Aggressive Strength Magazine Issue 142, 10/30/2007
by Mike Mahler
"Many things are half the battle, losing is half the battle, lets focus on the entire battle." From The Movie "The Untouchables"
What Living Life Aggressively is all About
One of the most important ingredients for a healthy and enjoyable life are optimal levels of the sex and "good-feeling" hormones. These hormones include testosterone, DHT (for men), progesterone, growth hormone, DHEA, epinephrine and the fat burning hormone, leptin. While hormone replacement is effective (and in some cases the only feasible option) it should be a last, rather than first, line of defense. Nutritional supplement strategies, while useful, should be viewed as supplemental to, rather than substitutes for, major lifestyle changes. We live in a quick-fix society wherein the masses seek rapid solutions yet more patient and consistent methods need be applied for real world, long-lasting change. In other words, get out of your comfort zone and take charge of your life.
Lifestyle Recommendations for Optimizing Hormones
#1. Quality sleep is your in-house factory for hormone production. Without quality sleep, your body and brain never receive optimal nourishment in order to restore and recuperate from daily living. Most anti-aging hormones, such as human growth hormone, DHEA and testosterone are produced in abundance while you sleep and the deeper the sleep, the better the hormone production. Longer, and higher-quality, sleep provides increased time for optimal hormone production. While ideal sleep varies with the individual, few do well long-term on less than seven to eight hours of deep, REM, sleep. The more stress you have, the more sleep needed for adequate restoration. Thus, 7-8 hours is the minimum, rather than the ideal, amount. If you don't have time to sleep, then make time for illness. Turn off the TV, kill your cable service, and spend more time sleeping.
#2. Stress management is critical since the stress hormone, cortisol, prohibits production of anti-aging hormones. Further, high levels of stress hamper sleep due to attendant anxiety.
#3. Determine, and eradicate, the negative stresses in your life. Since we've been taught, as a society, to address symptoms rather than the source of problems, we often wait until things become problematic before taking action. Ideally, you want a proactive approach to your well-being.
Human beings are inherently purpose-driven organisms. While many are content with merely existing and getting by, few are genuinely happy with such a meager approach to life. Feelings of helplessness and/or lack of control is an incredible stress. Such internalized perceptions result in unrewarding career choices and other draining relationships.
A proven stress-reducer and wellness-enhancer is daily meditation. A minimum of thirty minutes should daily be allotted to meditation--an hour is even better. However, consistency is the key and thirty minutes done daily is better than an hour once a week. As effective as meditation is, it's a skill that can take years to acquire. Merely sitting still for thirty minutes gives only the appearance of meditation, just as lying down without REM sleep provides only the appearance of quality sleep. The objective of meditation is to get the brain hemispheres communicating more effectively with each other, thus increasing your “genetic set point” stress threshold. An effective program for reducing meditation's learning curve is the Holosync meditation program. You can read more about it at my site: Mahler's Aggressive Strength Kettlebell Training
Deep breathing is both an effective stress reliever and catalyst of the "good-feeling" hormone, epinephrine. Take daily walks while inhaling through the nose to a count of four, then exhaling to a count of four. Practice deep-breathing while meditating--or whenever you need a good-feeling boost or stress reduction. Legendary bodybuilder Steve Reeves referred to deep breathing as a natural anti-depressant and advocated daily walks while focusing on deep breathing. He wrote that no one ever committed suicide following a deep breathing-focused walk. Walking is one of my favorite ways to clear the head and reduce anxiety. No need to turn it into a workout, just get into the habit of walking first thing in the morning, to loosen up and get ready for the day, and later in the evening to clear your head and relax.
A well-rounded exercise program literally eats up cortisol. Ideally, cortisol levels will be elevated before training, providing an additional energy boost, then lowered after training. A solid training program covers the following categories:
As beneficial as exercise is, too much increases cortisol, thereby lowering levels of important anti-aging hormones. Signs of over training include: lowered sex drive/poor sexual function; depression; decreased strength; lack of interest in training; and poor recovery from workout-to-workout. Bottom line: if you're not improving you're deteriorating. While it's unlikely the average person needs to worry about over training, dedicated trainees can easily become stimulus-addicts, which is a sure-fire way to end up over trained. For a solid training program covering all the above-mentioned categories, see: General Fitness Training for People Who Don't Care About Getting Big or Ripped
Keys to avoid over training:
· Have a back-off week for every three weeks of hard training.
· Take exercise vacations, in which you switch to a program of exercises you rarely do, or have never done.
· Get a massage from a qualified body-worker every other week. Weekly is even better if training at a very intense level.
· A significant amount of your daily calories should be consumed within four hours post-workout but not less than 30 minutes post workout because that is when IGF-1 levels are peaking and eating or drinking a shake during the 30 minutes after a workout spikes insulin which competes for the same receptors as IGF-1 just as IGF-1 is peaking.
· Avoid inflammatory foods, such as dairy, wheat, peanuts, soy, corn, and eggs. Preferably, have testing done to determine to what foods you might be allergic.
· Take systemic enzymes several times a day on an empty stomach to reduce inflammation and scar tissue. Five caps, three times a day, is effective during periods of intense training. My friend, Dr. William Wong, is coming out with a new and improved enzyme product which will soon be available from my site. In the meantime, Labrada Nutrition’s Sorenzyme looks like a good option but I haven't personally used it so can't comment.
· Take 10 grams of glutamine an hour before training and 10 grams of BCAA during workouts.
· Take 200-300mg of phosphatidyl serine (PS) before bedtime and after workouts. On non-workout days, take only one dose before bedtime. PS is great for lowering cortisol and has positive brain-health properties as well.
· Take 2-5 grams of vitamin C each day (Ester C is best).
What to do if you are over trained?
· Take a week off from training
· Limit exercise to joint mobility, swimming and walking
· Get one or two refresher massages to increase circulation and a sense of relaxation
· Get 10-12 hours of sleep each night
· Take 10 grams of glutamine and 20 grams of BCAAs each day
· Do extra meditation sessions with a focus on deep breathing.
Tips to reduce stress at the source
· We spend a great deal of the time in our lives on our chosen career path--make sure it's both gratifying and something you love. Barring negative relationships and serious health disorders, an unrewarding livelihood is surely the greatest stress. Feeling excitement about what you do, and achieving meaningful goals, increases good-feeling hormone production.
· According to top strength coach Charles Poliquin, testosterone levels rise big-time after meaningful goals are accomplished. A critical aspect of well-being is linked to achieving meaningful goals. Take every opportunity to prioritize and pursue your goals.
· Surround yourself with good people who bring out the best version of yourself and avoid people who drain your energy.
· Reduce your television viewing time--especially the news. While an hour or two of television can help you unwind, it's easy for two hours to turn into six hours...or more. There are correlations between t.v. watching and childhood obesity, as well as between television and stress levels. Television watching, at its essence, is vicarious living and vicarious living is a major form of unconscious stress.
· Live junk and clutter-free. Recently, my brother told me of an article delineating the connection between clutter and high-cortisol levels. You can't have a clean and focused mind when you're surrounded by junk on the material level. Make your home a haven where you can relax and unwind, rather than a source of unconscious stress. Before buying anything, think about where the item end up in a year's time.
· Be assertive and prevent people from pushing you around. Behaving like a pinball in life's game is no way to go. Respect yourself and require the same from others. Allowing people to push you around is a tremendous source of conscious and unconscious stress and you deserve better. The resentment that builds from passive living is a potent poison.
· Many so-called personality traits are learned behaviors. Being overly reliant on what others think creates stress. Reduce your stress by thinking for yourself instead of letting others run your life. Do great things for the sake for their own sake rather than for approval from others.
Nutrition supplements also have a place in optimizing hormones.
One supplement that everyone can benefit from is magnesium.
Magnesium is needed to extract energy from food and for optimal insulin function. The more energy you extract from food the less you have to eat to feel great. Magnesium's benefits go on forever. For more information on the best magnesium option on the market go to: http://www.mikemahler.com/magnesium.html
A great supplement called Quadracarn is also excellent for androgen receptor uptake and insulin sensitivity. For more info go to: http://www.mikemahler.com/quadracarn.html
Eat a balance of protein, fat, and carbs at every meal. A good starting point is 30% protein, 40% carbs, and 30% popularized by Barry Sears as “The Zone" diet. This won't be the perfect ratio for everyone--you will have to experiment to see what works best for you--but it is a reasonable starting point.
Trying to lose fat? Take a page from Byron Richard’s outstanding book Mastering Leptin and stick to two to three meals a day, with five to eight hours between meals.
The extended food-free meal breaks provide opportunities for the body to call on stored fat for energy. Instead of snacks, your body will fuel itself with free fatty acids, as long as you're not in the aerobic zone.
To ensure a growth hormone surge while sleeping each night, best to quit eating at least four hours before bedtime. GH optimizes fat loss and muscle growth, which is all the more reason to prioritize the recommended 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night--what could be more hard core than aggressive sleeping? And the longer duration and greater intensity the sleep, the better the results.
So turn off GH killers, such as late night television and internet--and alcohol, and apply yourself to better sleeping and recovery habits.
For hard training athletes--especially those with low body fat levels--three meals a day will probably not cut it. Four meals per day--with about four hours between meals--is better. Still, cut off eating three hours before bedtime for best recovery from tough workouts.