Daniel: May 2009 Archives
(If you have to buy a protein bar, I recommend the Clif Builder Bars. Their ingredients are not as terrible as others (ie, no aspartame at least), and they're actually in perfect zone proportions. But do not be fooled: they are not real food, and eating them comes at a nutritional cost.)
After doing some research, I started making my own bars. With a protein blend from Trueprotein.com, I can get a quality mixture of whey and casein protein without all the artificial sweeteners and crap that clog up store-bought mixes, and use that as the basis for my own bars.
My first attempts were very tasty, and I still make them from time to time. They're really good freshly-made, but tend to lose flavor and texture over time, and are annoying in that they have to stay refrigerated or else they get greasy, so they aren't great for bringing to work.
So a while back I set out to figure out a baked protein bar recipe, something a bit more transportable, and came up with the following recipe. I don't like things super sweet, so these tend to have more of a scone-like texture and flavor, but I think they go great with coffee (even better with some peanut butter slathered on top), and are easy to make in batches that last about ten days.
- 2 cups unflavored protein powder
- 1/4c almond meal
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- optional: 4 packets stevia (or 1/4c honey or sugar)
- 1/4c butter
- 1/4c almond butter
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 3/4c milk
- 2/3c toasted nuts (I like almonds and walnuts)
- 1/3c dried fruit (I like chopped apricots or cranberries)
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, melt the butter and almond butter together in the microwave, then whisk in the eggs, vanilla and milk.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and stir until just combined. Add the nuts and fruit and stir. Scrape the mixture into the 9x9 baking dish. It should have a thick, wet texture like brownie batter.
Bake for about 13 minutes. They will look nowhere near done at this point - just a light-brown slab. Turn on the broiler, and broil for a couple minutes until the top is lightly browned (be careful not to go too long!). What you're shooting for is a nice firm top, but the inside to still be somewhat moist. Bake for too long and they get... brickish.
Remove from oven and cool a bit before cutting into bars. Makes 12 bars.
Even if you aren't participating in the affiliate cup training, if you've been coming to regular classes you have probably noticed an increase in our intensity and volume this week. And your shoulders, back, thighs, glutes and everything else are probably reminding you of it every time you try to get out of your chair. Welcome to DOMS.
What is it, how is it caused and should I care?
Surprisingly, we still don't know exactly what DOMS is. But the most commonly-accepted explanation is that heavy training results in micro-trauma (ie, tiny tears) to muscle fiber. Just as with any trauma, the body's response is inflammation as it sends in the troops for repair, and the pain we feel is due to the inflammation interfering with normal muscle operation.
DOMS is caused by exertion beyond a muscle's normal capacity, but it is made far worse by exercises that involve 1) a lot of repetitions with 2) a heavy eccentric movement. (Eccentric movement is any movement that lengthens the muscle against resistance - ie, lowering slowly from a pullup). At its most extreme, muscle strain can result in rhabdomyolysis (aka rhabdo), in which damaged muscle tissue leaks into the bloodstream, causing kidney failure. Rhabdo is rare, and typically occurs with people who are fit but untrained doing a large number of movements that feel easy but incorporate a heavy eccentric movement (jumping pullups, glute-ham situps and jumping squats are the usual culprits).
Rhabdo is serious - potentially fatal - but regular DOMS is just part of working out. Indeed, many of us feel that if we aren't sore, we haven't been working hard enough. However, applying several layers of microtrauma to the same muscles (ie, working out sore) can lead to overreaching and eventually injury, so it is in our best interests to try and stay ahead of the curve and diminish the soreness as much as we can before it adds up to incapacitation. Not just for training purposes, but also for our daily existence - I find the ability to stand up and walk around greatly enriches my quality of life.
What can I do?
There is no magic bullet to prevent or cure DOMS. But there are many small things we can do before, during and after workouts to mitigate its effects.
- Dynamic stretching. I would save the static stretches for afterwards, but preparing your muscles for activity with some quick dynamic stretching will help prevent damage.
- Warm-up. This one's obvious: don't workout cold.
- Elevate your legs. If you spend all day standing or sitting, your legs can get swollen. Spending a few minutes with your legs up can help balance your circulation.
- Keep moving between sets. If it's a strength workout, don't sit down and rest between sets - simply walking around will help keep the blood moving.
- Don't work the same muscles back-to-back. When you're not in charge of programming, you don't have a lot of control over this, and sometimes CrossFit might demand that you hammer the same muscle groups in consecutive workouts. But when you DO have control, try to let the damaged muscles recover while you focus elsewhere.
- Recovery workouts. Taking a workout at half-weight can help you recover faster than just waiting it out - the elevated heartrate and light activity promotes circulation to damaged muscles, clearing out waste products and bringing fresh blood to the muscles.
- Be careful about which movements you do. Be judicious with the "rhabdo movements" listed above, as well as anything else that involves a high number of reps of eccentric movements.
- Eat a LOT of Quality Food. Your body is in dire need of all the building blocks that food provides us, so feed it. Brandon's method of "fighting overtraining a pound of meat at a time" is good advice. If you're doing the affiliate cup training, do not be shy: get in there and EAT, dammit! Like it's your job. But make sure it's good quality food: every time you put crap in your body, you're making more work for it to no benefit. So keep the drinking to a minimum (a little red wine is OK), avoid processed foods, sugars, any ingredients with chemical-sounding names, bad fats, and factory-farmed meats. Stick with lots of organic fruits and vegetables, good fats, eggs, quality meats, nuts and dairy (if you tolerate it well). I will leave the grains decision up to your own conscience and experience.
- Sleep. This is where the majority of repair happens, so don't sell yourself short. Eight hours minimum, nine if you're doing the affiliate cup training. As dark a room as you can manage. And try to be asleep by ten.
- Fish Oil. A natural anti-inflammatory agent, fish oil ups your Omega-3-to-Omega-6 ratio, which is beneficial for keeping your cell receptors open for nutrient transfer.
- PWO nutrition. Remember? Reports from the field indicate that people are noticing diminished soreness when they have a good post-workout drink.
- Contrast showers. OK, I know this sounds horrible. And it is kind of horrible. But I've started playing with contrast showers this week, and they do seem to help. Here's the deal: preferably post-workout (but anytime is OK), take your usual hot shower and do your usual hot shower stuff. Then, gradually turn down the hot until the water is as cold as you can tolerate for about a minute. Be sure to hit your body's core as well as any sore muscles. Then go back to hot for 3-5 minutes. Do this cycle 2-3 times, and end on cold. Then towel off vigorously. This helps alleviate pain by either promoting circulation (their theory), or by distracting you from the pain in your muscles with agonizing cold (my theory). Whatever, it helps.
- Epsom salts. If you're not brave enough for the shower, toss some epsom salts into a hot bath. They say it helps sore muscles, but I've never noticed a difference. But then, I don't fit into my bathtub. You can pick them up at Walgreen's or any pharmacy. And you can even dye them and make them stinky, if you're into that sort of thing.
- Cool-down. As a group, we're not very good about this, and we should try to be better. After a very hard workout, don't just collapse - or at least collapse only as long as necessary to breathe again. But get back up and walk around, and do some light movement (some squats, a little jog, the mobility exercises) to keep the blood flowing while your heart rate goes back to normal. Now, while your muscles are warm, is also a good time to work on improving your ROM with some gentle static stretches. In a sauna or a hot-tub is a good idea, to keep the muscles warm while stretching.
- RICE it. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, particular if you've got a strain or other acute pain.
- Eliminate stressors where possible. Exercise is managed stress, induced so that we can recover from it and be stronger. But additional stressors distract the body from its job of rebuilding the muscles, so try to keep anxiety and stress at bay where you can.
- Massage. A good massage goes a long way to alleviating soreness. If you can afford it, go for it. If you have a good masseuse or massage parlor that you can recommend, share.
...but you probably already know. NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Naproxen (Aleve) are highly effective in reducing the pain associate with DOMS. Aspirin, which thins the blood and promotes circulation, can be useful before a difficult workout by assisting with oxygen transport and lactic acid removal to and from the muscles.
HOWEVER. There are two reasons I can't recommend taking these medications, and that I rarely take them myself. 1) Exercising while under the effect of a painkiller could allow you to push further than is safe for your body, resulting in injury, and 2) Studies show that NSAIDs inhibit protein synthesis (ie, muscle growth). In other words: if you're taking a painkiller, you're not reaping the full benefit from your workout.
For these reasons, I will only take an NSAID if I am so sore that I feel it will prevent me from basic functions (like doing my job). Thus far, this has only happened two or three times in over a year of CrossFitting.
To Sum Up
Much of the advice I've written here has been covered in earlier posts - it just so happens that the things that are beneficial are beneficial for a wide variety of reasons. All the more reason to do them, right? I hope you're recovering nicely on your rest days, so you can come back stronger and feistier than ever on Wednesday. If you have any advice on alleviating DOMS that I didn't cover here, please share in the comments.
I am not a dietician. CrossKitchen articles come from my personal experience, observations and research, and should not be construed as professional medical advice.
This thai curry is one of my long-time standards. It's incredibly flexible, so never gets old, and it makes a massive amount of food. There's not really a recipe, per se, since it often relies on what I have in the fridge, but here are some guidelines.
Protein: Chicken, turkey, beef, pork or tofu - whatever floats your boat. About 20 oz or so, however you like it. If you go the tofu route, I like Trader Joe's High-protein extra firm - it doesn't fall apart, which is key.
- One can of coconut milk (full fat preferred)
- A cup of broth
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp fish sauce (preferred) or soy sauce
- 1-2 tbsp Thai Kitchen Red or Green Curry Paste, or a couple spoonfuls of yellow curry powder
- 1/2-3/4 cup peanut butter (optional - I combine this with the red curry)
- A few leaves of fresh basil, if you have it, or 1 tbsp dried basil if you don't
- A teaspoon or two of brown sugar (optional, but worth it)
- One onion, finely sliced
- I always use a bag of TJ's broccoli, to which I may add some combination of the following:
- A head of cauliflower
- Baby carrots
- A bag of spinach
- Half a bag of frozen peas
- Zucchini or squash
- Kale, cubed yams, green beans, eggplant... just about anything will work. I use as much as will fill my saucepan without overflowing.
- Cook the protein separately in a skillet until it is done (for tofu, I cube it and fry until brown)
- In a separate, large saucepan, saute the onions (and maybe some garlic) in oil over medium heat until translucent.
- Whisk together the curry ingredients separately (except peanut butter) and add to the onions. If using peanut butter, add it now so the heat will help soften it and mix it in.
- Once the curry sauce is simmering, add the broccoli and any other veggies (except peas). Stir to coat, then cover and let steam a few minutes until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the protein and stir to combine. When almost ready, add the frozen peas and let the heat thaw them.
- Spoon into bowls and top with salted cashews, if you've got 'em.
Makes approximately 6 large servings.
I don't eat much rice, so I just eat this as is - it has a very high stuff-to-curry ratio, so this isn't as soupy as the curries you get in the restaurants tend to be, and the cornstarch thickens it to form a nice coating. The intensity of the flavor depends mostly on how much curry paste you use, so I recommend simmering the curry before you put in the vegetables and gradually add paste until it gets at a level of intensity that you're comfortable with. Or, you could do what I do and just glop a couple spoonfuls in and hope it works out.
Polly grinding out 22 OHS mid-WOD on Day 2 of the 2009 Norcal Qualifier
No Dilemma Here: Read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
I must confess, I'm not much of a nonfiction kind of guy. As a student of literature and then theatre, I always found more truth in the imaginary stories than in the real ones. Every now and then, though, I go fishing in the writings of the real world, and occasionally get a bite of something extraordinary. The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, is such a book. I think it's fair to say that this book has changed not just the way I think about food, but the way I think about my place in, and interaction with, the world around me.
It's not a very new book (2006), nor very obscure. It's been recommended to me many times, most often by meat-eaters looking to convert me from my (former) vegetarianism. I must confess, it was for this reason that it took so long for me to actually sit down and read it - I felt defensive enough about my choices without actively seeking out arguments against them. I needn't have worried - the book is far from a meat-eater's manifesto, and I would have enjoyed it just as much in my veggie days.
In the book, Pollan sets out to trace the ultimate source of four meals, all the way back to their (literal) roots: a McDonald's meal, a purely organic dinner from Whole Foods, a meal made from the resources of Polyface farm in New Hampshire, and a meal obtained entirely by hunting and gathering. For everything we eat comes from somewhere, but most of us have only the vaguest idea of where that actually is, or what we're actually eating: "[E]ven the deathless Twinkie is constructed out of... well, precisely what I don't know offhand, but ultimately some sort of formerly living creature, i.e., a species. We haven't yet begun to synthesize our foods from petroleum, at least not directly."
In each meal, Pollan delves deep into the history of where that food comes from, and it never failed to bring astonished gasps of delight to my lips. Even if what he finds is horrifying, it's still fascinating. His recounting of the history of America's relationship to corn (and where we've wound up because of it), for example, causes me to shake my head in disbelief every time I consider it, but he manages to paint this picture without judging the portraits he paints, which saves the book from feeling shrill. It's not all horror, though - although I found the section on organic production to be somewhat disheartening, the section on sustainable farming techniques (such as those used at Polyface) is a total delight, and did much to restore my hope in a decent future.
It's not all perfection, of course. Pollan relies on the same rhetorical structures for his arguments a bit too frequently, and he's prone to shoring up his case in some of the grayer areas with philosophy, rather than science - although he usually admits to it when he does so. His brief chapter on analyzing the reasons for and against vegetarianism is interesting and well-written, but is more of a quest for a justification to eat meat than a truly balanced analysis (he basically cops out of that one).
Overall, however, it is the most cogent, eye-opening book I've ever read about food (admittedly a small subgenre in my experience), and one of the most interesting works of nonfiction I've experienced. I highly recommend it to everyone, but particularly those who want a deeper understanding of their relationship to the larger world around them - eating is such a primal instinct that it forms the foundation of a great portion of our civilization, and when you know what you're eating, you have a much clearer idea of where (and who) you are. Read it!