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.

Competition preparation do’s and dont’s

Preparing for a competition in most sports should be so simple, yet so many people get it wrong – even experienced athletes.

This great quote says it all:

You can’t win a competition in the last week of preparation – but you CAN lose it!

People suddenly get worried that they haven’t done everything right, especially within the last week and the “do more” paradox seems to kick in. This is especially common in this day and age with all the available information at your fingertips.

If you do it right, competition should be no different than your training – except for a bit more pressure of course. But if you prepare in the right way, then the pressure should be the only “new” thing you would have to deal with.

Let’s start with what you should not do and why. I will present my examples in the domain of sprinting – but it could be substituted with just about any sport, even team sports.

Don’t overcompensate in the last few weeks before competition

This can’t be stressed enough. Overcompensation during the last few weeks has led to so many injuries across all domains. Suddenly with a few weeks to go you come to doubt whether you have had done enough of say 300m sprints to prepare yourself for the 200m. This could be because someone suddenly questions why you haven’t had more or you read somewhere that you can’t compete without have x number of 300m sprints. Then you panic and the last week before competition you 10x the volume, run a lot of 300m sprints and either burn out, overtrain or gets injured. This is NOT the way to do it. If the advice is really good – then write it down save it and incorporate it in your long term planning for the next competition – NOT the last week before.

Don’t eat or drink anything special the day before or on competition day

With the rise of supplements, energy drinks and what not this really matters as well. Do not suddenly try a new supplement or energy drink on competition day, you have no idea how your body or stomach reacts. It might be the best energy drink or pre-workout supplement in the world but if it upsets your stomach you will be running for the toilet and not the finish line – that will only win you a fun story – not a medal.

A few weeks before actual competition, try to replicate competition day as much as possible. You shouldn’t necessarily go all out on effort, but replicate your meal- and supplement intake, at the exact time of day. If you for instance always train in the evening, but competition is in the morning, then try to replicate this and see how your body reacts. If you are into intermittent fasting like me, then you might want to break your fast early and have some carbohydrates. But common for all – try it a few weeks before and not on the actual day of competition. Even the meal in the evening before can have an impact. If you have lived of the same 4 meals for months and then suddenly tries something completely different the day before, like very spicy food, then you might be back to the race for the toilet as opposed to the finish line. Just don’t do that.

Don’t change your equipment or strategy on competition day

Don’t suddenly start your sprint with the left leg in front as opposed to your regular right leg because you have seen a Youtube video explaining this as being best – and yes I have actually experienced people who did that. Competition day should as far as absolutely possible reflect your training. Changing something on the day of competition is way more likely to ruin your competition than improve it in any way.

Don’t let other peoples preparation throw you off on competition day

Do not suddenly start your warm-up 1½ hour before competition because some of your competitors does so, if you have always used 45 min to warm-up. Or implement some of their stretching, preparation/warm-up routine. Stick to your plan! I actually caught myself almost slipping in this one a few months back. I always start my warm-up 45 min before a race. I like to keep it short and to the point – too much warm-up either bores me or wears me out. But at a 50 meter indoor sprint competition all my competitors started their warm-up a little more than an hour before the race. Until I caught my own thoughts, this actually made me a little uncomfortable. Had I missed something? Should I be warming up now? Is my warm-up too short? And of course the answer to all those questions is a big capital NO. My competitors preparation had gone inside my head and messed with it. I should do exactly like always and stick to my warm-up routine. It had worked for me in training so of course it would work for me in competition – and so it did – I won the event.

If you have done your training and preparation right then competition is simple. Not easy – but simple. You should not be doing anything you haven’t done before. You should be able to give your full attention to dealing with the stress of competition, the zippers and knots on your training clothes that suddenly jam, the 10 times you have to go to the toilet and try to pee etc. But you will have the mental capacity to deal with this because you know you have done everything else a 100 times in training so no need to worry about that or take any decisions.

Good luck with you next or first competition. Competing is and should be fun – being well prepared helps achieve this.

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.

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