Tag Archives: supplements

Checking In 9/10/2021

I’ve previously mentioned taking Hammer Nutrition’s Tissue Rejuvenator, which combines joint-friendly nutrients glucosamine and condroitin with other antioxidants to help heal joints, tendons, ligaments, and other similar tissue.

Well, one likely reason my prox-ham pain has lingered is because I haven’t been taking it. My supply ran out a couple days before I went to Milwaukee, and I lagged on ordering more until right before I left (and this time I made sure to order a bunch, so it shouldn’t run out for a long while). The shipment only arrived yesterday, and the dose I took last night was the first I had taken in a week.

It’s a supplement, not a miracle cure, so as I expected I still feel the same prox-ham soreness I’ve consistently felt for… well, about the last week or so. But I suspect taking the Rejuvenator daily once again will help move things along after a week of stagnant-non-progress.

I test-drove a couple minutes of running on the treadmill last night before the elliptical, and while that went okay I made sure to stop before any pain or other discomfort emerged, and moved on to the elliptical for another 45 minutes. My leg didn’t feel totally comfortable, though there wasn’t any pressure or pain this time (before I stopped).

Again, I’m not doing any work break running, walking instead and giving the leg time and space to heal up fully. Being back on the Tissue Rejuvenator should help things out as well, plus tomorrow is a scheduled full day off. Tonight I plan on one more elliptical session, and though I didn’t strength train this morning I’ll see about doing so tonight if gym crowds allow.

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Antioxidants: Helpful or Not?

Antioxidants are a fundamental mixed bag. On the one hand, their ability to heal the body and combat inflammation helps the body recover quickly from exercise, not to mention help protect your everyday function and immune system.

On the other hand, researchers have in recent years discovered that this antioxidant influx also blunts the body’s adaption and supercompensation to training, that while you heal more quickly and completely you also interfere with the body’s ‘learning process’ in fighting the inflammation markers and growing to adapt to the stressor of your intense training.

Basically, because antioxidants are an external healer, your body is less likely to learn to adapt to the stress for future workouts.

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Experimenting With My Supplement Intake (early 2021 edition)

In recent months I switched up my supplement intake as a long term experiment.

  • I will first note one item hasn’t changed: I’m still taking my usual Cal/Mag/D3 supplement each day with K2.
  • After reading up on issues with Vitamin K2 MK-7 being made with soy and that nutrient’s detrimental effects on male hormones… I decided to try an MK-4 K2 supplement instead for a while.
  • After reading up on concerns about the common rancidity of oils used in Omega 3 pill supplements, I decided to stop taking Omega 3 entirely for a while, relying on diet for Omega 3 oils. I stepped up my consumption of wild sardines, which it turns out are a substantial Omega 3 source and a relatively close competitor in that regard with wild salmon.
  • I swapped out my one a day multivitamin for Hammer Nutrition’s Premium Insurance Caps, but instead of taking the full multi-pill dose I’ve taken 1-2 a day and counted on an improved whole food diet to provide needed nutrients.
  • I cannot mention the use of Hammer supplements without referencing the 2008 situation where several athletes claimed to tie back their positive doping tests to Hammer’s Endurolytes (a product I don’t use, BTW). The suit quietly petered out and was likely settled, and was also the only instance of Hammer being accused of containing banned substances. Some have also fundamentally questioned the accusations, alleging Hammer was not the source and possibly just a legal scapegoat for unrelated indiscretions. And all that was 13 years ago, with no reported instances since. Basically, I’m not worried.

All that said, I also during these recent months took a few other Hammer supplements:

  • The Tissue Rejuvenator, a more bioavailable and comprehensive form of the traditional glucosamine and condroitin, the supplement that help maintain joints, tendons and cartilage. Rejuvenator seeks to promote better recovery in your tissues, and while typically advised for injuries you can generally take it as a preventative.
  • The Race Caps Supreme, a mix of CoQ10 and vitamin E plus other vitamins to help your heart and improve running performance. I took it generally in the early going for a couple weeks, but now only take one occasionally and before tougher workouts.
  • The Mito Caps, a vitamin mix designed to promote recovery and building of your body’s aerobic powerhouses, the mitochondria. These have to be refrigerated, so it’s harder for me to remember to use them because they’re off the counter and out of sight. But like the Race Caps I take one occasionally and before tougher workouts, but also after many workouts.
  • In all these cases the recommended full dosage is several pills, but I typically only take one pill at a time, given I only want these to supplement my natural effort and recovery rather than drive it as others generally use it.
  • I did maintain some supply of my one a day, Omega 3 caps, and my old MK7 for occasional control doses, in case these switches ended up being bad decisions that deprived me.

For what it’s worth, my training has made reasonable progress, but given its challenges plus life stresses, and what training progress I expected to make from training recovery and improved nutrition, it’s hard to tell how much the supplements have or haven’t benefitted me. I realize a lot of this is likely confounding, but I’m trusting my observations in moving ahead.

These weren’t cheap purchases, so I did want to make a firm decision on whether or not I’d continue using them regularly. Here’s what I’ve concluded after 3+ months of regular use.

  • I probably will switch back to my old one-a-day multivitamin before the Premium Caps are exhausted, though I’ll take the multi separately in the morning rather than at night with my other supplements. I suspect that previously taking the one a day at night unduly spiked hormone production that was keeping me awake, not to mention being at rest may have caused more of it to get excreted unused than if I take it in the morning and move throughout my day. My occasional doses during this time have all been in the morning, and I’ve noticed fewer issues with better energy overall.
  • After not touching the stuff for a while beforehand… I have noticed no ill effects when dosing Omega 3, and if the rancidity concern was legit I think I would have noticed after doing so. So I think I will go back to dosing Omega 3, at least if I know I haven’t eaten sardines/salmon, or I think I’m sore enough during training to need the extra anti-inflammatory boost.
  • I noticed a somewhat quicker recovery day-over-day from my longer/harder workouts when dosing with the Race Caps and Mito Caps. So I may keep a supply of those on hand for the time being. I don’t want to lean on them for all key workouts, so I’ll probably go in-and-out with using one or both of them over time to note any differences in results.
  • I have decided that the issues with taking MK7 are worth the benefits, and will go back. The MK4 was a bit cumbersome to take (there are few varieties available, and you have to dissolve it under your tongue), and further research has confirmed my original belief that it’s not as bioavailable as MK7.
  • I do get sore more often… but realize I’m also training more and harder than I have in the last previous couple years. So I can’t necessarily say the new supplements didn’t help me, nor necessarily say that removing the Omega 3’s hurt me. I will continue to monitor this as I make adjustments and resume taking Omega 3 regularly.

Ultimately, it would be great if my diet was clean and robust enough that taking supplements beyond an occasional pill here or there wasn’t necessary. Until I get there, I’ll continue to work on what supplements I take and where.

I also wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend any or all of these supplements. Your diet remains most important, and any supplements most take should be broad and bioavailable, like multivitamins and regular vitamin supplements. I’m taking these with specific improvements and goals in mind, and as I’ve implied the results were largely inconclusive and slight.

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Curing Your Sleep Problems

Photo by Kristin Vogt on Pexels.com

Here is a topic near and dear to my heart, an important facet of health that I’ve been working on as much as my diet and exercise.

The single most important aspect of your training development outside of the actual exercise is your ability to get good sleep. Even the important factor of your diet serves in large part your ability to effectively sleep, and its positive effects on your health will be limited if you aren’t sleeping well.

Over 1/3 of U.S. residents surveyed report they don’t get at least 7 hours sleep, and it’s no surprise nearly 40% report some sort of sleep disorder. While some may try to pinpoint the cause to some sort of disorder, the reality is that our choices play a substantial role in how much sleep we get or don’t get.

Unless you’re caring for a newborn child (during that period, they’re often going to wake up overnight and there’s little you can do about that), those choices were to a substantial degree probably avoidable. Even being compelled to keep a complicated, troublesome schedule due to career or family concerns is to some degree a preventable product of life choices. We often choose other priorities over sleep and don’t realize what a mistake that is.

But I digress, and that’s a whole other topic. Barring such extenuating circumstances, most people have ample opportunity to get good sleep every night, and they just don’t. And they may not be fully aware of what else they do aside from just staying awake to deny themselves of that opportunity to sleep….

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L-Theanine And Vitamin Timing

Whole Foods Market Double Strength L-Theanine 200mg Suntheanine Stress Response | eBay

Most people who take vitamin supplements take them all at once, usually at the end of the day after their last meal.

Other than the risk of overloading your digestive tract and most of them being passed instead of used, this isn’t a bad strategy… especially if your vitamins are fat-soluble and you’ve had a large, fairly-fat-rich meal for dinner. Sure, some will likely get passed, but much of what doesn’t directly go to your bloodstream for use could them get stored in whatever fat you end up storing, to be released in your bloodstream later when that fat is tapped for energy. (This in fact is why vitamin capsules contain oils: The oils are digested and stored as fat, and the vitamins absorbed can come along for the ride.)

This is beneficial for runners, triathletes and other endurance athletes. When they go to train soon thereafter, any of that fat that’s aerobically burned will also release those stored vitamins for use… at a time when their body may actually need it.

Now, that said, while I’ve talked about vitamins that can and should go together (like Vitamin K2 and calcium), some nutrients don’t go with other nutrients. And one key nutrient to keep in mind is L-theanine.

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Supplements I take, and why I take them

I went out this morning and had breakfast at the Coffee Cup in Boulder City, the first restaurant breakfast I’ve had since the lockdowns began in March. I got coffee and ran a few errands on the way back.

One of those errands included picking up a new bottle of the cal/mag citrate supplement I had run out of last night. I also picked up some L-theanine capsules to start supplementing with daily. I’m not one to add a new supplement to my current rotation unless there’s a very good reason to do so, so this was kind of a big deal.

I don’t take a ton of supplements, but I definitely take more than just a multivitamin, and I have good reasons for taking everything I do take. I’m going to spill a few blocks of text to talk about those supplements I do take.

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My keys to a successful running diet

I’ve gotten pretty good at consistently eating a solid diet that successfully augments my training, and I’d like to share some of my keys to success with you.

The standard disclaimers:

This is based on my experience, a truckload of trial and error over years and years, on habits that have consistently produced positive results for me.

Who am I to say any of this works? Well, I am an experienced distance runner…

  • who wasn’t an experienced runner 4 years ago
  • who has lost 30 lbs in those 4 years to achieve an average healthy weight (5’10”, 164 lbs and falling)
  • who (while no Adonis or Achilles) is in decent shape and good health at what is soon to be age 40
  • who runs 30-50 miles a week during training
  • who pretty much doesn’t get injured or burn out anymore
  • who runs basically every day, with my typical run being about 4-6 miles.

Your mileage may vary:

The more experienced you are, and the more volume of training that you do than I do, the more fruitfully you can dismiss and blow off any of this advice.

The less experienced you are and the less you work out, the more likely this advice (however imperfect) can help you.

Take or dismiss it at your own leisure or risk. I am fairly sure none of this general advice will hurt you if you generally follow it… any more than anyone else’s general advice.

Blah blah blah see a doctor before beginning any training program or making any changes blah blah blah. We’re adults.

My keys to a successful running diet:

Aim to eat a maintenance amount of calories during training.

Even if you could afford to lose a few pounds, you’re better off trying to finish even (calories eaten close to or equal to calories burned) than to run a calorie deficit during a training cycle.

Unlike most sedentary people or strength trainers, you actually need those calories. You burn way more calories on a run than people do in the gym. You actually do have a use for carbohydrates, not to mention fat, as your body utilizes that energy on runs. And with all that work, you need all the protein you can get afterward to help rebuild your damaged muscles.

It’s okay to fall short on calories some days, especially if you’re trying to cut fat. If you’re not training for a race, you’re free to run a healthy deficit (500-1000 calories max below your burn per day). But ALWAYS get enough protein. Always make sure you get your needed vitamins and nutrients. Everything else can fall short.

It’s okay to eat at a surplus some days. If possible, try to do so before or during long and intense workout days.

Eat more protein than you think you need.

Eat protein like an entry level bodybuilder: Consume each day at least 1 gram of protein for every 1 lb of total lean body mass (2.2g per kilogram), when actively training.

If not training for an events, a good benchmark is 1 gram of protein for every pound (or 2.2g/kg) equal to 75% of your bodyweight.

There are conflicting opinions on the recommended amount, but 1 gram per pound of lean body mass falls in the middle of most modern recommendations, and makes sense for an endurance athlete who obviously isn’t trying to get swole (extra muscle mass slows you down!), but does need to maintain muscle tissue during training. This is the level at which I’ve found the most consistent, sustainable satisfaction and results.

It’s definitely okay to go over that protein benchmark during and after intense training. The myth that excess protein damages your kidneys has long since been proven false.

Try to get all of your protein from whole food (e.g. meat, legumes). Avoid leaning on protein shakes, unless you find it very hard to prepare or port protein-rich meals during a typical day… or you are vegetarian/vegan. Even then, stick to a max of one protein shake per day. One item that is not a myth is that protein shakes not only lack various key nutrients present in protein rich whole foods…. but excess protein shakes can cause gas and other intestinal problems.

Eat more carbohydrates when needed. Otherwise take it easy on them.

Carbs are best ingested en masse before hard workouts, and immediately after the hardest workouts. Having them in your bloodstream helps you during workouts, and the glycogen lost from hard workouts can be more quickly replenished during meals eaten within 2 hours of a workout.

Eating a bunch of carbs the day or two before a monster workout or a marathon can be helpful for topping off your glycogen stores, but the classic pasta binge before a marathon is a bit overrated. If you’ve tapered your training and been eating a solid diet leading up to the race, you’re probably fine: The decreased exercise combined with your normal diet has probably topped off your glycogen tank for you.

How much? I generally don’t try too hard to count, but adding enough to get within 500 calories of your daily burn has been a fine general benchmark.

Meanwhile, on rest days you should eat far fewer carbs and more natural fat. If I wasn’t training for a marathon I might even do a keto or primal style low-carb diet. Granted, that’s extreme, and just sticking to green vegetables and fruit for carbs on such a day is probably fine.

Eat Clean fat:

I’m talking about fat naturally occurring in whole foods (meat, avocados, some nuts). I only cook with virgin coconut oil or pure olive oil.

Fat is necessary for effective organ function. Also, providing fat for your body during busy days discourages your body from storing fat or converting carbohydrates to fat. Recommendation: Whatever fat comes with your daily whole-food-based protein is probably enough. That’s probably more than the RDA, but it’s not something crazy like 200g either. Typically I’ll finish a 3000 calorie day having consumed about 90-120g of fat.

Eat a minimum of processed food.

This has been preached to death. But I even add in “healthy” processed food like protein bars, or anything in a box really. The extra sodium and other additives lead to water retention, making your heavier and slowing you down.

I’m not opposed to some pizza or a bag of chips here and there. But it’s always bookended by clean, whole food.

Drink water, 100% juice, and milk.

Coffee and tea are fine (but if you add sugar you better be planning to run that day).

Don’t even touch a sports drink unless you’re actively in a long run or a speedwork session.

Gatorade is specifically engineered for use during exercise. You’re not supposed to drink it otherwise. It literally is sugar and salt water.

Eat potassium rich foods and make sure you get enough potassium almost every day.

Your heart and your muscles need potassium to function. Yet most people don’t get close to enough (typically 4000-4500 mg per day). A lack of potassium undermines intense activity, and can be dangerous in some situations.

Bananas. Avocados. Potatoes. Natural cuts of meat. Fruit and vegetables. 4500mg is the RDA benchmark for a reason. Most people fall well short of this.

Don’t supplement: Seek to eat foods that provide it. MUCH better this way, plus you get other needed nutrients.

Take a suitable multivitamin.

You can get all your needed vitamins with a perfect diet, but your best effort will probably come nowhere close to getting them all. Take a multivitamin. Even if you piss a lot of it out, your body will utilize much of it and cover whatever gaps your diet has left.

Recommended: Get a reliable brand that recommends taking 3 pills a day, and just take one with a meal. This way on a tough day you can take 2-3, but you minimize the risk of overdose.

My mother was a mark for Source of Life, a brand specializing in whole food based multivitamins. They’re fine but they’re pricey. Don’t sink to getting a flaky mainstream brand like Centrum, but I’ve found 365’s multis at Whole Foods to be reliable and affordable.

That said, there are some key vitamins a multi tends not to provide that you should supplement separately.

Take a Calcium Magnesium citrate combo supplement, as well as the MK 7 form of Vitamin K2.

Magnesium helps you sleep (which itself is super important for training) and regulates various hormone functions. Most people don’t get enough magnesium. A lack of it can facilitate burnout. Most multivitamins don’t include magnesium in their blends. Take it after dinner.

Calcium is more well known for fortifying bones, and while milk/cheese can be a reliable source of calcium, I don’t consume a ton of either so I make sure to supplement. Since calcium and magnesium go well together they are often sold as a combo vitamin. Calcium citrate is better absorbed than the more common calcium carbonate, and magnesium citrate is better absorbed than magnesium oxide. So a Cal-Mag Citrate supplement is the way to go.

But! Calcium can be harmfully absorbed by the arteries instead of your bones… without the presence of Vitamin K. Most multis provide it but don’t readily supply in an absorbent form. So if available I’d recommend taking a Vitamin K2 supplement in the MK 7 form.

Take a Fish oil supplement, if you aren’t eating wild caught salmon.

Omega 3’s in fish oil reduces overall inflammation and promotes good heart health. If you eat farmed salmon it won’t have as much omega 3 as wild caught salmon.

Salmon is pricey and I find it easier to just take a supplement. Whole Foods sometimes has salmon oil, which I prefer to take. But honestly you can take just about any fish oil supplement and as long as it doesn’t contain soy products you’re probably good.

Most brands ask you take 3-6 pills a day. Just take one after dinner.

If you’re frequently under stress and it’s not easily within your control, take ashwagandha or SAMe.

Ashwagandha is an herb that has all sorts of alleged health benefits, but the one known benefit I’ve experienced is that it helps buffer you against stress. I find a bit of the edge comes off the day when I’m taking it.

My mother was big on SAMe, a supplement originally used to help treat joint pain and similar issues but was later found to have positive effects on depression and stress. You cna call it a super version of ashwagandha if you’d like, as I’ve found it does have even stronger stress-relieving effects on my mental state than ashwagandha. And it also does have a positive effect on joint health and relieving inflammation. SAMe however is a lot more expensive than ashwagandha.

Recommendation: Whichever one you decide to take, just take one pill per day max. And cycle your usage: 8 weeks on max, then 4 weeks off.

A good time to take it is during the latter stages of training for a goal race, and then to stop using it for a while once the race is done. This controls cortisol, helps manage mood, and like magnesium helps you sleep better.

If you’re going to eat junk food, eat protein rich junk food.

I’m not against pizza or hamburgers or any of that.

Surround those meals with super clean meals or intermittent fasting, plus plenty of water. Definitely work out those days, and/or the following day, to ensure you burn those junk calories ASAP.

The Andy Morgan Night Out Rule For Drinking:

Andy Morgan is this guy. He’s a bodybuilder who has perfected a combination of training, intermittent fasting, and proper nutrition into an approach he calls Ripped Body.

The rule: If you’re going to go out and have a night of drinking alcohol, get in all your needed protein for the day BEFORE you head out for the night.

Consider anything good you eat during the night to be a bonus, though if you do eat during a night out you’re probably going to eat junk.

Yes, you’ll probably overeat for the day. This is not a big deal. Make a point to go for a run and eat perfectly clean the next day if it bothers you.

Also (this is not his rule, but mine): Before you go to bed that night, drink 16 oz of water. And you should be drinking water throughout the night of drinking as well.

Should you let yourself go after a race?

The only races after which it’s okay to let your good eating habits completely go for a little while are marathons or longer, where you plan to take some time off. But get back on the wagon no later than a week later. Any race that’s shorter, and you really should just treat it as a hard workout: Keep eating well, keep training.

In conclusion:

This approach has worked very well for me, and I think it can work well for others. I realize the advice scratches the surface, and I invite you the reader to do research on any of this if you so desire.

But I follow this approach 80-99% of the time (sure, I deviate and go off the wagon like anyone… but these are also strong habits that make it easy to go back to and stick to them). It has helped me maintain a high volume of running and to stay healthy, without the use of any sort of artificially performance enhancing substances.

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