August 26, 2012
As I write this post, I'm up in Penticton, Canada sitting in a coffeeshop, waiting for several athletes who I coach or who are using my training program to come off the 112 mile bike portion of Ironman Canada
I drove up from our home in Spokane, Washington with one of those athletes, and during that drive, we had lots of conversations about everything from low carbohydrate fueling for performance to using adaptogenic herbs to help fix overtraining.
During our discussion, I realized that I was telling him about a few things I've been doing lately that he was completely unaware of, and this made me cognizant that with the variety of new strategies I try to enhance performance, some things can tend to fly under the radar, or I forget to mention them.
So today, I'm going to highlight 10 new strategies I've been experimenting with to enhance performance. Some of these are things you may have heard me discuss in a podcast or another blog post. And some may be new for you.
So, in no particular order of importance, here are my 10 latest discoveries:
My Pulsed Electromagnetic Frequency unit is something that still gets me some funny looks when I show up to stay at somebody's house and put the little doughnut size magnet under the mattress, but ever since I interviewed Paul Becker about this Earthpulse unit, I have been swearing by it for power naps and deep sleep enhancement, and especially for jetlag and travel sleep. At $599, it's spendy, but I value a good night of deep sleep at about 20 bucks, so I think it pays for itself within just a month or two.
Because it dangerously alters blood volume and blood consistency, blood doping is illegal in sports, and is an especially big problem in cycling. The idea behind blood doping is that it increases levels of the red blood cell boosting hormone Erythropoietin (EPO), signiﬁcantly increasing your endurance capacity. Because red blood cells transport oxygen to the muscles, increasing your EPO levels can be an ergogenic aid, upping performance and keeping you going harder for longer. But a study recently found that 8g of echinacea can also boost EPO significantly, without the dangers of blood doping. Since it's tough to get 8g of echinacea per day from capsule form, I've been using an echinacea tincture, at about 5ml per day, which gets me close to that 8g level. The bonus is that it's good for the immune system too.
Pemmican is a concentrated mixture of fat and protein, was invented by the Native Americans, and was later adopted by European settlers as a high energy food source. The meat from pemmican is typically derived from cattle, bison, moose, elk or deer. The meat is crushed to a powder and mixed with an equal amount of rendered fat, usually from beef tallow. Dried fruits such a cherry or blueberry, honey and sea salt are often added as natural preservatives and flavorings.
Pemmican tastes like very tender beef jerky, and will literally keep you full for hours on end. Like any animal product, you should try to get a grass-fed, organic version of pemmican, without added fillers like malted corn or barley. I have personally been eating a daily dose of pemmican from a company called USWellnessMeats.
4. UCAN Superstarch
In my article about supplements that help you perform better on a low carbohydrate diet, I talked about the high molecular weight carbohydrate called “UCAN Superstarch“, which is absorbed very slowly by the body and doesn't result in the carbohydrate spikes as regular sports drinks and sports gels. The more I use this stuff during my long training sessions, the more I like it, and a few of the athletes I coach are now beginning to use it in their training and racing, at 100-150 calories per hour, which is 1/2 to 1/3 as many calories as they need to eat when using other types of calories (because the UCAN allows you to tap into fatty acid stores instead).
Something else I recently wrote about was the blood testing that I've been doing through WellnessFX. The more I dig into quantifying yourself through blood, saliva, urine or stool testing, the more I'm convinced that blind supplementation in the absence of quantification just tends to make for expensive urine. I'm now in the process of doing a parasitology test through Genova diagnostics, a Spectracell analysis and an RBC Elements test. With the results of those latter two, I'm researching the practice of replacing vitamins and minerals that you're deficient in through an IV. I've done IV vitamin cocktails before and they're amazing, but something more custom would be even better for recovery or addressing deficiencies.
Paul, at SwimSmooth, has been teaching me how to use a swimming metronome to pace myself more efficiently while swimming. Basically, I can put this Finis Tempo Trainer Pro into my swim cap, and have it beep at a certain interval. While you could certainly use a swimming metronome to beep every stroke in order to work on your stroke frequency, I am instead using it to beep every 25 meters, so that I can pace myself to hit my 25 meter interval in the pool consistently. The cool part about this approach is that you can decrease your 25 meter swim time by very small increments each week, and get much faster with a simple pacing method.
7. Suspension Training
For the past 8 weeks, once per week I've been heading out to my backyard fence post with a MostFit Suspension Trainer (which I also travel with and use on the hotel room door). This is basically a “poor man's TRX”, and at 29.95, it gives me an entire gym's workout with just my body and the strap. I've been doing the same workout every time, 5 times through as a circuit with minimal rest:
-15 Suspension Push-ups
-25 Suspension Rows
-10 Suspension Tricep Extension
-10 Suspension Bicep Curls
-10 Suspension Knee-to-Chest
-10 Suspension Single Leg Squats per side
Here's a video of me doing the workout:
8. Superslow Training
Once per week, I've also been using the superslow training protocol discussed during my interview with Doug Mcguff about whether weight training counts as cardio. I have to admit that this thing jacks my heart rate through the roof, and I am still sore the day after every session. I simply swing by the gym during or after a bike ride or run and do this 12-15 minute protocol one time through:
-5 reps of 10-second-up, 10-second-down machine chest press
-5 reps of 10-second-up, 10-second-down machine seated row
-5 reps of 10-second-up, 10-second-down machine leg press
-5 reps of 10-second-up, 10-second-down machine pulldown
-hold a front plank as long as possible, then repeat for a side plank on each side
Between this and the suspension training, that's about it for my strength training each week.
9. Less Fiber
After recently reading the book “Fiber Menace“, I am growing more and more convinced that a great deal of gas, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome arise from people actually eating too many vegetables, and that the link between eating lots of fiber and a decreased risk of colon cancer or heart disease is weak at best. So lately I've strayed from 5-7 servings of veggies a day, and instead my strategy is to eat one decent-sized salad per day, and get most of the rest of my nutrients from meat (after all, animals chewed and processed the plant for me, so my digestive system doesn't have to break down the fiber, but still gets all the high-nutrient benefits).
10. Chinese Adaptogenic Herbs
This is quickly becoming one of the supplements I “can't live without”. Chinese adaptogenic herbs have a rich history of being adrenal stabilizers and have a unique ability to be able to mitigate the high cortisol damage I tend to do to my body through my participation in high level endurance sports. They're also fantastic for brain function and focus. You probably heard me interview Roger Drummer about his hand-made TianChi formulation, and every since that interview I take one packet of TianChi mid-morning every day, without fail. They're the most expensive supplement I use, but well worth it.
OK, so now it's your turn!
What strategies have you been using to make yourself feel better or to enhance your performance? Do you have question about anything I discussed above? Leave your comments, questions and feedback below.
By the way, last week, I received a few raised eyebrows regarding my decision to write about my piezoelectric wristband and structured water drops. While I would certainly place those two items into the category of self-experimentation, I realize that the science behind them is a bit “out there” – so I hope these strategies listed above are more appealing to people who aren't interested in the super fringe stuff…