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.|
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)|
|Figure 2: The rest times decreased according to a standardized protocol by 15 sec each week.|
|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).|
|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).|
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.
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).|
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)|
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).|
|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)|
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.
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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 ;-)|
[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)
|Image 2: Click here to learn how to calculate human equivalent doses (HED)|
|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).|
|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).|
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!|
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
|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)|
|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)|
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 ;-)
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?
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.|
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)|
|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)|
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)|
|Image 4: Even the best blueprint will need some tweaking to become your blueprint for success.|
"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 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.|
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)
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)|
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 ;-)