Supplementation, Take 2

Before I begin, the title above doesn't mean "Take 2 supplements" - I've just discussed supplementation already here. Nevertheless, I was asked to touch on it again.

The whole idea of supplementation is good and bad. Sometimes, you will need a little something extra to aid in recovery and increase performance. That's fine. What pisses me off about supplementation is people who ask about it when it's essentially pointless for them. Here's a quick questionnaire for you...

Are you sleeping at least 8-9 hours a night?

Is your nutrition dialed in? No grains, sugars, or processed foods?

Are you working out consistently and taking rest days when appropriate?

If you don't have these things worked out, then taking something like creatine is waste of your time and money. Look, there is no easy fix. If your squat is weak, you need to squat more. If you're not eating well and getting enough quality sleep, don't ask what kind of supplements you should be taking.

Unless your nutrition and sleep are dialed in, most supplementation is pointless.

Now, I put "most" in italics for a reason. There are some things you should be taking no matter what. I don't consider these "supplements" because they should become a normal part of your everday life.


1) Fish Oil: Everyone should be taking fish oil. Back in the good ol' hunter-gatherer days, the ratio of Omega 3's to Omega 6's was about 1:1. Now, we're floating around 1:20 or 1:30. This is not good. Fish oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties (alleviates muscle soreness), helps brain and liver function, and is not some bullshit supplement - it's highly endorsed across the whole spectrum of medicine, sports performance, and rehabilitation.

A. Keep in refrigerator or freezer. This will increase it's shelf life.
B. Eat immediately before or during a meal. Not after. It's okay if you do... you'll just get fish oil burps. They're not very appetizing.
C. Fish Oil Calculator. An excellent guide to find out how much fish oil you should be consuming daily. Dallas and Melissa from Whole9Life are top notch. When it's calculated, the number may seem absurdly high - trust me, it's accurate. And for the record, eating salmon once a week doesn't cut it.

A. Kirkland Brand Fish Oil from Costco is a very cost-effective choice (go figure). Decent quality at a great price.
B. Nature's Answer. For a high quality liquid form, you can't beat the price on this particular brand. I take it and I'm a fan.
C. Nordic Naturals. Allegedly, one of the highest concentrated brands out there, but very expensive.

2) Vitamin D3: Quickly becoming, quite possibly, the best supplement on the planet. A whole lot of studies have been done on this beautiful bitch and all the results/effects have been positive. Don't believe me? Here are three solid sources: EatMoveImprove, Charles Poliquin, and Huffington Post.

A. Personally, I take 5000 IU before going to bed every night (or morning because of my stupid schedule). I started, however, by taking roughly 10,000 IU per day for roughly 3 months. This was to "get my levels up" so to speak and I now take 5000/day for maintenance.

A. While it can be bought at almost any grocery store or pharmacy, I prefer Healthy Origins brand off iHerb. Great price, good quality, and high concentration.

3) Magnesium (and Zinc): Most, if not all, people are deficient in magnesium and zinc, two essential natural minerals. If you recall that Dan John article, he highly recommends magnesium. It aids a boatload of biological processes such as the synthesis of protein, nerve conduction, and muscle contraction. Most importantly, it will help you sleep better.

A. Take roughly 40 minutes to an hour before going to bed. This isn't required, but it's the best time frame for consumption.
B. You may experience some trippy dreams, but it's perfectly normal and sometimes very fun. I'm sure you all miss college anyways.

A. Natural Calm. Robb Wolf and many others have spoken very highly about this brand. I'm currently taking it and sleeping like a baby. Naturally, as you've all noticed, I'm not exactly "calm" but that's because I'm an asshole. Note: This supplement only contains magnesium so you may want to take zinc tablets along with it. They can be bought all over.

B. ZMA. The Twin Labs brand from iHerb is a good product for a good price, but there are other options out there as well. This contains both magnesium and zinc.


4) Protein: A diet loaded with steak, chicken, pork, bacon, and beef will certainly do wonders, but some of you will require a little extra (mainly former vegetarians and Too-Skinny Jimmies). Protein is vital, especially post-workout, to optimize recovery as well as repair/build muscle. This is basic, well-known shit so I'm not going any further into it than this.

A. The optimal window post-workout to take protein is anywhere with 45 minutes of completion. Ideally, within 15 minutes post-workout is preferred.
B. For some of you in need of gaining weight, protein shakes can be consumed 2-3 times throughout the day. If you're trying to gain weight 1g of protein for every pound of bodyweight helps.

A. The EAS brand from Costco is decent quality at a good price. Flavor ain't so bad either.
B. I use Optimum Nutrition brand off Vitacost. Excellent quality and a solid price. Damn tasty, too.
C. OPT also has a wide variety of great products in his online store. Ranging from protein powders to REFUEL, a pretty solid semi-individualized post-workout recovery shake.

Ivan Stoitsov probably took protein
...and whatever they give racehorses


5) Creatine: This is one of the few supplements out there that actually does what it says. It will help with weight and strength gains as well as recovery between workouts.

A. Drink lots of water with it.
B. Don't worry about "loading" it as the directions may say. It's not necessary.

A. From what I've heard, CreaPure is a good choice.
B. There's also "creatine ethyl ester" which apparently absorbs into the body more quickly, but it's much more expensive. Basic creatine should do you just fine. 70's Big discusses creatine and other supplements a bit more here.

6) Glucosamine & Chondroitin: Many people take this for joint health. Reviews are generally mixed. Some people respond well to it, others think it's crap. If you're experiencing joint pain (i.e. you're old like Nick), it might be a good avenue to try.

A. This one is self-explanatory. Just take it. Be warned: I've heard it can make you gassy.

A. Can be purchased in either liquid or pill form. And it can be found in any grocery store or pharmacy.

In closing, Information Is Beautiful provided an excellent interactive graphic regarding supplements, vitamins, and minerals here. So, to simplify all of this: improve your diet, get at least 8-9 hours of sleep a night, take fish oil, Vitamin D3, magnesium, and zinc. Add protein to optimize recovery and gain muscle. Take creatine once the rest is sorted out. Try glucosamine and chondroitin if you're experiencing joint pain. Most importantly, be consistent with your training and work hard.


Check Out That Rack!

Easy, perverts. I'm talking about front squats here. I doubt I'm going out on a limb when I say that a lot of you probably have a poor rack position. It's a very common problem for CrossFitters, especially those of us that come from the Globo Gym arena with limited flexibility from hours upon hours of bench pressing. But this isn't a problem without a solution, unlike the problem that is Lindsey Lohan, for which there is no solution whatsoever. If we work to improve our rack position, we will not only be able to front squat more comfortably, but we'll be able to lift more weight, clean more safely, and do thrusters far more efficiently. So let's get started...

This is my friend Jess and she is a yoga instructor. It's likely that not a whole lot of you can hold a PVC pipe with your arms completely parallel to the ground like this. You probably need 45lbs or more just to get that bar resting on your shoulders. Jess demonstrates incredible flexibility here. Below I'm going to describe some techniques and stretches you can do to improve your own rack position.

1) Foam Roll your thoracic spine, especially before sets of front squats, cleans, thrusters, push presses, jerks, and so on. For more, read this post from Kelly Starrett. To effectively foam roll your T-spine, you can use the basic method or you can perform thoracic extensions:

You know what would work best? Doing both!

2) Stretch your triceps, lats, and chest. Many people assume a poor rack position is an effect of poor wrist flexibility. While tight wrists play a role, there are other contributing factors to consider. Now, refer to this other post from Kelly Starrett. He's much smarter than me.

3) Stretch you hip flexors and hamstrings. All. Day. Long. The majority of us sit at desk jobs for 8+ hours a day. And it sucks. Our hips and hamstrings are constantly closed and dying to be stretched out and opened up. Stretching these muscles groups will improve all aspects of CrossFit, from force production to range of motion to good ol' flexibility. For effective ways to stretch all of the above-mentioned muscle groups, refer to stretches listed in this article by Mike Robertson.

4) Subscribe to the CrossFit Journal and watch/read anything and everything with Kelly Starrett. Like this third article I will link to. Can anyone guess if I'm a K-Starr fan?

5) The most important point that I hope everyone already knows is this: during a front squat, the bars rests on your shoulders - not in your hands! Please refer to the below picture...


Pushing Paleo

First off, congratulations to Simon and Katie for taking 1st and 2nd Place, respectively, in Kari's 30-Day Paleo Challenge. In light of this, I thought now would be a good time to share some excellent nutrition resources with everyone. So, in no particular order, here is a buttload of links to help improve how you look, feel, and perform:

Egg On Their Face by John Welbourn

Look Better Naked

Everyday Paleo

Change Your Life In 30 Days by Melissa Urban

Urban Gets Diesel

The Whole9Life Blog

Robb Wolf

Mark's Daily Apple Recipes

NorCal S&C Recipes

The Paleo Diet Recipes

My Paleo Kitchen

NorCal S&C - Sarah's Story

Jen's Gone Paleo


Quick & Random

There are a lot of topics coming up in the next few weeks, including but not limited to proper footwear, an absurdly long list of Paleo websites, the relationship between soreness and injury, insulin and its effect on the body, and much more. In the meantime, here are some quick things I wanted to share with everyone...

First off, Lauren Polivka, Balance Gym's physical therapist, will be offering FREE Functional Movement Screens to Balance members next Wednesday, August 18th, from 5PM to 8PM. What is this?

The Functional Movement Screen is a 7-step movement analysis which provides the participant with information concerning their imbalances. The results let the examiner know areas of flexibility and strength that need to be improved and the participant's risk for injury. It is used in areas of professional sports and physical therapy clinics around the world.

So why should you care? Over time, people tend to develop muscle imbalances, movement impingements, and a variety of other problems that are ultimately limiting their performance. These can come from inflexibility, prolonged periods of sitting at a desk, poor posture, and so on. Lauren's assessment will help illuminate where your problem areas are and what needs to be worked on.

The sign-up sheet can be found at the front desk of the main gym. Each assessment last 20 minutes and, again, is completely free. In all honesty, if you care about how you feel and perform, you'd be a moron to not sign up. Sign up now before I decide to take your spot. I did mention it's free, right?

Next, the 30-Day Paleo Challenge is wrapping up and everyone who participated should thank CrossFit trainer Kari Utz for organizing it. For anyone who didn't join in, ask those who did about their results. Why do we support the Paleo Diet so whole-heartedly? Because it works damn it. But for anyone who may be confused or unsure or not ready to commit to anything with a title, start with this incredibly simple prescription: Eat Real Food.

And finally, I'm not sure if this makes me evil or anything, but I've been laughing at this video for three days now:

Sure, this has nothing to do with fitness, but I'll bet you're laughing. I think it's his hilarious yell of impending doom that does it for me. It's pretty much how I would picture a six-year-old yelling, "Fuuuuuuuck!"


Proper Grip & Hand Treatment

Does that picture look familiar to any of you? If you participated in Tuesday's workout at CrossFit Balance, it certainly might. With CrossFit, the risk of hand rips is always present, but it's a reality we all accept.

Unfortunately, some people treat their destroyed hands as some kind of badge of honor, which is pretty much stupid. While some people think having ripped up hands is "hardcore" all it really does is delay your training and set back your progress. And while the risk of rips is always prevalent, we should take steps both to prevent them and speed their recovery. The root of the problem for most of you lies within three things: maintenance, grip, and recovery.

It's very likely that over time you may develop some significant calluses on your hands. First and foremost, this is a good thing. No offense, but none of you will be professional hand models in the near future like Ray McKigney (epic Seinfeld reference). The development of calluses shows you have tough, strong hands capable of actual work. Like this...

Bobby Goodfellow's got MITS.

Ladies, I know some of you would prefer dainty/feathery (Translation: weak) hands, but in the long run, properly maintained calluses won't even be noticeable. Besides, that's why Jon Voight invented cocoa butter. Or whoever invented cocoa butter.

The simplest way to maintain or control one's calluses is by utilizing a callus shaver, pumice stone, or razorblade. All are viable options, but the callus shaver is clearly the best bet. A pumice stone may not be rough enough and a razorblade could be downright dangerous, especially if Danielle accidentally spills piping hot coffee on you at 3PM yesterday. More info on shaving your calluses can be found in this article - I will be linking this article again so be sure to check it out.

On the grip side of things, the most common problem I see is over-gripping of the bar (or barbell). Essentially, people place the bar in the palm of their hands which leads to pulling - and eventually ripping - of the skin, especially if large calluses have developed. To better illustrate what I'm attempting to explain, here is Mark Rippetoe:

While this slight change will tax your finger/forearm strength a little more, it will decrease the chance of turning your hands into hamburger meat.

When a rip occurs, I generally offer the same prescription written in this article (told you it'd be back). It's simple and quite effective. Read it, learn it, live it, love it. I must say, however, that I do not agree with the article's promotion of hand guards. Really, unless you're doing this, I don't see the need.

In short, your hands play a vital role in the success of your training, so don't neglect them. Work on controlling your calluses, possibly altering your grip, and be diligent about nursing them back to health after "Murph" or other high-rep craziness. So until then, high fives all around!