All I really want is a cup of coffee. Yet every time I drive into my local coffee shop (you know who you are) it's staring me in the face. A Peppermint Mocha, Eggnog, or Gingerbread Latte.
SOOOO good, but also enough sugar to put me into a coma.
But there's gotta be a way to get that holiday taste AND get some good nutrition in, right?
A few years our favorite protein supplement provider, Beverly International, put out some recipes they called "The 12 Mugs of Christmas", using their absolutely delicious "Ultimate Muscle Protein".
We decided it was time for an update, so we tweaked a couple of the recipes, gave an option to use one of their newest flavors - Graham Cracker, and compiled it into a full color downloadable .pdf you can have for absolutely free.
With a selection of both hot and cold drinks, coffee based and not, this recipe booklet is sure to please your taste buds this holiday season. Check out the names of these recipes:
A Baker's Dozen!
Not convinced, Mr. Scrooge?
Here's a sample of just one of these delicious recipes:
Candy Cane Delight
1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
1 scoop UMP Chocolate
1 tbsp Sugar Free Peppermint Mocha Creamer
¼ tsp Peppermint extract
8-10 ice cubes
Blend all ingredients for 1 minute
Want to turn it into a hot drink? Substitute hot coffee for the almond milk and ditch the ice!
A tip from the head elf: Use a blender for your hot drinks too. It ensures the protein is fully mixed and adds a wonderful froth to the top!
Just enter your email below for your FREE instant download. Grab it before it goes away!
You don't want to miss this article by Josh Hillis, one of my friends in the fitness industry. He is an really cool guy, and offers some really important insights.
I saw a lot of myself in his article from back in the day when I had a very unhealthy relationship with food, and a very unhealthy body to prove it.
The take home for me is this:
It's about picking your battles.
I talk and write about it often. Fitness and lasting weight loss is a LONG game. One day is not going to make or break your long term results. Yet I too have been guilty of being "that guy" - trying to make every Thanksgiving dish the absolute healthiest version it could be, and making everybody else suffer along with me.
Mistake number one is focusing on Thanksgiving DAY, while ignoring the rest of November and December. Josh describes the behaviors of people like me, who failed at weight loss for so many years as missed opportunities. We "miss the opportunities to mindfully and intentionally enjoy more food with friends and family. Instead (we) eat more mindlessly at times when it doesn't really add much enjoyment to (our) lives"
Boom - hit me right between the eyes.
But he is exactly right. As my relationship with food has improved, the thing that allows me to maintain a 100 pound plus weight loss is what I do daily, not one or two days a year. So while you don't have to intentionally overeat on Thanksgiving day, relax just a little.
Mistake number two is too often focusing on everything around me that is going wrong, instead of continually practicing gratitude. Full disclosure: I am writing this article a day after I caused myself to have a horrible day (which never affects just me) by doing this very thing - focusing on everyone that was going wrong, irritated me, and ultimately I could not control. Yes, I can be really dumb.
For most of us gratitude does not come very naturally. We must continually PRACTICE. Recent studies have shown that expressions of gratitude can have profound and positive effects on our health, our moods, and our social life.
Robert A Emmons, Ph.D. at the University of California at Davis and Mike McCullough at the University of Miami randomly assigned participants to one of three tasks. Each week participants wrote a short passage in their journal. One group described five things they were grateful for the previous week, another group recorded five daily hassles that had aggravated them, and the last group was asked to list five circumstances that affected them, but were not told whether to focus on the positive or the negative, Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25% happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints, and even exercised an average of 1.5 hours more.
Coach Nancy has written a very practical guide, "3 Simple Steps to Practicing Gratitude", which we have compiled into a short but beautiful e-book you can download and refer to.
Just like any other habit or skill, you gotta get in your reps.
I'd be grateful if you would download a copy here. 🙂
I want to take this opportunity to share gratitude.
To my wonderful wife Nancy, who keeps me around in spite of me.
To my kids still in the house; Andrew, KJ, and Amy, who didn't sign up to be kids of busy entrepreneurs, but who bring so much joy into my life.
To my "grown up kids" and their families; Tim, Deb and Lexi, and Jeff, Kimberley, Jack and Janie. I am proud of you and love and miss you.
To the incredible team at Get Fit NH; Meagan, Adam, Brian, Lars and Becky. Never mind can't do it without you - don't want to do it without you. You guys are the best.
To my coaches and friends in the industry, which are too numerous to name, but I'll give you a few; Nick, Kelly, Ryan, Dave, Tom, J-Mark, Anthony, Julie and Brad. To the gang in Watchtower. Thank-you for being there for me.
To my Get Fit NH family, what can I say? The incredible people who we get to coach every day, who we laugh and cry with, sweat with and struggle with. Thank-you. If you are reading this, you are part of that family too, so thank-you.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
So my 12-week experiment in plant-based eating is "over".
Or is it?
To catch up, you can read why I decided to embark on the experiment by reading "My Experiment In Plant Based Eating", and "What I have discovered so far about Plant-Based eating and Protein".
Let me fess up right up front. There were two occasions I chose to eat chicken and one occasion where I ate beef during the 12 weeks. All were a conscious choice when I was traveling on two separate business trips, and I was really struggling to get my minimum of 100 grams of protein for the day. That was 3 meals out of over 250. I am confident the results were not affected.
Overall I really enjoyed eating plant-based, no doubt about it. I made pretty much a 180 degree turnaround in my nutrition plan, going from a Ketogenic diet which consisted of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate to my plant-based version, which was much lower in fat and protein, and much higher in carbohydrate, which was a huge switch for me. I have been "carb-phobic" ever since my 100 pound plus weight loss. It seemed every time I tried to up my carb levels, my body fat would go up very fast as well. This experiment taught me something about that, more later.
I tracked all my food and macros using MyFitnessPal for the 12 weeks prior to the experiment and during the experiment. Here's the before and during.
12-Weeks Prior To Plant Based Experiment (per day)
12-Weeks During Plant Based Experiment (per day)
If you recall my goal was 100 grams of protein per day, and because of the change in protein source from animal to plant based, I found myself needing more calories to hit that goal. Another thing to note is that my overall consumption of fat went down, primarily because I wasn't eating the fat in animal protein. Besides that I was not consciously lowering my fat. More whole grains and legumes meant fiber went way up, and sugars as well. I did not eat hardly any fruit and did our 28-Day "Sugar Free Me" during the 12 weeks, so the fact sugar went up that much was interesting to me as well.
Before I share my blood test and body comp results, allow me to share some practical considerations as well as how I felt during the experiment.
Overall I spent a LOT more time in the kitchen. It is MUCH quicker to throw chicken on the grill than to figure out what I needed to do to hit my protein goal. Because another "rule" was to not rely on pre-packaged foods, I did a lot of food prep and cooking. Fortunately I love to cook, and as the weeks rolled by my skills improved and I got faster. I really enjoyed making some new dishes, trying some new foods, and getting reacquainted with my old friend whole grains. I am absolutely going to try to keep integrating more legumes, lentils, and even the occasional millet, quinoa and amaranth into my diet, and see how my body tolerates. I am going to experiment next with keeping my fat a little lower, my carbs a little higher, and seeing what happens to my body composition. Can I find a happy place so I can eat more carbs and not layer on the body fat? Time will tell.
And how did I feel? That's where the story turns, at least for me. For about 8 weeks I felt great. I was actually getting through my workouts better, most likely from the increase in carbs. My lifts were still going up, until they weren't. Somewhere between week 7 and 9 I hit a wall. I had been tracking all my lifts; reps, sets and load. All of a sudden weights that had gone up easy were not anymore. I got weaker in my bench press, squat and deadlift. Not a lot, but I just wasn't feeling it. I checked my sleep tracking, and it had not changed. The other thing is my Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which measures systemic stress, has gone down about 4.5%, which is not good, higher HRV scores are better. Again, interesting.
Below are my measurement and body comp results before and after.
Body Fat %
So what's my take home here? While I lost weight, that was mostly comprised of lean muscle mass. Not cool. At the age of 51 I have been fighting for every pound of muscle I can gain and/or keep. Would have eating more calories overall helped mitigate that? Perhaps. If anything, this experiment reinforced to me how horrible the scale is for measuring weight loss results. Losing 3 pounds of muscle for every 1 pound of fat loss is nothing but trouble in the long term. It is the perfect illustration of why yo-yo dieting occurs.
And now for my blood test results.
Is lower better?
<# is preferred
<# is preferred
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<# is preferred
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Some more interesting results here. As I would have suspected, my total cholesterol number is down. Most of us might think (and my plant based friends would be first in line) that would be a good thing. Maybe, maybe not. I discussed my results with my doctors office and his PA, and those comments are below.
As a note, both sets of test are considered within "normal ranges". What interests me here is that in spite of eating much less fat and nearly no animal protein, my Triglycerides went up and my lipid ratios went in the wrong direction. The tests also showed that systemic inflammation increased (C-Reactive Protein), and while my Hemoglobin A1c showed my average blood sugars stayed the same over the last 2 or 3 months, my fasting blood glucose on that Friday morning were significantly up. Again, interesting.
I wrote the following to my doctors office upon receiving my results and having them inquire if I had any questions:
"There are a couple. As you know I have been eating plant based for the last 12 weeks and I am going to be integrating animal protein back in. I am interested in your thoughts on the lipid panel. For some context, I felt great for about 8 weeks; my strength continued to increase, workouts benefits from added carbs. But after week 8 I hit a wall. Noticeable decrease in strength; I really struggled with heavy lifting. Body composition, which was stable, started to get worse as measured by our Fit3D scanner - indicated between 2 and 3 pounds of muscle loss during the 12 week period. Calories had actually increased by an average of about 400 a day, because I had to eat more volume to get to my goal of 100 calories of protein.
Back to the lipids. I know the total cholesterol has dropped significantly, but I don't necessarily think that is a good thing. Correct me if I'm wrong, but while the ratios remained relatively the same, the "bad markers" (Trigelycerides and VLDL-C) actually increased, which I find interesting since fat intake DRASTICALLY decreased. I was on a ketogenic diet (measured my breath and blood ketones - the works) before I started this experiment.
I would be interested in any feedback you and/or Dr. Osborne has. Thanks.
Her (Dr. Osborn's PA) response:
"I agree. I was thinking the same thing when I saw your lipid panel because I remembered your plant based diet change. I attribute the increase in your TG and LDL to the increased carbohydrates and higher glycemic index carbs (ie. fruit etc) I believe this is the same reason you had a decrease in strength and muscle mass. Fat is such a huge necessity for our diets because it fuels our brain and muscles. Obviously the goal of our office is for your body to burn fat not sugar (which you were doing previously on ketogenic diet) but now your body has reverted to burning sugar instead of fat. Energy, brain function and strength would be expected to decrease. I will let Dr. Osborn know the results of the experiment too, he will be fascinated to see more proof :)"
Full disclosure here. I go see Dr. Osborne because we are very like minded in how we approach nutrition and exercise. When I went to see him in September I told him about the experiment and asked him his thoughts. We discussed my "rules" and he was on board for the 12-week duration. I think he was just happy it was me and not him. 🙂
The Bottom Line, At Least For Me
In absolutely no way was I disappointed by this experiment. I have even more respect for plant based eaters who are really trying to make it work, who are spending time in the kitchen, and who don't rely on a bunch of vegetarian junk food. It is a LOT of work, no doubt. But just like any other new skill, it gets easier the more you practice.
I really enjoyed experimenting with a wide variety of recipes, veggie combos, and foods that were new to me. No, I really never had eaten millet before. And there are some veggie "burger" recipes out there that are really good. Angela Liddon's "Oh She Glows" cookbooks are a must for any kitchen, plant based or not. Cooking with vegetable broth instead of water is a game changer. And I absolutely love taking black beans from the bag, soaking them overnight, and then slow cooking in my cast iron pot with onion, garlic and a bay leaf. My mouth is watering just writing about it. You will NEVER eat canned beans again once you try it.
So what am I going to do moving forward?
I have already started adding some animal protein back into my diet. A little fish on Sunday was a good start. I have had one meal of pork chop, and a little bit of beef tonight. I ate plant based on the days in between. I am going to stay away from dairy, as I learned to make some really good almond milk, and dairy and I don't get along anyway. I didn't feel so great anytime I ate wheat, so I'll lay low on that one as well. As I said before, I'll keep the fat a bit lower, play with how much carb I eat, and see what happens.
There really is no "one size fits all" plan. We all have different preferences, tolerances, and convictions. I didn't do this little experiment to prove anybody right or wrong, or make anyone happy or mad. I really just wanted to see what would happen if I really stayed committed to eating plant based the best I knew how, so I could better coach the plant based eaters that come to me for help.
My body is my experiment, the gym and kitchen are my laboratories, and as long as I am not dirt napping, the experiment won't end!
Love to hear your thoughts.
Anyone who knows me well would read this would surely think “is that Adam really writing this?”. I have a very bad habit of jumping to the first negative conclusion about myself, or when something happens in my life. The funny thing about it is that when it comes to others I am very much the opposite. So while some may not believe me when I say this, I can tell you it is true. A lot of good can come out of problems from the past. It’s all about learning to recognize patterns in your life. It is not a simple thing to take a step back and look at a problem from different angles at the time, but once you are further removed, a lot of great information can be gained.
For example, lets say you have trouble at night with eating foods that do not support your goals. You eat it, you feel upset about it and maybe even angry with yourself for indulging. You can learn a lot from those days believe it or not. What happened that day? Did you not eat all day then felt ravenous when you got home? Was it a particularly stressful day? Over time patterns emerge that when realized, can be broken.
I had a pretty bad back injury recently and am realizing just how much I learned from it. That knowledge is now helping me help others with somewhat similar problems. It is hard to see the good in a difficult or stressful situation while it is happening. However if you find yourself falling into the same cycle over and over, it may be time to take a look back and think “how can this happening before, keep me from making the same mistakes now?” or “what strategies did I try last time that worked, and which didn’t?” that may be the key to course correcting. The past is filled with useful information and patterns that can show you how to proceed, all it takes is the time to look.
It is not always easy. It is often filled with pain, and struggles, and tears.
And yet beautiful it remains.
One of the most beautiful things to ever happen in my life is captured in the picture to your right.
For those of you who don't know him, this is our son Derek, born November 7, 2001. He was a big surprise in our lives, born over 14 years after son number two, Jeff.
And then he was gone, taken by SIDS less then a year later, on October 14, 2002.
As I am writing this, the 15th anniversary of that date is tomorrow.
Such a enigmatic word.
For with tomorrow comes new hope that just maybe it will be better than today was. As the book of Lamentations says, there are new mercies that come with the rising of the sun each morning.
But tomorrow all too often in our lives serves as a convenient way to put off today, as we slave away to the tyranny of the urgent.
We fool ourselves into thinking that we will get it done "tomorrow", when the truth is, if we let it, something else will come up that further delays our good intentions.
I'd like to sit here and share that Derek's death took care of that once and for all in my own life.
God chose to give us three more beautiful children after Derek was gone, and I can't even imagine not having Andrew, and Karalynn, and Amy in my life.
I have seen my two older boys follow the paths God has given to them, and also be shaped by the events of those days. I am so proud of them for the men they have become and love their wives and our grandchildren dearly.
And what can I say about Nancy? We have been through some wars together. No man could ask for a better life partner, soul mate, and friend. Without her I am nothing.
And yet so often the very people that make life worth living are pushed aside, as all the things that I "have to take care of" are given priority, as if my family is just a task I can move down my list.
I won't lie. It's been a tough week around the Carlson household. Emotions run high this time of year. I haven't been the husband, father or boss I should be this week. I am grateful for the patience and mercy that has been shown to me.
When it comes down to it, I think anniversaries such as these are a mercy in themselves, as painful as they may be.
They serve as a reminder that no matter how much time I think I have, in reality I have no control whatsoever.
As I walked out the door to go to work that crisp autumn Monday morning I never expected to get a call less than 5 hours later that my son was dead.
Some would call what happened 15 years ago a tragedy.
But the real tragedy would be to forget.
To learn nothing from the journey we have been on since that day.
I could fill pages with stories of the kindnesses that were shown, the struggles that we shared, and the lessons that we are still learning.
If there were no Derek, life would have been very different.
But avoiding that heartache would have cost so much more. A price too steep to pay.
Someday for each of us there will not be another one. We all know that, but it is so much easier to push it into the back of our minds and not think about it. I am right there with you.
But today I am going to think about it for awhile as I celebrate Derek, whose short life made such a lasting impact on my own.
And Your Today?
Hug someone a little longer. Take steps to mend a relationship. Let someone know you care about them. Say "thank-you" to someone for a kindness shown. Ignore another's offense toward you. Work hard to become the person you want to be, for there is joy in the journey.
Don't put it off to a tomorrow that may never come.
Is It Worth The Trade-Off? It's Your Choice.
by Dean Carlson, Pn2
We have a picture in our head of the "ideal body". But are the pictures in the magazines a realistic picture of what is achievable? Do you have to look like superman or a supermodel to be healthy? And at what cost?
Regardless of your goals, there is going to be work - hard work - to lose fat and get leaner. And there are amazing health benefits to doing do. But there are trade-offs, particularly as you get leaner and leaner. This infographic outlines them and shows you what's involved. We'll take a look at the extremes on both sides, and then have you consider what's healthy and achievable.
Click Here for a fully printable version of this Infographic
For a complete explanation of the infographic, including a review of the research by our friends at Precision Nutrition, check out the accompanying article: The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade off?
I can't even begin to tell you how pumped up I am to be teaming up with Dan DeFigio, the bestselling author of "Beating Sugar Addiction For Dummies", to help you get off sugar and help you take back control of your eating.
The goal of Sugar Free Me is ambitious. To give you the education, resources and support you need to overcome your addiction to sugar and carbs, and regain control of your life!
Now some of you may think I am going overboard with the word "addiction". After all while we know eating too much sugar isn't great for us, does it really reach that level? Evidence suggests it can, as sugar has been shown to stimulate the same pleasure centers of the brain as some drugs.
I don't think it's any big secret that sugar and sweets are a big "go-to" when we are stressed, or tired, or lonely. The kick of dopamine that sugar gives us can lead to a very destructive cycle, actually altering our neural pathways , and it's also no secret the cycle of sugar addiction can be hard to beat.
Sugar Free Me is a 28-day step-by-step education, accountability, and strategy course that helps you understand the root causes of sugar addiction, how to address them to create your plan of action, and help you kick the cycle of eating excess sugar.
What we are going to learn:
We are also going to fill up your "Sugar Free Me Toolbox" with six new tools that are going to help you Avoid Temptation, Find and Avoid Your Food Triggers, and explore What You REALLY Want when you reach for the sweets. (Hint: It's not sugar)
The most valuable thing you are going to get over the course of this course (see what I did there) 🙂 is daily accountability and incredible support from both those taking this journey with you and our incredible team of coaches.
You will have your own account created in a really cool program called "Coach Catalyst". Every day you will get an email or message to your phone that delivers your daily "Sugar Free Me" lesson and asks the question: "Did you avoid eating all added sugars yesterday?"
Don't underestimate the power of answering that daily question honestly. This simple action does a couple of very important things. It creates a record for you to look back on and evaluate under what conditions and in what circumstances you tend to reach for the sweets. But it also helps your coach know when you need a little extra help to get moving in the right direction.
You also get access to our Private Facebook page, where you can hang out with folks on the same journey and where your coaches can offer more support. We have found these groups are a powerful way to stay connected and see that you are not the only one struggling. Take advantage of this page!
I really appreciate Dan making his resources and expertise in this area available to us. His full online course is priced at $95, but we are able to offer the 28-Day Sugar Free Me course for only $27. This is an incredible deal for everything you get!
The "Sugar Free Me" Challenge Officially Starts Monday, October 2, 2017, but don't be "that guy", and sign up today! As a bonus, you will get immediate early access into the Facebook Support group.
For someone who loves sweets (like I do), you may be wondering what you might be getting yourself into.
As with anything we do that is "new", it's going to take a little time to adjust to your "new normal". Here's a thought to consider.
Did you know that one of the keys to success and happiness in life is to practice self-compassion?
We are SO hard on ourselves when we don't live up to our expectations for ourselves, and that usually leads to a downward spiral of guilt and feelings of failure. I have lived it, and it usually meant reaching for more food. That's how I got to 280 pounds.
But I learned really fast that to take it off I needed more than education (I knew eating junk food wasn't good for me), or more willpower (when I am tired or feeling blue I have none). I needed a strategy for dealing with the inevitable stuff that comes up to derail me perfect plans - I think it's called life! 🙂
And that is what Sugar Free Me is all about. Sure there is an education component involved, but more importantly we are going to give you real world strategies to set yourself up to succeed, including what to do if (when) you aren't perfect and fall off the wagon.
No program is magic. Change takes effort and self-reflection. It takes a willingness to step out of your comfort zone and embrace something new.
Salespeople everywhere are going to shudder, but DON'T invest in this program if you can't or won't take the 10 or 15 minutes a day it will take to read the lessons and get involved with the group. The last thing I want is for you to have another reason to beat yourself up.
If you want to talk to me or another coach to see if this 28-Day focus is right for you, you can drop us a line here.
To your success,
If the thought of entering into "Sweet Season" (you know, Halloween through New Years) both excites you and makes you dread the 10 pounds you are going to pack on, this is for you.
We are thrilled to be teaming up with Dan Defigio, bestselling author of "Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies" to bring you a brand new 28-Day program called "Sugar Free Me".
More details coming soon, I just wanted to put it on your radar for a program start date of October 2nd, with registration opening up on September 11.
And here's a freebie for you. Sugar comes in many forms and has many names. It's hard to cut back on sugar if you are not aware of it's many disguises.
Check this list out. It's not even ALL of them!
Brown rice solids
Cane juice crystals
Corn syrup solids
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Grape juice concentrate
High fructose corn syrup
Wait, is that real?
I mean vegetables are healthy, right?
Well yes they are, but that doesn't mean everything a plant-based eater eats IS. Nobody would argue that the Vegan food in the picture to the right is. (well maybe, someone, but not many)
Peruse the vegetarian section of your grocery store, and you will find just as much sugar laden, preservative heavy, highly processed food as anywhere else.
Just because you are eating less (or no) animal based products doesn't mean you are automatically eating healthier.
Take a look at the label of that veggie burger, or meat-free breakfast sandwich, or egg-free dairy free dessert. Not pretty.
Now that is less of a criticism of those products, as poor as they are, but really of human nature. We are really good at ignoring what we don't want to see.
I bought some vegetarian/vegan cookbooks with some really great recipes, and for the most part I really like them. BUT there seems to be absolutely no filter in the plant-based world when it comes to sugar. Just because you are using Maple Syrup, or Honey, or Brown Rice Syrup doesn't mean you have carte blanche to use as much as you want. Your body is still going to have a blood sugar response. In fact as a borderline type 2 diabetic who is has increased his carbohydrate load, I have to be MORE sensitive to the sugar response. My rule is to automatically cut sweeteners in recipes by half. At this point I can't even tell.
This also isn't a criticism of plant-based eating, per se. I have always maintained that a plant-based eater who is really doing it "right" is one of the most dedicated, conscious eaters out there. I am 4 1/2 weeks into my plant-based eating experiment, and I have spent more time in the kitchen in that time than the previous 4 or 5 months combined.
The goods news is I really am enjoying eating this way. My body fat is down a little, my strength is still there (Set a PR in the bench press yesterday) and I am eating foods that I had largely removed from my nutrition plan, such as beans and some whole grains. As well as avoiding all meat and dairy, I have not yet eaten any Tofu (not a favorite) or rice. My goal, as always, is to eat the most nutrient-dense food I can. In other words, for every bite, I want to pack in all the nutritional goodness I can!
As always, love to see some discussion below!
See you soon.
Next Scheduled Recovery Week: Sept 4 - Sept 9, 2017
I have to admit, this is my least favorite recovery week. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, as I absolutely love autumn, but still, is summer almost really over?
Truth be told this may be our most important recovery week of the year. The next one is not until the end of December, which means this training block is the longest of the year. My body needs that focused recovery week, physically and emotionally.
It bears repeating - recovery weeks are not haphazard or just vacation times for your coaches. They are a purposefully planned part of the training cycle, and critical for long term development and injury prevention.
You may have noticed that as we get closer to recovery week the daily and weekly training intensity has increased.
That is purposeful.
Because we are working toward a week of MacroRecovery, we are intentionally working at a higher level.
Then we will take a scheduled, purposeful rest.
Because whether you think so or not, you cannot and should not train really hard, all the time.
In fact one of our training program design principles is what is referred to as MED.
Minimum Effective Dose.
In other words, what is the MINIMUM stimulus we need to get better - stronger, leaner, better conditioned, etc.?
What? The minimum you say? That is NOT my style. Go hard or go home!
That WILL work, at least for a short time. Until your training overwhelms your ability to recover, and you start breaking down.
How can you tell that is happening? That you're not recovering fast enough from your training? Here's a few warning signs:
Altered Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
You are having a hard time getting your heart rate up, or it's beating like a racehorse when you feel like you aren't really doing much.
Poor Sleep Patterns
An increasing pattern of the inability to sleep restfully.
Your training loads have stagnated or even decreased.
Mr. Crank-Pants, anyone?
Eating Habits Disrupted or Compromised
It's not just a matter of will power. Overreaching and overtraining can cause physical cravings if our bodies are missing crucial nutrients because of too much physiological or psychological stress.
If you are getting sick frequently (eg. more than one cold a year) your immune system is probably compromised.
Increase In Injury
This could be not recovering from the normal microtrauma caused by training, for example you are sore for 2 or 3 days after training, or you are getting strains, sprains, aches and pains that you normally do not.
Lack of Progress (Plateau)
This could be either in body composition (not losing bodyfat/gaining muscle) or not making gains in the gym.
Enter Recovery Weeks
Recovery weeks are designed to give you rest; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
You see stress is not just a "mental" thing. Do you realize when you train you are stressing yourself out, on purpose? That gets added on top of all the other stress in your life, whether it be work, home, or the jerk who cut you off in traffic. Your central nervous system doesn't care, it just knows when you have too much of it, and it doesn't like it!
And while you can't stop the knucklehead from driving like an idiot, there are things you can do to avoid excess systemic stress, and taking recovery weeks is one of them.
Here's My Top 5 Things To Do On Recovery Week
What about you?
You see you don't have to "not move" for a week. There is nothing wrong with getting outdoors, taking a walk, hitting the rock climbing gym, spending some time on the foam roller and stretching, getting a massage, and/or taking some long showers or baths.
Those things will aid your recovery and help you relax; running 2 or 3 or 5 miles every day (or every other day), or going to spin class, will not.
I train hard, but more importantly I train and recover appropriately.
I am in it for the long game. When I am sick, or excessively tired, or injured I cannot train.
THAT is what sets me back.
Recovery is what drives me forward. On a daily, weekly, and quarterly basis.
You ready to get better with me?
MAKE IT HAPPEN!
PS. Below is the "Science Stuff" I promised - Enjoy!
Our recovery weeks are what I would call Macro-Recovery. In other words we take a planned week off every training phase in order to let the body rest up from hard training and get ready for the next phase.
But did you know you can do even better than that? We have a number of athletes in the Get Fit NH family who participate in our Bioforce HRV monitoring program, which measures your systemic stress load on a daily basis, which allows us to fine-tune the recovery process on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You can catch up on that by clicking here
Read on why properly planned and adequate recovery is important for you!
The Recovery Curve
I saw the recovery curve for the first time during my time with Australian physical preparation coach Ian King. His principles laid the foundation for the way we program, train and especially recover here at Get Fit NH. The principles that work with professional athletes apply to us too!
The following illustrates a “good” recovery curve:
The green line represents what we are all looking for – continual, never ending progress over time. We are getting stronger, faster, thinner, better looking (ok at least that’s what I wish for).
Reality Check – ain’t gonna happen. The process of changing your body is not linear, in fact what we are looking at in an optimal training environment is more of a “One step back brings me Two steps forward”.
A closer look at the chart will help explain what I mean.
The red line represents Equilibrium. This is where your body wants to stay, no matter if your goal is losing fat, gaining lean, or both. As you have no doubt found out, forcing your body to change is hard work – really hard work. When you walk into Get Fit NH, our training is designed to elicit that change. But it’s not as simple as “working out” day after day after day. In fact as I am about to illustrate, training without proper recovery is actually hurting you, not making you better.
The blue line represents the “recovery curve”. Starting at the left hand of the chart all the lines intersect. For this illustration that point is where your first training occurred – you “worked out”.
But what’s going on?
Instead of performance going up, that line is actually heading down – this is what is called Depletion. If you think about it makes sense – you have worked hard, you are fatigued, your body is depleted of nutrients – you are spent!
Don’t worry, your body will get over it, if you treat it right! This is what we call Adaptation. Your body wants to be able to handle the increased demand that was placed on it, and starts the process of getting better.
You are in charge of if and how fast that happens. A few of the factors that influence this adaptation include recovery nutrition, stress levels, sleep habits, supportive nutrition, age, and training history.
The recovery curve continues with Supercompensation. Here is how Coach King describes this process:
“It is only when recovery is allowed that we see the super-compensation effect, the unique phenomenon where the bodies physical capacity is elevated in response to training, in anticipation of another exposure to the same stimulus.” – King, I, 1999/2000, Foundations of Physical Preparation
In other words your body has gotten better in response to your training, a new Equilibrium is established and this state is when we will ideally train again. Our programming at Get Fit NH is carefully designed to give this the best chance of occurring, but as I hope you are discovering, you have a lot to do with this with how you treat your recovery!
As you can see, when things are clicking, this process when repeated over and over means you are getting better and better, the blue line is headed up – pretty cool!
The flip side to all this is what happens when the recovery process isn’t working so well.
This chart represents recovery gone “bad”:
When we continue to train in a state of “Depletion”, regardless of the reason, the adaptation to super-compensation effect doesn’t occur, and instead of getting better, we find ourselves in a downward cycle. This can happen when we train the same muscle groups too soon, when we haven’t taken the steps described above to recover optimally (sleep and nutrition for instance) regardless of time between training, when we train too hard coming off an illness, etc. The last thing we want to happen is new equilibrium to be established in a downward pattern – not good.
The long and short of it is your body absolutely needs to recover from hard training. Consistently training in a fatigued state results in injury and illness. Your body is an amazing machine designed to put up with a lot, but it was also designed to need rest.
Which leads us to:
Face it – you can get beat up anywhere. Our responsibility at Get Fit NH is to help you get better!
That includes recovery weeks. We have found that somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks of training is just about right to take a full week off and let your body recover.
That doesn’t mean that you spend your training time on the couch eating bon-bons, but if you insist on going down to PF and hitting the weights or running 10 miles every morning, your body will suffer in the long run, and perhaps even in the short term.
If you find yourself fighting this concept, ask yourself this – Is your unwillingness to take a week off a well reasoned decision based on what you know to be true, or is it that your attachment to training is so strong emotionally that makes it so hard? You will not lose all you have gained by taking the week off, I assure you! Again to quote Coach King, “…if you don’t (take time off)…most of you are going to lose it anyway!”
So now that we have established you are ready, willing and able to embrace recovery week, what do you do?
Glad you asked!
1.) Physical Rest and Regeneration
– Our bodies must rest and recover to prevent over-training (or under-recovering) issues so that we can come back 100% healthy and energized for the next phase of the program
– Focus on maintaining and/or increasing flexibility and tissue health by stretching and foam rolling daily. 15-30 minutes is fantastic!
– Daily restorative walks are beneficial during this week. 30-60 minutes briskly walking (not jogging/running) will keep your body refreshed and active, without negating the purpose of this week. Don’t overdo it!
2.) Physiological and Psychological Rest and Regeneration
– We must normalize key anabolic hormones, refill muscle glycogen, increase caloric intake, and prevent any diet induced catabolism (losses of lean body mass) so that we can enjoy greater fat loss for the next phase of the program
– We have taken the road less traveled by being flexible eaters with a long-term approach to success and thus we will take a break from our aggressive fat loss nutrition plans. This is not a free for all, so stay away from your “trigger foods” (junk foods and sweets) that open the door to excessive calorie intake.
– Instead plan (key word) and enjoy 2 or 3 controlled free meals to reward yourself for all of your hard work, but do not overdo it!
– Caveat: If your nutrition habits have been less than optimal, more than likely none of this applies to you. Instead now is the time to plan and prepare to make the changes necessary to see the results you want. Spend some time with a coach and your Jumpstart Nutrition Guide if you need help.
3.) Celebrate the Fruits of Your Labor
– Take some time to reflect on how far you have come since you joined Get Fit NH in terms of improving your overall health, body composition, and performance
– Enjoy your results!
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
We would just like to take the time to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your hard work and dedication to improving your health and fitness… keep Making It Happen!
P.S. If you are serious about maximizing your training/recovery cycle, you owe it to yourself to invest in this! Look further into our Bioforce HRV monitoring program, which measures your systemic stress load on a daily basis, which allows us to fine-tune the recovery process on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You can catch up on that by clicking here.