|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.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 15, 2016 at 8:35 AM|
Let me preface this article with the statement that I am not an alcoholic nor have I ever been an alcoholic. I, like most college students, drank in college on the weekends and the occasional week night. After college, this behavior continued but a lower frequency and pace. However, unlike most adults I like to take things to the extreme. This article is not about excessive drinking but actually about the opposite. As a competitive athlete, I do not drink….ever. After reducing the number of times I drink due to races, I eventually stopped altogether.
In case you are not tracking drinking alcohol disrupts your ability to recover from exercise and can play havoc on your hormones resulting in a significant drop in testosterone. The excessive calories and carbohydrates will also cause weight gain in the form of fat. While alcohol helps most people fall asleep, it actually disrupts your sleep pattern resulting in less restful sleep, which in turn reduces your ability to improve from training. However, you probably know all of that, what I learned from not drinking as an adult is the following…
1. I get peer pressured to drink as an adult more than I ever did growing up. When I was in high school or college, the crowd I spent time with was typically very respectful of those not drinking. “Oh you don’t drink? Can I get you something else?” However, as an adult it has suddenly became socially acceptable and encouraged to try and peer pressure others. Now it is, “Just have one drink. Come on! Live a little” is what I am typically told anytime I go out with coworkers or acquaintances. I am not sure when the switch happened but I apparently missed it. Maybe we need more GIJOE PSAs targeting adults.
2. By not drinking I make other people uncomfortable. While you would think choosing water over beer is as simple as choosing Pepsi over 7up, it is apparently not viewed that way. By not drinking, it makes others feel like they are doing something wrong or that I am somehow better than them. I am not sure why, but this is what I have gathered over the last two years.
3. If you drink frequently, a reduction will have immediate and dramatic effects in the form of weight loss, body composition and ability to recover from exercise. Not mind blowing fact here, but until you abstain from alcohol for a while then have a “party” night, you realize how terrible you feel. What I thought was normal when drinking on a somewhat regular is actually a degraded state of functioning. Basically what I am saying is my baseline for what “normal” is now is a higher state of functioning. If your volume and frequency of drinking is already low, you may not notice a significant change. I choose to go to the extreme and not drink at all because when I line up at the starting line I want to know that I did everything in my power to win. While I know I frequently lose to people who do occasionally drink, I want to perform at my 100% even if that is below someone else’s 90%.
Now when I go out to social events I have to answer the reoccurring question of why I do not drink. The answer is a simple cost/benefit analysis. “I enjoy drinking, but I enjoy winning more.”
|Posted by Strength & Speed on February 15, 2016 at 9:25 AM|
The last week of January 2016 an interview I did for the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) focused podcast “Overcome and Run” posted online. The podcast currently has a fairly small reach, but that is because they are brand new. Jay Bode, the host of the show does a good job of asking questions that a new OCR athlete or an experienced OCR athlete would be interested in knowing.
I was honored to be asked to do the 2nd podcast of his show. The first one was an interview with 2015 World’s Toughest Mudder champion Chad Trammel. I thought this was awesome to be asked to do an interview right after the reigning WTM world champion.
I listed to the interview one of my recent run and thought it came out really good. While I regularly listen to audiobooks while running, it was a little weird listening to myself while running. With spoken interviews sometimes all of your points do not come across exactly the way you want. While I was happy with about 99% of the information I put out I wanted to make three clarifications.
First, my sudden appearance and success in the OCR world makes it seem like I was a naturally gifted athlete. This is definitely far from the truth and although I touched upon it briefly in the podcast I wanted to drive home the point. There was a decade of racing, training plans and hard work before my first OCR race. If I would have done OCR my senior year of college, when I did my first marathon, I would have been crushed by the competition. The interview very quickly glosses over that decade which includes around 17 marathons, two iron distance triathlons, hours upon hours spent in the gym, miles upon miles spent running on roads and countless training sessions.
Furthermore, my progress in fitness was not part of some dramatic weight loss. In fact, I’m actually 5-10 lbs. heavier now than I was when I ran my first marathon but my PR is over an hour and a half faster. However, my body fat percentage is dramatically lower and my physique looks dramatically different as a result of so much extensive running and weight training.
Second, I am not sure why I mentioned only females when talked about beating people at World’s Toughest Mudder instead of the male athletes. The males I finished ahead of at that event looks like a “Who’s Who of OCR”. They are world champions, podium finishers at major events and better athletes than me. However, persistence on the course of WTM reigns supreme.
Third and finally, when asked about my training percentage of strength to cardio I answered 40% strength 60% cardio. While this is true for number of training sessions, I typically do 4-5 strength training sessions a week and 5-6 runs a week, it is not accurate when you compare time spent doing each. If you compare time it is more like 30% strength training and 70% cardio. Strength training even dips to a lower percentage when I am approaching my peak weekly mileage for a training session. The major takeaway is that since OCR is a running sport, you should spend most of your time running.
If you have not listened to the podcast already, makes sure you check it out via the link. I would also go ahead and subscribe to “Overcome and Run” now to avoid having to search for and then find future downloads. I also highly recommend the nutrition episode with Brian St. Pierre.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on July 13, 2015 at 11:00 AM|
Every month the media is flooded by new diets that claim extreme weight loss in a short period of time. In case it is not already obvious, it takes time to lose weight safely without compromising muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is what gives people that fit or healthy look. So even those who do not care about their ability to exercise well, still want to preserve muscle tissue whether they realize it or not.
So if you are trying to cut weight for sports performance or just to look better, which of these diets should you follow? The grapefruit diet, the chocolate diet, the lemon juice and cayenne pepper cleanse or maybe the blood type diet? The real question is, why don’t you just look at the professionals and see what they do? When I say professionals, I am not referring to celebrities or famous personal trainers. The celebrities typically have no idea what they are talking about and the famous personal trainers are often trying to sell a propriety product. Both will lead to mediocre results.
The professionals are the physique, bodybuilding and figure athletes. These people are essentially professional dieters. If you are looking to lose weight these are the diets you should be following. Why don’t more people follow their diets? It is because it takes effort and involves eating the same foods around six times a day.
Physique competitors figured out dieting decades ago and little has changed. If you look at all of them they all generally do the same thing. Here is a brief rundown of what the average physique competitor’s diet looks like:
Meal1:Egg whites, Ezekiel bread or oatmeal, almond butter
Meal2: Chicken or White fish, broccoli or other greens, sweet potato, handful of nuts
Meal3: Chicken or White fish, broccoli or other greens, sweet potato, handful of nuts
Meal4: Chicken or White fish, broccoli or other greens, sweet potato, handful of nuts
Meal5:Low saturated fat meat, Salmon or very lean Steak, green vegetables
Meal6: Handful of almonds, Casein protein shake
This may not be every competitor’s exact diet, but it will often look very similar. Spices, rubs and flavoring methods can be added to the food as long as they do not add sugar to the meals. Go ahead and research bodybuilding or physique diets on your own to see what the famous athletes eat. The bottom line is that if you want to lose weight, follow the professionals. If you wanted to be a great marathon runner you would follow the training plan of a marathon runner not a powerlifter. So if you are trying to lose weight, why follow anything but a physique competitor’s diet?
|Posted by Strength & Speed on June 9, 2015 at 9:30 AM|
Occasionally, I am asked about cleanse diets. You may have seen them advertised from a friend’s referral, on television or via Facebook. I will break down what happens during a cleanse and the three things cleanses are great for. Here is what occurs when you follow one of these cleanses.
1. Day 1 you immediate “lose weight”: Now that you have started drinking some ridiculous concoction and stop eating actual food your body starts “shedding weight”. Except the weight you are losing is not fat. The first weight you will lose is your large intestine emptying. Your body continues to process food as normal except there is no more food coming in, hence the emptying of the large intestine. Essentially, the first 2-3 pounds is just poop leaving your body. You are not magically cleaning your colon because this excrement would leave your body the next day anyway. If you are following a cleanse which still allows for the eating of normal amounts of food, then you are probably just taking a mild form of laxative. Feel free to just buy some Exlax instead, because it is probably cheaper.
2. Day 2 the weight loss continues: Since you are no longer eating, your body burns off the glycogen being stored in your muscles. Glycogen, which is essentially stored carbohydrates, is used for fuel. Your body burns through its glycogen stores, which also contains water. You step on the scale and see a lower number. Again, no real weight loss here, it just water weight and stored carbohydrates.
3. Day 3+ weight loss slows but continues: Now that your body has no more fuel to burn it starts pulling from your body. Your body starts burning muscle and fat in an attempt to survive. The burning of muscle makes you weaker and lowers your resting metabolic rate. The fat loss starts, which is good, but at the price of muscle it is not worth it. This process continues until you come off your cleanse.
4. Day 1 post-cleanse: You start eating like a normal human again. The “weight loss” from steps 1 and 2 immediately return. Your large intestine fills with excrement, because that is its job. Your muscles refill with glycogen and water.
5. Day 2 post-cleanse: For several days, weeks or months you were surviving off very few calories. Depends how long you felt like torturing yourself for no reason, will determine the detrimental effect of this part. Since your body thought it was starving, it lowered its metabolic rate. In an attempt to survive, your body has gone into starvation mode requiring the minimal amount of calories to keep you alive. Now that you are eating a normal diet again, your body decides to store fuel in case you decide to starve yourself again. This means your body stores fat instead of maintaining the weight loss you just achieved.
6. Day 3+ post-cleanse: Step 5 continues but add in the problem of the muscle you burned during step 3. Less muscle means lower metabolic rate or required number of calories. You continue to put on fat because of your lower caloric requirement. Add in an overly restrictive diet for time and people often allow themselves to splurge for a couple of days or more, thus compounding the effect.
Overall result a couple weeks after finishing your cleanse is a fat gain and a loss of muscle. If you cleansed to “clean your large intestine”, you also failed because now it is full of crap again. Sounds like a bargain….where do I sign up? After further thought, maybe cleanses are good for three things.
1. Cleansing fitness gains
2. Long term addition of fat
3. Cleansing your wallet of cash
|Posted by Strength & Speed on June 1, 2015 at 3:05 PM|
Every time I look online, there is a new 30 day challenge or a company is marketing a 24 day diet challenge. If you are looking for 30 days worth of results…then these challenges are great for you. I, however, have a different challenge; it’s called the 40 year challenge. It involves doing everything in moderation over 40 years. If you are looking for these 30 or 90 day challenges to fix your fitness or weight problem, then you will find failure at the end of every one of these. By viewing fitness and diet as a temporary solution to a problem, you are setting yourself up for failure. Fitness and diet alteration is a lifestyle change not a temporary fix.
If the weight you gained took 10 years to add to your body, why do you expect to lose it in 30 days? It is ridiculous. The results most people are looking for involve a lifestyle change. This happens over years not days. When I first started cutting for bodybuilding, I hated not eating French fries when I was out to dinner. It took me about two years where I no longer even consider fries as an option. The change was a lifestyle change though, not a 30 day fix.
If you are looking to make a change, start slow. Add in a little extra exercise a week, sign up for a race so you have a long term goal and make incremental diet changes. This is the 40 year challenge:
1) Exercise on more days than you rest.
2) Eat mostly healthy food.
3) Have junk food in moderation and infrequently.
4) Maintain steps 1-3 for 40 years.
Most people consider my diet and exercise habits as extreme. Fair enough because to most people they are. Even when people want similar goals I typically do not recommend my exercise regime because it is fairly time intensive. In fact it is more than that, it is a lifestyle change. However, the 40 year challenge is not as extreme as my eating or exercise habits. It is a challenge that is doable but requires an outlook that lasts longer than the next 30 days or 3 months. So put down your 30 day cleanse and pick up a lifestyle change like the 40 year challenge for long term results.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 10, 2015 at 5:50 AM|
The supplement and nutrition industry is famous for making some bold claims about their products. This applies to not only how effective they are but also how good they are for you. I am a big fan of supplements and take them frequently as I have posted about before. Often they make bold claims, but as experienced consumers, most of us know these are large exaggerations or based on questionable science. However, there are a couple products, in my mind that stand above the rest as complete shams.
The first is the protein bar. Many companies sell protein bars that offer high protein but at what cost? Protein bars always contain a ton of saturated fat, sugar and/or sugar substitutes. I have seen protein bars that have the same saturated fat levels as a Big Mac. Other ones add a ton of sugar in order to make it edible. The ones with sugar substitutes are often worse because they contain a bunch of chemicals to make the substance palatable. Unless you are looking to put on weight and you do not care if it is fat or muscle, I would stay away from these protein bars. Next time you are in the store, examine some of these bars and try to find one that it not bad for you. It is almost impossible. The only bars I have ever seen that was a good substitute are Warrior Bars, which contained nuts, oatmeal and whey but needed to be refrigerated. Warrior Bars are available in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods. Do yourself a favor next time and just eat real food.
The second is anything having to do with cleanse or detox. The entire concept of cleansing or detoxing your system by adding in a drink to your regular diet or by altering your diet to only one type of food is completely flawed. Your stomach and intestines are supposed to have food for fuel and bacteria in them to help with digestion. When these cleanses claim weight loss it is even worse. Yes, you will lose weight probably about 5 lbs. in a couple of days, but it comes from your large intestine emptying, glycogen along with water leaving your muscles and your stomach emptying. The second you start eating again, that weight immediately comes back. If you are on a cleanse long enough to lose actual weight, then you are burning fat and muscle. Burning muscle means that your body will require less energy to maintain its current state. Muscle is also what gives people “that “fit look”. Finally, your body will get used to a super low calorie diet and thus slowing your metabolism. Once you start eating again it will try to prevent such problems in the future by storing more fat. Giving up a major macronutrient (fat, protein, carbohydrates) completely from your diet is never a good idea. Your body needs fat for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, protein for muscle and carbohydrates quick access to energy.
Finally, there is the weight loss smoothing sold at smoothie shops nationwide. The so called "fat burner" smoothie is a fruit smoothie with some caffeine, green tea extract or some other mysterious weight loss substance. While both caffeine and green tea extract have decent research backing them as fat burning supplements, sugar is not a fat burner and is the primary ingredient in these smoothies. Smoothies often contain the sugar of many fruits along with added sugar for taste. Unlike eating whole fruits, they typically do not have the fiber content of real food. The fiber in real fruit is what slows their digestion for use as fuel instead of being stored as fat. Still, many bodybuilders/figure competitors do not risk it and often cut fruit out of their contest diets. Since these physique competitors are essentially professional dieters, then tips for weight loss with muscle retention should be pulled directly from their world. The bottom line is if you think you are helping lose weight by taking some caffeine, some green tea extract and about 70g of simple sugars, the sugar is doing the opposite if what you are looking for. If you are looking to pack on muscle post workout then definitely enjoy those simple sugars though. Just understand what sugar does to your body and utilize its timing effectively.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on February 24, 2015 at 5:40 AM|
Occasionally I switch goals for the year and I have leftover with supplements I no longer need. Other times I receive free samples of products I do not typically use. Either way, here five supplement hacks for the Strength & Speed athlete.
Fat burners as pre-workout
Most fat burners are essentially the same thing as pre-workout drinks. They typically have caffeine and a couple of other stimulants inside. When I receive free samples of fat burners, which I only use in the final month before I bodybuilding show, I save them for use as a pre-workout supplement. To prevent the time release that is common among fat burners, I open the capsules and drop the powder inside into a cup of water. Next, I add a scoop of branched chain amino acid drink mix. This masks the taste of the fat burner, which is typically gross and unpalatable. Just like with all supplements, be sure to check the ingredients before blindly ingesting pills and powders. Especially important is knowing the dose inside each of these pills. A single pill may be the equivalent of two scoops of pre-workout depending on the brand.
Amino acids as a middle of the night snack
To maximize gains from lifting or recovery from endurance training, it is important to fuel your body with the required amino acids and protein. I typically keep a container of amino acid pills or chewable tablets in my bathroom. In the middle of the night, when I get up to pee, which should be a common occurrence if you are hydrated, I ingest some amino acids. This ensures my body has not entered a catabolic state and is using my muscles for fuel while I sleep. It also helps me recover quicker from workouts, especially when the amino supplement ingested is high in L-Glutamine. Chewable pills work okay but the chewing sometimes makes it harder to fall back asleep. The pills are typically easier to ingest. Check out Hammer Nutrition’s Endurance Aminos and this 15% off link. Despite the name, one look at the ingredients and you will realize they are a great supplement for any athlete, whether your focus is strength, speed or both.
Caffeinated gels as a pre-workout snack
If you have ever switched from an endurance focus to a strength training focus, you may be left with gels that are no longer of use. Some of these gels may be getting close to their expiration date. To put these to good use, I recommend them as a pre-workout or mid-workout boost while lifting weights. The ones that contain caffeine can give you that little extra boost before hitting the weights or that required energy surge mid-workout. I personally like Hammer Nutrition’s Espresso because of the flavor and caffeine content. If you are in a weight loss or cutting phase, this is not recommended due to their carbohydrate content. However, if you are in a strength gain phase or performance phase, this little trick can help you power through your workouts.
Gels as a post workout insulin boost
Having a spike in your blood sugar post workout is arguably as important as providing protein to help rebuild muscles. However, many protein supplements advertise their low carbohydrate count as a positive. If you are drinking these supplements post workout, low carbohydrates is the opposite of what you want. The carbs and insulin spike will help build muscle and allow for faster recovery. When I have gels left over from endurance training, I use them to spike my blood sugar post workouts. They are small and easily transportable to the gym. Keeping a stash of gels in your gym bag will ensure you do not miss that critical hour window after a workout to help recharge and build muscle.
Heed and Endurance Aminos as a Mid-Lifting Snack
Staying well hydrated and having electrolytes is important for maximizing performance. While training, energy levels will often dip towards the end of a workout. This results in a subpar performance and, if you are working different muscles at the end of the workout, not effectively targeting those muscles. By supplementing Heed and Endurance Aminos into my mid-workout nutrition, it ensures that I have the energy to continue putting out maximum ability and amino acids to prevent muscle catabolism. This technique is good for strength gain or performance improvement phase but poor if you are trying to lose weight.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on January 23, 2015 at 2:00 PM|
Just because the holiday season is over, does not mean you do not need to buy presents. There is still a year full of birthdays and other holidays that require gifts. As a personal trainer, elite obstacle racer and hybrid athlete, let me help you out with some suggestions. Check out these top ten items for OCR athletes:
1) Under Armour Padded Shooter Sleeves: If you have been following elite obstacle racing you should understand the importance of arm protection. As an obstacle racer, the ability to crawl through tunnels, over dirt and cross certain obstacles without rubbing the skin off your body is crucial. These sleeves provide unparalleled protection with pads that you will not even notice are there. Just make sure you buy two of them because they are sold individually.
2) Fat Gripz: If there is one upper body attribute that is important to obstacle racers, it is grip strength. While there are numerous methods to improve grip strength, the best one I have found is Fat Gripz. A lot of grip strength training requires time spent exclusively focused on grip training. This often gets put on the back burner or not done at all due to a packed schedule. Fat Gripz allows you to train your grip anytime you lift weights. It slips on over regular barbells and dumbbells to create a thicker bar that is harder to grab. They say the increase force required to hold the bar activates more muscles in the rest of your arm too creating overall strength too. Either way, I recommend these especially if you are an OCR athlete that trains with weights. Link: http://www.fatgripz.com/575.html
3) Under Armour’s Speedform Shoes: “This is what fast feels like”, is the tagline for this line of Under Armour shoes. The XC version and the road racing versions are both great. I wore the XC version for the OCR World Championship and for the Warrior Dash World Championships with no issues. The road version I wore for the World’s Toughest Mudder and provided a lightweight shoe to propel me to 13th place overall. If you do not know the size, just go with a $100-$120 gift certificate.
4) Hammer Nutrition's Recoverite: A huge part of training is post-exercise nutrition. A lot of endurance focused nutritional companies focus on nutrition products during workouts. Hammer is one of the few that has products for during workouts/races plus products for the other 23 hours of the day. By using a holistic approach to training and racing improvement, you will get better results. For post-workout, you can't go wrong with Recoverite. It is a complete recovery drink providing fast acting carbohydrates that refill muscle glycogen better than sugar and protein to aid in recovery. Additionally, it has glutamine, which helps speed recovery from training. If this is your first time ordering, the link below will provide 15% off your first order only.
5) Hammer Nutrition's Gels: Need a product that provides energy before or during races/exercise. Hammer Gel is the way to go. It has slow burning carbs to provide that steady stream of energy while exercising. Compare that to other companies that are full of sugar which causes bursts and crashes of energy. They are one of the few companies that provide amino acids in their gels. This prevents your body from using your muscles for fuel while running. Finally, if you need that extra boost, go with espresso flavor for 50mg of caffeine. Can't make up your mind on flavors? Just go with the Short Course Starter's Kit or the Gel Sampler Kit for the best value with the most flavors (Under "Fuels/Recovery" then click on "Starter Kits"). If this is your first time ordering, the link below will provide 15% off your first order only.
6) Road ID: The gift of safety is something that your loved one will never forget. By having a Road ID bracelet, it ensures your OCR athlete will be safe whether he is on the road or the trail. This gift should be given sooner rather than later. By the time your OCR athlete realizes he needs this, it will be too late.
7) Under Armour Recharge: Looking for a way to recover so you can race again or train hard the next day. Check out Under Armour's recharge pants or recharge socks. The socks are great pre, during or post race. They provide protection and compression enhancing blood flow. I actually like the pants better but the pants are better for after returning to your house or hotel. Trying to put on compression pants in a port-a-potty is not an enjoyable experience. Click the link below and search for "Recharge".
8 ) Road ID Badges: If your racer already has a Road ID, spruce it up with the display of accomplishment badges. These badges highlight accomplishments throughout the year. Go for something OCR specific like “SPARTAN-TRI”, “OCRWC” or “WTM 24 HRS”.
9) Race Entry Fees: Race entry fees are always a nice gift for an athlete. To ensure that the fee goes towards a race and so it feels more like a gift, have the athlete email or text you a picture of him or her during the race weekend. This will make both the athlete and the racer feel connected.
10) Strength & Speed Merchandise: You did not think I would leave our own Strength & Speed store off the list did you? If none of this seems like it fits, check out the Strength & Speed online store. A variety of products are offered including t-shirts, sweatshirts, personal training plans, gift certificates and accessories.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on January 8, 2015 at 7:05 AM|
Anyone looking closely at professional sports can see that performance enhancing drugs are a problem. If you do not think they are a problem, then you are probably not looking hard enough. This occurs in both, strength based sports and speed based sports. Many of the competitions now on television, Crossfit and Strongman being notable ones, started as fringe sports or organizations with no professional athletes. Does that sound like mud runs also known as obstacle course racing? Sports such as strongman and professional bodybuilding have obvious drug use based off the size and level of strength these athletes achieve. In those sports, it is part of the culture and required to compete at the highest levels. I think they are present in Crossfit too, but that is another topic (if you need convincing check out this article). Even endurance sports are not immune as demonstrated by Lance Armstrong’s Seven Tour De France victories and recent failed drug tests by female Boston Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo.
Performance enhancing drugs is a broad term, which includes EPO (erythropoietin), HGH (human growth hormone), steroids, various stimulants and anything else banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The physical benefit many drugs provide allow for a faster recovery, which allows an athlete to train harder again the next day. When compared to a clean athlete, this means the drugged athlete will be able to improve at a faster rate. The drugs will provide short-term positive effects but also, based off most studies, long-term damage to the heart and other organs. EPO improves performance by increasing your red blood cell count, thus allowing your body to process more oxygen. EPO is safer in one regard because it is less likely to do long term damage to your body but more dangerous in another because there is a chance you could die because your blood becomes too viscous. It is fact that athletes can gain an advantage from performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), the question is, is obstacle racing the next sport to use them? Or are they already here?
The good news is that with the establishment of Obstacle Course Racing World Championship (OCRWC) as a centralized, non-company specific race for world finals, they have started taking the right steps. Despite holding their first competition in 2014, they immediately announced they are adhering to WADA guidelines. Furthermore, reports from athletes on their Facebook page say testing did occur at the October 2014 championship. These tests included athletes placing in the top of the rankings in addition to some age groupers placing in the middle to bottom of the standings. This concept is already ahead of other organizations. The first Crossfit Games was held in 2007, but their first time drug testing did not occur until 2011. That is quite a gap, allowing for dozens of drugged athletes to enter and rise to the top level. Other World Championships including World’s Toughest Mudder, Spartan Race and Warrior Dash, all state that they may drug test athletes during the event weekend. I have not seen any athletes report testing took place, but I also have not been following every feed regarding each of those events. I have also not gone out of my way to ask competitors if they were tested at the time of this writing.
The bottom line is that PEDs will be present in all sports as long as there is a benefit gained from taking them. Having testing policies in place and announcing that WADA guidelines are the standard for all obstacle course races is the first step in the right direction. However, this step alone is not enough to keep OCR or sports in general clean. People across the sporting world are trying to develop solutions as shown by the development of numerous new tests, including the test for EPO in 2000 and the establishment of biological passports. Others are proposing more aggressive solutions to prevent cheating in sports. A article called “The Doping Dilemma” by Michael Shermer from the Scientific America Journal in April 2008 proposed the following steps to rid professional cycling (or sports) of doping:
1. Grant immunity to past athletes in exchange for total honesty.
2. Increase number of competitors tested. This includes off-season testing, pre-competition and in competition testing. Additionally, by establishing a biological passport for all athletes their hormone levels, hematocrit levels and other markers used to identify drug will have a baseline.
3. Offer rewards to scientists to develop new tests in an attempt to stay ahead of drug takers.
4. Lifetime bans for failure of any test and forcible return of lifetime winnings.
5. Disqualify all team members for that specific event if one person on their team fails.
OCR is not cycling, but I believe some of these principles can be applied currently with no additional work, specifically steps 1, 4 and 5. Step 4’s return of lifetime winnings would be very hard to enforce due to the variety of companies but the lifetime ban could be easily enforced if companies are serious about keeping the sport clean. For OCR, Step 2 requires additional money, which should come as the sport grows. Step 3 requires sponsors to fund drug testing, which is something I do not see happening anytime soon (in OCR or other sports). Many sponsors want drugged athletes. The sponsors will not openly say that, but they want super human performances, which is more likely to occur in a drugged athlete. Just look at the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa along with all the publicity they generated for baseball. Look at Lance Armstrong, who took cycling from a European sport and created a generation of American cycling fans and ahletes.
These steps could be a pre-emptive strike against doping in a sport that was founded on teamwork and overcoming physical or personal obstacles. I would add a Step 6 and Step 7 to this process. Step 6 is a personal pledge that is publicly stated and widespread. Having to say a pledge helps reinforce that belief that using PEDs is wrong. A pledge helps reinforce the concept that doping is bad across the community and creates a zero tolerance type of environment.
Step 7 is education. Educating athletes what substances are banned can help reduce drug use even more. For example, people see commercials on television for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or "the problem of low T”. To be clear, if you are using those medications you should not be competing for prize money or placing at the top level of OCR. Hormone replacement therapy, anti-aging, preventing low T, or whatever you call it, is the same thing as taking PEDs, just under a different name. Most likely those taking treatments are not at the top level of the sport but if I was a 50+ racer going against another 50+ racer who was on HRT and losing, I would be upset. Included in Step 7 is having an understanding of all the items on the WADA banned substance list. I know many athletes who say they do not take any banned substances but do not know what is in the supplements they ingest on a daily basis. Did you know that banned substances are sold in Walmart and GNC? Below is a picture I took last week from my local Walmart.
DHEA Sold on the Shelves of Walmart
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is listed as a banned substance by WADA but is sold over the counter. DHEA is marketed for boosting testosterone, improving sex drive, fighting aging or burning fat. It is usually included in supplements because of its anabolic effects, which help with the other goals listed above. Another common one is 7-Keto (or 7-Keto-DHEA), a byproduct of DHEA. 7-Keto is often found in fat burners such as Cellucor’s CLK which is sold on the shelves of supplement stores everywhere. Cellucor is one of the big names in the supplement industry and not some underground company. Often items like CLK and other fat burners with banned substances are not kept in a locked case or behind the counter. If you are going to use supplements, which I recommend, just ensure your products are clean. This can be done by following a company that abides by WADA standards, like Hammer Nutrition, or by having an understanding of what substances you are putting into your body. Finally, stay away from substances that target steroid users. These are typically kept in locked glass cases at supplement stores and have steroid like names with prefixes or suffixes like deca-, ana- or –bol.
Still, the question remains is obstacle course racing next? I do believe the influx of PEDs on some level is inevitable, but I think with the above steps it can slow down or possibly stop their infiltration into the sport. I currently do not believe they are present in 99% of the top level of the sport and are therefore not a factor when it comes to championships yet. What about the other 1%? I do not have enough evidence or data that I would be willing to call someone out. This is just my opinion based off what I know about the other elite athletes, their previous race results and the current lack of physical signs that come with PED use. I will state that they are present in the sport by recreational gym rats that currently race for fun but are not coming close to the podium. If you are not racing for top placing, then what you do with your body is none of my business.
As the sport continues to grow in both prize money and prestige, it is important that drug testing and drug enforcement remains a top priority for organizations. With the Warrior Dash World Championship offering $30,000 for 1st place and numerous other championships offering $10,000 for first place, there is a lot of money invested in the sport. A lack of emphasis on not using PEDs will result in the sport following in the footsteps of other drug-ridden sports.
If you know drug users who are racing at the elite level encourage them to quit using or quit racing at that level. How long should their hiatus last? Should it depend on how long the positive effects of PED use last? One answer is it depends on the drug, quantity taken and length of use. Natural bodybuilding organizations typically require 5 to 7 years of being 100% clean before competing. If you follow the steps listed above, a failed test should result in a lifetime ban (something I am in favor of). As top American marathoner Shalane Flannigan recently stated regarding Rita Jeptoo’s failed tests, PED users are not only stealing money but “they are the stealers of dreams.” Everyone please do your part in this anti-PED campaign. Let us work together and keep mud runs clean.