Better pre-workout… coffee or beetroot juice? – Part 3 (of 4)

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Better pre-workout… coffee or beetroot juice? Part 3

Over the past couple weeks, coffee has been smack in the middle of my blog spotlight. Deservedly so, I mean it stands alone as the only non-supplement capable of providing an ergogenic aid…right?

Click here too see the effects of coffee as a pre-workout: Part 1 Part 2

NOT SO FAST! The emergence of beetroot juice (that’s right, beetroot juice) may offer a viable competitor for coffee as the best dietary pre-workout!

Part 3: Beetroot juice enhances exercise performance!

By now, most of you are probably thinking what the heck is beetroot juice and how can I use it as a pre-workout? Beets, carrots, rhubarb, spinach, bok choy (basically any dark green leafy veggie) contain a nutrient called inorganic nitrate. When we begin exercising, muscle contraction stimulates the production and release of nitric oxide (NO), which serves to dilate our blood vessels, thus allowing for increased blood flow to the working muscles.  However, during times of low oxygen availability or acidic environments (both occur during exercise), the production of NO becomes impaired. Cue in beetroot juice. During times of need (hypoxia, low pH), dietary nitrate is converted into nitrite and then finally into NO.

Ok, lets move on to the important stuff… does it actually improve performance?

The main benefit discovered thus far is reduced oxygen cost during submaximal exercise. This means that for any submaximal effort, your body does not need to consume as much oxygen. Your body becomes more efficient and you can work harder with less. This can improve your overall exercise capacity by allowing you to train longer.

In addition, exercise performance has also been enhanced by drinking beetroot juice prior to training. Participants that consumed 0.5L beetroot juice before completing 4 & 16km cycling time trials experienced an increase in power output compared to placebo controls for the same VO2. Also, their time to completion was significantly faster! Improvements in high intensity intermittent activities resembling sports have also been noted.

Unlike coffee which targets the CNS, the effects of beetroot juice seem to be targeted in the periphery. Enhanced blood flow and oxygen availability have several important functions that help improve exercise performance. The strongest evidence resides in the sparing of intramuscular phosphocreatine (provide energy for immediate, short duration bursts) stores and blunting the increases in ADP and Pi, which are metabolic bi-products of exercise that result in fatigue.

So it works, but can it actually be more effective than coffee? Which do I chose??

Next week ill finish off this 4 part series with a direct side by side comparison of the two, and declare my winner. In the meantime, do not hesitate to pop into SST for a chat and stay for our famous Butts and Guts bootcamp!

Email us at sst@sstcanada.com for more information and exciting promotion for Butts and Guts!

Core Training for Hockey Players

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Core and Instability Training – Circus Act, or Performance Fact?

It is becoming impossible to talk about strength and conditioning without someone mentioning “CORE” training. The notion that in order to have functional sports training you must train the core specifically is not only wrong, but is leading to many problems and imbalances in today’s poorly trained athletes.  Before we delve into this, let’s first examine the classical thinking behind “core” training. To many, the core consists of the muscles in the abdomen, lower back, some even include muscles of the pelvis, ribcage, and spine into the equation. You can begin to see where the problem with “core” training begins as it means many different things to different people. Some believe sit-ups and leg raises to be core training, others argue the core is trained with every movement.  So which is it? Well, although sit-ups and leg raises will isolate and train the muscles of the abdomen, they likely will not improve performance.  In fact they can lead to tight hip flexor muscles and decrease mobility; a hockey player’s worst nightmare.  In order for improved performance we must improve the body’s ability to transfer force between tissues.  In order to achieve the greatest amount of force transfer the body must develop the ability to remain stiff. This is where the core comes into play; for improved performance we must train the core’s ability to remain rigid in order to allow for force transfer between the upper and lower extremity. This is especially important in hockey during changing direction, taking a slap shot, and many other basic skills performed numerous times each game.

How do we train Stiffness?                 

To train the body to be able to stay stiff under different conditions we must put it in different situations and force it to remain stiff. Sounds simple? The devil is in the details – using single leg exercises, the body is forced to stabilize itself; also single arm weighted carries may be some of the best core exercises you can use.  In both cases, the body is given an uneven load that it is forced to balance in order to perform the exercise.  Other variations that are great for improving stability: plank variations and loaded squats; both encourage stiffness throughout the mid section in order to transfer force between the lower and upper body. Therefore, if training the body to balance is best then wouldn’t using unstable surface equipment be the most effective?

Although these types of training techniques are often utilized in an attempt to improve stability within the core during exercise, you may not be achieving these benefits from them.  Studies have shown that unstable surface training in trained athletes does not provide adequate stimulus in order to promote a training effect. As a result although it may look impressive to stand on a physio ball with a barbell over your head, or to balance a dumbbell on your head while squatting on a Bosu, in actual fact you are not receiving much more than a cool story to tell at the dinner table that night, and certainly not an increase in performance.  In reality, sports are played on stable surfaces and should be trained on stable surfaces. The inclusion of unstable surfaces during training can also potentially increase the risk of injury due to falling, rolled ankles etc. If the goal of training is to reduce injury and increase performance, then training in a fashion that best mimics the demands of the sport is your best option.

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The Many Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

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In order for fat loss to occur, the body has to be in an energy deficit. This means that we must consume less energy everyday then we burn. It’s pretty straight forward, if we burn 2500cals/day and only consume 2000, there are 500 that we burned from a source other than food. In an attempt to preserve muscle, our body turns to fat metabolism to supply energy once blood sugar and glycogen stores have been used up.

However, there is one major problem in this equation. Our Western diet revolves around multiple energy dense meals per day, meaning we are almost always burning glucose from the previous meal by the time we eat again and therefore storing excess as fat.

This is where intermittent fasting comes into play. Intermittent fasting provides a window of time designated for feeding (4-12h), and another window designated for fasting (12-24h+). The most common types used and therefore studied are 16 hour fasts with 8 hours feeding, and alternate day fast/feed.

Prolonged periods without food almost certainly guarantee that our body switches to fat metabolism, since it takes several hours after a meal for the food to be digested and absorbed and insulin levels to return to baseline. Critics of IF will argue that it is too extreme and depriving yourself of nutrients will be harmful to the body, which couldn’t be further from the truth!

Major Benefits of IF

  1. Improves insulin sensitivity. The body becomes more sensitive to the effects of insulin… less insulin secretion per meal… lower blood glucose and insulin levels!
  2. Promotes autophagy. Regular bodily process where damaged, old, and dysfunctional proteins are consumed by the body. Think of renovating your kitchen, you need to tear away all the old culverts before installing new ones!
  3. Elevates Growth Hormone production. GH is very important hormone for body composition, because it releases stored fat and preserves muscle during fasting.
  4. Reduced systemic inflammation. Inflammation occurs in the body after exposure to a variety of stimuli, including viruses, injury, certain foods, and even exercise. Chronic inflammation is a precursor to atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and other harmful diseases.

Not sold on IF yet?

Stay tuned because in my next blog I will be discussing how and why training while IF can be especially effective. In the meantime, come check out our Butts & Guts bootcamp just in time for a special June promotion… free body composition assessment! (limited number of spots)
Please contact us at sst@sstcanada.com to set up your appointment at a convenient location to you!