I’m A Fasting Failure

I’m a fasting failure.

I took a four day retreat a couple of weeks ago (I’ll document that in another blog post) and as a part of that, planned a 48 hour fast. Why fast? A couple of reasons:

  • To help me focus. In many religions, including my own, fasting is  a way of prioritizing the task at hand, giving it the serious consideration it deserves.
  • For digestive reasons. I have some chronic digestive issues. I was hoping a 48 our fast would help me reset my digestion. I would then re-introduce foods slowly, hopefully identifying some of the sensitive foods.
  • Plain ‘ole discipline. I hear guys talk about 3 day, 4 day, 5 day fasts and wanted to see if I had the discipline to at least complete a 2 day fast.

Nope.

I did make it 40 hours, though, just 8 hours short of my target, and far longer than I’ve ever gone without food before.

Notes From My Fast Washout

I took notes during my fast: how I was feeling, if I was hungry, bowel habits, what I did consume, how I broke my fast. Here are a few things I tracked while fasting:

Day 1

  • Preparation – I prepared a couple of days in advance by trying to transition to primarily fat as an energy source. I cut my carbs back in favor of bulletproof coffee, avocados, fatty meats, and nuts. I also decreased fiber and decreased caffeine.
  • NOTE – after 3 days of prep, I found that I had lost about 5 pounds.
  • My last meal was 9 pm the night before. First day of the fast I started with a cup of water with a multivitamin, then one cup of coffee.
  • I can’t tell you how many bottles of water I drank, but next time I’ll just insert a catheter.
  • I lifted weights (chest / shoulder / triceps) for one hour. I backed off my normal weight a bit, but not much. Had plenty of energy for the workout.
  • Around noon my stomach was screaming, but an hour or so later I was fine.
  • I took a very long walk late in the afternoon.
  • The only time I really wanted food was when I cleaned out my backpack for my hike and found a dark chocolate bar in a pocket. Once I knew it was present, it was hard to get it out of my mind.

Day 2

  • I heard that Peter Attia sleeps amazingly well when he fasts. I did not. I had a horrible night’s sleep. Some of it was due to noise in the campground where I was staying, but mainly it was because I had to get up to pee so many times. Yep. Gonna get a catheter next time.
  • Absolutely starving in the morning.
  • Really tired (did I say that already?)
  • Started the day with green tea instead of coffee, then back to water, water and more water.
  • Very difficult to concentrate. Super foggy.
  • Tried my usual 20 minute HIIT workout. Had to settle for 10 minutes. Just didn’t have the stamina.
  • Again, lots of pee, but no bowl movement since the day before I started the fast (it would be more than 3 days before I had a BM again).
  • Broke my fast at 1 pm, 8 hours shy of my target.

My Break-Fast

I broke my fast with…beef brisket, which I know is weird for lots of reasons, but mainly because I live in Memphis and pork BBQ is king.

I ordered a pound of beef brisket with no sauce, and ate only a few strips. First of all, I wanted to introduce as little fiber into my belly as possible. I also wanted to keep running on fat as fuel, and brisket is a pretty fatty meat. I like lean meat, and would normally trim the fat, but not this time; I gobbled it all down. My second meal was at 6:30 pm and it was…beef brisket. Just a few more pieces. My breakfast on day 3? More brisket.

Finally had a BM at 10 am.

That night I had an amazing dinner with my wife of steak, lobster, asparagus and a zucchini/squash medley with a bloody Cabernet to drink.

Pros of Fasting

Reading through my notes, it all sounds negative. But there was at least one positive. Although I’ve blown it since, my digestive system really felt on point coming out of the fast. I generally have a lot of gas along with frequent BMs throughout the day. Though hungry, not having a rolling supply of gas in my belly and the irritation of my colon blowing up was a welcome change. The problem has been introducing too much, too soon. I’m currently trying to trim back some of the variety in my diet and simplify my choices, without a full-on fast. Another couple of days should get me where I want to be.

Next Time

I’m sure I’ll attempt this again. There are a couple of things I’ll do differently, however. First, I won’t pair an attempt at fasting with a reflective retreat. I had to give in to hunger because it was taking my focus away from the very serious work I had to do. Next time I’ll simply pick a couple of days – maybe Friday and Saturday – and dedicate them to not eating. But I definitely won’t pair them with another serious mental and emotional task.

Second, I’ll cut back on the friggin’ water. I really couldn’t stop peeing. I’m sure I was flushing plenty of electrolytes as well, which probably helped contribute to the fogginess.

Third, I’ll provide a better sleep environment. I was camping during the fast, in early Memphis summer. It’s hot, it’s noisy, and it’s full of bugs. Between the camping environment and the frequent urination, I couldn’t get any rest. Getting better sleep would probably help my mental function and energy level.

I’ll probably try another fast in the fall. Stay tuned for updates. In the mean time, have you tried an extended fast? If so, how long? Would you consider it a success? Why or why not? Chime in below, in the comments.

Workout Recovery

Workout

TLDR

Your workout routine should take into account recovery time. This is especially true as you age (since it takes more time to recover). Scroll to “Training for recovery” to see my current workout routine for maximizing recovery.

The Importance of Recovery

Some guys, myself included, go balls to the wall in their workouts. We go all out during the workout, and we try to cram in as many gains as possible during the week. When I was in college I was at the gym twice each day, six days a week (only because the gym was closed on Sunday). I made incredible gains during that time.

The problem with gains made through intense and frequent workouts, however,  is that rarely can they be sustained. As muscle or endurance builds up, so does fatigue. Eventually physical and psychological burnout and / or injury show up, and your gains are actually reversed. Like the engine in your car, you can only rev at top speed for a while before the engine blows and you’re forced to pull over to the side of the road while everyone else passes you by. Slow and steady wins the race. Adequate recovery lets you make small incremental gains over time without burnout or injury. I’ve experienced it firsthand.

Sports Hernia

Three years ago I decided I wanted a starting position on my rugby team. Being 48 at the time, playing with guys less than half my age,  this was a big goal. Throughout the summer off-season I trained as heavy as I could, as often as I could. On my off days I sprinted in the 100 degree Memphis heat. We began the fall season with fitness assessments and at the end of the beep test I was one of the last five guys (out of a field of about 25 guys). During the other fitness drills, I killed it. At the bar after practice the young guys were giving me high-fives for my performance.

Unknown to them, I had been experiencing a nagging pain in my crotch. During the fireman carry at practice that night, it had become almost unbearable but I pushed through anyway. Over the next couple of weeks, I started losing speed because the effort of pulling my knee to my pelvis was excruciatingly painful. The day of our first scrimmage I awoke in terrible pain. I finally got up, stretched a bit, took some ibuprofen, and headed to the field.  I actually got a starting position (first time ever) and…declined. I didn’t feel I would be effective on the field and thought someone should take my place. My coach pushed me to take the position anyway, and I ended up playing about 60 minutes of the match.

The next morning, I literally could not get out of bed; I had no strength in my abdomen to pick my legs up. The diagnosis was a sports hernia. In my case, it was due to overuse. After several weeks of dry needling, chiropractic work, a stretching regimen, I wasn’t getting better. All the while, I was still going to the gym, still attempting to jog, trying to keep from getting out of starting shape.

It took a full year of recovery to get me back on the field. No gym work for two months. No running for close to six months. When I finally made it back to the gym, I had to start from scratch; nothing but bar. Also nothing targeting the core until close to eight months, and even then it was touch and go because of pain. All the gains I had made in the 3 summer months of training had been wiped out – and more – because I had over trained.

Training for Recovery

There’s a lot more to recovery besides your workout routine; sleep and nutrition play a huge role. But here’s how I’ve arranged my weekly workouts so that I get as much training time in as possible, but also as much recovery time as well. Notice that I try to alternate activities each day, along with alternating body parts and goals (gym vs. aerobic vs. HIIT, legs vs. upper body vs. total body lifts vs. complimentary lifts, etc.):

  • Monday – Gym day with an emphasis on legs (mainly deadlift and squat) along with a small amount of chest work (to increase weekly volume).
  • Tuesday – Aerobic running. Easy jog of 30-40 minutes.
  • Wednesday – Gym day focusing on upper body (mainly chest/shoulders).
  • Thursday – 20 minute sprint session. Notice that I’ve had two full days of recovery since my heavy leg day on Monday.
  • Friday – Gym day focusing on back, with light legs as well (stiff-legged deadlifts or lunges).
  • Saturday – Game day (during season) or general “fun day” staying active.
  • Sunday – Rest. Full stop.

Notice that everything gets covered; lots of full-body lifts, aerobic work, also HIIT training. But everything gets adequately rested in between sessions.

Also, during gym sessions each set gets 2.5-3 minutes rest between sets. This is so that each muscle group gets adequate recovery to attack each set with maximum intensity. Most guys will rest a minute or so in between, but this causes you to lose form, increase your risk of injury, and keeps the muscle group from being able to express itself to its fullness.

Diet includes extra zinc and magnesium for recovery, along with extra protein intake, over and above what most non-athletic folks would generally take in. Then sleep. As much sleep as possible (for a glance at my nightly routine, check out this blog post)

Conclusion

Your workout needs will be different from mine. But let me encourage you to step back and examine your workout for built-in recovery. Think about how you feel from Monday to Friday. I’ve had routines where I’d start on Monday full of piss and vinegar, but by Friday dreaded going to the gym. That’s burnout. Or maybe you keep experiencing small injuries: a pulled groin, a painful shoulder, a tight calf-muscle. Often these are signs that your muscles are fatigued. Restructure your workouts so that recovery is built-in. It’ll help you make far more gains over the long-haul.

The New Midlife Crisis?

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.

But most of all, boys just want to have fun.

Winter Workout 2018

Barbell on floor

TLDR

Try this 8 week hypertrophy (muscle-building) workout. Download the Excel spreadsheet here: Winter 2018 Hypertrophy Workout

Hypertrophy Basics

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.

The Workout

My workout achieves four goals for me:

  1. It’s fairly balanced across muscle groups.
  2. 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.
  3. It includes aerobic as well as high intensity work.
  4. 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.

Ask Better Questions

Ask better questions

Things that make me want to scream:

  • Bending my fingernail backwards
  • 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?

Conclusion

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.

 

 

 

Supplements After 50: Zinc

Oysters are a great source of zinc

This article is part of a series called “Supplements After 50”. You can view other posts in the series here: creatine, fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium, leucine, and protein.

Why Zinc?

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

References

[1] https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-982/zinc
[2] “Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults.”, Nutrition, 1996, May 12, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519?dopt=Abstract&holding=npg
[3] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3901420/
[5] “Effects of a Novel Zinc-Magnesium Formulation on Hormones and Strength”, Journal of Exercise Physiology online, Volume 3 Number 4 October 2000, https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/BrillaV2.PDF

Supplements After 50: Creatine

Steak is a great source of creatine

This article is part of a series called “Supplements After 50”. You can view the first 5 posts here: fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium, leucine and protein.

What Is Creatine?

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.

Two articles that are great in explaining this more fully are this one from Pubmed and this one from Brickhouse Nutrition.

Sources of Creatine

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

My Experiment With Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil

Bulletproof Brain Octane OilThis 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Summer 2018 Current Workout

Summer Workout GraphicConsistency and Variation

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“.

Workout Breakdown

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.

Try It!

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).

Let me know what you think!

On The Wagon 2018

I’m going on the wagon.

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.

Stomach Discomfort

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.

Sleep

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”.[1] 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.

Attitude

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!

Testosterone

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.

Muscle Building

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[2] (at least in rats).

Money

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.

Conclusion

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.

[1] Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. “Reviewing alcohol’s effects on normal sleep.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 January 2013.; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130122162236.htm;
[2] “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