did deliver however was somewhat unexpected and I actually had to look it up afterwards to see if it could be L-Glutamine that caused this effect. I follow intermittent fasting and has done so for the past 5 years probably, meaning that I eat my first meal somewhere around 11.00 and the last somewhere around 18 – 19.00. What I had noticed was that I in some periods feel a crave for something sweet right after my first meal of the day. And starting L-Glutamine I was in such a period, but strangely the craving sort of disappeared. Usually I had a piece of dark chocolate not that long after my first meal to fend of this craving, but taking L-Glutamine this craving just disappeared and generally I had a much easier time sticking to meals and not craving unhealthy foods at strange times of the day. Once I ran out of L-Glutamine the craving returned – so I am positive that it came as an effect of L-Glutamine.

Whether this would be enough effect to warrant a purchase of L-Glutamine would be your choice. You may even experience the other effects, but in my opinion it did not quite deliver. I haven’t bought it since, but may do so if I find myself in a situation where I really needs to stick to a low calorie diet. But for now I stick to the only two supplements that I can really feel and measure the effect of; creatineand beta-alanine.

I bought L-Glutamine as powder like this: NOW Foods L-Glutamine Pure Powder, 1-Poundbut if you’re more into pills like these: Optimum Nutrition Glutamine 1000mg, 120 Capsulesthen that should be your choice.

If you have had any strange or unexpected effects of L-Glutamine or any other supplement, then please let me know below.

Beta alanine tingling and sex

Just reached 100 subscribers, which I would like to celebrate with a little fun tip. I have written quite extensively about beta alanine and it effects on performance here: What is beta alanine – the new creatine? But recently I found a quite fun and different use of beta alanine.

As some of you might know, it is quite common to get tingles under the skin from ingesting beta alanine. This is completely harmless and apparently not everybody seems to get these tingles. From reading peoples experience some even find these tingles unpleasant – if you’re one of them, then this is probably not for you.

For me the tingling is quite pleasant – a little strange the first time, but not unpleasant at all. The tingling is caused by beta alanine binding to nerve receptors and thereby making them fire a little. A lot of these nerves runs right under the skin which gives the tingling/prickling sensation. It usually sets in after 10-20 minutes after ingesting beta alanine.

It is possible to blunder this effect by ingesting beta alanine together with carbohydrates or meals in general – which should also enhance its positive effects on performance. But for this use we are not looking to maximize performance or blunder the tingling effect, on the contrary. If you do not feel the tingle at all, it should be possible to enhance the feeling by ingesting beta alanine together with caffeine on empty stomach. I get the tingling sensation every time, even though I have been using it for several months in a row.

An easy way to ingest it is just by dissolving the powder in a cup of coffee and drink it on an empty stomach – tingling here we go!

Just to set things straight, if you do not feel these tingles, then its not a sign of beta alanine not working. Some people experience them others don’t – there is no correlation between tingles and the positive performance effects of beta alanine. If you don’t feel the tingling then you might not get the enhanced feeling described below.

Now for the fun part. I recently had a serving of beta alanine like 20 minutes before having sex. The tingling had just set in, which as stated earlier I find quite pleasant. This tingling and what must have been caused by the activation of all the nerves under the skin, just made my body extra sensitive. Every touch was magnified, feelings ran up through my neck and spine. Everything was just a little bit more intense and pleasant. It seemed as though it made every sensation just a little more intense and enjoyable. A quite fun and surprising experience!

If you get pleasant tingles from beta alanine and want a little extra spice it might be worth trying. Beta alanine is as safe and almost as thoroughly tested as creatine so no need to worry as long as you stay within the recommended doses. And as with creatine, just go for the cheapest option like this one: NOW Foods Beta Alanine Powder 500G no need to pay for expensive overhyped products. Pills or powder is your choice, I seem to prefer powder and most of the times it also seems like the cheapest option.

Reduce pre-workout supplement sleep problems

How do you get to sleep normally while taking pre-workout supplements? Some people do not experience any problems, but for a lot of people preworkout supplements messes with their sleep. The easy way to avoid this of course is to just skip the pre-workout altogether, but I know from my own experience how tough this can be. Because pre-workout supplements actually works, you CAN feel a difference. I learned to go without them, but this post will focus more on what you can do if you cannot live without your pre-workout.

If you are having trouble sleeping while taking pre-workout supplements, then first of all realize that you are compromising your sleep and as far as sleep concerns you are starting from a dug out hole. But know that you take your pre-workout, what can you do to optimize your sleep and perhaps counteract some of the negatives from the pre-workout.

You can of course start by trying different types of pre-workout to see if any of them has less negative effect on your sleep. I have detailed my experiences with different types here(which may be where you came from) Trouble sleeping because of pre-workout supplements?. Further more experience with the minimum dose you need in order to feel the effect of the supplement, this may be less than what is actually recommended on the supplement itself.

Studies has shown that coffee after just 1 pm can affect your sleep. As most pre-workout supplements are way stronger than a cup of coffee, this may be something to have in mind. Can you train earlier or perhaps ingest your pre-workout earlier to avoid problems?

Then work on your sleep hygiene. As you are compromised on some areas, work to improve on others. Good sleep hygiene includes the following:

  • Pitch black room
  • Absolute silence
  • Cold or at least not too hot
  • Go to sleep and wake up same time everyday
  • Avoid light from pc’s, mobile devices, tv’s etc. before bedtime
  • Shower before bed
  • Trigger point massage
  • Read fiction before falling asleep

One of the problems during summer is you need to have your windows open to keep the temperature down, which potentially gives problems with light and noise. First pitch black room – is literally pitch black. If you can’t get pitch black with curtains, consider using a night mask – that helped me. To cancel out most of the noise from having open windows, I sleep with earplugs as well.

Your body likes regularities. You probably get hungry just about the same times everyday(of course determined by what you eat), and the same goes for sleep. If you get into a good pattern of going to sleep and waking up the same time everyday, then both falling asleep and getting up will be a lot easier.

If you have to work in front of your computer at night, then install f.lux. But really consider skipping all devices an hour before going to sleep and have as little light as possible as this automatically provokes tiredness.

The shower before bed can really help, but should you go with hot or cold? My experience is that if you shower at least an hour before going to bed, the cold shower can work. But if you shower just before going to bed I would go for the hot shower, since the cooling of the body afterwards again provokes tiredness.

As Kelly Starrett said somewhere; “How do you feel like after getting a massage; like hitting somebody?” And of course not, you are relaxed and tired. You can replicate some of this yourself. Get a tennis ball or anything similar, lay on the floor and roll around on it; on your back, thighs, standing on it and massage the underside of your feet etc. You are not aiming to do any specific changes, just roll around for 5-10 minutes, this may help you relax.

Lastly, if you read in bed before falling asleep, which I would strongly encourage, then keep your reading to something that won’t give you to much to think about. Which means this is not the time to read your business books, Feymans lectures on physics or any of the sort. Read fiction or anything you can consume without having to think too much about the content afterwards. You are aiming to calm your mind, not fuel it with ideas.

These were some tips on how you might reduce your sleep problems when taking pre-workout supplements. They really helped me, so I hope they can do the same for you. Feel free to add any of your own tips in the comments.

Correct use of pre workout supplements, habits and sleep

There is an increasing focus on supplements, not just in the fitness industry but across all genres and levels of working out. You have got to give credit to the marketers of these supplement manufactures. They have made it mainstream for even girls to use supplements as part of their daily workout scheme. They are successfully pushing the mantra, that in order to be fit you have to add all these supplements to your workout regimen. But in the midst of all this supplementation, are we missing some important points, only to make the companies happier by buying more of their stuff, totally missing the key word “supplements”  – I was.

There are lots of products to focus on, but for this piece I will concentrate on pre workout supplements. I will by no means say that they lack effect – if only they did, then the problem would not be as profound. Lots and lots of these really offer a potent effect and make a real impact on your focus and energy-levels. They CAN have their rightful place.

But it starts to be a problem, when you cannot train without having one of these pre workout drinks. If all your workouts are fueled by these. You will probably, like I did, tell yourself, “why risks not having a great workout”; and thereby justify your repeated use.

Pre workout supplements are great for when you feel tired, are in need of that extra energy and really needs to perform. But it should NOT be your default.

I had this habit of 45 minutes prior to my workout, I would stop working and mix a pre workout shake. Then I would read t-nation or any other training/fitness site for 20-30 minutes with some high energy music in the background – all in order to get myself into the right mood and mindset for working out. This was, and is highly effective – but I would even do this on days where I was not tired at all. Mix pre workout, music, read – go. It had become part of a habit and ritual.

Apart from increasing the amount I spent on pre workout supplements, it also kept giving me problems with sleep. As I have written in a prior article, pre workout supplements can very well mess with your sleep patterns. And judging by the amount of people who read that one, it seems to be a quite widespread problem. One very, very obvious solution to this problem – that I for a very long time totally missed – is to not take the pre workout supplements in the first place. Use them when needed, but avoid having them as the default.

Take a step back, look at your use of supplements and reconsider your use, with total awareness. You can be in a period of high workload and therefore in need of the extra energy, but then remember to back of once the load is gone. We humans are very habitual, be aware of it and make conscious choices instead.

What is beta alanine? The new creatine?

Beta alanine
Beta alanine

Having just written a “What is ..” on creatine, it was quite natural for me to transition into writing about the other supplement, I use regularly; beta alanine. This is also one of those, where if people asked what it does, I would end up giving them an explanation, that was complicated enough for them to say OK – but really just reflected my own lack of knowledge, about what it does.

I have always read that beta alanine should work well together with creatine, but my understanding of this fact, was that this was because it did something similar, as creatine – which in fact it does not. They work in quite different ways actually.

To understand what beta alanine does, we need to get familiar with carnosine. Not getting into too much detail, carnosine comes into play with anaerobic metabolism. During intense exercise, your body will use all the oxygen locally in your muscles to run the aerobic metabolism and then switch predominantly to anaerobic once the oxygen supply is used. The anaerobic turnover of carbohydrates, results in the release of lactate and hydrogen ions. Buildup of hydrogen ions, then leads to drop in muscle ph. All this quickly becomes a little scientific, but what you need to get from this is; drop in muscle ph = muscle fatigue.

Quite cleverly, our bodies have “buffers” in place, to help in high demand situations. In this case, it is carnosine that comes to the rescue. Carnosine binds the free hydrogen ions, thereby keeping them from building up inside the muscles and causing drop in ph. The higher the concentration of carnosine inside the muscles, the bigger this “buffer” is.

This could sound like the effect is somewhat similar to creatine. And you could perhaps say that creatine acts as a “buffer” as well, but where they really differ is in the energy systems they act upon. Creatine aids in short, max effort work; maximum deadlift, very short max effort sprints etc. Beta alanines effect does not kick in, before hydrogen ions starts to be released and it can act as a buffer. Therefore it is said that the “working window” of beta alanine is somewhere from 60-240 seconds.[1]

Now you would probably have noticed, that in the section about how it worked, all I wrote about was carnosine. This is because carnosine is what does the magic, but carnosine is made up by two amino acids – L-histidine and beta alanine. L-histidine is rather abundant in the muscles, so in order to bump up concentration of carnosine we need to add – you’ve guessed it – beta alanine.

But why not just take carnosine directly? It has been shown, that taking in carnosine directly causes very little of it to reach the actual muscles. It is broken down, or used elsewhere in the body before it actually reaches the muscles. Beta alanine on the other hand, have shown to go almost directly to the muscles, where we need it to produce the extra carnosine.[2]

We have now covered the performance aspect of beta alanine, but a few studies has shown rather interesting effects on muscle mass as well. One of them performed on wrestlers and football players, which are especially interesting, since we are people who already work out and not untrained individuals. They performed some HIIT and resistance training over a period of 8 weeks. The wrestlers all lost body weight, both placebo and beta alanine group, but the beta alanine group gained 1,1 lb lean muscle mass and the placebo group lost 1 lb  lean muscle mass – that’s a 2 lb net difference! The footballers all gained lean mass, the beta alanine group 2,1 lb and the placebo group 1,1 lb. Again quite significant net gain for the beta alanine group.[3]

These studies were however on a rather small group of individuals, 37 all together, so it cannot be considered as any real evidence of beta alanines effect. But still very interesting!

As with creatine, one of the great things about beta alanine is the rather low price. It is more expensive than creatine, but still very affordable. I tend to stick to powder, which enables me to mix it into morning coffee, shakes etc.

This is one of the cheapest offers I have been able to find on beta alanine: NOW Foods Beta Alanine Powder 500Gbut feel free to search around and find your own. Just stick to traditional beta alanine – to the best of my knowledge, there are not anything you can mix it with to increase absorption, so no need to buy any fancy products, just for the sake of beta alanine.

So to end of this post with answering my question from the title; Is beta alanine the new creatine? In some ways you could say it is. It is one of those rare supplements, that seems to back up its claims in studies. And perhaps even better, you can use it together with creatine and get the best of both of them.

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20479615
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17690198
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21659893