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Contrasting measures of movement and performance

I often wonder what the point is of aiming to quantify athletic performance through sole adherence to numbers/time, if you are totally unaware of how your movement patterns and technique are progressing. It makes little sense, for the 99.9% of the population not involved in elite-level performance, to quantify performance in a numerical fashion, if the qualitative indicators of what drives mobility, strength and overall movement health are left to somehow take care of themselves. I´ll explain further what I mean, not so much as a criticism to people going hard with their training, or setting high benchmarks in their performance, but for people to think about performance and health longevity and how this relates to much of the totally wasted and often dangerous activity I see in the gym these days.

For gymnasts, martial artists, olympic weight lifters and those of us involved with girevoy sport – technique comes first. It´s mastery takes up the majority of training time, and attention to detail can seem hard to grasp for most not so well versed in the respective disciplines. The attention on harnessing tension and relaxation requires a complex combination of speed, power, timing and extraordinary mobility. Those who achieve greatness in these disciplines have a unique ability to control muscle tension through strength and power and to relax sufficiently (in the case of girevoy sport in particular) to allow speed, flexibility and endurance to be sustained whilst competing. None of this is achieved without proper training and understanding of fundamental movement patterns.

Movement however, in this modern world of instant gratification and impatience for change-driven objective results, is not a quantifiable measure of performance, as we see with time and numbers. Movement is a qualitative measure of health which cannot be reduced to a competitive exercise. Herein lies the challenge for fitness professionals working with the mainstream or in rehabilitation:

How to teach quality of movement as a performative aspiration before quantifying results through numerical benchmarks?

You see it everyday at training facilities, on the boards, on the web forums; ways to achieve quantifiable results in the quickest possible time: “My goal is a 400lb deadlift”, “I wish to run a sub-3hr marathon”, “I want to complete FRAN in under 4 minutes” etc etc. Most would not care so much how they got there, however ugly it looked. They would simply take the time and add the weight. Professional athletes are usually exceptions to this rule, as their livelihood is based around clearcut objective results. But then again, at the elite level, movement is usually of the highest level as well. But does less that 1% of the population really want to achieve  certain objective standards of performance to the detriment of movement quality or efficiency?. Do we actually think in these terms and concepts when training?. Probably not.

This is where trainers and fitness professionals (or whatever the name you choose to use) need to step up the mark and wise up. Most average people exercising for enjoyment and other health benefits it provides should be encouraged to work within parameters of proven programs that gradually increase performance through smart periodization and measurable feedback. It is simply too much to ask the amateur gym-goer to be able to adjust their training each day based on multiple variables affecting daily performance. But it must be the prerogative of trainers and gym owners to ensure a baseline of movement quality is instilled into members before starting on with pushing rep counts, loading the bar or holding the clock in your face.

We are all born with amazing flexibility and mobility, but reinforce bad habits and patterns of movement as we age. The common ankle, knee, hip and shoulder mobility issues are all too plain to see, as is poor core stability and spinal weakness. No one has a place, or will gain long term benefits by stacking plates on a bar until these essential areas of mobility are trained back to their intended function. To do this, especially if you have been hurt, poorly trained or very inactive, takes time for many, and to reinforce bad habits and certain asymmetries by loading weight only leads to certain unspecific injuries caused by inadequate foundational movement conditioning.

What happens when poor mobility is overlooked for objective gains in the weight room?. Compensatory form takes place, often unilaterally, which reinforces already bad mobility. Commonly seen in the squat, push up or press, shoulder and hip weakness makes for awful looking movement patterns, especially on those with heavily weighted bars on their backs. One overlooked solution is to teach control of movement through bodyweight training. Teach the integrative form of each movement and reinforce this until weaknesses are ironed out, strength is gained, and a platform is laid out for more specific functional progressions.

Instead of looking at your strengths, look at your weaknesses, and build upon them to integrate your body and mind into a strong unit. Isolating body parts or movements, because you are strong at them, is simply nonsensical. Kettlebells, in this regard, are outstanding aids not only for screening poor movement but for strengthening symmetrical and proprioceptive awareness throughout the entire body. Foundational movements such as the swing, Turkish get up, press and snatch cannot be performed without this “core” awareness, and balance, or you will simply fall over in a heap.

I firmly believe in the kettlebell being of huge benefit to the future of mobility awareness and injury rehabilitation for the huge proportion of the modern population who struggle to perform basic movements with ease and efficiency. Spinal shortening is all too common with the aging process and the cumulative effects of compensatory measures to counter back and hip immobility has disastrous consequences. Remember also, that our body works are an integrated unit, so structural and muscular pain, as well as a struggling metabolic state due to stress and poor nutrition has carry over effects to our mental health – an oft-overlooked causation.

The way we move and interact with our environment are fundamental parts of our integration into all forms human life. If we are forced to inhibit ourselves in any way from moving freely, it has a spinoff effect on our whole performative sense of wellbeing; physically, mentally and emotionally. Movement patterns were given to us at birth and are a primordial part of the cosmologies of us all. We owe it to ourselves to avoid dysfunctional limits that come about by lethargic modern lifestyles as well as looking too readily for quantifiable objective results that bypass fundamental movement patterns that are at the essence of true qualitative health and fitness and performance standards.

Some of the most progressive and open thinkers in the movement/health/performance industry:

www.maxwellsc.com 

www.rosstraining.com

www.8weeksout.com 

www.graycook.com

www.cathletics.com

www.ikff.com

www.mikemahler.com

www.movnat.com

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Kettlebell Pentathlon: Strength and Conditioning Test

Recently, whilst attending the WKC Sport Camp in Rome, I was introduced to the World Kettlebell Club Strength and Conditioning Quotient. This is an interesting test which, as it says, tests S&C, but allows for ANYONE to participate and gain a score. From there, and with a little experience with the actual test and the lifts involved, one can gain a decent appraisal of further improvements. I´ll explain how the test functions, and hope that it encourages you to give it a go. So far I´ve had 5 attempts, which I´ll tell you about later. I´ll also touch on the limitations of the test, and some suggestions for improvements.

From Valery Fedorenko, Head Coach WKC

“The philosophy of the WKC S&C test evaluates not just the general physical capacity of the athletes or personnel, but is also a test of all fitness components and a wide range of athleticism. It may be used to assess base strength and conditioning levels and then further used to test progress and other forms of strength and conditioning training”

How the test works

The test consists of 5 different batteries of exercises. Each is a 6 minute set followed by a 5 minute recovery period. Total time is 50 minutes (30 minutes lifting/20 minutes rest period). Each set has a MAXIMUM reps per minute (RPM) which cannot be exceeded (or if exceeded, will not factor in your score). Each set allows the lifter to select the weight s/he feels capable of completing the set. The lifter cannot set the kettlebell down during the set, or else the score is 0. Multiple hand shifts are allowed. So the idea is to choose a weight for each set that you feel capable of scoring the maximum points with. This is the strategy you need to use based on your condition. For some of the lifts, you may want a heavier kettlebell, or a lighter one if the lift is not your strongest.

Scoring

Each kettlebell has a quotient score which you multiple with your total number of lifts to get a final score. All 5 sets are added together for your final score. Here are the quotients:

8kg: 1

12kg: 1.5

16kg: 2

20kg: 2.5

24kg: 3

28kg: 3.5

32kg: 4

36kg: 4.5

40kg: 5

44kg: 5.5

48kg: 6

The Exercises

1. One arm clean (max. 20rpm)

2. One arm long cycle press (max. 10rpm)

3. One arm jerk (max. 20rpm)

4. One arm half snatch (max. 18rpm)

5. One arm push press (max. 20rpm)

Here is a nice video explaining the lifts with Fedorenko and the legendary Ivan Denisov, who has the world record score of an incredible 2500! (After you try this you´ll realize getting half this is some achievement!).

My first attempt, during the training camp in Rome, was rather on the conservative side, but I was mostly concerned with selecting weights which would give me the maximum score. I didn´t see the point of not aiming for the maximum number of reps, albeit with a heavier kettlebell. You can do the sums and see how this equates (higher weight=higher quotient but lower reps) or (lower weight= lower quotient but higher reps).

My first attempt: July 2011

1. Clean 20kg 121 reps (Q2.5)

2. LC Press 16kg 60 reps (Q2)

3. Jerk 20kg 112 reps (Q2.5)

4. Half snatch 16kg 112 reps (Q2)

5. Push press 24kg 110 reps (Q3)

Total score: 1246

3 further “training” attempts in August 2011, but just using a 16kg and only 1 minute rest between sets. Maximum total reps achieved each time. More pure conditioning, that S&C.

In September 2011, I tried the test with a 20kg, and again managed to gain the maximum score with that quotient, with 3 minutes rest between sets. Score 1310. Still felt like more conditioning, not really needing the full 5 minutes of rest.

Then last week, October 2011, I tried with the 24kg in lifts 1 & 5, and the 20kg in lifts 2, 3 & 4. I decided to use the full 5 minutes rest between sets as I wanted to simulate the test properly for harder things to come. I managed reasonably well, with maximum reps, albeit a few ugly left arm push presses at the end. Total score of 1430.

Having seen a few others do this test, and also on the interweb, some similar speed tests using kettlebells, I notice a lot of crappy reps and techniques, all for the sake of getting a high score. I have always been competitive, and extremely determined to improve on my performance no matter what activity I engage in, but one thing I find rather meaningless, is letting form go out the window just to hit a score, or beat the clock. Some may disagree, but that´s the way I guess things roll when you get older and performance and style seem more interesting that “busting a gut” to impress. So, I try to be sincere to my technique at least that way I have my OWN benchmark, and I guess that is what counts at the end of the day.

I have only done the test a few times, but see from the grading system that I must be doing something right, and indeed part of the fun of the test is deciding how far to push yourself before you are unable to get the max reps. I may try for a higher weight with, say, an aim of getting 80% of the reps. Maybe I can reach 1450+?

UPDATE: February 2013 Managed 1455, whilst aiming for 1550. Basically, I set a goal to complete ALL reps with respectively 28kg, 20kg, 20kg, 20kg, 28kg. I missed the first set by 10 reps, stopping at 110 reps, moved easily through the 20s but decided to take the 24kg on the last push presses. 28kg seemed an unlikely proposition about then, especially as my aim is usually to take the maximum reps.

UPDATE: March 2013 Having had a year away from consistent girevoy sport training (mostly bodyweight and KB assistance work) I decided on testing some heavier sets, including the 32s on the cleans and long cycle press, and the 28s on the half snatch, jerk and push press. Surprisingly, they felt good, which I put down to consistent pull-up and grip work, but these were isolated sets, not strung together like the pentathlon test. That is the real challenge of this test, a real test of mental fortitude, as well as key physical attributes like speed from the floor and fast, strong fixations. I always like to look at Ivan´s videos to see how much concentration and correct breathing is needed to be so good, not to mention his super powers! I´d like to try the test again using just 24s and 28s, and maybe allow myself to miss a few reps, in order to bust through towards.. 1600 ?? more ??

UPDATE: May 2013 Ahead of a local event aimed at introducing this test to those interested in kettlebell sport and training, I managed a spontaneous set, due (oddly I know) to a fatigued wrist from all the towel pullups of late (my go2 exercise numero uno) which were scheduled for the day. The aim was 24s for the entire test, save either the half-snatch or pushpress, where I figured 20 would allow me to complete the reps. It went well. I maxed the rep count, wisely snatching 20kg to save some juice for the last set. Total: 1530 easily my best score without too much prep or difficulty. Some quick calculations taking 28 on the cleans and 24 for the other 4 rounds would give me 1644. The next marker. I’m not one for overt quantifiable markers as my training motivations, instead tracking how I feel at different stages of my training, and overall mind/body strength development. Move well, breathe well, feel strong, in control –  this test is a good one, it’s not easy, but who wants ease in life?

S&C Grading system

Men:

Less than 720 : Low

721-900 : Average

901-1080 : Good

1081-1260 : High

1261-1440 : Extreme

More than 1441 : Superhuman (Denisov et. al)

Women:

Less than 360 : Low

361-540 : Average

541-720 : Good

721-900 : High

901-1080 : Extreme

More than 1081 : Superhuman

Summary

For a start, the WKC has separate certification programs for both FITNESS and SPORT. This test is aimed at the general public who may have not had training and experience in traditional girevoy sport (GS). For the purists (yes, there are the odd few!), such components as multiple hand shifts, ability to choose non-competition weight kettlebells, the half snatch (where you come down from lockout to the rack position between each rep), and indeed the selection of lifts may cause the heart to bleed, but hold your horses!. GS is very specific as a sport, and not so accessible to most people mildly interested in using kettlebells as part of their training arsenal. Few GS hardliners would be interested in such a “test” of their prowess, as they would use 2 kettlebells for a specified timed set, with a RPM goal together with weight. The test involves measured strength and conditioning, with a certain degree of endurance and power needed to finish off each set strongly. There is no real way to hide weaknesses, should you aim for a high score. There are plenty of other tests available, such at the RKC Tactical Strength Challenge, but life is so intent on convincing us we need the “ultimate” measure of success, that we are too quick to criticize.

The WKC test is by no means perfect, but what is?. It may seem little complicated at first, and even a little easy for those more experienced with kettlebell training, especially with one arm lifts. But when I heard Denisov had completed the test using the 40kg, 48kg and even 56kg bell, I cannot understand why people have overlooked this as a great means of ascertaining S&C levels, for newcomers and old-timers. The test is for kettlebell fitness, and could be combined with certain bodyweight exercises such as the strict dead-hang pullup or push up. Maybe even throw in a couple of 1max-rep barbell compound lifts to make it more of an “all-round” test?. But hey, why get even more complicated?. Why the endless search for the “ultimate in everything” dude or dude-ess?. That was Superman or Captain Avenger, or Wonder Woman. They don´t exist anymore, we are all getting slightly softer in modern times and use these kinds of efforts to be “awesome all the time” which are just signs of a sad dispersal of cognitive dissonance which resonates all the way to the gym.

Enjoy improving your performance at whatever you are interested in. Do it with style and learn from those who have put in years of effort before you in dedicated training and thought to finding out just how to get good results using sensible methods. And your performance is only as good as your recovery. You can be a star in the gym, but it helps little if you´re crap in bed. If anyone wants to try this test, and lives near me, I´d be happy to keep score, and make sure your form is spot on!.

Good Luck!

 

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20 ways to train your primal instincts

Henri Rousseau "The Dream"

1. Read a book this summer about evolution.

Carl Zimmer´s “Evolution: The triumph of an idea” is a great starting point. Inspiring and fascinating. You will be a changed person with some evolutionary theory in you. Not just for the geeks, a must for the human species. It´s nice to have the science behind why we must fight, sleep, eat meat and have sex.

2. Sleep outside one night.

Use a net if you must. Drift off to the nocturnal sounds and rise naturally to the dawn. Leave your phone at home too. Get someone to join you if you´re afraid of bats.

3. Cook a bird, fish or animal whole on a fire you made.

Take the guts out, see how it all looks, season, cook and eat everything.

4. Go for a run in the woods without your shoes.

That´s right, barefoot. Feel the earth, stones, sticks whilst walking on the balls of your feet. Jump, hop, skip, crawl and roll. A great read too for the summer, is “Born to run” by Christopher McDougall. He tells the story about the legandary Tarahumara Indian barefoot runners of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Gripping and interesting. Get a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers to ease your way into naked feet. We were not born with shoes, Nike knew this, but brainwashed us into believing the modern running shoe was doing us good…plahhhh. Check out barefootshoes.no for advice on barefoot movement.

5. Eat no sugar, no grains, nothing from a box or packet for 30 days.

Be strict, don´t cheat. I personally guarantee you´ll look, feel and perform better than ever before.

6. Have a day of critical examination.

If you read newspapers, watch tv or speak to a friend, decide that everything you read, see or hear for a day, may be wrong, misleading or simply an opinion. Make your own mind up, by examining options. Tell people about your critical day.

7. Spend an afternoon at a playground.

Think for a while of your childhood and the things you did on the bars, ropes, swings and logs. Practice those moves, barefoot.

8. Go to the forest and pick berries. Eat loads too.

9. Climb a tree. Spend an hour or more up there.

10. Have a clear out at home.

Think hard about all the stuff around you and how much it contributes to your happiness. Throw stuff or give it away. Have another rethink the following day, and repeat the process. Less in life, may just be more.

11. On a hot day, lie in some longish grass, naked.

Imagine you were living 20000 years ago, and all you thought about was food and sex. Empty your mind of all superficial clutter.

12. Find an old person to talk to.

Ask him/her to talk to you about their childhood and what they remember about family responsibility, play and work. Decide on living for a day or a week like they did, and let them know how you get on. Ask for advice.

13. Go for a bike ride into the countryside.

Stop when you find some farm animals. Talk to them, out loud if you want, explaining how you appreciate their part in evolution, and the respect you have for them every time you get to eat meat.

14. Watch some Chinese martial arts or Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Notice how they move their bodies and how sharp, strong and smooth they are. Practice some of the moves you saw over and over again.

15. Spend an hour each day meditating.

It doesn´t matter how you do it, just read up or ask someone some basic techniques, find solitude and try to empty all negative emotion. Think of breathing from the stomach upwards. Feel light. Think strength.

16. Spend a full 24hrs alone.

Surprisingly few people do this. We have become addicted to our mobile phones and Internet. We are available and use others as constant reference to our state of being. Bring a notebook; camp out, reflect yourself upon your thoughts in solitude. Like we used to do.

17. Have a week off training.

If you train 4 or more times per week, sleep is erratic, stomach bothers you, feel stiff and get headaches, have a week where you focus on walking, stretching like animals do, sleeping more, drinking lots of water, eating meat and fish plus vegetables. It´ll do you good.

18. Have a day eating coconut.

If you can get hold of fresh ones, great. If not, buy some canned coconut milk and some shredded coconut. Make a curry sauce with coconut. Just add some masala spice to some tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and coconut cream and simmer. Blend up and add to your favourite meat. Add some dark chocolate and butter to a pan, melt, add the grated coconut, some walnuts and dried berries. Stir well, add to ice cube trays and freeze. Enjoy with tea after your coconut curry. Coconut is amazing.

19. Make a commitment.

This is open, but make a deal with yourself to fulfil something you had planned to do but somehow found an “excuse” not to finish it. Stop doing something you told yourself you would stop doing, but made an “excuse” to keep doing it. Tell someone close that you have made a commitment, and ask for him or her to support you in your choice. Don´t make excuses. If you think you can or cannot do something, you are right both times.

20. “Be as you wish to seem”

Read some Socrates, or any philosophy. Try to apply some to your life. Learn about thought.

 

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Supplements for training and nutrition: No shortcuts

I´m often asked questions about nutritional supplementation in regards to both general health and performance matters, and have experimented over the years with varying degrees of success. Here I will share some of my experiences and try to simplify what is often made out to be a complex field. As I often allude to, much of the complexity surrounding training and nutrition advice is intended as a smokescreen by individual companies to make money selling needless products.

Before I start, there isn’t much need to consider supplements for training and performance purposes if you haven’t got your house in order with regards to a proper diet, adequate sleep, and sensible exercise. There are NO shortcuts to good health and fitness through over the counter supplements. It is that simple. Eat crap, live a stressed out and sleep deprived life, and struggle down to the gym for an aerobic session or run 3 times a week will not allow ANY fancy supplement to improve your life other than burning a bigger hole in your wallet.

Ok, got that out of the way. I will not go into detail about the need to eat natural, whole, fresh, nutrient dense foods here. I will not go into detail about how important getting 8-9hrs of GOOD sleep every night is. Read this if you wonder why. I will not mention the dangers of eating processed, man-made “foodstuffs”, concentrated sources of fructose, gluten containing grains and refined vegetable oils. Kurt Harris will tell you so in both a legit and serious way. And I will not go into the importance of eating animals as your most important source of nutrient rich protein and fat. Read this if you want to geek out a bit.

So, assuming you have your ship steered in the right direction, give or take the usual bumps and grinds that come with living a modern life of course, then what about some optional extras that can lift your performance a notch or two, and help in your path to achieving certain goals?. Here are a few supplements I have kept using over the years, remembering that personal experimentation is just that: a personal endeavour. What makes one gal laugh might make the other cry. One shoe doesn’t fit all.

  1. Sunshine

Winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is common here in the dark north of Scandinavia. Physiologically, it has been proposed that lack of light during the winter causes, among other things, a drop in serotonin levels, which is a neurotransmitter involved in various processes of “well being”. Sunlight triggers the brain to produce the hormone melatonin, which again, helps our cyclical rhythms stay in order and has been found to strengthen our immune system. All good things for our body and mind.  Sufficient Vitamin D synthesis can occur with only a few minutes of exposure to light a few times per week. That cannot be hard for most non-closet dwellers. Wait before applying sunscreen, just don’t get burnt. Again, far too much false press about the need to cover up from the “harmful rays of the sun”.

2. Garlic

Ah, great stuff. Forget the capsules that promise to be odourless and triple strength.  Fresh garlic is a cheap and versatile wonder drug. New research has shown that it boosts natural supplies of hydrogen sulfide, which is an antioxidant that helps fend off cancers, and protects the heart. The Greek´s used it before competition centuries ago, and it is the key element in most of my dinners. In the Solomon Islands, garlic is used to fend off malaria, help heal cuts and abrasions, and prevent acne. Just don’t use it in drinks. Not nice.

3. Fish Oil

Amazingly, the introduction of processed foods and vegetable oils into modern diets has contributed to ruining our optimal omega 3/ omega 6 ratios. Prior to the agricultural revolution, our ratios were roughly 1:1, but now we see ratios in the average modern Western population of up to 1:10-15. The side effects of this imbalance have been linked to body inflammation, autoimmune disease, and higher incidences of cancer and heart conditions to name but a few. Naturally occurring omega 3 is found in wild fish and meats, whereas processed fats (remember, these are the ones we are told by “authorities” to consume, not animal fats) are high in omega 6 fats, which leads to all sorts of health problems. Try to eat grass fed meat, wild fish, some walnuts and quality extra virgin olive oil. Learn more about the importance of long-chain n-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) here.  How much fish oil to supplement is dependent on a number of factors, but generally a higher dosage is required for people out of shape, coming off a poor diet or with inflammation and autoimmune disorders. Check out Robb Wolf´s fish oil calculator here to find out more. Look carefully at the EPA/DHA ratios when buying oil. I usually get mine from Holland & Barrett in the UK, although I recently found a good one here in Norway.

4. Zinc

I take zinc supplements during periods of higher than normal training exertion, due to its beneficial effect on growth and recovery, immune boosting capabilities and its good for skin condition. Supplies can become depleted from prolonged and intense training and inadequate meat intake/high carbohydrate intake. Also I find it beneficial for sleeping, in which case I take a great product called ZMA, usually before bedtime.  Coach Poliquin also notes the lower levels of testosterone and sperm count caused by zinc deficiency, which as we should all know, is not good news. Zinc is found in oysters, beef, lamb, dark chocolate, liver and some dairy products.

5. Magnesium

Studies have proven that magnesium deficiency can be related to insulin insensitivity and disrupted sleep. Both bad news for anyone, especially if you are training hard as well. A common supplement in the bodybuilding world due to its essential role in many metabolic processes including protein synthesis. You´ll find lots of magnesium in green vegetables like spinach and broccoli and white fish as well. Eat heaps of these foods, and be strong like Popeye. ZMA also comes in different qualities, usually the more expensive the brand the better, I get mine here.

6. Spirulina

Thanks to my mum. Spirulina is one of nature’s true super foods and is a great supplement to many dishes, as well as in shakes. It is super green, smells and tastes strange, probably because it is an algae but it contains all the essential amino acids as well as high concentrations of other nutrients and enzymes that are beneficial to the stomach, and general vibrancy of skin and hair. Super expensive in tablet form, cheaper in powdered form, but great in post workout shake with eggs and banana. I get mine from New Zealand in bulk from Healthpost.

7. Caffeine

Ahhh, the morning double espresso macchiato with heavy cream (50/50) freshly brewed by the La Pavoni. Sometimes I go to bed thinking of how nice it will be in the morning. Conflicting studies are everywhere as to the pros and cons of caffeine and the effect on training and general health. Some swear by it, others warn of danger!.  There is no doubt it has ergogenic effects, and there is something to the fact that even elite athletes are seen sneaking in caffeine up to the allowed measures before and during intense competition. A lot of the studies I read are based on a huge intake of caffeine (400mg +), which I think is unwise. Who wants headaches, the shakes, bad stomach and nausea?.  I find a coffee (about 100mg caffeine) pre-training is effective. It gets the buzz on and that alertness alone is worth it. Plus, there is the great taste and social side of coffee. Just don´t drink the cans of sugar with caffeine like Red Bull. Disaster.

8. Probiotics

Most people have the unfortunate task of taking antibiotics occasionally when all else has failed. Some even take them before all else has failed. Either way, they are bad news for the system killing useful flora and pathogenic bacteria and taking a form of probiotic when on a cure is very wise. As is eating probiotic rich foods like kefir, sauerkraut, yoghurt and some cheese. There are many and varied forms of probiotic, and much debate about their usage. I am a believer in the importance of gut bacteria and the need for the party inside to keep skipping to the grooviest beat imaginable. If you pump yourself full of toxins, the party will turn into a massive hangover. Not good.

9. Lime

Ok, barman speaking. Lime juice from fresh, juicy limes is THE essential ingredient in the bar. That is good enough reason for it to be included as an essential supplement: it makes cocktails go from decent to awesome. Plus it helped Captain Cook keep his men from dying form scurvy during his epic voyages across the Pacific in the 18th Century. Lime is the solution to most problems. It makes you and your cooking and drinks feel, taste and smell good. And the oils are great when you happen to have a bath. First make a jug of sugar-free Mojitos, squeeze some lime oil into the bath, get in and party on.

10. Cinnamon

The humble spice that is hitting the headlines. My mum always told me to add cinnamon to cooking and sprinkle on salads, but I never listened, as I thought it was just to add to a Café Latte. No, no, no.  Cinnamon helps maintain blood sugar levels, reduce triglycerides, prevents insulin resistance, contains dietary fiber, calcium and zinc, helps maintain your hair and nice skin and increases sex drive.  Woohoo.  We all know that too many bicep curls decreases sex drive because you become so awesome you forget about the opposite sex. Keep some cinnamon in your gym bag as a reminder. Now, adding cinnamon to everything is not so advisable, but keep a few sticks on the kitchen bench, and if you feel in the mood, knock up this great little cocktail I have trailed to immediate success:

Primal Apple Cake Cocktail

6cl Havana Club

Juice of 1-2 limes

1 spoon of runny honey

10 mint leaves

Half a Granny Smith apple chopped up

Half a cinnamon stick

Place all ingredients in shaker with cubed ice, shake hard, double strain into chilled cocktail glass. ENJOY.

That’s my top 10 for now. Just to add to your general wellness really, socially as well as physiologically. Supplement away, just get healthy on natural life first.

 

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