GABA

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What is it?

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid is an amino acid and an inhibitory neurotransmitter.

What does it do?

Gaba reduces the activity of nerve cells in the nervous system.

Why am I talking about this?

Because it has helped me immensely in regards to sleep, anxiety, and preserving lean muscle mass.

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Intro:

Gaba is a chemical messenger that is widely distributed in the brain. Its natural function is to reduce the activity of the neurons to which it binds. Furthermore, Gaba receptors are probably the most common kind in the mammalian nervous system. It is estimated that close to 40% of the synapses (connections) in the human brain work with Gaba and therefor have Gaba receptors (thebrain.mcgill.ca, 2018).

I’d like to have a look at some research, starting with Gaba’s ability to preserve lean muscle mass. If you’ve read my Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training article, you may have picked up that I have a thing for growth hormone. I came across a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study who’s purpose is to determine the growth hormone responses to Gaba ingestion at rest and after exercise (Powers et al., 2007).

11 healthy resistance trained males participated in this study. They were randomly assigned and either given 4 gaba (750mg), or a 4 placebo (sucrose). Neither the researchers nor the participants knew which one they were taking until the study was over. Subjects participated in 4 experimental trails, each separated by 1 week. This consisted of 2 resting and 2 exercise bouts completed in a counterbalanced fashion. They were told to continue their normal daily activities, keep their diet, refrain from any drugs or supplements proposed to have an ergogenic (performance enhancing) effect, as well as lay off exercise 24hrs prior to each experimental trail. Blood samples were taken before each trial as well as 15, 30, 45, 60, and 75 minutes after supplementation.

Figure 1 gaba article

Results: There was no difference in the total number of reps completed when comparing the exercise with gaba and exercise with placebo. However, serum growth hormone concentrations increased approximately 18-fold above pre-ingestion value during both exercise with gaba and exercise with placebo. In addition, an approximate 15-fold increase above baseline was observed during the rest with gaba trail; but no difference throughout the rest with placebo.

More importantly, the GH response 30 minutes after the cessation of exercise was about 200% greater in the exercise with gaba responses than the exercise with placebo. Therefore, gaba supplementation results in the greatest increase in serum GH hormone levels while at rest, as well as immediately after and 30 minutes post-exercise.

There are many reasons why one should care about their levels of growth hormones as it serves important roles in adult life. This includes maintenance of lean body and bone mass, promoting lipolysis (breakdown of fat), thereby limiting visceral adiposity (fat stored around important organs), regulating carbohydrate metabolism, cardiovascular system function, aerobic exercise capacity, and cognitive function (Chertman et al., 2015).

GABA AND SLEEP

I take 750mg of gaba every night, 30 minutes prior to bed. It has a calming, sedative effect and helps me fall asleep quicker, and remain asleep for longer. A 2015 study found that subjects taking gaba did in fact fall asleep sooner by an average of 5 minutes. In addition, a 2008 study found that patients suffering from insomnia had 30% lower levels of gaba compared to the control group (Tatsuzaki et al., 2015).

GABA AND ANXIETY

I am all too familiar with the body jerking; heart pounding; unable to concentrate or think straight feeling brought on by anxiety. If you’ve experienced it you know how much it can negatively affect your health, especially if it’s ongoing. Gaba reduces the activity of nerve cells in the nervous system, which could be linked to anxiety and fear. When my anxiety starts to climb I reach for gaba and take about 300mg. Within 5 to 10 minutes I notice a difference – my heart slows and my concentration improves.

A 2002 study found that those with panic, mood and anxiety disorders, or a family history of these disorders had decreased brain concentrations of gaba (Kent et al., 2002). There is significant amount of data supporting gaba’s ability to reduce anxiety and well as help treat depression.

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SUMMARY

Gaba is an amino acid and an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps reduce the excitability of nerve cells in our central nervous system. Research supports that supplementing with Gaba relieves anxiety, improves sleep and increases levels of growth hormone. In addition, it can reduce depressive symptoms, relieve PMS symptoms, decrease inflammation, and improve focus in ADHD.

I have been supplementing with Gaba for over 2 years and I have not experienced any adverse effects. You may experience a tingling sensation at a higher dose. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should steer clear because it’s affect on these individuals has not yet been studied. If you are currently taking medication for anxiety or depression, make sure to speak with your doctor before using Gaba; as it may affect these medications.

Finally, there is controversy on whether or not gaba crosses the blood-brain barrier. Some research says it does not, other research says it does. All I know for certain is this natural supplement has helped me immensely and I wanted to share this in hopes it helps others.

Keep Moving.

 

 

References:

Chertman, L.S; Merrium, G.R; Kargi, A.Y. Growth Hormone and Aging. NCBI Bookshelf. A service of Natural Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health. 2015.

Lydiard, R.B. The Role of Gaba in Anxiety Disorders. J of Clin Psychiatry. 2005; 64 Suppl 3: 21-7.

Kent, J.M; Matthew, S.J; Gorman, J.M. Molecular targets in the treatment of anxiety. Biol Psychiatry. 2002, 1008-30.

Powers, M.E; Yarrow, J.F; McCoy, S.C; Stephan, E.B. Growth Hormone Isoform Response to Gaba at Rest and After Exercise. Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, Centre for Exercise Science. 2007, 104-108.

The Brain From Top to Bottom. Anxiety Neurotransmitters. McGill, 2018. (thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_04/d_04_m/d_04_m_peu/d_04_m.peu.html) (Accessed April 1, 2018).

Yamatsu, A; Yamashita, Y; Maru, I; Yang, J; Tatsuzaki, J; Kim, M. The Improvement of Sleep by Oral Intake of Gaba and Apocynum venetum Leaf Extract. J Nutri Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2015; 61(2): 182-7.

 

 

Is it necessary?

Having little money/ being broke ever since I left home has forced me to put things into perspective in terms of what is necessary when it comes to my personal fitness.

Things were simple when I first started exercising about 12 years ago. I worked out at home and scaled back my calorie consumption. I wasn’t paying for a gym membership and I was consuming little calories that came from food my mom bought. I dropped -too much- weight and found myself having to re-evaluate the angle I was taking.

I later joined a gym located around the corner from my house. It was one of the half dozen weight rooms ran by the city of Brampton in their recreational department. In addition, I eventually smartened up when it came to nutrition — or so I thought.

Fast forward a little futher and I am paying for a gym membership and have begun picking up my own groceries; because eating copious amounts of lean chicken and turkey with rice and broccoli is the only way to get fit (rolls eyes so hard they almost fall out). A couple of decent chicken breasts are easily 10 bucks; which adds up mighty quick when that is the bulk of your diet.

My time spent on fitness websites were at an all time high, gawking over all the amazing physiques telling myself I will look like that one day. Heck! I may even compete. Before I could even think about that however, I needed supplements, lots of glorious supplements!!!

Of course whey protein was the first to be added, then branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), followed by L-Arginine, Beta Alanine, creatine, and caffiene. I even wrote a post about it all. My once zero dollars spent on supplements easily became 100-130$ every 4-5 weeks.

Wake up call

At the end of fast tracking a second diploma in early 2016 I found myself with a lot of debt, and jobs that paid me little or offered few hours. I couldn’t spend money unnecessarily without it coming back to bite me in the ass. There were days where I had to decide to put gas in my car or groceries in my fridge. I remember pulling to the side of the road one afternoon and cried as I fought anxiety and tried to figure out how the hell I am going to keep it together.

At this point my purchasing of supplements days were long gone. After 3-4 years of taking supplements I had no choice but to put it to rest until I was in a more stable financial situation. My days of eating chicken and turkey breasts were also behind me. Meat had always grossed me out, I just got it in my head that it was the best way to be lean and fit. Now, without a bunch of money to waste on dead carcasses; I began eating more beans, lentils, rice, pastas, and even bread.

Funny thing is, my strength did not deteriorate; if anything it increased. Is it possible the supplements weren’t doing much and I simply wasn’t giving my body what it needed from food? Yes, yes it is. Is it also possible that eating a plethora amount of animal products isn’t the optimal diet for a weightlifter? Yes ma’am, thats what I have come to believe.

Now I know this post comes with no hard core facts, just personal opinion. Take from it what you may. Im simpy suggesting you don’t waste your money on a bunch of supplements. If anything supplement your deficiencies, while considering the time of year. For example, I take Vitamin D3 drops in the fall/ winter because of the lack of sunlight.

As for the meat — I honestly believe it’s not good for us humans. Maybe 1-2 times a week; but not every meal, every day. Without getting into the science and health facts, to me eating more plant based foods just makes sense. From my experience I feel better, my skin looks better, and I carry the most muscle mass I ever have, all while spending less on groceries.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

Recipe: Curry Chickpea

Basmati Rice – 1 cup+
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 tbsp
Red Onion – 1 Small or Half a Medium; diced
Small Garlic Cloves – 3 Large or 5 to 6 Small Cloves; minced
Bell Pepper (red, yellow or green) – Half; sliced
Salt and Pepper – a few shakes
Curry Paste (red, yellow or green) – 2 tbsp
Coconut Milk – 1 can
Tomato – 1 small; diced
Cumin – 1 tbsp
Crushed Cayenne – 1 level tbsp *optional
Soya Sauce – 2 tbsp
Brown Sugar – 2 tbsp
Lime – 1; juiced
Chick Peas – half a can; drained and thoroughly rinsed
Basil Leaves – 3 Leaves; dried or fresh

Curry Dish
Not the best photo, but I promise it tastes awesome.

I rarely eat meat, and I do my best to limit my intake of dairy products. With that said, while I wouldn’t consider myself vegan, I do try to avoid animal products as much as possible. This leaves me searching for nutritious and satisfying meals that are easy to make and won’t empty my wallet. Thankfully this hasn’t been hard to do and I have managed to master (I think so anyways) a few solid recipes.

The recipe I want to share today is a Chickpea Curry Dish. I have listed the ingredients in the order in which they should be added to a large skillet; except for the rice, which should be cooked separately – ideally in a rice cooker.

I find it easiest to dice, mince, and slice all of the veggies, and have all the ingredients ready to go before starting the cooking process. You can heat up the skillet on medium / low high heat while cutting your vegetables, adding the oil after it has been heated.

After adding the extra virgin olive oil, toss in the diced red onions and minced garlic cloves. Let this fry for a couple minutes, then add the sliced bell pepper. I prefer to use green bell peppers but its completely up to you. Add a few shakes of salt and pepper on top of the veggies and make sure to stir/ flip it around.

Next step is to add the curry paste. Please note the word paste – not sauce! I like to use red – but again it is up to you what colour you want to incorporate. Toss in 2 tbsp and stir it around the pan and the vegetables. Shortly after, add the can of coconut milk and continue to stir until the colour become homogenous.

Toss in the diced tomato and add a tbsp of cumin. I love cumin and it certainly couples well with the curry paste to add even more flavour. On that note, I also recommend adding some crushed cayenne or chilli flakes to add some heat; but how much, if any, is your choice. Afterwards, add the soya sauce, brown sugar, and the juice from 1 lime into the mix. Give it a good stir then finally add the half can of chickpeas (I find a full can to be way too much) and 3 basil leaves. Let this sit, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes.

Serve in a bowl with a side of rice and enjoy!

Personal Training – why you may want to consider it a side job

Personal-Trainer-2

I could of sworn I found “my calling.” After losing weight and gaining strength I wanted nothing more than to help others do the same. So I began my journey towards becoming a personal trainer. 7+ years later and I have learned so much and can’t help but wonder if I would have chosen a different route had I known what I know now.

I earned my diploma in fitness and health promotion in 2011. I was proud of myself as that program was challenging and demanded a lot from me. I finished it within the 2 years and within that time I attained a personal trainer certificate (that cost a lot of money). Like many students, when I graduated I thought things would be easier in terms of finding suitable work and making money – it wasn’t.

Finding a job that didn’t require a degree and 5 years experience was immensely difficult. I was hired by a commercial gym – what I thought would be a solid opportunity; yet quickly realized you’d have to give up part of your soul, because everything was about revenue and dollar signs. They expected me to put on a shirt with their name on it, walk their gym floors, perform BS fitness appraisals, and try to sell their over priced packages; all the meanwhile making absolutely nothing unless I sell. The best part was being expected to cold call old members (am I the only one who really doesn’t see the benefit in this?) in hopes they would re-sign and buy personal training. The one meeting I sat in on discussed nothing of client success, needs, programming; or anything truly important to the clients – just how much money was made.

Needless to say that didn’t last long and I moved on to work for gyms in the municipal setting, which proved to be much better; but not without its challenges. You will still need to build a clientele. Personal training is the one service that people not only have to pay for, but they have to do the work as well. Sure, the trainer writes the programs, ensures proper form and execution – but the client has to show up.

Your income will vary from week to week, month to month; until you’ve built up a reliable and consistent clientele. Keep in mind that even those most committed will go on vacation, get sick, move, or have other commitments that take the forefront. With proper notice this will leave you with gaps in your schedule, and less money in your account.

Another thing to consider is how much of a cut your employer will be taking from you. Some places may ensure you get consistent hours working as part of their fitness staff, but will still take more than half of your hourly personal training wage; which may leave you wondering why you don’t just work for yourself.

I explored that option after realizing I could make $50+/hr instead of 15 or 20. Here’s the thing – I don’t have my own facility and driving around can get costly. The time it takes to get from one location to the next can be exhausting and ultimately cost you money in gas and time. Not to mention, if you don’t target areas of higher income it is very likely you’ll be limited to the number of people who can and will pay for your service. I did start up my own small business and saw some success but ultimately learned it is so much easier to have the clients come to you.

With that said, I looked into renting space in order to conduct my own group fitness classes and one on one personal training. You will have to pay a facility rental fee for each hour you use their space. Unless you have the numbers, for the first several months at least, you will be making very little or even lose money. Thats not to say you can’t find success in this profession; I just want to warn you that it isn’t easy in any sense of the word.

What about privately owned gyms? I’ve dipped my toes into those as well. I’ve applied and interviewed at multiple locations around the GTA and Toronto. What I have come to learn is that the bottom line is business. People are in it to make money. I get it – we have to survive. These gyms (and others) have tiers of personal trainers. The more money you put into “earning” certificates, the higher level trainer you become with better pay. It doesn’t matter how much you study on your own time – you must spend hundreds of dollars to get the credentials that will allow you to move up in wage and status. I suppose you can find such thing in many other professions.

So, lets remove some of the pressure and try working for a not-for-profit organization. I did just that, and yet again gained no job security or steady income. Not-for-profit organizations have extremely tight budgets and often rely on government grants and donations to keep programs running. With that said, your wage as a personal/group trainer will be way less than the effort you put into it. This is when your passion to want to help others must out weigh the need to generate income. If your anything like me, you’ll wish it was that simple; but with creditors at your door and rent payments to make – it’s devastating getting paid less than you deserve/require.

Another thing worth mentioning is the hours you’ll work – they will (more than likely) be all over the place. Unless you become so popular that people work around your schedule, you’ll have to work around the clients. This means getting up at 5am and training clients before work; possibly return during the lunch hour, and then again late at night. This is most definitely not a 9-5 weekday job; not even close.

I do not mean to come of as a negative ninny. If you’re passionate enough and put in the work, you can find success. At the very least I can say that I have accomplished what I wanted to do – help dozens of people improve their lifestyle, lose weight, gain strength, and increase their independency. I have had many moments over the past 7+ years that reminded me why I wanted to make this a career. I am not one to give up but I have learned the value of having a back up plan and not isolating yourself to one source of income. It’s a smart thing to have no matter what profession you are in, especially personal training.

Keep Moving.

Weightlifting

September 1st, 2015 I made the move from Brampton to North Bay, Ontario. I came in light of new experiences and the opportunity to learn how to Olympic style weight lift from one of the best coaches, Larry Sheppard.

My desire to get in shape started when I was 16 years old, and now at 28; I have learned so much through education, personal successes, and failures. However, just when I thought I had a good grasp on everything; my style of training has been completely flipped in pursuit of becoming an athlete.

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For as long as I can remember I worked out to look good. Vanity and lack of self esteem pushed me towards the commercial facilities where mirrors line every wall, and platforms are non existent. I’ve worked out in gyms that don’t allow chalk, and have had employees tell me I can’t drop the weights as I was performing heavy deadlifts.

I dipped my toes in the physique competitions – but in all honestly they were super amateur. It’s something I am proud of in the sense it took hard work and courage; but at the same time I roll my eyes because it just wasn’t me.

I wish I had known someone in the powerlifting or weightlifting community 10 years ago; but would-a-should-a-could-a; this is where I am at now and thats what matters. I began learning the snatch and clean & jerk in early September 2015.

What is the Snatch?

Snatch+Phases+Trajectory-lowres

The Snatch is the first of the two Olympic lifts to be contested, followed by the clean & jerk. The aim is the lift a loaded bar from the floor to overhead, in one smooth, continuous motion.

The athlete begins by setting themselves up so that the bar is directly over their metatarsals with their feet hip width apart; toes turned out slightly. A wide “hook grip” is used on the bar (fingers on top of thumbs), and the arms straight with the shoulders directly over the bar, or slightly in front of it. The thighs should be almost parallel to the floor (depending on femur length), and the back remains straight and tight with extension in the thoracic vertebrae. The chest should be open and head titled back.

“Lift off” begins the moment the bar is separated from the floor as the athlete then moves into the “first pull.” During this phase the lifter begins to extend their knees and moves their hips upward while keeping a constant back angle relative to the floor. Centre of gravity shifts towards the heels as the lifter pulls the bar close to their body. The bar begins to accelerate at the end of this phase as they “transition” to position themselves appropriately for the second pull. During this transition is where you’ll often see the “double-knee” bend.

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$50,000 Eleiko platform from the Pan Am games

The “second pull” is an explosive movement that is executed through the extension of the hips, knees, and ankles (triple extension); followed by a strong elevation of the shoulders (shrug). This is where the bar will “brush” the hips and feet leave the ground to quickly move into the squat position. The “turnover” phase occurs as the lifter begins to pull themselves under the bar, and the “catch phase” occurs the moment the lifters feet have landed on the platform, catching the bar overhead with arms locked out. It is finished only when the lifter shows control of the bar by standing up and bringing the feet together.

What is the clean & jerk?

The clean & jerk is the second lift to be contested and is comprised of two stages which also has the athlete lift the bar from the floor to an overhead position.

They begin by setting their feet under their hips and by grabbing the bar just outside their legs using a “hook grip.” The bar is lifted to the top of the knees where the athlete then performs the “triple extension” through explosive extension of the hips, knees, and ankles; followed by a big shrug. The aim here is to get the bar as high as possible before dropping into the squat and receiving the bar in the “racked” position (bar sits in front of the neck resting on the anterior deltoids). The lifter then stands back up and readjusts their grip width in preparation for the jerk.

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The jerk begins where the clean finishes; with the bar across the shoulders and the back vertical. The lifter dips just a few inches by flexing the knees; then through explosive extension of the knees the barbell is propelled upwards off the shoulders. The athlete pushes the bar with their arms and quickly drops under by splitting their feet in a lunge type fashion (one forward and one back). The bar is received overhead with the arms straight, and once stable; the lifter recovers from the split position by bringing their feet back together.

Ofcouse these explanations may be missing some aspects, but you get a good idea of what I have been up to over the past 8 months. I have competed in 3 competitions thus far and took 3rd place in my weight class in my last competiton on April 9, 2015. I still have a long ways to go before I am even close to competing on a more serious level (these girls are strong!!!), but I am just happy to have found something new and exciting. It feels great to be more concerned over how I perform rather than how I look.

Most importantly, I have been working hard to learn how to coach these lifts. I have engulfed myself in everything weightlifting and succeeded passing my level one weightlifting certification with the NCCP. I will have a second diploma in strength and sports condidtioning in a couple weeks time and I hope to find work in the health promotion and coaching fields.

The Complete Power Look Program – My progress

I just wrapped up the first phase of “The Complete Power Look Program” that I picked up off of one of my favourite training sites – TNation. The first phase was 4 weeks in length and I am now transitioning into the second, with 3 phases all together.

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 WHY I CHOSE THIS PROGRAM:

  •  4 years ago I transitioned from endurance training into heavy strength training in the pursuit of lots of lean muscle mass and continual increases in strength. I build my programs around the 4 main lifts – Squat; bench press; deadlift; and overhead press (push-press/military press). This program is built around these king exercises for 10 weeks, with changes to the reps/sets and the accessory exercises every 3 or 4 weeks.
  • This program uses the front squat instead of the back squat, and the push-press instead of the military press; which I absolutely love because my spine could use a break from heavy back squats, and I will benefit from the push-press since the military press is one my weakest exercises; the push-press will allow me to move more weight and use the eccentric phase to help build strength.
  • I chose this program to learn more about proper strength training programming. The use of % RM is something fairly new to me, as well as the manipulation of the set/rep schemes each week.
  • I have yet to incorporate exercises to correct weak areas in my main lifts such as the deficit deadlift, floor press, and top-half press from pins.  Therefor, I can’t wait to see my new 1RMs at the end of the program.

 MY CURRENT 1RMs

MY CURRENT 1RMS

EXERCISE WEIGHT(LBS)
Front Squat 120
Bench Press 90
Deadlift 200
Push-press 90

WEEKS 1-4: My thoughts and progress

  • Figuring out my weights for the accessory exercises, along with mastering the correct movement pattern for new exercises, always contributes to the challenge during my first week on a new program.
  • The deadlift from a 2 inch deficit challenged me the most; the increased forward lean made it harder to sit back on my heels. With that said, I feel like my low back and quads were more taxed than usual, but the whole posterior chain benefited from an increased range of motion.

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  • Getting a solid push-press technique down took me a few tries. Learning how much momentum to use, along with keeping a solid stance took time, but I improved immensely as the weeks progressed.
  • The bent-over barbell row with torso angled at 90 degrees attacked my mid/low traps and biceps.
  • The paused front squat was a fantastic incorporation of time under tension and my quads benefited.
  • On squat day, arms remain in the front squat grip position for almost the entire workout – very hard on the wrists if you aren’t used to it.
  • The Bulgarian split squat with a front squat grip was new to me, and it just made me love the split squat even more.
  • I have already seen an increase in the size of my triceps thanks to the floor presses, and significant anterior chain development thanks to the front squat and push-press.
  • I no longer work-out; I TRAIN.

WEEKS 5-7: My thoughts and progress

  • I thought the deadlift from a 2 inch deficit was hard; and then came the sumo deadlift from a 2 inch deficit – holy shit, hands down the most challenging exercise for me this phase.
  • The wide-grip bench press initially made me nervous (not-so-good left shoulder), but I was surprisingly stronger than I thought I would be. It’s too bad my right side is noticeably weaker despite it being the more stable of the two (I’m a southpaw).
  • Deadlift from pins (pins just below knees), blasted my mid/low traps and lats.
  • Week 5 – day after push-press, my triceps were extremely sore due to the half push-press; I loved that one, along with the 1/2 bench press.
  • Week 6 – the night after the 3×5 front squats my quads and anterior delts were screaming! I continue to see immense anterior chain development and I love it.
  • EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: USE OF GUARDS OR PINS. I’ll admit, I was an idiot and actually performed a couple moves incorrectly and felt it right away. Read the whole program and make sure you understand each exercise before walking into the weight room (unlike me).
  • Week 7 – Front squats; my legs were feeling strong and my confidence was going up as quick as the weight that day. Also, I knew I had made gains because resting the bar on my anterior delts was less uncomfortable = shoulder development, woot woot!!
  • Sumo deadlift is still blowing me away (I made a lot of notes about this one, so I’m not kidding).
  • Noticeable development of my “top shelf” a.k.a. Upper Traps.
  • On average, these workouts have been taking me 30-45 minutes to complete. I stick around afterwards to bang out conditioning work such as BARBELL COMPLEXES or I practice aspects of the Olympic lifts, which I hope to soon conquer.

SIDE NOTES: 

If you have a look at THE COMPLETE POWER LOOK PROGRAM you’ll see that Christian Thibaudeau offered exercises for optional bonus work. I am always game for more, but I decided I would choose the exercises (it’s hard for me to follow a plan designed by someone else and not have a say at all). Moreover, you’ll notice there isn’t any direct ab training included in this program. I add 1 or 2 weighted ab exercises after training, but make sure not to overdue it – this program is incredibly heavy on the core!

This is me back in January of this year finally hitting one of my long term goals – 200lb deadlift. I hope this program takes that number up a notch, or two.

Lost Battle with Mental Illness

My passion lies in promoting health and fitness while helping others lead a long, happy, and healthy life. Beyond promoting good nutrition, physically active lifestyles, and consistent exercise; I am a huge advocate for mental health. As I mentioned in a previous article (Beyond Blue), this factor is often overlooked when considering ones overall health status.

Many people view psychological disorders differently from other diseases such as cancer or heart disease; but the reality is they are just as serious, and just as commonly end in death. Like cancer, there are treatments, but some begin too late and fail to save the diseased individual.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone around the globe commits suicide every 40 seconds. In the year 2000, 815,000 people lost their lives to suicide — more than double the number of people who die as a direct result of armed conflict every year (306,600). For people between the ages of 15 and 44, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death and the sixth leading cause of disability and infirmity worldwide (World Health Organization, 2002).

While catching up on the world’s news this morning, I came across this heart breaking, eye opening story which I felt compelled to share. A young woman by the name of Natalie recently took her life after a long battle with mental illness.

Natalie and her Mom

My daughter, who lost her battle with mental illness, is still the bravest person I know

I was more than taken back by this story, and my heart goes out to Natalie and her family, as well as anyone who has lost a loved one due to mental illness. I truly believe –as the article suggests- that psychotic breaks are not sudden, but are rather a climax of a long buildup. If the body can become ill; so can the mind. Educating yourself on topics related to mental health will help you get a clearer understanding of the diseases, and hopefully detach the social stigmas surrounding them.

  1. World Health Organization (October 2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva.World Health Organization (October 2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva. http://www.who.int.

Annoying Gym Goers

I can give credit where credit is due. It’s great to see people at the gym instead of sitting around being lazy all day. However, there’s actually a few people I wish would just stay at home. Here is my list of people that drive me crazy at the gym.

8. Terrible Trainersbad-trainer-WH

As a trainer I can spot a terrible trainer from across the gym floor. There used to be a trainer at the gym I work out at who was a prime example. He would stand – too close – to his clients as they performed every move incorrectly, nod his head, and tell them to keep going as he constantly checked his cell phone. Not to mention he would hit on any young cute girl that walked past him. I wanted to punch him in the face, but luckily he got fired before I could.

This isn’t to say that all trainers are bad. There are plenty of amazing trainers who truly want to help others succeed. If you ever decide to hire a Personal Trainer, shop around first, and make sure you don’t end up with some idiot who’s over charging you to do ineffective and/or incorrect exercises.

7. Talkersplease shut up

It blows my mind how many people converse more than they lift. The coffee shop is for chatting people, not the weight room floor.

The talkers don’t seem to understand or respect gym etiquette. They will interrupt your set to talk about nothing at all or totally mess up your rest period because they just don’t shut up. I understand you can make friends at the gym, but when I’m going for my PR deadlift or catching my breath between sets, I really do not want to talk to you.

On the same note, please don’t strike up a conversation in the change room while you’re completely naked. I admire how comfortable you are in your own skin, but jeezzusss, wait until after.

6. Flexing in the Mirrors More Than Lifting-ers

justin-bieber-flexing-instagram

It seems to be the younger guys that do this most; they’ll pace the floor and flex in the mirror more times than I can count. Having to walk around you to get my equipment as you aimlessly wonder around isn’t really my favourite thing. It’s also a little distracting catching you constantly flexing in the mirror behind me as I complete my set. Did you come here to train, or practice your posing? I’m pretty sure the latter can be done at home.

5. Rack BlockersBlocker

1-arm rows are one of my favourite exercises and I think everyone should do them, just NOT in front of the dumbbell rack. Blocking any equipment as you do an exercise is just plain rude, and if I so happen to accidentally drop a dumbbell on your foot one day, it’s going to be your fault.

4. Unnecessary Gruntersgrunter

Overall, this one hasn’t been much of an issue for me. I myself curse under my breath every now and again or let out some unattractive noises as I complete a heavy set. The people I’m attacking here are those that do it excessively or unnecessarily. A man where I train grunts loudly after every, single, rep. It doesn’t matter is he’s curling 15’s or pressing 80’s, he is loud, excessive, and sooo f****** annoying. If you’re doing it for attention, you got it, but not in a good way.

3. Nipple Shirt Wearers

nipple shirt

These guys are usually jacked and decide to show it off by wearing spaghetti strapped tank tops that expose everything but their lower abdominal’s. They seem to think they are a gym god and just beg to be looked at. Everything from the way they walk to the way they stand just reeks of arrogance. Hey, you might be in amazing shape, good looking, and possibly have a great personality to boot; but I’ll never know for sure because I have already labelled you as a douche bag.

2. The Cable Cross-overers

cross over

There is one big pulley system at the gym where I train. It sits in the middle of the floor and you either have to go through it, or around it to get to the other side of the gym. During peak hours, few things tick my clock more than that guy hogging 2 out of the 3 pulley systems to perform cable cross-overs. First off, I have to duck under the cables if other routes are blocked, second, you’re taking up too much damn space, and third, someone else is probably waiting to use ONE of those pulleys. Save this exercise for when traffic is low and opt for other variations when its busy. Thanks.

1. Non-unrackers

messy-gym-with-weights-everywhere1

Do you have any idea how many times I get all pumped up to do some squats just to spend the first 10 minutes of my training session unracking 4 plates a side on the squat rack? LIKE REALLY?! Mr. Macho can apparently (half) squat 400 pounds but can’t seem to put the plates away afterwards. This makes me so angry because these people consciously make the decision to not put their equipment away and leave their mess for the next person to clean up. I’m wasting energy moving your plates, and the first thing we learn in kindergarten is to put your toys away before taking another. If you’re contributing to the mess you are a straight up jerk.

My Pre-workout Supplements

A good pre-workout supplement can take your training to a whole-notha-leehhvall! The right sup can boost your strength, endurance, focus, and give those muscles a nice pump; who doesn’t want that?

Before I get into sharing my pre-workout stack I feel it necessary to share a short story regarding my past experience with some name brand pre’s.

A few years ago I started using pre-workouts for the reasons I stated in the first paragraph. I Dumbbellfound a reputable name brand and began taking it as directed. I felt like superwomen in the gym! I was moving faster, pushing harder, and training longer than I ever have. This high lasted a while; until it all came down to bite me in the ass.

I eventually became dependent on these pre-workouts and couldn’t imagine training without them. Sadly it got to a point where my sleep suffered – probably from the high level of stimulants most name brands possess. It wouldn’t matter if I took it at 5am or 5pm; I could no longer get a solid full nights rest. This snow balled in the sense I was still taking it to combat my fatigue from not sleeping; resulting in over-training, under-recovering, and no gain in muscle mass what’s so ever.

So please be cautious when supplementing with pre-workouts. To be honest, anything with a picture of a skeleton, or the word “explode” makes me nervous, as do some of the price tags.

Personally, my favourite pre-workout stack is one I can put together on my own. I purchase the ingredients in bulk and then toss them together about 20 minutes before I lift. If I had tons of money, I’d likely add to my stack, but here are -in my opinion- the necessities:

  1. BCAAS

“Branched chain amino acids or BCAA are the smallest sub particle of protein and are a chemical chain of the amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.. They are often referred to as the building blocks of protein. This particular blend of BCAA supplement is a 2:1:1 ratio of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, valine. Amino Acids are essential in the body and are produced naturally. When the body undergoes physical stress, BCAAs can be used as an alternate fuel beta-alanine-1lbsource to fuel protein synthesis and delay fatigue. They play a special role by being metabolized quickly and directly in the muscle where you need it most, not in the liver. By allowing the body to stay in a positive nitrogen balance and continue protein synthesis, BCAAs are best known for keeping the body in an anabolic state (muscle building). When taken around times of training, BCAA powder can be essential to keeping protein synthesis going and the body in a fuelled state.”

  1. Beta-Alanine

“Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid used to promote muscular endurance and improve exercise performance by being able to train longer and harder. By promoting high levels of intramuscular carnosine, it can delay the build-up of lactate burning in the muscles. It has also been known to increase maximal power output when training.”

  1. AAKG

“AAKG is a salt derivative of the amino acid arginine and alpha ketoglutaric acid. It is used as an exercise supplement to cause an increase in nitric oxide production in the body. This increased nitric oxide production causes the body to vasodilate blood vessels (increasing their internal diameter to increase blood flow) giving users the muscle pump effect and causing more oxygen and more nutrients to the target muscle. AAKG is an advanced form of arginine and is approximately 2 times the potency. Therefore if one was to take 6g of arginine, it would only require approximately 3g of AAKG to achieve the same effect. AAKG has been shown in new and ongoing research to increase anabolic activity and increase levels of growth hormone, IGF-1, and insulin, glutamine and other amino acid metabolites.”

  1. Creatine Monohydrate

“Creatine Monohydrate or Creapure Creatine Monohydrate is a natural substance found mainly in the skeletal muscle cells of the human body. Made up of three amino acids l-methionine, l-arginine, and l-glycine it is produced in the liver and to a small degree in the kidneys. It is used in the body to provide energy to all the cells in the body especially the muscle cells by increasing the amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) available. This ATP that is created is used to fuel flexingall muscle contractions in the body via the Phosphocreatine Synthesis cycle. Although creatine monohydrate is not an essential nutrient, it is very necessary to intense training and physical strength. Creatine is used widely by athletes and resistance trainers to increase strength, power, endurance and explosive strength. Creatine is naturally occurring in foods such as beef but supplementing with exogenous creatine monohydrate is a much easier and more efficient way to increase creatine stores to induce more muscle growth and much more intense training. Creatine is among the most popular and effective supplements available and is very important to anyone looking to improve physical performance.”

  1. Caffeine Caps*

“Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid that acts as a stimulant in the body. Caffeine is found mostly in different types of seeds, leaves, and fruits. Caffeine in humans acts as a central nervous system stimulant which may prevent and/or ward off drowsiness and restore and keep you alert. Caffeine accomplishes this by causing the release of dopamine which is a chemical in the brain that keeps us alert, improves problem solving and pleasure.” (Canadianprotein.com)

I took each description off of the site I order these supplements from. It saves me a lot of money in the long run and I can’t help but feel like a scientist as I mix them together prior to my workouts. These supplements are pretty tasteless, but I often add a squirt of a flavoured water inhancer to get it down easier. If you decide to order from here, please use my link:

http://canadianprotein.refr.cc/KRT7T64

* The reason I put an asterisks beside caffeine is because I no longer include this in my stack. I’ve realized the high amounts of caffeine alone, or in other pre-workouts aren’t good for me. I am a very energetic person as it is and sometimes have issues with anxiety. This has decreased dramatically since I have stopped taking them. Also, I drink a lot of green and black tea so I’m sure I get enough caffeine as it is.

1. Canadianprotein.com,. ‘Canadian Protein: Canada’s Supplements Superstore’. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.

Beyond Blue

depression

In order to be considered healthy, one must be free of disease and ailments; they are physically active, exercise, and practice good nutrition. However one factor that is often overlooked is mental health.

Years ago I remember hearing someone say that depression and mental illness is fake and people just need to deal with they’re sh*t properly and get over it. That person and whoever else holds this opinion are simply ignorant.

If the body can become ill, so can the mind.

All though there are many forms of mental illness, with variable severities of each, I would like to focus on one form of mental illness in particular – depression.

The endocrine system (aka hormonal system) controls EVERYTHING. Hormones are substances produced by the endocrine glands that have a huge effect on bodily processes. The glands in the endocrine system influence growth and development, mood, sexual function, reproduction, and metabolism.

The nervous system also plays a major roll. In particular, the 3 main neurotransmitters of the brain (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) appear to have a strong relationship with depressive symptoms. Specific symptoms are associated with an increase or decrease in specific neurotransmitters.

Just to clarify, depression isn’t that crappy feeling after the Toronto Maple Leafs loose again, and again, and again. It goes much deeper than that.

“Depression is a mental illness that affects a person’s mood—the way a person feels. Mood impacts the way people think about themselves, relate to others, and interact with the world around them. This is more than a ‘bad day’ or ‘feeling blue.’ Without supports like treatment, depression can last for a long time.

Signs of depression include feeling sad, worthless, hopeless, guilty, or anxious a lot of the time. Some feel irritable or angry. People lose interest in things they used to enjoy and may withdraw from others. Depression can make it hard to focus on tasks and remember information. It can be hard to concentrate, learn new things, or make decisions. Depression can change the way people eat and sleep, and many people experience physical health problems.

Age and sex can also impact how people experience depression. Males often experience anger or irritability rather than sadness, which can make depression harder for others to see. Young people and older adults may experience lasting changes in mood that are mistakenly dismissed as a normal part of growing up or of aging.” – Canadian Mental Health Association

I have personally suffered from depression and have a family history of it – yes it can be genetic. It does not make me any less of a person, nor does it make me weak. It isn’t the easiest topic to discuss due to the social stigmas attached to it, but I believe people are becoming more open to the topic and that society as a whole is moving in a positive direction to help those who suffer from mental illness.

Symptoms of depression could include:

  • Sadness throughout the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest in or enjoyment of one’s favourite activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Aches and pains (such as headaches, stomach pain, joint pains or other pains)
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Feelings of restlessness or being slowed down

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, first educate yourself as much as possible. Getting a thorough understanding will make you realise it’s not your fault and that there is treatment available. Depression has been/is being heavily studied and more talked about then ever. Go to your doctor if symptoms last more than 2 weeks, or if you’ve had a history of depression. Most importantly, be kind to your body and do not use substances to mask the problem(s), this will only prolong the issue and make it worse. Depression can get progressively worse and become extremely serious if left untreated.

Check out http://depressionhurts.ca/en/depression/ for more information.

Moreover, exercise may be the last thing one would want to do while depressed, but it WILL make a world of difference in your recovery. Exercise releases endorphins that trigger positive feelings in the body and diminish the perception of pain. Regular exercise can ward off anxiety and feelings of depression, reduce stress, boost self-esteem, and help you sleep. If a full workout sounds impossible to you, go for daily walks, preferably outside. Little steps each day will get you closer to feeling like yourself again.