Dream Are Only Dreams (...Until They're Not Anymore)

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being a featured speaker at the Idaho Book Extravaganza.  And while I went there excited to be a part of the event, meet writers and editors, and talk to the community, I left with something more: a deeper appreciation for what accomplishing a goal can mean to a person.

As I met person after person, and heard about their manuscripts and goals, I couldn't help but feel moved.  Here were people who were taking a step toward accomplishing something they'd always wanted to do, people who were brave enough to approach me and tell me their stories.  I noticed how their expressions would change when they started talking about their manuscripts, and I could see that many people were revisiting dreams they'd almost given up on, dreams that are still very, very present.

As I reflected on my many conversations, I couldn't help but wonder: What is it that causes us to move in the opposite direction of our dreams?  Why do we put that half-written manuscript inside a desk that sits in a room no one uses?  Why are we so afraid to talk about the things we desire?

Of course, not everyone wants to write a book.  Other people have different dreams: climbing a summit, backpacking through Europe, doing a triathlon.  But it's not really the type of dream that matters, is it?  The question still remains: Why don't we spend every waking moment moving in the direction of our dreams?  What is it about success that is just so terrifying?

When I was in long distance track in high school, my coach once said to me, "When you run, keep your eyes on the back of the person in front of you.  You naturally move toward the thing you're looking at."

And so it is with goals.  The more we read, talk, think, and write about our dreams, the more likely we are to accomplish them.  We must keep our eyes always forward and our bodies always moving in the direction of our dreams.

After all, if we are always looking forward in anticipation of the prize, aren't we naturally more likely to become victorious?

Training for Size & Strength - Does the Rest Matter? Study Finds 7-9% Greater Increase in Muscle Size With Decreasing Rest Periods.

Image 1: If you want to build Arnold-esque arms you better not sit around too long in-between your sets.
"Short rest periods to burn fat, medium rest periods to build muscle and long rest periods to build strength" - it's actually pretty likely that one of your trainers, gym buddies or fatherly mentors told you something along those lines in the past. In view of the results of a soon to be published international study by Brazilian researchers from the State University of Campinas and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and their American colleagues from the Eastern Illinois University, the University of Memphis and the Colorado College (Souza-Junior. 2011), this is probably the next item on list of widely accepted bodybuilding myths that have a spark of truth to them... at least for recreational strength trainees who use some creatine monohydrate to promote their strength and mass gains.

For their study, the results of which are going to be published in the next issue of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Tacito P. Souza-Junior and his colleagues recruited 22 "recreationally trained" men with a minimum of one year resistance training experience at a frequency of 4 sessions a week, who were randomly assigned to one out of two exercise protocols, which differed only in the time the subjects were allowed to rest in-between sets (cf. figure 1).
Figure 1: Identical training protocol for all subjects participating in the study (compiled based on information from Souza-Junior. 2011)
The only difference between the groups was that half of the subjects trained with a constant rest time of 2 minutes between sets over the whole 8 weeks (CI group), while the remaining subjects had to decrease their rest times from week to week (DI group) according to the scheme illustrated in figure 2. The training sessions were supervised and the subjects were " verbally encouraged to perform all sets to voluntary exhaustion". Considering the overall workload and the training frequency, this were probably pretty hard weeks for the 22 trainees.
Figure 2: The rest times decreased according to a standardized protocol by 15 sec each week.
In addition all subjects, who btw. did not follow a standardized diet, consumed the proven creatine + maltodextrin mix (7 day loading phase with 20g/day creatine + 20g maltodextrin followed by a maintenance dose of 5g creatine + 5g maltodextrin taken immediately post workout) that has been used in numerous studies before.

Figure 3: 1RM performance (in kg) for bench press and barbell squat before and after the 8-week training period in subjects with constant and decreasing rest periods (data adapted from Souza-Junior. 2011).
Now, if the initially stated "wisdom" held true, then the 11 subjects with constant rest periods should either have gained more muscle (if you consider 2 minutes a "medium" rest period) or built more strength (if you would say that 2 minutes belong to the realm of "long" rest periods) - yet figures 3 and 4 seem to indicate that neither of that was the case.
Figure 4: Muscle CSA (in cm²) of arm and tigh muscles before and after the 8-week training period (data adapted from Souza-Junior. 2011).
If we have do yet a closer look at the effect sizes, there is yet a notable advantage of the DI protocol in terms of the measured increases in muscle CSA with +14% and +19% in arm and tigh CSA in the constant rest interval group (CI) and +21% and +28% in the decreasing rest interval (DI) group.

There is a spark of truth to every myth

To give you an idea of how significant - and I am talking about "posing significance" not statistical significance here - this is, I have calculated the respective increases in arm- and tigh-circumference, which would differ by 0.4cm and 0.7cm, respectively. Not really outstanding, but nevertheless an important finding of which the researchers say that it lends support to the notion that
decreasing [rest] interval[s] seems to be more efficient than constant interval to produces [sic!] hypertrophic responses.
It has yet to be stated that the 11 subjects in the decreasing rest interval group paid dearly for this increase in muscular hypertrophy, as their "exercise performance" as measured by the total workload per session decreased profoundly from week 1 to week 8: -35% total volume for barbell squats and -30% for bench presses. The subjects who used constant rest periods, on the other hand, increased their total volume by +20% for squats and by +30% for bench presses. That being said, all powerlifters out there better stick to their constantly (long) rest periods if they do not want to compromise their game.


So the past week I haven't even been riding at all. well, maybe 2 1/2 hours all up, as I have had a killer respiratory infection of some sort. Probably just a cold, but a killer cold nonetheless.

Study week is this week, and though I have definitely started, I have completed about 1/10th of what needs to be done. That's without revising! So lots to do, not too much time to do it in, but stressing isn't going to get me anywhere. Maybe I should write out a plan of some sort? Hmmm....organisation doesn't seem to be my strong point anymore!

Heading out for an actual ride today...Went to go riding yesterday afternoon at Bunya. Dropped into Creek track and 3/4 of the way down I feel some give in my left pedal. I stop to have a look and my pedal head has stripped off the axle. It was attached to my shoe and all that stick out from my bike was a long greasy spindle. Aaaaah, how annoying! Those were my new(ish) XTR's too—how does that even happen?

Anyway, equipped with my ancient XTR pedals from my pogo-stick singlespeed (which I love, but it shakes everything around a lot more than the race bike!), I am going to again attempt a Bunya ride. The weather looks somewhat dubious but I'll take that over going crazy at home pretending to study but being unable to focus due to lack of outside time.

First hospital appointment the other day. Midwife type person told me not to freak out about gaining weight, that everything was normal and fine and not excessive (though it certainly feels that way) so far and I got in trouble for my half a glass of wine every couple of weeks. Bugger her.

More pictures on Friday. Will post.

Intermittent Thoughts On Intermittent Fasting - Exercise (3/3): How Training Solves the AMPK/mTOR Antagonism.

Image 1: Just like Two-Face, a character from the Batman comic books, AMPK turns out to have two faces,... ah I mean isoforms the differential expression of which explain why exercise, contrary to starving yourself, maintains or even builds muscle mass while reducing your love handles (img batman.wikia.com).
In the last installment of the Intermittent Thoughts on Intermittent Fasting series, we have revisited the idea of different training modalities, i.e. endurance and strength training, for the promotion of AMPK-related reductions in body fat and mTOR-dependent increases in muscle mass. We have also busted the long-standing myth of the "anabolic window of opportunity", which, upon closer examination, turned out to have the size of a barn door (>24h) that is unlocked with the key of exercise and nutrition sciences. Related findings showed that even in the absence of additional nutritional stimuli a single intense strength training session led to a profound and (>24h sustained) increase in mTOR phosphorylation in 24 untrained, young, healthy, male subjects (Vissing. 2011). In conjunction with the results of Burd et al. (Burd. 2011), who found that the beneficial effects of strength training on the subsequent response to protein feeding depend on exercise intensity and volume and last for >24h, these results further underline the synergistic effects the fasting, training, feeding cycle of classical intermittent fasting regimens had and still has on the health and physiqueof its practitioners.

Unfortunately, both the concept of "fat loss", as well as that of "muscle gain" are still largely associated with notion of what is commonly referred to as "energy balance". If you read my recent blogpost on the  "High(er) Reps for Fat Loss"-Myth, you will be aware of the fallacy behind the idea of "going to the gym to burn fat". And while more and more trainees (also thanks to the educational work of BodyRX Radio ;-) are getting the idea that you have already lost the fight against your love handles, when you go to the gym solely "to burn calories", the notion that you go to the gym to either "pump up" or "totally exhaust", "damage" and "break down" muscle tissue is similarly illusive. Contrary to what the more is more mentality of the western society may suggest, simple linear causality is nothing you will ever see as the underlying "reason" for the success of a given exercise regimen.

Gain muscle or lose fat? AMPK vs. mTOR and the unique effect of exercise
Image 2: "Immunocytochemistry/ Immunofluorescence - AMPK alpha 1 + AMPK alpha 2 (phospho S485 + S491) antibody (ab39400)" ... and if you do not understand this lingo, what you see here is nothing else but one of the unspecific markers for both isoforms of AMPK that is used in most of the studies (img abcam)
Regardless of whether you intend to lose fat, to build muscle or strength, the previous installments should have made it pretty clear that you will always be dealing with two-way processes, or I should say cycles. Now, interestingly enough, exercise, contrary to dieting or overeating, appears to have the unique quality of driving both at the same time - fat loss and protein synthesis, AMPK and mTOR. This works, and this is going to be the main message of this concise piece of the Intermittent Thoughts series, because the exercise induced muscular(!) AMPK-response differs from the one your brain and many other organs will exhibit, when you starve yourself during a diet. Actually we have been knowing for quite some time that the predominant isoform of AMPK that is expressed during exercise is AMPK-alpha2. Back in 2000, already, Wojtaszewski et al. found that "high" (in this case >70% of the individual VO2max) intensity exercise for 60min selectively increased AMPK-alpha2 activity almost threefold (Wojtaszewski 2011). Similar to the results of previously discussed studies, the increased AMPK levels returned to baseline within 3h after exercise-cessation.

Unfortunately, only few of the subsequent studies, which investigated the effects of different exercise regimen, used iso-form specific tests to determine which of the two AMPK isoforms was expressed consequent to the respective training protocols. According to the ground-laying work of Stapleton et al. (Stapleton. 1996) and supported by a study by Stephens et al., it is yet likely that the relative exercise-induced expression of AMPK-a1 in human muscle tissue is negligable.
Figure 2: AMPK-a2 expression (arbitrary units measured in the absence of AMP) and fat oxidation in g/min in 7 healthy individuals during 30 minutes cycling at 62.8% of VO2Max (data adapted from Stephens. 2002).
Moreover, the results of Stephens et al. underline that the exercise-induced increase in AMPK-alpha2 does not only increases fatty acid oxidation, but that both exhibit an excellent correlation with exercise induced glucose depletion (Stephens. 2002).
Figure 2: Glycogen content (mmol/kg) and phosphorylation of AMPK (arbitrary units) in human vastus lateralis muscle before (0 min) and at the cessation of 120 min of one-legged knee-extensor exercise, while consuming either a glucose containing drink or a placebo drink.  (data adapted from Thorbjorn. 2006)
It is thus not surprising that Thorbjorn et al. were able to show that the ingestion of 0.7 g of glucose/kg of body weight/hour did not only blunt the exercise induced AMPK-a2 response but also reduces its beneficial effects on fat oxidation by -47% (cf. figure 2)!

The results of older studies sometimes begin to shine in the light of novel findings 

Now, you probably knew all that before - after all we have been talking about this effect, its beneficial effects on fatty acid oxidation and glucose uptake, as well as its supposedly negative impact on protein synthesis in previous installments of this series. And in fact, these results begin to shine only, in the light of the results of a a recently published study by Mounier et al., who were able to show that only the increased expression of the alpha1 isoform of AMPK, but not AMPK-alpha2 does impair mTOR signalling. Against that background, the systemic antagonism of AMPK-alpha1 (expressed in liver, brain, and other organs) and mTORc1 mediated protein synthesis stands in stark contrast to the metabolically highly beneficial synergism of concomittant exercise-induced AMPK-alpha2 and mTORc1 expression.

To make a long story short: Exercise is unique in its ability to help you shed fat and build muscle "at the same time", because it activates a specific isoform of the "starvation sensor" AMPK, which does not block the concomitant increase in protein synthesis subsequent to the (likewise) exercise-induced increase in mTOR phosphorylation. On that note, my schedule forces me to end this abbreviated version of the Intermittent Thoughts, yet not without the promise that I am finally going to tie all the knots together in the next installments of this series.

Review for Monster Energy--Lo-Carb


120 mg/12 oz. can
160 mg/16 oz. can
240 mg/24 oz. can
320 mg/32 oz. can


This low carbohydrate version of the original Monster Energy is found everywhere that its high calorie counterpart is, which is to say that it falls in the category of “least difficult” to acquire.


While most low-calorie/diet/etc. drinks often come packaged in a can that appears to be intended a warning against the taste more than anything else, Monster packages Lo-Carb in a can that has always caught my eye and intrigued me, even in the days where I studiously avoided any such variant of an existing sugared beverage.  It is not a whit less effective than the original, and almost seems to declare that the fact that it’s low on calories will have no effect on the flavor.  Same tiff I had with the original applies here in that it seems stupid to make the 24 oz. can resealable and not do the same to the 32 oz. BFC. 


The reason I avoided beverages such as Monster Energy—Lo-Carb in the past was out of fear for the taste—in my experience, many diet drinks were desperately lacking in the flavor department, and the artificial sweeteners contained therein served only to mar the experience by their strong and often unpleasant aftertastes.  Well, drinks like Xenergy Cran Razz Premium and Monster Nitrous—Black Ice opened my mind to the possibility that not all such beverages had to suck, and finally I decided to start reviewing low calorie drinks starting with Monster Energy—Lo-Carb.  Popping the tab on the can, I was greeted with a smell identical to the original—so far so good, but will it hold up to my expectations in terms of flavor?  I am pleased to say that it did—it is Monster to the core, and an excellent alternative to the original for those who want to limit their intake of empty calories as much as they can.  Something to remember is that the sucralose taste is extremely prominent the first time you drink this, but diminishes exponentially each subsequent time.  By the time I got to the BFC, I could barely tell the difference—except I liked this one more.  Just smoother overall.

12 OZ. CAN


I actually got a pretty decent jolt out of this new can—only a hair less than the larger, vastly more common (for now) 16 oz. can.  It’ll wake you up in a heartbeat and actually get you reasonably jittery, which is more than what some drinks with the same caffeine content can claim.


The slim can didn’t do bad in this regard, either—seems I was just shy of three and a half hours before the effects actually wore off.


In my review of the original 12 oz. Monster Energy, I stated that it wasn’t bad, considering I only spent a dollar on it, and stated that there was no real harm in trying it if one were to be interested.  Having now had the 12 oz. Monster Energy—Lo-Carb, I can say that 1) it’s a much better value in terms of energy, and 2) it tastes better.  If you’ve got a buck to spend, go with the 12 oz. Lo-Carb.

16 OZ. CAN


The 16 oz. Monster Energy—Lo-Carb performed very well in terms of intensity of kick, even outdoing the original by some degree (not sure how that works; but it is consistently the case with almost every low-carb drink I’ve had).  Anticipate a healthy degree of jitters with an absence of residual fatigue.


I found my time energized by Lo-Carb to be quite pleasant overall—it didn’t just slap me across the face and leave floundering, but provided me with a much needed lift that was very slow to wear off.  The end of the experience was uneventful, with no crash to hold against it.


While it may not be to the liking of those who are extremely finicky about their Monster beverages tasting exactly like the original, I found the 16 oz. Monster Energy—Lo-Carb to be an exceptionally agreeable and effective energy drink experience experience.  If you love the flavor but don’t want to feel guilty about drinking it, I offer my recommendation of Monster Energy—Lo-Carb as a delicious and effective alternative.

24 OZ. CAN


The 24 oz. can is a bit slow getting started, but when it hits, it hits suddenly and it hits hard.  I found the original to be effective, but a bit lackluster—not so with Lo-Carb.  It had me seriously wired, enough that it cost me a good deal of effort to keep from jabbering my head off to the cashier at the gas station.


No half-hearted job out of Lo-Carb—I got about four hours of solid, unadulterated energy or so before I was ready to hit the sack for the night.


The more I drink Lo-Carb, the more I like it.  The 24 oz. can rocked—great taste, great energy.  This drink in this size will suffice in any realistic energy-requiring situation, but…there’s still the BFC to review.

32 OZ. CAN


I’ll be honest—I didn’t enjoy the original Monster BFC.  I got wired, sure, but I felt sluggish from all the sugar I got, and “sluggish” isn’t an adjective I like to use when I talk about how I feel after I’ve drank 320 mg of caffeine.  Then comes my time to review the Lo-Carb BFC, and WOAH…thisis what 320 mg of is supposed to feel like.  This thing had meseriously freaking jacked up.  No sluggishness.  No pancreas singing “Sadly Sings Destiny” by Blind Guardian.  Just energy.  Lots and lots of energy….


With a lot of beverages, I get wired for a half hour, 45 minutes, and from there it just diminishes; whether it does so slowly or quickly varies.  This was not the case with the Lo-Carb BFC—I was consistently wired for about four and a half hours before any sort of diminishing occurs, and even then it’s kind of a slow process—I was still pretty awake for an hour and a half or so after the tapering off started.


I honestly think that the 24 oz. will suffice, but there is really nothing to lose (except sleep) going for the BFC.  In addition to being effective, all 32 ounces go down smooth and will not nuke every organ involved in sugar metabolism.  If asked, I would suggest bypassing the original Monster Energy BFC and get the Lo-Carb version.

KEYWORDS: Monster Lo-Carb review, traditional energy drink flavor, Red Bull clone, 15 calories per 12 oz. can, 20 calories per 16 oz. can, 30 calories per 24 oz. can, 40 calories per 32 oz. can, Monster Lo-Carb 12 oz. review, Monster Lo-Carb 16 oz. review, Monster Lo-Carb 24 oz. review, Monster Lo-Carb 32 oz. review, Monster Lo-Carb Mega can, Monster Lo-Carb BFC, 12 ounces, 16 ounces, 24 ounces, 32 ounces

1.3g of Grape-Seed Extract Could Protect You From Oxidative Damage, Viral Infections, Obesity and Insulin Resistance, Reduce Your Heart Rate and Blood Pressure and Increase Your Nitric Oxide Production by >25%

Image 1: Bought in bulk, grape-seed extract is actually reasonably cheap... and it does not even taste as awful as some other herb / seed extracts ;-)
After initially being hailed as the yet another anti-oxidant panaceum, grape-seed extract (GSE) has been displaced by newer, fancier "superfoods" from the headlines of the major health and wellness newscasters. Therefore, even you, as a highly self-educated student of the SuppVersity could have missed out on a handful of recently released studies which reported antiviral effects of GSE (Su. 2011) and confirmed its ameliorative effect on diet-induced obesity (Ohyama. 2011) and (high) fructose-induced insulin resistance (Meeprom. 2011). Moreover, a meta-analysis of nine controlled with more than 300 human subjects and daily doses ranging from 250mg to 2,000mg of GSE, which was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (Feringa. 2011), found that ...
[b]ased on the currently available literature, grape seed extract appears to significantly lower systolic blood pressure and heart rate, with no effect on lipid or CRP levels.
These results suggest that we (at least some of) the beneficial health effects that have been observed in rodent studies actually translate to human beings - something  we cannot (yet?) say for some of the next generation "panacea" ;-) This is also important in view of the significance of the results GSE-administration had on exercise-induced oxidative stress in a more recent study by scientists from the universities of Konya and Dicle in Turkey (Belviranli. 2011), which was published in the latest issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.

The experiments were carried out with 64 adult male Sprague Dawley rats who were randomly assigned to one of the following six groups:
  • sedentary control (C, n=10), 
  • chronic exercise control (CEC, n=11), 
  • acute exercise control (AEC, n=11), 
  • GSE-supplemented control (GC, n=10), 
  • GSE-supplemented chronic exercise (GCE, n=11), and 
  • GSE-supplemented acute exercise (GAE, n=11)
The rats in the treatment groups received a standardized GSE extract containing 54% dimeric, 13% trimeric, 7% tetrameric and <5% monomeric proanthocyanidines and undisclosed amounts of cathechines and oligomeric proanthocyanidines, at a daily dose of 100mg/kg body weight in their drinking water for 6 weeks.
Image 2: Click here to learn how to calculate human equivalent doses (HED)
Rat to human equivalent dosage calculation: If you have already read my dissertation on how to calculate the so-called human-equivalent-dose (HED), you will probably already have whipped out your calculator and are just about to type "100mg times the K-value for rats, which is 6; divided by the K-value for humans, which is 37" ... and what does your calculator tell you? Correct! The HED of 100mg/kg GSE in rats is 16.33mg/kg - in other words, if you weigh 80kg you will have to take roughly 1,300mg of grape-seed extract per day to mimic the dosage that was used in the study.
The dosage, according to the scientists, was chosen because it had elicited beneficial anti-oxidant effects in previous studies on alloxan induced diabetes (El-Alfy. 2005) and age-related oxidative damage (Balu. 2006). And, as Belviranli et al. had suspected, it exhibited similar protective effects against the oxidative stress triggered by both chronic, 5x a week treadmill exercise at 25m/min for 45 minutes, as well as, acute running on the treadmill at 30m/min until exhaustion.
Figure 1: Effects of acute or chronic exercise and grape seed extract (GSE) supplementation on plasma malondialdehyde (MDA) levels (data calculated based on Belviranli. 2011).
As you can see in figure 1, administration of 100mg/kg grape-seed extract per day augmented the beneficial effect of 6 weeks of chronic exercise on muscle MDA levels (-37% vs. -18% in the control group) and ameliorated the acute +22% increase in MDA levels due to increased lipid peroxidation during exhaustive treadmill running.
Figure 2: Effects of acute or chronic exercise and grape seed extract (GSE) supplementation on plasma nitric oxide (NO) levels (data calculated based on Belviranli. 2011).
GSE supplementation also increased the expression of nitric oxide (NO in  plasma; on average +25%) in all animals (cf. figure 2). Moreover, GSE ameliorated the increase in xanthine oxidase and adenosine deaminase activities due to acute exercise and triggered an overall increase in antioxidant enzyme activities.

So, even if your favorite anti-aging and health (onilne-)magazine or vendor appears to have forgotten about grape-seed extract. For a physical culturist like you and me, it may yet well be worth to (re-)include the extract from the seeds of the fruits of Vitis vinifera, which are a particularly rich source of vitamin E, linoleic acid and, most importantly, oligomeric proanthocyanidins, into our supplement regimen. And if the current study does not convince you, it may help, if I remind you of the 2006 study by Kijima et al. who were able to show that GSE due to its anti-aromatase activity can suppress tumor growth in a breast cancer model (Kijima. 2006) ... ah, and before I forget: don't be stupid and buy over-priced caps. Use google and find yourself a source of bulk grape-seed extract - don't worry the taste is not all too bad ;-)

Stevia - So Much More Than Just a Natural Sweetener: Combination "Therapy" With Stevia and Fenugreek as Effective as Common Diabetes Drug!

Image 1: Nature vs. Pharma. Leavs and seeds vs. chemicals - guess who will win!
I have been wondering for quite some time now, why I, as a resident of the European Union, do still have to use my hair-care products to sweeten my tea, my yogurt, or whatever else, if I do want to avoid artificial sweeteners or the good, or I should say, "bad" old table sugar... for those of you who are now wondering how hair-care products relate to my sweet tooth - here in Europe, Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni has still not been approved as a food additive, so that the myriad of health-food shops carrying respective products simply relabel them as "hair-care" or "cosmetic products, not intended for internal application"... and as a obedient citizen I would, of course, never even remotely consider ingesting a product such as stevia that is so utterly natural and genetically unmodified that it must be harmful ;-)

A pros pos harmful: As it turns out, stevia could in fact be pretty harmful - yet not for my or your physiological health, but certainly for the financial health of the big pharma companies. After all, scientists from the Departments of Pharmacology at the Bangladesh Agricultural University and the Faculty of Medicine at the Kagawa University in Japan have recently been able to show that Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, in combination with Fenugreek aka Methi (Trigonella foenum-graecum), exhibits similarly potent hypoglycemic effects in Streptozotocin treated rats (the reference model for type II diabetes) as Amaryl(R), a commonly used diabetes drug based on the active ingredient Glimepiride (Rafiq. 2011). It thusly stands to reason that big pharma has a vested interest in delaying or even preventing the admission of stevia as an allowable food additive. Think about it: Who would buy all the Amaryls, Metformins & Co if Coca Cola decided to put stevia instead of aspartame into their soft-drinks and - all of a sudden - all those pre-diabetic soft-drink junkies would not develop full-blown type II diabetes, anymore? Ah... I am digressing again. Let's get back to the facts.

For their study Kazi Rafiq and his (I hope that "Kazi" is a male first name ;-) colleagues had collected fresh stevia and methi (=fenugreek) leaves and seeds and prepared them according to the following procedure:
Fresh Stevia leaves that were collected from the garden were oven dried first and then dried leaves were grinded with Grinder machine. Then 1g dried leaves samples were mixed with 10ml distilled water and were allowed to stay for whole night. Everyday fresh extract were prepared by using these techniques. Water extract of methi was made from 100g fresh seed sample by grinding with Grinder machine, and mixed with 2000 ml distilled water. Then the water extract was lyophilized in Central Laboratory, BAU. Finally the herbal drug was collected as powder form by Freeze drying in Central Laboratory, BAU.
The scientists then injected their 30 of their 36 Long Evans rats with Streptozotocin (STZ) to induce insulin resistance (again, STZ-treaded rodents are the most commonly used model of type II diabetes). After two weeks of STZ injection the (then) diabetic rats were divided into 5 groups:
  • Group-B: diabetic control (STZ).
  • Group-C: STZ + aqueous extract of stevia leaves @ 100 mg/kg,
  • Group-D: STZ + aqueous extract of methi leaves @ 500 mg/kg,
  • Group-E: STZ + combination of aqueous extract of stevia and methi leaves @ 500 mg/kg
  • Group-F: Amaryl @ 800µg/kg
The plant extracts and the drug were administered orally once daily for 60 days. Blood glucose levels were monitored during the treatment period and an oral glucose tolerance test was conducted at the end of the 60-day experiment (results cf. figure 1).
Figure 1: Blood glucose levels (in mg/dl) in response to oral glucose tolerance test in normal and diabetic (STZ) rats after 6 weeks on a combination of stevia and fengreek extracts or the anti-diabetes drug Amaryl - left; change in area under the respective curve (AUC) relative to normal control - right (data adapted from Rafiq. 2011)
As you can see Amaryl and the combination therapy with stevia and fenugreek extracts at 500mg/kg per day (equivalent to 81mg/kg for a human being; or ~6.5g of each for someone weighing about 80kg) were equally effective in ameliorating the blood glucose response (within the statistical margin the AUC was identical).
Figure 2: Elevations in blood sugar levels (compared to healthy control) after STZ treatment and consecutive administration of stevia, fenugreek, a combination of both or Amaryl (data calculated based on Rafiq. 2011)
Moreover, the combination of stevia and fenugreek ameliorated the negative effect the Streptozotocin treatment had on blood glucose concentrations to a similar extend as Amaryl (cf. figure 2), which led the scientists to conclude that...
these findingslend pharmacological support to the suggested folkloric and ethnomedical user of these plants in managing and /or controlling of diabetes mellitus in rural communities of Bangladesh.
While the use of small amounts of stevia to sweeten your beverages and / or food will probably not have the same profound effects on your blood glucose levels as the combination of what would amount to a ~6g equivalent of leaf and seed extracts from stevia and fenugreek used in this study, I would assume that those dubious"hair-care products" still constitutes the most healthy sugar-alternative on the European market - so do your pancreas, ahh.. I mean hair, a favor and get yourself some stevia ;-)

Whose Eyes Are Those.

Once upon a time, there lived a girl who was born blind which caused her great anguish.

She would always inquire about an eye transplant, with the hope that maybe some-day she could be given the gift of vision. She was told that she was on a 20 year waiting list.

One day a young man met her. He appreciated her on a deeper level. He saw beyond her closed eyes, and beyond her bitterness. Deep inside of her he found a very gentle, refined and deep soul, hurting badly. He took a very deep liking to her. He finally proposed. She said yes to the proposal

You can only imagine how she appreciated what he had done for her.

One day, he comes home and informs her, she would not have to wait 20 years for an eye transplant. In a few months she would be able to get a pair of eyes. She was overjoyed beyond words.

Before she went into the surgery, he told her something:

My dear wife, I don’t want you to be shocked when you wake up, so I am telling you now. “I am a blind man, too. I can’t see…”

She began weeping. The transplant ended with success, she opened her eyes and saw the world around her.

She saw the heavens, she saw sunrise, sunset. She saw children playing; she saw rain, snow, trees, streams, rivers, gardens, and animals. Her joy knew no bounds.

In the beginning she tended to him with tireless dedication and love. After all he was the man who chose to marry her, the blind woman, and she knew how much he loved her. After all, this man allowed her, to get the transplant.

As time went on she was feeling frustrated. She could finally travel and see the world; yet her husband’s impediment, would limit her every move and her every step. It was just unfair to her, she felt. She wanted to go live it up, but her blind husband just needed too much attention.

The woman decided to end the marriage.

“My dear,” she said; “I appreciate you and I love you. I feel our marriage is not allowing me to live a good life, a free life, an exciting life. I don’t see the point in being married to you while I resent it.”

The day of the divorce, she found a letter under her pillow. This is what it said:

My dear beloved wife,

As you know, I always loved you and cherished you. After your request for a divorce, I immediately complied with your request. Love can’t be forced. I will miss you dearly, and I wish you the most beautiful, exciting and fun life you wish for yourself…

I will just ask you one favor: Those eyes of yours, please treat them well. Take good care of them. For not too long ago, those eyes were mine…I loved you too much and could not bear to see you blind; so I gave you my eyes. That is why you did not have to wait twenty years…

When I heard this story, I thought, what a powerful story.

G-d created us, He designed our body, and He gave us a soul, sharing Himself with each one of us. G-d asks us to live a life filled with justice and compassion, to be loving and kind, to be charitable and giving, and to be holy and pure. He asks us to live a life dedicated to meaning and purpose, to follow His will.

But we often say: G-d, I got no time for You. I got to see the world… I need to work to pay my bills, I need some time for recreation, for leisure, for fun; G-d, I am not the religious type. G-d, I have to see the world…

Great! But who gave you those eyes, hands, feet to be able to see the world?

Review for Monster Energy--Heavy Metal

To start things off, I should let you know that if you plan on reading the entirety of this review, you will probably want to get comfortable.  I’m going to deviate from my normal format a bit and write this as sort of a review/memoir.  Given how dang near impossible finding Monster Energy—Heavy Metal was, actually being able to get my hands on a can and give it a shot was a bigger deal than it would have otherwise been, and it will consequentially be given a more extensive treatment.  That said, I will make an end to the preface and get started.


320 mg/32 oz. can


When I first got into energy drinking a couple of years back, I discovered a nifty website (energyfiend.com) containing, among other things, a sizable list of energy products with their corresponding caffeine contents.  Browsing said list, I found a product that for some reason intrigued me: Monster Energy—Heavy Metal.  Looking it over, I made a mental note to keep an eye open for it and went on with my life.  A few months went by, and after checking at every single convenience store, grocery store, and gas station I came to, not a bit of luck—nobody carried it anywhere, ever.  I knew it existed, or at least should—it was at the time on the Monster Energy website—but after a time the company discontinued the product, and I all but gave up on finding it until I finally decided to bite the bullet and bought a can on eBay. Moral of the story: this drink is, for all intents and purposes, impossible to find, and unless the Monster Energy company gets inundated with petitions to bring the beverage back (which I doubt), I don’t think it’ll ever get easier.  UPDATE (11-16-11):  In response to rumors concerning the acquisition of Monster Energy—Heavy Metal, I made a trip to Big Lots and found that, at least for the time being, they do stock it there.  If you're hoping to find it you should be able to do so there, though I'd act quickly; I doubt that supplies will last.


A look at the can should be enough to tell anyone why I became so intrigued to begin with—even next to Import, Heavy Metal sports probably the best packaging of any Monster Energy product I’ve seen.  The thing is a beast—the first thing you notice once you see it is the fact that it comes in a freaking huge 32 oz. can, and only then you see the motif…poison green background, metal concert silhouette in the foreground, Monster M and Heavy Metal logo repeating twice over the periphery of the can—it’s the kind of packaging that most energy drink companies scarcely manage to dream of, let alone produce.  Full marks to the Monster Energy company for this one.


The prospect of tasting Monster Energy—Heavy Metal had me a little apprehensive to begin with—the fact that reviews were almost universally negative aside, they were, for the most part, not helpful at all in giving me any sort of idea as to what I should expect tastewise.  One review described the taste as being a homogeny of body fluids gathered from the mosh pit of a heavy metal concert, another describing it as being akin to petroleum distillates, and in yet another (a video review) the individuals filming it simply pointed the camera at each other and called each other gay for five minutes before each giving it a sip and offering exceptionally vague critiques of the flavor.  Naturally, when the time came to try it myself, I did so having no idea what I was getting into.  Opening up the can, the first smell reminded me to some degree of NOS, but distinct all the same (it is interesting to note that the smell changed as I continued drinking…about halfway through it started to smell like my wife's mango/peach gum, and after that it took upon itself a pleasant fermented odor).  Taking a taste…it was equally hard to place; I was inclined to show some degree of mercy towards those who found themselves unable to describe it themselves.  Giving it my own shot, the taste reminded me of the tastes of grapefruit and lime, but without the sourness of either.  Strangely enough, I also tasted a little bit of salt in the mix—almost reminds me of limes sprinkled with salt.  While I can understand why some people wouldn’t be terribly fond of it, I have a hard time understanding the loathing some demonstrated for it.  As for myself, I found the result to be exceptionally delicious, and by far one of the most unique things I have tasted since I started energy drinking.


And now on to the kick…well, with 320 mg of caffeine, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it wasn’t long after I finished the can that I found myself to be exceptionally energetic, and for a brief time felt almost uncomfortably so—even as diluted as it was, it’s still got a ton of caffeine, and isn’t for featherweights.  Also to be noted is the fact that the drink, with all its caffeine and its 32 oz. size, makes for a potent diuretic.  Take this into account if you plan on drinking it before a long drive, movie date, meeting, etc.


No surprises or disappointments here, either.  If you need to be wired, Monster Energy—Heavy Metal will keep you wired and functional for the better part of five hours after the fact.  Even as hardcore as the kick I got out of it was, I was quite impressed with the lack of crash after the fact.


Well, I for one am sorry to see this drink go.  I loved Monster Energy—Heavy Metal…I loved the tasted, I loved the kick, I loved how different it was from everything else I’ve tasted.  Concluding this review, I’m reminded of the song “Would You Love a Monsterman” by Lordi—I’ve tried Monster Energy—Heavy Metal, and I can indeed understand the beauty of the beast.  If given the chance, I recommend you try it, however big an “if” that may be….

KEYWORDS: Monster Heavy Metal review, 32 oz. can, discontinued, impossible to find, south-of-the-border, Unleash the Beast, limited edition, BFC

Oh, You Silly Chicago Manual of Style Editor

I found this hilarious Q & A buried in the archives of the Chicago Manual of Style online:


Q. About two spaces after a period. As a US Marine, I know that what’s right is right and you are wrong. I declare it once and for all aesthetically more appealing to have two spaces after a period. If you refuse to alter your bullheadedness, I will petition the commandant to allow me to take one Marine detail to conquer your organization and impose my rule. Thou shalt place two spaces after a period. Period. Semper Fidelis.

A. As a US Marine, you’re probably an expert at something, but I’m afraid it’s not this. Status quo.


I'm a diehard two spacer.  Abusus non tollit usum.

Adelfo Cerame - Road to The Wheelchair Nationals '12: Experience and Intuition Distinguish Bro from Pro

Image 1: If Einstein had been into bodybuilding, he'd have loved how Adelfo approaches his contest prep.
Science certainly is a serious business. Nevertheless, even Einstein was convinced that, at the end of the day, "intuition" and "experience" is what distinguishes the average scientists, who spends his life in one of those sterile labs doing what philosopher of science T.S. Kuhn once called "normal science", from a genius like Einstein, who scribbled his theory on the photo-electric effects, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize, on a few sheets of paper in the course of a transatlantic cruise. And though I assume Adelfo won't like it, if I call him a "genius" (and I assume for a future pro bodybuilder the comparison with Einstein is not very flattering, anyway), intuition and experience are two things our man at the 2012 Wheelchair Nationals in Florida has in abundance, which is why I will now sit back, relax and let the "pro" do the work ;-)

4 Weeks in - Let's See Where We're at!

Week 4 is almost a wrap, and as I promised last week… I have new progress pictures and 2 new videos for you. We'll start with the pictures, because - even in the age of digital cameras and even smartphones with (supposedly) "high definition", stills like those in image 2 are unique (and necessary) in that they give you the time to really judge your progress - taking weekly (more often is neither necessary nor advisable) pictures is thus a must-do not only for a competitive bodybuilder, but for everyone who wants to take his physique to another level.
Image 2: Progress pics, front - September 2, 2011 (left), pre-contest experimentation phase; October 24, 2011, 4 weeks into the contest prep (img Adelfo Cerame, 2011)
For those of you who are catching up, I did not start my contest prep until the 1st week of October, so the September photos were taken while I was still in my bulking phase and still trying to experiment and to adjust my raw foods intermittent fasting dietary regimen to my individual needs. The lighting is a bit off between the two comparisons, but after 4 weeks, I can see a slight, yet visible improvement in my abdominals - it’s not much, but in view of not having been in a caloric deficit, yet (I'll be going there next week), this is certainly noteworthy.
Image 3: Progress pics, back - September 2, 2011 (left), pre-contest experimentation phase; October 24, 2011, 4 weeks into the contest prep (img Adelfo Cerame, 2011)
The biggest improvement I have noticed though are related to my back. I don’t know how much of the difference is due to the lighting or maybe just because I put my hair up, ... but I honestly think that I was able to put on some decent size - looks like the switch to an EDT-type training style with all the grueling, but obviously productive compound moves was already paying off…
"Opinions, please! What do you guys think? Honestly… I’d like to here some of the readers’ opinions. Am I just seeing things? Or am I really making improvements?  [Comment Dr. Andro: You can either use the "comment" function at the bottom of the page or contact Adelfo directly via Facebook if you want - the latter also holds true if you have specific questions or are interested in dietary counseling]
Like I did mentioned last week, I do feel a lot harder, tighter and fuller. The typical "side-effects" everyone I've talked two who has implemented Rob Regish's interpretation of "escalating density" training into his regimen is "complaining" about.

Showtime! Adelfo hits the gym again...

A pros pros training. Let's get to my latest training videos, now. We shot the videos Wednesday night! They are in fact so brand new that I did not even have the time to get sore, yet ;-)
Video 1: Adelfo is incorporating static holds at the end of each set, a technique he has adapted from Rob Regish's Blueprint (Adelfo Cerame, 2011)
Before I start my EDT Block, I always start off with some static hold movements. As you can see in the video, I do five reps and then hold the weight up, after the last one without going to full lockout (this is obviously important, unless you want your joints, instead of your muscles, to do the work ;-). When I began incorporating this technique from the Blueprint into my regimen, I used to add 4 plates on each side and just do one static hold without the extra reps, but I have noticed that the tension on a decline hammer strength machine is a lot different from a free weight decline press (the tension is a lot heavier on free weights). Thusly, I wasn’t getting enough tension with just one static contraction, because the hammer strength machines does a lot of the additional stabilizing work, you would be doing if you were performing this move with free weights.
Image 4: Even the best blueprint will need some tweaking to become your blueprint for success.
A brief note by Dr. Andro: This little "tweak" to the original "Blueprint" Adelfo has come up with is further evidence of what I mentioned two weeks ago, when Adelfo and I were on Carl Lenore's Super Human Radio. Adelfo is the kind of guy who does not follow (even good) advice blindly. He has exactly the kind of Einstein-ish "intuition" and "experience" which distinguishes an average trainee, who relies on his "gurus" to take him to the top (which obviously seldom happens), from a professional bodybuilder, who takes responsibility for his own progress.So, whatever your personal goals may be, whether you are an aspiring bodybuilder or just an average Joe or Jane wanting to look good naked - always remember: success comes from making a blueprint your blueprint!
Being assisted by the hammer strength machine does yet not mean that you cannot hit the pecs hard - it's well possible that the opposite may be the case, because you are eliminating some of the weaker links... So even if I am doing only 3 instead of 4 plates on each side the pump and the pain during the static hold tell me that I am sending that growth signal you should strive to trigger whenever you are at the gym... after all, muscle growth not exhaustion is why (I assume) most of you will be at the gym.

"I am always tailoring my workout to my very specific needs"

And just in case you are now asking yourselves why I am not just doing the static holds with free weights then, the answer is simple: It's a safety issue. When I use free weights, I do not have the luxury to plant my legs and feet to th ground, which would give me that extra stability I need. I depend solely on my core to balance myself. I have to focus on balancing the weight and myself at the same time. So you can just imagine if I lost balance while trying to lift 3 plates on each side - therefore, the most I ever did after my injury on a free weight bench, was 2 plates on each side. And while there will be a video of me doing free weight bench presses somewhen in the near future, as well. For now, I want you to take a look at me performing my favorite EDT block (video 2)
Video 2: Adelfo doing incline presses and DB rows on the third of on of his EDT cycles (Adelfo Cerame, 2011)
I perform these push-pull combinations right after decline press static holds on the hammer strength machine. Being able to move as fast as I can from one exercise to another, this combo allows me to really make the most of my time at the gym. This video comprises only one of the many cycles I try to do within the 20 minutes given…(if you have not followed the whole series, you can read up on my EDT regimen here). The video, I think, shows the third of the cycles, each of which consists of a one push and one pull exersice

"I do a set of incline presses, then I superset that with DB back rows."

My goal with each EDT block (comprising two exercises each) is to try and complete as many cycles as I can within the 20 minutes. Last night I got up to 7 cycles and with each cycle, I lift as heavy as I can for 4-6 reps. If you do the math - 7 cycles à 4 reps does not sound so much, but you must also count the reps from the superset.... so that you are doing 56 all-out heavy (!) reps within 20 minutes… Then you have another static hold exercise, and another EDT block… remember what I said about not exhausting, but stimulating a few lines above - well, sometimes the former just works best by doing the latter ;-)
Image 5: A Philly Cheese Steak Wrap, the latest delicacy from Adelfo Cerame's personal cookbook.
Adelfo Cerame's Cookbook - Philly Cheese Steak Wrap: With the great feedback I am receiving on the recipes, Dr. Andro and I have decided to include one page of the repertoire I have come up with for me, as well as for the clients, I am doing dietary counseling for, as a regular part of each of my blogposts. Today's recipe is a tribute to all of you (and many of my clients) who are no big fans of raw food eating - and let's be honest, if you are doing it correctly "cooked" food can be both healthy and delicious as well. Not being a raw foodist, paleo eater, south beacher, or whatever else people affiliate themselves with… I eat nutritionally dense whole, natural foods (well, maybe with some exceptions on my cheat/reefed days ;-), of which I have found that my body cherishes extra bucks the ingredients may cost me.

A pros pos ingredients, here is what you will need for the one and only ...

Adelfo Cerame Philly Cheese Steak Wrap
  • 1 La tortilla Low Carb / High fiber tortilla (12g fiber/6g carbs)
  • 6 oz lean grass-fed sirloin steak
  • 1 tbs. real mayonnaise
  • 1 string cheese
  • Bell peppers & onions (optional)
Macros: 43g protein/ 6g carbs/  16g fat - bon appetit!

Looking back at the first month: "So far everything has gone smoothly!"

Image 6: Adelfo 10-8 weeks out from 09’ WC nationals (Adelfo Cerame, 2009)
Although we still have a couple of days left, I want to take the chance and review this first month of my contest prep. What is kind of exciting is that I have noticed that the way I look as of now is actually how I looked 10 to 8 weeks out during my 09’ contest prep (see image 6), and this is the time during prep where I usually felt rushed and began to drastically cut back on calories, because I felt there wasn’t enough time to achieve the level of competitive leanness I am expecting of myself. And though the drastic cuts did not affect me during the prep, it affected me after! And for those of you who have made extreme cuts before know what I’m talking about.... But anyway back on topic.

Next month (i.e. next week, already) I will actually begin to drop my caloric intake. This month I was at 2,250 calories, which is my maintenance calories. Next week I plan to start out with a ~15% calorie deficit from my caloric maintenance, which is about 1,912 calories. That's not much, but with the way I am looking now, eating at or even above maintenance, I expect to see some changes. If my body does not react the way I expected, I can still adapt my caloric intake in the course of the next four weeks, so that I will be able to reach my first long term goal, which is getting almost stage ready by January. By that time, March comes around real quick and I just want to have the luxury of knowing that I’m ready. But I’ll blog more about that next month and also write more about wheelchair bodybuilding in general for those of you that weren’t aware that there is such a thing ;-)