Is Protein Powder Crucial for Weight Training?

Does Protein Powder Help Fitness?

Do we need protein?
Is protein crucial to fitness?

A common question many beginners have is “Do I need to buy protein shakes?” Advertising has drilled into our head that protein shakes are crucial to fitness. The truth is that you don’t “need” protein shakes.

Lets take a look at what protein powder consists of. Protein powder usually consists of whey protein which is a common protein found in milk. Despite popular belief, whey protein will not damage your liver of kidneys, but can make existing issues worse. For a healthy individual, protein powder will not harm you or make you more “aggressive”.

Many beginners think of protein powder as the Ambrosia of the lifting gods, something that will bestow upon them unreal power in the gym. But in reality protein powder is exactly what it is: Protein. That’s all it is; it will not do anything besides help fulfill your protein macronutrient requirement. So when should you take protein powder?

Its recommended for active athletes that you get 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight(2.2 Grams / Kg). Sometimes active people do not reach this requirement and their performance suffers because of it. This is where protein powders can be helpful. Protein powder is relatively cheap and has an excellent price to gram ratio. Protein powder is also very easily consumed as a drink or as a chocolate bar. A serving of whey protein can have the same amount of protein as three fast food hamburgers. Track your macronutrients throughout the day and see if your deficient in protein. If your not getting enough protein, buy some protein powder and take enough servings to make up for the difference.

Here’s a list of the best protein powders and their effectiveness(grams per serving).

Optimum Nutrition Whey

  • Has 27 Flavors, 24 grams per serving

Cellucor Cor-Performance Whey

  • 25 grams per serving

Body Fortress Whey Protein

  • 60 grams per serving (however one serving is two scoops, while the others are one)

EAS 100% Whey Protein Powder

  • 26 grams per serving

BSN SYNTHIA-6 Protein Powder

  • 22 grams per serving


Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Gluten Free

  • 21 grams per serving

CLIF Builder’s Protein

  • 20 grams per serving

 

Banded Lifts: Creating Speed, Acceleration, and Power

How Banded Lifts Can Increase Your Lifts

Franco Columbu, bodybuilder and powerlifter, often used bands in his workouts.
Franco Columbu, bodybuilder and powerlifter, often used bands in his workouts.

Adding bands on compound lifts is a great way to increase strength and muscle size. Powerlifters often use this method to add speed and strength to their lifts. Unfortunately, most casual lifters never bother with this great method to increase strength and totals. Here’s how bands work, and how you can add them to your workouts.

Bands are large elastic bands(much like rubber bands) which can be looped around the barbell and then anchored to either the floor or power rack to add variable resistance. By adding these bands to the barbell you change the mechanics of the lift. For example, adding bands to the squat will make it more difficult to lockout. As you lockout the band is stretched farther and pulls back harder, whereas when your in the bottom of your squat the band has much more slack. This mechanic applies to both bench and deadlift. If you struggle with locking out your lifts, training with bands will help you immensely.

Using bands on your lifts will also add explosiveness to your lifts. For powerlifters, explosiveness is crucial to building a strong lift. However, bands can also help non competitive lifters. Bands force  you to focus on building an explosive squat, bench, or deadlift. By exploding out of the bottom of your lift you will carry momentum into the lock out of the lift. Explosiveness will build your fast twitch muscles and will make your lifts faster and more powerful.

Banded lifts can be added to your workout as accessories. Use a lighter weight since the bands will add resistance. How light you go depends on how thick the bands are and how many reps you do. Here’s a guide on how to add bands to your power rack.

Here’s some brands we recommend. We chose bands that were best rated on Amazon and the most cost efficient. Note: Always make sure your bands don’t become frayed or broken, broken bands can lead to injury!

Serious Steel Powerlifting Bands (Includes Starter Guide)

Draper Strength Powerlifting Bands

WODFitters Resistance Bands

POWERGUIDANCE Powerlifting and Mobility Bands (Lifetime Warranty)

 

Does Aging Affect Training?

Aging Does Affect Training, but Not in the Way You Think

Dexter Jackson at the 2008 IFBB Championships. Source:LocalFitness
Dexter Jackson at the 2008 IFBB Championships Source:LocalFitness

Lifting weights is becoming more and more popular in today’s society. Although fitness tends to be more popular among the younger generation, fitness is still important to the older generation. We researched the ways aging affects strength.

1. The Cross Sectional Area of Muscle (CSA)

Muscle size is heavily tied with muscle strength. Nonlifters tend to lose muscle mass as they age, primarily fast twitch (type II) fibers. However, studies showed that lifting weights will help retard muscle loss. Bodybuilding also shows that muscle mass can also be accomplished at any age. Dexter Jackson (47 years old) is a Mr. Olympia champion and came second for this year’s Olympia against a much younger lineup. More muscle mass also keeps your metabolic rate high, keeping you from getting fat as you age.

2. Maximal Strength

As humans get older we lose maximal strength(the max amount of weight we can lift). For men, its estimated that you lose about 10 to 20% of your max strength level as you age. However, much like CSA, this can be prevented by lifting as you get older. A look at any Master Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting meet shows that age can be just a number. Many records in powerlifting and weightlifting are set by lifters over 30.

One thing that keeps older people from lifting is the fear that they are too “brittle” and “old” to lift safely. However, a study done by Boston Rehabilitation Center showed that elderly (86-96) who began lifting showed increases in muscle mass and strength. The researchers also stated that strength exercises would help prevent falls, the most common injury for the elderly.

3. Nervous System

As people age there is also a decrease in the infrastructure of the central nervous system(CNS). As study in 1991 stated that there is a 37% decline in spinal cord connections and a 10% decline in nerve conduction speed as one ages. Other studies have pointed out that the loss of CNS structure and muscle fiber connections is due to the lack of proper conditioning from intense exercise.

Conclusion

Our research showed that one does lose strength as they age. They lose CSA, maximal strength, and CNS structure. However, all these losses can be lessened by lifting at both a young age and older age.

The research also surprisingly showed that lifting was not dangerous to the elderly, but could actually diminish their injury rate. On top of this, many powerlifting and weightlifting records are set by lifters over 30 while bodybuilding shows that one can be competitive at any age.

Lifting is not a young people’s game, do not fall into the mentality that you have missed your best years to start lifting. The best time to start weight training is now!

Required Reading:

  1. 50 Athletes over 50: Teach Us to Live Strong, Healthy Life
  2. Powerlifting over 50: Mastering the Skilled for an Empowered Body and Life
  3. When Pride Still Mattered : A life of Vince Lombardi
  4. Find a Way
  5. Supple Leopard

Citations:

  1. Brooks, G.A. and Fahey, T.A.; Exercise Physiology: Human Bioenergetics and its Applications: Macmillan Publishing Co.; New York; 1985; pp 682-693
  2. deVries, H. Physiology of Exercise for Physical Educations and Athletics; Wm. C. Brown Co. Publishers; Dubuque, Iowa; 1966; p. 337
  3. Hakklnen, K. and Hakkinen, A.; Muscle Cross-Sectional Area, Force Production And Relaxation Characteristics In Females At Different Ages; Paper presented at the First World Congress of Biomechanics, August 30 -September 4, 1990; University of California, San Diego.
  4. Lamb, D.R.; Physiology of Exercise: Responses and Adaptations; Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.; New York; 1978; pp 117-118.
  5. McArdle, W.O.; Katch, F.l.; Katch, V.I.; Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition and Human Performance; Lea and F eblger; Philadelphia; 1991 : p 702-703.
  6. Stovas, Jane; 90 Year Olds Increase Strength Dramatically; In, Wrap-Up; The Physician And Sports Medicine; September, 1990; p 26.
  7. Westcott, Wayne; Strength Fitness: Physiological Principles and Training Techniques; Allyn and

 

 

 

 

Five Supplements That Will Drastically Improve Your Sleep

Supplements that help you get a better night’s rest

Sleep Hynogram shwoing the stages of sleep, by RazerM
Sleep Hynogram showing the stages of sleep, by RazerM

Sleep is a crucial part of fitness. Lack of sleep will decrease your level of strength and negatively affect your fitness level. While the amount of sleep is important, so is sleep quality. Sleep has many complex stages, divided into the REM and NREM stages of sleep. We took a look at five different supplements that will help improve your sleep quality.

Note: Remember to consult your doctor before taking any supplements; read our Disclaimer for more information. Remember to not MIX compounds!

    1. Melatonin

Melatonin is often used to solve insomnia and will help those who have trouble sleeping at night. Although melatonin is useful for reducing sleep latency, there is not strong evidence that melatonin will increase sleep quality. Studies showed that 3mg of melatonin drastically reduced the time it took to fall asleep. Melatonin is relatively cheap, at $0.03/3 mg count on Amazon.

2. Glycine

Glycine is useful for people who struggle with getting quality sleep. 3 mg of glycine before going to sleep has been shown to improve sleep quality. Participants in a sleep study reported feeling much more rested and energetic after sleeping with glycine. Glycine is a bit more expensive than melatonin. The lowest price we found was $0.05/2.5 mg count on Amazon.

3. Kava

Kava was found to greatly increase sleep quality in double blind studies. Those who took 200 mg of Kava extract over the course of 4 weeks had less insomnia and better sleep quality than those who received placebo. Kava can be taken in the form of tea, powder, or as capsules. Because of this the price of Kava can vary greatly, ranging from $0.19/count for 200mg to $19 for 16 Tea bags.

Note: Kava interacts dangerously with other pharmaceuticals, do not mix it with other compounds!

4. ZMA

ZMA contains Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6 and is used by athletes as a recovery aid. Zinc, magnesium, and B6 are important to human body, and while most people get their proper dosage of zinc and B6, half don’t get the proper dosage for magnesium. Magnesium has been shown to increase sleep quality (but only in those with poor sleep quality), while zinc and B6 also have been shown to improve sleep quality overall. Despite many claims, ZMA will not increase free or bound testosterone. The cheapest option is Optimum Nutrition ZMA at $0.10/count.

5. Marijuana

Marijuana has been shown to increase sleep quality in a double blind study. Studies have shown that marijuana not only reduced sleep latency but also increased Stage 4 of the sleep cycle(deep sleep). However, the same study remarked that there was a reduction in REM sleep. Marijuana prices vary by region, but always remember to review local laws before doing illicit drugs.

Remember sleep is important to fitness! However, while supplements can help one get sleep, simple habits such as not looking at a screen before sleeping can also help.

Shopping Links (These were cheapest by Rating and $/count)

  1. Melatonin
  2. Glycine
  3. Kava capsules and Kava tea
  4. ZMA

References

  1. Schierenbeck, Thomas, Dieter Riemann, Mathias Berger, and Magdolna Hornyak. “Effect of Illicit Recreational Drugs upon Sleep: Cocaine, Ecstasy and Marijuana.” Sleep Medicine Reviews 12.5 (2008): 381-89. Web.
  2. J, Zajicek. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2003. Web. 13 July 2016.
  3. K, Held. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2002. Web. 13 July 2016.
  4. Inagawa, Kentaro, Takenori Hiraoka, Tohru Kohda, Wataru Yamadera, and Michio Takahashi. “Subjective Effects of Glycine Ingestion before Bedtime on Sleep Quality.” Sleep and Biological Rhythms 4.1 (2006): 75-77. Web.
  5. D, Wheatley. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2001. Web. 13 July 2016.
  6. Inagawa, Kentaro, Takenori Hiraoka, Tohru Kohda, Wataru Yamadera, and Michio Takahashi. “Subjective Effects of Glycine Ingestion before Bedtime on Sleep Quality.” Sleep and Biological Rhythms 4.1 (2006): 75-77. Web.
  7. S, Lehrl. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2004. Web. 13 July 2016.

Stop Worrying About Form and Start Lifting

Excessively worrying about form will limit your progress

An image of the barbell squat by Everkinetic
An illustration of the barbell squat by Everkinetic

The biggest mistake a new lifter makes is worrying too much about form. I’ve lost count of how many people say “deload to the bar” when they see people slightly arched during 1 rep max deadlift attempts. This mindset of “form first” will severely hurt your progress.

It’s easy for new lifters to become overwhelmed with the plethora of lifting knowledge online. There are thousands of Youtube videos describing the perfect form for every lift down to the smallest detail. This deluge of knowledge leads to lifters being overly concerned with form instead of effort.

A good example is the barbell squat. You’ll find thousands of sources telling you how to position your head and how far your feet should be. In reality, there are only a few things about squat that are important to know. Things such as head position and stance width are all personal preference.

New lifters have this “form first” mindset because they think lifting will cripple you for life. Lifting in reality is very safe, much safer than other sports. They want to get the form “right” first before they start lifting heavy. However, if you look at any top level powerlifting meet, every powerlifter lifts differently. The “right” form for you is what you feel most comfortable and the strongest in.

Start putting more effort into your lifts instead of worrying so much about form. The form first mindset will lead you to deloading to this.

Women’s Bodybuilding: A Guide

An Easy to Understand Guide to Women’s Bodybuilding

Side chest pose by Nikki Fuller.
Side chest pose by Nikki Fuller.

Women’s bodybuilding can be confusing as it has many more categories than men’s bodybuilding. Here’s an easy to understand guide to women’s bodybuilding for those interested in competing!

Bikini

Women's bikini
An example of women’s bikini

 

Bikini may be the “easiest” form of women’s bodybuilding. The bikini category was created to make bodybuilding more accessible to women. It focuses much more on the conventional bikini body and an emphasis on glutes. Bikini is definitely a great stepping stone for those thinking about competing in bodybuilding. Those with an athletic background can be ready for a show with 6 months of prep and training.

Figure

A figure competitor
A figure competitor

Figure is much like bikini but requires a leaner body and more muscle mass. Instead of poses focusing the glutes, figure competitions emphasize more of a bodybuilding aspect with quarter turns. Figure competitions can be accomplished with slightly more training, around 1-2 years of training.

Physique

Women's Physique

The equivalent of men’s physique, women’s physique has much more emphasis on muscle  tone and the flow of the physique. Much like men’s physique they have mandatory poses such as front double bicep and side tricep. Striations and muscle mass are positives; however too much muscle mass can dock you points. Women’s physique can take 5-6 of training.

Bodybuilding

Women’s bodybuilding is much more competitive and difficult to succeed in. The “hardest” category of women’s bodybuilding, taking many years of training. Women’s bodybuilding is also unfortunately on the downturn with the Olympia this year not even offering women’s bodybuilding. It takes roughly a decade of very intense hard training to achieve this physique. A true women’s bodybuilding body cannot be achieved naturally.

Now you’re all set to compete!

Study Finds That Infrequent Stretching Can Lead to Injuries

Can stretching lead to injuries, rather than prevent it?

Infrequent stretching can lead to injuries.
Infrequent stretching can lead to injuries.

An Ontario study that investigated the stretching habits of nearly 1,300 runners between the ages of 14 and 76 (mean age of around 30) found that stretching did not reduce injuries! Runners who always stretched before running had more or less the same injury rate as runners who never stretched before running. The most interesting discovery was that runners who infrequently stretched had much higher injury rates than both of the other groups.

The study stated that this may be because the runners who infrequently stretched did not stretch correctly and most likely aggressively overstretched when they did stretch. More is not better, in fact overstretching can lead to injuries.

How do you prevent this? Follow a well structured stretching program! I recommend reading Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett. I myself have also bought this cheap foam roller which I use to help roll out injuries. By taking these steps you can prevent injuries in 60 seconds!

Citations:

     Ward, Paul E., and Robert D. Ward. Encyclopedia of Weight Training: Weight Training for General Conditioning, Sport, and Body Building. Laguna Hills, CA: QPT Publications, 1991. Print

More Than Just Picking Up Weights: Different Kinds of Resistance

More Than Just Picking Up Weights: Different Kinds of Resistance

Lifting has changed greatly of the past century.
Lifting has changed greatly of the past century.

It is important to understand different kinds of resistance besides weights to improve your training. We will talk about the four kinds of resistance: isometric, constant, variable, and accommodating.

Isometric Resistance

Isometric resistance are static exercises where you do not perform any movement. Like pushing against a wall for hours, it can help improve strength, but is not very effective. Isometric resistance also makes it difficult to train other body parts. (How would you do legs?)

Constant Resistance

Constant resistance is like lifting weights. No matter how you lift, a 405 pound deadlift is 405 pounds. The weight is constant, and studies show that it is highly effective at producing strength and hypertrophy gains.

Variable Resistance

Variables resistance means the resistance changes during the exercise. Variable resistance can help eliminate momentum and sticking points during lifts, making the muscle work throughout the whole exercise. There isn’t much research done in variable resistance, making it difficult to say if it is more or less effective than constant resistance. However, variable resistance is crucial for powerlifters. Powerlifters often uses elastic bands such as these or slingshots to introduce variable resistance to their training. For example, using these bands during bench makes the lift much more difficult the farther the bar is from the chest, building the user’s acceleration during the lift which is crucial to overcome sticking points.

Accommodating Resistance

Accommodating resistance uses air or pneumatic devices. They are usually used for push/pull mechanisms. The difficulty with accommodating resistance is that you can’t perform the negatives of an exercise. This makes accommodating resistant sub-optimal when compared to constant resistance. The only way to maintain negative accommodating resistance would be to use computer controlled lifting machines, which are both rare and expensive.

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Citations

Ward, Paul E., and Robert D. Ward. Encyclopedia of Weight Training: Weight Training for General Conditioning, Sport, and Body Building. Laguna Hills, CA: QPT Publications, 1991. Print.

Should Young People Strength Train?

Naim_Süleymanoğlu_1989_Paraguay_stamp
Naim Suleimanov at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics

Should Young People Strength Train? That Answer is Yes!

According to the President’s Council on Fitness, only one in three US children are physically active each day. To combat these levels of obesity, physical education has been introduced in schools in the form of sports. However, this raises the question: Should teenagers and children weight train?

Weight training at a young age is not a foreign idea in many countries. In Bulgaria children as young as 11 are chosen to compete in weight lifting. Naim Suleimanov is one example, who at the age of 16 clean and jerked three times his bodyweight. Like Suleimanov, many young children today are emerging as world class athletes, proving that strength training is effective.

Some argue that strength training is ineffective in youth because low levels of androgens and that it will stunt their growth. However, many studies have shown otherwise. One study found that children between the ages of 9 and 11 had significant increases in strength without negative impacts. Other studies have shown that lifting does not stunt growth, in fact it helps increase bone density and growth!

Despite the myths, its clear that strength training has many benefits for children and teens. So get your toddlers a nice weightlifting set or simply educate your children on fitness!

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Citations

 “President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.” Facts & Statistics –. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.

Ward, Paul E., and Robert D. Ward. Encyclopedia of Weight Training: Weight Training for General Conditioning, Sport, and Body Building. Laguna Hills, CA: QPT Publications, 1991. Print.

The Absence of Women Lifting Science: How to Find Your Own

The Absence of Women Lifting Science: How to Find Your Own

Svetlana Podobedova preforms a clean and jerk: lifting science
Svetlana Podobedova performs a clean and jerk. A complicated lift with lots of interesting fitness science behind it.

“Fifty males between the ages of 20-54 were recruited from blank for blank study”. How many fitness studies begin, with n count of males being participants in a fitness study. The results from these studies often do not translate well to women and leave women lacking any solid studies to base their training off of.

This theme of neglecting women in studies is not only seen in lifting studies but also in medicine too. Many of us may know the F.A.S.T. or S.T.O.P. acronym for spotting common signs of stroke and heart attack; however, women often can experience different symptoms that few have been taught to spot. Medical studies are also often conducted on men, causing women to not be properly represented in scientific studies.

Unfortunately, the fitness industry pushes women toward pink 5 pound weights and a 100 rep range to “tone”. Women who venture into heavy lifting and other male dominated fitness areas find advice or training isn’t relevant to them. For example, many beginner lifting programs for men usually progress around 10-15 pounds a week for bench; for women that is nearly impossible linear progression to keep up with. There are few beginning powerlifting routines that are women oriented.

How do you break out of this unjust social mold? Simple. Take initiative and join Facebook groups, online forums, and college powerlifting clubs to find other women with a mindset just like yours. Utilize the internet to connect with other women who will help you learn more about fitness in a male dominated world.

 

Citations

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Affiliate/Heart-Attack-or-Stroke-Call-911-First-And-Fast_UCM_435652_Article.jsp

“An Acronym Can Save Your Life – ArtChester.net.” ArtChesternet. N.p., 09 Dec. 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Moyer, Melinda Wenner. “Women Aren’t Properly Represented in Scientific Studies.” Slate.com. Slate.com, June-July 2010. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.