When you stop to think about it, mushrooms are remarkable.
They’re closer to animals than plants on the tree of life.
They can break down plastic and petroleum.
The single largest organism on the planet is an underground honey fungus spanning almost 3 miles in the the state of Oregon.
They carry messages along their underground fungal networks using neurotransmitters that are very similar to the ones our brains use.
They’re a kind of “forest internet” which plants and trees use to communicate with each other.
And, as it turns out, they possess and confer some very impressive health and therapeutic effects. Several years ago, I highlighted the culinary varieties and explored their considerable health benefits. Go read that, then come back here because I’m going to talk about the different types of adaptogenic mushrooms today. These are the real heavy hitters, the ones that appear to supercharge immune systems, stimulate neuronal growth, improve memory and focus, pacify the anxious mind, increase the libido, and enhance sleep quality.
Let’s go through the most important adaptogenic mushrooms and the evidence for each. I’ll primarily stick to human studies, but may relay some animal studies if they seem relevant.
Reishi has been used in traditional Asian medicine for hundreds of years to treat diseases of the immune system. (Reishi is its Japanese name; in China, it’s called lingzhi and in Korea, it’s yeongji.) Other folk uses include all the regular stuff you expect—aches, pains, allergies, “qi”—but the majority of modern clinical evidence focuses on immunity, cancer, and inflammation.
But the interesting thing to remember is that inflammation figures into pretty much every modern ailment. Even conditions like depression and anxiety are often characterized by a surplus of systemic inflammation. If reishi can soothe the inflammation, it could very well help with all the other seemingly unrelated conditions, too.
- Reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue and improved quality of life in breast cancer patients.
- Reduced insulin resistance.
- Reduced inflammatory markers and restored kidney function in kidney disease patients.
- Suppressed the growth of more adenomas (benign tumors with the potential to become malignant) in patients with existing colorectal adenomas.
- Boosted the immune systems of late-stage cancer patients.
Reishi is also said to be very good for sleep, though I wasn’t able to find a supporting human study.
Exercise caution if you have an autoimmune disease, as using reishi to”activate” the immune system that’s attacking you may—theoretically—increase the attack’s severity.
Reishi may also lower libido in high doses, as it inhibits the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone—albeit in rats. More rat research suggests that low doses of reishi could increase libido.
No human studies indicate this, but a rodent study found that giving reishi reduced time to exhaustion in a forced weighted swimming challenge (throw a rat in the water with a weight attached). They got tired faster.
Cordyceps is another mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote vitality and energy. For the men, that’s code for “better erections.” What does the evidence say?
It is broadly anti-inflammatory.
It’s an effective immuno-adaptogen: it boosts immunity when immune function is too low and dampens it when it’s over-activated. Autoimmune thyroiditis patients who took cordyceps saw dual-direction immunomodulation—too low got higher, too high got lower.
As for the “energy and vitality” claims, that appears to be true in mammals. We have evidence that rats, pigs, mice, and even yaks, goats, and sheep get boosts to testosterone status and sexual function when taking cordyceps, and that it improves brain function and cognition in small mammals, but nothing solid in humans. Still, the fact that it helps other mammals probably indicates utility for us.
Chaga is a mushroom with a long history of use in Northern Eurasia (Russia, Siberia) as well as a considerable body of animal evidence and isolated human cell evidence in support, but no real studies using actual live humans. That’s unfortunate, because chaga appears to be the real deal:
- Immunomodulation (mice).
- Increased endurance and improved lactate threshold during exercise (mice).
- Reduced cancer progression and spread (mice).
- Reduced DNA damage (human cells).
I hope we get some strong human studies in the near future. In the meantime, you can always run your own!
Lion’s Mane is a mushroom that looks like a pom-pom. Or a brain, which is fitting. Lion’s Mane’s main claim to fame is its purported ability to increase neurogenesis, reduce cognitive decline, and even regrow damaged nerves.
Studies in fact show that Lion’s Mane can:
- Reverse mild cognitive decline in the elderly (for as long as they continue to take the mushroom).
- Help nerve-damaged rats regenerate destroyed nerves and regain their ability to walk.
- Improve the Functional Index Measure in patients with dementia.
- Reduce anxiety and depression in women.
The majority of Lion’s Mane customers aren’t interested in reducing decline. They want a boost. They want increased focus, improved cognition, more and better neurons. Judging from the reversal of cognitive decline in the elderly and the flood of online anecdotes about improved focus and cognition, I suspect that there’s something there.
That said, another common side effect I’ve heard about from many of the same people lauding its cognitive effects is reduced libido. So keep an eye out for that one.
You know how I do things here. I can’t in good faith make definitive claims based on mouse studies that show this or that mushroom improving memory, blasting tumor cells, and increasing sexual virility. Still, I also can’t discount the hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of years of traditional use of these mushrooms for many of the conditions, nor can I ignore (or write off as “placebo”) the thousands of experimenters out there online deriving major benefits from some of these mushrooms.
The only option, of course, is to try it for yourself, which I may do in the near future (and will write about my findings).
How to Choose a Mushroom Supplement
When you’re buying an adaptogenic mushroom extract, look for products that come from fruiting bodies (actual mushrooms) rather than mycelium (the “roots” of the mushrooms). Fruiting bodies tend to have more of the active constituents than mycelium. Fruiting body extracts will also be more expensive—mushrooms take longer to grow than mycelium—but the added potency makes up for it.
Look for products that list the beta-glucan content, not the polysaccharide content. Beta-glucans are the uniquely active constituents. All beta-glucans are polysaccharides, but not all polysaccharides are beta-glucans.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your experiences with adaptogenic mushrooms. Have you tried them? How have they been useful for you (or not)? Thanks for stopping in, everybody.
Zhao H, Zhang Q, Zhao L, Huang X, Wang J, Kang X. Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:809614.
Futrakul N, Panichakul T, Butthep P, et al. Ganoderma lucidum suppresses endothelial cell cytotoxicity and proteinuria in persistent proteinuric focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) nephrosis. Clin Hemorheol Microcirc. 2004;31(4):267-72.
Smiderle FR, Baggio CH, Borato DG, et al. Anti-inflammatory properties of the medicinal mushroom Cordyceps militaris might be related to its linear (1?3)-?-D-glucan. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(10):e110266.
Lin WH, Tsai MT, Chen YS, et al. Improvement of sperm production in subfertile boars by Cordyceps militaris supplement. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(4):631-41.
Parcell AC, Smith JM, Schulthies SS, Myrer JW, Fellingham G. Cordyceps Sinensis (CordyMax Cs-4) supplementation does not improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004;14(2):236-42.
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I left the pro athlete world a long time ago. I no longer compete. I don’t train with the intensity and volume it’d take to win races. But I do pay attention to what’s going on in that world, and I still have a lot of friends who never left it. Developments there often foreshadow developments in the rest of the health world. And after things like keto, MCT oil/ketones, and collagen, the performance hack that’s blowing up among elite athletes is CBD oil. Almost everyone I talk to who puts in serious training and competing time (in a variety of sports and pursuits) is dabbling with CBD.
What are they using it for?
There are two main claims when it comes to CBD and fitness.
- That it improves sleep.
- That it reduces pain, improves workout recovery, and helps you get back to training and competition.
Do their claims have any scientific support?
CBD and Sleep
A big review of CBD and sleep found that CBD increased sleep time and reduced the number of times people woke up during the night, improved sleep quality, reduced REM-related behavioral disorder (where you act out your dreams in your sleep), and improved sleep in anxiety patients.
Sleep is one of the biggest weak spots for many athletes. They sacrifice sleep for gym time. They train late at night under bright lights and come home energized and unable to get to bed. They focus on the workouts rather than the recovery. But here’s the thing: the more you train, the more sleep you need. The more performance you need to wring out of your body, the higher your sleep requirements are going to stack. There’s no getting around it. Sleep is one of the most important things to get right if you want to improve performance and make your hard work count for something.
But let’s get more granular. You want details?
Sleep deprivation ruins your posture and makes you more liable to make technique mistakes, get injured, and compromise movement quality and power. If you can’t coordinate your limbs, you won’t succeed in the gym or on the field (and you’ll probably make a critical mistake that gets you hurt).
Sleep deprivation kills your judgment. If you’re not thinking clearly, you’ll make silly mistakes and dangerous choices. Go for the last rep on the deadlift when your back’s about to give out, that sort of thing.
Sleep deprivation squanders your adaptation to training. Enjoy the insulin sensitivity and improved energy utilization training provides? Sleep loss blunts both. Like gaining muscle in response to lifting heavy things? Sleep loss inhibits muscle protein synthesis.
Sleep deprivation makes eating well harder. If you’re training for fat loss and body composition, you know that eating is well over half the battle. A single night of bad sleep makes you more vulnerable to the rewarding effects of junk food. It becomes harder to resist and more addictive.
Sleep deprivation causes muscle loss. A lack of sleep increases urinary nitrogen, a sign that the body is breaking down lean muscle mass.
So, is there a connection between sleep, CBD, and performance?
That hasn’t been directly tested. We know two things:
- CBD can help people who are having trouble sleeping get more sleep.
- Sleep is ergogenic. If you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t maximizing your performance in the gym and adaptation to your training.
That’s not to say you can’t get good sleep without CBD. It’s not a requirement for good sleep. But if CBD is helping athletes get better sleep than they would otherwise, it’s also giving them a performance and training boost.
CBD and Pain, Adaptation, and Recovery
One of the biggest quandaries an athlete faces is how to balance pain management, training adaptation, and workout recovery.
You can use ice baths to get back in the game quicker, but you might reduce training adaptations.
You can take two days off after a really tough workout and maximize the training effect, but you won’t be able to compete in the interim.
You can pound NSAIDs to reduce pain, but it might slow down your recovery and impair your adaptation to the exercise.
Everything has a tradeoff. And if you lean too far in one direction, you’ll pay the price. Back when I was competing, I leaned hard toward “getting back out there.” I ate ice cream and grains by the gallon to replenish the energy I expended, popped Tylenol like candy to dull the pain long enough to let me get through the next workout. It all worked out in the end (I wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t messed up so badly), but boy if I didn’t cut it close.
Where Does CBD Fit In?
CBD is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It can block neurotoxicity from oxidative stress. It lowers inflammatory cytokines and raises anti-inflammatory cytokines. It may reduce a person’s reliance on opioids for pain control. It can even synergize with NSAIDs, reducing the amount you need to get the same effect. And it can do all this without causing liver damage. Sounds uniformly beneficial, right?
Be careful. Anti-inflammation can be a double-edged sword. After all, inflammation isn’t wholly pathogenic:
The inflammatory response is the healing response.
Training adaptations occur in response to the inflammatory effect of exercise.
The inflammatory reactive oxygen species that we’re all so worried about also serve as cellular messengers that provoke the creation of new mitochondria and the production of endogenous antioxidants like glutathione.
This is hormesis—the application of good stressors to make us healthier, stronger, and more resilient.
NSAIDs have many of the same effects, like blocking inflammatory cytokines, and have been used by athletes for decades to reduce pain, improve acute performance, and hasten the return to competition. They’ve also been shown to reduce muscle adaptations to resistance training and impair healing even as they reduce pain.
One of CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects is to blunt the release of interleukin 6 (IL-6), an inflammatory cytokine. This isn’t always helpful, as studies show. A hard training session spikes IL-6, and, at least in animal studies using IL-6 knockouts (mice who produce no IL-6 at all), lack of an IL-6 response tends to reduce muscle and adipose tissue adaptations to exercise. NSAIDs are another anti-inflammatory drug that block IL-6 and have been shown to impair muscle adaptations to resistance training in the young and improve them in the elderly. In other words, NSAIDs impair the hormetic stress effect of exercise in the young (who tend to have a lower stress burden and higher stress resilience) and enable it in the elderly (who tend to have lower stress resilience).
What Does This Mean For You?
Well, it depends on who you are and your situation.
High stress lifestyle? CBD can probably help you blunt some of your underlying stress to give the training a bigger effect. Low stress lifestyle? CBD might blunt it too much and render your training less adaptive.
As for CBD’s effect on pain means, there are a lot of unanswered questions that I trust will be answered in due time.
CBD may help mask the pain from injuries by exerting anti-inflammatory effects while slowing down healing. However, if your baseline inflammatory status is high, reducing inflammation may be just what you need to improve healing.
CBD may help reduce pain by speeding up the healing process. There’s even some evidence in rodents that CBD can speed up the healing process of a fractured bone. Does that happen in humans? Does that happen in other types of injuries? Maybe.
That said, if taking CBD before a workout is the only thing that lets you actually get through the workout without pain, it’s going to be better than not taking it. I know of a few people who swear by CBD for joint relief; they couldn’t do what they love without it.
We have a lot more to learn about CBD and training. The benefits for athletes who need help with sleep are clear and well-established. The benefits for athletes who need help with pain and recovery are murkier—we simply don’t know the details yet. It’s likely that CBD will help athletes recover in some situations and not in others. But for the most part, it’s relatively low-risk. Give it a shot and see what you notice. The beauty of it all is that even if CBD impairs your training adaptation, it’s not set in stone. The safety profile is good. The research is only growing. You can always drop it and keep training and regain your gains.
That’s it for today, folks. Have you used CBD to enhance your training? Did it work? Did it hurt? Tell us all about it down below!
Kozela E, Juknat A, Kaushansky N, Rimmerman N, Ben-nun A, Vogel Z. Cannabinoids decrease the th17 inflammatory autoimmune phenotype. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2013;8(5):1265-76.
Lundberg TR, Howatson G. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs in sports: Implications for exercise performance and training adaptations. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018;28(11):2252-2262.
Kogan NM, Melamed E, Wasserman E, et al. Cannabidiol, a Major Non-Psychotropic Cannabis Constituent Enhances Fracture Healing and Stimulates Lysyl Hydroxylase Activity in Osteoblasts. J Bone Miner Res. 2015;30(10):1905-13.
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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, what’s the deal with exercise-induced asthma? Is there anything we can do to lessen its impact and incidence? Second, is CBD oil helpful for diabetics? And finally, do bodyweight exercises always require warm-ups? What about workouts in general—do you need to warm-up before every single session?
Let’s find out:
The first question comes from Caue Cavallaro:
since you are the go-to person when it’s about health, for me, do you have any material related to exercise induced asthma? I had it every now and then but since I started training for triathlon it’s happening more often. Thank you!
This is a classic response. When I was doing triathlon (and training others in the sport), exercise-induced asthma was incredibly common. These were some of the fittest people on the planet, and yet they were wheezing and coughing like they were completely out of shape.
The common denominator was inflammation and oxidative stress. Back then, most of us didn’t know anything about either—and we were loading our bodies with tons of both. Anything you can do to reduce excess inflammation and oxidative stress in a healthy, sustainable manner will help.
First and foremost, how are you training? I’d really consider getting your hands on Primal Endurance or reading this post. The quick and dirty version is that to train the aerobic pathway, you have to go easier and slower than you think. Take 180 and subtract your age. That’s your target heart rate. Stay under it to remain aerobic. You’ll go so slow and so easy that it won’t even feel like you’re training. This will increase how fast you can go while remaining in the aerobic fat-burning zone, and it will limit your tendency to overtrain. Overtraining is the primary reason for exercise-induced asthma because when you overtrain, you’re heaping excessive inflammation and oxidative stress on your system. And you’re doing it every single time you train.
This “easier” style of endurance training is totally applicable to triathlon. Spend a good month or so (longer for most, but you’re probably reasonably fit and ahead of the game) focusing on that for the bulk of your training, building that aerobic base. Pepper in some more intense stuff, some “race pace” running/swimming/biking, some strength training and sprints.
How are you eating? Too many seed oils high in omega-6 fats and too many refined carbohydrates (to support the overtraining, of course) will tilt the balance toward inflammation and oxidative stress. Switch over to more saturated and monounsaturated fat sources, like butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. Be sure to eat fatty fish or take fish oil to balance out your omega-3:omega-6 ratio. Eat fewer carbs, and even consider going keto to enhance your fat-adaptation. The low carb approach goes hand in hand with training easier in the aerobic zone, as it demands less carbohydrate.
You’ll want to support your glutathione production with whey protein, raw dairy, and NAC supplements. Glutathione is the body’s premier in-house antioxidant. We most famously use it to detoxify harmful substances like alcohol and reduce oxidative stress, but glutathione also combines with nitric oxide to become a potent bronchodilator called nitrosoglutathione. Bronchodilators open up the airways and facilitate air flow. Having inadequate glutathione can impair your production of nitrosoglutathione and make your asthma worse—or trigger it.
Choline can help. Studies have shown that getting some extra choline reduces the airway inflammation and oxidative stress in people with asthma. You can take a choline supplement or eat a few egg yolks each day.
Regarding CBD/hemp oil, Carmen asked:
Is there oil for diabetics??
They’ve actually looked at CBD for diabetics. In animal studies, it reduces the incidence of diabetes and shows promise against diabetic complications like high glucose-induced endothelial dysfunction.
But the only human study was a bit of a dud. It compared CBD alone, CBD with THC, and THC alone in people with type 2 diabetes. Only the THC alone improved blood sugar, pancreatic beta cell function, and lipid numbers. CBD was ineffective, if harmless.
When you say, as soon as you wake up, do a quick superset of pushups – doesn’t it require a warm-up session beforehand? Can you really do them right away, as soon as you get out of bed? Is a warm-up not always essential?
I mean, you don’t have to do them right away. I can definitely see an argument for brushing the teeth and having some coffee first. For waking up a bit to get the most out of your workout. But if you work out on a regular basis and have a good base level of strength—which our commenter seems to have—you should be able to do basic bodyweight exercises without much of a warm-up.
If pushups are a major effort for a particular person, then a warm-up is a good idea.
As for the essentiality of warm-ups in general? Warm-ups become necessary when we stop moving for most of the day and do a big workout a few times a week. Warm-ups are necessary when we sit for 10 hours a day, using terrible posture the entire time. Warm-ups are important if you’re going really hard, really intense, and really heavy (think a big CrossFit WOD, a set of heavy deadlifts, or something similar). Warm-ups aren’t as essential if you make your entire lifestyle a movement session.
Thanks for reading, everyone. If you have any comments, input, or questions, leave it down below!
Mehta AK, Singh BP, Arora N, Gaur SN. Choline attenuates immune inflammation and suppresses oxidative stress in patients with asthma. Immunobiology. 2010;215(7):527-34.
Weiss L, Zeira M, Reich S, et al. Cannabidiol arrests onset of autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice. Neuropharmacology. 2008;54(1):244-9.
Rajesh M, Mukhopadhyay P, Bátkai S, et al. Cannabidiol attenuates high glucose-induced endothelial cell inflammatory response and barrier disruption. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2007;293(1):H610-9.
Jadoon KA, Ratcliffe SH, Barrett DA, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Group Pilot Study. Diabetes Care. 2016;39(10):1777-86.
The post Dear Mark: Exercise-Induced Asthma, CBD for Diabetes, Warm-ups In the Morning appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a couple of questions from the comment sections of the last couple weeks. First, it’s been established that fasting and exercise both raise growth hormone. What about fasted exercise—does that have an even stronger effect? And what about continuing to fast after your fasted workout? Then, I discuss the inevitability (or not) of wear and tear on the arteries from blood flow-induced shear stress. Is shear stress “bad,” or do certain factors make it worse?
Let’s dig in.
So fasting raises growth hormone levels? Interesting. So does weight lifting. I’ll bet fasted weight workouts would be pretty powerful.
They do, and they are.
What’s even better is to work out in a fasted state and keep fasting after the workout. This keeps the GH spike going even longer. And in my “just so story” imagination—which is actually quite accurate, judging from real world hunter-gatherers—it mirrors the circumstances of our Paleolithic ancestors. You’d get up early to go hunting without having eaten. You’d expend a lot of energy on the hunt. You’d make the kill, procure the food. And then you’d bring it back to camp to finally eat. Maybe you’d pass the heart and liver around the circle before heading back. And sometimes, you just didn’t make the kill. You didn’t eat at all.
Makes sense, right? Fasting, doing something physical, and continuing to fast shouldn’t be a monumental undertaking. It should be well within the realm of possibility for the average person.
Now, I wouldn’t do this all the time. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. A hormetic stressor can become a plain old stressor if it’s prolonged for too long. Instead, I would throw post-fasted-workout fasting in on an occasional basis.
Nor would I expect huge “gains” from this. Physiological growth hormone production won’t make you huge or shredded. In fact, workout-related increases in testosterone and growth hormone don’t actually correlate with gains in hypertrophy. Instead, I’d expect more intangible benefits, things you won’t notice right away. It’s important in cognition. It helps maintain bone health, organ reserve, and general cellular regeneration. It’s great for burning fat.
Growth hormone does way more than promote overt muscular growth.
In the linked article it says:
“Endothelial cell dysfunction is an initial step in atherosclerotic lesion formation and is more likely to occur at arterial curves and branches that are subjected to low shear stress and disturbed blood flow (atherosclerosis prone areas) (7,8). These mechanical stimuli activate signaling pathways leading to a dysfunctional endothelium lining that is barrier compromised, prothrombotic, and proinflammatory.
So it seems that endothelial disfunction comes first, triggered by blood flow stresses. It’s common wear and tear in exposed areas. The patched knees on jeans. Managing endothelial health and healing may slow or diminish rate of progression or is it mostly too late for that?
I’m not a doctor. This isn’t medical advice. This is just speculation.
I find it rather hard to believe that healthy arteries are inherently fragile and prone to damage and incapable of weathering the “stress” of blood flowing through them, even at the “susceptible” curves. I find it more likely that poor health, poor diets, and poor lifestyles make us more susceptible to otherwise normal stresses.
Do the mechanical stimuli weaken the endothelium in people with healthy levels of nitric oxide production? Or are we talking about people whose poor nitric oxide status is exacerbating the damaging blood flow patterns, leaving their endothelium vulnerable to atherosclerosis?
Think about how much context matters in our response to stimuli. If you’re shy around girls, a school dance will be a traumatic experience. If you’re comfortable around girls, a school dance will be a great experience. If you’re weak, lifting a barbell will be scary, and you may injure yourself. If you’re strong, lifting a barbell will be second nature, and you may get stronger. The baseline context determines the quality of the response.
I’d argue that blood flowing through your arteries should be a commonplace occurrence. It shouldn’t be a traumatic experience. Now, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is stressful regardless of the baseline endothelial health and the amount of nitric oxide you produce. Maybe it’s just a matter of time. But:
- We know that, as you quote, atherosclerosis tends to occur at bends and curves of the arteries—the places most likely to be subject to “disturbed flow” patterns.
- We know that “laminar flow”—blood flowing smoothly through the artery—is protective of the endothelial wall, promoting anti-inflammatory effects and making the endothelium more resistant to damage.
- We know that “disturbed flow” has an opposing effect on endothelial health, promoting inflammatory effects and rendering the endothelium more susceptible to damage. This increases atherosclerosis.
- The question I’m wondering is if “disturbed flow” at the curves and bends of the arteries is inevitable or not. And if disturbed flow is always “bad.”
- We know that hyperglycemia—high blood sugar—makes disturbed blood flow more damaging to arterial walls. Diabetics have higher rates of atherosclerosis because their elevated blood sugar interacts with disturbed blood flow patterns.
- We know that nitric oxide increases vasodilation in response to shear stress—widening the arteries to accommodate the increased stress and mitigate the damage done. We know that people with hypertension don’t get the same vasodilatory benefits from nitric oxide.
- We know that “functional increases” of shear stress attained via exercise increase nitric oxide and oxygen production and induce autophagy (cellular cleanup) in the endothelial walls.
That sounds like there are a lot of factors that increases and mitigate the effects of shear stress on the endothelial wall. It sounds like some factors make shear stress more damaging, and some factors make it less. There may even be factors, like exercise, that make shear stress healthy.
This topic is really pretty interesting to me. It deserves a deeper dive, don’t you think?
What about you, folks? What’s your take on fasted workouts and GH secretion? Ever try one?
And do you think your arteries are doomed to fall apart at the seams?
Nyberg F, Hallberg M. Growth hormone and cognitive function. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2013;9(6):357-65.
Park SK, La salle DT, Cerbie J, et al. Elevated arterial shear rate increases indexes of endothelial cell autophagy and nitric oxide synthase activation in humans. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2019;316(1):H106-H112.
The post Dear Mark: Fasting, Training, and Growth Hormone; Wear and Tear on the Arteries appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering six questions from readers. First, is funding from a biased source sufficient to negate a study’s results? Second, what are some good high intensity interval training workouts that people might not have considered? Third, what can someone recovering from an ACL tear do for HIIT without triggering knee pain flareups? Fourth, how do I like to eat spinach? And finally, how and when do I like to take collagen?
On the nuts vs. carbs study, I want to say ‘follow the money’ since it was funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation. Then again, it was also funded by the Peanut Institute, so I don’t know what to think…
“Following the money” isn’t enough to come to any conclusions about the worth of a study. We can’t declare a study tainted based on bias alone, especially because we can’t avoid bias. Every person reading studies and deciding which one to write about is biased. Every organization meting out funding has biases. Every entity in the known universe has an agenda. It’s not “bad” (or good). It simply is.
If the cow consortium funds the “red meat is actually good for you” study, red meat is still good for you. The bias doesn’t negate the facts. Big Soy funds the “don’t worry about the quarter cup of soybean oil in your restaurant food” study, but it’s only a mark against the paper if the science was shoddy and the conflict of interest exerted influence (which it probably was and did).
But I totally understand where you’re coming from. There’s an entrenched bias against most of the health advice we support. The powers that be have spent decades telling us to avoid the sun, restrict meat (especially red meat), go vegetarian, eat low-fat, get “more complex carbohydrates,” use seed oils, do cardio over weights, eat less salt, and blindly drink more water. They’re not just going to go away—and they aren’t.
So whenever I see a study’s been funded by an obviously biased source, I can’t help but wonder and look more deeply at the paper with a skeptical eye. It sounds like you do the same. That’s great. It’s the kind of healthy skepticism we should all have and employ in our search for good information.
We just can’t stop there.
If the results of a study are unfavorable to the funders, it’s a strong indication that the funding didn’t interfere with the science.
If the results are favorable to the funders, our hackles rise. We examine the study methods, design, and results to see if bias affected the results. Many times it doesn’t. Sometimes it does.
Can you point us in the direction of a good HIIT workout and what it should look like?
Here are a couple ideas:
Hill sprints. Find a hill and run up, then walk down. Walking down serves as active recovery. Steeper hills, shorter sprints with more rest. Hills with a gradual incline, longer sprints. All permutations work. Though extremely difficult, hill sprints are good options for many people with lower body injuries that flare up on flat ground sprints; running up a hill is gentler on your joints.
Barbell complexes. Pick 3-4 barbell movements. Clean and press for 5 reps. Romanian deadlift for 5 reps. Clean to shoulders, then front squat for 5 reps. Finish with 5 bent over rows. Do that without stopping or dropping the weight. That’s a complex. Drop the bar and rest a minute or two, then do another complex. Repeat. This works with any barbell movement, and you can even do kettlebell or bodyweight complexes. Adjust weight and reps accordingly. These complexes should be hard (but over quickly).
I tore my ACL 6 months ago. Although I am walking 5-7 miles a day and doing heavy lifting for my upper body. I am only able to do ball squats carefully at this point. Any HIIT ideas for me at this point? The bike causes pain on the front of my knee still.
Check with your doctor, but deadlifts are probably safe during knee rehab. Do them right and there’s very little knee flexion (it sounds like flexion hurts the knee); it’s all hip extension.
Deadlifts can become “cardio” if you drop the weight and increase the reps. Just maintain impeccable form. Don’t sacrifice technique (and back health) for a couple extra reps.
If you can deadlift safely for high reps without pain, the next thing to try is the kettlebell swing. Swinging a kettlebell is very similar to deadlifting a barbell—it’s all hip extension—and lends itself well to high-rep, HIIT-style workouts.
I’m one of few people I know who enjoys eating basically any type of offal (no problems with raw), but can’t handle spinach by itself. Any advice? Also, ever tried meditatin’?
And here’s where I’ll get thrown out of my own movement because of one of the ingredients.
Sauté spinach (frozen or fresh) in butter for a minute, add a handful of corn kernels (fresh or frozen, but organic or at least non-GMO), add salt, pepper, and dried chipotle pepper powder (as much as you can tolerate), cover, and turn heat to low. After about ten minutes, it’s ready. Finish with grated sharp cheddar or pecorino romano.
I don’t eat this often (never while keto), and it’s certainly not the only way I enjoy spinach. A good raw spinach salad is fantastic, as is basic sautéd spinach without the corn. But I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like the spinach-corn-chipotle recipe, even avowed spinach haters like yourself.
I’m curious about when Mark was supplementing heavily with collagen. Did he do that at breakfast as his only food, lunch in lieu of some other protein, a shake between lunch and dinner? What have other folks done?
I’m wary of too much protein in one sitting.
I would have 2-3 tablespoons of collagen with a little vitamin C half an hour before a workout. That’s been shown to increase collagen synthesis, a necessary step for healing tendons and other tissues.
That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and take care!
Be sure to add your own comments, questions, and input down below.
The post Dear Mark: Following the Money, HIIT Workouts, HIIT and ACL Recovery, Spinach, Collagen Timing appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering several questions from the comment section of a previous post about my training supplementation. There were some fantastic ones.
I explain my favorite dinners and the latest I’ll eat it. After that, I give a couple ways to test (or not) the effects of these supposedly beneficial foods, nutrients, and supplements we all like discussing. I also tell how often I eat oysters, liver, and seaweed. Finally, I discuss collagen dosage and supplementation for IBS and Crohn’s.
What’s some of your favorite dinner menu items? What’s the latest you like to eat dinner?
My dinners are straightforward.
- Medium rare ribeye cooked in cast iron with sautéd spinach.
- Steamed giant shrimp with melted butter (for dipping), broccoli, and asparagus.
I’ve been eating those for years, and they haven’t gotten old.
Latest I like to eat is 7:30. That changes if it’s a special occasion as when I’m out with friends or I’m on vacation.
If I’m not that hungry, I might end my eating window well before evening. I’m doing some light experimenting with “early time restricted feeding” (eat breakfast, skip dinner) and “sleep low” (don’t fully replenish carbs or calories after a tough workout; sleep on it and let fat burning maximize).
What is the best way to test and experiment with different foods, nutrients, and supplements on an individual basis? I read a lot about different things that work, but how can I test that for my body to determine if it makes a significant difference? Thanks.
One way is to just trust the stats. If—based on research, nutrition data, and evolutionary perspectives—a particular food just seems really, really healthy, you can integrate it into your diet and rest assured that it’s doing good things for you. Foods that fall into this category include red meat, leafy greens, colorful berries and veggies, pastured eggs, wild caught fish, and cruciferous vegetables, where the totality of evidence that they contain very helpful nutrients is overwhelming.
Another way is to determine what biomarker or health outcome the particular food, nutrient, or supplement purports to influence, and then track that biomarker before, during, and after you take the food, nutrient, or supplement. This gives you a baseline value (before) and allows you to observe the trend.
I’d love to know how often you eat particular supplementary foods, such as oysters, liver, & seaweeds
Oysters: I like the smoked oysters in olive oil from Crown Prince. I’ll do a can every week or so. If I’m out at a restaurant that has oysters (and it’s reasonably reputable), I’ll usually order a half dozen as appetizers. Sometimes I’ll get a hankering for oysters and have the fish guy at Whole Foods or wherever I am shuck a few behind the counter and slurp ’em down in the store.
Liver: I try to eat some form of liver once a week. Maybe a quarter to a half pound, usually closer to a quarter.
Seaweed: I throw dried kombu into broths and soups. If I’m out for sushi, I’ll get seaweed salad. I snack on nori once or twice a week.
Does collagen supplementation halt, or even potentially reverse hair loss? Also, what are your thoughts on the appropriate dosage? Is a larger dosage more appropriate when recovering from an injury?
Though it’s an important factor in hair strength and durability, I don’t know about collagen helping with hair loss. Perhaps it could by balancing out our methionine (from muscle meat) intake to promote a more anti-inflammatory, homeostatic internal environment.
A good dosage depends on what you’re looking for.
To get the amount of glycine (3 grams) used in studies to improve sleep quality, you’d need about 13 grams of collagen protein, or a scoop and change of my Collagen Peptides.
For basic maintenance in a healthy body, we need 10 grams of glycine each day. Our bodies make roughly 3 grams each day, on average, so we need to get at least 7 grams from our diets. If you aren’t getting any collagen through your food (an unrealistic scenario, especially for a Primal eater), that means taking around 30 grams of collagen protein, or 3 scoops of my collagen.
1-2 scoops, or 10-20 grams of collagen is a good safe range for most people.
When you’re recovering from an injury, you’re rebuilding tissue. That means your baseline requirements discussed earlier go up, and it’d be a good idea to push supplementary collagen toward the 20-30 gram range.
I’d love your suggestions for the best supplements to help ease the pain & inflammation associated with chronic IBS & Crohn’s disease.
Dealing with IBs or Crohn’s isn’t quick or easy. There are no magic solutions or pills.
Curcumin (from turmeric) shows promise, inducing remission of ulcerative colitis combined with medication (mesalamine) and helping patients in remission maintain remission. Smaller doses (450 mg), however, don’t seem to work as well as larger doses (3 grams).
Dairy, particularly yogurt and milk, shows promise. Yogurt reduces inflammatory markers in inflammatory bowel disease patients and prevents intestinal inflammation in mice injected with an agent designed to inflame the intestines. And in a recent observational study among Europeans, those who ate the most dairy and drank the most milk had a lower risk of inflammatory bowel diseases.
The best bet, again, is a full shift away from the standard way of eating. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which greatly reduces fibrous foods and eliminates grains, sugar, dairy, and processed food, performed well in a recent study of kids with Crohn’s. Ketogenic and even carnivorous diets get a lot of anecdotal support online as well. The key appears to be the initial removal of fermentable and other types of fiber, if only until things heal and you’re able to incorporate more and more.
And of course, stress, sleep, and all that other good stuff play big roles in the severity of and our susceptibility to these digestive disorders. You have to address all areas of your life.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care, be well, and leave a comment, ask or answer a question, and have a great rest of the week.
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It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
I’m thrilled to share Cristina Curp’s success story today. You might know her as the creator (and chef) of The Castaway Kitchen. And she’s now the author of the brand new Made Whole Cookbook, just out this week—a book I was proud to write the foreword for. She’s got an inspiring Primal story to share as well as awesome recipe and generous giveaway today. Enjoy, everyone!
You’d think a foodie with restaurant chef experience would have their food situation down pat right? Well, this chef didn’t. While I have always loved fresh foods, veggies, cooking from scratch and more…I found myself about to turn thirty and pretty damn unhealthy. Living with what was probably leaky gut and definitely a predisposition to autoimmune disease as a kid, I was sick, a lot. Combined with being overweight for as long as I can remember and a diagnosis for Hidradenitis Suppurativa when I was 13. I settled into a subpar quality of life and just dealt with it.
A constant parade of binge eating and crash diets. The constant struggle to not only cope with my debilitating skin condition but hide it from others too. How I lived like that? The person I am today hardly knows. What I do know is that I was able to turn it all around.
Obese, pre-diabetic with chronic fatigue and inflammation. Two years post-partum, depressed and about to thirty, things felt dire. Dire enough for me to stop playing the ol’ “but I eat healthy enough” excuses in my head. So I began to research alternative remedies for my skin condition, and I found a post on Robb Wolf’s website, and then a book titled The Hidden Plague by Tara Grant. There it was, in black and white. FOOD AS MEDICINE. DIET TO REMISSION.
Down the ancestral health rabbit hole I went. Sort of like the Goldilocks of elimination diets and healing protocols. I tried them all. Whole30®, Paleo, Primal, Autoimmune Protocol, Specific Carbohydrate Diet. With each passing month, I got better. What one approach didn’t do for me another did. I saw enough improvement to know that I didn’t want to give up.
I had a newfound love for moving my body, lifting things and connecting with nature. This crazy venture of mine had become a full-fledged lifestyle.
All of my N=1 experiments pointed to keto. However, there weren’t many keto resources two years ago that spoke to my ancestral health roots. So, I did the Primal Blueprint Program! From there I tweaked my macros, lowered carbs, kept out the foods I learned were inflammatory to me via the autoimmune protocol.
I became fat adapted. I had energy. Visceral fat melted off of my body. Brain fog lifted. I had boundless energy. It was the missing piece to my puzzle.
This AIP-Paleo-Keto mashup I call life has been liberating and empowering. Most of all the major commitment to my health and to myself has been cathartic! I have found remission, I love my body and I’m living the life I always wanted.
Made Whole is my gift to this amazing community that helped me heal. A book to empower, inspire and guide others. A book full of amazing recipes so you enjoy every bite of your own journey.
Salmon Salad Avocado Boats
Made Whole Cookbook by Cristina Curp | @thecastawaykitchen | thecastawaykitchen.com
No-cook meals don’t have to be boring. These delicious avocado boats come together in minutes. Canned wild-caught salmon is a fantastic affordable option that delivers omega-3 fats and protein. I always opt for the boneless, skinless version. Mixed with crunchy and spicy radishes, sweet and juicy blueberries, and creamy mayo, it makes this seafood salad absolutely stunning. So many textures, flavors and colors packed in to one easy meal.
Makes 2 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
- 1 medium hass avocado
- ¼ cup fresh blueberries
- ¼ cup sliced radishes
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1 (6-ounce) can wild- caught salmon
- 3 tablespoons homemade mayo (or Primal Kitchen® Mayo!)
- Pinch of fine Himalayan salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Squeeze of lemon (optional)
- ¼ cup Pickled Red Onions (also in the book, page 88), for serving
• Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Cut a ¼-inch grid pattern in to each avocado half with a paring knife. Use a spoon to scoop out the few squares of avocado where the pit used o be and surrounding area. You want to make space for the salad.
• Place the scooped-out avocado in a small bowl. Add the blueberries, sliced radishes and parsley. Drain the salmon and use a fork to flake it into the bowl.
• Add the mayo, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined. Then spoon half of the mixture into one avocado boat and the rest into the second. Give them a squeeze of lemon (if desired) and serve with pickled onions on the side.
- To make this egg free use Primal Kitchen Vegan Ranch or AIP compliant mayo.
- If you don’t like radishes you may use cucumber or celery instead.
Per Serving: Calories 450, Fat 36.9, Carbs 13g, Fiber 7.5g, Protein 19.1g
Now For a Giveaway!
Enter HERE to win one of three signed copies of The Made Whole Cookbook. And for good measure, we’re throwing in the entire line of Primal Kitchen® Avocado Oils, Condiments, Dressings and Marinades for each winner. Winners will be chosen at random on 7/25.
The post The Missing Piece To My Puzzle (Plus a Recipe—and a Giveaway) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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One of the biggest mistakes I see among people who exercise is they forget this core truth: we get fitter not from training, but from recovering from training. This doesn’t just occur in beginners either. Some of the most experienced, hardest-charging athletes I know fail to heed the importance of recovery. Hell, the reason my endurance training destroyed my life and inadvertently set the stage for creation of the Primal Blueprint was that I didn’t grasp the concept of recovery. I just piled on the miles, thinking the more the merrier.
It didn’t work.
What is recovery, anyway?
There’s short-term recovery. Your heart rate slows back down, your body temperature drops, your sweat dries, your muscles and lungs stop burning.
Long-term recovery is less conspicuous, more internal. You replace lost energy stores, repair damaged muscle, clear out waste products, and begin the process of adaptation to the training.
When both short- and long-term recovery happen together, you “feel ready” to go again.
Some portion of how quickly we recover from training is out of our direct control.
Genetics is one factor we can’t control. Researchers have found genetic variants of collagen-encoding genes that increase or decrease the rate at which we recover from exercise-induced muscle damage, muscle tissue genes that increase resistance to exercise-induced muscle soreness, immune genes that affect the speed of adaptation to training. But even many genetic variants purported to affect recovery act through decisions carriers make. A carrier of a genetic variant linked to muscle power experienced more muscle damage and required more recovery after a soccer match, but only because that carrier “performed more speed and power actions during the game.”
Age is another factor out of our direct control. Sure, living, eating, and training right can stave off many of the worst effects of aging. Sure, a sedentary 70-year-old will recover from a workout far more slowly (if he or she can be cajoled into training) than a 70-year-old master athlete. But time does tick on. Following training that fatigues but doesn’t damage the muscles, like easy cycling, light weight training, or a sub-aerobic threshold jog, older athletes recover muscle function and performance at similar rates to younger athletes. After intense exercises that damage the muscles, like sprints, heavy lifting, intervals, or longer race-pace runs, however, older athletes recover more slowly than younger athletes.
Other factors, while preventable and modifiable over the long haul, inexorably inhibit workout recovery once they’re in place:
If you’re sick, you won’t recover as quickly. Illness diverts some of the resources that would otherwise be used to recover from training.
If you have heart disease, you’ll recover more slowly. In one study, having heart disease was the greatest predictor of a slower rate of heart rate recovery after exercise.
If your hormones are out of whack, you’ll likely recover more slowly. Hormones are the messengers and managers that tell our cells what to do. That includes muscle repair, hypertrophy, fuel replenishment, inflammatory signaling, and every other cellular function related to recovery.
Now I’ve got bad news and good news. Everything else that slows down workout recovery is under your direct control.
Factors We Can Control
Stress is stress. Traffic is a stressor. A job you hate is a stressor. Procrastinating until you absolutely must get working is a stressor. And yes, exercise is a stressor. Too much of the psychological, lifestyle, or mental stress we all face impairs our ability to recover from exercise-induced stress.
Recent research confirms that “mental stress” impairs workout recovery, and it doesn’t speak in generalities. Thirty-one undergrads were assessed for stress levels using a battery of psychological tests, then engaged in a heavy lower body strength workout. At an hour post-workout, students in the high stress group had regained 38 percent of their leg strength, while students in the low stress group had regained 60 percent of their strength.
I developed my anti-stress supplement Primal Calm (now, Adaptogenic Calm) back in the chronic cardio days as a way to improve my training recovery. That’s what gave the product so much momentum in the endurance community—it turns out that beating back stress of all kinds quickened recovery from a very specific type of training stress.
Some stress is unavoidable. But most of us create additional stress in our lives and fail to do enough to counter or manage it. Stop making unforced errors.
Sleep debt impairs exercise recovery primarily via two routes: by increasing cortisol, reducing testosterone production, and lowering muscle protein synthesis; and by disrupting slow wave sleep, the constructive stage of slumber in which growth hormone secretion peaks, tissues heal, and muscles rebuild. That’s probably why sleep deprivation has been linked to muscular atrophy and increased urinary excretion of nitrogen, and why the kind of cortisol excess caused by sleep deprivation reduces muscle strength.
Additionally, sleep loss can increase the risk of injuries by decreasing balance and postural control. If you trip and fall, or throw out your back due to poor technique, you won’t even have a workout to recover from.
Most people think bad sleep is unavoidable. It happens to the best of us from time to time, but a night of bad sleep here and there isn’t going to slow down recovery. The real recovery killer is chronically bad sleep, and that’s the kind most of us can avoid by sticking to a good sleep hygiene regimen.
Since every physiological function requires a micronutrient substrate—vitamin, mineral, hormone, neurotransmitter, etc.—and physiological functions increase with exercise and recovery, active people require more micronutrients in their diet. “More of everything” is a safe bet, but there are a few key nutrients that working out especially depletes:
Zinc: Exercise, especially weight training, works better with plenty of testosterone on hand to build muscle and develop strength. Zinc is a key substrate for the production of testosterone, and studies show that exercise probably increases the need for zinc. In fact, one study found that exhaustive exercise depleted testosterone (and thyroid) hormones in athletes, while supplementing with zinc restored it.
Magnesium and Other Electrolytes: Magnesium is required for a number of physiological processes related to workout recovery, including oxygen uptake by cells, energy production, and electrolyte balance. Unfortunately, as one of the main electrolytes, lots of magnesium is lost to sweat during exercise. The same could be said for other electrolytes like calcium, sodium, and potassium, but most people get plenty of those minerals from a basic Primal eating plan. Getting enough magnesium, however, is a bit tougher, making magnesium deficiency a real issue for people trying to recover from workouts.
Iron: Intense exercise depletes iron, which is instrumental in the formation of red blood cells and oxygen delivery to your tissues during training and the immune response after it. They even have a name for it—exercise-induced anemia.
Post-workout delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is no joke. While many of you folks reading this probably enjoy DOMS and take it as feedback for a job well done, it’s a hurdle that many beginners never move past. They join a gym, d0 a workout, feel great, go to bed feeling awesome, sleep like a baby, then wake up and find they have the bipedal capacity of a three-month-old. They can barely walk. Lifting their arms to brush their teeth is agony. Walking downstairs is out of the question. Some will move past the DOMS and get back into the gym. Many will not.
Low Fuel Availability
Working out expends energy. That energy must be replenished before you’re fully recovered and prepared to do another workout. Unless you’re trying to increase efficiency by training in a state of low fuel availability, like the “train low-carb, race high-carb” method, you should recover what’s been lost. What you replenish is conditional on the type of exercise you did. If you went for a long hike or easy bike ride that burned primarily body fat, you don’t need to—and probably shouldn’t—”replenish what you lost.” If you’re coming off a 30-minute full body CrossFit session that left you gasping on the ground in a puddle of sweat, you probably have some glycogen stores to refill.
This is a common issue for folks trying to lose weight through diet and exercise. Inadequate calorie intake coupled with intense exercise sends a “starvation” signal to the body, causing a down-regulation of anabolic hormones. Instead of growing lean mass and burning body fat, starvation (whether real or simulated) promotes muscle atrophy and body fat retention. Either alone can be somewhat effective, but combining the two for too long will only impair recovery.
Drinking directly impairs muscle protein synthesis, the essential step in muscle recovery and adaptation to training. Moderate or “social” drinking is probably safe (just don’t use alcohol as a post-workout recovery drink), but even just a single day per week of binge drinking is linked to 4x the risk of sarcopenia, or muscle-wasting. It’s hard to recover from your workouts if your muscles are atrophying.
Oddly, drinking directly after a training session also increases testosterone levels. One theory is that testosterone levels rise after drinking because it becomes less bioavailable; your muscle cells’ resistance to testosterone goes up, so it just circulates and gives “false” readings.
Things You Can Try
The obvious thing to try is the opposite of all the modifiable and preventable recovery-inhibitors mentioned above. Get good sleep, don’t drink too much (especially post-workout), get a handle on your stress, eat enough food, eat enough protein, get your micronutrients. What else?
L-citrulline is an amino acid found in watermelon that shows a significantly ameliorative effect on post-workout muscle pain, or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). You can also supplement directly with L-citrulline, which may work, but watermelon is so good right now with a little salt, lime juice, and cayenne pepper, and it’s actually lower in carbs than you probably think (about 10 grams per cup of watermelon). I recommend fresh watermelon over pasteurized juice, as heat treatment reduces the effect.
Beets (and beet juice) aren’t only good for exercise performance. They also reduce DOMS. Nitrates have been posited as the primary constituent responsible for the effect, but beet juice works better than pure sodium nitrate.
Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice is best used to recover during competition, when your primary concern is to get back out there and perform. Its extreme effectiveness at killing muscle pain, reducing local and systemic inflammation and exercise-induced muscle damage suggests it may hamper training adaptations, however. It does also improve sleep, which should translate into better adaptations.
Massage feels great, and the evidence shows that it’s great for recovery from exercise. It alleviates DOMS. It speeds up the recovery of muscle strength and enhances proprioception. It improves central nervous system parasympathetic/sympathetic balance, even if the masseuse is one of those weird back massage machines.
These aren’t just for show. A recent meta-analysis of the available research concluded that compression garments enhance muscle recovery after strength training and improve next-day cycling performance.
Although we get creatine from red meat and fish, supplementary creatine can boost our recovery from exercise via a couple mechanisms. First, it increases muscle content of phosphocreatine. That’s the stuff we use for quick bursts of maximal effort, so carrying a little extra can do wonders for our ability to perform. Second, it enhances muscle glycogen replenishment without increasing insulin.
Fish Oil (or Fatty Fish)
A cold water plunge after training enhances the recovery of muscle function. However—and this is a big “however”—post training cold water plunges also seem to impair long term muscular adaptations to resistance training. In other words, a cold plunge might help you get back in the game for the short term at the cost of long-term adaptations.
I always say “Eat the carbs you earn.” While that often means eating fewer carbs than before, it can also mean eating more if you’ve trained hard enough to warrant them. This even applies to keto folks; depleting glycogen through exercise creates a “glycogen debt” that you can repay without inhibiting ketosis or fat-adaptation too much. The carbs—which you don’t need much of—go into muscle glycogen stores for recovery and later use without disrupting ketosis.
Don’t take this final section as a blanket recommendation, however. Before taking ice baths, dropping $500 on massages every week, taking a long list of expensive supplements, and walking around in a full body compression suit, make sure you’re sleeping, eating enough food, and giving yourself enough time between workouts. Quite often, handling the basics will be enough.
What have you found to be the best way to recover from your training? What are the biggest roadblocks? Let me know down below, and thanks for reading!
The post What Causes Slow Post-Workout Recovery—and What Can You Do About It? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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Both CrossFit and bodybuilding involve lifting weights and putting them back down, repeatedly, several times each week. Both are forms of exercise. The similarities stop there. The real meat lies in the differences.
What’s different about CrossFit and bodybuilding? What can we learn from those differences? What can they learn from each other?
First of all, defining CrossFit by real world examples is difficult; there are tons. There’s so-called “homepage CrossFit,” where you go to CrossFit.com and do the Workout of the Day (WOD) as prescribed. That’s become less and less popular as more CF boxes open up and employ their own programming. These days, those doing main page CF are mostly individuals following along at home or at regular gyms.
It’s better to look at the overarching intent of the CrossFit philosophy.
CrossFit is all about function. Rather than emphasizing aesthetics, it focuses on increasing work capacity. It’s trying to make people better at producing a given amount of work in less time than before. If you can go from doing 10 pullups in two minutes to doing 20 pullups in two minutes, you’ve just increased your work capacity. CrossFit wants its athletes to not only lift heavy things, but lift heavy things repeatedly with less rest.
It also wants to increase your work capacity across “broad modal domains.” What does that mean? Rather than increase only pullup work capacity, it wants you to improve your work capacity across every mode of movement humans engage in: running, rowing, jumping, squatting, deadlifting, throwing, climbing, carrying, pushing, pressing, clean-and-jerking. CrossFitters are training for “the sport of fitness”—for overall adaptive fitness.
And actually, what most people imagine when they think of CrossFit isn’t too far off from the reality:
- High-intensity full-body movements performed for time.
- “As many reps as possible” (AMRAP) workouts.
- Olympic lifts for reps.
- Endless pullups and ring dips.
- Rowing, sprinting, climbing.
- Varied modes of movement.
Bodybuilding is all about form. At its highest levels, bodybuilders are trying to cultivate aesthetic perfection in the human physique. In other words, bodybuilding is about getting jacked. Bodybuilding is primarily concerned with looks, big muscles, low body fat. It aims to realize the potential of every single muscle in the human body to grow while maintaining balance and cohesion. No big quads and small glutes, or big biceps and small triceps. Bodybuilders want everything to grow not for extra functionality, but because they look better that way.
People use all sorts of different methods to bodybuild. What makes bodybuilding bodybuilding isn’t so much the methods—although there are definite trends. There are keto bodybuilders doing medium rep sets and basic “balanced diet” bodybuilders doing high rep sets. It’s the intent.
Bodybuilders want to look strong and impressive. They’re judged based on how they look, not what they can lift. CrossFitters want to be strong and impressive. They’re judged based on what they can do.
Benefits Of Each
What can bodybuilders expect to get from bodybuilding?
- Better body composition—more lean mass, less body fat
- Strength—big muscles usually increase strength, though not necessarily functional strength
- Better insulin sensitivity—bigger muscles mean bigger glycogen sinks, and strength training increases insulin sensitivity
- Increased bone density and all the wonderful adaptive benefits of lifting heavy things
What can CrossFitters expect to get out of CrossFit?
- Improvements in both strength, anaerobic, and aerobic capacity
- Better functional movement patterns
- Better insulin sensitivity
- Increased bone density
- Better cardio vascular health
Pervasive Myths About Both
“Bodybuilders are dumb meatheads.”
For one thing, successful bodybuilding requires planning, careful attention to technique, and a strong mind-body awareness and presence of mind to “feel” the muscle working. Research confirms that rather than use “extreme, non-evidence-based regimens,” bodybuilders use “evidence-based” nutrition strategies to achieve their desired physiques. Brain and brawn are the opposite of mutually exclusive. In addition, strength training (and exercise in general) supports brain health and triggers brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes neuronal growth and protects against neurodegenerative disease. The idea of the “dumb bodybuilder” is total nonsense. Every piece of evidence we have contradicts it.
“Bodybuilders never do compound exercises.”
The notion that bodybuilders are only using machines and doing isolation exercises is simply wrong. Arnold started with squats. Ronnie Coleman squatted and deadlifted. Tom Platz definitely squatted. A bodybuilder might do a lot of curls, but never in the squat rack.
“CrossFitters get injured all the time.”
Contrary to popular belief, CrossFit has never been shown to be more dangerous than other types of training. Recent studies show that CrossFitters experience no more shoulder injuries than other athletes, for example. If anything, CrossFitters get fewer injuries than athletes on other programs. Of course, any time you push yourself hard enough to elicit a training adaptation, you risk injury. It comes with the territory.
“The CrossFit Games are representative of how CFers train every day.”
The Games are a big event, a competition, a way to test the mettle and competence of the best of the best. Three days of almost non-stop lifting, running, pulling, throwing, flipping, climbing, and pushing is an aberration; it’d be like an endurance athlete training by doing Ironman Triathlons three times a week.
What Can CrossFitters and Bodybuilders Learn From Each Other?
CrossFitters can learn:
The importance of discipline. To be a successful bodybuilder, you can’t “just eat whatever” and “train here and there.” You don’t just bang out a quick 20-minute session. You’re in the gym for 1-2 hours, spending half your time on the triceps. You’re meal planning a week in advance. It requires dedication and extreme discipline to really influence body composition to the degree body builders do, develop a balanced physique, and maintain low-enough body fat that you can see all your hard work. There’s a constant dance between eating enough to gain muscle and keeping body fat low. The cut and bulk. That isn’t easy.
The importance of quality of movement. Since a big concern is work performed across time, CrossFitters will often look for short cuts to improve performance without building the appropriate foundation. A good example of this is launching into kipping pullups (which use explosive momentum and demand a lot of shoulder mobility and strength) before you can do more than one strict pull up on your own.
The benefits of isolation exercises. Many folks in the online fitness/health community—not just CrossFitters—neglect the benefits of isolation exercises, often gleefully. “Those are for the beach,” they’ll say, or “pullups are enough, no need for curls.” Yet, sometimes isolation exercises can actually translate to real life capability by strengthening a weak link. If you’re doing nothing but pullups and rows without any direct bicep work, consider doing some. Another example is the pistol squat; it’s not hard because of inadequate quad or hamstring strength, but because the hip flexors and ankles are weak and lack mobility. An isolated focus on those relatively “minor” muscles can make a huge difference.
Bodybuilders can learn:
The benefits of overall fitness rather than just weight training. Looking big and strong is great. No arguments there. But it’s fun to be able to move through time and space with fluidity and grace—and explosiveness. There’s no reason to avoid improving your cardiovascular and anaerobic fitness, or put those big muscles to work. If anything, doing so will improve your physique and make your bodybuilding more effective.
The importance of compound barbell movements. While I know the big names pay their dues with squats, deadlifts, and other compound lifts, many of the beginners stumbling around the globo-gym neglect the big lifts in favor of exclusively doing isolation exercises.
The two approaches and philosophies are about as different as you can get… and yet, the differences are far from irreconcilable.
Every human wants to look good, to appear strong and competent and aesthetic.
Every human wants to be strong and competent, with the ability to impose his or her will on the world.
Every CrossFitter has a little bodybuilder in them (or else there wouldn’t be so many CF Instagrams accounts full of black and white photos of chalked up hands attached to glistening bodies in the midst of cleans and thrusters and muscle-ups). Every bodybuilder has a little CrossFitter in them (because when they get down to it, every bodybuilder gets intrinsic joy from lifting some heavy ass weight).
I say it’s time they reconciled. What about you?
Any CrossFitters or bodybuilders out there who want to give their thoughts and suggestions on bridging the divide?
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!
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This morning I shared how I’ve changed my approach to stress over the last couple of decades. For me, this meant first addressing the toll of my training. It’s how the Primal Blueprint, in fact, was born. In today’s feature and in this video (with my long-time friend and co-author, Brad Kearns), I talked about how adaptogenic herbs made a difference for my recovery. I formulated my own supplement to literally help myself first. Fellow athlete friends wanted to try it, and that’s how Primal Calm (now called Adaptogenic Calm) came into being. The fact is, like everything I’ve chosen to sell, my interest in the product sprung from my own story.
I’ve always been a student of performance—in my athletic days and now. Whether it’s nutritional intake, training strategies, or supplement choices, this is where science comes to life for me. Over the years, I made this interest work for my fitness performance and now for my optimal health. It’s not about “hacking” the body’s functioning but understanding it from the ground floor up. This knowledge helps me live and age through life on my own terms, which is exactly the way I like it.
Every bit of research, every connection, every choice has done its part to fill in the picture for me—the daily practices and overall philosophy behind the Primal Blueprint.
In the last few years, collagen has been one of the tools that has made the biggest difference in my life. It was instrumental to recovering from an injury that (I was told) would put me on the sidelines indefinitely, and now it supports continuing joint health and mobility as I push myself physically long after many people give up on their bodies period.
A few months ago Brad Kearns and I recorded a conversation about my interest in collagen—how I started applying it to my health, what it offers for fitness performance, and how anyone—athlete or not—can benefit. Take a look.
Now For the Contest…
Ask me a question about my health routines. What would you like to know? What I eat (or don’t eat)? What I do for exercise? My favorite way to relax? What I’m working on now? What my favorite meal is? If it encompasses some aspect of healthy living, it’s fair game. I’ll pick a few to cover in future posts or social media projects—and choose one random winner from all relevant responses.
Made from all-natural ingredients, Adaptogenic Calm can be used safely by anyone who feels that stress is interfering with his or her productiveness, effectiveness and enjoyment of life. Adaptogenic Calm can produce a noticeable effect in as little as 30 minutes to 2 hours upon ingestion, and this state of calm can last throughout the day.*
Unflavored and easily dissolved in hot or cold liquids, Primal Kitchen® Collagen Peptides support connective tissue and hair, skin and nails. Unflavored to add to morning coffee, meal shakes/smoothies, soups, and baked goods.
The Deadline: June 22, 2018, midnight PDT
Thanks for stopping by today, everyone. It’s almost Friday!
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