Guest post by Sol Orwell, co-author of The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide
A few months ago I had Sol from Examine.com come in and talk about 5 popular supplements that people take (and that just don’t work). As Examine.com as been on a tear lately (their editorial team has expanded to include a doctor, two PhDs, and a pharmD), I asked him if he would give us an update on some supplements that do work.
He came back with some interesting stuff:
Creatine works. Athletes that take creatine will find benefits across the board. Creatine improves muscle growth, glycogen supplements, power output and hormonal levels. In fact, the only parameters creatine doesn’t help are fat burning and endurance sports.
Side-effects of creatine are limited to the nausea and stomach cramps (from taking too much and not drinking enough water). Anyone who fearmongers that creatine hurts your kidney or liver cannot be trusted. Initially, weight gain from creatine is water weight, but over the course of the maintenance period, that weight slowly becomes dry muscle mass.
There are also some lesser-known benefits of creatine supplementation. There is some early evidence that it is cardioprotective, reduces liver fat buildup and improves cognition in both sleep-deprived athletes, the elderly and vegetarians.
Creatine is one of the most reliable testosterone boosters on the market, though only to a slight degree, boosting testosterone levels by 10-20 percent.
Not only is creatine effective, reliable and safe, but it’s also cheap supplement that flat out works.
Protein powder is a highly recommended supplement. You don’t need it if you manage to eat enough protein in your diet, but if you don’t, it’s easy and convenient (and also can be tasty!). To be honest, most protein powders are pretty much the same. While some proteins may get absorbed “faster” or may even be “pre-processed,” none of that matters unless you are a pro athlete.
Focus on taste, and don’t worry about whey vs casein vs whatever else.
Beta-Alanine works best for athletes that exercise in the 60-240 second range. Beta-Alanine improves endurance performance in that range by about 5%. That kind of improvement may be too small for the average gymgoer, but it is definitely noticeable by athletes.
There is even some evidence that b-a can help build muscle and burn fat in athletic people, but we still need to do more research on that.
Nitrates are the nitrogen-compounds found in beet root and leafy green vegetables. They have been shown to improve physical performance in both aerobic and anaerobic endurance scenarios.
Early NO Boosters had bad absorption or other side effects (l-arginine can cause diarrhea), and were also not very potent. They were also marketed as “enhancing nutrient delivery,” though that was also not true.
What NO boosters can do is enhance blood flow, and potentially increase muscle protein synthesis. And of all of the options, the cheapest and most effective way to boost nitric oxide in the body is actually consuming nitrate rich food products in your preworkout meal (if you do buy beet roots, make sure you don’t buy the ones that are doused in sugar).
Cheat a bit here – not a specific supplement, but a group. Sleep aids can be awesome, but they get personalized.
One thing before I start – ZMA is not a sleep aid. If you are deficient in magnesium (common), it can be slightly sedative (and thus helps you go to sleep).
The sleep aids that are actually likely to benefit you are as follows:
Melatonin or lemon balm will help people that have trouble falling asleep. If you’re tired but can’t fall asleep, take melatonin. If you’re wide awake, go for lemon balm. Note – these supplements will only help you fall asleep.
If you can fall asleep fine but wake up feeling tired, check out glycine. It is cheap and worth trying.
Do not take any of these before a workout (obviously). And sleep supplements should only be taken if you have the basics covered – blackout curtains (no light when you sleep) and quiet (any kind of distracting noise makes it extremely difficult for your brain to properly fall asleep).
As you can see, Sol doesn’t just go out pimping every single supplement there is. When he talks about supplements, he talks about taking supplements for specific reasons. His favorite example is how berberine is pharmaceutical-grade in helping with your blood sugar levels.
They are doing a quick sale until the end of this week on their awesome Supplement-Goals Reference Guide. If you want to find out which supplements actually work (and which are just a waste of your money), you need this guide.
Oh, and it’s a lifetime product. Whatever new research comes out, they’ll be all over it.
A lot of people have been asking my thoughts on Eric Cressey’s new High Performance Handbook. So, I asked him for a review copy in order to check it out and give you my honest opinion.
First, is one of the most comprehensive training manuals I have ever seen, it’s on par with many of the Paul Chek courses I studied when I was becoming a coach. If you are left with any questions after reading this manual, you didn’t read it carefully enough the ﬁrst time. But, I feel that it was written more for coaches and serious “strength geeks”, than dudes just looking for some gains.
One of the ﬁrst things that struck me as unique is that Cressey immediately acknowledges and addresses that all athletes are starting from a different point even if their goal is the same. Too often, I have seen athletes dive into programs that have them lifting near maximal weights only to wind up injured in a couple weeks because they did not ﬁrst address their dysfunctional motor patterns and joint problems.
The High Performance Handbook prevents this by beginning with an assessment of posture and joint quality, and then provides a template to correct any dysfunctions. This is something that really impressed me because it is something that I do with my private clients and have rarely seen addressed in other training manuals.
Here are just a few pics demonstrating the common postural distortions amongst most athletes. I often speak about this in my videos, and refer to the first type as (extension) “Donald Duck” and second type (flexion) as “Pink Panther” posture.
The next thing that really got my attention was how thorough and comprehensive the nutrition manual is. It covers all the bases regardless if you are trying to bulk up, cut weight, or maintain. It even addresses different diets such as intermittent fasting or the Paleo Diet complete with sample menus and grocery lists. The attention to detail, science, and practicality is superb.
I have always said, “You can create the best diet in the world, but if it is difﬁcult and impractical to follow, no one will follow it, and no one will beneﬁt from it.” The High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide does an amazing job of outlining and detailing a diet that is not only effective and scientiﬁcally backed, but also easy to follow and implement.
Finally, and that part you’re probably most interested in, the training program is direct, easy to understand, and doesn’t require any unusual equipment. You should be able toﬁnd everything you need at your local gym. No wacky contraptions or gimmicks here.
The training template is clearly deﬁned and explained. It covers everything, there are videos demonstrating all of the exercises, and there are substitutions recommended for anything that you might not be able to do at your gym. The program is well balanced and intelligently planned to maintain ﬂexibility and joint mobility while still increasing strength and performance.
Overall, The High Performance Handbook is a no nonsense, straightforward, clearly explained, and effective comprehensive program that addresses strength, mobility, motor dysfunction, and nutrition in a logical and methodical plan. I would highly recommend to coaches and strength geeks seeking to improve their health, strength, and body composition. But probably not the best choice for regular guys trying to look good at the club.
Total Power Training is simple, straightforward, and hard hitting. If you want to improve as an athlete, you won’t do it by repping away for hours in the gym. You need to come in, hit it hard, and break your limits.
Regardless of your sport, you will benefit from increased power. Performing faster, more explosively, and with higher intensity is a sure fire way to excel over your competition.
With a balance of explosive training, strength training, speed training, and injury prevention, Total Power Training is a total package training program. Every workout is designed to improve your power and strength while still addressing your mobility, motor patterns, flexibility, and core stabilization. It’s broken up into a balanced template focusing on some key factors for each Power Athlete…
- Absolute Strength
- Primal Movement Patterns
- Athletic Core
It is an athlete’s program. You won’t find a powerlifting or bodybuilding template here. If powerlifting and bodybuilding made you a better athlete, we’d see more powerlifters and bodybuilders playing professional ball. Instead, what separates athletes is their ability to produce force quickly and repeatedly. Total Power Training will do just that.
By using low reps and heavy weight for your large compound movements, Total Power Training addresses the neurological demand required to produce strength and force. This is supplemented with higher rep accessory movements in order to strengthen and condition the supporting muscle groups.
These movements will carry over directly onto the field providing you with the tools necessary to take your game to the next level. No matter the athlete, no matter the sport, skills such as changing directions, moving powerfully, and accelerating quickly will separate the highly skilled players from the pack.
Guest post by Chris Barnard, Head Coach Strength Camp
In regards to athletes, the nervous system is king!
When sprinting, jumping, throwing, and changing directions at an explosive rate, it is important to understand this is a result of the nervous system. More important than this, it is essential to understand how athletes can train their nervous system to produce more power. More power will increase overall performance period.
There are 2 factors we can look to sharpen in our nervous system through our training. But before we jump into those, let’s first give a quick rundown of the actions that are taking place during movement.
Movement is initiated voluntarily or reflexively in the Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord).
Here the brain sends a signal down the spinal cord through your nerves to a motor unit which ultimately fires your muscles. A motor unit is composed of an alpha motor neuron and all the muscle fibers it innervates. Larger motor units control larger muscles while smaller motor units control finer more precise muscles.
Now with the basic understanding of how the nervous system impacts movement, the 2 factors that produce efficiency in our movement are neural adaptation and rate coding.
Neural adaptation can be obtained through higher bouts of intense movement patterns that pertain to overall athleticism. When these are performed your body begins to recruit more motor units which is the firing of more muscle fibers.
Now that the proper patterns have adapted in your nervous system and more motor units are being recruited we can look at the rate coding mechanism and how we can improve it. Rate coding can be termed as the frequency that those signals are sent from the CNS. If we are sending that signal faster to our muscles we are able to turn them on quicker resulting in faster movement and reaction to movement.
If we are able to improve the amount of motor units we are firing and how fast we turn these muscles on we are able to see a result of increased rate of force development which is our ability to produce force fast.
To train this it takes a carefully designed program to ensure the athlete is optimizing the correct stimulus through training. This is a result of choosing the right movements to train and manipulating how you train these movements through the Speed Strength Continuum.
My new program, Total Power Training, is a progressive program that places focus on this continuum. You will address your nervous system and overall performance with dynamic movements altered through speed, power, and strength parameters. Paired with core, mobility, and auxiliary movements that will express more athleticism.
What the video below to learn more about Total Power Training (and how you can win a scholarship to train at Strength Camp).