Category Archives: Fitness

Lindsey’s October Training Log

I’m 6 weeks away from the meet/marathon weekend, so training is getting more intense in the weight room and longer on the road. I won’t lie, while I am enjoying the hell out of training this way, I am tired and hungry pretty much all the time. As I type this, I’m fighting off sleep and downing a coffee cake and an oat milk fall spice latte (can’t help myself) for both the caffeine and the calories.

 

I’m extra fatigued today because a bit ago I finished a long workout that consisted of moderately heavy squat and bench singles, followed by a deadlift at 85% and my deadlift assistance. In essence, I’m mimicking a full meet on the day before my long run, as practice for the real thing. This is week three of this change, and so far it’s been valuable. I get some specialized practice in (using lift-specific bars, practicing commands, etc) and go into my run with a realistic amount of fatigue from lifting the day before.

 

This week:

 

FRIDAYWeightSetsReps
Squat23551
Competition Bench14551
Competition Deadlift30512
 24533
Romanian Deadlift18538
Single Leg RDL35310 per
Slow Eccentric Step Down38 per
Ab Wheel310
FB Side Bend35310 per
 

SATURDAY

   
Back Down Run12 miles  

 

Running mileage builds up and backs down week to week. This is a back down week, where I focused on short and fast workouts on the weekdays and will just do an easy 12 on Saturday.

 

Next week, mile repeats on Tuesday around a 7:30 pace, a long tempo run at (or just faster than) race pace, then an 18 miler Saturday. Peaking will continue in my lifts. Just need to keep eating and do everything I can to get more sleep.

Frequently Asked PT Questions with Jared Caroff, DPT

As a physical therapist, I get asked a lot of questions about pain and what to do about it (both in and out of my office) and I love being able to use my background and knowledge base to help guide people in the right direction.  I figured that this would be a good way to go over some of the most common questions I’m asked and hopefully help guide you if these are questions or issues you have dealt with.  To preface all of this, I want to say that if you are dealing with an injury it might be a good idea to be assessed by a medical professional in person first.  Nothing beats a hands-on assessment with someone’s undivided attention to see what the underlying issue may be.  With that being said, let’s dive into some of the common questions I’m asked!


“How can I get rid of my low back pain?”

Low back pain can be very complex based on your injury history, how long you’ve had it, what the symptoms are, etc.  Again, I recommend that you get assessed by a physical therapist or a physician.  That being said, here are some of my recommendations to start helping you help yourself.  First, you need to get enough sleep and make sure you’re hydrated.  Pain levels can increase with a lack of both of those two things.  Do those two things first, then you can keep reading…  You need to keep moving!  Although you’re having pain, find ways to exercise or just move that are relatively pain-free or that don’t provoke the symptoms as much.  For example, if a barbell back squat causes low back pain, try doing a high box squat, goblet squat or safety bar squat.  Change it up, but don’t give up squatting (or whatever the movement was) altogether if you can work around it.  If you stop moving altogether to “rest”, there is a lower chance your pain is going to go away. This might sound simple but find out if there are any positions that feel good and positions that don’t (like sitting or standing, bending forward or backward, etc.).  Try to avoid staying in positions that aggravate your pain and go into positions that don’t hurt.  For example, if bending forward and sitting increases your pain, try changing positions in your chair at work every 10-20 minutes, get up and walk, and use a lumbar roll against your back while you sit.  You could also try laying on your stomach or propped on elbows when you get home to extend your spine and stay away from the nagging position.  In summary: sleep plenty, stay hydrated, don’t stop moving and/or exercising, work around your pain (not into it), and try to stay away from positions that make it mad and go into positions that don’t.  Be patient, and over time you should start to notice improvements.


“What can I do to make my knee pain go away?”

Again, not to beat a dead horse, go get assessed… Now, some of the things I notice in people with knee pain are weak and/or immobile hips and ankles and a weak core.  The knee primarily acts as a hinge joint and is meant to be stable.  Because of this, if there are mobility restrictions or weaknesses in the joints above and below, excess forces can be placed through the knees and begin to cause irritation.  If you’re unsure what is weak or immobile, try performing some of these: half-kneeling soleus stretch, hip 90/90 stretch, banded hip abductor walks, sidelying clamshells, Copenhagen adductor exercise.  See what seems to be difficult and keep working at it. If the knee pain is more of a tendinitis issue, I do recommend using isometric (static holds) and/or eccentric (the “down” part of a movement) exercises for the quadriceps and hamstrings.  This can be with a squat or deadlift, RDL, quad extension, hamstring curl, etc.  Just don’t let the exercise increase your pain levels more than 2-3/10 from where they started.  Again, these are only some of the recommendations.  In summary: get your ankles and hips both strong and mobile and don’t be afraid to load the knee but do it safely and without increasing your pain too much.  There are a million reasons you can have knee pain, however, just working through some of these movements may help.

 

 

I hope that this little “FAQ” was beneficial.  If you ever have any questions feel free to find me around the gym (either working front desk in the early morning or attempting to pick up objects and place them back where I found them) or just shoot me an email (jaredcaroff@gmail.com).  Stay strong friends!

Mariah’s First Meet – A Recap for New Competitors

If you’re someone who has casually lifted for a couple of years and might want to try a powerlifting meet – take a gander. First off, find a coach you trust and have full transparency in goals and expectations. They will be your guide to success and right-hand man/woman through your journey. I wouldn’t have done it without Ryan McCumber as mine, and the support of everyone at UF. I had decided last min (11 weeks out to be exact) to sign up for the Iron City Open, which would be my first ever meet!

 

Going through, I thought I could handle it: I’ve squatted, benched, and deadlifted before, what could be so different from what I usually do? But in reality, the training was more intense than I’d thought it would be. I had to prioritize even more on eating, more recovery, and still keep up with my full-time job (which at that time it had become overwhelming). Before, if you missed a scheduled gym day it was not a huge deal, but when competing, every session is necessary. I understand the pressure of juggling your life with training. But let me tell you, it’s POSSIBLE!

 

  1. Meal prep ahead of time or weekends whenever you’re free: it will save time and keep your energy high! And check out our food blogs for yummy suggestions or our new partnership with Fit Fresh Kitchen Co.! I love Jodie’s meals.
  2. Make sure if you have questions on your program or how to recover stay connected with your coach. I’m still learning and I’m sure everyone else is too. Nothing is too insignificant to ask.
  3. Watch videos to educate yourself as well. I love watching meets and researching other techniques or even vlogs to hear others speak about their struggles or successes training for a meet.
  4. Don’t be so hard on yourself – it’s your first meet! I told myself not to put so much pressure on myself and that I would have fun with this one. Guess what? You’re human, you’re going to have bad days and good ones.

 

One of the things I would have done differently is given myself more weeks to train With just 11 weeks, it felt rushed and overwhelming. Additionally, at that time I was training outside of UF, so I didn’t have a lot of face to face time with my coach. That would have been extra helpful for the days I wanted to check my form or needed help with a certain exercise. That’s why recording yourself and taking videos are so so important! So, if you are in my situation in a gym apart from your coach (or are out of your normal gym for travel or any other reason) you can refer back to video and review with him/her.

 

So, the day finally comes! I was nervous but excited and a little confused about what to do. I sat in the training area with all the lifters and friends. My coach was there for any questions and to guide me throughout the day. I went in with a mindset of potential PRs but wanted to make sure that didn’t affect the fun aspect of the day. We all are aiming for goals, but I think the best thing about the day was that everyone is there to support everyone, even if you don’t know them. I’ve never been in such a great community. I would recommend to any new lifters or first-time competitors, just do it! We are all here for you!

 

Stay focused and Stay hungry my friends!

 

Recap:

Squat: 148.8lbs

Bench: 93.7lbs

Deadlift:203.9

Getting the Most Out of Your Training Program: Part II

by Lindsey Pogson

Part 2: Trust the Process

 

Welcome to part two in this series on getting as much out of your custom training program as you possibly can. If you didn’t read part one (on providing detailed feedback), head on over that way now. Done? Great.

 

Now that you and your coach are on the same page as far as how the weights are feeling and what work you’re actually doing, you’re ready for the next step. You need to decide to put your trust in that coach and actually follow along with the program as written.

 

When you started with your coach – whether it’s one of us at UF, another in-person coach, or an online coach – you almost certainly had a chat about what you wanted to achieve with the program. Those goals are the backbone of your program’s design. If you came into your goal-setting meeting with the objective of losing 10lbs over the next two months, your program will reflect that. If you went in with the goal of doing your first powerlifting meet, your program will be designed to prepare you to compete in that sport. If you wanted to run a sub-20 minute 5k, your program will be put together with the intent to get you there.

 

Seems obvious right? Your coach puts together a program to help you reach your specific goal. So with that in mind, it’s in your best interest to FOLLOW THE PROGRAM.

 

At the beginning of every program, this is easy. You’re excited, you’re learning some new things, you’re fresh, it feels good. A few weeks in, things start getting a little harder. Suddenly you’re doing a lot of single-leg accessory movements and you’re bad at them so you hate them with a passion. Your coach is programming 3 minutes of rest between sprints and you don’t feel like you really NEED it and think you’d be better off resting less. You asked for a 7 day per week 2-a-day program because you want to do MORE but your coach put you on 4 days per week and you think you’ll just throw in some extra classes here and there because you sleep plenty and recover just fine. Your coach programmed a heavy single at 205 but 225 isn’t THAT far off so that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

 

I get it. I’ve been there too. That attitude sucks and is not helping you actually reach your goals.


There are a few hard truths we all have to swallow when striving towards big things. The first and hardest is that we don’t know everything.

On some level we understand that, since we decided to go to a professional for help in the first place! But when things come up that we don’t like, we can sometimes start to question that professional.

 

“No one knows me like I know myself, and I KNOW that I can handle more work than this.”

 

And you may very well be right! But fortunately/unfortunately, reaching a goal isn’t an exercise in running yourself into the ground. There’s some strategy involved. And often that strategy involves doing things you don’t want to do – be that training more, training less, training movements you hate and are bad at, doing more cardio, doing NO cardio, etc.

 

You went to a pro, so trust that pro. But know that you can ALWAYS ask questions. And you should! If your coach can’t give you a thoughtful reason for what they programmed, they’re not doing their job.


Hard truth number two: to reach one goal, you need to put all the others on the backburner.

If you go into your goal-setting meeting and tell your coach that your primary objective is to lose 30lbs by the end of the year, expect your program to actually reflect that over everything else. That means strength gains are NOT the priority, and will NOT be the focus of that program. Your coach will likely want to maintain your strength but isn’t going to push you to test for new maxes.

 

Conversely, if you go in saying you want to hit a 1000lb total by the end of the year, you’d best expect to see verrrrrry little cardio on your programming sheet.

 

Changes like these can be uncomfortable. It sucks to not be able to “do it all.” But it’s really more accurate to say that you just can’t do it all RIGHT NOW. Take 4 months to prioritize weight loss, then take a break from your deficit and the hard supersets and spend 2 months really working on strength while eating to maintain. If you can do that instead of trying to half-ass everything, you’ll be ahead of the game.


Hard truth number three: you’ll be tempted to go off track. You get to choose what’s more important – instant gratification or actually achieving your long term goals.

I can guarantee one day you’ll be in the gym doing what you’re supposed to do and someone will suggest you throw it all by the wayside and max out that day. Sometimes that will be a training partner or someone else in class, but often it’s that little voice in the back of our head asking “Is this actually working? Am I actually stronger/faster, or am I just spinning my wheels?”

 

At that moment, you have a choice. You can go for instant gratification – test a new bench rep max, or finish your long slow run as fast as you possibly can. You’ll feel good in that moment, with proof that you CAN do that thing. But consider now that you just did something extremely taxing, that requires recovery. You did it at a point in your training cycle that didn’t ACTUALLY make much sense and may make the other things you need to do that day/week/month a little bit harder. You might have a competition coming up, an event where you really needed to be peaked and ready, but that max attempt threw your schedule off a little.

 

Were you really doing that for yourself and your goals? Or did your ego need a boost? That’s your call.

 

Ultimately, it’s your program. They’re your goals to achieve. Your coach is there to put together a guide to help you get there, using all of their knowledge and training. You can choose to trust that guide or continue doing what you’ve always done. Know that it’s a choice, and the choice is yours.

Curtis’ September Training Log

Getting to this point in my training has been an interesting, journey. I am currently 6 weeks out from my first full powerlifting meet since the first annual Iron City Open in June of 2018. Since then, I have battled with a few injuries that have been just enough of a burden to keep me from being able to train consistently. For a quick recap: this past January I strained my glute at the beginning of a meet prep. In March, 3 weeks out from that same meet, I partially tore my hamstring and was unable to fully compete. After going through 8 weeks of recovery afterward, I got back into training consistently with the goal of getting back on the platform this November. Then, 2 months ago, I strained my IT band while squatting immediately after a long car ride back home to Maryland. I was frustrated, confused, and didn’t really know what direction to take. After getting some help and guidance from a few close friends, including my mentor Casey Williams, I have been able to fix and correct many of the underlying issues that were the cause of these injuries. I am currently feeling and moving better than I have in a very long time. This past week was a good week for me, both physically and mentally. It was my first week getting back into the competition lifts, and adding some decent weight to the bar. Here’s a breakdown of this past week of training.

 

Saturday: 

Competition squats: Worked up to 625×2.

Paused belt squat: 6 plates per side: 3×8

45 degree back extensions: 3×12 with red band

Alternating fatbell reverse lunges: 3×10 each leg with 30s

Weighted planks: 3×30 seconds with 45lbs. 

 

Monday:

Fat bar bench press: 3×3 @ 335lbs + 80lb chain

Flat bench dumbbell press: 2×20 with 115s

Tricep skull crushers: 4×12 @ 95lbs

Chest supported row: 4×10 @ 100lbs

Cable tricep extensions: 4×20 @ 80lbs

Band pull aparts: 4×25

 

Wednesday:

Competition deadlift: 2×3 @ 635 & 655

Barbell RDLs: 3×8 @ 315

Bent over barbell rows: 3×8 @ 275

GHR: 3×10

Weighted planks: 3×30 seconds with 45lbs.

 

Thursday:

Dynamic effort bench: 8×3 @ 175 + doubled red minis & 1 chain

Incline Dumbbell press: 4×10 with 100s

Standing single arm overhead fatbell press: 3×10 each arm @ 60lbs

Fatbell tricep extension: 4×20,15,12,10

Cable face pulls: 4×25 @ 70lbs

Seated fatbell shrugs: 3×15 paused with 50s

 

Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays consist of light stretching, mobility, and a few Physical Therapy exercises courtesy of my good friend Jared Caroff.

 

Although it’s been frustrating at times, I’ve enjoyed the ups and downs of getting to this point. I’ve learned a lot (both about my body, and myself as a person) and am looking forward to the road ahead. With every challenge comes a new opportunity to learn and to grow.

Curtis’ Health Maintenance Tips

When it comes to taking care of our bodies, most of us put a good amount of time and effort into making sure that we are checking off all of the boxes. We do our best to make sure that we exercise regularly, eat balanced meals, stay hydrated, and get adequate sleep, just to name a few. These are without a doubt necessary for living a healthy life. But what if I told you that there are other areas that you may be missing out on? Areas that most people will overlook until it’s too late, and then they become necessary in order to get back to their previous level of health. Let’s take a look at a few areas that can improve upon your health and keep you strong and active for years to come.

 

I will begin by mentioning that I have personally used all of the services which I am about to discuss, and I have found each of them to be beneficial in their own way. I am in no way stating that it is necessary to use these services in order to live a healthy life. I’m simply giving my personal opinion and insight on a few things that I have found to be beneficial towards my overall health and performance. 

Below are 5 professional services that I think every individual, regardless of age, level of fitness, or personal goals, could benefit from.

 

1) Massage Therapy: This is the most popular and well known out of the group. Massage Therapy is a type of treatment in which a professional manipulates the soft tissues of your body including muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and skin, using varying degrees of pressure and movement. The benefits of massage therapy include: 

  • reduced muscle tension and pain
  • improved flexibility and range of motion
  • injury prevention
  • reduced recovery time from physical activity
  • improved connective tissue healing
  • increased sleep & relaxation. 

The most popular forms of massage therapy are:

  • Swedish massage: This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.
  • Deep tissue massage: This massage technique uses slower, more forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
  • Sports massage: This is similar to Swedish massage, but it’s geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
  • Trigger point massage: This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.

Here at UnionFitness, we are fortunate enough to have a great group of Massage Therapy professionals on hand who each specialize in their own unique approach while doing a great job of accommodating to each individual’s specific needs. Contact us today to set up your appointment and see the benefits for yourself.

 

2) Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is a branch of rehabilitative health that uses specially designed exercises and equipment to help patients regain or improve their physical abilities. Although this is often thought of as a method used primarily for those who are injured and/or elderly, there are many benefits for individuals who are young, healthy, and active. Those benefits include:

  • Assess & address movement deficits and musculoskeletal pathology
  • Prevent and/or address muscular imbalances
  • Decrease pain without use of medication
  • Improve balance and coordination
  • Help to identify other underlying health-related issues

I am very fortunate to have a good friend named Jared Caroff who is a great Physical therapist, as well as an employee here at Union Fitness. He has recently helped me to diagnose some issues I was having in my right hip and ankle for over 2 years and has helped me get back on the Powerlifting platform. You can find him covering the front desk in the mornings from 5am-7am. 

 

3) Chiropractics: This is a system of diagnosis and treatment based on the concept that the nervous system coordinates all of the body’s functions. Chiropractic includes manipulation and adjustment of body structures, such as the spinal column, so that pressure on nerves coming from the spinal cord may be relieved. The benefits of chiropractics may include:

  • reduced back and neck pain
  • improved mental clarity
  • reduced joint pain
  • improved organ function
  • surgery prevention

4) Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a complementary medical practice rooted in traditional Chinese medicine that entails stimulating certain points on the body by using a needle lightly penetrating the skin in order to alleviate pain or to help treat various health conditions. These needles are inserted into points along meridian lines. These lines represent the body’s organs, and they are based on ancient Chinese medicine that includes balance and restoring proper flow of energy throughout the body. The main benefits of acupuncture include:

  • Reduced Stress
  • Reduced Back Pain, Neck Tension and Relieve Joint Pain in the Hands and Arms.
  • Relief from Headaches.
  • Improved Immune System
  • Enhanced Mental Clarity and Increased Energy.
  • Relief from Digestive Conditions.
  • Allergy Relief.

5) Dry needling: Dry needling is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular, and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. This differs from acupuncture in the sense that the needles are inserted into trigger points or tender bands of muscle located within larger muscles. When the needles are inserted into the trigger points, they elicit a response that releases the trigger point, therefore restoring normal function. The benefits of dry needling include:

  • Relief from muscular pain and stiffness. 
  • Improve flexibility and increase range of motion.

Although this practice is not legalized for use by Physical Therapists in the state of Pennsylvania, I was fortunate enough to have access to it while living in Maryland. This was one of the most beneficial procedures that I have found for recovering from muscular injuries, along with increased mobility and range of motion. 

 

In short, be sure to take the time and do your research to see which of these services are right for you. We only get one shot at taking care of our bodies. Invest in it, and it will be good to you for years to come.

Cayt’s Training Log

It’s that time of year again for a handful of us at Union Fitness, including myself.  That time being meet prep season and, specifically, the end of prep as we are (already!) 7 weeks out tomorrow.  During the training phases of my first few powerlifting meets, I didn’t have a whole lot going on aside from school, giving me the ability to truly devote my time to training and recovery.  That has not been the case this meet prep and it has truthfully been a challenge for me. However, I am confident that everyone reading this can relate to my current situation and not the few fortunate times I had in the past.

 

Training, in whatever way that means at the moment, has and always will be my way to stay sane and calm.  Finding what I enjoy, allowing that to change as life continues to change, and remembering why I do it are a few things that have helped me.

 

With that said, I have been training conjugate style for about a year now.  I have enjoyed it and felt the best training this way so I decided to continue training this style throughout the course of meet prep.  Louie Simmons, the founder and owner of Westside Barbell, developed the conjugate system.  Conjugate training incorporates three methods including the maximal effort method: “lifting a maximal load against a maximal resistance”, the dynamic effort method: “lifting a non-maximal load with the highest attainable speed”, and the repetition method: “lifting a non-maximal load repetitively”.   My most recent training split has been as follows:

 

Day 1: Max effort lower (heavy squat/deadlift variation and assistance work)

Day 2: Max effort upper (heavy bench variation and assistance work)

Day 3: Dynamic effort lower (speed squats and pulls using lower percentages of bar weight progressively increasing in the 50-70% range).

Day 4: Dynamic effort upper (speed bench also with lower percentages also progressively increasing in the 50-70% range).

 

Dynamic effort work has been extremely challenging for me – I move sloooow. Because of it being the hardest, it is also my favorite.  Feeling faster and more athletic is an exciting feeling and will continue to be a goal of mine moving forward.

 

My training split will remain the same leading into the meet with a few alterations to bars used, volume accumulated, and the use of accommodating resistance on dynamic days.

Fitness Over the Holidays

It’s mid-December and the holiday season is now fully upon us. What does that mean? Probably a little less time in the gym, a few more cookies than usual, and hopefully a lot more time with friends and family. Good things all around in my humble opinion.

If you’re traveling over the next few weeks, you might be feeling a little anxiety about skipping your workouts and training sessions. Here are a few quick and maybe unexpected tips to help keep you on track:

Stop stressing.

Hey you, when’s the last time you actually took a prolonged rest? Did I hear never? Well, look’s like now is your time! And what better occasion could there be to give your body the rest it needs to recover than when spending lots of quality time with your loved ones? You’ll likely be eating a little more than usual, giving your body some extra fuel to use towards recovery. When January 1 comes around, you’ll feel refreshed and super motivated to get back to your normal training routine.

You can still keep your health goals in mind.

Remember that not every meal in the month of December is a holiday meal – most of the time you’re going to be eating the normal, healthy food that fuels you. Right? If not, give that some thought. Holiday food is delicious and should be savored, and it loses its luster when you’re overindulging. Eat grandma’s famous nut roll and enjoy the hell out of, but not every night for a week. You are capable of moderation, and your body will thank you for it.

Use travel as an opportunity to try new fitness things.

One of my favorite things to do when I go home to visit family is to try out different gyms and studios. Never tried yoga? Find a local studio and rent a mat! Climbing gyms abound recently and are a ton of fun, even for casual climbers. Think spinning isn’t for you? You might be surprised.

If you’re looking for a cool place to lift, don’t hesitate to ask the UF staff! We may know a place that suits you (we’re all meatheads after all).

If you’re going to lift, consider simplifying your training.

Union Fitness is a pretty sweet spot and we have a lot of cool equipment you probably won’t find at your basic commercial gym. Be flexible in your training for these few weeks. It’ll be easier on you mentally to head into the gym and just focus on the basics. This doesn’t mean you can’t push yourself! Maybe this is the week you give try a set of 20 reps on your squats?

No access to a gym? Work out at home with Fitness Blender!

I recommend Fitness Blender to friends all the time for travel workouts. They have tons of workouts that can be done with just your bodyweight (or you can include any equipment you have access to). You can choose how long you want to work out for, what body parts, and what type of training.

When in doubt, do burpees.

They’ll destroy you no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Happy Holidays from the Union Fitness Team!

Ryan’s Training Log

Training log:

 

Meet is coming November 17th but my back has been giving me more trouble than usual. Most of the time it is just a moderate amount of tightness but after a solid warm up the tightness fades away. A while back I pulled 495 which my back did not enjoy as much as I did.

 

Besides the physical discomfort and having to adjust more training sessions than I like, the mental aspect is probably the most challenging. One day when deadlifts were feeling like absolute garbage I talked to a fellow member at the gym, who just recovered from a more serious injury than I have, about how to not get discouraged from an injury. He responded (paraphrasing) “You can’t go down the spiral of what you can’t do. Focus on the rehab and what you can do”.

 

So that’s what I am doing. Luckily I am surrounded by experienced lifters here who have been handing me all the info on their past back injuries. Which has definitely made a significant change in my back.

 

Today:

 

OH Press 145 3×3
Pull-ups 4×8
FB Incline press 3×15
Bodyweight BB tri extension 4×12
Lateral raises 3×20
Side planks 2x :30 sec each

To supplement, or not to supplement….

One of my favorite questions- “what supplements should I take?”

 

Everyone from mom and dad to Ray Lewis have turned to supplements at some point in their lives. Why? Sometimes out of necessity- doctors orders. Sometimes to gain a perceived edge over their competition. And sometimes out of ignorance.

 

I don’t want to comment on the morals of the fitness industry- it’s a rabbit hole I’m no interested in going down for the sake of this article. The industry as a whole is “OK.” But I’m going to be critical of the supplement industry, and deservedly so.

 

Supplements ARE NOT regulated by the FDA. They can be made in someone’s kitchen, branded, marketed, and sold anywhere, even GNC. Of course GNC decides what to carry and what not to carry, but no matter what, NONE of the items on their shelves are FDA approved. Do I think the FDA regulations do a good job of protecting us- the short answer is no. But would ANY oversight in the supplement industry be helpful- yes.

 

CAVEAT EMPTOR (Buyer Beware)

Fat burners, Testosterone boosters, Weight gainers, Detox pills…the list goes on.

 

Fat burners raise your heart rate, period.
Test boosters lower your estrogen levels so your testosterone is higher (relative).
*FYI gents, we need estrogen just as much as we need testosterone.
Weight gainers are typically loaded with sugar.
Detox pills…how about let your liver and kidney’s do their job?

 

So we’re back to the question that almost everyone asks- “What supplements should I take?”

 

How about this- “Should I consider taking a supplement?”

 

A supplement is defined as something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.

 

Answer these questions honestly, and you can very quickly determine what, if anything, you should be taking:

 

  • Are you getting 8+ hours of sleep per night?
  • Are you hitting your caloric maintenance number?
    (A surplus will cause you to gain weight, a deficit will cause you to lose weight- obviously goal dependent)
  • Have you had blood work done to determine if you may be deficient in any vitamins or minerals?

 

If you aren’t eating well balanced meals or are getting a lot of processed foods, you’re missing out on essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). If you aren’t getting 8 hours of sleep, your body’s hormones are already out of whack. And if you don’t know what, if anything, you’re deficient in, why supplement? You don’t even know what you’re supplementing.

 

And supplementing poor habits is a waste of money. Eat healthy. Sleep more. If you can’t take commit to those things, put your wallet back in your pocket and save your money.

 

Now, I realize most of you will not go through all of this before supplementing. So I’ll give you the basics, as I see them. This is not a recommendation and I am not a doctor.

 

ZMA
Zinc, Magnesium, B6
One of the greatest supplements ever invented. It will help you sleep and provides two minerals that the majority of the population is deficient in. *the most bang for your buck

 

Vitamin D3
We don’t get enough sunshine in Pittsburgh, so this is likely another area where you could be deficient. It will take months after starting supplementation to see a significant improvement in levels, but this should all be checked through blood work. Remember, it is fat soluble, so it needs to be taken with food that contains fat.

 

Magnesium
I prefer glycinate because it is absorbed easily with little GI discomfort. Too much magnesium will having you running to the bathroom, so start with small doses. Again, most people are deficient here. Magnesium is used in over 300 chemical reactions within the body…it’s important. And if you go to the gym regularly, you need more than the average none gym goer to put it technically.

 

Creatine
This is one of the most studied supplements ever. It helps with athletic performance by facilitating ATP production (ATP, if you remember from high school biology, is cellular energy). If you dose this too high, it will strain your kidneys.

 

Moral of the story- don’t try any of these without consulting your doctor.
Sleep more.
Eat better.
Then supplement, maybe.