Research Review: Ubiquinol & Peak Power Production

by Evan Peikon

Ubiquinol supplementation enhances peak power production in trained athletes: a double-blind, placebo controlled study.

Alf DSchmidt MESiebrecht SC.

Abstract: To investigate the effect of Ubiquinol supplementation on physical performance measured as maximum power output in young and healthy elite trained athletes.

METHODS:

In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 100 young German well trained athletes (53 male, 47 female, age 19.9 +/- 2.3 years) received either 300 mg Ubiquinol or placebo for 6 weeks. Athletes had to perform a maximum power output test and the performance in W/kg of bodyweight was measured at the 4 mmol lactate threshold on a cycling ergometer before the supplementation treatment (T1), after 3 weeks (T2) and after 6 weeks (T3) of treatment. In these 6 weeks all athletes trained individually in preparation for the Olympic Games in London 2012. The maximum power output was measured in Watt/kilogram body weight (W/kg bw) RESULTS: Both groups, placebo and Ubiquinol, significantly increased their physical performance measured as maximum power output over the treatment period from T1 to T3. The placebo group increased from 3.64 +/- 0.49 W/kg bw to 3.94 +/- 0.47 W/kg bw which is an increase of +0.30 +/- 0.18 W/kg bw or +8.5% (+/-5.7). The Ubiquinol group increased performance levels from 3.70 W/kg bw (+/-0.56) to 4.08 W/kg bw (+/-0.48) from time point T1 to T3 which is an increase of +0.38 +/- 0.22 W/kg bw or +11.0% (+/-8.2). The absolute difference in the enhancement of the physical performance between the placebo and the Ubiquinol group of +0.08 W/kg bodyweight was significant (p < 0.03).

CONCLUSIONS:

This study demonstrates that daily supplementation of 300 mg Ubiquinol for 6 weeks significantly enhanced physical performance measured as maximum power output by +0.08 W/kg bw (+2.5%) versus placebo in young healthy trained German Olympic athletes. While adherence to a training regimen itself resulted in an improvement in peak power output, as observed by improvement in placebo, the effect of Ubiquinol supplementation significantly enhanced peak power production in comparison to placebo.

My Thoughts:
Though the study looks promising, it still hasn’t been replicated which isn’t a huge deal in my opinion but is still something to keep in mind. Also account for the fact that the athletes were competing in different sports (ie- using diff energy systems), so even though they were assigned to groups randomly there is a chance that those whose training would in fact increase power to a higher degree ended up in the Ubiquinol group.
My other thoughts will be more in regards to application than the possible loopholes or flaws in the study. If training for the “sport of fitness”, this may be a smart choice in supplementation. But you must also take into account that they didn’t specify what energy system the increases in power corresponded to. Meaning that it could have been Anaerobic A-Lacatic Power, Anaerobic Lactic Power, or even Aerobic Power (and the varying degrees of each of them).
Another factor you must take into account is that most forms of Coenzyme Q10 in stores are actually Ubiquone, so you must specifically find one that is Ubiquinol (Now Foods makes one). My last statement would be that if you choose to supplement with Ubiquinol its absorption is increased if you take it with MCT oils, which can be found in small amounts in coconut oil, or you can buy straight MCT oil to get the most bang for your buck.

 

The Scientific Method of Programming: A Case Study

By Evan Peikon
With the level of competition in the sport of fitness growing each year the demands placed on both coaches and athletes are growing exponentially.

The days when we could follow “Crossfit Strength Biased” programs or run a “Black-Box” style program in which we combined a tried and true strength program, like Westside, with metcons are over.

So…. where does that leave us?
The answer isn’t black or white and will depend on a myriad of factors. But, in general it means that an Athlete should be following a well periodized strength & conditioning program that is tailored to their goals AND that factors in their individual makeup (I feel like i’m beating a dead horse by even having to mention this again….).

So, now we have a new question… What goes into writing the aforementioned program and how do we at Peak Athletic Development go about carrying it out?
The answer isn’t simple, but through the following case study of an athlete i’m currently working with the process should become quite clear.

***Note- All data, training splits, etc are for a regional level athlete i’m currently working with. That being said, the program mentioned below is based off their INDIVIDUAL needs, strengths/weaknesses, recovery capabilities, lifestyle etc. You are free to steal any and all of it if you please. Just know their needs may not be the same as yours. 

Observations & Inferences: The Initial Testing Phase
The first, and possible most important, step in programming for an athlete is the assessment. In this phase, we put the athlete through a battery of tests designed to assess their structural balance, movement deficiencies, strengths/ weaknesses in terms of both movements and energy systems, Essence, Neuromuscular Efficiency, ATP-CP Battery etc.
Note- Before initial testing we consult with our athletes about their training history, lifestyle (work, hobbies, stress etc), nutrition and so on.
Below I will provide the results of this athletes initial testing phase and explain the take aways (some numbers/ reference points have been omitted both to protect the athletes identity and our intellectual property)

CP (Strength) Testing:
Back Squat- 385 (AMRAP @85% 1RM  @tempo- score =7)
Front Squat- Withheld
Deadlift- 405
Clean- 275
Snatch- withheld
Bench Press- withheld
Press- withheld
Wtd. Prone Pullup- 108
Wtd. Bar Dip- 92
Structural Testing- exercises/ #‘s withheld

Takeaways:
BS:DL- Deadlift priority
BS:FS- In Balance
BS:Clean- Clean priority
BS:Snatch- Snatch priority
-Athlete is stronger than they are fast.
-Athlete has Low Neuromuscular efficiency
-UB Pressing In a HUGE priority
-Athlete is deficient is scapular strength
-Athletes Glute Medius doesnt fire properly

Gymnastic Density & ATP-CP Battery:
50 HSPU For Time- 10:09
30 MU For Time- 4:30
8 Min AMRAP Power Clean @90%- 29 reps
20 Snatch @77% 1RM- With Held
20 Sets of 5 Unbroken C2B Pullup For Time- withheld

Takeaway:
-Upper body pressing endurance is a priority
-Proficient with snatching at moderate loads (for reps)
ATP-CP Battery is good, but not great.
-Proficient with both MU and C2B Pullups, but would like to see improvement on both.

Cyclical Energy System Testing (scores withheld):
10 Minute Airdyne for Cals
60 Second Airdyne for Cals
60 Second Airdyne for Cals/ rest 12m/ 60 second airdyne for cals
60 Minute Row for Max Distance
2,000m Row
500m Row
500m Row/ Rest 90s/ 500m Row

Takeaway:
-Aerobic work is a priority over anaerobic.
-Athlete needs speed development in off season.

Mixed Energy System Testing (Tests and Score Withheld)
Takeaway:
-Athlete is comfortable with “going there”.
-Athlete has strong scores on anaerobic tests, but needs work on aerobic.
-Athletes mixed aerobic work is better compared to their cyclical aerobic.

Training Split (Accumulation Phase for This Athlete)
Now is the fun part of the article where we analyze the athletes current training split, the logic behind it, and get a glimpse of what an actual training week looks like…
But, first we must discuss this athlete’s essence (term coined by OPT).

Athlete Essence
-This athlete is stronger than they are fast.
-This athlete is slightly more powerful than they are enduring (not much though).
-This athlete has a low Neuromuscular efficiency.
-This athletes CP-Battery is well developed, but not at an elite level.

This info is what tells me what types of protocols to use on this athlete in order to improve what they are lacking. For example….
If I had a High Neuromuscular efficient athlete I would NOT program them 10-12 rep Back Squats, Squat Clusters, Drop Sets etc.
If I had an Athlete with a low CP Battery I would NOT program they high rep Olympic lifts with a HIGH % of their 1RM.
However, neither of these situations are the case for this athlete, so I will program accordingly (the same type of principals apply to energy system training as well. Different athletes respond to different methods and part of the coaches job is to know how to progress with them correctly).

When designing the training split there are a few things to think about including…
1. Adaptation- What are you looking to accomplish?
2. Interference- Don’t send mixed signals (in regards to cell signaling).
3. Purpose- What is the specific goal of each session?
4. Direction- How will this progress over time?
5. For more check out the article on Concurrent Training Optimization. 

The Training Split (For this SPECIFIC phase):
In the diagram below we include…
1. The goal for each day (ie- what parameter we are trying to improve upon)
2. The Type of Session/ Training Split Skelton
3. An example of a training week.

Tying it All Togeather
Life Style Factors & The Athlete-Coach Dynamic
While not as sexy as talking about training, the external factors imposed on an athlete play a large part in how they respond to training, how they recover, and how they feel on a day to day basis. These external factors, much like training, have an effect on physiological adaptation (this is going to be an article in and of itself very soon) which is why they must be addressed.
When working with an athlete I always make sure to address these factors and to ensure they work in out favor instead of against it. Knowing the in’s and out’s of an athletes life also allow me (the coach) to modulate certain factors in training (such as volume/intensity) so that they athlete keeps progressing as needed.

These include but are not limited to…
1. Quality and Quantity of Sleep
2. Nutrition– Quality, Quantity, Macros etc.
3. Stress (work stress/ life stress etc.)
4. Commitments, Priorities and values.

Going Forward:
As previously mentioned, the training split shown above is for part one of the accumulation phases. After this phase/cycle ends the athlete will go through another testing, or retesting, phase. The purpose being to see how the athlete improved on the parameters we were working on (highlighted in blue).
Based on the results of the second testing phase we will then begin a new cycle with a new focus, which will be influenced both by the athletes current needs and the time of year relative to competition.

Part II
In the next installment of the “Case Study” article series I’m going to break down a case study for a facility program design and the ideas surround it. Stay Tuned!

 

Preparing For the Crossfit Games Opens: Managing Volume & Intensity

by Evan Peikon
Forward
As the title of the article suggests, the purpose of this piece is to help shed some light on how to prepare for the opens in terms of managing training intensity/load prior to and during the opens. I’ll also cover the ideas surrounding the topic in order to give context and help elaborate on the points I will later present. However, before I get started I want to throw out the caveat that these are general guidelines and they will differ from athlete to athlete depending on training age, individual physiology, speed of adaptation, etc. With these recommendations, it is also assumed that the athlete has also followed a properly periodized training plan leading up to tis point (in terms of both training priority and volume/intensity).
This article also assumes the athlete’s focus is the Open. If the athlete’s focus is on regionals or the games they would approach this in a different manner.
**Note that there are times when we intentionally break the rules discussed in this article. However, we do so for a specific reason at a specific time. When first starting to implement them follow these best practices. Once you know how a given athletes body works/reacts you can begin to deviate/ tinker.

Periodization Part I (Phases of Training)
For a more detailed explanation of how i’d break up the year in terms of phases check out the following article Click HERE.
For the sake of this article, the following breakdown of phases should be sufficient….

Training Phase

~Start and End Dates

Accumulation Phase I

May –> August

Accumulation Phase II

August –> November

Transition Phase/ Intensification Part I

November –> January

Intensification Part II/ Pre-Competition Phase

January –> March

Opens

~March –> ~April

Post-Open Testing Phase/ De-load

April –> May

As you can see, I break the intensification phase into two parts.
The first part stars in mid-october and ends in mid-december to mid-january. This phase is dedicated to increasing intensity of both Energy System and ATP-CP work following the accumulation phase where an aerobic base was built and structural integrity was made. This phase also serves as a transition to the max effort and high intensity work that will come shortly. This phase also differs from Intensification Part II in the sense that I would continue to build volume in this phase (of both sub maximal and near maximal work) while I tend to either wave load or maintain volume during the second Intensification Phase.
The Second half of the Intensification Phase starts mid-december to mid-january and ends between the middle of february and the beginning of march depending on where the athlete is standing relative to the opens. The purpose of this phase is to maximize all Energy systems such that the athlete is set up to peak during the opens.

Periodization Part II (Volume, Intensity and Focus)
As a general rule an increase in Intensity means a decrease in volume (Note that there are times when we intentionally break the rules. The purpose here is to provide a general guideline). Though there is a lot of grey area in that statement (Ie- As I previously mentioned I build volume and Intensity during Intensification P1), I tend to follow it more closely during Intensification Phase II.
 One of the reasons for a more moderate approach to volume during the second half of intensification is that the higher effort work being done (specifically longer anaerobic work) is damaging to the nervous system.
However, we still want sufficient volume to elicit a stimulus and keep the athlete improving. There are myriads of ways to accomplish this but i’ll discuss my two preferred methods…
The first method is to wave load training volume. In this instance the period of each wave is athlete dependent. But, in general terms we want to make it long enough that the athlete makes steady progress and short enough that the athlete doesn’t redline their body. The best way to decide the length of each wave is to take a daily HRV measurement and manually figure out how much stress is on the athletes system and where their “readiness” to train lies. For more info of HRV, and its relation to training click HERE.
The second method is to keep volume fairly constant. In this instance you would still take HRV measurement, and based off the results you can titrate volume up and down as needed to match the athletes speed of adaptation. 
In regards to volume during the actual opens I recommend lower volume relative to intensification to ensure full recovery. However, we still want a few intense sessions each week (2-3), but the other training days will be lower intensity energy system/CP based work for maintenance. 

Opens:
There are a few ways to approach the opens in terms of training splits, but for all intents and purposes i’ll discuss that of a balanced athlete (and how to modify it)….

To start i’d make monday and friday off days. Since the Open workout is released Wednesday night. This allows the athlete to do a run through on thursday (which is often an off day in most programs), take friday off, and then hit the Open workout again on saturday. Though this same concept can be applied with doing the run through on friday and adjusting the days as needed, I prefer to not leave the open workout for sunday. 

Next ill cover the training focuses on the remaining days of the week. Instead of explaining it in written form i’ll write out three general training splits. One for a balanced athlete, Powerful athlete, and enduring athlete (Which are extremely general terms… Also note that these don’t take the human factor or grey areas into account so they are just to get you thinking).

M- Off
T- Moderate Volume Intense Strength/Oly + Short Density Piece 
W- Open Based Skills (TnG work, MU’s etc) +Moderate Intensity Cyclical  ES work to prime system 
Th- Open Run Through 
F- Off
Sa- Opens
Su- Moderate Intensity Strength/Oly +Longer Low effort aerobic work for recovery (depends entirely on what the workout is)

If the athlete in question was more powerful than enduring and more advanced in terms of strength then CP/Oly volume would be lower on tuesday/ sunday. Instead more attention would be put on energy system work. On the other hand if the athlete was weaker then average then more attention would be put on strength and olympic lifting work. Obviously those are general/blanket statements, but it gives an idea of how to skin the cat differently. 
**Side Note: the run-through can either be prep work, a portion of the workout, or the actual workout depending on the athlete.

Recovery

The last point i’m going to make is about recovery work. 
Leading up to the opens and during the opens I recommend that athletes spend at least 20 minutes dedicated to mobility work and stretching in the evening. This will both put you in a relaxed state and calm the nervous system which will help with recovery. If you have time adding in a 20 minute recovery spin early in the morning will help too. And depending on how serious you are with competing getting a weekly or bi-weekly massage would be wise.

For other, more detailed, tips on recovery check out the following articles:
Parasympathetic Vs. Sympathetic Overtraining
Rest & Recovery 

 

Rest & Recovery (R&R)

By Evan Peikon
What is Recovery?
In order to define Recovery we must first fine what it means to be Under Recovered. Which, well break into three distinct phases that well refer to as fatigue, overreaching and overtraining.

Fatigue
Fatigue can be broken into two distinct types, which are acute and chronic fatigue. Acute fatigue is relative to the task an athlete is undertaking at a given moment, and thusly can be caused by low glycogen, lack of phosphates, and changes in intracellular ion concentrations (Ie- normal training stress). Based off of this definition it is clear that the dissipation of acute fatigue can be achieved via correct post workout nutrition and simple recovery modalities (which we will cover later in this article).
The second, more serious, form of fatigue is Chronic Fatigue. Which well define as a cumulative stress load that supersedes and athletes recovery capabilities.

Overreaching
Once the athlete begins to experience chronic fatigue such that their performance levels begin to decline, then they enter a period of Overreaching. However, there are two sides to this story.
The first is what can be called functional overreaching. This is when the overreaching phase is part of a periodized plan before an athlete de-loads (backs off) from training. In this instance the athlete will experience a super compensation effect in which their performance will increase (theres more to it, but thats a simple explantation). The second form of overreaching is called nonfunctional overreaching. This occurs when an athlete continues to train with intensity after a chronic fatigue scenario and reaches a point of stagnated performance (which can take weeks to months to recover from).

Overtraining
If an athlete continues to train through a period of nonfunctional overreaching for a continued period of time they will reach an overtrained state. Overtraining not only has a physical component, but it also has nervous system and hormonal implications which we discuss in detail Here (Nervous System) & Here (Hormonal).

Now that we’ve laid those definitions out, we can begin to define recovery (easier said than done).

Recovery
At first glance defining recovery seems like such a simple thing to do… That is until you account for all the factors that effect recovery. Such as: Sleep, social life, genetics, environmental factors, physiological factors, psychological factors, work stress, nutrition/supplementation and of course training.

That being said, we can however break recovery down into a few distinct pieces…
1. CNS Recovery
2. Muscular Recovery (Protein Synthesis)/ Muscle Glycogen Repletion
3. Hormonal Recovery
*Other include mental aquity, ATP-Resynthesis, Lactate clearance etc… The list can go on for days, but for the sake of this article I just named the most relevant in terms of what well discuss in this article.

Active Recovery
For the purpose of this article we will define active recovery as any low intensity exercise that is done with the intention of speeding recovery. Active recovery is useful in promoting blood flow/ elevating heart rate which can both increase lactate clearance and dissipate the acute fatigue associated with training. However, we believe there are “better” and “worse” ways to perform active recovery which is why well layout our thoughts surrounding the topic.

Guidelines/ Best Practice

  • To start, active recovery work should be performed at around a 50% effort. Which well often refer to as Zone 1 (Z1) work.
  • Active Recovery can also be Structured or Unstructured, which is best explained through the examples i’ll later present.
  • When programing AR you should avoid excessive eccentric loading. The best example of this would be a spin on the airdyne vs a run. The airdyne is entirely concentric, while running has an eccentric portion (Note- muscle damage occurs during the eccentric portion of a movement), making the airdyne a better choice.
  • Work mobility on problem areas.
  • This is also a good time to work skills without being under fatigue.
  • Have Fun & give yourself a mental/emotional break from the stress of training!

Structured Active Recovery (Examples)
30-60 Minute Airdyne @Z1
___ Sets @Z1
:30 Airdyne
:30 Bear Crawl
:30 KB Front Rack Carry
:30 Jump Rope
:30 Airdyne
:30 Rest

For Completion @Z1
20 Minute Airdyne
20 Minute Row
20 Minute Airdyne
*Get up every 5 min and walk around

30 Minute Structured Flow Work *reps are relative to the athlete (should be EASY)
3-5 pHSPU
3-5 MU
25 Cal Airdyne
3-5 pistols/leg
20 Uneven Wtd. Lunges

Unstructured Active Recovery (Examples)
30 Minute Unstructured Flow Work *just hit touches on each movement and cycle through them.
pHSPU
MU
Airdyne
Pistols
Row
etc.

Play Outdoors, Hike, Play a pick up game etc.
The possibilities for both structured and unstructured active recovery are endless. Play around and experiment/try and find what works for you. Chances are it’ll help you in the long run.
If you need something written out in stone for you to follow, then you can check out Crossfit Invictus’ Blog (CJ Martin programs cyclical active recovery for his athletes on Thursdays/ Sundays) or try some of the examples we posted in the section above.

Cooldowns
While not active recovery in the formal sense, cool downs are a form of AR. Im not going to go into to much detail here, but a 10-15 minute easy cyclical piece after workouts can help speed recovery as well (Calm nervous system back down to baseline, flush out metabolites, etc.)

Passive Recovery/ Recovery Modalities
If we define active recovery as any low intensity exercise that is done with the intention of speeding recovery, then we can define passive recovery as collapsing into the fetal position after a tough lactic endurance session (when I say tough I really meant absolutely miserable). In all seriousness though… We can define passive recovery as simply relaxing/ restoring. However, in this portion of the article well also discuss different recovery modalities as well (though they don’t technically fall under the category of passive recovery). Also note that we only included a few modalities here. There are tons of others, but I feel these are the best bang for your buck options and they are also accessible to anyone. If you want a broader list of option check out the chart in this post.

Sleep
The topic of sleep as it relates to performance has been beaten to death, so I’m not going to explain the reasons why we need sleep. At this point we all know about its importance as it relates to recovery and performance. I will make some suggestions though, but note that these are for those who have dedicated their lives to sport and they will not be realistic for most…
To start i’d say the gold standard of sleep would be 9-10 hours per night, though I think 8-9 is more than sufficient. 7-8 is subpar, but shouldn’t have negative implications for most. I think anything less than 7 hours for an athlete is something that needs to be fixed.
I think getting a sufficient amount of sleep also comes down to priorities. If you tell me that you only have 7 hours to sleep a night, but you watch TV for an hour before bed then your values aren’t in line with your actions (Once again, this is for athletes).
If you really can’t make the time to sleep that much at night, naps can help as well. 10-15 minute naps spread throughout the day can do wonders for rejuvenation/ recovery.
*Side note- I’m also a big believer that each hour of sleep before midnight is twice as valuable as those after. 

Massage
There are numerous proposed benefits from massage, and even more speculation as to why/how massage works at the physiological level. However, most studies seem to be inconclusive and the mechanisms of action are debated so I won’t go into the details about that here. What I will say is that massage can without a doubt improve recovery and prevent potential injuries. If possible, getting a massage once a week would be ideal. But, I’m not delusional enough to think thats a reasonable for most people. A more realistic option would be to get a bi-monthly or monthly massage (or any other type of structural work). I also think self myofascial release is a great option as well (ill defer you to K-Star for more details).

Thermotherapy, Cryotherapy, & Contrast Therapy
Thermotherapy is the application of heat which is used to promote increased blood flow (vasodilatation). Which in return can increase the rate of waste removal from the body/ muscles. Cryotherapy on the other hand causes vasoconstriction which decrease blood flow, swelling and inflammation. Cryotherapy can also increase endorphin release, and blunt pain via a decrease in nerve fiber transmission. However I believe Thermo & Cryotherapy are both way more effective when done in unison, which leads us to Contrast Therapy. Contrast therapy in the alternation of thermo & cryotherapy. The alternation of hot and cold creates a cycle of vasoconstriction and vasodilatation which in turn helps remove waste products/ deliver nutrients at a faster rate.
In regards to applying contrast therapy the best option would be to alternate between hot and cold tubs. If this isn’t an option, then contrast shower work great as well. As a general recommendation the hot cycle should be 3-5x the length of the cold cycle, and the process should be repeated as needed. Depending on time of day you can end on either hot or cold. ending on cold tends to fire up the sympathetic nervous system which is probably not the best option close to bed time so keep that in mind

*other personal favorites include EMS (Electric Muscle Stimulation which you can find at a reasonable price from medical supply companies), and compression garments (during training to decrease muscle damage, and graduated compression post training to increase venous return). 

Nutrition
We’ve already discussed nutrition for recovery, health and performance so ill defer you to those articles as a reference if you haven’t yet seen them.
Post Workout Nutrition for The Fitness Athlete
Health Vs. Performance (Nutrition): Under eating, Stress, & Recovery

Other Considerations
Usually this section is where the rubber meets the road. But instead I’m just going to throw out a few random thoughts. I honestly don’t have much to add here so if you stop reading right now you won’t miss much. These are just things that are related to the article, but didn’t quite fit in anywhere else or deserve their own section…

Note: I wrote this section while I was in a post-lactic training session fog, so if what you read below seems incoherent/ redundant it probably is. Just thought id forewarn you.

Resilience
What is resilience? Well, in simple terms its the capacity to recovery quickly from difficulty (if you extrapolate this to sport, difficulty equates to training and life stress). What does it have to do with this article? Well, an athletes innate ability to recover from stress will be a huge factor when deciding how to go about programming their recovery work. This is something that should be taken into account at all time. It can also be an entire article in and of itself due to the fact that there are so many hormonal, mental, and physical factors that contribute to it. That being said, ill save my thoughts for when I get a chance to do the topic justice. But for now, just sit on this topic and take notice of your own resilience as well as your clients.

Paying Your Debts
This is something I personally started doing that I feel has allowed me to recover quicker/ feel fresh in my day to day training. The way I like to think about it is that every time you train you cash a check, and the only way to get your account back to balance is to do recovery work. All training and no recovery equates to a negative balance (not good).

So for every training session, I do something to balance it out. Sometimes this is zone 1 work, sometimes it’s an ice bath or massage. Regardless of what it is, you must stay on top of it. Don’t wait until you already feel run down to start doing recovery work, by then its probably too late.

Mental Recovery
Theres not much I can say about this one, other than that it will be different for everyone and that it needs to occur. It doesn’t matter how “mentally tough” an athlete is. At some point something has to give, and unless you give yourself mental/ emotional breaks from training it may be your desire to push yourself. That being said, a general recommendation would be to destress on your off days from training. This is different for everyone but could come in the form of meditation, reading a book, spending time with family/friends or just doing something fulfilling in general.

Health Vs. Performance (Nutrition): Under Fueling, Stress, and Recovery

by Evan Peikon
Before we get started I’m going to throw out the caveat that this will be a long winded article so bear with me. In this article i’ll cover nutritional mistake most Mixed Modal Athletes are probably making and how to correct them. Ill also cover how nutritional profiles should differ for those seeking health vs performance, and how supplements should be implemented for performance/ recovery. Ill also go into “other considerations” and extended applications for the knowledge in this article at the end.

*Note that no two bodies react the same to anything. Because of this the suggestions in this article are just that. Suggestions. I cannot, nor can anyone else tell you exactly how something will effect your body. Because of that you should take said suggestions in this article and use them as either reference or starting points. From there you can tinker and find what works for you.

Adrenal Stress, Cortisol Dysregulation and the 9th Ring of Hell
If theres one thing I’ve learned thus far on my journey to becoming a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition practitioner it is that “Stress is Stress”. Ground breaking stuff right? In all seriousness though, this has major implications that you’d be a fool not to consider.

We’ll begin with this analogy (bear with me)…
Imagine your bodies adaptive stress reserve is like a giant glass. Any form of stress you have gets put into that glass (training, poor sleep, work stress etc). Meanwhile that glass is half full (I’m an optimist…).  At this point you don’t notice anything that is particularly “wrong” with your body, but there is probably some minor dysfunction somewhere.
Now suddenly you start having problems at work, your sleep if suffering and as a side effect your training is going to shit. Stress is just raining down from all sides.
Now the glass is full and begin to spill over the sides.
At this point your adaptive stress reserve is gone, and things start to do downhill (ie- shit hits the fan).
So what exactly happens you ask? Well ill give a quick primer on Adrenal Stress to demonstrate…

*Note- There are actual lab values associated with each phase of adrenal dysfunction, but that is way beyond the scope of this article. If your interested in the details though feel free to shoot me an email, or you can check out my recommended textbook on Human Physiology (I’m not sponsored by or affiliated with Pearson textbooks in any way). Also note that we will be offering Adrenal Stress tests via our Functional Diagnostic Nutrition consulting page shortly. 

Our focus here is on Pregnenalone, DHEA, and Cortisol as discussed below

Phase I Adrenal Dysfunction
During phase I adrenal dysfunction daily cortisol output is elevated. The phase can last many years, and those suffering may be asymptomatic depending on genetic potential (though most will suffer from energy, sleep, mood, or weight issues). During this phase DHEA also trends low due to the fast that pregnenalone is becoming cortisol instead of DHEA (that was incredibly generalized, but for the sake of the article it will suffice). Ie- A pregnenalone steal occurs.

Phase II Adrenal Dysfunction
During this phase DHEA is still trending low, but cortisol output will also begin to decrease (cortisol may be within reference range during this phase). This is due to the adaptive reserve we discussed earlier being depleted. Unlike those in phase I, those suffering from phase II adrenal dysfunction will experience symptoms (blood sugar issues, chronic stress, tired in the AM, wired in the PM).

Phase III Adrenal Dysfunction
During phase III DHEA levels are borderline tanked, and total cortisol output is very low. At this point the bodies adaptive reserve is almost gone and the client needs immediate medical attention.

That Being Said, what causes Adrenal Dysfunction (as it relates to Mixed Modal Athletes)?
And how can I prevent/ fix it?
So after reading the above examples you may think adrenal dysfunction isn’t that big of an issue for every day people. That line of though couldn’t be more wrong though. Adrenal dysfunction is a real issue and is more prevalent in our sport that you can possibly imagine.

The Causes
As discussed in our interview with Mike Kesthely, two of the biggest causes are too little carbs as well as sleep. However i’d like to add too little fat intake, improper programming, and displaced life stress to the list as well.

The Fixes
To start athletes need to add in the correct amount of clean carbs as thats one of the biggest factors. In a predominantly glycolytic sport, low carb means increased gluconeogenesis. Which will cause an increase in cortisol as well (once again, the physiological process stated was oversimplified for the sake of the article).
In regards to fats those are needed for hormone production (need I add more?).
As for sleep, 8 hours should be a minimum with 9-10 being the gold standard for recovery. And in regards to programming, typical “main site” type programming should be avoided at all costs with the majority of training coming from CP (strength) work and lower intensity Zone 1 recovery work (until adrenals are fixed).
The last fix would be to manage life stress. Control what you can, and don’t stress over what you can’t. Your body interprets this stress the same way it would any other regardless of the threat (or lack thereof) it imposes on you (so why let it get to you?).

*Supplementation with exogenous hormones/ hormone precursors is also an option, but should not be used without the over site of a physician or Functional Diagnostic Practitioner due to the inherent risk. 

Health (& Longevity) Vs. Performance
To start ill say that your daily nutrition should not only reflect your goals, but also your training.
I cannot stress the following enough… If you do high intensity training in ANY capacity, your nutrition MUST reflect that. This seems like obvious advice, but if everyone followed that advice adrenal dysfunction wouldn’t be as big an issue in our sport. If you want to eat low carb, do intermittent fasting, carb backloading (or whatever is popular these days) then your training should reflect that.

I think Marcus Filly’s wrote from our recent interview says it better than I ever could…
“The next immediate step in the journey is finding a balance between optimal health and performance. I’ve learned from my coach and through experience that you cannot have both. Optimal health doesn’t mean doing triples 5 days a week. For me optimal performance doesn’t mean training once a day and eating a diet of zero sugars. But a balance of the two during this off-season time of year is important. Having a stretch of time when the body feels good and performs well is important for longevity. “

So what is balance?
Balance is different for everyone, but you need to be real with yourself when deciding. My advice is to figure out what your goals and values are first and go from there.

Supplements for Recovery & Performance (Relative to Mixed Modal Sport)
Before delving into supplements i’d like to point something out. NO supplement research has ever been conducted in relation to our sport. The majority of research was either done on endurance athletes, strength athletes, or “college aged” males. Knowing what we know now about how the body works, we began questioning whether or not this research can intact be extrapolated to Mixed Modal Sport. We don’t have the answer to this question, nor do we claim to. All I’m saying here is that its something that should be considered when reading the research (due to the numerous variables that aren’t controlled for a large percentage of research becomes bunk when trying to extrapolate it as well).

That being said, how can you determine what research is valid?

Well, thanks to this blog post by Mike Kesthely I was introduced to the Examine supplement guide. This thing will literally save you hours of digging through research, and is definitely worth the price (Trust me. Ive already wasted all the hours on my own and wish I could have paid $40.00 to save me all that time).

Besides learning a ton of new information from the examine guide, one of the best parts was confirming what I already knew in some aspects. Mainly in relation to supplements I’ve been taking/ recommending. Most notably Whey, Dextrose, Citrulline, Creatine, Beta-Alanine and BCAAs.
For our complete recommendations on supplements for recovery you can check out our article on PWO Nutrition for Mixed Modal Athletes. 

Other Considerations for PWO Nutrition
When assessing a supplements effect on recovery, you must first define recovery.
To keep things simple we can break recovery into three distinct types. CNS recovery, Muscular Recovery and Mental Acuity. You can create a 1-10 scale based on self made standardized norms for your body. After 2 weeks of tracking without supplements you can then begin to tinker, and track changes in recovery as you try new things.
After doing this I personally realized a few things. First higher % effort MAP sessions tanked me HRV if I didn’t get enough carbs in the PWO window. I also noticed that my mental acuity was very poor when insufficient sugars were taken in after lactate work. However, PWO nutrition seemed to have no effect on muscular recovery or soreness for me. Which goes to show how individual variance is a large variable that must be taken into account when dealing with supplementation.

Other Considerations, Implications, & Applications
This last piece to the article is meant to create internal dialogue around some open ended statements/questions (ie-talking points) opposed to giving off straight facts. These are things that have rattled around in my head for some time and are actually what made me wright this article in the first place. They’ve stemmed more thought trails than I’ve written about here, but those are for another time and place (maybe a part 2?).

1. Can you reach optimal levels of performance and health simultaneously?
I don’t know the answer to this.  But as we’ve already discussed in this article, I think its possible to create a form of balance. However, I don’t think Its reasonable to have perfect health, while also being a top level performer. I also think other factors must be pushed onto the back burner in order to balance health and performance (think social life, “me” time etc).

2. Health =/= Performance.
I think this one is VERY important for a few reasons. The main one being our perception around performance as a marker of health. A big assumption that many make is that they are healthy, and that they know this because their performance continues to get better in all aspects. The problem here is that performance is not indicative of internal health in any way. The athlete in question may be in phase I adrenal dysfunction for years and still be a top level performer DESPITE of that. Which also raises the question of how much better they may be if they were “healthy” from a hormonal standpoint.

3. Increasing Calories (and Carbs) doesn’t always equate to Weight gain.
This one has an obvious caveat that in a majority of cases it will intact equate to weight gain. But what I’m talking about here is in relation to the hard charging athletes that under carb and under fuel on a regular basis. Many are scared that if they start properly fueling their bodies they’ll gain fat, lose their abs etc. However, the effect of proper fueling may just be that they recover better, gain strength quicker, and increase their fitness. Obviously this depends on a lot of other hormonal factors and the individual, but I’m just raising the point that it isn’t a black or white scenario.

4. Muscle Gain Can Happen While Under Eating.
Before all the Bro-Scientists start sending me hate mail, just hear me out.
Gains in lean mass (muscle) are influenced by more factors than just a caloric surplus and heavy lifting (contrary to what is usually prescribed). Some of the biggest influential factors are Cortisol to DHEA ratio, Sleep, Stress, Age, Training, and more. Im not saying a caloric surplus doesn’t help/ contribute greatly, because it does. What I am saying is that it isn’t the sole determining factor (also note that the caloric surplus may in fact lead to a favorable hormonal state…hmm).

So whats my point in bringing this up?
Well, many athletes who are currently under fueling may be tricked into believing otherwise since they are still gaining muscle. If your operating under the assumption that an increase in lean mass is only possible with a caloric surplus, then you will most likely believe that your fueling appropriately. Ergo, knowing that this isn’t always the case you can reassess where your at and move forward from there.

5. Incremental Normalcy
This one isn’t a though provoker, it is simply a guideline for moving forward from here on out.
If you believe your under fueling by say 800 calories or 150g of carbs a day, don’t add all them back in at once. A better game plan would be to add say 200-300 back in for a week or two, establish a new baseline and go from there. The idea here being that you work your way up in small increments establishing a new “normal” level along the way (ie- incremental normalcy).

*Also note that none of the information here is the end all be all. There so much more that goes into all of this than can ever be explained in an article (or even a series of articles). Because of this, you need to experiment for yourself and figure out how your own body operates. We can’t tell you what is “right” for you, but we can help. If you have any questions, comments or concerns email me at evanpeikon@optonline.net with the subject line “Health vs Performance”. 

 

by Evan Peikon
A few weeks back I threw the offer out to all of my Facebook fans to ask us any questions and I’d respond with my best answers. After having the article on the back burner I finally decided it was time to get it done after posting another Q&A type article yesterday. So without further adieu here it is…

Question #1 (From Devon):
Love these articles. What would you say is a good test to see where each of the energy systems lay? I read the CP Battery article. However for the aerobic and alactate systems how would you say you can see where you are?

Devon,
There are a few different tests for each energy system that we can use. But, a few things need to be taken into account. First you need to know the athlete that the test is for, secondly you need to know what they are training for. In this instance ill assume they are a “balanced” athlete training for the Sport of Fitness though…
So that being said, we also must make sure the test is valid (relative to how we’d define that), standardized, and repeatable. Assuming all those parameters are in check, here are a few tests we would use to the aerobic, anaerobic systems (note that what energy system the athlete operates in is relative to them. However, these tests assume the athlete is in that system).

Aerobic Testers:
15 Minute AMRAP:
15 KBS (2/1.5)
15 Burpee

10 Minute Airdyne for Max Cals

60 Minute Row- For Max Distance 

21-18-15-12-9-6-3:
Box Jump Step Down (30″)
Chinups

Anaerobic Testers
For Time:
30 Thrusters (95)
500m Row

1 Minute Airdyne for Max Cals

For Time:
250m Row
15 KBS
25 Burpee
15 KBS
250m Row

There are tons of other testers for each energy system, but hopefully that gave you an idea. When designing a tester an important aspect is having standardized scores, otherwise the data is meaning less. So to achieve that, you should have multitudes of athletes are different “levels” do it to gather data first. 

Question #2 (From Ted)
Hi,Love the site and articles!I’m a master athlete who is strong (1065 CF total) but have trouble with mid to longer range metcons. I’m aware of maximum aerobic power training but am wondering how many times a week I should work on MAP and what time/rest domains?

Ted,
Its hard to give suggestions as to how many times per week you should train MAP, and what time domains without analyzing your training/ putting you through testing. There is no right or wrong answer here. Everyone will respond to different time domain differently. However, I can give some general advice. To start, I’d have you train MAP the days after your rest day if it is your main priority. That way you can be fresh when you hit it. I’d also have you work on building an aerobic base. You can do this through MAP, but also through lower intensity Zone 1 sessions (such as a 30-60 minute slow air dyne for recovery). Without knowing your stats i’d also give a generalized recommendation that i’d start you with two MAP days per week. The first sessions being on the longer side (this is where you’d build volume/ work the longer time domains), and the second hitting the shorter time domains (think 3-5 minutes).

Hopefully this helped. If you want to send us a message with more context/ background information we’d be more than happy to try and better serve you. 

Question #3 (From Ronnie)
I’m apparently a typical 1st set hero. Usually I have a huge breakdown of about 40-50% in the 2nd set (constant weight). For bench: 1st set with 11 reps, 2nd with 6. It is similar in wods with higher weight bottle neck movements after the first round. Is that a sign for a bad ATP-CP battery and would OTM stuff improve that?

Ronnie,
Similar to the response we gave Ted, I cannot definitively give you an answer without doing other testing. But, ill give you a few different scenarios, one of which is probably your case (though I just can’t say for certain). The first scenario is what you’ve mentioned. Which is that your lacking CP Capacity (or CP-Battery) . If this were the case OTM stuff would improve that (which id tackle by dedicating one day to 60-75% maximal loads for higher volume and another with 90+% loads for lower reps).  However, this would apply more to the heavier weight metcons than the strength training. My best guess would be that your drop off during strength training is caused me a lack of strength endurance. Which we’ve written about in this article (so you can check the programing application aspects there).

Question #4 (From Ben)
I do not crossfit, but I do like to run and train the olympic lifts. So my question is: if I maintain a relatively low bodyweight for my running performance, but also do a good deal of weightlifting, what factors do I have to balance to have a hope of decent performance in both sports? My definition of decent is: at a bodyweight of 155, 225 snatch, 275 clean and jerk, and sub 32 minute 10k. There have been some possible answers on your blog, but all of them with the caveat of rowing/airdyne instead of running due to the eccentric stress. So what if running is non negotiable? Thank you for your excellent blog, and the opportunity for a Q&A!

current bw: 165 (some fat to lose, so that’s not all useful weight, my goal is 155 at 5-7% bf, I should hit this within the next 2 months, running will get better but a little worried about WL numbers)

height 5’9″
Snatch: 195
CJ: 255
BS: 330
10k – 41:19
5k – 19:43
Mile – 5:52

*I had originally written a different response for Ben as I had read part of his question incorrectly. However, Michael Fitzgerald of  OPT Calgary pointed out my errors so I adjusted the article as needed. 

Ben,
Ill start with my two cents regarding dropping to 5-7% BF and 155lbs first as I think it is highly relevant. Before I delve into the though I want to inform you that as an ex-endurance athlete I was once 5-6% BF, and frankly I feel that it counter intuitive to your goals as both a runner and weight lifter. Once you drop that low your hormones may be out of whack which will cascade down and effect everything else.
The next issue ill tackle is your goal of a sub 32 minute 10k. As Michael Fitzgerald pointed out in this Facebook post, you will not be able to run a sub 32 minute 10k without your body (muscle mass) and strength going down the drain completely.  He also pointed out that your mile, 5k, and 10k paces are very similar. I had noticed this but assumed your mile PR was off. However, he brought the fact that this would be seen in a high level half/full marathoner. Which isn’t the case in your situation so id question the validity of the PRs instead.
So that being said, I think you can get stronger while getting better at running. But, you will need to reassess your goals and shoot for a more realistic 10k time. If you are daed set on a sub 32 minute 10k though, be aware that it will not happen without sacrificing the strength goals you stated.
So now ill tackle your question regarding concurrent training with the intention of your specified goals…
As a starting recommendation I would dedicate specific days to lifting & running opposed to doing both on the same day. If also structure your training split such that the running work falls on the day before your off days as there will be less negative interference this way. On your two running day I would do what we called “quality workouts” when I trained for the 3,200m (which basically boils down to interval work on the track). Any other endurance work i’d have you do would be lower intensity Zone 1 work on the rower or airdyne (to build the aerobic base without all the eccentric stress as you stated. In this split though i’d still have you run those two days since It is needed for your specific goals).
In regards to the layout of your strength sessions, its hard to give advice without knowing how you respond to given tempos, rep schemes etc. Assuming your a powerful athlete (which it seems like from your #’s at your current BW), id stick to lower reps per set and keep the tempos low as well.

Closing Thoughts
I really enjoyed trying to answer your questions here as it forces me to think and apply knowledge to real life scenarios (instead of the theoretical ones I usually give in my articles). I also hope you guys were able to get what you were looking for from this article, but if I didn’t explain anything well enough or if you have follow up questions don’t hesitate to ask.
Also note that were starting a Facebook Note for this article where you can ask follow up question or discuss this article with each other (similar to a forum).

Once again, I hope everyone enjoyed this and thanks to everyone who asked questions for giving us the opportunity to write this.

About The Author:
Evan Peikon is  a full-time athlete, student, and coach whose passions lie in Biochemistry, nutrition, health/longevity, mental health and optimal human performance. Evan Peikon Co-Founded Peak Athletic Development in July of 2013, and later expanded his scope of practice which led to the creation of Enhanced Human Performance. You can contact Evan Peikon at Evanpeikon@optonline.net or if your interested in his services you can reach him here.

Litmus Testing For Mixed Modal Athletes

by Evan Peikon

Litmus Testing. You know, so you can check an athletes Ph levels. Wait, I think thats the wrong type of Litmus test…

We received a great question from one of our readers and a fellow OPT CCP coach Michal Bohumel earlier today, and thought it would be great to share with all of you as you can implement it into your own programs. We had not intended to post this to the site, but after sending him our response we realized that this information may help others who also had a similar question.

Michal Asked:
In the program design example sheet you prescribed those 500m Row repeats as a litmus test. How would you have that test/ check-in if a client doesn’t have access to a rower?

Our Response was as follows… (this differs slightly to what we told him since the context is different).
I’ll give you some background/context first, then answer your question.
The reason we use the 500m as a litmus is because the Rower gives instant feedback, and incremental changes can be made week to week.

For example:
Say our athlete Rows an 8:00 2k.

Now we prescribe them the following…
6 Sets:
500m Row @2:00/avg
Rest 2 minutes

This should be quite doable for them, so for this example lets say the athlete hits 2:00 on every interval. Then next week we make the intervals a bit faster, shorten the rest b/w sets, or add sets. The progression from week to week is pretty straightforward.
We can also gauge their recovery based on how they do each week since we know what they “should” be able to do relative to their best at a given time.

Now for substitutions…
Its tricky since the reason we like the rower is that the athlete can monitor their pace and get instant feedback in relation to that (ie- I should be rowing a 1:50 split, but I’m at 1:52 so ill speed up).
The most comparable thing would be 400m Running repeats at their Mile (1600m) PR pace.
However, most people will not be able to gauge pace very accurately while running if they are not experienced in that modality. Therefore that only works for those who have some sort of endurance or track background. Because of this we must find an alternative…
The next best thing for a litmus test may be heavy (relative to a 1RM, and the athletes capacity with maximal loads) olympic lifts due to the fact that they require a high CNS demand, so if the nervous system isn’t recovered it becomes quite apparent.

Take the following as an example...
Say we have an athlete train twice on saturday. In the morning he does shorter time domain MAP work, then in the late afternoon we have him do lactic power work or a heavy tester. This is considered a higher volume/ more taxing day for this athlete.
So then he takes Sunday off as a rest day and resumes training on monday.
Monday we do Oly CP and well as Slow lift CP.
We start his training session off with a Snatch or Clean variation working to a heavy single (this programming piece is in line with his priorities in this case).
If his nervous system is fully recovered from saturdays training he will be more likely to reach a maximal or near maximal weight on monday. If his nervous system was still dampened from the training he would not. The reason we use Oly’s over slow lifts here is that they require a higher neural demand. So while the Olys may be effected by his dampened NS, the slow lifts may be completely fine ( nervous system recovery can  also be tracked by HRV as well).

The litmus tests can also be used to gauge other factors assuming you know your nervous system is recovered (this is where HRV helps as you can figure out what recovery modalities allow it to be so). The Litmus can gauge nutritional changes (assuming you have a baseline), sleep changes, hydration, life stress etc. The point is to weed out factors that are hurting (or helping) your performance.
(Ie- to test where the athlete is physiologically in relation to their optimal state).

I hope that cleared up your question, and as always feel free to ask us questions any time you’d like. We really enjoy helping people as we feel it allows us to grow as coaches as well.

About The Author:
Evan Peikon is  a full-time athlete, student, and coach whose passions lie in Biochemistry, nutrition, health/longevity, mental health and optimal human performance. Evan Peikon Co-Founded Peak Athletic Development in July of 2013, and later expanded his scope of practice which led to the creation of Enhanced Human Performance. You can contact Evan Peikon at Evanpeikon@optonline.net or if your interested in his services you can reach him here.