This morning I stumbled on this article by Paul Flannery titled “Extreme Athleticism Is the New Midlife Crisis” (https://medium.com/s/greatescape/extreme-athleticism-is-the-new-midlife-crisis-d87199a18bed). I love a good midlife crisis, and I agreed with most of what the article had to say. It was a shame that the title had a negative sound to it. Rather than a midlife “crisis”, extreme athleticism here is described as a way to protect us from the ravages of old age.
When I turned 46 I decided to play rugby for the first time. My kids had played for years, and at 46, although I wasn’t “in shape”, I wasn’t overweight, I felt pretty good, and had kept pretty active while raising my five teenaged sons. The first day I stepped on the field to play a pickup game of touch rugby, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I discovered just how out of shape I was on a hot, 98 degree suffocatingly humid summer day in Memphis. But I had a blast and couldn’t wait to get back out on the field. More than that, I started looking for a team I could join.
That day six years ago I wasn’t thinking about my midlife crisis, trying to go back to the “glory days” of my youth (I was never an athlete), or trying to prove something. I wanted to have fun. And as my kids were growing up and becoming more independent, I suddenly had more time to explore hobbies that had interested me but didn’t have time to engage with because – kids.
This is something Paul misses in his article. At 46, or now at 52, I want to have fun. I want to take advantage of the season I’ve found myself in. For the first time in over 20 years of raising kids, I have leisure time. Yes, my body isn’t what it used to be, but I wake up every day with the realization that I’ll never be as young as I am today. I’m going to take advantage of what my body can do today. This goes for play, work, sex; tomorrow I’ll be older, and more than likely my performance won’t match what it is today. Carpe diem.
I won’t pretend that it isn’t fun to step on a rugby field with guys half my age and amaze, not because I’m a great player, but because I can still sprint, I can still tackle, I can still hold my own physically. I won’t pretend that there are days when I feel like I have something to prove because of my age, that I’m not in the midst of a midlife crisis (which, in proving the former, confirms the latter). And yes, everyday I lift, I run, I sprint to protect and prepare for the years to come.
I alternate between different types of workouts during the year. Some of the year is about building strength (how much I can lift). Some of the year is dedicated to power (how much I can lift as quickly as possible). This winter I’ve chosen to concentrate on hypertrophy (muscle size).
There are at least 3 components to building muscle in the gym:
Volume. Specifically, the number of sets per muscle group per week creates a more dramatic result. However, there seems to be a relationship to more sets/reps throughout the week, rather than blowing your wad all in one day. Repeatedly hitting a muscle group through the week, without exceeding the minimum effective dose, seems to be better.
Muscle fiber recruitment. The more muscle fibers you recruit, the better. This is especially true for building muscle (rather than strength training). Done right, increased volume and training to failure or near failure recruits more muscle fibers. Rest and good form are the keys to muscle fiber recruitment.
Rest. This is hugely important. Often you’ll see guys rep to failure to get that “pump” in the gym, then quickly turn around and do it again. You’ll also see their volume decreases as each set is attempted (remember: increased volume recruits more muscle fibers). What they fail to realize is that the “pump” is actually their body’s response to the trash that’s built up in their muscles during a set. The body floods the area with blood to flush the lactic acid build up. If you don’t give your body enough time to flush the waste products from the muscle, it can’t perform to its maximal potential. To get the biggest bang for your buck, take as much rest time as you need so that you can perform each set to the full rep target. For me, it’s almost always 3 minutes.
My workout achieves four goals for me:
It’s fairly balanced across muscle groups.
It places a high value on leg work. Hip and leg strength are important for me; you may want to place emphasis on a different priority.
It includes aerobic as well as high intensity work.
Even though it’s a five day workout, it’s structured so that recovery is built-in.
Personally, I’m loving this. Since I started in November 2018 (It’s January 2019 as I write this) I’ve added 7 pounds of non-Christmas weight to my frame. I’m not experiencing burn out. And although I’m pretty sore after most workout days, the recovery period allows me to hit it hard each time I enter the gym. I’m a fan of this one!
You can download the workout here: Winter 2018 Hypertrophy Workout. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments, below.
Having a customer ask me for advice, then attempt to tell me how I should fix the problem.
This week, yet again, I had a customer ask me to look at a technical problem. She’s paying my hourly consulting fee, mind you, because I’m on site for a consult. She explains the problem and the proceeds to Google for an answer (using the very worst Google syntax ever), with the onsite tech guy sitting next to her pointing at results. I lean against the credenza in her office, meanwhile, waiting for them to give up and ask the expert they’re paying.
There are two parts of the problem: 1) Email has gotten mangled coming into her inbox and needs to be restored. 2) We need to keep this from happening in the future. We quickly discover the solution to #2 and fix it. The fix for #1 is a longer, more tedious procedure. We’ve exhausted the rabbit hole of Google results, and yet they just. keep. searching. In desperation and confusion I ask the question that seems obvious, but no one has asked yet:
What is the best possible outcome you could have?
She looks at me as if I have a third eye, or a horn sticking out of my forehead. After a minute it’s obvious she doesn’t have an answer to my question. Does she want the email restored? Does she want to step through the tedious procedure to fix the mangled emails? Does she want to skip it altogether, because it’s only a handful of emails? She’s had her head buried so deeply in the situation that she’s never stopped to consider what she wants to happen.
What is the Best Possible Outcome?
This is one of those questions as a consultant and troubleshooter that I have to ask over and over, because many people don’t really know what they want, or have lost sight of what they want, or keep changing their minds. They keep encountering the same situations over and over because they haven’t identified where they want to go.
Obviously, the question extends to the personal:
What is the best possible outcome of this relationship?
What is the best possible outcome of buying this car?
What is the best possible outcome of this conflict with my kid?
What is the best possible outcome of taking this job?
Take, for example, “What is the best possible outcome of this relationship?” Because you don’t know what you want, you can’t identify what the result of being in a life-long relationship with someone will be. Do you want to have kids? What kind of values do you want those kids to have? Is your wife going to demand a certain standard of living? Will she remain faithful? Will you remain faithful to her? Once you identify what you want you know where to start looking for a wife. And, just as important, you know when to cut and run. This question will keep you from wasting time on people or things that aren’t taking you in the direction you want to go.
“What is the best possible outcome of this conflict with my kid?” It may be that you and your son or daughter won’t see eye to eye, but that the best possible outcome is that you model disagreeing well, and model grace in accepting a different opinion. Not knowing the best possible outcome will see you on the defensive, insisting on your way, even when it really doesn’t matter. The result being a broken, resentful relationship with your son.
What is the best possible outcome of talking to my ex on Snapchat?
What is the best possible outcome of tutoring a kid?
What is the best possible outcome of eating healthier?
This question, along with “What is the wise thing for me to do?“, can help you weed out the helpful from the destructive. The wise from the foolish. The wasteful from the resourceful. Take some time to sit down and identify some areas in your life that are vague right now. Are you looking at a major financial decision? Are you in a relationship that doesn’t have an end-game. What will your career look like 20 years from now? Have you set any longevity goals? Pick one and ask the question, “What is the best possible outcome?” and begin to shape your decision(s) based on what you see.
Zinc is a micronutrient that is essential for your health. Zinc has been linked to a host of conditions (1) but for us middle-aged guys there are some specific reasons to supplement, like age-related vision loss, colon and rectal tumors, depression, muscle cramps, protein synthesis, and testosterone production(2).
As an athlete and middle-aged man with steadily decreasing testosterone and sarcopenia (age-related muscle shrinkage), the protein synthesis and testosterone production benefits are enough for me.
Sources of Zinc
Zinc is not something that is made in, or stored by, your body, so you’ve got to get it from an external source, either from food or by supplements. Food sources of zinc include oysters (super high in zinc) and beef, then in lower amounts in legumes, chicken and pork.(3)
When it comes to supplements, there are (at least) two things to take into consideration:
Zinc as a gluconate has a couple of advantages over other zinc supplements. First, apparently many zinc supplements frequently contain cadmium as well because they two are “chemically similar and found together in nature”. When zinc is processed as zinc gluconate it contains lower levels of cadmium(1). Second, gluconates are often absorbed by the body easier than other methods, like zinc oxide.(4) (That’s why I also take magnesium as a gluconate as well).
ZMA (zinc, magnesium aspartate, and B6) is a combination that has a controversial past. In 2000 the Journal of Exercise Physiology published a study(5) that showed that when a group of NCAA football players took a formulation of ZMA their free testosterone increased 30% (wow!) along with increases in growth hormone. However, the company who made the ZMA supplement also sponsored the study (conflict of interest), and subsequent studies haven’t been able to replicate the findings.
Final Thoughts on Zinc
It’s important to note that while doing the research on zinc supplementation I found several studies and statements across sites that said that most Americans and Europeans weren’t deficient in zinc. You can (and probably should) be tested for zinc levels during your annual checkup.
With that said, here is how and why I supplement: Since zinc is not produced or stored by the body, it’s essential that we get it from outside sources. Our bodies also use more zinc or flush zinc depending on our activity level. For instance, zinc loss happens as we sweat and our need for zinc increases if our body is under certain stresses. As an athlete I beat my body up five days a week. I sweat buckets and damage my body through heavy resistance and interval training, and occasional rugby games and practices. With that in mind, I supplement primarily on days when I’ve had a physically grueling workout. It’s typical for me to supplement with 50mg before bed on Monday/Wednesday/Friday because they’re heavy lifting days, or after a rugby match. Otherwise, on running or interval training days or weekend recovery days, I won’t supplement.
Finally, I’ve been waiting for my magnesium and zinc supplements to run low so that I can do a round of ZMA supplementation. If I’m already taking these two minerals, then I don’t see the harm in replacing my current regimen with ZMA to see if I notice a difference. (Of course, it will be subjective since I won’t be getting blood work done during the trial).
Do you take a zinc supplement? If so, what kind and why? Share in the comments below.
Creatine is a chemical that is found in your body, in both muscle and brain tissue. It’s one of the most studied performance-enhancing supplements on the market. Creatine is used during energy production for activities that are short, explosive, powerful movements like short sprints and powerlifting that last 10-15 seconds. When plenty of creatine exists in your body, you’re able to refuel that energy system quicker and more often after those explosive bouts of exercise.
Why Take A Creatine Supplement?
I’ve already hinted at the answer to this question, but it lies in your body’s ability to refuel after exercise. Your body’s natural store of creatine will only last so long: adding creatine to your diet will allow you to repeat those sprints or lifts more often, and with shorter recovery times between reps.
In contrast to the other supplements in the “Supplements After 50” series, I would categorize this supplement as an option for athletes, especially power athletes. Creatine supplementation won’t do much for a distance athlete, since long-term aerobic exercise system doesn’t rely on the ATP-PC (adenosine triphosphate – phosphocreatine) energy system.
You can supplement your creatine naturally through high protein foods like red meat, wild game, and fish such as salmon and tuna.
Creatine supplements are available as Creatine Monohydrate or “micronized” Creatine Monohydrate, with a smaller particle size for quicker uptake. Most supplement suppliers have some form of creatine supplement available, either as a powder or capsule. Personally, I buy mine from BulkSupplements on Amazon (Affiliate link). Several creatine supplement powders I’ve purchased in the past recommend a “loading” phase. Personally, I skip the loading phase and use a straight dose. I add it to my morning shake daily, and will cycle off for a couple of weeks after I finish a bag.
Again, this is an optional supplement for athletes. As a lifter and a rugby player, I’m engaging in some kind of explosive exercise almost every day. Maximizing every edge, especially at my age, is important. That’s why I add creatine to my diet. You may skip this altogether, depending on your exercise needs.
This post is going to document my experience with MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil, specifically Bulletproof™ Brain Octane Oil.
I’ve tried “bulletproof” coffee quite a bit over the last several years using a tablespoon of organic coconut oil with a tablespoon of Kerrygold® butter in a standard 6 oz cup of coffee. After some recent study I’ve learned there is a chemical difference between coconut oil and true MCT oil that causes MCT to be absorbed more readily (for a description from the Bulletproof guys, check out this link). I decided to give it a try.
Why Bulletproof Coffee?
The first question I should answer is why upgrade my coffee? I typically drink one cup of coffee right after my feet hit the floor. The only things I do before i drink my coffee is pee and drink a glass of water. And I drink my coffee black. I buy a lot of locally (Memphis) roasted specialty coffees and I don’t want to ruin them with cream and sugar. So why would I add oil and butter?
Bulletproof is a “bio-hack”, a way to upgrade your body’s performance in some way. And even though there are purported benefits like weight loss and appetite suppression, there is only one hack that I want: brain function. MCT, broken down into ketones, is supposedly a quick, ideal energy source to get your brain going in the morning. That’s what I’m after. I’d argue that that is the same reason why most of us drink coffee in the first place. If I can amp up the caffeine boost and get a sustained benefit, then count me in.
Day 1 (Saturday)
Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil arrived on Friday. Saturday morning I was excited to give it a try. I brewed a pour over of French Truck Coffee’s “Big River Blend” for my wife and I. As it turned out, we were out of Kerrygold butter. Huge buzz kill.
I mixed 2 tablespoons of MCT oil in 14 oz of coffee (Bulletproof’s recommended serving size is 1 Tbsp, but since I’m making two cups of coffee, I’m using 2) and used my mixer wand to blend it together. (You must do this, or you’ll have a cup of coffee with an oil slick on top). My wife and I sipped on the coffee, as usual, until it was gone. It had the same kind of “oily” feel on my lips as my coconut oil coffee, but didn’t have the coconut taste.
Results – First of all, take note that “disaster pants” is real. Within an hour of finishing my coffee, it was time to go! Don’t mean to gross you out, but had a pretty loose stool. Not long after, my wife (perhaps not making the connection) told me her stomach wasn’t feeling well. (I hadn’t told her about this possible side effect and still haven’t. Shh…) I was a little crampy as well, but this faded within a couple of hours.
Second, I would say that yes, my brain was high functioning, but I was also to the point of being over-stimulated. This could be related to the coffee; “Big River” is a light roast and gives me a bigger caffeine jolt than my typical dark roast blend. I ended up with two cups of coffee Saturday morning (one light, one dark) and I could have been over-caffeinated. But I was edgy and super irritable, to the point of being a jerk. I’ve got to nail this down. If this is what bio-hacking my brain is going to do, then I’ll pass.
Day 2 (Monday)
Over the weekend I did some research on disaster pants. I found two things I could try to keep this from being so bad: 1) Take MCT oil in smaller dosages. 2) Get used to it. Most people adjust to the MCT oil and the very unpleasant side effects subside over time. Good news.
This morning I brewed a dark roast Rwandan through my drip coffee maker. I managed to get my hands on some Kerrygold butter this weekend, so I’m prepared for the full experience (well…except for disaster pants). I mixed 1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tsp MCT (instead of 1 Tbsp to lower the dose) and 6 oz. coffee. Sipped as usual while I got to work.
Results – It’s 12:45 pm and I’ve had a second cup of coffee now. My brain is in pretty high gear, and has been all morning. No, I don’t feel jittery like I did on day 1. Yes, I still had a pretty good BM about an hour after my first cup of coffee, but no cramps. Here’s hoping this gets even better. NOTE: I did not give my wife any MCT oil this morning. I’d feel really bad if she had an attack at work…
11 pm, no afternoon crash. Usually by 2 pm I need a hit of sugar and another cup of coffee or I’ll fall asleep on my keyboard. I’m actually afraid I won’t sleep tonight because my brain is still so sharp. Pretty remarkable for me.
Day 3 (Tuesday)
Today’s dosing was the same as yesterday’s: 1 Tsp Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil and 1 Tbsp butter in 6 oz coffee at around 6:30 AM. In addition to my first cup of coffee, I had a wonderful pour over of Dr. Bean‘s Burundi brewed by my favorite barista, @ethan,makes.coffee around 11 AM.
Results – Still had a loose BM about an hour after my first cup, but no stomach cramps. One thing I altered this morning was my breakfast. Today I decided to go to rugby practice, and – knowing what my carb needs would be – I scarfed down a baked sweet potato and had a sardine on toast for breakfast instead of my usual morning shake. Deep down I was hoping that having a solid meal rather than a shake would firm things up. Not so, unfortunately. But I’m only 3 days in, so I’m sure my body still has a bit to go.
Once again, my mind is still very clear as I write this at 10:59 pm after dragging in an hour ago from rugby practice and a two mile run. I had a bit of a crash at about 2 pm today, but part of that is due to a poor night’s sleep (I woke up in the MIDDLE of a REM cycle this morning, and it killed me) and part of it was because I was chained to an office chair all day in a warm server room. But again, it seems Brain Octane Oil has really cut through my brain fog.
[UPDATE Wednesday Morning] It appears I lied. Or, in political speak “mis-spoke”. I didn’t sleep at all last night, and as I lay on my pillow cursing Brain Oil, I realized that I had thrown off my experiment Tuesday. Looking at the prospect of two hours of high-intensity rugby practice from 6:30-8:30 pm, I stopped by my favorite coffee shop around 5:30 pm and grabbed a shot of espresso. Stupid, stupid move. I’m pretty caffeine sensitive and generally won’t drink coffee after 2 pm. Now I remember why. But that means that my clear, energized mind of 11 pm Tuesday night could actually be attributed to late afternoon espresso, NOT MCT oil.
Day 4 (Thursday)
I took the day off, at least from Bulletproof Coffee. I wanted to see if I could tell a difference in my energy level, clarity, and digestive tract. Let’s start with that last one, first. I couldn’t tell much difference because we grabbed a dozen doughnuts for my son’s “birthday breakfast”. As it turns out, the fat from the fried doughnuts had essentially the same effect as the fat from the MCT oil. One and 1/2 doughnuts and I’m headed to the toilet. My body is just sensitive to fats. As far as my brain’s clarity, I could tell a difference. MCT keeps me just at the edge of “too much”. I mentioned in Day 1’s post that I was downright irritable, overly caffeinated. Although I haven’t been at that level since, I feel like I’m right at the edge of the cliff. And I stay there throughout the entire day. Thursday I didn’t have that feeling.
Friday (Day 5)
I’m back on MCT this morning. 1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tsp Brain Octane Oil in 6 oz of coffee. I added my second cup of coffee (no MCT) around 11 AM.
Results – 1/2 hour after my first cup I was off to the bathroom. I’m beginning to think that this isn’t going away and I’m going to have to choose between a morning run to the toilet and a day’s worth of brain clarity. Or maybe I just accept it as the price of doing business.
But my brain’s buzzing today.
One more thing: I do notice a difference in appetite on MCT days. I’ve been continuing my morning breakfast routine for the most part: coffee at 6:30 AM, breakfast (protein shake, sardine on toast, a handful of walnuts, and a couple of avocado slices) around 9:30 or 10 AM. This week, however, I feel so dang full after breakfast that I don’t feel like eating for several hours afterward.
Monday (Day 6)
First of all, What happened to Saturday and Sunday?, you may be asking. Saturday and Sunday I took a short vacation with my wife to celebrate 29 years of marriage. There was plenty of coffee to be had, but no MCT. There was no guarantee that a blender would be available at our AirBnB, and frankly, the thought of two days of potential diarrhea over a romantic weekend wasn’t appealing to me.
So here we are on Monday afternoon. I had my customary first cup around 6:30 AM with 1 Tsp Brain Octane Oil and 1 Tbsp grass-fed butter. As I write, it’s 12:15 PM and I’m drinking my second, and last, cup of coffee for the day.
Results – At this point I’m glad to report no digestive distress. Perhaps taking the weekend off helped my stomach get back in shape. There’s still time in the day to lose my bowels, but right now they’re hanging in. Beyond that, I don’t have that “over caffeinated” feeling, but I’m well alert and motivated. Even though I wasn’t terribly hungry, I ate lunch (it’s a workout day, so I need carbs!). We’ll see how long my energy level keeps going.
I have now finished my first bottle of Bulletproof Brain Oil. Last week I ordered, and received, my second bottle. I’m pretty cheap, so that means I see value in it.
Here are a few final, most likely subjective, observations:
My mind is definitely sharper. This is probably the most subjective finding I’ll report, but I feel clearer. My morning work goes by faster. I don’t feel “foggy” in the morning. My ability to communicate verbally is easier (less grasping for words).
Stomach issues have gotten better. In fact, my overall digestive system feels better. I’ve been nursing some stomach issues for a couple of months now, easing foods in/out of my diet to see if I could pinpoint the source. I can’t definitively say that MCT oil has been the fix; I’ve been tinkering with lots of things in my diet. But I’m definitely better off.
I could live on one cup of coffee/day. That hasn’t been true in the past. I love coffee, and often need it to keep going. Usually by 2 pm in the afternoon, I simply must have a second cup. I’m now drinking a second cup, usually around 11 am, just because I like it. However, I don’t need it in the afternoon now; I’m still mentally sharp.
I am less hungry. I still keep my same eating routines, because I know my what my body needs nutritionally. But I often eat my breakfast and lunch begrudgingly because I’m just not hungry.
One final note: I’m still not taking the full recommended dose of Brain Octane Oil. I’m taking a teaspoon per 6 oz cup, instead of a tablespoon. I believe in a minimum effective dose, so if this is working, I’ll probably stay at this dose rather than move up.
Give Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil a try and let me know your results in the comments, below.
If you want to support the blog, grab it from my Amazon Associate link here.
I use this blog to track all the funky food, nutrition and workout experiments I’m trying. I’m a firm believer in both consistency and variation in my workouts; consistency meaning it’s hard to get a feel for the success of a given method unless it’s been tried over a long-enough period of time. Variation in that muscle adapts to a given stimulus and so variation must be introduced to keep the muscle growing. So my usual workout routines last from 6-8 weeks, and then I change depending on what I think my strengths/weaknesses are in a given area, or what is going on during a given season (if I’m playing rugby).
Summer 2018 Workout
I’ve integrated the 5×5 workout into my yearly cycles for a couple of years now. Last year I tried the 1×20 workout for a cycle (you can get a copy of that here). At different times I’ve added a small amount of running or treadmill time into my workouts, but only 10-15 minutes at a time. During my 1×20 cycle I also integrated some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) on days I wasn’t in the gym.
I’m planning on playing rugby in the fall, so over the summer I’ve been training to be prepared for the physical demands of the game. It’s a huge target: increased strength, explosive power, size (hypertrophy) and aerobic capacity.
All over the place, right?
To that end, I’ve combined the best of everything, my “Greatest Hits” so to speak. They’re available in this spreadsheet, “Current_Workout_2018-07-15.xlsx“.
The spreadsheet contains 3 tabs:
Weights – A daily chart of what happens each day. Monday and Friday are “strength” days, using 5×5 as the skeleton for the workouts. Once the big lifts are out of the way, select a few accessory lifts from the “1×20” worksheet to supplement your lifts.
1×20 – Wednesday is a “light” day. Choose a broad spectrum of lifts from the 1×20 sheet for a thorough full-body workout.
Aerobic – HIIT – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are for aerobic and anaerobic systems. As an athlete in a sport with a heavy demand on my aerobic system, my goal this summer is to build my aerobic capacity. To that end, I’m running or biking two days / week, increasing my time by 5 minutes each week. I’m at almost an hour. It’s incredibly boring, but Amazon Prime and my Kindle Fire makes it doable. Thursdays are for explosive anaerobic work. Sprints are an easy way to get this work in, but often I use a combination of assault bike+weights for interval training. I’ll do 1 minute assault bike, straight into hang-cleans x 10 with as much weight as I can handle, then 1 minute of rest in between sets. Usually 6 or 7 sets kills me. Google “hiit options” or “bodyweight metcons” for more creative stuff you can do easily, at home.
Notes – The first sheet contains some basic notes to get you started.
Finally, make sure you take a day of full recovery. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s easy to over-train. In my schedule, recovery day is Sunday, but you can adjust the schedule however you want. But you must take a day off.
Give this a try. I’m super-pleased with my improvement over the summer. I haven’t gained any weight, which was a goal, but my other numbers have improved, and I don’t have a lot of fatigue, a problem I seem to run into when training heavy (like pure 5×5).
I’ve never been a heavy drinker (well, other than my freshman year in college) but over the last couple of years, drinking a couple of glasses of wine or a couple of beers at night has become a more regular occurrence. I don’t drink to get drunk but there are times that I certainly drink past the point of simple relaxation.
For a variety of reasons, some practical, some for the cause of science, I’ve decided to climb on the wagon for the month of July.
File this under both practical and science. Practically (and the primary driver for this), something has been causing me stomach discomfort over the past few months: bloating, gas, etc. I’ve been trimming gluten and dairy from my diet, and although I feel better overall, it is still occurring. However, in times when I’ve taken a week or two without a drink, my digestive issues have been relieved. So I’m conducting a science experiment to decide whether alcohol is the culprit.
Essentially everything you read on the Internet (which, of course, is true) points to alcohol’s ability to disrupt sleep patterns. More specifically, a 2013 review of scientific studies on alcohol and its effect on sleep concluded “At all dosages, alcohol causes a reduction in sleep onset latency, a more consolidated first half sleep, and an increase in sleep disruption in the second half of sleep”. My own experience is that I have no problem falling asleep, but have an incredibly hard time staying asleep. By 3 or 4 am, I’m awake, wishing I wasn’t.
Sleep is huge to me (and should be, to you). It affects testosterone levels, fat buildup, and repair and recovery after strenuous exercise. I want as much quality sleep as I can get. If avoiding alcohol helps, then I’m on board.
Frankly, I’m cranky when I drink. It’s probably related to the loss of quality sleep. But on more than one occasion I’ve found myself low on patience with my wife and kids and I feel like it’s attributable to drinking the night before. Nothing is more valuable than those relationships. If anything is impairing my relationships with those I love most, then it should go!
This is less of a factor, but there are indications that high alcohol use impairs testosterone production. Again, I don’t drink excessively, but if there’s any chance that drinking a few beers is cutting into my T-levels, then count me out. Add to this the effect on sleep mentioned above, which also affects T-levels, and I’d rather do without the booze.
I’ve written before (here) about the importance of Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) and the importance of adequate protein intake as we age because of sarcopenia (age-related muscle wasting). There is research showing that drinking inhibits muscle protein synthesis after exercise (at least in rats).
If there is anywhere my life is out of control, it’s my finances. Raising five boys (three of whom are in college) takes a toll on your budget. Cutting expenses is one way to help bring things back into line. Eliminating booze is easy money. Sure, a $10 six-pack or bottle of Cabernet doesn’t seem huge. But when it’s a six-pack per week, across 52 weeks a year, that’s a couple of utility bills, a few new tires, or a handful of college textbooks. Much better uses of funds.
I’m writing this on July 2, day two of my experiment. I’ll keep you posted.
Anyone want to join me? Chime in in the comments, below. I’m sure this would be easier with some company.
 “Alcohol impairs skeletal muscle protein synthesis and mTOR signaling in a time-dependent manner following electrically stimulated muscle contraction.” Journal of Applied Physiology, November 15, 2014.; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25257868
Jocko Willink says “Discipline equals freedom”. It’s the idea that in order to get what you want out of life, you have to have the discipline to make it happen. Do you want more free time? Quit wasting time surfing YouTube. Do you want financial freedom? Then practice discipline in your spending and saving habits.
Discipline equals freedom.
I’ve also come to a place where I believe that routine equals freedom. This is nothing new, but I’ve discovered that the more regularly practiced routines I put in place, the more it frees my mind and my time to spend energy on more important things.
Meal prep is a perfect example. I’m the first person in my house to get up in the morning, so I get a front row seat to observe everyone else’s morning habits. As each kid walks through the kitchen, the first thing I hear is, “what do we have for breakfast?”. I outline the available choices and watch them wrestle with the options. We replay this scene at lunch and dinner.
Every day. EVERY DAY. Every day I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch.
Breakfast – Breakfast begins with a shake: A handful of spinach, half cup blueberries, half cup strawberries, half a banana, half cup yogurt, half cup water, half cup Kroger Carbmaster chocolate milk, plus supplements. Next, I eat a half an avocado, a handful of walnuts, and a sardine spread across a half piece of toast, buttered with Kerrygold butter.
Lunch – Lunch is just as eclectic. A handful of almonds, a boiled egg, a handful of Parmesan cheese snacks (from Costco, ), a piece of fruit (apple or orange), and on workout days, a couple of Banana-Rama Figgy Pops from Made In Nature (for needed carbs).
The Value of Routine
Having two major meals planned frees me from the time and stress of wondering what to eat. It frees me from the expense of going out because I don’t have what I need on hand. It frees me from the worry of eating healthy because I’ve made sure that my meals have all my bases covered as far as protein, carbs and fats. It frees my body from the discomfort that comes from eating something impulsively that will make me feel bad later.
My routine gives me freedom in the same way that having the discipline to stick to the routine gives me freedom.
The Freedom to Break Routine
It might sound boring, but it doesn’t have to be. I like my routine, but I’m not a slave to my routine. After all, slavery does not equal freedom (duh!). If I want to have breakfast with one of my kids, then I do. If I want to go out to eat lunch at a funky restaurant with my wife on Saturday, I do. My weekly routine of healthy eating gives me the bandwidth – the freedom – to go off track when the occasion calls for it.
There are a couple of areas in my life I want to add routines, but haven’t quite yet:
Clothing – Steve Jobs famously wore the same black shirt and blue jeans every day. I’m sure it was because eliminating the decision streamlined his day. I would love to buy a closet full of the same blue jeans and t-shirts (same brand and type, but perhaps different colors) to wear every day. The difficulty is the initial financial outlay of replacing my wardrobe at one time. But this will happen.
Workplace – I’m a virtual worker. Supposedly technology allows me to work from anywhere, but this isn’t true. The comings and goings in my busy household offer too many distractions to be truly productive. I have a list of favorite coffee shops, but because I don’t have control over the environment, actual “work” is hit or miss. Example: yesterday I visited a shop only to find that their grinder was broken and the WiFi was out after I had already completely unpacked my bag and plugged in all my equipment. I had to pack everything up and head to another shop. I again unpacked my gear and opened my laptop, when a friend walked in, saw me, and plopped himself down next to me and began talking. ZERO productivity. Knowing exactly where I’ll be working every day would eliminate a huge amount of decision making from my day.
Leucine is an essential amino acid that directly influences, among other things, muscle protein synthesis (MPS). If you’ve been following this series and read the post on protein supplementation, you’ll remember that MPS is a big deal for guys as they get older. As we age, we begin losing muscle (a process known as sarcopenia). But if we’re physically active and keep our protein intake up, we can slow the process. Some studies have shown that increasing our protein intake is even more beneficial as we age. 
Because leucine assists in MPS, increasing your plasma leucine level assists in metabolizing protein and therefore building – and maintaining – muscle tissue.
Sources of Leucine
Lean meat like beef, pork or chicken is high in leucine. Dairy products, especially cheese and Greek yogurt, are generally high in leucine as well. In fact, a serving of Greek yogurt has about as much leucine as four eggs. Finally, legumes, which are also high in protein, also contain a significant amount of leucine.
You can purchase(affiliate link) a leucine supplement by itself or as a part of a BCAA (branched chain amino acid) supplement. Or, many protein powders contain some sort of added leucine / BCAA cocktail as well.
When To Take Leucine
Research has shown that leucine can have an affect both pre and post-workout. Because leucine seems to impede muscle breakdown during workouts, many folks take some kind of supplement either before or during workouts. And because leucine helps kick protein synthesis into high gear, often it can be taken with a protein supplement post-workout to make the most out of the anabolic response to your workout. (If you’re sucking down a protein shake post-workout, you may already be getting the leucine you need, because many protein powders contain added leucine.)
There has been some speculation that taking leucine before bedtime is helpful as well. But even though protein ingestion before bed has been proven to boost MPS, research seems to indicate that adding a leucine supplement at bedtime has no effect.  Why waste it?
If you’re looking to build and/or maintain muscle mass and strength after 50, you have to make the most of every opportunity to increase muscle protein synthesis. Resistance exercise kicks MPS into gear, added protein provides the raw materials, and leucine seems to provide the pathway. Add a leucine supplement to your pre or post-workout shake to build even more muscle.
 Matthew Stark, Judith Lukaszuk, Aimee Prawitz, and Amanda Salacinski, “Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training”. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3529694/