10 Fitness/Health/Life Tips I wish I knew 10 years ago

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I wish that I knew what I know now.

I’m sure most people can agree, that if you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, you’d have a few tips to throw their way. Simple ideas and actions that would make the world of difference. Throughout my health and fitness journey I have made a million mistakes and shortcomings. I have fallen victim of countless miracle diets and workout routines. Been lead astray by your friendly neighborhood GNC salesman, pitching the new “Extremely Hardcore Ultra Intense Fat Burner”. I even believed what the government said about nutrition was gospel, because they wouldn’t lie to us. Plus they had scientist, right? So they must be telling the truth. Yeah right.

Anyway, my point being that we all make mistakes. What makes the difference between people is who learns from them and who simply moves on. I have chosen to embrace my woes and use them to my betterment. So here I have listed 10 tips I have learned that involve Fitness, Health, and Life. If doc Brown pulled up in his DeLorean, scooped me up, and threw me back in 2003, I’d give myself this advise.

1. The Law of Diminishing Returns

The essence of the Law of Diminishing Returns can be summed up the in common saying “More is not always better”. This is true to most everything in life, especially to that in which pertains to the human body. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Take aspirin for example, you take 1-2 and your fever goes down and it reduces your inflammation. This is a good thing. However, if you were to take 50 aspirin, you’d die. This also holds true to exercise, which is a stress. (I’ll deal with stresses later) The shape of the cure is very plain to see. In the beginning, the more exercise you perform, the better return you’ll receive. Then when you reach the top and start eking down the other side. You’ll quickly start noticing that the more exercise you do, the more unhealthy you’re becoming. In short, you must learn moderation.

2. Fitness and Nutrition is more than just Body Composition

In my beginnings with fitness and nutrition, I of course only perceived health in the terms of body aesthetics. I know this is vanity at its highest, but I would argue that this is the main reason 85% of people start any exercise program and or diet protocol. They see these athletes, models, actors on TV and think “Man, they look freaking great. I want to look just like (insert hot chick of dude Here)” What you fail to realize is that fitness and nutrition goes way beyond appearance. Skinny women and jacked guys can be just as unhealthy as anyone. What makes the difference is what you are doing to make yourself a overall healthier person. Here is an awesome tip, If you eat so that you are healthy and you structure your workouts so that you progress to some physical goal (be it 20 Chin-ups or 3 times your body weight in the deadlift) your body will look awesome, inside and out. In other words, eat for performance and health and the looks will always follow.

3. Sleep

I can hardly put a higher ranking of importance on any tip than that of getting the proper sleep. So much lays in the balance. If you do not get the correct kind and amount of sleep, you can kiss fat loss, muscle building, short and long term memory, sharp cognitive function, happiness, proper digestion, correct cortisol levels, and proper hormonal levels goodbye. (list goes on and on.) Sleep is absolutely vital. You must sleep in a completely darkened room and always get at least the bare minimal for your specific body’s needs. (Typically 8-10 hours).  No excuses, just make it happen.

4. Supplements

I might surprise you here, but I believe supplements can have their place in a lifestyle change. Now I’m not talking about supplements like Vitamin D or Fish Oil, which are certainly a good and wise choice to take. I am speaking more about your GNC stuff here. Now, do they work like they say they will on the label and burn fat or build muscle, probably not. However, where they typically fall short on those accounts, they make up for with the placebo effect. The placebo effect is a scientifically proven phenomenon. If you truly believe that this supplement is going to help you lose weight or build muscle, then you are statistically much more likely to continue taking this supplement while still dieting and working out. Which will of course lead to better results. Now whether these are good for your health or not is another discussion. All I am saying is that I can see some small merit in taking them.

5. Embracing Your Physical Self

Alright, so here is where I might crush some dreams. People are different, plain and simple. Some people have the proper gene expression to be massive viking warriors while other have the genes to look like a hobbit. This sucks, I know. This doesn’t mean that you cannot do remarkable things to your appearance, it just means that there are limits. For instance, no matter how hard I try, I will never look like Arnold (not even with lots of pharmaceutical aide). However, there is good news in all of this. Once you accept who you are, you can then train accordingly and become the most badA version of yourself as possible. In other words, everyone is different and responds differently to exercise. Find that which work for you. This will take some trial and error.

6. Constant Pursuit of Education

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” – Confucius

In my personal opinion, the main problem with people today is that they chose ignorance. People absolutely refuse to help themselves. They simply wish to be coddled and lead around like sheep. Do yourself a service and never stop learning. Do not take everything people say as truth, do your own research, come up with your own ideas. This is how you step out of the crowd and become someone of interest.

7. Do rather than Dream

You must take action in your life. Right NOW. Dreams of grandeur are great, but they will lead you nowhere if you do not pursue them. If there is something that you want in life, then immediately execute plans in which you achieve this goal. Do not waste the time that is given to you.

8. Stresses (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly)

The word stress gets a bad rap. It can actually be a good thing to have in your life as well. We call these hormetic stresses. Exercise for instance is a very stressful event. You are placing a great deal of oxidative stress on your heart and lungs, not to mention the tearing of muscle tissue that is going on. However, the body benefits from these stress due to acclimation. The stress that is a killer, is the chronic stress that is so prevalent in today’s society. The mental stresses of work and your finances. The physical stress of poor diet and gut health. In order to become a happier and healthier human being, you must seek to control your stress. Easier said than done, I know, but the consequences can be grim if you fail to do so.  So take days off, take vacations, do things that make you happy. Eat a Paleo/Primal diet that will give you a low to no inflammatory response.  Your health depends on it.

9. The Great Outdoors

Dude, outside is awesome, go there. Why in the world would you choose to be cooped up inside all day is beyond me. Science has proven a long time ago that people are much happier when they go outside for at least an hour a day. Your body craves the sunlight and Vitamin D. It longs for the fresh air. We as humans were  not made to be sitting around inside all day. You must get out and move.

10. A Joie de Vivre: Walking

A can barely begin to count all the benefits I contrive from walking each day. Mental, physical, and spiritual. This is a time for me to think. I used to believe walking was only for old people. I couldn’t have been more incorrect and naive. In all honesty, I firmly believe that I have learned more on my walks, listening to podcasts, audio books, and lectures, then I have in my whole college career. Walking also aides in muscle recovery and burns extra calories, plus your dogs will love it. I believe everyone should walk at least 6 miles a week to maintain their health.

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What you need to know about Growth Hormone response to training

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Before we get into how to optimize the release of growth hormone from training I should first discuss why you should even care. What is growth hormone exactly? Most people have heard of this hormone, but lack a fundamental understanding of its role in the human body. “Growth hormone (GH or HGH) is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans and other animals. It is a type of mitogen which is specific only to certain kinds of cells. Growth hormone is a 191-amino acid, single-chain polypeptide that is synthesized, stored, and secreted by somatotropic cells within the lateral wings of the anterior pituitary gland.”

It’s main functions are to:

  • Increase calcium retention, and strengthens and increases the mineralization of bone
  • Increase muscle mass through sarcomere hyperplasia
  • Promote lipolysis
  • Increase protein synthesis
  • Stimulate the growth of all internal organs excluding the brain
  • Play a role in homeostasis
  • Reduce liver uptake of glucose
  • Promote gluconeogenesis in the liver
  • Contribute to the maintenance and function of pancreatic islets
  • Stimulate the immune system

So as an athlete you can see some major advantages of higher than basal releases of growth hormone. With actions that strengthen bones, increase muscle mass, promote the burning of fat, increase muscle mass through synthesizing proteins into the injured muscle for repair and growth, and stimulate health immune function, it is blatantly obvious that increasing your body’s natural release of growth hormone will lead to enhanced athletic performance, as well as aesthetics.

Now that I have everyone on the growth hormone bandwagon, lets dive into how one should train to optimize their own body’s production of said hormone. The two main exercises that induce a large release of GH are resistance training and sprint training respectively.

First, we examine the effects of resistance training on the stimulation of GH. However, in order to fully understand the mechanisms behind this process, it is necessary that we start at the beginning. To make this easier to grasp, I have outlined the steps and placed them in numerical order.

  1. You perform heavy resistance training which puts load onto your muscles/tendons/ligaments/bones/
  2. This stress on the body, along side the stress from tiny tears in the muscles, sends a distress signal to your hypothalamus.
  3. This signal tells your hypothalamus that you need to grow (become anabolic), therefore your hypothalamus releases the peptide Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH or somatocrinin) into the hypophyseal portal venous blood surrounding the pituitary.
  4. Once there somatocrinin signals the anterior pituitary gland to synthesize and secrete GH.
  5. Capillaries within the anterior pituitary, which carry hormones secreted by that gland, coalesce into veins that drain into the systemic venous blood.
  6. Once in the blood system the GH either goes to target cells; like binding its receptor to fat cells and stimulating them to break down triglyceride and suppress their ability to take up and accumulate circulating lipids, or to the liver through the JAK-STAT signaling pathway to stimulate the production of IGF-1.

I will go deep into what insulin like growth factor is (IGF-1) in my next post as this post is already rather lengthy. *But stay with me, I’ll pull it all together at the end, I promise!

Resistance Training

Knowing this information, it now behooves us to learn how to elicit the biggest response signal from your training. The purpose of one study was to compare serum growth hormone, testosterone, cortisol, and whole blood lactate responses to single set versus multiple set heavy-resistance exercise protocols. They found that High-Volume Heavy resistance training significantly greater increases in circulating anabolic hormones during the recovery phase following exercise. This means that all you, one and done guys, might be missing out on some growth potential. Another study looked at the growth hormone release in both trained and untrained women to see if there was a significant difference. They concluded that while both sets of women had acute rises in GH levels, the women who had previously performed resistance training were able to sustain the higher levels of GH for a longer period of time. The differences in response may be due to the higher muscle mass of the trained women. This in turn stresses more sarcolemma of muscle, resulting in increases in anabolic hormone levels. Thus the authors suggest that the magnitude of hormonal response is related to the amount of muscle tissue stimulated. Given this information, we can conclude that in order to produce a large signal for growth, we should perform heavy resistance training using large body parts and movements in order to recruit more muscular contraction. *I’ll give and example workout at the end, hang in there.

Sprint Training

Get this, research has shown that high-intensity sprinting can increase exercise-induced growth hormone by 530%. In this study, researchers compared growth hormone levels in several ways – resting, after a single 6 second cycle sprint, and after a 30 second cycle sprint. They found that while the 6 second sprint did increase the GH levels, it was no where near that of the 30 second sprint. Not only was the 30 second sprint 450% higher than the 6 second, the 30 second sprint levels stayed elevated up to twice as long as the 6 second. This means that time is a critical factor.

*Now hang on because its about to get muddy 

So like most people, I saw these and immediately wanted to go sprint my butt off after every lifting session, 530% is a lot, I’d like that.  However, there is a caveat.  More studies have shown that “a single 30-s sprint is a potent physiological stimulus for growth hormone (GH) release. However, repeated bouts of sprinting attenuate the GH response, possibly due to negative feedback via elevated systemic free fatty acids (FFA).” Yep, that’s right, Free Fatty Acids inhibit the release of growth hormone. They act as a negative feedback control for the secretion of GH. I know, bummer!  Basically what happens is if you do too many sprints, you begin to release more and more FFA’s into your blood stream. Interestingly enough,  you release more FFA’s partly due to the higher GH levels. (remember, that’s one of its jobs) So there are two ways to skirt this issue. You do what I suggest, don’t go sprint crazy or you can take Niacin (aka Vitamin B3) before your sprint session. Niacin inhibits lipolysis and was even used successfully in that very study to achieve a high level or GH with more sprints. To me, a former fat guy, the down regulation of fat-burning never sounds particularly appealing.

Workouts

Armed with this knowledge you can easy construct your very own workout routine that optimizes your release of growth hormone. Simply stay with a certain confine and results are sure to come. Here is an example week workout.

Always perform at least a 5 min. warm up.

Monday: Lower Body

  • Squats (6×4)
  • Deadlift (5×3)
  • Goblet Squat (5×10)
  • Walking Lunges (5×10)

Tuesday: Upper Body

  • Bench Press (5×5)
  • Incline Chest Flye (5×10)
  • Bent over single Dumbbell Row (5×8)
  • Wide Grip Lat-Pull Down (5×10)
  • Standing Overhead Press ( 5×5)
  • Barbell Curl (5×10)
  • Dips (5×10)

Wednesday: Rest/Stretch/Walk

Thursday: Lower Body

  • Squats (6×4)
  • Deadlift (5×3)
  • Goblet Squat (5×10)
  • Walking Lunges (5×10)

Friday: Upper Body

  • Bench Press (5×5)
  • Incline Chest Flye (5×10)
  • Bent over single Dumbbell Row (5×8)
  • Wide Grip Lat-Pull Down (5×10)
  • Standing Overhead Press ( 5×5)
  • Barbell Curl (5×10)
  • Dips (5×10)

Saturday: Sprints

  • 400m warm up (jog)
  • 400m Sprint (rest 4 min.)
  • 3x200m Sprints (rest 3 min. each)

Sunday: Rest/Stretch/Walk

References

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