|Posted by Strength & Speed on February 17, 2018 at 9:35 AM|
When my friends, peers and acquaintances see that I am sponsored by Hammer Nutrition I frequently get a flood of questions. Occasionally, they see my water bottle, shirt or sticker that lists Hammer as “Endurance Fuels” and they say something like “I only run 5ks though, these products cannot possibly help me.”
This line of thinking is both faulty and inaccurate. As I trained for my first attempt at qualifying for the Boston Marathon, I noticed something strange happening. Despite almost no speed training, I was getting faster by the week. In addition to getting a personal record (PR) my marathon by around 15 minutes, I also got a PR in my 5k and 10k within a month of my Boston Qualifying Race. This high volume approach to short distance success is nothing new, but runners who are trying to improve often miss this concept.
When explaining this to the average runner, I ask them “How far do you think a professional 5k or 10k runner runs in a week? Do you think it is 20 miles like most recreational 5k runners?” Looking at an elite 5k or 10k runner, their training plans will have volume a lot closer to an advanced marathon training plans available in running magazines or books. The reason is because high volume works at building aerobic strength and running economy. Both of these enable for short fast races. Adding in high volumes with some VO2max and lactate threshold work, has allowed me to PR for 5k almost every year.
Although I usually prepare for marathons in this way, I rarely use this approach for shorter races. This year, I decided to focus on Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). Most of the OCR races are short, around 5 miles, minus a couple of really long ones that occur later in the year that are ultra-distance in length.
After four months of high volume training that was fueled by supplements from Hammer Nutrition, I have started getting great results in OCR. Over the course of 2015I walked away with 10 podium finishes. My best results came in late July when I had four podium finishes in three weeks including a 2nd place overall at 24 hours of Shale Hell, an ultra-distance OCR in Vermont. This resulted in me being on the top 20 leaderboard in the world for OCR, reaching as high as the 9th spot. I show these results to athletes that race short distances to convey the message that just because you do not do long races, does not mean you should not do some long distance training to build your aerobic base. With high volume training, nutrition becomes very important and that is where Hammer comes into the equation.
Using Hammer Nutrition products I have found that they are the perfect counterpart to this type of training. Morning runs are fueled by a bottle of Heed to ensure I have energy throughout the entire workout and to prevent a loss of electrolytes. Post-run I refuel with Recoverite to ensure my muscles are full of glycogen for my evening training session run and protein to help rebuild. In the afternoon, I typically conduct strength training and follow that session up with some more Recoverite mixed with a scoop of Whey. Prior to bed, I take REM Caps and a scoop of Whey to maximize my deep sleep and boost growth hormone. The following day the cycle repeats itself, but I allow for 1-2 rest days per week.
For those that are reading this and think endurance supplements are not valuable to the short course racer, you are wrong. The products created by Hammer Nutrition are useful for any athlete that is serious in achieving results. Whether you run 5ks, lift weights, run ultras or are an OCR athlete, Hammer provides one of the key variables in the equation for success.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on December 16, 2017 at 5:05 PM|
Exercise induced muscle cramps are often multifactorial and one intervention may not always immediately solve the problem. Unfortunately, there is no strong research behind the definitive cause and most of the recommendations come from expert opinion and/or athlete anecdotes. The theories regarding cramping are related to poor hydration/electrolyte imbalances and nervous impulse “misfire” that prevents a muscle from relaxing. In the past athletes would use pickle juice or mustard to alleviate cramps and noticed improvements almost immediately. This was credited to the sodium content but newer research indicates that this would not be an adequate amount of time for sodium absorption. Exogenous electrolyte consumption can take upwards of one hour for absorption if provided under optimal conditions. New discoveries suggest that certain flavors (like those present in pickles and mustard) trigger a neurological impulse that negates the misfire which allows for the muscle to relax. When it comes to preventing and treating cramps, the best approach is to incorporate all interventions.
1.) Warm up effectively
2.) Pace yourself and do not push beyond thresholds experimented with during training for too long
3.) Stretch thoroughly and remain limber days prior to a race
4.) If you do cramp, stretch immediately and pursue myofascial release techniques
1.) Maintain hydration for days leading up to the event
a. Do not wait until the night before the race to achieve optimal hydration
b. If dehydrated 2-3 days prior to an event, do not chug down water in high volumes. Increase water consumption by 8-16 ounces three times per day (with or without meals). Tapering will also serve to prevent normal fluid losses from reduced volume of training.
c. Urine should be relatively clear with a very slight yellow coloration. Once this has been achieved prior to the race, hydrate to match losses and maintain hydration status.
2.) Hydrate before, during, and after racing
a. Before: 16 ounces 2 hours before and then 8 ounces <30 minutes before
b. During: Enough fluid to prevent >2% weight loss during exercise
c. After: 16-24 ounces for every pound lost during exercise
d. Volumes may be subject to change depending on race length, temperature/humidity, and altitude
3.) Marginally increase electrolyte consumption days leading into the race and have an electrolyte rich meal the morning before a race
a. Example: oatmeal with peanut butter, banana, and a pinch of salt
b. If this is not possible, consume a sports beverage one hour prior to start of competition
i. Gatorade (or other equivalent product), Hammer Endurolytes, or Nuun electrolyte tablet
4.) Consider carrying a single serve packet of mustard or dill relish on the course for emergency cramping. These condiment packs can be found at most restaurants and grocery stores.
Luc is a registered dietitian with his M.S. in Nutrition and certifications in personal training and wellness coaching. Luc hones his professional skills through counseling athletes/fitness enthusiasts and through his career as a clinical dietitian at East Carolina University. As a member of the Strength & Speed Development Team, his main hobby is competitive obstacle course racing with notable appearances at Obstacle Racing World Championships (2014-16) and a 50 mile completion at World’s Toughest Mudder 2013. Luc can be followed through his Facebook (www.facebook.com/lrlabonte) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/lrlabonte_ms_rd_ld/) accounts.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on November 24, 2017 at 9:45 AM|
1. Captain America
As if there was ever a doubt…Captain America, the superhero created using drugs. Captain America’s “super serum” is real, but modern day people call it steroids and human growth hormone. They literally inject him with this stuff and he goes from skinny to jacked. While actual performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) require more work, the concept is still the same. Even my favorite group of nerds over at Dorkly agree with me. Check out this video:
Batman’s juiced up, back breaking enemy is definitely on drugs. Instead of “super serum” he calls it “Venom”. I’m assuming that it is a mix of steroids, HGH plus probably a couple of other things. Maybe that singlet is hiding the gynocomastia around his nipples. I would say Bane is a pretty open and shut case too.
3. The Incredible Hulk
While not quite as bad as the top two injecting themselves to achieve their massive physiques, I am pretty sure gamma radiation would fall be banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) if it gave you super strength instead of just making you sick and giving you cancer. At 7 ft. tall and 1040 lbs. I do not think there is much grey area there (unless you are Grey Hulk….nerd pun!)
1000+ pounds with chest striations and veins?
Alright Bruce Wayne is not on the definite list, but I’m throwing him up there as very suspect. I mean the guy runs a billion dollar company, fights crime almost every night and still has time to train to be in top shape? Something has to give. He probably says they are “for recovery” like some of the baseball players were citing. Definitely suspect….luckily there are not drug tests to enter the Justice League.
Do I really care my super heroes are doped up? No not really, but I think it is good to look at things from more than one angle instead of just accepting things at face value. What do you think? Did I miss any known super hero or super villain egregious PED users? Comment below or on the Facebook post that led you here.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on July 31, 2017 at 3:05 PM|
Between running mileage, skill work, and dedicated strength training, diehard obstacle course racing (OCR) athletes have a lot on their plate (both training and dietary wise) for peak performance. Along with this, the sport is characterized by obtaining ideal body composition to improve strength-to-weight ratio. Inadequate intake of certain micronutrients secondary to caloric restriction for weight loss in combination with fluid/micronutrient losses (I’m talking about sweat… and a WHOLE lot it!) can become disastrous. I can already tell what you are thinking… “Oh, not another article on iron, sodium, potassium, B-vitamins, blah-blah-blah.” Although all of these nutrients are important, today the focus is on an often overlooked nutrient that can largely impact your health and exercise performance. Cue zinc.
Zinc deficiency, a condition that is not well known or addressed by the OCR community, is quite common in endurance athletes. Dietary practices adopted by endurance athletes may lead to suboptimal zinc intake in up to 90% of athletes. Although zinc deficiency is associated with poor immune function, metabolic function, macronutrient metabolism, and wound healing, there are several other sports specific implications. These include decreased peak work capacity, decreased oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide output, and decreased muscular strength and endurance. In fact, there is research that has indicated that suboptimal zinc status is associated with decreased training mileage for distance runners. In some circumstances a suboptimal zinc intake will be mistaken for an iron deficiency due to the temporary mild symptoms similar to zinc deficiency. After all, inadequacy of both minerals will result in decreased endurance performance for runners. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may not hurt to visit your physician to conduct lab work and then fortify your diet with this mighty mineral.
The recommended intake for most athletes lies between 11-15mg/day (dependent on sport, weight, gender). Optimal absorption can be obtained through avoiding coffee with zinc-rich meals. Zinc absorption may be increased when paired with green tea. Foods rich in zinc include but are not limited to: various beans, peas, eggs, legumes, meats, fish, poultry, nuts, shellfish, wheat germ, and whole grains. Zinc found in animal-based foods are generally more bioavailable and easier to absorb. It is not uncommon for vegetarians, females, or athletes undergoing caloric restriction to require a dietary supplement to meet their needs. If relying on a supplement, avoid consuming multiple mineral supplements in one meal (especially iron); these minerals will compete for absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. Often times a well-rounded diet and generic multivitamin supplement (when taken with a meal) will meet the needs of even the most competitive athletes. Standalone zinc supplements are generally not required and may result in toxicity (>40mg/day). Always make sure to check with your physician before starting any new supplement practices.
-Luc LaBonte, MS, RD, LD
Luc is a registered dietitian with his M.S. in Nutrition and certifications in personal training and wellness coaching. Luc hones his professional skills through counseling athletes/fitness enthusiasts and through his career as a clinical dietitian at East Carolina University. As a member of the Strength & Speed Development Team, his main hobby is competitive obstacle course racing with notable appearances at Obstacle Racing World Championships (2014-16) and a 50 mile completion at Worlds Toughest Mudder 2013. Luc can be followed through his facebook (www.facebook.com/lrlabonte) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/lrlabonte_ms_rd_ld/) accounts.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on June 5, 2017 at 10:15 PM|
As a lifetime drug free athlete I post about Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) a lot, probably more than I should. However, I try to provide Strength & Speed with new, interesting and fresh content. Many of my friends no longer subscribe to magazines like FLEX, Muscle & Fitness or do not pick up new ones like Bodybuilding.com’s Train because the content is just rehashed year after year. How long can you tell people to lift weights, follow rep schemes and eat high protein healthy food. There is only so much you can write about the topic without just reusing information.
None of the above magazines ever talk about PEDs. The only fitness magazine I have found that takes about PEDs is Muscular Development (MD). MD is generally “pro-steroid” but still gives out advice like consider risks and understand side effects prior to use. While steroid use seems very obvious to me when I look at bodybuilders or fitness models due to years of reading magazines, reading books and watching documentaries, it is not obvious to the average consumer. When I first started reading these magazines, I thought no one used steroids because drugs are illegal and bad, so why would anyone use them? However, after spending some time in the fitness industry you realize that major stars like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, The Rock, Mark Wahlberg and Van Dam have all used them at one point (they all admitted it or their usage signs were very obvious).
As a drug free bodybuilder (although I do not plan on competing for another couple of years), I struggle to find information that has not already been beaten to death. The social taboo of PED use leaves that topic relatively unexplored in many fitness magazines. While not an advocate of PEDs, I do think that not talking about them at all is worse for sports. To me, not discussing PEDs, is just ignoring the elephant in the room and sets false expectations for people.
Just as I have seen many people complain about the beauty magazines photo shopping their models and how people should be aware of this, I think the same should be true about bodybuilding magazines. Readers should know that being 240 lbs. at 5% is possible but only through the use of anabolic substances or even being a lighter weight than that and staying shredded all year. Anyway, I hope you enjoy some of these posts and learn something in the process and I try to space out the PED articles with some other relevant strength content that is not just rehashed Muscle & Fitness articles.
Arnold photo found via a Google Search
Big Ramy photo from FlexOnline
|Posted by Strength & Speed on January 3, 2017 at 9:55 AM|
While everyone talks about New Year’s resolutions in January, it is rare to meet someone still referencing them in June. I also do not recall ever meeting someone in December who is like “I did it, I accomplished my New Year’s Resolution.” Although I have not done any deep analysis, based off empirical data, I think most New Year’s resolutions fail (and so do most media websites who cite questionable data), and here is why I think that is….
I think the main problem with New Year’s resolutions is people try to make a change based off a calendar day. Why make the resolution on 1 January. Why not make it tomorrow or on 7 April? 1 January is really just an arbitrary date that is no different from any other day of the year. If something is important enough for you to make a change, then change. Waiting for a specific date will not suddenly magically give you more discipline or more will power.
Furthermore, most New Year’s resolutions involve drastic changes, which are often difficult to maintain and are usually unrealistic. So instead of saying “I am only going to drink alcohol once every two weeks” people say “I am done drinking alcohol period.” Try instead making a small change and also be sure it is specific. Instead of just saying I am going to eat healthy use a specific mark so you can tell if you achieved your goal or failed. For example, I am only going to order French fries with my meal once per week. This is specific and can be tracked. This is realistic if you are eating fries two or three times a week. If you are currently eating them seven times a week, you may want to set a smaller goal or one that gets more difficult with time. For example, January only eat fries six times a week, February & March five times a week and progressively lower.
This is easier said than done and it takes some discipline. How do people have the discipline to change, it is a simple matter of priorities. Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most. So if losing that weight by the end of the month is more important than eating that extra piece of cake, then you should be able to rationally weigh your options to make a decision.
One of my friends quit smoking a couple of years ago not by making a New Years resolution but because he got up one day and said “That’s it I’m done.” He threw away his cigarettes and changed immediately. If you are waiting for a day on the calendar to make a change, then you probably do not want it bad enough to actually change. So, instead of making a New Year’s resolution make a lifestyle change and start now, not tomorrow.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on October 22, 2016 at 5:30 PM|
Just “Spartan the F**k Up, you don’t need water or fuel.” In the weeks leading up to Obstacle Course Racing World Championship (OCRWC), this is one of the many responses I saw on threads when people asked about fuel for the 15k championship event. I’m not sure how many people followed this advice, but I know there was at least a couple. I also saw some athletes cramp up within sight of the finish and other reported a dramatic loss in energy halfway through the race.
Since OCRWC is fresh in everyone’s mind, let’s talk about OCRWC Nutrition, specifically for their 15k course. The winner, Jonathan Albon, finished in around 1.5 hrs…but he’s operating on a different level. The cutoff time was 5 hrs from your start time. Let’s assume the average time was close to halfway between those two extremes, around 3 hours 15 min. Which closely aligns to the median Age Group finishing time (around 3 hr 52 min). So should you go with no fuel for the 15km OCRWC?
Hell no! That is a long time without fuel. Unlike a regular running race, not only are you running but you are also climbing mountains, running at full speed and using your arms to traverse obstacles. Your energy expenditure for OCR is definitely going to be high, so what is a good fueling strategy?
Breakfast: First off, be sure you eat something the morning of the race. This is especially important if you are racing in one of the later waves, something that many of the OCRWC athletes are not used to. You do not want to start the race without eating something in the last 8+ hours (time between dinner through sleep and the start time). I eat normal or maybe a slightly lighter version of your breakfast is a good idea. For me, I personally go with something I can travel with like oatmeal or Greek Yogurt. Basically a mix of protein and carbs.
Pre-race: Just to make sure I have topped off my fuel tank (depending on when I woke up and when my start time is) I might have something light while I wait like a banana. Finally, with 15 minutes to go before start time I have Hammer Nutrition’s Endurolyte pills, Anti-Fatigue Caps and a Gel. This ensures my electrolytes and fuel are topped off. Sometimes instead I will sip on Heed (an electrolyte/carb drink) instead. Both of these techniques ensure I don’t start the race hungry or thirsty.
During Race: Now that the race has started, I will start consuming fuel around 40 minutes into the event. From that point forward I will keep eating fuel about every 20-30 min or at every water station. For OCR, I personally like to use the water stations for fuel points. It is a visual reminder to eat and ensures you have something to wash down the gel. Often when you start getting into a race, you will neglect nutrition. Before you realize it you have been racing for almost 2 hours with no fuel. This is a recipe for disaster. While you will still be able to finish the race without eating anything, if you are looking to maximize performance, you want to keep pouring fuel onto the fire. When your body realizes or thinks it is continuing to get fuel, it will keep that energy output high.
Post-Race: For many OCRWC is a multi-day event that involves near max efforts for multiple days in a row. This is not the ideal way to race, but is worth it to complete on OCRs best stage. If you are interested in my multi-day preparation and racing strategies, check out the article I wrote for Mud Run Guide last year:
If you are looking to pick up some of the fuel I talk about in this article, use ref # 240887 at HammerNutrition.com or use this link for 15% off your first order from Hammer Nutrition: http://www.hammernutrition.com/affiliates/?customerid=240887 ;
|Posted by Strength & Speed on August 1, 2016 at 8:45 AM|
“Live a little”, I despise the phrase. It is uttered by people with no ability to plan to put in hard work for a long term goal. It is thrown at me on a monthly basis, sometimes even more. “Here have some .” It varies each time I am offered an unhealthy drink/food, sometimes being as simple as a slice of pizza, other times some dessert, all the way to alcohol or cigars. Sometimes it is an invitation to stay out an extra couple of hours at a social event. After a polite decline to their offer, their inevitable response is “Come on live a little.”
But my response is the same, “I agree…you live a little.” Instead of wasting your time getting drunk every night and slamming down XL pies from Dominos, you live a little. Set a goal that takes more than 10 minutes to achieve and cannot just be purchased. Work hard for something that requires months or years of successive effort. After a half decade of drinking, partying and eating crappy foods what will they have to show for all their living? An extra 10 lbs? Health problems? A bunch of memories that are blurred by the haze of alcohol? Store purchased items that hold little or no intrinsic value?
What they fail to understand is that I am living a little, actually that is not right, I am living a lot. The only difference is the ability to delay gratification. By suffering during training I get my prize when I cross that finish line on race day. Sometimes the finish line comes in the form of a high placing but other times it is just performing at a level above what I thought was physically capable. Pleasurable experiences that require no work and can be repeated easily, will quickly lose their level of excitement. Compare that to something that you work hard for that takes months and is very difficult. The contrast and level of enjoyment with the end results can be extreme.
My living also comes in the form of my projects including Strength & Speed, my articles for Mud Run Guide and my book (soon to be books) on OCR. My living comes in the form of spending time with my family and going on family trips. My living comes in the form of being successful at my job. My living comes in the form of being able to balance all of those things and still be an athlete. So I say again, “You live a little.”
I understand why people do all those things (drink, smoke, party, eat unhealthy), they are just not for me at this point in my life. Just as I understand why they may not want to train for four months to set a new marathon PR or finish an ultra-Obstacle Course Race. However, every time I see them drinking I do not tell them to live a little and give them a speech on how they are wasting their life not enjoying things. Let’s try to show some respect in the other direction.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on June 2, 2016 at 8:35 AM|
Run a marathon. Lose weight. The first is a common bucket list item and the second is a common New Year resolution. Both items seem to line up well when planning out your goals for the season. Many people think if I train for and run a marathon, I am going to shed a ton of pounds and end up as a lean running machine. Fast forward four months and the same runners barely appear different even after months of high volume running. What gives? I thought I was burning more calories so I should be thinner now?
While you can lose significant weight by running, it is often not as much as most people imagine for a couple of reasons. The first is diet. Your body composition and diet have a lot more to do with your daily diet than most people think. It is easier to maintain a healthy diet combined with moderate exercise than to try and use extreme levels of exercise with a poor diet. Your body composition and weight is determined by your food choices more than most people think. For example, when I used to diet for bodybuilding shows, I worked out a lot less than I do for training for World’s Toughest Mudder or other ultra-races. If it was as simple as calories in/calories expended, I would be leaner when training for WTM. Not all calories are created equal and eating 300 calories of Skittles will have a different effect on your body than eating 300 calories of chicken breast.
The second reason is running makes you hungry. High running volumes cause a rise in hormones that make you want to eat more. This is why after a several hour run, you may not be able to resist ordering dessert or that Venti Frappuccino. Sure you just burned off a ton of calories but refer back to the first point that it is not as simple as calories in/calories expended. The rise in appetite may offset the extra calories you burned. Add in the rationalization that every runner does, “I just ran 10 miles, I deserve that extra piece of cake” and suddenly your body composition is no longer trending in the desired direction.
The final reason is that high volumes of running can also drop testosterone levels. Testosterone helps keep your body fat percentage at lower levels. If, like most runners during marathon training, you stop lifting weights you lose the associated spike in testosterone accompanied with strength training, and your testosterone levels are even lower than normal.
All of these aspects in conjunction with each other creates a compounding effect, which leads to a runner who is either has no weight loss or has a skinny/fat appearance (low body weight but high body fat percentage). To avoid this trap you should do the following:
1. Continue to eat healthy foods just at a higher volume during endurance training.
2. Rarely indulge in post-run cheat foods. Not every run warrants an ice cream Sunday as a reward. If you are going to indulge try to eat your cheat food immediately before, during or immediately after your run. Furthermore, try to limit post-run indulgence to a particularly long run as in 2+ hours.
3. Strength train twice a week to help spike testosterone levels.
4. Remember not all calories are created equal.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on May 25, 2016 at 8:50 AM|
Recently I started getting asked a lot of questions about SARMs (Selective Androgen Receptor Molecules) from athletes, coworkers and even family members in high school. I am not sure why there was a sudden surge in popularity since they have been around since the late 1990s (although I never paid much attention to them). I imagine as more anabolic substances become illegal, the supplement companies just move down the list of products for the next steroid like substance. Furthermore, I imagine SARMs will be the next illegal substance just like steroids and pro-hormones.
Let’s start off with this: SARMs are banned anabolic substance as listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). So if you are a competitive athlete and using SARMs, you are cheating. It is as simple as that, there is no gray area…you are cheating and you may remember my opinion on cheating (Let the Cheaters In…actually click on the link and read the article if you have not already).
Like most banned substances they are sold by companies without a history of reputable products and or services. Furthermore, since they are banned there is a history by various companies of adding in other addictive and/or anabolic agents into the mix. The importance of this is you do not know exactly what you are ingesting if you buy these products.
I am writing this post because last week I went into a new supplement store that opened in my area just to see what they were selling. The store clerk gave me a free consultation (and I was actually very impressed with his ability to push product on people), but part of my consultation he asked if I was interested in trying SARMs. I immediately said “No, because they are banned by my sport” and he responded with “Oh, they abide by WADA standards” then changed topics. Whether or not he would have mentioned this without me talking about it remains to be seen. This caused some concern because how many competitive athletes or recreational gym rats are taking a possibly dangerous anabolic substance without even knowing it? That is the reason I decided to write this post.
Do they work? Probably, I would not know because I have not taken them but WADA typically does not ban placebos. Do they work as advertised with anabolic gains with no side effects? Not according to clinical studies and animal studies. You will be hard pressed to find an anabolic/banned substance without some negative side effects. Am I cheating if I take them? Absolutely. Are they safe for human consumption? Unknown, since they have not officially been approved for human use and since we all know the Food and Drug Administration has little/no control over the supplement industry.
Bottom line is you need to know what you are ingesting and buying when you go into any supplement store. How can you avoid situations like this? You can use products from major companies and trusted brands that advertise as banned substance free. Furthermore, you can double check their label against the WADA banned substance list and use Aegis Shield (which is like $2 a year to double check your products). Finally, you should consult multiple people including a personal trainer, dietitian and a trusted friend knowledgeable of this type of stuff instead of just listening to one person whose job it is to sell you supplements.