Whey is the Way to Go

29 Mar

When it comes to protein, athletes have lots of different options.  There’s protein from whole foods, like milk protein, egg protein, meat protein, and plant protein.  As a supplement, whey protein, casein protein, and soy protein are among the alternatives.

Additionally, research shows that different types of protein work better at different times of day (and night).

In the morning, whey protein from whole foods (milk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.) or a whey protein powder shake can help control cravings all day, according to scientists at the Journal of Nutrition.

Whey is also a good choice for your pre- and post-workout protein because it is quickly and easily digestible.

Another option for your post-workout protein is casein.  Casein is the main protein found in milk and cheese.  Of the true proteins found in milk, about 80% is casein.  The other major protein in milk is whey.  Compared to whey, casein burns more slowly and provides a consistent flow of protein, over time (sort of like a “long-acting” protein).

There are several protein powder supplements that contain both whey and casein proteins (I know of at least one that also contains egg protein).

Studies also show that casein protein, when taken before bed, can increase muscle growth by about 20%.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Improve Muscle Endurance with Battling Ropes

27 Mar

Want to try a new exercise, develop full-body strength and conditioning, and boost your muscle endurance?  Try the battling ropes.

The goal of this exercise is to generate velocity and, ultimately, power throughout the entire duration of the exercise.  Battling ropes workouts can improve lactic acid tolerance, which allows you to work harder and longer, over time.

To perform the battling ropes exercise, maintain an athletic stance, grab the end of a rope in each hand, and swing your arms, vertically and simultaneously (you can also alternate — as pictured — or swing laterally). Swing hard and swing fast.  Start with 3 sets of 10 seconds each, with 30 second rest intervals between sets, and work up to 30 second sets with 60 second rest intervals.

Check out this article and video from STACK Media.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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The Importance of Core Stability in Athletes

24 Mar

If you read my blog regularly (and thank you if you do!), you know I’m a proponent of the development of – and importance of – core strength and stability.  Whether you’re an athlete or not, a strong, stable core facilitates everything you do, and every movement you make.

Over the years, I’ve published articles promoting the benefits or core training, including the rationale for core training; core strengthening exercises and workouts; and the implications of core strength, as it relates to virtually every sport movement – running, jumping, throwing, kicking, etc.  (to access more of my Core Strength & Stability articles, simply type the word “core” in the search box at the top of this blog page)

Here’s a nice resource from our friends at Bridge Athletic – authored by Megan Fischer-Colbrie – titled, The Importance of Core Stability in Athletes.  In her article, Megan discusses advantages of core stability for athletes; the role of core training in injury prevention and rehabilitation; and the advantage of building a strong foundation that starts with the core.  She also provides some useful core strengthening and stabilizing exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Spread Out Your Protein

22 Mar

If you want to build muscle, you need to get more protein.  Active individuals should aim for 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  Athletes may need even more.

So, how should you distribute your daily protein intake?

Scientists at Skidmore College (NY) found that individuals who divide their daily protein among six smaller meals, instead of three larger ones, build muscle faster.

Start your day with protein, and try to get more than half of your recommended intake by lunch.  Eggs for breakfast are a quick and easy way to get your morning protein.  Add a mid-morning protein shake, and grilled chicken (or other lean meat) and Greek yogurt for lunch.  Peanut butter is another good way to get your protein with any meal or snack, any time of day.

I like preparing a protein shake — 10-12 oz. of chocolate milk and a scoop of chocolate whey protein powder — and sipping it, throughout the day.  It’s an easy way to add 30-40 grams of protein to my daily intake.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Increase Your Vitamin D Intake

20 Mar

A lack of vitamin D can have an adverse effect on your athletic performance, according to the journal, Nutrients.  Additional research corroborates these findings, showing that there is  a positive correlation between vitamin D levels and muscle strength.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), at least 77% of Americans are vitamin D deficient.  This is especially true in the northern states, where exposure to sunshine can be scarce during the winter season (the sun plays a vital role in your body’s natural vitamin D production).

You can boost your vitamin D by increasing your consumption of whole foods like fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, and tuna), milk (and other fortified dairy products), eggs, and oatmeal (and other fortified cereals).

You can also improve your vitamin D level by adding a supplement to your daily diet.  Aim for at least 600 IU per day.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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4 Biggest Strength Training Mistakes

17 Mar

Here’s a nice resource from our friends at ASD Performance titled, 4 Biggest Strength Training Mistakes.  It’s a good overview for athletes, active individuals, and Strength & Conditioning professionals.

Mistake 1: Focusing too heavily on assistance exercises

Focus on the the core (main) lifts – the ones that activate your largest muscle groups – like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses (there are lots of others).  These exercises are functional (they will improve the way you feel, function, and perform) and yield a high return on your exercise “investment.”  Think of assistance exercises – like biceps curls – as supplemental exercises.  It’s okay to incorporate them into your workout as long as they’re not the primary focus.

Mistake 2: Not addressing weak points

Everyone has strengths and areas for improvement.  It’s easy to avoid exercises you don’t like or exercises that focus on your weak areas.  Not addressing your weak points can lead to functional strength imbalances and an increased risk of injury.  Recognize your weak(er) areas and incorporate exercises that will help turn them into strengths or, at the very least, decrease the disparity between your strengths and weaknesses.

Mistake 3: Skipping the deload phase

Like our friends at ASD Performance, we also refer to deloading/unloading as “active recovery.”  There are lots of different – evidence-based and effective – theories and strategies for the active recovery phase.  The basic concept is this: You shouldn’t train with heavy weight, high intensity, high frequency, and high volume, all the time.  Your recovery phase is crucial to maximize short- and long-term gains, as well as overall physical well-being.  Every so often – and at regular intervals – you should decrease your training intensity, frequency, and volume for some finite period of time (e.g., the last week of each three-month cycle).

Mistake 4: Light weight with too many reps

This strategy may work well for your short-term, active recovery phase but, if you want to get stronger and more powerful, you’ve got to train heavy with low repetitions.  This means working with loads of about 80%-90% of your one-rep max (1 RM) at a rep range of about 3-6 reps per set, while maintaining proper technique.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Eat Greens for More Energy

15 Mar

Eating more green vegetables can help athletes improve endurance, energy level, and delay fatigue during exercise and athletic activity.

Low energy, muscle weakness, and fatigue have long been associated with iron deficiency anemia. However, a study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that these symptoms may start well before low iron leads to anemia.

Low iron can result in a lack of energy, so athletes should eat plenty of foods that provide a healthy dose of this essential nutrient to ensure that energy levels remain high. Broccoli, spinachkale, and other dark, leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of iron. Additionally, because these foods all contain vitamin C, they provide a healthy dose of antioxidants that will help you to stay strong and healthy which can also have a positive effect on your energy levels. It’s easy to fit these foods into your meals by adding them to pastas, salads, soups, and casseroles.

Try adding a handful of spinach into a blender with your usual protein shake ingredients.  You won’t even taste it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Get More Protein In Your Diet

13 Mar

Our society is “over-carbohydrated” and “under-proteined.”

Not only do most people not get enough protein in their diets, but their distribution of protein consumption throughout the day is not balanced – relatively little protein with breakfast and lunch, and lots of protein with dinner.

In a University of Texas study, researchers found that muscle protein synthesis—the driving force behind your muscle growth—was 25 percent greater when people ate protein throughout the day (30 grams of protein per meal) compared to those who ate a bulk of their protein at dinner (10 grams for breakfast, 15 grams for lunch, and 65 grams for dinner).

Research indicates that active individuals and athletes should consume at least 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, every day (that’s 90-120 grams of protein a day for a 150-pound person).

For some people, the thought of consuming that much protein in a day can seem overwhelming, but balancing your protein intake throughout the day – along with a little strategic planning and preparation – can simplify the process.

Here’s an article from Men’s Health titled, 13 Easy Ways to Get More Protein In Your Diet.  The article lists several fast and convenient ways to boost your protein intake.

Here’s another resource – a previous blog post – with a simple but effective strategy for increasing your daily protein consumption: Increase Protein Consumption With This Simple Strategy.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Prepare Like You Intend to Perform

10 Mar

A few days ago, I published a blog post titled, You’ve Got to Practice at Game Speed.  Today, I’d like to address practice and preparation from a different angle — specifically, the athlete’s focus and intensity level.

I must admit, once again, my thoughts and observations are based on having watched my daughter’s — and our high school girls varsity basketball team’s — scrimmages.  And my comments don’t just apply to our team.  To some extent, I saw this in each and every one of the five teams that participated in the scrimmage.

Some of the pre-game warm-up activity was just awful.  I’m not referring to the drills, themselves, but rather the effort with which the drills were performed.  Many of the players’ focus and intensity level was variable, at best.  Some of them didn’t even look like they took it seriously — half-hearted passing, shooting, and overall execution.  Moving through the drills at half-speed.  Laughing, joking, and fooling around.  Do you really believe there’s no carry-over into the game?  I’m not suggesting that the student-athlete experience shouldn’t be enjoyable.  But once you lace them up and step on the court, it’s time to focus your attention and effort on the task at hand.

Representing your high school on the basketball court is a privilege… not an entitlement!  Same goes for any other sport at any other level.  Show that you respect the game, your teammates, your coaches — and yourself — by taking your decision and commitment to play a little more seriously.

The same principle applies to school, work… and life.  How do you study for your upcoming exam?  How do you prepare for your business presentation?  Are you setting yourself up for success, or sabotaging your own efforts?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Embrace the Journey

8 Mar

e00010819“The journey is the reward.” – Steve Jobs

We all have goals.  Long-term goals, short-term goals – things we aspire to accomplish or achieve.

Some of the things to which we look forward are “milestones” – like turning 21 – and don’t require much preparation.  It’s just a matter of time.

Most of our goals, though, require some planning, preparation, and effort.  There’s a process – a journey – involved in the eventual achievement of these goals.

And, although achievement may be the pinnacle of the process, the journey is the enriching, character-building part.

In sports, it’s not winning a championship that makes you better; it’s all the time you devoted to daily practice and preparation as a player and teammate.

In school, it’s not the high grade on your test or report card that makes you better; it’s all the time you spent doing homework and studying – learning – along the way.

At work, it’s not the promotion – or the raise – that makes you better; it’s all the work you put into your job – your daily commitment to excellence as an employee, entrepreneur, supervisor, or co-worker.

If life, it’s not where you get that makes you better; it’s what you did to arrive at that point.

Accomplishment is great, but the self-improvement that occurs along the way is the real prize.

Embrace the journey.  Enjoy the ride.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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