For this week’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, is the reduced protein efficiency in older adults due to inactivity, or is it something inherent to the aging process, or both? Second, how does a person know if they’ve actually “earned” any carbs? Does everyone on a keto diet earn carbs by virtue of exercising, or is there more to it? And finally, how can a hardgainer with a packed schedule all week long and limited gym time maintain what little muscle mass he’s managed to gain?

Let’s find out:

Interesting observation on protein needs and training in Sunday with Sisson – general consensus is that older folks need more protein as they age but maybe that’s because they are less active and not simply a result of aging.

That’s probably part of it, but it’s not all of it.

In studies where they compare resistance training seniors who eat extra protein with resistance training seniors who don’t, only the seniors eating extra protein gain muscle mass.

Now, it may be that a lifetime of inactivity degrades your ability to utilize protein, and if these older adults had always lifted weights they would have retained their protein efficiency. But maybe not. As it stands, all else being equal, an older adult needs more protein to get the same effect, even if he or she is lifting weights.

Enjoyable read. As someone who lives a ketogenic lifestyle, and who is athletically active, I am not sure exactly how to go about consuming the carbs I’ve “earned.” I rarely run into problems with athletic energy, at least not below anaerobic threshold. Not sure that eating more carbs will improve my performance. And, if they would improve my performance, how does one go about calculating earned carb replacement without losing the fat burning benefits of ketosis?

It sounds like you’re in a good place.

When I say “eat the carbs you earn,” I’m talking to the people who do run into problems with athletic energy, poor performance, insomnia, and other symptoms of exercise-induced stress. Typically, the people who “earn their carbs” are doing stuff like CrossFit, high volume moderate-to-high intensity endurance work, martial arts training, and team sports.

I doubt extra carbs will improve your performance if most of your training takes place in the aerobic zone. But if you wanted to experiment, you could try a small sweet potato immediately after a workout where you passed the anaerobic threshold.

That’s the best way to determine if you’ve earned carbs. Eat 20-30 grams after a workout and see if you enjoy performance gains without gaining body fat. There’s no consumer-friendly way to directly calculate carb debt; self-experimentation is it.

I recently took a job that has me out of bed at 4am and not home until 6pm Monday Through Friday. Is there an efficient way I can maintain muscle mass only lifting weights Saturday and Sunday? I’m a hardgainer at 5’10” and only 140lbs. I’m afraid giving up my 5 day split will ruin what muscle I’ve been able to gain.

Any hardgainer has to eat, and eat, and eat. Increase your food intake. Just eat. Stick to healthy Primal fare, but pack in the food. Meat, milk, veggies, potatoes, rice, eggs, avocados, fruit. Throw some liver in, too (old bodybuilder staple). It doesn’t sound like fat gain is an issue for you, so I’d take advantage of that and just consume calories.

As for training, get some exercise snacks in during the week.

As soon as you wake up, do a quick superset of pushups. Do as many pushups as you can. Wait 30 seconds. Do as many pushups as you can. Wait 30 seconds. Do as many pushups as you can. There you go. That shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes in the morning. Can you squeeze that in?

Repeat this every morning with a different exercise. Pullups, bodyweight rows, kettlebell swings, handstand pushups, dips, bodyweight squats, goblet squats, reverse lunges, reverse weighted lunges. Just choose one thing to do every morning, cram as many reps as you can using the same format (max reps, 30 s rest, max reps, 30 s rest, max reps). Buy any equipment you can if you choose to use weights.

When you get home at night, do the same thing with a different exercise. Morning pushups, evening KB swings, etc. That way, you get about 10 minutes per weekday of intense strength training without impacting your sleep or schedule in any real meaningful way.

Make sure your sleep hygiene is rock solid. Dim those lights at night, turn on f.lux or night mode, wear the blue blocking goggles, get to bed (ideally) by 8:30, 9 to give you 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep. Sleep is essential for gaining lean mass (and staying healthy in general).

On the weekend, hit the weights hard on both days, hitting the entire body. Go high volume/reps. If size is your goal, dropping the weight a bit and focusing on range of motion and a high rep count (10-15 per set) is very effective.

Food, sleep, reps. Good luck!

Thanks for stopping in today, everybody. Additional thoughts for these folks—or questions of your own? Share them below.

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References:

Tieland M, Dirks ML, Van der zwaluw N, et al. Protein supplementation increases muscle mass gain during prolonged resistance-type exercise training in frail elderly people: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2012;13(8):713-9.

The post Dear Mark: Protein Efficiency in Seniors, Earned Carbs, Hardgainer with Limited Time appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Jessica Gouthro from Paleohacks is joining us today to offer tips for strengthening glutes and hamstrings without traditional gym equipment. Enjoy, everyone.

Strong glutes and hamstrings are more than just nice-looking legs and a booty.

The glutes and hamstrings are the strongest muscles in our skeletal muscular system. When we strengthen these muscles, we can prevent strain and injury while also enjoying a greater ability to squat deeper, lunge pain-free, push heavy objects, run faster and jump higher.

To best train those glutes and hamstrings, you’ll want to emphasize both leg curling (knee bending) and hip extension (or straightening) actions for balanced training. One of the best exercises that do this is the glute ham raise, or GHR.

Very few exercises can isolate the hamstrings and glutes without top-loading excess weight on the spine or testing your grip strength with a loaded barbell. Although you may think this exercise looks easy in comparison to a Barbell Romanian Deadlift or Hip Thrust, it is just as challenging (if not even more so) when performed correctly.

What Is a Glute Ham Raise?

A glute ham raise is an eccentric, or muscle lengthening, exercise that involves a fixed location of the feet, ankles, and hips and a hinge only at the knee joint. By securing the foot position and starting with a bent knee, we enable the hamstring to lengthen eccentrically against gravity using only our own body weight.

Rising back up to the starting position is done by a combination of hamstring contraction and assistance from the upper body pushing against the floor.

Typically, this exercise utilizes specialized equipment called a GHR machine (pictured) that can hold your feet and ankles in place and cushions your knees with a curved, shaped knee pad.

Since you may not have access to one of these in your home or gym, we have a great alternative you can do with a partner. All you need is a friend and a rolled-up towel to cushion your knees!

Partner Assisted Glute Ham Raise | 6 reps

Kneel down on a rolled-up towel. Tuck your toes under and straighten your hips. Lift your hands up in front of your shoulders and tighten your core.

Have your partner press down firmly on your ankles to secure your position. Keeping your hips and glutes tight, inhale as you slowly lean forward, hinging only at the knees.

Once you can no longer control the descent, use your hands to catch yourself and lower the rest of the way down. Push into the floor with your hands, and on an exhale, contract your glutes and hamstrings to rise back up to the starting position.

Complete six reps while your partner holds your ankles steady.

Note: This is an advanced exercise. If you find this exercise too challenging and cannot complete six good reps, you can try this next partner-assisted resistance band hamstring curl exercise as an alternative.

Partner-Assisted Kneeling Band Hamstring Curl | 8 reps per leg

Kneel down on a rolled-up towel, tuck your toes under, and get into an all-fours position. Extend one leg straight out behind you.

Have your partner loop a resistance band around your heel, just above your shoe. As your partner holds her end of the resistance band tight, bend your knee to curl your heel towards your butt.

Exhale and hold momentarily at 90 degrees, then slowly straighten to return to the starting position. Continue to bend and straighten your knee while maintaining that lifted leg position. Complete eight reps, then switch sides.

Note: You will feel this in your glutes on both sides as well as in your hamstring.

In case you don’t have a partner available, here are the five best glute and hamstring exercises you can do anywhere, by yourself. You’ll need a yoga mat, a towel, and an exercise band.

To get the most out of your efforts, I recommend performing all of these exercises at least two to three times per week.

Fire Hydrant | 10 per side

Kneel down in an all-fours position with your feet flexed (toes pointing to the floor). Lift one knee up and out to the side to hip height. Exhale at the top as you flex your glute muscles, then lower back down with control. Maintain a steady torso and upper body as you focus on contracting your glutes.


Complete 10 reps on one side, then switch to the other leg.

Note: Work slowly to ensure quality muscle contractions. Pause each time you hit the top and strongly contract your glutes. You’ll feel this on both sides, even though you’re working one side at a time.

Towel Slide Hamstring Curl | 8 reps

Sit at the bottom edge of your mat with the full length of your legs on a smooth surface floor, like hardwood or tile.
Lie down flat on your back and press your palms into the floor by your hips.

Place your heels on a towel and keep your feet flexed. (If you are working on carpet, use a piece of paper or two paper or plastic plates instead of a towel.)

Engage your glutes and lift your hips off the ground. On an exhale, bend your knees to slide the towel towards your butt. Stop when your knees reach a 90-degree bend. Inhale, and reverse by sliding back out to a straight body.

Complete eight reps, keeping your hips elevated the entire time.

Single Leg Toe Touch | 6 reps per side

Stand tall with your core tight and shoulders rolled back and down. Balance on one foot as you float the other just off the ground.

Inhale to hinge at the hips to tilt forward until your torso and top leg are parallel to the ground. Keep a slight bend in your standing leg and reach your fingertips towards your toes. Exhale to lift back up to standing, contracting your muscles.

Complete six reps per side.

Note: Keep your gaze on the ground to help with balance. If balance is still a challenge, you may hold onto a wall or chair with one hand while you do these reps.

Single Leg Balance Hamstring Curl | 6 reps per side

Balance on one leg with your torso and lifted leg parallel to the ground. Keep a small bend in your standing leg, and grab onto your quad for stability. On an exhale, curl your top leg towards your butt, while maintaining your hip and torso position.


Inhale to straighten your leg, reaching it out long behind you.

Continue six reps on one side, then complete six reps on the other side.

Single Leg Resistance Band Ham Curl | 6 reps per side

Slide one end of your loop resistance band underneath your left heel, pressing down with your heel to secure its position.

Lift your right leg. Loop your right heel through the other end of the band, positioning it on the back of your shoe. Place both hands on your left knee and hinge at your hips with your spine straight.

Exhale to bend your right knee to 90 degrees, then inhale as you lower back down with control, maintaining a small amount of tension on the band so it does not come loose. Your range of motion should be about eight to 10 inches.

Complete six reps, then switch sides.

Note: Hold onto a wall or a chair for balance if you need to.

How To Incorporate This Weekly Workout

Here’s a sample workout you can incorporate into your weekly routine.

Warm up with three minutes of light walking or jogging. Follow with three rounds of the circuit of seven exercises, resting for 10-30 seconds between exercises depending on your fitness level.

Note: Beginners can do just one round and work up to three rounds after a few weeks.

  • Partner-Assisted Glute Ham Raise [OR] Partner Assisted Kneeling Band | 6 reps
  • Hamstring Curl | 8 reps per leg
  • Fire Hydrant | 10 per side
  • Towel Slide Hamstring Curl | 8 reps
  • Single Leg Toe Touch | 6 reps per side
  • Single Leg Balance Hamstring Curl | 6 reps per side
  • Single Leg Resistance Band Ham Curl | 6 reps per side

Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro for these tips and to Brad Gouthro for demonstrating them. Be sure to check out Jessica’s other workout lineups on MDA:“Arm Workout Without Weights,” “13 Ways To Move More At Work” and “10 Moves To Help Ease Joint Pain.”

Questions or comments about exercises or glute and hamstring strength? Share them below, and thanks for stopping by.

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The scientific literature is awash in correlations between a person’s health status and various biomarkers, personal characteristics, and measurements. As we hoard more and more data and develop increasingly sophisticated autonomous tools to analyze it, we’ll stumble across new connections between seemingly disparate variables. Some will be spurious, where the correlations are real but the variables don’t affect each other. Others will be useful, where the correlations indicate real causality, or at least a real relationship.

One of my favorite health markers—one that is both modifiable and a good barometer for the conditions it appears to predict—is grip strength.

The Benefits of Grip Strength

In middle-aged and elderly people, grip strength consistently predicts mortality risk from all causes, doing an even better job than blood pressure. In older disabled women, grip strength predicts all-cause mortality, even when controlling for disease status, inflammatory load, depression, nutritional status, and inactivity.

Poor grip strength is also an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes across all ethnicities, and it can predict the presence of osteoarthritis in the knee. Among Korean adults, those with lower grip strength have a greater risk of clinical depression.

Even when hand grip strength fails to predict a disease, it still predicts the quality of life in people with the disease. The relative rate of grip strength reduction in healthy people is a good marker for the progression of general aging. Faster decline, faster aging. Slower (or no) decline, slower aging. Stronger people—as indicated by their grip strength—are simply better at navigating the physical world and maintaining independence on into old age.

Health and longevity aside, there are other real benefits to a stronger grip.

You command more respect. I don’t care how bad it sounds, because I agree. Historically, a person’s personal worth and legitimacy was judged by the quality of their handshake. Right or wrong, that’s how we’re wired. If you think you feel differently, let me know how you feel the next time you shake hands and the other person has a limp, moist hand. Who are you more likely to respect? To hire? To deem more capable? To befriend? To approach romantically? I’m not saying it’s right. I’m saying it’s simply how it is. We can’t avoid our guttural reaction to a strong—or weak—handshake. To me, that suggests we have a built-in sensitivity to grip for a very good reason.

So, how does one build grip?

10 Exercises To Build Grip Strength

Most people will get a strong-enough grip as long as they’re lifting heavy things on a consistent-enough basis.

1. Deadlifts

Deadlifts are proven grip builders. Wide grip deadlifts are also good and stress your grip across slightly different angles.

2. Pullups and 3. Chinups

Both require a good grip on the bar.

Any exercise where your grip supports either your weight or an external weight (like a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell) is going to improve your grip strength. But there are other, more targeted movements you can try to really turn your hand into a vise. Such as:

4. Bar Hangs

This is pretty simple. Just hang from a bar (or branch, or traffic light fixture) with both hands. It’s probably the purest expression of grip strength. As it happens, it’s also a great stretch for your lats, chest, shoulders, and thoracic spine.

Aim to hit one minute. Progress to one-hand hangs if two-handers get too easy. You can use a lower bar and keep one foot on the ground for support as you transition toward a full one-handed hang.

5. Sledgehammer Work

Grab the heaviest sledgehammer you can handle and use it in a variety of ways.

If you had to pick just one sledgehammer movement to target your grip, do the bottoms up. Hold the hammer hanging down pointing toward the ground in your hand, swing it up and catch it with the head of the hammer pointing upward, and hold it there. Handle parallel to your torso, wrist straight, don’t let it fall. The lower you grip the handle, the harder your forearms (and grip) will have to work.

6. Fingertip Pushups

Most people who try fingertip pushups do them one way. They do them with straight fingers, with the palm dipping toward the ground. Like this. Those are great, but there’s another technique as well: the claw.  For the claw, make a claw with your hand, like this, as if you’re trying to grab the ground. In fact, do try to grab the ground. This keeps your fingers more active, builds more strength and resilience, and prevents you from resting on your connective tissue.

These are hard for most people. They’re quite hard on the connective tissue, which often goes underutilized in the hands and forearms. Don’t just leap into full fingertip pushups—unless you know you’re able. Start on your knees, gradually pushing your knees further back to add resistance. Once they’re all the way back and you’re comfortable, then progress to full pushups.

7. Active Hands Pushups

These are similar to claw pushups, only with the palm down on the floor. Flat palm, active “claw” fingers. They are easier than fingertip pushups.

8. Farmer’s Walks

The average person these days is not carrying water pails and hay bales and feed bags back and forth across uneven ground like they did when over 30% of the population lived on farms, but the average person can quickly graduate past average by doing farmer’s walks a couple times each week. What is a farmer’s walk?

Grab two heavy weights, stand up, and walk around. They can be dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or trap bars. You can walk up hill, down hill, or around in circles. You can throw in some shrugs, or bookend your walks with deadlifts or swings. The point is to use your grip to carry something heavy in both hands.

9. Pinch Grips

Grasp and hold weight plates between your thumb and each finger.

10. Hammer Curls

Next time you do some curls, throw in a few sets of hammer curls. These are identical to normal bicep curls, except you hold the weights in a hammer grip, with palms facing toward each other—like how you hold and swing a hammer. Make sure to keep those wrists as straight as possible.

The thing about grip is it’s hard to work your grip without getting stronger, healthier, and faster all over. Deadlifting builds grip strength, and it also builds back, hip, glute, and torso strength. Fingertip pushups make your hands and forearms strong, but they also work your chest, triceps, abs, and shoulders. That’s why I suspect grip strength is such a good barometer for overall health, wellness, and longevity. Almost every meaningful piece of physical activity requires that you use your hands to manipulate significant amounts of weight and undergo significant amounts of stress.

For that reason, the best way to train your grip is with normal movements. Heavy deadlifts and farmer’s walks are probably more effective than spending half an hour pinch gripping with every possible thumb/finger permutation, because they offer more full-body benefits. But if you have a few extra minutes throughout your workout, throw in some of the dedicated grip training.

Your grip can handle it. The grip muscles in the hands and forearm are mostly slow-twitch fiber dominant, meaning they’re designed to go for long periods of exertion. They’re also gross movers, meaning you use them all the time for all sorts of tasks, and have been doing so for decades. To make them adapt, you need to stress the heck out of them with high weight. Train grip with high reps, heavy weights, and long durations. This is why deadlifts and farmer’s walks are so good for your grip—they force you to maintain that grip on a heavy bar or dumbbell for the entire duration of the set with little to no rest.

Oh, and pick up some Fat Gripz. These attach to dumbbells and barbells and increase the diameter of the bar, giving you less leverage when grabbing and forcing you to adapt to the new grip conditions by getting stronger.

Now, will all this grip training actually protect you from aging, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and early all-cause mortality? Maybe, maybe not.

But it—and the muscle and fitness you gain doing all these exercises—certainly doesn’t hurt.

How’s your grip? How’s your handshake? How long can you hang from a bar without letting go?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care, be well, and go pick up and hold some heavy stuff.

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References:

Sasaki H, Kasagi F, Yamada M, Fujita S. Grip strength predicts cause-specific mortality in middle-aged and elderly persons. Am J Med. 2007;120(4):337-42.

Leong DP, Teo KK, Rangarajan S, et al. Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. Lancet. 2015;386(9990):266-73.

Rantanen T, Volpato S, Ferrucci L, Heikkinen E, Fried LP, Guralnik JM. Handgrip strength and cause-specific and total mortality in older disabled women: exploring the mechanism. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003;51(5):636-41.

Van der kooi AL, Snijder MB, Peters RJ, Van valkengoed IG. The Association of Handgrip Strength and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Six Ethnic Groups: An Analysis of the HELIUS Study. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(9):e0137739.

Wen L, Shin MH, Kang JH, et al. Association between grip strength and hand and knee radiographic osteoarthritis in Korean adults: Data from the Dong-gu study. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(11):e0185343.

Lee MR, Jung SM, Bang H, Kim HS, Kim YB. The association between muscular strength and depression in Korean adults: a cross-sectional analysis of the sixth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES VI) 2014. BMC Public Health. 2018;18(1):1123.

Lee SH, Kim SJ, Han Y, Ryu YJ, Lee JH, Chang JH. Hand grip strength and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Korea: an analysis in KNHANES VI. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2017;12:2313-2321.

Iconaru EI, Ciucurel MM, Georgescu L, Ciucurel C. Hand grip strength as a physical biomarker of aging from the perspective of a Fibonacci mathematical modeling. BMC Geriatr. 2018;18(1):296.

The post Why Grip Strength Matters—and 10 Ways to Build It appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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One of the first things people do when they start working out is focus on their abs—crunches, sit-ups, leg lifts, bicycles, and the like. I mean, who doesn’t want a six-pack? Entire fitness schools have sprung up around the idea of targeting your abs with direct work. Take Pilates. In its purest iterations, it’s considered a “total body” philosophy, but the way most classes seem to go you end up spending all your time doing a bunch of complicated crunches and other targeted ab work (and grimacing every time you cough for the next week).

Let me make a radical proposal here. All this ab work isn’t necessary.

Don’t get me wrong. The “abs” are extremely important. Not only do they round out the physique and look great, but abdominal strength also provides stability, supports good posture, and improves movement. Strong abdominals allow and enhance the full expression of a person’s athleticism. Running, jumping, lifting, throwing (balls, spears, or punches), and basically any movement all require—and are improved by—strong abs (i.e. a strong “core”).

When you think about training the abs, consider what the abdominals’ purpose is: to provide a stable foundation for the rest of your body as it moves. They can move, but it’s not their primary function. As such, the way most people train abs is completely superfluous and ignores that essential function—maintaining stability and resisting movement. When you think about it that way, crunches and sit-ups don’t make a whole lot of sense.

What Kinds of Ab Work Make Sense?

  • Deadlifts make sense because your hips are designed to hinge to allow you to pick up objects.
  • Squats make sense because your knees are meant to flex and extend under load.
  • Pull-ups make sense because your lats and biceps are designed to pull your body’s weight upward.

But crunches? Abs are best at holding steady and supporting all the other tissues and limbs as they move through space. Using your abs to move heavy weight a few inches is just weird. It “works,” but is it ideal? No.

If you insist on direct ab work, focus on movements where the abs don’t actually move all that much.

  • Instead of crunches (abs moving), do bicycle crunches (abs stationary, legs moving).
  • Instead of sit-ups (abs moving), do hanging leg raises (abs stationary, legs moving).

In both cases, you’ll be blasting the hell out of your abdominals, but you won’t be flexing and extending your spine.

Okay, with all that out of the way…

What Do I Do For Ab Work?

I don’t do much direct ab work. You won’t find me doing crunches or bicycles. Instead, I’m using my abs all the time.

  • When I’m doing pushups, I’m tightening my abs. A strong, stable, cohesive abdominal complex makes my pushups better and stronger. Do a pushup without tight abs, and your hips will dip toward the ground. You’ll be sloppy and weak.
  • When I’m doing deadlifts, I’m tightening my abs. My abs are resisting the pull of the heavy bar. They’re preventing my spine from rounding and hurting itself.
  • When I’m doing pull-ups, I’m using my abs to maintain a cohesive frame. Try it. Instead of kicking your legs or flopping them around to propel yourself upward, keep them straight and tight. Tighten your abs. Think of your entire body, from top to bottom, as a single piece. Pull that piece up past the bar. Feeling it in the core, are you?
  • When I’m standup paddling, I’m using my obliques, my “outer abs.” They support the paddling motion. They’re my base of support. Go paddle for an hour as a beginner, then see how your sides feel the next day.
  • When I’m doing band pull-aparts (a great shoulder pre/rehab movement, by the way), I’m tightening my abs.

Heck, when I’m driving my car or carrying my groceries or walking the dogs, I’m tightening my abs.

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. The abs figure prominently.

There’s probably one exercise I do specifically for my abs, and that’s the plank. But again, the planks work the abs by resisting movement, by keeping your body straight and solid against the pull of gravity. They aren’t moving.

I made a short video on how I work my abdominals without a specific abs routine. Take a look.

Finally, the single most important thing you can do for your abs in terms of looks, of course, is to become a better fat-burner. Hidden underneath even the most sedentary, flabby exterior is a rippling six pack. Simply possessing basic human anatomy means you have visible abdominals somewhere under there. Get lean enough and you’ll see them.

Thanks for stopping in today. Questions, thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

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The post Why an “Ab Routine” Isn’t Necessary (and What I Do Instead) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate a beginning strength training practice (or just a little extra effort) into your exercise routine, wearable weights—which include weighted vests, ankle weights and wrist weights—can seem like a no-brainer. After all, you’re technically investing the same amount of time and doing the same activities but just with more effort and benefit. And you just have to slip them on and go, right?

Not exactly.

What Are Wearable Weights?

The most common types of wearable weights include weighted vests and wrist and ankle weights.

Weighted vests are exactly what they sound like, except instead of zipping or buttoning the vest in the front, many models go on over your head and attach at the sides. Vests range anywhere between 15 and 150 pounds in weight, and typically have pockets where the weights go. You can easily adjust the load by adding or removing weights.

Meanwhile, wrist and ankle weights can be as light as one pound apiece or as heavy as 20 pounds. The weights themselves are often built into a thick strap that you then wrap around the wrists and ankles and secure with velcro.

The Risks and Benefits of Weighted Vests

Runners often use weighted vests to enhance running performance and economy, or how much oxygen you need to sustain your effort. For example, one study in Biology of Exercise reveals that runners who trained with a weighted vest equivalent to 8, 15 and 20 percent of their body weight improved their sprint running performance by up to 10 percent.

But even if you’re not a high-level runner, you can still reap benefits by following their lead.

A weighted vest can be a great option for boosting the intensity of your cardio activities, so you end up burning more calories in the same amount of time if that’s a priority. After all, when you add extra weight to your body, your muscles and cardiovascular system have to work harder to sustain your efforts.

Wearing a weighted vest can also be a great way to incorporate muscle- and bone-strengthening benefits into aerobic activities like walking or jogging. When you place resistance on your body, you stimulate the process of creating new bone cells, which ultimately helps prevent bone loss.

That said, you should steer clear of weighted vests if you have any neck or back issues. Wearing weight around your torso will place added stress on your spine, which can travel upstream to your neck.

Even if you don’t have any existing neck or back issues, there are still safety precautions it’s smart to consider.

For a start, don’t go heavier than 10 percent of your body weight. This means if you weigh 150 pounds, your vest should weigh no more than 15 pounds. Start light and gradually work your way up. Similarly, start by incorporating a weighted vest into your walking routine once or twice per week. Also, think twice before wearing a weighted vest while jogging or running, however, as this could place added impact through your spine.

You’ll also want to make sure the weight in your vest is as evenly distributed as possible. Spread the weight equally in the front, back and sides of the vest so you don’t overwork the muscles and joints in one area of your body. If you place all the weight in the front of the vest, for example, your back muscles will have to work much harder, which increases your risk of back pain and injury. Putting all the weight in the back, meanwhile, places extra stress on the muscles in the front of your body.

If your weighted vest has a belt, secure it tightly to keep the weight close to your body.

The Risks and Benefits of Wrist and Ankle Weights

It’s not uncommon to see people walking around with weights attached to their wrists or ankles. Like weighted vests, wrist and ankle weights can increase the intensity of your walk or run, leading to a greater overall calorie burn.

However, the calorie-burning benefits don’t outweigh the risks to your joints, muscles and tendons.

For starters, wearing wrist and ankle weights while walking or running can actually strain your joints, increasing your chances of injuries like sprains and tears. Ankle weights in particular can change your gait by shifting more of the work onto the quads (the muscles in the front of your thighs) and pulling on your ankle joint, ultimately leading to pain and injury to the knees, hips and back. And if you have any balance issues, wrist and ankle weights could potentially increase your risk of falls by altering your center of gravity.

Wrist and ankle weights can safely fit into an exercise routine when used for standard strength exercises. Wrist and ankle weights are the perfect choice for exercises like side-lying leg lifts, biceps curls, bent-over rows and lateral raises, which target specific muscle groups like the hips, biceps, shoulders and hamstrings.

In fact, wrist weights can be especially helpful if you suffer from arthritis and have trouble gripping a dumbbell, so check with your doctor to see if they might be a good addition to your routine.

Final Primal Considerations

While I wouldn’t argue wearable weights are necessary by any means, for some people they can be a useful investment. Weighted vests make it easy to boost the intensity of an otherwise low-key stroll, while wrist and ankle weights can make resistance training more manageable for those with arthritis or limited space to exercise. Just play it smart: check with your doctor first if you have any existing back, joint or balance issues. Assuming you’re good to go, start lighter and gradually work your way up.

Have you used wearable weights of any kind? What’s your experience been? Thanks for reading today, everybody.

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People go keto for many different reasons. Some want to get better at burning fat so they have a clean, reliable source of steady energy at all times. Some people are treating a neurodegenerative disease, or trying to prevent one from occurring in the first place. Others just want to lose body fat, take advantage of the cognitive effects of ketosis, or stop seizures. Those are all common reasons to go keto. Another reason people go keto is for the benefits to physical performance.

Keto increases energy efficiency. You can do more in the aerobic (fat-burning) zone than a sugar-burner.

Keto spares glycogen. The more fat you’re able to utilize, the more glycogen you preserve for truly intense efforts.

Keto builds new mitochondria. Mitochondria are the power plants of our cells. More mitochondria means a larger engine.

That said, the performance benefits take a few weeks to manifest. During this time, a common side effect of the keto transition is reduced performance in the gym. People report feeling sluggish, slow, weak, and flabby in the days and weeks leading up to their adaptation. It’s understandable (and somewhat expected) why this can happen:

Fat provides tons of energy at a slow rate—but you’re not great at accessing it yet.

Glucose is more scarce but provides energy rapidly—and you just took it out of your diet.

Is there anything you can do to improve your performance in the gym during the transition?

Preserving Performance During the Keto Transition

Increase Fat Content

This goes without saying. Of course you’ll be eating more fat on a ketogenic diet. Right? What I mean is you should increase fat even more than you think for the first week. This has the effect of increasing AMPK activity, which hastens the creation of fat-burning mitochondria, upregulates fat metabolism, and speeds up your ability to utilize ketone bodies.

Increase Intake of Specific Fats

Certain fatty acids seem to increase AMPK more than others. The most potent ones I’ve found are:

Include some mac nuts, EVOO, and wild fatty fish (or quality fish oil) on a regular basis.

Take Your Electrolytes

Electrolytes are already essential when transitioning toward a ketogenic diet. Since they regulate muscle contractions, heart function, intracellular fluid balance, and nerve impulses, they’re even more important when you’re exercising,  Try 4.5 grams sodium (about 2 teaspoons of fine salt or a little under 3 teaspoons of kosher salt), 300-400 mg magnesium, and 1-2 grams of potassium each day on top of your normal food. Going keto really flushes out water weight, and tons of electrolytes leave with it.

Stick To Weights and Walking

The big problem with physical performance during the keto transition is that you’re not great at burning fat, you’re still reliant on glucose to fuel your training, and you don’t have much glucose coming in. For the transition window, this makes high intensity, high volume training a bad idea.

Running a race-pace 10k is going to be hard. Participating in the CrossFit Games is a bad idea. You haven’t yet built the machinery necessary to make those work, nor do you have the glucose necessary to tide you over. You know what will work? Weights and walking.

Walking is totally aerobic, using almost no glycogen of note. Weight training can be glycogen-dependent, but doesn’t have to be if you keep weights high and volume low. Think low (2-6 reps) volume weight training. Whatever you do, the key is to make sure your training is low-stress.

Stick to weights and walking and you’ll hasten keto-adaptation, not harm it. Then you can resume some of your normal activities.

Take Creatine

Creatine boosts muscle content of phosphocreatine, which we can use to generate large amounts of ATP in a short period of time for quick bursts of speed or strength. This doesn’t dip into glycogen or fat. It’s ATP-PC, or ATP-phosphocreatine. If you’re going to sprint or lift heavy stuff, you’ll definitely want extra creatine in your muscles.

No need to “pre-load” creatine. Just take 5 grams a day and be sure to drink plenty of water and get plenty of electrolytes (which you’ll already be doing on keto).

Sprint Carefully

If you’re going to sprint on keto, keep a few tips in mind.

Short sprints—3-5 seconds.

Plenty of rest—as much as you need to go as hard and fast as the last one. This gives you the chance to replenish some of your phosphocreatine.

This won’t fully replenish your ATP-PC stores. You won’t be able to go as hard, or do as many reps as you’d like in subsequent sprints. But if you absolutely must sprint, this the way to do it without relying on glucose. Look for the sensation of diminished power. That’s when you’re hitting the PC wall and will start dipping into glucose. Avoid that sensation. Stop short of it.

Don’t freak out if you “dip into glucose,” though. Yeah, dipping into glucose constantly will inhibit keto-adaptation in the early stages, but once or twice won’t make a big difference. Just don’t make glucose-intensive work a habit.

Get Primal Endurance

Brad Kearns and I wrote Primal Endurance because endurance athletes needed a better, safer, healthier way to do the thing they love-hated. I know, because that was us. We both got out of serious endurance athletics because it was harming more than helping us. But that doesn’t mean we stopped missing it. Once an endurance athlete, always an endurance athlete. You can’t shake the bug.

Primal Endurance shows you how to build a powerful, long-lasting aerobic base using primarily stored body fat. It’s the perfect complement to a keto lifestyle, especially if you want to optimize your athletic performance and make your physical activity support rather than inhibit keto-adaptation.

Understand the Purpose of Training

Lifting in the gym isn’t a competition. You’re not being paid. The whole point of lifting weights, running sprints, and doing low level aerobic activity is to get better at doing those things. It’s not about “winning” every workout. That’s what training is—accepting paltry results with the assurance that you’re getting better. Think about it.

When you add 50 pounds to the bar, it’s harder. The bar moves more slowly. You can’t do as many reps. From your brain’s perspective, you’re suddenly “weaker.” Yet, it’s the best way to get stronger in the long run.

When you try a new sport or physical activity, you’re no good. You’re a beginner. People you’re sure you could trounce in your preferred activities are destroying you. This doesn’t mean you should give up. It means you have to get better. And if you stick with it, you will get better.

When you train on your newly keto diet, think of it like you’re increasing weight, upping the intensity, or learning a new sport. You’re not weaker. You’re not getting worse. The training is getting harder. The pain is increasing. And, although it might not feel like it right now, you’re going to be better off in the long run.

Once you’re fully fat-adapted and able to utilize fats, ketones, and glycogen, you’re going to be an unstoppable force.

Okay, that’s short term. What about long term?

How To Enhance Performance Long-Term With Keto

Carb Cycle When Necessary

Once you’ve been keto for at least a month, don’t be afraid to cycle in carbs to support your intense training. If you’ve depleted muscle glycogen with an intense training session, you’ve created a glycogen debt and any carbs you eat in the hours following that workout will go to repleting that glycogen. Best of all, intense training upregulates insulin-independent glycogen uptake immediately post-workout. That means if you do it right, you don’t even need to increase insulin to shove those glucose molecules into your muscles.

Carb Cycle the Right Way

Many people do carb cycling on keto completely wrong. They spend two days binging on bear claws and gummy bears then wonder why they’ve gained weight and lost progress. A few tips:

You probably need fewer carbs than you think. A little snack of 20-40 grams of carbs right after a really intense workout can make all the difference in the world without knocking you out of ketosis, provided you’ve accumulated enough of a glycogen debt.

Choose the right carbs. A sweet potato the night before to top off glycogen stores, a cooked-and-cooled white potato (diced and quickly seared until crispy in a pan is my favorite way to eat these), or UCAN Superstarch (whose slow absorption has minimal impact on insulin and thus ketones) are all good choices.

Do it for the right reasons. Don’t carb cycle because you miss French fries. Carb cycle because you’ve depleted glycogen.

And hell, briefly exiting ketosis isn’t the end of the world. Most people doing keto aren’t doing it as a life or death intervention. They just want to look, feel, and perform better. Don’t let keto become an ideology. It is a tool for your pleasure.

Chase Results, Not Ketones

In my experience, the people who focus on results rather than ketone readings do best.

Heck, if you spend half your time stressing about your ketone levels, the resultant cortisol will probably trigger gluconeogenesis and inhibit keto-adaptation by introducing a flood of new glucose into your body.

Are you leaning out? Thinking more clearly? Skipping the afternoon nap and breakroom donuts without even thinking about it? Lifting more? Running easier? Lab tests improving?

Then you’re good. That’s what matters.

Besides, the point of keto-adaptation is fat-adaptation—the ability of your muscles to utilize free fatty acids. That’s the real power of going keto, because once the fat-burning machinery is established and your muscles can use fats directly, you have more leeway to eat protein and cycle carbs.

Those are the tips I’ve found to be most useful for people acclimating to exercise on a keto diet. What’s worked for you?

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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?

CrossFit Explained

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 Explained

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.

The top bodybuilders are usually quite strong, and the top CrossFitters tend to be fairly aesthetic. Check out CF athletes Samantha Briggs and Rich Froning.

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.

Final Takeaways…

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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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering several questions drawn from the comment board of last week’s post on fasting vs carb restriction. First, how do I square my recommendations with the successful reports of potato dieters losing weight on a high-carb tuber diet? Second, is Leangains optimal for mass gain? Third, how do I use extra virgin olive oil, butter, and ghee? Fourth, could exogenous ketones help a man with dementia, MS, and seizures? Fifth, how should a woman with stalled weight loss integrate fasting?

Let’s go:

Walter Sobchak asked:

If “carbs” are so bad, how do people eat only potatoes and lose large amounts of weight? Andrew Taylor (SpudFit.com) and Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller) are two high-profile people, but there are lots more. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend an unbalanced diet of only one food, but the point is that potatoes are a natural food and are not inherently detrimental.

I agree that potato-only diets are a quick weight loss hack.

Potato-only diets work well because they’re so monotonous. When your only option is a plain potato, it’s extremely hard to overeat. It’s the combination of fat and carbohydrates that’s so easy to overeat, and that causes the most metabolic problems.

Potatoes are surprisingly nutrient-dense. They have complete protein, containing all the necessary amino acids. You won’t be bodybuilding on all-potatoes, but there’s enough protein in there to stave off muscle loss for a week or so.

Cooking and cooling your potatoes converts some of the glucose into resistant starch, which feeds your gut bacteria and cannot be digested by your body. This lowers the effective glucose load.

I could recommend the potato-only diet, ditch the keto/low-carb/Primal talk, and people who listened to me would still lose weight. But they’d miss out on all the other benefits, not least of which is the delicious food. In short, the potato-only diet isn’t the worst thing out there, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a long-term strategy.

Check out what I’ve written about potatoes in the past. You might be surprised.

Mattias Carlsson asked:

I have a question for advice if someone know. According to most sources I find the so called anabolic window persist at least 24 hours after resistance training. How can then an intermittent fasting with 8 hour eating as in lean gains, from what I understand, be optimal on training days. It seems to me that a bit of overeating on carbs and protein during all this time would be most beneficial?

I don’t know that it’s optimal for sheer mass gain. But it does seem to strike a nice balance between “gains” and “staying lean.” You may not bulk up as quickly as you would cramming food in your gullet. You will gain lean mass without gaining so much of the squishy mass that normally accompanies what passes for “gains.”

Michael Levin wondered:

Question: EVOO, Ghee and grass-fed butter–which to use when and for what?

EVOO: salads, marinades, sautéing. It’s actually far more resistant to heat than most people think; the polyphenols protect against oxidative damage.

Ghee: Indian cooking, Thai cooking, high heat searing.

Butter: Cooking eggs and other breakfast items, melted with broccoli/shrimp, finishing steaks and reduction sauces.

Beth Olson asked:

What are your thoughts on exogenous ketones? My dad has MS and dementia and seizures way too often. Should we try adding these?

I can’t give your dad any medical advice. You can talk to his doctors, however, and show them this study where exogenous ketones reduced seizure activity in mice. You can show them that coconut oil and MCT oil—two other routes for generation of ketones—have shown efficacy against cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

I suspect exogenous ketones can help. I also suspect they’d be far more helpful on top of a low-carb, high-fat diet with plenty of healthy lifestyle modifications.

That’s the thing with dementia: there isn’t a pill that fixes everything, or even a single intervention. In the one study that actually got major results, researchers had Alzheimer’s patients undertake a dramatic diet, exercise, and lifestyle shift. Here’s what each subject did:

  1. Eliminate all simple carbs and follow a low-glycemic, low-grain (especially refined grains) diet meant to reduce hyperinsulinemia.
  2. Observe a 12-hour eating window and 12-hour fast each day, including at least three hours before bed.
  3. Stress reduction (yoga, meditation, whatever works for the individual).
  4. Get 8 hours of sleep a night (with melatonin if required).
  5. Do 30-60 minutes of exercise 4-6 days per week.
  6. Get regular brain stimulation (exercises, games, crosswords).
  7. Supplement to optimize homocysteine, vitamin B12, CRP levels.
  8. Take vitamin D and vitamin K2.
  9. Improve gut health (prebiotics and probiotics).
  10. Eat antioxidant-rich foods and spices (blueberries, turmeric).
  11. Optimize hormone balance (thyroid panel, cortisol, pregnenolone, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone).
  12. Obtain adequate DHA to support synaptic health (fish oil, fish).
  13. Optimize mitochondrial function (CoQ10, zinc, selenium, other nutrients).
  14. Use medium chain triglycerides (coconut oilMCT oil). You could possibly use exogenous ketones here too.

Bring that study to your dad’s doctors and see what they have to say. If they aren’t blown away by the possibilities and open to give it a try, I’d be shocked. Hopefully your dad is game. I’d love to hear how it works.

Lisa Chupity asked:

I went Primal/Paleo back in March of 2012. I lost the 15 pounds I wanted to lose. In 2015, 7 pounds crept on, and for the life of me, I can’t lose ‘em! April of this year, I went Keto. I track my macros, and do my best to keep my carbs to 20 grams per day, tho I don’t beat myself up if I have 24. I haven’t lost an ounce! I’m going to have to do the IF thing, I’m sure. As it is, my breakfast is bone broth (1 1/2 cups) and a mug of Coffee with Brain Octane in it. Lunch is yer basic “Big Ass Salad”. Dinner is good, too, and within Keto guidelines. I try to keep my caloric intake to ~1600 calories/day.

To add to the mess, I have Multiple Sclerosis, so stuff like Cross Fit is outta the picture. I can manage some stationary cycling, and some Pilates, with lighter modifications. Any advice?

If you try IF, do the “early restricted feeding” rather than late. You’re already doing a kind of “fast” in the morning, just drinking broth and coffee with MCTs, and it doesn’t seem to be working.

Eat some fat and protein for breakfast with a few carbs. Eggs and bacon with a side of cantaloupe or berries. An omelet with spinach and onions and cheese. Steak and greens and half a banana. Emphase whole-food fat and protein. Have coffee and broth, too, if you like. This and lunch should be your biggest whack of calories.

Eat your Big Ass Salad for lunch. Drop dinner, or make it really light and no later than 5 or 6 PM.

Terry Wahls has a great Primal-friendly MS protocol. Check out her Ted talk and go from there if it interests you.

Good luck and keep us apprised of your results.

That’s it for today, folks. Take care, be well, thanks for reading and writing!

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Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. First, is power yoga—a more “intense” version of yoga that includes strength exercises—a suitable alternative to strength training for aging women? Probably not, but that doesn’t make it bad or wrong to do. Second, what’s the deal with pelvic floor dysfunction after menopause? What’s the best way to improve that situation? And third, is the Keto Reset right for older women with osteoporosis?

Let’s find out:

Shannon asked:

Would you consider power yoga “lifting heavy things”? I do power yoga 2-3 times a week and it involves a lot of standing strength and arm/hand stands? Thanks and I love everything on Marks Daily Apple!

Not quite. Nothing can really compete with strength training and high-intensity work for building bone resilience and strength. Your bones need impact and intensity, and yoga generally doesn’t supply enough of it.

That’s why hopping in place can help strengthen hip and thigh bones in older folks. The jarring impact of landing—even from a modest height of six or eight inches—triggers bone resorption and remodeling in the legs.

That’s why lifting heavy things makes bones strong. The bone acts (along with the muscle) as a lever during the lift, which places a lot of stress on the bone. To recover from the activity and be ready for the next time it has to fulfill lever duty, the bone remodels itself, gaining density and getting stronger and more durable.

Power yoga is closely related to ashtanga yoga, long considered a more “intense” form of yoga. Yet an 8-month study found that Ashtanga yoga yielded only mild benefits to bone health. As for strength, another 8-month Ashtanga study by the same group found that it improved leg press strength but little else. It’s better than nothing, but it’s probably not enough to stave off the worst effects aging has on muscle and bone.

Still, if yoga is something you love, continue doing it. Yoga will improve your balance, coordination, flexibility, and even strength under certain contexts. Throwing in a single day or two of dedicated strength training on top of the yoga is a great way to have it all. One day a week is “enough,” two days a week is better (a recent study found that while older women training one day a week maintained strength, training twice a week was necessary to gain ever-critical lean muscle mass).

Power yoga varies a lot from place to place, so it really depends on how your instructor chooses to implement it. I just wouldn’t bank on it providing enough stimulus for your muscles and bones.

Michelle Reese wrote:

I’d like to know a little about how to strengthen and support the pelvic floor, which really gets compromised after menopause, making it hard to do the squats. I’ve really noticed the decline in function after menopause, even though I’ve been working out consistently my entire life. Thanks for doing the research and sharing today’s wisdom!

My pleasure. Thanks for reading!

Realize that the pelvic floor is a system of muscles, and muscles need to be used and loaded, lest they degenerate—which only speeds up as we age. The same thing applies to the rest of your muscle. It’s just that actively using the pelvic floor muscles is harder and less intuitive than actively engaging your biceps or hamstrings. They’re also hidden, so it’s easy to forget they even exist and need our attention.

For pelvic floor stuff, go with Katy Bowman. Check out her articles and books on the subject. Her expertise is unmatched.

Vicki M asked:

No doubt this has been discussed before…..however, for a 60 year old post menopause woman with osteoporosis (but still active, going to gym, walking etc), is Keto reset a good option?

The bad news is that this particular diet has never been studied in this particular population.

The good news is that, as a human, your species has been well-represented in the ketogenic diet literature.

In a long-term 5 year study of human adults, ketogenic dieting failed to produce any negative effects on bone health.

In a shorter study, a low-carb, high-fat diet (no word if it was “ketogenic” or not) failed to worsen bone turnover markers.

Some critics claim that ketogenic diets (and pretty much any diet that includes “evil” animal protein) “dissolve” bones by throwing off the acid/base balance, such that the body must break down bone to ameliorate the acid load. It’s not true, but if it were? In a recent study, elite female race-walkers on a ketogenic diet saw no change in their acid/base balance.

There are more wrinkles to the keto/bone health story, which I’ll explore in the near future. Stay tuned for that.

But long story short, keto reset is fine, provided you don’t just go keto and do nothing else. You still have to train (including strength training), get plenty of sleep, get vitamin D, and focus on the micronutrient content (including the bone-relevant potassium, calcium, magnesium) of your diet and not just the macronutrients.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading, writing, and commenting. Include any further questions or input you have down below and have an incredible day!

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Inline_Woman_FitnessGenerally speaking, the basic Primal Blueprint for fitness and physical activity applies equally to men and women of all ages. Lifting heavy things works in everyone. Sprinting is a fantastic way—for anyone who’s able—to compress workouts and improve training efficiency. Improving one’s aerobic capacity through easy cardio doesn’t discriminate between the sexes. And everyone should walk, hike, garden, and perform as much low level physical activity as possible. These basic foundations—the 30,000 foot view of fitness—don’t really change across age or sex.

But the details do, especially for women.

You see, women are in a unique position. As men age, the hormonal environment degenerates. They still make the same basic hormones in the same proportions, only the absolute numbers decline. As women age, the hormonal environment shifts dramatically. The menopausal ovaries no longer produce enough follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) to regulate estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, causing the latter hormones to fluctuate in novel ways.

What kind of hormonal changes and physiological developments occur in the aging woman that might affect how best to train?

  1. Atrophied muscle and reduced strength. As estrogen drops, so does muscle function.
  2. More of a “male” body fat distribution. Postmenopausal women tend to gain more belly fat.
  3. Reduced bone mass. The menopausal hormonal environment leads to a reduction in vitamin D synthesis and absorption, lower calcium levels, and reduced bone mass.
  4. Vascular changes. After menopause, arteries become stiffer. Hypertension becomes more likely.
  5. Exercise intolerance. This one’s a real bummer. You know you need to exercise more than ever to stave off some of the side effects of aging, but your aging hormonal environment is making exercise harder to tolerate.

What takeaways are there? How can you counter or mitigate some of these effects?

Exercise Can Improve Body Comp

Exercise becomes more effective at improving body composition after menopause than before. This may be a “benefit” of the more male body fat distribution patterns. After all, men’s body comp tends to respond more quickly to training than women’s.

Get Started Right Away

If you don’t have much experience with exercise, do it immediately. Don’t wait for the negative effects to accrue. Even if you’ve lived a charmed life where not exercising didn’t really impact your ability to function, that could very well change. The earlier into menopause you start training, the better. The negative changes to exercise tolerance, bone density, and muscle function take awhile to develop, and during the early post-menopause period, your ability to train and reap the benefits of that training is pretty similar to your pre-menopause ability.

Just Do Something

The perimenopausal and early menopausal years can be rough going for many women. You just feel off. You’re not sleeping well. Things are, well, different, and you don’t necessarily have a lot of support to make sense of it or adjust to it. Even though research shows that a minimal amount of exercise can have a big effect on weight gain and disease risk after menopause, sleeplessness or fatigue might be telling you not to do it. Well, that’s not going to cut it. Overcome that. There’s no easy way to say this. No tricks. Just make the decision to exercise, do so regularly for at least a couple weeks, and your exercise tolerance will go up, physical activity will be intrinsically rewarding, and everything will start to improve.

Make Sure You Eat Enough Meat, Dairy, and Other Animal Foods

Protein utilization efficiency drops the older you get, so the older you are the more protein you need to get the job done. Even studies that purport to show negative effects from meat consumption find that older adults benefit from increasing meat. Total protein and dairy protein intake also predict muscle mass and bone mass in postmenopausal women. And meat isn’t just about the protein. It’s also about the micronutrients, like iron, copper (found in organ meats), zinc (high in red meat), carnitine (high in red meat), and phosphatidylserine (high in egg yolks, present in Primal Calm)—all of which have been found to improve women’s physical performance when packaged in a convenient supplement.

Go Into Middle Age As Fit As Possible

Good fitness—aerobic capacity, muscle mass, physical strength, mobility—is a reserve against aging-related degeneration. The fitter you are when menopause hits, the more manageable the transition and the slower that degeneration will be over the subsequent decades.

Intensity Is Important

If anything, it’s more critical for the older woman to push the intensity than anyone else. She often has the most to lose in muscle mass and bone strength. Again and again, across study after study in menopausal women, “low-intensity” doesn’t work as well as higher-intensity training. It still works, mind you. But the greater intensity stuff gives extra benefits.

For instance, in a study comparing a low-intensity aerobic/resistance program to a higher-intensity aerobic/resistance program, both improved muscle strength and walking ability, but only the higher-intensity program improved dynamic balance—a major risk factor for falls.

Intensity Is Relative

By “high-intensity,” I’m not suggesting that a 62 year-old woman do high-rep bodyweight front squats or try to do a double bodyweight deadlift (unless she knows what she’s doing), just that she push the envelope ever so slightly. If your inclination is to do rows with 20 pound dumbbells, consider 25 pounders. If air squats are easy, try them with a weight vest. Sprinting doesn’t have to take place on a track; it can happen in a pool, on a tough hike, or on the bike. Things should be tough but doable.

Volume Should Be Moderate

Exercise has a way of brute forcing glucose tolerance by increasing insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by muscles, so you’ll be better off than the women who don’t exercise at all, but there’s still a limit because menopause tends to inhibit carbohydrate metabolism and glucose tolerance. High volumes of training, especially if you’re heeding the previous advice to increase the intensity, demand a level of carbohydrate intake that your body probably isn’t prepared to handle.

Lift Heavy Things Twice a Week

You could do more, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Lifting (relatively) heavy weights provides the necessary stimulus to maintain bone density and muscle strength. Movements that engage the whole body, like deadlifts and farmer carries, will be most effective and efficient. These exercises replicate real world movements, like picking up grandkids or carrying grocery bags, that you need to perform. If you’re uncomfortable with these movements, find a good trainer.

Walk a Ton

Walking is magic for everyone, but especially post-menopausal women, for whom a three-day-a-week walking habit improves resistance to heart failure. Join a walking group. Better yet, start one in your circle of friends. Be the example, the leader. No one else will. And set a brisk pace when you do walk. The brisker, the better.

Always Choose the Stairs

Stair climbing itself is a great form of exercise for post-menopausal women, improving leg strength and endothelial function. As a mindset, “taking the stairs” is even more valuable. It’s doing the hard thing. It’s parking in the far lot and walking a quarter mile. It’s carrying your own bags. It’s a mindset to embody: “I’m strong enough, capable enough, and tough enough to take the stairs while people half my age use the elevator to go one floor.”

Compare Yourself To Who You Were Two Weeks Ago, Not the 20-Year-Olds At the Gym

The trend is everything. If you’re getting better, that’s what matters. You are not other people. We all have different situations, capacities, genetic histories, and hormonal profiles. Focus on beating your former self, even if only by a couple pounds lifted or seconds shaved from a sprint time—and nothing else.

Look Into Hormone Replacement Therapy

Since estrogen plays such a key role in women’s physiological function, many studies find exercise to be more beneficial in postmenopausal women who take HRT than in postmenopausal women who do not. It’s a highly personal choice, but I’ll have more on this topic in the future.

Aging women aren’t a different species. Menopause doesn’t really change how you should train in a fundamental way. There aren’t any magical menopause-specific exercises. It just makes certain types of training—and exercise in general—that much more important for health and overall function. You could “get away” with not training much before (not really, but you can fool yourself). Now you can’t. Now you have to exercise and move on a regular basis if you want to maintain functional capacity, take care of yourself, and stick around to enjoy your loved ones.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care, and I’d love to hear from any people out there with direct or indirect experience with menopause. How did your training change? How did you change?

As always, direct any questions down below.

The post Women’s Fitness: Should It Change with Age? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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