Alcohol & Muscle Growth

Well we’re less than two weeks from Christmas.

And that means the parties, dinners and celebrations will be in full effect.

Typically we consider the extra calories and sugar during Christmas. But what about the alcohol?

How Bad Is Alcohol For You?

A colleague with the NBA Hawks, Marie Spano, MS, CSCS, RD, CSSD, shared something on her social media. And I’ve going to share it with you as well.

Alcohol interferes with muscle growth, especially in type II muscle fibers. These are your explosive force-generating muscle fibers 🏋🏾‍♂️that help you sprint, jump and lift weights.

In one study, 1.5 g/kg bodyweight (this is 5-6 glasses of beer for a 155 lb. man; I show you how to calculate this below) consumed after exercise reduced the synthesis of protein in muscle by 37%. When protein (25 grams post exercise and again 4 hours later) was consumed along with alcohol the reduction in muscle protein synthesis was 24%.

How Does Alcohol Wreck Your Gains?
Alcohol interrupts the transcription of genes involved in muscle growth by impairing IGF-1 signaling and in men but not women, mTOR signaling. Note: alcohol still reduces muscle protein synthesis in women though mTOR signaling is not impaired.

Drinking alcohol after resistance training or a game decreases testosterone concentration and bioavailability in men but not women. Studies consistently show an alcohol intake > 1.5 g/kg lowers testosterone in men. 😳 Also, long-term alcohol use decreases the androgen receptor, so even if you have a lot of testosterone circulating, there’s a decrease in your body’s ability to use testosterone.

How to Figure Out the Grams of Alcohol in a Drink

1 – Multiple the oz in the drink by the alcohol content. A 12 oz. beer with 6% alcohol has 0.72 oz. of alcohol. Multiple alcohol fluid oz. x 29.57 to get the grams of alcohol. In this example, 0.72 x 29.57 = 21.29 grams per drink.

2 – Take weight in lbs. divided by 2.2 to get weight in kg. Then multiply this by 1.5 to find out how many grams of alcohol one would need to drink to lower testosterone.

Chris here again…

So this is pretty alarming.

First of all, a 37% reduction in protein synthesis is no joke. Anyone who has trained for a while with the goal of adding lean mass knows how hard it is to add a few pounds of lean muscle. Alcohol can quickly reduce these gains.

The other point that is concerning is the fact that long term alcohol consumption reduces the androgen receptor for testosterone. So even with high levels of circulating testosterone you may not be able to make use of it all.

Extra Caution for Those Older Than 25 Years

For men our testosterone production peaks around our mid-twenties and then declines gradually for the rest of our lives. As well, protein needs are much higher for seniors to off-set sarcopenia or the loss of muscle mass. So an older person that drinks regularly is really stacking the deck against themselves when we consider how alcohol makes it harder to build muscle.

Going forward if you enjoy a cocktail or two consider the effects this will have on your ability to build muscle. Consider drinks with lower alcohol concentration and bump up your protein intake at this time as well. And if you’re up for it you could pick some milk thistle and supplement with that as well.

Med Sci Sports Exerc 2013;45(9):1825-32.
Nutr Metab 2014;11:26.
JSCR 2017;31(1):54-61.

The Importance of Ankle Dorsiflexion

Ankle dorsiflexion restriction is an important issue that can be easily missed or ignored in training. If not addressed, it can have a negative impact on sports performance and injury risk.  From a weight room point of view where this can have the biggest impact is with your squat depth and mechanics.  

On the left we see that the knee is able to pass the toe, resulting in a more upright torso and improved squat depth.  While the right side is not wrong, it is more of a “hingey squat” and will lead to greater amounts of low back sheering and possible lower back pain.

Picture credit:https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-squat-without-hip-pain

A common solution that I see is to raise the heels using plates.  This helps bypass the needs for greater amounts of dorsiflexion at the ankle joint and usually results in instantly improved technique and greater depth.  I love this option but it does not mean we should not work on improving the restriction at the ankle, especially with athletes. It serves as a crutch, and how wants to be on crutches their whole life?

From a sports performance point of view, limited ankle mobility can reduce power production in athletic movements such as sprinting and jumping.  To get into optimal positions for acceleration (first phase in sprinting), an athlete needs to be able to get into greater degrees of positive shin angle. This is very challenging if you don’t have the required ankle mobility. 

The image on the L shows the shin moving forwards the foot. One the R there is less movement of the shin towards the foot.

Picture credit:http://miguelaragoncillo.com/2016/01/20/4-methods-to-improving-speed-qualities/

The ankle joint can also act like a spring, helping the body to be propelled through space, such as a jump. The more you coil spring, the more force it is going to snap back with. So, the more an athlete can coil the foot (top of the foot coming towards the shin) the more force and energy transfer can be put into the floor (to an extent, there is a such thing as too much dorsiflexion).

Do you have an ankle restriction?

Step 1 checks to see how much dorsiflexion you have. For a demonstration visit the video link.

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🚨Do you have an ankle restriction?  Ankle Mobility Part 1 of 3. . 🤔Ankle dorsi flexion mobility restriction is an important attribute that can be easily missed or ignored in training. If not addressed, it can have negative implication to performance and injury risk. Part 1 is going to focus on finding out if you have an ankle restriction. . 🏀From an on court performance point of view, limited ankle mobility can reduce power production in athletic movements such as sprinting and jumping. The ankle joint acts like a spring propelling the body in athletic movements. The more you coil a spring, the more force it is going to snap back with. So, the more an athlete can coil the foot (top of the foot coming towards the shin) the more force and energy transfer can be put into the floor (to an extent). . 🔑To get into optimal positions for acceleration in sprinting, an athlete needs to be able to get into good degrees of positive shin angle. This is very challenging if you don’t have the required ankle mobility. The ankle joint also plays an important role in force absorption, which, if it’s not functioning correctly can have negative implications up the chain into the knees, hips, and lower back. . 👌Step 1 is check to see how much access to dorsiflexion you have. 1️⃣Take a half kneel in front of the wall. Use a ruler or a tape measure and place it against the wall, preferably do this in bare feet. 2️⃣Stack your hands on your front knee and drive your toe towards the wall. Make sure the knee is going over the middle of the foot, the heel stays down and the same side hip does not pop out to the side. Otherwise it is a false positive! 3️⃣You are looking for around 10 cm of the knee passing the toes. If you’re +6 feet, look for 12 cm. Another quick option which isn’t as precise is to use your own fist as I show in the video. . ❗If you are getting less than 10 cm, given that it is not a bony restriction, this can start being addressed in training. The next step is figure out what type of restriction you might have. Tune in next Wednesday for part 2 to see how! . Feel free to DM me if you have questions or come by @okanaganpeakperformance 🙏

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  • Set up in half kneeling in front of the wall. This is with one knee down and one foot on the ground. Use a ruler or a tape measure and place it against the base of the wall. It is preferable to do this in bare feet.
  • Stack your hands on your front knee and drive your toe towards the wall. Make sure the knee is going over the middle of the foot, the heel stays down and the same side hip does not pop out to the side. Otherwise it is a false positive!
  • You are looking for around 10 cm of the knee passing the toes. If you’re +6 feet, look for 12 cm. Another quick option, which isn’t as precise, is to use your own fist as I show in the video.

What type of ankle restriction do you have?

Ok so you have a restriction…..what next?   If you are familiar with the topic or have known for a while that you have an ankle mobility restriction, you have probably been told to foam roll your calf until the cows come home.  While this can be a part of the process, we need to get specific to better understand whether the soft tissue or the joint issue.

It is a busy time we live in and the more dialled in we can get with option selection, the better, no need to throw paint at the wall and hope for the best.  

To do this, here is a simple test you can try!  See the video link for a demonstration.

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🏀Ankle Mobility Pt 2/3 ⤵️ . ✅If you found last week that you do have an ankle mobility restriction, it's time to get a better idea of what type of restriction you may have. . 🔑Let's keep things very simple, we are trying to distinguish if it's more of a soft tissue restriction or joint restriction . 🔑Doing so will help guide you in the options you select to help unlock better ranges of dorsiflexion at the ankle.  This is a better approach than just throwing paint at the wall or endlessly foam rolling your calves, praying that your ankles will start to open up. . 👌Here is a simple test you can try! . 1️⃣If you have access to a platform like the one in the video great, use this.  If not no worries just use a bumper plate, some airxpads, get creative if you have to.  Place the ball of the foot on the platform and have the heel on the floor. 2️⃣Keep you knee straight, step forward and keep doing so just before the point where your heel has to lift.  Now ask yourself "do I feel a pinch/lock in the front of the ankle or a stretch in the back of the calves" 3️⃣ Repeat on the same leg, but now keep a good bend in the knee.  Ask yourself the same question, pinch or stretch? . 🤔If both match up as a stretch in the back of calf or ankle, then you might have more of a soft tissue restriction.  If you match a pinch then you may have more of a joint restriction.  If it was a mix then you may have to work on both . 💪Next Wednesday I will go over some options that may help. . 🚨If you know someone who might want this information please tag a friend in the comments below. . Also feel free to DM or stop by @okanaganpeakperformance if you have any questions! . . ❗This is not medical advice.

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  • If you have access to a platform like the one in the video great, use this.  If not no worries just use a bumper plate, some Airex pads and get creative if you have to.  Place the ball of the foot on the platform and keep the heel on the floor.
  • Keeping your knee straight, step forward and keep doing so just before the point where your heel has to lift.  Now ask yourself, “Do I feel a pinch/lock in the front of the ankle or a stretch in the back of the calves”.
  •  Repeat on the same leg, but now keep a good bend in the knee.  Ask yourself the same question, pinch or stretch?

If both match up as a stretch in the back of the calf or ankle, then you might have more of a soft tissue restriction.  If you match both with a pinch in the front, then you may have more of a joint restriction. If it was a mix then it’s a good idea to work on both.

Addressing ankle restrictions

Now it’s time to start working on the restriction.  Since not every restriction is created equal that means foam rolling  on its own will not solve the problem. We need to match up the approach with the biggest contributor to the restriction.  See the video link for a demonstration.

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👣Ankle Mobility pt. 3/3 . 🎉In part 1 I covered how to check if you have a mobility restriction, in part 2 I covered how to check which type of restriction you have. Today I will provide a quick overview of some ways to improve an ankle mobility restriction and keep it. . ✅Soft Tissue Restriction (Video 1) ▶️1.Foam roller/ Tennis ball work on the calf. Grab a foam roller and a tennis ball, roll all three spots as shown in the video for 30 seconds to a minute per spot. ▶️2.Stretch the calf. Hold for 1-2 minutes with a straight leg, and 1-2 minutes with a slight bend in the knee. ▶️3.Re-test and see if you gained more range of motion (see part 1). . ✅Joint Restriction (Video 2) ▶️1. Grab a band and tie it off on a bench/ rack/ railing, etc. In a half kneel, place the band on the soft part right between your ankle and foot (see the video). ▶️2. Keep the heel down and push your knee over the toe and 'pump the gas' 10-15 times. You can repeat this from 1-3 sets. If you do not have a band you can use your hands (see the video). ▶️3. Retest and see if you gained more range of motion. . ▶️Joint Restriction Combine both Video 1 and 2 . Do joint restriction first then soft tissue restriction 2nd. . 💪Hopefully you will see some change in range of motion on the retest. The problem is, the new mobility will start to go away unless we facilitate motor learning and build strength in that new range of motion. Calf raise variations(video 3) are a key to doing this as well as integrating the new ranges of motion in your lower body days (see video 4). . ❗If you want to go a little bit deeper and want more detail on ankle mobility, I will have a blog up on Saturday and the link will be in my bio. . 🙏If you have any questions feel free to DM me or come by the gym and see if we can help unlock your athletic potential. . . . ❌This is not medical advice

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Soft Tissue Restriction (Video 1)

1.Foam roller/ Tennis ball work on the calf – Grab a foam roller and a tennis ball, roll all three spots as shown in the video for 30 seconds to a minute per spot. 

2. Stretch the calf. Hold for 1-2 minutes with a straight leg, and 1-2 minutes with a slight bend in the knee.

3. Re-test and see if you gained more range of motion.

Joint Restriction 

1. Grab a band and tie it off on a bench/ rack/ railing, etc. In a half kneel, place the band on the soft part right between your ankle and foot (see the video).

2. Keep the heel down and push your knee over the toe and ‘pump the gas’ 10-15 times. You can repeat this from 1-3 sets. If you do not have a band you can use your hands (see the video).

3. Retest and see if you gained more range of motion.

Mixed

Combine both Video 1 and 2 . Use joint restriction first then soft tissue restriction second.

A long term approach

Hopefully, you will see some change in range of motion during the retest. The problem is, the new mobility will start to go away fast, unless we facilitate motor learning and build strength in that new range of motion.

Calf raise variations (video 3) 

Calf raises are good for more than just vanity.  I show one option in the video but there are many options available.  There are some big keys to get the most out of them.  

  1. Full range of motion.  We need to get all the way to the end range of your plantar flexion (pushing the top of the foot away from the shin, think ‘tippy toes’).  A common mistake is a shortened range of motion or the heel go out to the side. To help with this, you can use a ball or block and squeeze in between the heels to ensure the heels do not pop out.  Think about pushing the top of your head straight up to the roof and driving through your big toe.
  2. Slow Tempo.  It is important to not rush this.  Doing so can result in compensatory patterns while also using momentum to get through the range of motion.  To help maintain and build strength in the new ranges of motion we also want to elicit as much blood flow into the area, going slow will help elicit a big pump and help you “feel it” where you are supposed to.

Perform 2-4 sets of 8-15 calf raises with a shorter rest period between sets (30-45 seconds) immediately after the joint restriction protocol matching your joint restriction.  Play around with different variations single leg, bi-lateral, loaded with lower rep ranges, body weight with higher rep ranges, bent knees vs straight knees. A good place to start would be to do one day where you go heavier with lower rep ranges (8-10) and one day with lighter weights and higher reps (12+ to failure).

When to work on ankle restrictions

As a first option, you can do individual ankle mobility sessions on days off from regular training.  This will only take about 10-20 minutes following the guidelines in the above sections.  

The next option is to utilize the protocol as an extended warm up before your lower or full body days.  There are a lot of advantages to doing it this way. Now you can utilize the new range of motion and integrate it into your lower body movements.  Once we have those new ranges of motion it is important to learn how to use it in your movement patterns, remember….. use it or lose it!   

If you are worried about doing this on your own, we can help you at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc.  I know it can be daunting to do this on your own and if you’re looking for help, the coaches at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc are there to help guide you through this.  Come in and say hello or contact us to book your free strategy session today.

Black Friday Banned Substances

Athletes are always looking for ways to gain an advantage. And good sportsmanship requires that we play by the rules and avoid known short cuts or cheats.

When it comes to sports supplements we’ve got to be really careful.

An athlete can be putting in the time training for their sport. They can work in the gym. The will get their rest, eat their vegetables and make sure everything to ensure performance has been checked off the list.

And then they hear there is something that will give them an edge. It will help them go harder, recover more quickly or heal faster. Whatever the promise they are keen to give it a try. They are already doing everything it takes and are so close to a podium, scholarship or a championship.

What do they have to lose?

Well, it could a ban from sports. It could be the loss of a scholarship or contract offer. Maybe it’s the termination of an endorsement deal. And the inclusion of your name alongside other dopers.

How awful would it be to have your name forever alongside the likes of Ben Johnson?

Unfortunately there was a local supplement store selling a banned product during their Black Friday sale.

On Black Friday you get could get yourself to a positive drug test twice as fast with the buy one get one free.

Allmax Impact Igniter contains higenamine and is listed on the label below.

The Word Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has a list of all banned substances. Higenamine is in a class of substances known as beta-2-agonists and are banned at all times.

From the WADA list of banned substance we see higenamine included on this list.

So what is an athlete to do that wants do everything possible to achieve the best result in sport yet not risk a positive drug test?

Really this comes down to only using supplements with BSCG, Certified for Sport, Informed Choice, NSF or similar labeling. When a product has labeling from one of these agencies you can be assured that the ingredients are safe, include only what is stated and nothing else.

Okanagan Peak Performance Inc only sells products with the above listed quality controls. Speak to one of our coaches if you are interested in a particular supplement to enhance your results.

Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Movember

Most of us have a good idea of how exercise makes us feel better; it makes us feel accomplished, keeps us energized, and it releases our happy hormones to change the biochemistry of our brains. But exercise can have a greater effect than just feeling happier in people with mental health conditions such as depression or seasonal affective disorder, it can actually help deal with these conditions and allow people to have a more positive well-being.

Depression is a highly publicized mental health condition, but it is a lot more than persistent feelings of sadness. Depression manifests itself in different ways and can take away your passion for previously enjoyed activities or negatively impact things that you use to define yourself and your happiness. Depression can impact anyone including youth, older adults, those living with chronic illnesses or substance use issues, and those going through big life changes.

Approximately 8% of all adults will experience major depression at some point in their lives, with many more going through acute bouts of depression. Depression has had a growing focus on it in recent years, which has allowed people experiencing depression to find help and support to manage it. Physical activity is one of the leading treatments someone can use to help manage depression due to the release of ‘happy’ hormones and endorphins, as well as increasing feelings of self-worth and providing social support outlets. Self perceived quality of life increases exponentially when including physical activity into daily routines – as little as 30 minutes of physical activity per day will permanently change the way in which our bodies produce happy hormones to make us feel better.

As the season is switching over to colder and darker days, seasonal affective disorder (also known as winter blues or February blahs) is common place in northern bound countries such as Canada. It makes up about 10% of depression cases in Canada, and mostly affects adults under 50 years old. The main risk factors of seasonal affective disorder are the lack of sunlight and vitamin D, as well as lower amounts of exercise and poor sleeping habits due to the change of daylight in winter. Some ways to help prevent or manage seasonal affective disorder include: vitamin D supplementation, physical activity, getting sunlight throughout the days, keeping a healthy sleep routine, being in social situations (such as hanging out with friends), and getting outside to be active!

Now this all brings us to chat about Movember, the great movement that started in 2003 and helps to fund projects for men’s health that includes raising awareness on prostate and testicular cancer, as well as mental health and suicide prevention in men. It has grown from sporting a steezy stash to being active throughout the month for Move for Movember, which is great opportunity to see how physical activity positively impacts mental health. Move for Movember was created to get people out walking or running during this month; the set target is 60 km in the month, 1 km for every man that commits suicide every minute around the world. Suicide accounts for 24% of all death in those ages 15-24, and suicide rates are 4x higher in men than in women. The more we can raise awareness about mental health conditions such as depression and create support outlet for those struggling with thoughts of suicide, the more we can prevent premature deaths. Open up a dialog with people in your life and let them know that they and everyone else matters and there is always a place to find help.

If anyone would like to donate their time or money to a great cause, follow this link to donate to our team’s Movember page ( https://moteam.co/okanagan-peak-performance), with all proceeds going to the Movember charity to help with men’s health, prostate and cancer awareness, and depression and suicide awareness. Or if you would like some more information about Movember, read all about them at https://ca.movember.com/?home . If anyone would like some more information on mental health conditions in general, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website ( https://cmha.bc.ca/ ).

And finally, with November coming to a close, I am offering anyone who is interested in learning more, 1 free strategy session (coffee included) and 2 free private training sessions. The first 2 people to contact Okanagan Peak Performance Inc via phone or email before the end of November will get this deal! However, please keep in mind that all the coaches here at Okanagan Peak Inc are here for your physical and mental well-being and will always be available to talk.

Exercising But No Weight Loss

A common goal of everyone that trains is to be lean. And I don’t mean to be skinny. By lean I mean to carry the most amount of muscle mass and the least amount of body fat possible. And this should still allow us to do our regular tasks and activities without lacking fitness or mobility.

Sometimes when someone initiates a fitness program the results can be slow in coming. We know we feel better. We have fewer aches and pains. We sleep better at night. And our performance in sports is trending up as well. Yet the scale doesn’t budge.

Below are a number of nutritional reasons this may be the case.

Meals Eaten Alone

When we eat with others there are natural pauses for conversation. We want to hear how the other person’s day went. We comment on the flavour and textures of the prepared meal. We put the fork down every now and again to listen and answer.

Eating alone leads to eating more quickly. Nutritional quality tends to be lower. Maybe this is because we like to have a treat when no one is watching and won’t be judged. Or it could be that when we cook for others, i.e. for children, we feel a responsibility to provide the best nutrition possible.

Eating alone also means we could be doing something else while we’re eating. Maybe we watch a TV show. Sadly, we used to do this. Maybe we’re on our phones. Maybe we read a book. Maybe we try to get some work done at the computer. Regardless of what we do while we’re eating it serves as a distraction and leads to mindless rather than mindful eating.

Simply by eating in the company others we will eat more slowly, eat less and eat better quality foods. And if you do eat alone make sure that’s all you’re doing.

Sleep Plays a Role

When we are sleep deprived the hormone leptin is suppressed. Leptin’s job is to tell us we’re full. Compound being a little tired with eating alone and the potential for overeating becomes a real problem.

I remember one of my sisters sharing a story when she was studying while in university. I don’t want to dox her here but let’s just say she was studying for medical school and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter while studying. At one point she rotated the container of PB and saw she was getting 200 calories for every 2 tablespoons. When she saw a near empty container she realized how easily it can be to mindlessly add extra calories to the day. Pulling all-nighters for all her exams probably didn’t help.

Planning & Consistency

Nutrition is one of those things that needs to be planned ahead of time. You don’t need to go to the extreme of having a dozen Tupperware containers loaded every Sunday for the week to come. If you’re already in the habit of doing that’s great. Keep it up.

What you should do is have foods on hand for all your meals. Know what you’re going to have for breakfast before you go to bed. Make an extra serving at dinner so you can bring leftovers for lunch. Carry a water bottle so you don’t become dehydrated. And throw some fruit, nuts or bars in your car for times when you’re on the go and won’t have time to stop and eat.

What derails most is not having a plan. And not applying the plan consistently. If I skip breakfast some days what are the chances I drink more coffee to get going? Will I eat a bigger lunch? Do I wait until the end of the day and then overeat at dinner?

When you see the fuel light come on in your vehicle you plan to fuel up. You don’t ignore this signal and think it doesn’t matter. We’re similar in that we’ll get a signal of when to fuel up. We can ignore this signal and then body will then compensate accordingly.

Not One Factor

Getting lean isn’t just about a change on the scale. And it’s even possible to see no change on the scale. What we are seeking is a change in body composition. We want to add lean mass and decrease body fat.

Just as health can’t be summarized by one factor we can’t simplify our results based on the scale. We should also be measuring our strength and fitness. We should track our waist circumference and our overall health status. When most factors are moving in the right direction it’s likely a positive body composition is taking place as well.

It’s All About the Habits

I will always be lean. I don’t mean to be boastful. And sure some of the credit is due to picking the right parents. But most important are the habits I live day in and day out.

Some of my habits that I live daily to stay lean include:

  • Getting 8 hours of sleep every night
  • Moving every day
  • Eating the right amounts of healthy foods at the right times
  • Having practices to reduce stress
  • Drinking enough water
  • Minimizing low nutrition calories and alcohol

There are more healthy habits someone could use to get lean but those are mine.

We have compiled a list of the best evidenced-based habits that lead to weight loss. And we’ve developed a system to help our clients lose and keep the weight off.

If you would like to know more about these habits send an email to athletetraining@shaw.ca with ‘Healthy Habits’ in the subject line. We’ll be in touch to help get you set up with some better habits and a leaner you in the future.

Game Changers Cherry Picking

When we young kids growing up our family hosted a young boy from Northern Ireland. Peter Casey was from Belfast and spent about 8 weeks one summer in Kelowna to get away from the turmoil back home.

We spent that summer riding our bikes, going to the beach and doing all the things 8-10 year old boys do. And that included getting dragged by their moms to go cherry picking.

One time when we were cherry picking, Peter thought it would be funny to throw cherries at my brother Jon and I. It didn’t take much for us to get drawn into this fruit fight considering:

A. There were two of us and only one of him

B. We were in the habit of throwing from playing football and baseball. Peter was used to playing soccer and had a terrible arm.

So the war was on. Since August in Kelowna can get very hot Peter soon ditched the tarp giving us this nice, pasty white target to aim at. We quickly realized if we bit half the cherry off a direct hit resulted in red circles all over Peter’s body.

Now while it’s fun to reminisce about fun stories growing up we weren’t the only ones cherry picking.

If you’ve seen the ‘documentary’ Game Changers you’ll know what I’m talking about. But in case you haven’t here’s a quick overview.

A MMA competitor injuries himself and spends his recovery time researching the best ways to come back to his sport better than ever. What he discovers is that a plant-based diet is not only better for health but it also gives athletes an advantage as well.

Those are a couple of the claims anyway.

Having produced some great pieces of fictional content such as Avatar and Terminator I’m sure James Cameron felt right at home producing Game Changers. He was joined by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan in producing this one.

As I sat back to watch Game Changers, twice, I noticed my head getting tilted sideways as it does when something doesn’t seem right. Rather than do a full autopsy on this one I’m going to lean on a few reviews that have already been produced. These reviews are courtesy of Men’s Heath, Menno Henselmans and Layne Norton. I’ve included direct links to their reviews below.

Men’s Health Review of Game Changers

At the beginning of the of documentary the MMA narrator James tells us that a plant-based diet is superior for cardiovascular health, sexual function and mortality. The story continues to prove these claims.

The first piece of proof is a ‘study’ of the remains of gladiators. The skeletal remains of these warriors indicate that gladiators, the most impressive physical specimens of the time, at predominantly fruits and vegetables.

The problem is that it isn’t a study that isn’t being presented but instead a narrative, taken a little bit out of context. As well, certain details indicating gladiators ate fish and had higher levels of creatine i.e. from eating meat, fail to make the final cut.

Later there is the mention of a study of how milk can drop testosterone and increase estrogen levels in men. The problem here is two-fold. The first is that seven men were included in the study and the findings were temporary. Hardly conclusive evidence to stop drinking milk.

The Men’s Health piece addresses the claim that increased meat consumption raises the incidence of cancer. This is true but there is more to the story. The incidence of colorectal cancer is 5% and eating a hot dog per day may raise this to a 6% chance. However using a marinade and or eating more fruits and vegetables could mitigate this increase altogether.

Game Changers Review by Menno Henselmans

Menno Henselmans

Menno does a great job at looking at various claims made during the documentary. What I liked is that he includes omitted details from the studies mentioned and therefore a complete picture of the discussion. Here are some examples of his review:

  • A vegetarian diet may have a lower risk for certain diseases than meat eaters. What is left out is that the lower risk is equivalent to fish eaters.
  • A plant-based diet may result in increased cardiovascular health. What is left out from this study is that plant-based diets may also have an increased chance of non-communicable blood disease.
  • A plant-based diet may add more vitamins, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals which are all good things. Eating animal products may allow for the consumption of higher quality protein, more iron, omega-3 and B vitamins.
  • Menno mentions a study where senior women eat a high-meat diet. The study subjects increased muscle size and strength as well as markers of inflammation. Reduced inflammation is touted as one of the main reasons to ditch meat in favour of a plant-based approach.

Game Changers Review by Layne Norton

Dr. Layne Norton

The last review to look at is the one by Layne Norton. Layne identifies many of the same short-comings covered by Men’s Health and Menno. So the brevity of this section is simply looking at unique points not covered in the previous reviews.

Layne does a good job of exposing potential conflicts of interests of those associated with the documentary.

James Cameron and Suzy Cameron are both owners of a plant-based nutritional company. James is the CEO and Suzy is the founder of Verdiant Foods, a pea-protein nutritional company.

Jackie Chan is a vegan himself.

And Schwarzenegger is part-owner of a supplement company that sells vegan products.

There is nothing wrong with having interests in plant-based companies or profiting financially from them. But how many of the people watching this documentary were aware of these relationships? Knowing these ties makes the documentary feel more like a commercial and less like a review of the scientific evidence.

Another great point Layne makes is to examine the claim that plant-based proteins are superior. This simply isn’t the case.

Proteins from animal products have a higher bioavalability by about 10-40%. This is a measure of how much of the protein we can absorb and use. Egg white has a bioavailability of 100 and other foods will be higher or lower than this. Kidney beans, soy and wheat have BVs of 49, 54 and 59 respectively.

Plant proteins are typically lower in essential amino acids than animal proteins. Essential amino acids (EAA) are ones the body cannot make and are therefore essential to be included in the diet. Leucine in particular is an important EAA and plays an important in muscle protein synthesis.

So what’s the take home message?

Netflix is great for entertainment. They are lots of great shows to evoke a variety of emotions and allow us to escape. Two hours of watching a documentary online doesn’t equate to the learning that comes from a university education.

Going forward look to include more fruits and vegetables in your nutritional plan. And if you are an omnivore you can rest assured that eating protein that comes from animals doesn’t put you at a disadvantage.

If you’d like to check out these reviews further here are the links:

Men’s Health

Menno Henselmans

Layne Norton

The Known Placebo

What do you believe? I don’t mean this specifically related to health and fitness.

Although for people nutrition can become a theology and they speak of it as though it were a religion.

I believe eating organic is the only way to go.

I believe that eating meat isn’t healthy.

These statements don’t reference science but instead our beliefs. And sometimes our beliefs can be at odds with science. Just ask Kyrie Irving.

So there are times in life where we believe so strongly in something that we make life decisions based on this belief.

Consider the placebo effect which basically says that a positive health change is due the placebo itself. The placebo has no active medical ingredients and therefore it is our belief that the placebo will work that accounts for the beneficial effect.

We are probably familiar with these types of research studies. One group takes a pill to treat a disease and the control group does not. The pill has no medical ingredients but the study participants don’t know this. They are made to believe the pill will deliver a positive health result. The experimental group, i.e. the ones taking the pills, experience the positive health outcome.

More recently there have been studies involving an open label placebo and a control group.

An open label placebo involves a group of research subjects that know they will be receiving a placebo. The other group of study subjects continue their regular treatment plans known as treatment as usual.

Now it’s important to be clear that the placebo group knew what a placebo was and that is what they would be receiving during the study. I’m imagining the information session for the study going something like this:

You’re not getting any medicine. Instead you’re going to eat Tic Tacs twice a day for 3 weeks. Before we get started we’re going to watch a video on what a placebo is so there’s no confusion as to the fact that you’re receiving a placebo. We’ll give you the pills in a prescription bottle labelled ‘Placebo’ and the pills themselves will also be labelled ‘Placebo’.

The researchers also explained to all the study participants the power of the placebo effect. They talked about how the placebo effect can induce certain behaviours similar to Pavlov’s response. The shared how a positive attitude is necessary for the placebo effect to work. And they stressed how it was essential that the experimental group continue taking the placebo pills for the full 21 days of the experiment.

All of the participants, n = 83, were adults of least 18 years of age and had chronic back pain for the past 3 months. If subjects were taking NSAIDs prior to the study for pain they were allowed to continuing doing so. 6 subjects refused to participate, 3 discontinued in the placebo group and 2 discontinued in the treatment as usual group.

At the beginning, half-way and end of the experiment subjects were assessed for level of low back pain and disability due to pain.

The table on the left shows the improvement in pain. A higher value indicates a more favourable reduction in pain. The table on the right shows disability improvement. A higher value indicates a more favourable improvement in ability. The white bars are the treatment as usual group and grey bars are the open label placebo.

The results showed that the open label placebo group had a 30% greater reduction in pain and disability.

So how do you explain this?

Well, part of it has to do with wanting to please the experimenter. Maybe they were swayed in their subjective responses when asked about their level of pain or disability in order to provide the experimenters with a favourable response.

There are also the potential psychological analgesic effects associated with opening a bottle of pills and swallowing a pill. It could be having the pills in a prescription bottle written out as though it was a true prescription, even though only placebo was written on the bottle. Could the simple act of getting the bottle out of the cupboard, twisting off the child-proof safety lid, pouring a glass a water and swallowing a couple of pills be enough to start the psychological cascade of events to induce pain relief? Maybe it was simply the act of trying something different that may give them some relief.

The last thing I found interesting about this study was at the completion 17 of the study participants wanted the prescription refilled! Crazy, right? I mean these are sane, competent adults eating pills with no medical ingredients asking for more of these pills as it is working for them.

Going forward, do your research on your nutrition, your training and your health. And whatever it is you decide know that believing it will work is just as important as whatever the solution is. Except if you’re Kyrie Irving. That dude’s just crazy.

Here’s the link for the study for any that are interested.

The Love Hate of Fitness

If you are an active person there are probably still aspects of fitness that you don’t enjoy.

For example, we all know someone who is really fit but doesn’t enjoy running. They will do almost anything else rather than run. They will swim, bike, row and even go hiking. But go for a 5 or 10 km run? Never.

This reminds of the dinner hour at the Collins household. Alexandra does a great job of preparing delicious meals each evening. But with two little girls there will be something that’s been prepared they don’t enjoy.

With Vangie, 4 years old, this could be peppers. It doesn’t matter the colour i.e. red, yellow or green, she has an equal distaste for all of them. If you try to hide them in chili or something else she will pick them out and set them off to the side.

Sometimes we have to do the things we don’t like in order to get better.

Given the choice if every meal were ice cream, cookies and pudding she’d be OK with this. And it’s tough for her to recognize that her mom and dad feed her foods to help with her growth, development and overall health.

So there are the foods she’d like to eat and then the ones she needs to eat. And it’s trying to find the balance to make sure gets what she needs and every now and again she gets a little bit of what she wants.

This is kind of be how fitness is for many people.

Maybe we are already active. We go to the gym. We squat, bench and deadlift. The numbers are all going up. We’re getting stronger. And everything is great. Until it’s not.

And it stops being great when we have a new physical demand to face. Maybe it’s going on a ski trip. Or taking the kids to Wibit or some other type of ropes course. Or we get the call from a buddy to come and play men’s league soccer for a game.

Let’s say the event doesn’t end with a knee or Achilles tendon injury. Maybe it’s the next day popping Advil and on the couch watching sports all day. You’re so stiff and sore you can’t move and open waking in the morning you’re quickly aware of every muscle that hasn’t been worked in that way for years, if ever.

This could have been prevented.

And usually it comes back to doing the things that we need rather than we want. For some this is training the backside of the body. It means working the glutes, hamstrings, calves, low back and lats. It’s not uncommon to work on what we see in the mirror after a shower. We see the extra layer of insulation. We see a keg instead of a six-pack. We see soft shoulders and pecs. And so we go to the gym to address these things and improve.

Besides working on what we see, and ignoring what we don’t we can also fall into the trap of doing what suits our body type. For example, a smaller, leaner person will typically choose activities where they have to move their own body and not have to move external load or an opponent. The 145 lbs guy will gravitate towards running triathlons and running marathons but may not look to play rugby.

The opposite is also true. Larger people will tend to sports and training where they can move others or external load. Strong man competitions and powerlifting come to mind. And they won’t be looking to sign up for when they have to move their own bodies on something like American Ninja Warrior.

What about our energy system development?

What do you do for this? Typically sprinters are gifted people. They have the right length of levers, body fat, coordination and muscle fibre type that quick movements come easily. Fast people are just fast. You can work to develop this quality a little bit but it’s not the same as someone who can turn it on in a moments notice.

So far a sprinter they probably don’t do a lot of cardio. They don’t look to go for a 3 hour bike ride or swim a few kilometres at the pool. And yeah I guess you could say because they’ve gotten away with their God-given talents they can be a little bit lazy.

So what is the take home message here?

Well it’s to look at where you are with your health, fitness and performance and we’re you’d like to be. It’s being aware of what you typically do and what you usually avoid. And it’s figuring what you consider more fun and what feels a little more like work.

You don’t need to reluctantly approach every training session because you know you’re going to have to do something you don’t like. But the longer you avoid it the harder it will be to address. Hello, procrastinators, I’m looking at you.

This isn’t the easiest thing to figure out. You need to know all the elements of fitness that contribute to health and performance. You need to know what you are currently doing to improve these qualities. You need to know what your weak links are and how you will address them.

Overwhelmed? Don’t worry.

Reach out to one of our coaches at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc and we can help you figure out a plan and the safest, more efficient way to achieve results. And a bonus, we’re usually pretty good at making it fun as well.

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