AtA: an Expansion of Stretching

Posted May 14th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

Got a question though, about the stretching vs strength thing, could you elaborate on that a bit more? Or link to a good article on it? I want to be strong and crazy flexible and I am working on both. The book kind of glosses over the actual mechanics of it.

Going back and looking at that section, I’m surprised at my lack of citations for that information. It’s become so commonplace in modern fitness that it must not have occurred to me, despite upsetting the applecarts of pretty much every middle-school coach in the US.

I’m not entirely sure how much information you were looking for. Here’s a few of the articles I possibly should/would have cited (and likely may if I should do a second edition down the road).

Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors (Journal of Applied Physiology, 2000)

Acute effects of static versus dynamic stretching on isometric peak torque, electromyography, and mechanomyography of the biceps femoris muscle (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, NSCA, 2008)

Effects of Static Stretching on Energy Cost and Running Endurance Performance (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, NSCA, 2009)

If you were looking for something perhaps more accessible, there was a pretty good article in the NY Times’ Play Magazine not too long ago.

Anyway, though I was attempting to keep the book brief and concise, I still feel like I might have done a better job in that section. I’m not opposed to all static stretching. The example most obvious to me is the various forms of Yoga poses that hold positions, which in themselves may be valuable to health, strength, and/or flexibility. However, I wouldn’t bolt off and try to perform a workout immediately following yoga, or to use yoga as a ‘warm-up’ for resistance or interval exercise.

The objective of that section was to get people away from the longstanding notion of doing five or ten different held stretches in an attempt to ‘get ready’ for exercise, and to alternatively provide readers with a method for ‘warming-up’ the muscles and body, without depleting or inhibiting their muscular performance for what would come after.

Do you have any videos or animations for the “pull squat dynamic stretch” you mention in the book? I can’t visualize it and there’s nothing on google about it.

Made to order:

AtA: Thoughts on ‘The China Study’ and meat

Posted May 12th, 2010 in Ask the Author, Foods by Clint

Have you ever read the book The China Study? I’d be curious what your thoughts on that are, if you have.

I read it back when it came out. Though I thought the findings from his sourced studies were interesting, I didn’t find them conclusive and feel he had to make some serious stretches to attempt to correlate them with the anti-meat/dairy agenda he’s pushing. The main thing I ended up taking away from it was that it came off like promotional material for a Vegan lifestyle, albeit significantly less slimy-salesman and shameless than the crew that writes the “Skinny Bitch” series.

While it might very well be true the average American could benefit from adhering to the lifestyle proposed, that’s because we’re by and large so awful that just about any change is an improvement. While I am convinced of the necessity and manifold benefit of vegetables and fruits (and thereby recommend having at least a serving with each and every meal), I feel there are also a multitude of benefits from the consumption of meat and animal-related protein products. The DHA/EPA from fish, essential amino acids that are extremely low or unavailable in plant sources (like carnitine and carnosine), iron, zinc, B-complexes and so on.

I’m not saying there’s nothing to the study, but I think the conclusions he draws don’t tend to follow. You can also find reasonably credible studies showing that wheat is killing us, and that soy will give your unborn children sexual deformities.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really advocate any sort of extremism. Everything’s got cancer in it, we’re all gonna die immediately, sky is falling. I think meat and dairy are an important part of a diet, but I strongly recommend the vegetables and their glorious antioxidants and phytochemicals and so forth also, not instead of.

While I don’t have a fundamental concern with the consumption of meat and dairy, the ‘factory farm’ situation and the unethical and insane treatment of animals and what we do to them chemically and biologically for profit purposes is mortifying. I however do not have a solution at present and have yet to see one manifest (a whole lot of yelling ‘fire’ but few people with buckets). It’s ever in my thoughts though.

AtA: Engineer Bags vs Freeweights

Posted May 10th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

I have a question about your suggestion for using an engineer bag stuffed with weights as resistance training, though [...] but I really wonder how favorably it compares to pumping iron with real free weight equipment.

I should preface by stating that the engineer bag (or other suitably heavy object you might train with) is not a short-cut or temporary fix to get people started with resistance training; it is a fully-formed method suitable for people of virtually any level of fitness, and can be an effective program for life. The barbell is less than a century old; it’s not like prior to that humans were just wads of cookie dough with stick arms.

A lot of ‘underground’ fitness methods do Strongman-style training, with tire-flipping, sandbags, car pushing, stone lifting, and so on. For all intent and purpose, you can build an incredible physique and immense strength doing basic movements with challenging free-weight of any kind. It’s just mass being moved, simple as that.

That said, it would depend on your goals and how you define them.

Bodybuilders, to start off with (and pardon me if I paraphrase something you might have already read, I say a lot of things more than once) are particularly suited to using barbells and dumbbells because what they are doing is in essence being sculptors, with their own body as the medium. Even amateur-level bodybuilders spend hours just critiquing their own physique, and by having a wide range of tools and stimuli available they are able to shape each curve, angle and plane. In that case, not only would you want the more refined tools that a gym offers, but a host of other isolation exercises that I don’t get into in the book.

Powerlifters and other competitive weightlifters I consider to be athletes, and lifting barbells as a sport. From the lowly gymrat up to the girthiest (sure that’s a word shut up) of pro powerlifters, they seek to make the numbers go higher, same as a runner wants to make the numbers go lower. In this case, I would recommend you seek a gym as well; it’s significantly easier to lift 225 on a bar, even in a front squat, than it is to do the same with an engineer bag or any other unwieldy load. This isn’t to say it’s somehow less of an accomplishment, but like any other sport, some powerlifters wear special suits and practice special techniques (and often have horrifying physiques and form) just to get the numbers a little higher. It’s not a means to an end, it’s the end itself.

There are obviously other purposes that I may not need to get into for the moment, but suffice to say if you goal is “be leaner”, “be stronger”, “look good naked” or most of the reasons people want to ‘do exercise’, the engineer bag is not only a valid choice, it’s one of the better ones available. Though I personally love the gym in theory and in practice, and consider my power cage to be a part of the family, it’s not necessary. I (and you) could accomplish basically the same thing with a good sized rock.

AtA: Macro-split (PFC) Clarification

Posted May 5th, 2010 in Ask the Author, Foods by Clint

Got a question about the nutrition profile: How’d you decide on 50% protein? Some sort of “Tell them the meeting starts at 19:30 so everyone will be there by 20:00″ deal? (I’ll also need to read it a few more times to mull stuff over.)

I’m not entirely sure which part you’re referring to, but I’ll make a couple guesses and you let me know if you were interpreting something else.

In the Base meal section, where it says “protein totals equal to or higher than the total amount of fat (by gram)”, the idea is if they go by gram and hit close to 50/50, they’re in actuality getting significantly more calories from fat. I don’t necessarily think that’s a negative thing, even in a sedentary individual, but that’s why I say keep the protein up above, which implies that protein can be even significantly higher. With regular exercise this balances out with Peak meals providing that same level of protein but minimal levels of fat to where you still end up at a rough 40/40/20 ratio (as in the section 40/40/20).

Speaking of that section, that’s my other assumption of your reference. In that section there are two optimal, if somewhat plain, meals that meet the requirements for the types of meals. But again, we’re assuming 4-5 Base meals in a day, and 1-2 Peak meals, so once this is all factored out we still roughly end up at about a 40/40/20 split. I try to keep the focus on getting protein in every meal no matter what type of meal it is; with the extra calories per gram in fat and the readily available sources, it’s easy to meet the 40% Fat requirements. Many people have a tendency to grossly underestimate the carb content of foods, but this approach helps to balance that as well.

Protein is the common link between the two meals, and healthy and robust Base meals will include some ‘carbs’ from vegetables, and peak meals will typically include some fats from sources no matter how lean. That ‘half’ target is to help compensate for the fact we don’t get our macros from a super-soldier machine strapped to our back that feeds us intravenously. And I didn’t want people fretting over the 3g of carbs from having mushrooms with their steak, while still being conscious of the fat in the dressing they want to slather on their salads.

AtA: Supplements and additional vitamins

Posted May 3rd, 2010 in Ask the Author, Foods by Clint

Do you have any recommendations for other, more common dietary supplements such as daily multivitamins, or b-complex vitamins and so on?

If you’re going as-recommended in the book and getting a serving of vegetables and the occasional fruit at each meal throughout the day, it’s unlikely you’re in any danger of falling short of the vitamins and minerals you need. The main dispute with multivitamins is the dubious quality of their contents and the bio-availability (or lack thereof) of their nutrients. However, there are numerous well-reviewed and approved multis as well as greens-type supplements that can help offset possible deficiencies if you have a concern, medical or otherwise. But most people are typically fine if they’re getting their vegetables and eating from even a modest spectrum of food types.

AtA: Intermittent Fasting

Posted April 30th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

I actually had one question for you: how do you feel about intermittent fasting? Your book talks about eating once every three hours; is this because you felt:

a) The scientific evidence on fasting isn’t there yet

b) Fasting is too counterintuitive/difficult for most people to handle, and you’re shooting sustainable, easy advice

c) Intermittent fasting just wasn’t known when you started writing it


Just curious.

dshack of ShackAttack (via reddit)

I’m not opposed to the concept of fasting; though not with any regularity, I’ve fasted myself from time to time–for example, with the intent of cleaning out and resetting the systems between trials of dietary plans or prescriptions. I wouldn’t necessarily say the research isn’t there yet, but that it focuses primarily on the comparison of intermittent fasting with the ‘typical’ (i.e. garbage-laden) western diet rather than placing it against other types of healthy consumption.

While a big part of is as you mentioned–that compliance with a fasting regimen can be difficult to maintain–still more of a concern is that even in environments where compliance is maintained at a very high level (such as with camps, athletes, or other committed individuals), the results are inconsistent. I’ve seen people adhere strictly to IF diets such as the Warrior Diet and falter or even experience negative results compared to their previous ‘healthy’ intakes.

But ultimately, along with ease-of-compliance, it was my goal to provide a system that is applicable and proven for the greatest number of individuals in the greatest number of situations. Frequent macro-oriented feedings have been consistently successful for a large number of people for many years now and are the staple of numerous successful nutrition plans, even those that incorporate only light or no exercise for whatever reason (rehab, etc). It’s also among the easiest to incorporate and customize for individuals, and my focus was for something equally useful for parents feeding their families, students eating in the dorm cafeteria, and individuals without the time or desire to create or follow complicated meal plans.

The long and short was something useful for the greatest number of humans in the greatest number of circumstances. It is doubtless that some individuals and their internal chemistry or situation would benefit more from an IF-style diet than from what I recommend, but I also specifically began the chapter stating that if you have something that works great for you, stick with it. And likewise if you don’t see the results you want, feel free to experiment with something else.

New! Ask the Author section

Posted April 28th, 2010 in Ask the Author, Site Update by Clint

Over these past few months following the release of Brain Over Brawn, I’ve kept myself active answering questions via email and on various forums and threads online (most notably in my thread in the W&W forum on somethingawful). However, the difference between creating content and making it easily accessible to potential readers is one I will now attempt to address. So I’ll be creating new (and frequent) posts on my blog for “Ask the Author”, wherein I take questions from readers and my answers to them; this will not only provide additional content of interest for the site, but also may very well answer questions a visitor might have without them having to ask it themselves.

You may submit your own questions by posting in one of the threads I follow, by emailing to clint at brain over brawn dot com, by posting a reply, or pretty much anything else you can think of. I’ll figure it out. I’m going to see about getting a nice, easy little form too.

Posts to follow. Enjoy. (Considering the raw amount of text I hurf-blurf out in a given day, I’d like to think I can be a little less negligent toward this our lovely site).

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