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Whey Protein

Function Training Tips

The exercise you aren’t doing… but should.

July 24, 2016

If you look at any common strength or fitness program, it is probably composed of back squats, power cleans, pull-ups, military presses and snatches. Maybe it will have some lunges and bench pressing. The one exercise that is repeatedly missing from most programs, whether it is for high-level competitors or individuals just looking to function better for daily living, is an awkward to perform barbell lift, most likely leading to its absence. Which exercise am I talking about?

The bent-over row.

When it comes to the compound lifts that make up most competitive exercise programs, one looks to include ground-based exercises that focus on weight and/or speed. While the bent-over row is certainly not a speed-lift, it can definitely be loaded for strength gains. Furthermore, there are a variety of other benefits from performing the bent-over row.

Targets undertrained muscles and joint actions

The only other lift in CrossFit that targets a “horizontal rowing” (horizontal abduction) action is the butterfly pull-up. While fast, the butterfly pull-up does not truly target the same actions and muscle fibers – namely the rhomboids. When strong fibers like the rhomboids go untrained, it leads to imbalances and potential injury (see below).

Strong rhomboids = strong front rack & strong back rack

The rhomboids are integral to providing a strong shelf for the bar during a heavy back squat, but also help maintain an upright torso during the front squat. It is often a weakness in the rhomboids leading to a torso collapse that causes individuals to fail on the font squat. Having strong rhomboids will help you increase your front squats and Olympic receives (see easy bent-over row program at the end of this article).

Improve posture by “reciprocal inhibition”

90% of the time, individuals that have a rounded thoracic spine are not suffering from a “mobility” issue of the vertebrate – e.g. rolling your upper back out on 2 lacrosse balls will not help. Instead, these individuals suffer from tight anterior muscles – namely the pecs. Joints will not move unless a muscle contracts, in the case of the upper back, constantly tight pecs will pull the shoulders forward, leading to a slouched posture.

Performing the bent-over will engage the rhomboids, which in-turn will utilize a principle called “reciprocal inhibition.” Reciprocal inhibition is when the central nervous system relaxes the antagonist or opposite muscle group. In the case of the rhomboids, the opposite muscle group are the pecs. Therefore, performing the bent over through full ROM (range of motion) is going to be more effective at improving thoracic spine (upper back) mobility than rolling on a lacrosse ball.

How to implement a bent-over row program:

The bent-over row is a great compliment to the Olympic lifts, presses or front squats. After your normal strength program for the aforementioned exercises, perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps of the bent-over row once or twice a week – make sure not to cheat and jerk the weight up with your torso.

If you are more focused on general fitness, you can perform the bent-over row with dumbbells or a barbell before your conditioning using a similar set and rep scheme as above.

Function Lifestyle

Men and Whey Protein

September 17, 2015
Men and Whey Protein

When research was first published on resistance training, protein supplementation, and how to increase muscle-mass one thing quickly became obvious: protein is a vital nutrient for men looking to build muscle mass. Since muscle cells are made up of amino acids, it was an easy connection. However, this notion was quickly blown out of proportion when most iron pumping males decided that if a little extra protein was necessary, you might as well eat the whole cow.

At the end of the day, you can eat all the protein in your local butcher shop, but if your muscles are not prepared for the influx, it will all go to waste.

Yes, protein is essential to build lean mass, but most gym going males already get enough protein. Therefore, the question is NOT how do I get more protein, the important thing to ask is:

How do I get the most out of my whey protein?

To understand how to effectively use whey protein, you need to understand a little bit about muscle physiology – what happens to your muscles before, during, and after working out. When you start working out, your body immediately starts to use energy found in the muscles in the form of glycogen. Furthermore, exercise is a stress on the body, thus producing cortisol (a catabolic stress hormone). As your workout continues, especially if you are lifting some heavy weights, cortisol production continues, muscle inflammation occurs, and energy stores start to dip. This catabolic environment continues after your workout finishes – when you see catabolic, think of muscles as machines being used and broken down. Growth and repair cannot occur in a catabolic state.

If our muscles are machines, we need to find ways to help accomplish the task and then repair them for the next workout. The answer to this was, as alluded to earlier, formerly believed just a question about increased daily protein intake. However, to most effectively use your protein, the timing and combinations of protein as well as carbohydrates is even more important.

How should I prepare for my workout?

To prepare and sustain power output, consuming about 5-6 grams of protein and 20-26g of carbohydrates per 12 fl oz of fluid is ideal. Quick digesting whey protein combined with sports drink is the solution here. Consuming this “muscle fuel” pre- and during-workout will aid in preserving muscle protein, increasing protein synthesis and extend endurance / power output. Furthermore, this drink will minimize cortisol release and reduce inflammation by up to 50%.

Will protein work just as well on its own? Absolutely not. Including carbohydrates with protein maintains blood glucose levels which helps suppress cortisol. Without the carbs, cortisol production will remain elevated and power output / endurance will not improve. Including carbs with the whey protein is the key to not only improving the productivity of your session, but also on how to effectively use that whey.

Should I use whey protein after my workout?

Cortisol production and other catabolic hormones will remain elevated in the muscles following exercise if nutrients are not shuttled into the muscles. The 45 minutes post-workout are, nutritionally speaking, the most important part of your day as an athlete. Furthermore, protein alone will not convert the body into an anabolic state. Due to the muscle cells being highly insulin sensitive following a lifting session, consuming 60g of carbs post-workout will convert the body from a catabolic state to an anabolic one – a state of recovery and growth.

How important is consuming this carbohydrate / whey protein drink within 45 minutes? When studied, individuals that consumed their post-workout drink 3 hours after training finished actually had net protein loss. Muscles cannot grow like this.

Furthermore, in this post-workout window, stimulating insulin to help refuel muscles and cause growth is concern #1. Combining carbohydrates with protein in a 3:1 ratio (60g CHO / 20g Protein ideal) was 500% better at raising insulin than protein alone. Remember, insulin levels need to increase so that the muscles will become anabolic. This is when growth and repair happen! Don’t waste the whey, combining whey with carbohydrates and consuming it prior to and immediately post-workout is the only truly efficient way to help recover, cause muscle growth and eliminate muscle waste, thus reducing inflammation and soreness.

Summary: To get the most out of your whey protein supplement, 10 minutes prior to working out, consume 5-6 grams of protein dissolved in a sport drink containing 20-26g of dextrose / maltodextrin based carbohydrates to help prepare muscles to work harder and longer as well as improve recovery. Of greater importance, consume carbohydrates and whey protein in a 3:1 ratio within 45 minutes of finishing your workout. If you do not follow these tips, you’ll just be wasting a large jug of whey protein.