I was back in the gym this month for the first time in four months.
Something was funky about my squats. I kept wondering why it felt so tricky to keep my back firmly aligned. Things felt a little wobbly once I had loaded weight on the bar.
I was using torque from my feet, spreading the floor. I was pulling out on my knees. I was keeping my butt engaged. And my shoulders were back and down, tight. But I felt like the torque from my legs was bleeding out somewhere, not making it all the way up to the bar.
What was going on?
Then I got a gut feeling. Literally. My gut. I had forgotten all about belly pressure.
Your belly is a powerful element for exertion. It provides structure for the most strenuous power outputs in life. Lifting a heavy load on your shoulders, hauling something off the ground, and pushing a dead car down the road all require you to keep your belly tight for maximal effort.
It’s because your belly is critical in transferring power from the feet to the point of push or pull. How, when it’s the softest part of the body?
The softness is actually the key. Because your abdomen is flexible, it can act like a balloon. Suck in a deep breath, down to the diaphragm, and you find that you can tighten your belly down around that air. Now feel it. Rock hard.
Ever had your head bonked against your dad’s belly and wondered why it felt like a bowling ball? Well, he was utilizing abdominal pressure.
This balloon of pressure is the pillar through which power can transfer most efficiently from your hips up to your shoulders. When you have it firm, your belly is the connecting structure that keeps your torso sturdy.
With a deflated belly, you put most of the power transfer back on your spine. Not as rigid, not as effective.
The Weight Belt
Now you might see the value in using a belt during your heaviest powerlifting reps. Wrap a normal belt around your midsection, just above the navel. Breathe in, down against your diaphragm, and push with your belly against the belt. Feel some power there?
I don’t think it’s advantageous to use the belt for lighter lifts. There is value in squatting and deadlifting without a belt. It helps you engage your core by itself, and you learn proper technique. Having a belt through all training, from the lightest weights, can make you depend on it and have a false sense of security.
On your heaviest lifts, though, it can be a powerful tool to scale your well-developed technique. It also helps you build your belly muscles by enabling a greater output from them.
Training Belly Pressure Without a Belt
Start without a belt, using the principle of abdominal pressure in training. Try it first without any weight on your shoulders. Do body weight squats, taking in a deep breath and pressing your belly against it, and hold it in until you squat and stand back up. Then release the breath.
Hold and release your breath for each rep. You may need to take a little breather in between. Don’t pass out. You need oxygen to stay conscious and to stay healthy.
By the way this is great training for low back issues as well. The stability from your belly pressure will help you maintain spinal alignment. Use the principle for daily activities, like lifting things off the floor, picking up grocery backs, and taking out the trash.
We flew in from Taipei last night. It was a full day of plane rides, bus station exploration, hot spring bathing, and more plane riding. I’m fatigued, jet lagged, and sore throated.
I stayed up for most of the overnight flight. In Pacific time, it was morning when we took off. But since it was 11:30 p.m. in Taipei, I had to pull two full days of wakefulness. Even with the exhaustion, sleep didn’t last too long last night. I meditated and had magnesium before bed, which helped. But I woke up around 5:30 a.m.
Although I was tired, I didn’t want to struggle back to sleep to wake up late in the afternoon. So I stayed up and slowly awoke. I made butter coffee with a blender for the first time in weeks. I was also able to add cacao butter and vanilla powder, two ingredients I sorely missed during travel. The resulting concoction was heavenly.
My game plan is to take vitamin C throughout the day, stay up until bed time, exercise, and take a good dose of magnesium at night. The C is going to help with my throat and also with my general well being. After all that traveling, with sweets on the plane, and lack of sleep, my body really needs the extra antioxidant boost. Now that I’m home, I have my powder form of vitamin C. Just mix into a glass of water. It’s my favorite way to take it.
Earthing is also key to recovery from jet lag. I got outside as soon as I woke and spent some time with the dogs, barefoot on the concrete. Later in the afternoon, I had a barefoot squat session. Reconnecting with the Earth’s electromagnetic field is essential to healing. Getting good sun time also feels magnificent.
I can’t wait to get up refreshed tomorrow morning.
I dug deeper into the hair color recovery phenom. Turns out there is more research behind vitamin B12 affecting my hair color. But it also involves Methyl Folate, which I’ve been using as well! Also, links to the two supplements I use below.
The functional info:
Vitamin B12 activates Methyl Folate to make Methionine. Methionine is an essential amino acid. You use methionine for:
Blood cell formation
White blood cell formation, for your immune system
Hair melanocyte preservation, which keeps hair color. Lack of methionine leads to oxidation and malfunction of the color-producing melanocytes. So there it is!
Vitamin B12 is also needed for the brain and nervous system. Methyl Folate is needed for RNA and DNA building.
Your body does not make Vitamin B12 nor Methyl Folate. You must get them from food. Supplementation is good because it’s hard to get enough of these micronutrients from food.
Important: a lack of one leads to a lack of the other. It’s a chain reaction. If you supplement with one, take the other as well.
B12 is found in eggs, meat, fish, nuts. From Wikipedia:
“Vitamin B12 is found in most animal derived foods, including fish and shellfish, meat (especially liver), poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. However, the binding capacity of egg yolks and egg whites is markedly diminished after heat treatment.”
Let me add some adjectives to that list: Grass fed or pastured meats, wild fish, and eggs soft boiled or over easy. Keeping the yolks moist or runny preserves the fat and nutrients!
B12 supplement as Methylcobalamin or Cyanocobalamin. From Wikipedia:
“Cyanocobalamin is converted to its active forms, first hydroxocobalamin and then methylcobalamin andadenosylcobalamin in the liver.”
“The metabolic fate and biological distribution of methylcobalamin are expected to be similar to that of other sources of vitamin B12 in the diet.”
“No cyanide is released with methylcobalamin, although the amount of cyanide (2% of the weight, or 20micrograms cyanide in a 1 mg cyanocobalamin tab) is far less than ingested in many natural foods. Although the safety of cyanocobalamin has long been proven, the safety of the other types is also well established.”
Methyl Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, butter and seafood. Go for real food. From Wikipedia:
“Folate naturally occurs in a wide variety of foods, including vegetables (particularly dark green leafy vegetables), fruits and fruit juices, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, poultry and meat, eggs, seafood, grains, and some beers. Avocado, spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are among the foods with the highest levels of folate.”
Use Methyl Folate supplement, not folic acid. Manufactured foods like bread and cereal have the synthetic, inactive form, folic acid. You can see it on food labels, but is not effectively converted by your body. From Wikipedia:
“Folic acid is synthetically produced, and used in fortified foods and supplements on the theory that it is converted into folate. However, folic acid is a synthetic oxidized form, not significantly found in fresh natural foods. To be used it must be converted to tetrahydrofolate (tetrahydrofolic acid) by dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR). Increasing evidence suggests that this process may be slow in humans”
Easier if you tuck it in after taking the other vitamins. Tastes fruity, which I had to get used to with chocolate butter coffee. With work in the morning, I had to take my vits and drink coffee on the drive. You might want to somehow separate the two. I now drink my coffee first, then take the vits after. This is good because some are fat soluble!
B12 Supplement switch:
I was looking into why I get a sore feeling in my stomach after taking supplements. It’s like a dull, sour tummy. I found that stearic acid or magnesium stearate from vegetable sources can cause this. It’s used commonly in pills as a lubricant for powder, to stick together better. The culprit, I believe, is the larger Jarrow milk thistle pill that contains vegetable stearates. Omitting only this, I noticed a direct absence of the sore feeling.
The supplements listed above also have this ingredient. They’re both made by Jarrow. I’m switching to B12 made by BulkSupplements because they just have it in pure powder form. No other ingredients. Going to try, even though my symptom is gone and I’ve still been using the above pills for the past one week.
Sometimes what works is good enough, and there are times when I want to up the quality. I never paid attention to this particular symptom until recently, so it’s time for me to try something else. I’ll keep you updated!
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I link to tools that I have used, found meaningful, and that I believe could benefit my brilliant readers.
Senile graying of human hair has been the subject of intense research since ancient times. Reactive oxygen species have been implicated in hair follicle melanocyte apoptosis and DNA damage. Here we show for the first time by FT-Raman spectroscopy in vivo that human gray/white scalp hair shafts accumulate hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) in millimolar concentrations. Moreover, we demonstrate almost absent catalase and methionine sulfoxide reductase A and B protein expression via immunofluorescence and Western blot in association with a functional loss of methionine sulfoxide (Met-S=O) repair in the entire gray hair follicle. Accordingly, Met-S=O formation of Met residues, including Met 374 in the active site of tyrosinase, the key enzyme in melanogenesis, limits enzyme functionality, as evidenced by FT-Raman spectroscopy, computer simulation, and enzyme kinetics, which leads to gradual loss of hair color. Notably, under in vitro conditions, Met oxidation can be prevented by L-methionine. In summary, our data feed the long-voiced, but insufficiently proven, concept of H(2)O(2)-induced oxidative damage in the entire human hair follicle, inclusive of the hair shaft, as a key element in senile hair graying, which does not exclusively affect follicle melanocytes. This new insight could open new strategies for intervention and reversal of the hair graying process.
The activity of methionine synthetase (MS) is important for the rapid growth of human haematopoietic cells [blood cell components] and cultured lymphoblastoid cells [form of lymphocytes that become B cells and T cells]. The MS reaction is the only known metabolic step in which both vitamin B12 and folate are essential in a single enzyme reaction. In vitamin B12 deficiency the MS activity in bone marrow cells is significantly lower than that in normal bone marrow. Free tetrahydrofolic acid (H4PteGlu) is normally liberated from its metabolically inactive storage form, 5-methyl-H4PteGlu (CH3H4PteGlu), in the cobalamin-dependent MS reaction. Thus, in vitamin B12 deficiency H4PteGlu is not available in sufficient concentration to maintain the de novo synthesis of thymidylate and purines, and accords with the methyl-folate-trap hypothesis. After treatment with amethopterin (Methotrexate), the incorporation of 3H-deoxyuridine into cellular DNA is reduced. In proliferating normal cells this effect of methotrexate can be prevented (and the cells rescued) with CH3-H4PteGlu or with CHO-H4PteGlu (5-formyl-H4PteGlu; Leucovorin). On the other hand, in vitamin B12 deficient bone marrow cells this so-called rescue-effect could only be achieved with CHO-H4PteGlu and not with CH3-H4PteGlu. These observations also support the hypothesis of the methyl-folate-trap in vitamin B12 deficiency. Decreased MS activity in vitamin B12 deficiency seems to be the essential metabolic fault, which is responsible for secondary alterations of folate metabolims. Thus, measurement of MS activity may allow direct functional assessment of vitamin B12 deficiency, at least with regard to DNA metabolism.
The studies discussed in this review support the view that biochemical and clinical symptoms common to both folate and vitamin B12 deficiency are due to the induction of a functional folate deficiency, which in turn is induced by cobalamin deprivation. The interrelationship between these two vitamins is best explained by the methyl trap hypothesis stating that vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to lowered levels of methionine synthetase, which results in a functional folate deficiency by trapping an increased proportion of folate as the 5-methyl derivative. In addition, as 5-methyl-H4PteGlu is a poor substrate for folylpolyglutamate synthetase, there is a decreased synthesis of folylpolyglutamates and consequently a decreased retention of folates by tissues. The real folate deficiency that ensues because of decreased tissue folate levels is probably as important physiologically as the functional deficiency caused by the methyl trap. The sparing effect of methionine can be explained by adenosylmethionine inhibition of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which would prevent the buildup of 5-methyl-H4PteGlun. A deficiency in vitamin B12 would not, in itself, be sufficient to cause a disturbance in folate metabolism. The deficiency would have to result in lowered methyltransferase levels before any such disturbance would be manifest.
As dusk settled on my twenties, darkness spread across the top of my head. Literally. Gray and white strands gave way to luscious onyx. My wife and I were mystified, but we rejoiced.
I’ve had gray hairs speckling my head since eighth grade. I was fighting to find meaning in the midst of family tension, the pressure to get A’s, and depression. My teenage follicles perished in the struggle.
I begrudgingly sported the salt and pepper ‘do through high school and college. But then, like Lazarus and The Arrow, my follicles were resurrected.
We pondered over the exact root of the change (wink). It wasn’t because there was a lack of possibilities, but rather a plethora. The preceeding months happened to have been a sort of wellness expedition. I was experimenting with butter coffee and feasting on fats. I convinced my then girlfriend to do away with wheat products and sweep sugar aside. I delved into meditation. Progression strength training replaced “workouts”.
It was a renaissance, to be sure. I was stronger, brighter, and apparently richer in color than ever. The need to explain the little details became immaterial. For years since, I considered my repigmentation a fortuitous boon from the Universe. It was a small bit of reward for all the good I was doing for myself. I mean, who cared? It was just cool to have fully black hair again.
Like many wonders of the actual Renaissance, though, the world had already seen the magical recoloring of graying heads. Three years after my epic makeover, I ran into an enlightening article. Research had already demonstrated that premature hair graying was one symptom of vitamin B-12 deficiency. It was listed as a bullet point among other maladies like anemia. It made so much sense! I had been regularly taking methylcobalamin (B-12) supplements in the interim.
This was it. I had B-12 on a pedestal as the holy hair supplement.
My belief was stoked by a number of other bullet-pointed articles and blogs that hailed vitamin B-12 as the cure for early hair discoloration. But when I started looking for the research, there was only one hit in Pubmed that made a reference to this phenomenon. I refer to a 1986 experiment on a man with gray hair, in which he was given a Vitamin B-12 injection that restored his natural color. He had been suffering from anemia caused by B-12 deficiency.
Awesome. I scoured Pubmed for more cases like this. Something substantial.
And found none.
The only other relevant study I could find involved teens in southern India. Prematurely graying hair correlated with low levels of vitamin D, serum calcium, and serum ferritin – but not vitamin B-12. This got me flustered. The articles claiming the connection refer to “studies” or “research” or “proof”. Even other Pubmed articles on the matter mention this “evidence”.
I finally came to a conclusion. They’re probably all pointing, whether or not they know it, to that one case in 1986. So it was a single gray head.
But really, I’m okay with that. Make me case number two. Whether or not a sole vitamin got me back in black, what does it matter? Intermittent gifts from the Universe make for a delightful adventure toward the spring of wellness. So onward I trek with you.
The Bulletproof Executive, Dave Asprey, recommends that men eat eight to ten tablespoons, and women six to eight tablespoons, of fat per day. Or, about 50% of calories from fat.
That seems like a lot.
It probably sounds psycho to most people. But not to us, who know how important fat is for cell membrane construction and function, hormone production and balance, and energy and focus.
Between my morning coffee and dinner, I eat about seven to eight tablespoons of butter, plus other fats from meat, coconut oil, etc. to satiety. That looks like around nine tablespoons for me. So, Asprey may have a good number.
But it’s not like I went from a “normal diet” to nine tbsp of fat in a day, or even a week, or even months. Over the course of the first year that I started to drink butter coffee, I gradually went from two tablespoons to four to six. I just went by feel.
How hungry, how tired, how sore was I from the previous day? How did it make me feel to blend in more or less butter in my coffee? Was I going to have a long day, an emotionally difficult or demanding schedule, or a big training session?
Butter coffee has been the start of my nutrition and daily ritual almost every single day for the past four years. Getting good fat, lots of it, changed my life in every critical aspect I can imagine. My mood, my focus, my strength have all fundamentally changed because of it. Eating this way is something that I’ll perpetuate for the rest of my life.
I don’t say this to brag. And I’m not saying you should be eating nine tablespoons of fat tomorrow. I do want you to know it was a journey of trial and error before I got it just right, to my liking and to the best performance enhancement for me. If you get it down in one try, more awesome.
Either way, getting that much good fat through each day is hard enough. Butter coffee is one of those incredible life hacks that can get you there. It’s also a hard one to make a regular part of life. Understandably so.
It’s hard to make it to go. The coffee cools, the butter congeals, and you end up with a lava lamp by the time you get to work.
First, make it quick. Once your water’s hot enough, brew the coffee immediately and promptly blend everything, then pour it into the thermos as soon as the coffee is blended. No delays, screw on the tops, keep the heat.
Second, blend it for a full twenty seconds. That means if the second hand on the clock is at 12, you blend until it’s at 4. This breaks the fats down better and the coffee stays in tact longer.
You don’t have to stick with a specific amount. Two tablespoons for two cups of coffee is a good starting point. After a while, your body adjusts to digesting fat and can probably handle more of it. Try more to get it creamier, if you dare.
Caveat: there is a limit to how much butter a certain amount of coffee will hold. A couple of days ago I plopped eight tablespoons into a liter of coffee. The fat started to stick to the sides of my mug. Not a bad thing, though. I just drank it faster!
Really, you can add more if needed. When you feel drained from the training session the day before, a mighty dose of fat can revamp your energy and aid in the recovery process.
Brew by the clock
Get the coffee acidity just right by playing around with how long you’re allowing your beans to steep, and how hot the water is. I don’t settle for overdone coffee. It upsets my stomach and makes me weak. Find the sweetest setting for the coffee that tastes right and feels awesome. I set the kitchen timer to three minutes for my French Press, so I don’t forget it in the midst of measuring out my powders like a mad scientist.
Increase MCT oil by increments
Now here’s where you want to be more delicate. Make adjustments incrementally. I mean a half or quarter teaspoon at a time. Other than inspiring you to excrete immediately if you have too much, MCT’s in excess can get you in a sort of brain overdrive. When I skipped from one teaspoon to one tablespoon, I got the runs and felt slightly dizzy for a couple hours.
With that being said, it is amazing fuel for your brain and the rest of your body. Sugar is not the only fuel source for your brain! C-8 and C-10 fatty acids (MCT’s) get converted into ketones and work like jet fuel. It’s the same metabolic process as when you are in fasting, when your body starts to use it’s fat reserve as energy.
You can also tinker with the type of MCT. There are C-8 isolated oils out there, which are most easily used by the brain. I’ve been using this form for a couple of years now and it is quite intense, and much more direct than regular MCT (C-8 and C-10 combined). I take just under a tablespoon of C-8 oil and I feel great.
Find your sweet spot!
I love talking with friends about how to make butter coffee better. It’s one of my favorite topics. So if there’s anything you’re wondering about for making butter coffee, just let me know. I’m more than willing to help you figure it out.
To powerful living,
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Compress, rest, move as much as possible without agitating, and let the healing happen on its own instead.
I picked up a lot of good input during my friend’s bachelor trip last weekend. We dudes spent some time in our packed little hotel room doing MWOD’s and various torture techniques to get ourselves more mobile.
An unintended result of this was the surfacing of common problems we all experience. Particularly, I think many guys and gals suffer from pain of old injuries, bad habits of the postmodern life including diet and physical restrictions, and just bad information.
Chronic pain is something we sort of push down into our subconscious, not talking about it or directly trying to get rid of it, once we’ve determined that it’s pointless.
We all know that when you get a sprain, bruise, or other injury, the best treatment is RICE: rest, ice, compress, elevate. Right?
Inflammation of injuries occurs to speed up delivery of healing blood and lymph components to the site – this is one type of inflammation that you actually want to have
Icing swollen tissue can cause tissue death if prolonged
Use ice sparingly for injuries only for pain management
Same goes for pills used to treat pain by minimizing inflammation – corticosteroids, ibuprofen, etc. do more harm that healing.
What to do instead?
Stop the training if you’re injured. Get out of the gym.
Wrap up the injured location with a bandage or long sock or stocking
Or use compression pants or socks (I have not tried this but have heard multiple people say it works, including Kelly Starrett)
Without agitating the injury, keep blood flowing and stay mobile with as much movement as possible.
Collagen (building blocks of tendons and ligaments, which make up your joints)
Vitamin C (allows you to utilize collagen in tissue formation)
Vitamin D3 (moderates inflammation)
Cinnamon for reducing inflammation (if it gets really bad)
I realize not icing may be hard to swallow. It was a horse pill for me, at first. It works, though.
If you want more reason to throw icing out of your toolkit, read this one-pager (http://drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html) from the very man himself, Gabe Mirkin. He is the author of the 1978 book titled Sportsmedicine Book, the classic that dictated icing for injuries. He humbly acknowledges that newer research shows that icing to reduce injury delays healing, and suggests not to ice. Instead, do the things mentioned above.
I totally rediscovered the joy of sprinting, thanks to an old buddy of mine.
My friend had asked me the other day if I could still run at a sprint. We had been talking about mobility the past couple days so it wasn’t as random a question as it might seem.
I said, “Yeah”, but with a little hesitation. It had been a long time since I did a full on sprint, and I don’t jog at all. Jogging doesn’t help with my performance in any way except for when jogging, in my experience. So I don’t do it, even though it does give a great “high”. Sprinting, on the other hand, has always proven to be beneficial.
So I went for a testing session two days ago to see if I really could still run at a sprint. I went out with my Earthrunner sandals and gave a couple tries on the sidewalk and street. Sure enough, it felt awkward and I got some stabbing knee pain. I knew I wasn’t doing something right.
I went on a stretch of grass and took my sandals off. I took a few easy strides back and forth, feeling out my alignment between my feet, ankles, knees, hips, head, and shoulders.
Eventually I got the sweet spots and graduated to several very good sprints back and forth. No joint pain at all, just fast, quiet, agile running.
Key Elements of Effective Sprint Running
The core of the running motion is that it is a continuous series of twisting. We propel ourselves forward by cranking up the torque in our abdomen and torso, swinging our elbows in opposition to our legs.
Arms are rotating torso counterclockwise, legs are rotating hips clockwise. These opposing forces create torque in the abdomen.
Torque in abdomen is released through the left leg into the ground and propels a brilliant beast forward. Rotation begins in the opposite direction for both torso and hips.
Arms and shoulders rotate torso clockwise, and legs rotate the hips counterclockwise. Torque is again created in the abdomen, this time in reverse.
Full twist acting on the abs. The right foot is about to touch ground and translate force into the ground again, continuing forward locomotion of a brilliant beast.
It’s an ingenious product of evolution that we two-footed creatures have mastered. Here is the breakdown:
Absorb and release twisting power from your abs. Run with your abs, not your legs. Running is powered by the twisting mechanism of your shoulders and arms in opposition to your legs and hips. The center of that twisting torsion is your abs. Your midsection builds up torque from that twist, then releases it into the ground when your foot touches down. The mechanism then repeats in the opposite direction.
Pillar Torso. If you follow my powerlifting newsletter, yes, this is the same concept as with squatting and deadlifting. A solid, quiet torso locked down by tight abs. I found this to increase the amount of torque in my abs. The more torque, the more power you can put out with each stride.
Flex the lats
Keep your shoulder blades down and back
Pull back your pectorals taut, and keep your ribcage down.
Fists. Keep hands gripped tight into fists. This generates radiating power up to the shoulders and into the tension of your abs. Principle of kettle bell godfather Pavel Tsastouline applied to the sprint!
Minimal movement of the elbows. No wild swinging. Just enough backward pumping to generate torque through the shoulders into the torso down to the hips.
Knees forward. Pull your knees forward so that you are touching the ground with your feet directly under your center of mass on every step.
Springy feet. Your forefoot should touch the ground first, not your heels. If your heels touch down afterwards, usually during slower pace running, then so be it, but the initial ground contact should be with your forefoot (the balls of your feet).
Head in line. Notice when your head bends down too far to look at the ground, or tilts up when you are tired. Keep it in line with your spine, straight so that you can see ahead and slightly down when you need to track the path in front.
Landing foot places directly beneath your center of mass. This is the tricky one. In the third frame below, you can see my foot actually lands just in front of my center. This is something I’m going to try to improve.
Depending on how f’d your running form is, start super slow. Barefoot in good flat grass is ideal. You will be amazed at how quickly your body picks it up from there. And if anything hurts, stop, study, adjust, and retest. Don’t keep hurting yourself.
You may need to do some mobility work to straighten your torso out, get your shoulders functioning, and hips and knees loose. I recommend using techniques laid out by Kelly Starrett in his book Becoming a Supple Leopard. Test out very slow running first and then put some work in where needed.
Do you run? How? When? How often? What does it do for you? Let me know, because I’m trying to build this into my life now that I’ve rediscovered it.
Here are a couple of thoughts on a more effective deadlift.
A common point of energy waste in the deadlift is the initial lift of the weight from the ground. That exact moment the weight comes off the ground should be the first upward movement of your body as well.
You would think this is intuitive. But if you watch deadlift videos on Instagram and Youtube, you’ll notice that a lot of people start their lift with their butts. Before the weight lifts off the ground, their hips have already moved up a few inches. You might notice this about yourself, too.
This is inefficient channeling of energy through the legs, and takes away from upward movement of the weight.
You can develop a better deadlift by minimizing this power leakage from the start. The aim is absolute tension and rigidity before the “pull” (what we call the lifting portion of the deadlift). By doing this, you will be able to maintain good form throughout the lift, keeping your back neutral, knees out, and head aligned. This will minimize and even prevent your upper back from curving forward into a slouch.
To create the most effective output, focus on the setup. Once you grab the bar:
Straighten your arms
Push your feet into the ground
Pull up against the bar just short of lifting it to anchor yourself into the ground.
Pull back on your shoulder blades, like the wings of a jet folding in after take-off.
If someone came by from any direction and pushed you, you would not be budged. No looseness in any part of your body, upward, downward, or sideways. Everything should be rock solid and ready for take off.
Your back should have a straight arrow pointing through it from top of the head through the end of your butt.
As you take hold of the bar, focus on one spot on the ground in front of you and do not look away. This helps with keeping the head in a neutral alignment with the rest of your spine.
And here goes. I like Mehdi Hadim‘s two-part cue the best:
Push the ground away from you
When bar passes knees, slam your hips forward into the bar
You now stand upright with bar held at arms length.
Pull in a belly breath and lock it into your lungs for abdominal pressure.
Let down the weight in the exact reverse way. Start with hips moving back, keeping tension in butt, hamstrings, knees and feet.
When the bar reaches your knees, allow them to start parting and bending, maintaining full tension.
Do not drop the weight. It’s sloppy and rude, and it will mess up your back and everyone’s eardrums. Think Batman. Be quiet, be swift, and be gone.
I’ll send one on grip next. Try these with minimal weight first. As in, just the bar. Or a broomstick.
Many have delved into the world of body building, and have experienced shortcomings from pain, exhaustion, and mental fatigue.
To the select few who realize this is not acceptable, I welcome you to join me in being strong, clear minded, and living a life of quality.
My story began with a change in the way I looked at training and exercise. I played football and rugby through high school and college, and was ripped, athletic, and fast most of my life. I had done the workouts for team sports, the men’s magazine lifting programs, and was a dedicated gym rat with a three day a week work out schedule. I looked good and was happy with that for a while, but later this didn’t satisfy me. I was tired of feeling sore, feeling aches from previous sports injuries, and not really knowing if I was any stronger than a week or month prior. I also had a hard time keeping on muscle. If I didn’t go to the gym every other day, I would see pounds of weight drop and strength decline. I tried changing sets and reps and exercise programs to keep my body guessing, as this was supposed to encourage growth. This was a lot to maintain and I had a hard time doing so.
I started looking for a training program that focused on real strength. This led me to powerlifting and a progression philosophy. I adopted a 5×5 training method from Stronglifts.com that focused on incremental strength gains, not drastic program switches. The five powerlifting exercises remained exactly the same, and only the weight increased with each and every training session. I started from the very beginning, lifting only the bar on some exercises.
I not only felt better from the decreased stress on my body, but I also saw a steady increase in my strength. Lifting lighter weights gave me the luxury of refining my form in the squat, deadlift, and other exercises. I achieved a 370 lb. squat and 391 lb. dead lift after one year of training this way, at 168 lb. body weight. However, the training wasn’t the only factor to my increased potential. Food was the other part of it. In fact, without the changes in my diet that I had serendipitously come upon shortly after starting this training, I would not have progressed to this level so quickly if at all.
Three months into my training, I met a buddy at the gym who just so happened to have started the same training philosophy as I had, at almost the same time. We talked about our common satisfaction with the progression training, and about putting ego aside to learn proper form at lower weights. At the end of that training session, he mentioned, almost in passing, something called BULLETPROOF® Coffee. It was coffee with grass fed butter and MCT oil blended together. This sounded strange to me, and I was instantly fascinated by the way he described the high level of focus he got from it. I went home and tried it, and never turned back.
With the first few cups of the butter coffee that I tried, I was amazed by the mental clarity and brain energy that it gave me. Plus it was delicious. It changed the game for me at my job, as an overnight shift lead at a call center. I was sharper and more resilient to fatigue than my coworkers by multiple factors. I had always been an avid coffee drinker and used coffee as a key technology for enhancing my training sessions and overall performance as a human. Naturally, I wanted to know what it would be like to do strength training after drinking some of this power fluid.
I started to drink the concoction before strength training sessions, and again I never turned back. The energy it gave me was different from that of traditional nutrition like carbs. Unlike carbs, the good fats provided me with a sustained high level of energy and mental focus. It lasted through the entire training session without any sort of energy crash. I was so focused that I could control myself better, like not drinking water between sets, breathing calmly under the bar, and paying absolute attention to form during my heaviest lifts. I was regularly in a flow state, and I tapped into the predator mode of mind and body that was only attainable with such nutrition as quality fat.
This was my intro to the world of eating good fat. I slowly added grass fed butter and MCT oil into everything I ate. This pushed carbs to the back end of my days, as I did not need it for energy in the morning. Eating more fat and learning the potential negative effects of gluten significantly reduced the amount of bread and pasta that I ate. I started to experience better and more stable mood, and more consistent body fat levels. My joint pain from previous injuries faded. I no longer had to pace my kitchen ten minutes after waking to shake off the debilitating lower back pain.
Being satiated with true nutrition freed me from cravings, mood swings, and exhaustion. Before I discovered good fats and progression training, I would work, work out, crash into exhausted sleep, and awake demon-possessed with rage, pain, and frustration. These states of misery used to be normal life for me. The people I loved hated waking me up. I believe what is stated by the research that connects wheat to inflammation, and thus joint pain and brain impairment. When I started to avoid wheat, I noticed these incredible improvements in my body and my mind. This transformed the way I looked at eating and I started to learn what foods I really did and didn’t need. I tested my diet changes against my strength training, and was surprised that even without tons of bread, expensive and gas-producing protein shakes, and pounds of chicken breast every week, I was getting stronger and clearer than ever.
With changes like these I felt the best and strongest I have ever felt in my life, and I plan on being even more so. You want just as much as I do to be clear minded and strong. You want to be the best person you can be, making the sharpest decisions and acting in accordance with your values. Intelligent and resilient people like you and me can daily engage our potential to become the brilliant beasts that we are. I welcome you to join me on this path to discovering what it means to be more fully human. I am not perfect, but I am better.
Have I told you about butter coffee? Creamy, smooth, and delicious, it gives me immense energy and focus. I first started having this concoction with breakfast, and found that it helped me in strength training. Eventually, I just had more butter with it and didn’t eat breakfast at all. I now go the entire day without any other meal, until dinner.
When I drink this concoction, I get mental clarity, sustained focus, and a predator state of mind and body that is unparalleled by energy from any other food. If I haven’t made it for you already, I’ll show you how so you can experience it for yourself.
At first, your body will need to learn to effectively absorb nutrition from fat. This takes several days to weeks for some people, especially if you are not in the habit of eating a lot of fat. Most self-described healthy eaters do not eat much fat. Keep your regular meals at first and just have this coffee with breakfast or an hour before training. You want to feel it out and do what works best for you.
Basic Butter Coffee Recipe
30-35 grams of coffee beans for two cups of single source coffee
Two tablespoons grass fed butter
One teaspoon high quality MCT oil
Boil water (or start brewing if using the basic coffee machine)
Throw the butter and MCT oil into a large blender
Brew the coffee and add it to the blender
Hold down the top of the blender lid with a dish towel and blend on high for 20 seconds
Of course to make it even better, here are things to consider:
Get The Best Ingredients
The quality of your ingredients lends to the flavor, level of energy, and creativity you will get from your cup.
Single Source Coffee for Clarity
Single source coffee beans are grown, harvested, and processed on one estate or farm. All other beans, sometimes called blends, are mixtures of beans from two or more estates. Single source beans come without the added time of storage and transportation. Coffee is vulnerable to mycotoxins, which can cause headaches and jitters. Mycotoxins are inevitable, but through good practice and minimal exposure to the environment they can be suppressed. The less time from harvest to your cup the better. I didn’t know how much of a difference this would make until I gave single source coffee a try. I noticed significantly better results. Even when I was tired, I had calm mental clarity from it, not just a jittery buzz. No crash in energy, and no headache. Now I always look for coffee that lets me be even-keeled and fierce. There are two types I drink primarily, but you can find others if you look for them.
I found a great tasting single origin coffee in a local store. I really enjoyed the flavor of this light roast. It was from Alto Mayo Estate, a single coffee farm in a mountain region of Peru. The coffee smelled amazing, roasty and smooth. I had great results from this coffee every day, feeling clear minded, focused, and strong when I drank it. If you have a quality grocery store nearby, find a single source coffee with the roast intensity that you enjoy most.
The key to finding good coffee anywhere is to verify that it says “single origin”,”single source”, or”single estate”. I don’t pay attention to the phrases Fair Trade, Shade Grown, and Certified Organic. While they do hold social value, they also warrant a higher price tag. Whatever you choose to buy, drink it and test it yourself for absolutely positive symptoms. Do not assume it’s good based on the label or the price. The whole point is to find something that allows you to accomplish greatness.
With that being said, some blends may be okay if they are from the same roaster. If you know the beans are roasted at the same facility and are blended there, they may be as good as single source. But again, try the coffee and make sure it brings you mental clarity and sustained focus.
Grass Fed Butter: Nourish Your Soul, Body, and Mind
Grass fed cow butter is the key to creating the smooth frothiness of your concoction. It’s important that the butter is from grass fed cows. Cows that are 100% or almost completely fed on grass are healthier and happier beasts. Butter from such beasts makes me a happier beast. The ultra nutritious elements like healthy saturated fat, CLA, omega-3 fat, butyric acid, vitamin K2, vitamin E, and beta carotene are elevated in cows that eat grass only. There are two types I tried, and both are excellent.
The most reliable brand that I get from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods is Kerrygold Unsalted Butter. It’s an awesome Irish butter that comes in one-cup bars. If you don’t have a store nearby, you can get in online. It’s a little more than the store price, but it is worth it if you can’t get it anywhere else. I get a box of 20 at a time and stock them in my freezer.
My other go-to butter is harder to find on the west coast of the U.S., but it can be found in some other countries more easily. I love Anchor Unsalted Butter from New Zealand grass fed cows.
On a recent trip to Asia I was stoked to find Anchor butter from a Jakarta store. I had never used it before, but it was surprisingly good in my coffee. The subtle flavor and smooth texture pair well with the cacao and vanilla I use.
The Best Quality MCT Oil
MCT turns the light switch on in my head. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fatty acid chains of 8 and 10 carbons in length. C-8 and C-10 fats absorb through the gut into the bloodstream to the brain fast, where they can be utilized as energy in the form of ketones.
Ketones have been found in research to be more efficient brain fuel than glucose, and I feel the difference. When my brain has this fuel source, I have more clarity, better mental function, longer sustained focus, and no crash. It also brings my body into a fat-burning mode. This has been shown to help regulate body weight, and it’s certainly proven true for me. MCT oil is usually derived from coconut and palm kernel oil, and there can be a very slight coconut scent to it.
There are several different brands out there, and the quality of the MCT oil is determined by purification and processing. Purification affects the concentration of C-8 and C-10 versus other types of fat that are not MCT. Processing includes how the coconuts are stored and pressed, and where they are from.
NOTE: This fuel is intense! I recommend using the regular MCT oil first. It will help to make a smoother transition to this different energy source.
Bulletproof XCT Oil I used to have this regularly in my coffee before I tried Brain Octane oil. It has both C-8 and C-10 fatty acids. This is a good starting point if you haven’t tried MCT oil. It isn’t as intense as Brain Octane, and I think it would be the best choice for learning the effects of MCT oil on yourself before venturing into the more intense version. Flavor is slightly more coconuty than the following Viva Labs oil that I also have used. This is a very clean product that I can rely on for top performance.
I have used high quality coconut oil before in my coffee, when I ran out of MCT oil. Coconut oil will add a lot of flavor, but in my opinion it’s overbearing. Also, it is not a sufficient substitute for MCT oil. There is only a very small percentage of C-8 and C-10 fats in coconut oil, contrary to common belief. The majority of advertised “MCT” oil here is C-12, which actually does not act like the shorter chains in energy utilization.
With that being said, if this is your only source of MCT, it will still provide you with some benefits of fat-based brain energy. And I’ve talked to some friends who really love it. Plus it’s delicious for cooking chicken curry dishes. Maybe I’ll post on that later. If you’re getting all of your MCT from coconut oil, use four tbsp or more. As a flavor or C-12 supplement, use one or two tbsp.
Flavor and Creativity
These next few ingredients are what make my butter coffee taste so good, compared to ones you find here and there in shops and cafes. I add these elements every time I make my concoctions, and have had the most amazing conversations with friends, breakthroughs in strength training, and mental performance after having it.
This is my favorite hack for butter coffee. Vanilla bean has amazing flavor and also has flavonoids that enhance creativity. I add this without fail to my coffee concoction every morning.
Check out the BULLETPROOF® Upgraded Vanilla I use, which is an heirloom Madagascar vanilla bean. It has an unforgettable cherry wood fragrance and takes my mornings to the next level. I use about 1/16 of a teaspoon. Keep it sealed in the freezer for maximum flavor retention.
Second only to vanilla bean, cacao butter is another flavor and nutrient must-have for me. It’s the pure fat of cacao beans and this is what they use to make white chocolate. Cacao butter gives a rich, gourmet scent and flavor to the coffee. It has the concentrated elements of chocolate that enhance your creativity and brain power.
I add chocolate powder to my butter coffee to make it rich and dark. Good chocolate, like good coffee, has flavonoids and antioxidants that enhance brain and performance. Gauge the flavor, it can be rich and quite bitter. Start with about a teaspoon or less.
My coffee has no sweetener, but my wife likes hers a bit sweet. This stuff of nature is the perfect solution if you want to be in ketosis yet want that rich sweetness in your coffee. This will not trigger your insulin response, unlike sugar. And it tastes naturally sweet, unlike stevia.
Xyla North American Hardwood Xylitol. The best type, pictured here, is made from North American birch trees. The cheaper brands are made from Chinese GMO corn. I recommend using one to two teaspoons per cup to start. It has about the same sweetness as regular cane sugar.
Building Blocks and Fuel
These ingredients can be added as needed for the different types of activities you do on any given day. Add these one at a time and observe whether you benefit from them.
Grass Fed Collagen
Collagen is one of the building block of your tendons, skin, and hair. It is needed for repair of tissue after training, and makes your skin more vibrant when you provide yourself with enough. Unlike whey protein, which caused gas and bloating, collagen has been problem-free for my digestion. For these reasons it is great for strength training, tissue repair, and skin and hair boost.
BULLETPROOF® Upgraded Collagen Protein Super fine-grade and from grass fed cows. It’s processed with enzymes rather than heat, which prevents damage of the proteins. I generally only add collagen on the day of, and up to three days after, a training session.
Bulksupplements Pure Hydrolyzed Collagen (Bovine) Powder (1 Kilogram) This is the product I am currently using. There’s no bad flavor and the granularity is nearly the same as BULLETPROOF®, although not as fine. However! This brand is not from grass fed cows. The reason grass fed cow food is important is the fat. Since collagen isn’t fat, I’m taking a temporary risk because it’s cheaper. I’m currently rebuilding joint and muscle tissue, and haven’t noticed any signs of bad nutrition. So far so good. But I do believe that grass fed cows are fundamentally different from grain fed feedlot cows, so eventually I aim to only eat food from grass fed beeves.
Collagen does make me hungry after about four hours, which causes a slight decrease in focus. This is because protein triggers an insulin response. With protein, you will get similar, but not as drastic, effects as when you eat carbs. After strength training, this isn’t a problem, since I will eat anyways. But on normal days without training, I forgo the protein in the morning.
My wife, on the other hand, has it every morning in her butter coffee. She simply feels better and more energetic with some protein. Use at least one tablespoon.
I add a baseline dose of creatine every morning with my coffee. Without causing huge swelling of muscles, this simple nutrient has allowed me to maintain strength and muscle mass for longer periods of time between training sessions. It is one of the key supplements I use to increase longevity of strength. Creatine also boost brain function.
Now Foods creatine monohydrate This brand has been my go to for years. No side effects, suggesting it is clean and pure. Use 1 teaspoon or 5 grams daily.
METHODS TO MAKE MAGIC
I’m laying this recipe out for first time dabblers in butter coffee. The way you make your coffee will affect how it feels, tastes, and energizes. Even for more veteran practitioners, small hacks can give you a better concoction. To have delicious butter coffee it must be three things: Hot, well-brewed, and well-blended. How you set up the ingredients and the order in which you prepare it can be the difference between a floating oil slick and a creamy concoction of joy.
Prepare Water First
Start a kettle on the stove before anything else, as you will need time to prepare the other ingredients and want the water hot when you’re ready to brew. If you’re using a normal coffee maker, get it all set up with beans and start brewing. Use spring or well water for the best flavor. Water has as much flavor and texture as any other ingredient that goes into coffee. Make your coffee with tap water and you’ll taste the tap.
For the Pour Over technique, prepare about a quarter cup more water than the amount of coffee you plan to make.
As the water heats, get all your ingredients into the blender. You will need one that holds at least four cups or one liter, because the liquid will expand like crazy when you blend it. I use the KitchenAid blender, which is not the highest-end thing out there, but works just fine for this purpose:
Note: The stronger the blender, the finer the foam. You can get an incredibly smooth concoction with the VitaMix Blender.
Brew the Coffee Into the Blender
You can brew your coffee however you choose. If all you have is the classic coffee maker, just use that for now. My all time favorite method of coffee brewing is the Pour Over technique. Coffee tastes the best when I make it this way, but a close second is the French press, and honestly after that it’s just the normal coffee maker.
The Pour Over Technique
The pour over technique requires a kettle with a thin pouring spout, as well as a filter cup and filters. Here is how I brew pour over.
Boil water in the dripper kettle and turn off heat.
Grind coffee beans to slightly finer than medium granularity. Any finer and it will take forever to brew and you will get too much acid. This is how fine you want your grounds for pour over brewing:You can use an electric grinder like the one I have above or a hand grinder if you want to have more evenly ground beans. This takes a lot more time and effort though.
Fold the crimped edge of a paper filter, open up the filter, and place into the ceramic cup.
Wet the filter paper by pouring just enough hot water along the edges of the cup. This gets rid of the flavor of the paper.
Dump the ground coffee into the filter paper.
Starting from the center of the cup, slowly pour water in an outward spiral until you cover all the beans with water. The grounds will start to breathe and expand. Let the gas escape and as the grounds deflate, continue to pour in the same spiral manner until you have poured all the water. The pouring should take about 3-4 minutes total.
Brew directly into the blender to save time and keep your coffee hot. Here’s an honest picture of my set up, dirty dishes and all. I want to give you an idea of how you can brew directly into the blender. Note that with my blender in the dish rack, it allows me to brew at a more comfortable level than if the blender were up on the counter top:
Once the coffee is brewed and in your blender with the other ingredients, place the lid on securely and cover the top with a dish towel. Hold down the towel over the lid tight while you blend it on the highest setting for 20 seconds. Depending on the quality of your blender, the coffee may punish you if you don’t hold it down.
Marvel at the creaminess.
Keep the rest in a thermos and drink it through the morning.
These are my two favorite containers for coffee.
The Thermos is larger and holds a full two cups of coffee, fairly hot through the day.
The Zojirushi is smaller but keeps coffee radioactive hot the entire day.
Up the dosage on the butter and MCT oil slightly after a week or two, if you can glean the benefits without having the runs. You can always lower amounts the next time if you don’t feel as good of an effect.
Don’t change the MCT dosage drastically. Try increasing by a teaspoon each week, making sure to observe the quality of focus. You don’t want to end up dizzy or give yourself digestive issues by taking too much in the beginning.
If you’re hungrier, add more butter. Try increments of one tablespoon. Use the minimum effective dose.
That is it. Try it in the morning, about an hour before a training session, or before any task that will take a lot of brain or body power. You’ll be restless the first few times if you don’t have a world or two to save.
I had butter coffee as fuel for a 370 lb. squat and 391 lb. deadlift at my first powerlifting meet, a 5k in under 23 minutes with no training, and the LA Downtown Ketchum Stair Climb, which was a stair climb to the top of a 76-story skyscraper, in 19 minutes. These are not Olympic numbers, but I did all this without needing tons of protein or carbs immediately before or after. I hope you find that reasonable amounts of healthy fat as a source of energy puts you on a different level from just pounding protein and carbs.
Let me know in the comments if you try this and how it goes for you! If I’ve made this concoction for you before, let others know how it tasted what it felt like to drink it. I think a lot of people are curious about what butter in coffee would be like, and they will be surprised by how good it can be if done right.
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