LFK Thoughtful Weekends 005

DSC_0068_2048LE

This weeks installment of LFK Thoughtful Weekends will feature 2 articles and a little film clip. They aren’t all that related, but each of them really caught my attention during the past week.

The first one is kind of philosophic and self-examining, but bears a very important message especially in this day and age. With billions upon billions of dollars being spent on advertising the world over, the advertising industry is more than ready to tell you what you want, or should want if you haven’t yet truthfully asked yourself the important questions. Advertisers sells stories, dreams and lives that can be or perhaps rightfully is really tempting. The message here is not whether or not the life and dream advertisers sell is right or wrong. No the message is for you to personally decide what is right for you. You have to decide what you want to want. If not you could end up spending an entire life chasing a goal that is not really yours and end up getting something that you actually did not even want in the first place.

This article spends a lot of time on this aspect and I found it really interesting and important. And don’t be put off by the name of the link, if you are a woman. This applies as much to women as men: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2016/08/15/what-do-you-want-to-want/

The first article was by no means short, but this second one is more digestible though still bearing an important point. It tells you to stop spending so much time in your head. I may find this interesting as I am super guilty of this and there are numerous articles on the same topic, but this just really caught my eye the past week. To add to some of the points that will presented it also falls right in line with what I am reading at the moment by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience which only halfway through looks to be one of the best and most important books I have ever read and I will probably write at least one post on that one alone. But in that book he also mentions that you cannot think yourself happy. Thinking too much impedes action and for most people actually leads to unhappiness. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t think at all, but the ones who spend too much time in their head probably already know that they are guilty of it – I sure do for my part.

But go read the very good and to the point article here: http://dariusforoux.com/stop-spending-time-in-your-head/

Finally something I found completely by surprise or at least what it also showed apart from the actual topic was quite a fun discovery. Some people are absolute naturals at striking up conversation and make people do exactly as they want. Seeing these people in “action” can be quite entertaining and fascinating. The clip here is from a Youtube channel for photographers, that in these installments give a shitty camera to a pro photographer to test the myth of equipment vs. skill. Meaning that perhaps you don’t always need the latest most expensive gear to get really good results. With the right attitude and creativity you may even be able to get really good results from shitty equipment.

But the surprising element in this clip actually isn’t the pictures in any way. They turn out okay – but nothing special. The thing to just sit back and watch with fascination is the pro photographer at work. I know that he is in the right element and all the people around the venues where they are as a general rule of thumb probably wants to be seen. But the way he works everybody and just strikes up meaningful conversations, not to mention making people do whatever he likes is just so fascinating in my book. If you ever had a hard time striking up conversations with strangers watch and learn from this guy, he is an absolute beast.

And this concludes the fifth installment of LFK THoughtful Weekends. Hope you enjoyed it. And have a very very pleasant weekend!

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.

Read and remember – make it stick!

read-remember

I had this annoying problem with recalling content of books I read. While reading them I had all these good ideas, all these statements that I agreed with and said to myself – those are wise words, words to live by, advice I should remember etc. Then a few weeks or maybe even days in extreme cases go by – and puf! Gone are all the good things I told myself I should have remembered.

I read quite a lot, or try to read as much as I can in between running a start-up, keeping fit and socialize. I love to read. I read all kinds of different stuff; a lot about psychology, philosophy, business books, biographies and for bed-time reading often something more easily digestible, that can make my mind unwind.

Reading a lot gives me a lot of ideas and inspiration, but if only 10% of the things I wanted to remember actually sticks, then it is kind of wasted time and energy. Time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. But as I love my reading, I was looking for a way to make more stick, rather than decrease the amount of time spent reading.

What I found was a rather obvious technique, but to implement it, I had to change my position on what to do with my books. First part of the technique is marking interesting passages, paragraphs etc. in the book. If something rings true to you – make a mark. If it makes you think about something, write that in the margin. In other words, make your books personal.

This was quite odd to me at first. I had never written in any of my books; it seemed a bit wrong. But once I got started it really feels natural. I mark the lines with interesting content in the margin instead of underlining them, as this is just easier. Underlining often ends up crossing lines of text instead of actually underlining them – at least in my case.

Second step is getting back to the book a few weeks after you have read it. Browse through it, read the passages you marked while reading, take notes either on a piece of paper or whatever you like. Draw a mind-map if thats your favorite way to key together large amounts of information. This will first of all make more of the book stick immediately as you actively write notes, but these notes can also act as an instant resume, if you some years down the line needs to refresh your memory on the content of that book.

Of course this is primarily useful for books you actively seek to get something out of. Business books, books on personal development etc. I will probably combine this technique with the use of my blog to create a resume of what the book is all about, my personal thoughts and recommendations. Since I read a lot, I might as well share some of the information, when the sharing also aids my own memory then everyone is able to gain from it.

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

What is creatine?

The best way to learn, often is to teach. If you want to figure out just how thoroughly you know a subject – try explaining it to someone else. I was actually going to write a post about creatine and coffee, but after reading through a lot of studies I took a step back and thought about how I would explain what creatine was and what it does in a simple way. Unable to give any good explanation, I read into it, and will now try to give you a short, un-scientific, enables-you-to-explain-it-to-others description of what creatine is and does.

From Wiki:

Creatine is naturally produced in the human body from amino acids primarily in the kidney and liver. It is transported in the blood for use by muscles. Approximately 95% of the human body’s total creatine is located in skeletal muscle.

To get this one out of the way; never confuse creatine with creatinine as the latter is a waste product.

Creatine helps turn ADP back into ATP. If you have read some marketing material of creatine, you may have bumped into this statement. It is very true, but unless you have a medical degree you probably are pretty lost on what it actually means.

All of this is part of the krebs cycle, that is our body’s way of extracting energy from the food we ingest. If you want a really good and easily understandable explanation of this, then take a few minutes to see this presentation by Doug McGuff in the middle of his very long speech – it is the most easily understandable explanation I have ever come across. However if you are only interested in the short explanation, then skip the video.

I will try to be true to the name of my blog and keep it simple. Your muscles needs energy to function. This energy comes from the food you consume. When you are rested and start max effort work, your muscles will be provided with energy through ATP. ATP is short for Adenosine triphosphate, which is only interesting because; upon delivering energy to the muscle, it gives away one phosphate(the energy), and thereby ends up as Adenosine diphosphate(ADP).

Locally in the muscles working, there is a very clever, limited recycling system, that can turn ADP back into ATP. This extends the time your muscles can deliver max effort briefly, if the system is working overtime, as in max effort lifts or sprints. What enables this is phosphocreatine, that reacts together with the enzyme creatine kinase – forget the names but this is, as you may have guessed from the names – where creatine comes into play. Creatine kinase is relatively abundant in the muscles, or at least not the limiting factor. But phosphocreatine is where supplementation with creatine works it magic.

Your stores of phosphocreatine are limited, so given our max effort lift or sprint – when your supplies of phosphocreatine runs out, you are no longer able to produce the same amount of effort by recycling ADP into ATP. Your body will then switch to another energy system, which can run for longer, but not produce the same peak effect.

Therefore, what you do with creatine supplementation is make your phosphocreatine stores larger, which enables you to run your max-effort energy system, a little longer. Think of it as a bicycle with an electric motor, that recharges from your pedalling, and has it energy stored in a battery. When you activate it, you can cycle faster because of the joint effort of your legs and the electric motor, but only for as long as the battery holds power, then you are back to rely on only your legs, until the battery is recharged. Then what creatine does it giving you a larger battery along with a larger generator, so you can recharge as fast as before but run max effort longer.

This was the performance part of the equation, but creatine has even more positive effects up its sleeve. When it comes to building muscle, a lot of people, myself included, think of creatine as only pushing water into the muscles and not actually giving any real size gains. That the gains would only come from the increased ability to train harder. But a lot of studies actually point in another direction. Without going into too much detail, creatine should help decrease the breakdown of muscle and increase the growth of “fast twitch” muscle fibers – this was something that I did not know, before researching for this post.

Furthermore creatine helps your muscles absorb more glucose(carbohydrates) and carbohydrates actually helps your body store more creatine – so that should have you ingesting the two of them together, if you are not already.

What further surprised me, was that studies even have shown positive effects on both intelligence and longevity. Creatine is surely one of the most well known and well documented performance enhancers of all time.

I will not go into any details about how and when to ingest, since I during this research also found some rather interesting information about a slightly different approach, than the one preached for decades. My plan is to try it out and then get back with an evaluation.

One thing I however will do is answer a question that seems to be present in the comments of every article about creatine – what sort should we ingest? Stick to creatine monohydrate – that is the most researched form of creatine, that has been around as supplementation since the early nineties. The other fancy forms of creatine, has to the best of my knowledge not been able to prove any of their claims in studies, yet.

The great thing about creatine monohydrate, is that it is possible to find really cheap. Like this for instance; a great amount from a renowned brand: NOW Foods Creatine Powder, 2.2 Pounds