The Top 12 Reasons Why Every Gym Should Have a Surge 360!

Surge 360 Performance Training Logo

One of the single best all-time equipment purchases I’ve ever made has been the Surge 360 Performance Trainer (formerly called the Powermax 360). Just like a functional cable stack, a good squat rack and copious amounts of free weights, the Surge 360 has found an irreplaceable home in my gym and it’s collecting miles at an alarming rate. It got me thinking as to why no other gyms, training studios or big box gyms I know of in my area have one…for the most part it’s because it’s new to market, it’s a reasonable financial investment and in my opinion, despite the decent number of videos out there on how it works or athletes working out on it…the message hasn’t been delivered as to the value of this type of training or this peice of equipment has from a gym owner or personal trainer/coach’s perspective. So I’ll step up to bat and tell you EXACTLY why you, your clients, your club and your membership is missing out if you don’t have a Surge 360. (and no, they didn’t pay me a dime to say that; well they did give me a free t-shirt, but I don’t work for that cheap; I simply LOVE the 360).

Surge 360 (formerly Powermax 360)

Here’s the Top 12 Reasons YOU or YOUR CLUB should own a Surge 360 (formerly called the Powermax 360)

1. PLUG & PLAY: East set up (less than 30 mins from packaging to workout; watch the instruction video); Incredibly easy to insert into programming, simply ask your client to have some fun for 20 seconds: they will teach you what this machine is best for (though I will have a 75-100 exercise video coming soon for what you can do on this beast of a machine); Indoor boot camps and group personal training: this is an easy, no frills, high intensity way to make your group competitive with others and themselves, you know when you’re not working hard on this piece plus it’s safe to teach someone quickly and be okay to turn your head away to ensure the rest of your clients are doing their exercises correctly!

2. EVERYONE CAN USE IT: Hydraulic resistance means the harder you push, the harder the machine fights you. If you have a very strong client or fragile clients, it doesn’t matter; the resistance is based on what they can handle. It’s a simple question “from 1-10 how hard are you working?” Everyone tells me the machine is tough, but yet they all keep jumping on it to go for more.

3. SPECIAL POPULATIONS & INJURIES: Warming up overweight, obese, injured, and third-age/elderly clients all present challenges. Be a better trainer: don’t put your overweight/obese clients on the floor to make them do a dynamic warm up (they feel self-conscious, insecure, silly and clumsy getting up and down enough as it is). Yes some things are best done from the floor, get those over with first and quickly, then finish their warm up on the 360. Elderly/third-age clients: it’s important you increase their core temperature before you do much else with them and the bike for 10mins pre workout is not going to cut it! Prep their joints better on this machine. Underweight/skinny clients often feel weak or stupid when presented with strength challenges or even free weight exercises where they have to use low weights (or can’t even lift a barbell), again, bring your client confidence, they’ll love when they CAN do on this piece. Most injured people (shoulders, low back, knees, hips, etc.) function best from the upright standing position, being mindful of explosiveness on this machine, even people with “bad shoulders” can do very well on this machine AND even improve their shoulder situation. If they were able to walk from their car to get into the gym, they’ll be okay to train on the 360!

4. WARM UP: This machine has been the single best addition to my warm up sequences since I first learned about self myofascial release or dynamic stretching and mobility drills. 4-5 minutes (20 seconds per drill with 10 seconds rest between x 8-10 exercises) will increase your core temperature, will lubricate your joints (especially the shoulders), will prep you for all upper body exercises, will engage your core, will increase your energy and most likely improve your mood and workout mindset before you get to all your other exercises. If a client walks in late, bang, no problem, no need to skimp on their warm up. If a client walks in anxious, looks frustrated or had a bad day, guess what: don’t lay them on the floor to warm them up, mentally they are good to go, just flip the switch, get them moving on the 360 and work some of their frustration away so they can zoom into the workout at hand.

5. LEARN GROUND FORCE PRODUCTION: “Put your space boots on!” Some people just don’t understand how to plant, root or ground themselves before performing exercises. I cannot overstate this: ground force or grounding oneself must ALWAYS precede “core engagement.” Don’t believe me? You had to lie in the right spot, stand in the right stance or width and have the right posture FIRST before you went to engage your core. Being able to produce toe to fingertip tension/grounding is VERY important in power production of any kind.

6. INSTANT, THOUGHTLESS “CORE ENGAGEMENT”: Forget telling your clients to activate their core on this equipment, forget telling them to hold their pee mid-stream to activate their pelvic floor, forget hollowing, and forget relaxing/overreliance of the diaphragm, forget all of it. You just simply CANNOT use this machine without core engagement happening on its own. The harder you push, the harder your “core” will buckle down to help produce power/movement. Also for those of us with lordosis (anterior pelvis tilt based, excessive low back/lumbar spine curvature) where we really should be doing significant anterior core work to limit the problems with this posture, the sheer volume of anterior midsection based core work you get with this machine save you TONS of time instead of wasting it on questionable crunching exercises. Unique circumstances of clients with SI joint instability or sciatica pain, this machine is friendly to those who suffer from these terrible pains and one of the major cures to training these clients is to make their core more stable and strong but many exercises are simply not useable for this population; the Surge 360 is a wonderful tool for them.

7. BALANCED SHOULDER GIRDLE TRAINING VOLUME: Everything in our lives happens in front of us. The insane usage of cell phones, driving, eating, couch based TV surfing, computing, and school work; let alone people with sit down jobs…EVERYTHING in life and in most sports happen in front of us. All good trainers know the posterior chain, the postural based back muscles, the rear shoulder complex, rotator cuff health, etc. is VERY important to maintaining shoulder joint and shoulder girdle health. With the 360 every single rep pushed, must be pulled back. 1 Push = 1 Pull. At worst, that’s equality to the shoulder girdle. Personally, I like to add 50-100 lazy push, aggressive rows to the end of my upper body training to bring back some balance to my life.

8. ROTATION & ANTI-ROTATION: Rotation is a very important plane/pattern of movement. It’s difficult to get enough volume, safety and exercise variety in rotation based work. And what about the eccentric (think the down phase of a landmine/angled barbell rotation) of a rotation: that’s where most of the injury risk happens. What about a heavy medicine ball toss or slam against a wall? Every catch of the med ball means the spine has to deal with anti-lateral flexion (so they don’t fall over) at the same time as rotation which is where most low back injuries happen (lateral flexion + rotation; e.g. you bend to tie your shoe or pick up a pen and blew your back out for a week). There are no eccentrics to your rotation based training on the Surge 360. Lastly, if you want to hit core stiffness from an “anti-rotation” based force production, no problem, just lock the body down, ensure all movement from the midsection down is frozen and the core is fighting very hard to resist the urge to fall into rotation. Hey, I love my anti-rotation cable Pallof presses like every other trainer but this is simply a better way.

9. POSITIVE/POSITIVE OR CONCENTRIC/CONCENTRIC ONLY RESISTANCE: It must be stated, again, the Surge 360 was not designed to replace any of your current training. The closest thing to this unique system would be an angled/landmine barbell (which has huge eccentric based injury risk or client fear). Postive/positive or concentric/concentric resistance means you only have the “up” phase to all your exercises. Some of you might say “well the eccentric is where most the muscle breakdown is happening so I’m not going to get huge muscles with this thing.” Probably true. For those of you familiar with how eccentric-less training (think Prowler, sleds, Treadsleds, rower machines) all add volume of repetition and muscle work to your training, quite simply this is pretty much the only, and definitely the best eccentric-less training tool. For athletes who can’t afford muscle soreness or stiffness, this device allows training to continue at a very high intensity without the need for further muscle breakdown and recovery. You get the volume or work required for consistent improvements in power and aesthetics (especially upper torso/arms) without taking away from your other training. The finishers you can do on this piece of equipment will quickly turn any meathead into a believer, especially when his shoulders hurt a lot less!

10. INTENSITY & TRAINING DENSITY INCREASES: Trainers know that if I superset, triset, giant set, quadplex or create a circuit of exercises versus my client simply doing one exercise and resting right after it I am going to see much faster results out of my training. Doing more quality reps or muscle work volume in the same or shorter time frame is what you should be accomplishing with your clients. But not all forms of exercise allow that. You have to recover if you are expected to produce power. For example, you don’t ask your client (or yourself) to perform a 3 repetition max bench press, followed by a 6 rep max barbell bent over row and then demand they jump right back on the bench press and start immediately! Instead, throw them on the Surge 360, add in 30 seconds of chest flyes and rear delt flyes or double arm push-pulls. That’s another 15-45 reps for the back and chest that won’t require a ton of rest before getting back to the bench press. Everything from warm ups to work-rest drills to finishers on the Surge 360 all mean one thing: increased workout intensity!

11. LEG-LESS CARDIO CONDITIONING: Think about it for a second: every cardio exercise from jump rope to running, to the stair climber to an Airdyne or spin bike to hill sprints to sled/Prowler training to burpees and wall balls or anything else you can come up with ALL require significant or entirely leg based work. But what if your client has a big game, race or event coming up, what if you are doing something where they don’t want their legs to be useless or sore or stiff for the next three days, what if you are supposed to heavily train your legs tomorrow…cardio conditioning up till now has pretty much always taken away from this. The Surge 360 brings in upper body emphasis cardio and muscular conditioning. I hate to tell you, the elliptical trainer just ain’t gonna cut it!

12. SPORT SPECIFIC POWER PRODUCTION/MOVEMENT TRAINING: Finally, I’ve arrived at the last and final reason for owning a Surge 360. If you work with, train or are an athlete in any sport you know that sport specific drills can be hard to mimic (more like gimmick!) into anything that actually makes you a better athlete. For the most part, athletes should spend their gym time focusing on increasing muscle mass, improving strength, improving explosiveness, minimizing chances of injuries occurring (think pre or re-hab based drills) and working their body with serious intensity. Save the sport specific skills for practice and the game/fight! However, mimicking force production (be it left to right, toe to fingertip, and front to back or multi-directional) SHOULD be trained in the gym. The Surge 360 has incredible versatility for your sport. From MMA to Jiu Jitsu to Hockey to Football to Soccer to Golf to all sports with sticks, paddles or change of direction or rotation patterns…bring some creativity to your Surge and the payoff is huge! Lastly, competition based drills amongst team members (or hell, even husband versus wife!), on the 360, is where you see the fire light up in your athletes!

Check out this video where I lay out all of the above:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiBzym5fLF8

If you want one for yourself or your fitness facility give the guy who hooked me up, Paul Schrantz a call at (240) 447-0605 or email at paul@surgept.com

Their website: www.surgept.com has tons of great stuff coming!

You’ll also be seeing a handful of specific warm up videos (upper, lower, core, injured/tweaky shoulders, full body workout, etc.) coming very soon AND I endeavor to create a 75-100 exercise video demonstrating 15 seconds or so of every exercise I’ve tested on this thing.

Stay tuned on the YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/acathletictraining

Adrian Crowe Athletic Training - New Card Front (JPG) - Large

The Caffeine-Free Brain Candy Experiment

The people surrounding me this past month are no doubt wondering why I’ve been so “off” but the truth is I’ve just never been so on.

If you’re here from the ADD-nation  and need an abbreviated review I suggest you skip this next part and get right to the review. Those that know me know I don’t do anything short-winded.

Moments of clarity in life have always come to me at times of inconvenience, like midst shower, washing dishes, bedding a woman or the random sleepless 2 a.m.

When the time for action comes, life has a funny way of throwing work or family commitments of priority in front of me. By the time this magical YOU time arrives, well, I’m just too fucking exhausted to do anything about it. It’s a terrible cycle.

Boohoo you say, just put me first for once, just take a day off, just go on a vacation…sure, says the person who doesn’t realize I run my own business (Read: one man army!)  in a single income relationship (my gal is in nursing school).

We success driven introverts have one secret weapon y’all extroverts will never: we understand ourselves better than you ever will. I may be the dude who’d give you the shirt off his back or give you my last dollar if you needed it more than I, but don’t catch me wrong for I do plan, I do plot, I do visualize and see every aspect of my life forming as I dream it to be.  The pace may be slower than I hope but hey, 12 years ago I was homeless, penniless and sleeping in a tent in Stanley Park. Today I own and operate a successful business with plenty of opportunity and I have a beautiful gal I plan to share my life and build a family with. I can’t complain.

But let’s talk about the pace of life, goals and successes. Last summer I stuck my head in the sand for just 60 days during which I built my own website, started a blog and a YouTube channel. Those 60 days of hard work, focus and exclusivity to only the task at hand has increased my business by roughly 60% over the year prior.

Going online was one of the best things I could have done for my career. In a year I’ve seen over 3000 views on my website, I’m approaching 40,000 views on my blog, and within a few days I’ll see 100,000 total views  across the 275+ videos I’ve uploaded. I’ve been spotlighted by other respected coaches in the industry, been featured a couple of times in a local newspaper and done a decent job of developing relationships with other health practitioners (chiro, physio) to further the services for my clients. I’ve even been honored by 2 people who reached out from the US to come up and train with me. I couldn’t have guessed a year ago that I’d be here, doing this.

I’m not listing this out to sound like an egomaniac but I am proud.

What truly intrigues me is how all of this became possible because of 60 days’ worth of serious focus, dedication and hard work.

Why can’t every 60 days be like this? What’s holding me back? Am I just lazy? Undedicated? Do I not want it enough? Do I not feel deserving of the rewards of such work?

Where’s the disconnect?

In my 33 years on this planet I’ve come to realize recently that I’ve gone through cycles of prepping myself mentally and setting up life circumstances with work, family and relationships to allow short periods of time (1-3 months) where I put me first, where the value of my time is more valuable than yours. And near every success in my life has come because of the actions taken in those time frames.

So where am I going with this and how the hell does it relate to a nootropic supplement?

First, go read my Brain Candy series here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. It’ll take you a whole of 10 minutes.

I was able to barter and procure a 1 month supply of the caffeine-free version of Brain Candy (which was recently released to the public in the past week or so). I finished the one month about three days. The novel above is going to help you understand the sheer awesomeness of this supplement and I’m going to give you some tips on how best to use it, should the promise of its results excite you. I’ll compare it against the caffeinated version and lastly I’m also going to issue some strong warnings.

Biotest Brain Candy, Caffeine-Free Review

The difference between the caffeinated (original) and caffeine-free Brain Candy products: The obvious and only label defined difference is the 300mg of caffeine in the original version vs. none in the free version. All other ingredients are the same and in the same dosages.

In my opinion this completely changes the game on how this product is best used, utilized and the “feeling” you’re going to see while on it.

If you are sensitive to caffeine, meaning it turns you into a chatty little bitch who can’t help but vibrate and froth at the mouth when the peak of crack-town smacks you upside the head (like me), then I highly suggest you shy away from the original (caffeinated) version. You’re (I’m) simply best to moderate and spread our preferred caffeine dosages/sources throughout the day. If you ignore me here, as I’ve strongly warned in Part 2 of my first experiment, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for adrenal fatigue.

If you could drink a pot of coffee and then go right to sleep, well, the original version would probably do you best as there was quite a boost that was had from the caffeine and it does enhance the feeling of the product. It gives you ridiculous get-up-and-go! My body just can’t handle running at 120% of norm for days on end like that, whereas my brain can.

I would also highly recommend that before choosing which version to use, you assess the reasons for which you’ll be using it. Do you need some pep and the ability to focus intently on a task at hand? Maybe Fridays are your department’s meetings and you have to present in depth material to your team? Well after the 4 previous stressful days at work, come Friday you’re just a wreck. Brain Candy, original (caffeinated) version to the rescue. Wake, slam it, get your bang on! The world shall be your whipping boy today.

If you’re a student who has a 15 page literature review ahead of you, well, being tweaked out on that much caffeine is really going to hurt your ability to sit still and focused that long. The caffeine free version will have you in full on genius mode in no time. Ever felt your keyboard get super-hot while your hands cramp from the sheer speed at which you’re typing? It’s an interesting experience.

Taste

I was direly hoping the caffeine free version of Brain Candy would not be 1980’s orange Popsicle flavor as the original version is. I was praying it would be the same great flavor as Biotest’s Alpha-GPC product. While it’s not absolutely terrible, both versions are the same fake orange flavor, are very sweet and leave a lot to be desired. They’re not disgusting but starting your day off with BANG: FAKE ORANGE is not the best thing in the world. Biotest has never been the company to care too much about flavoring systems (save for their Metabolic Drive proteins) so I highly doubt we’ll ever see some designer flavors come about with Brain Candy. But one could beg for a pineapple, green apple or grapefruit flavor, no??

Stomach Upset

I mentioned in Part 2 of the first experiment that this product did cause some stomach upset the first few days I was taking it. I’ve given a few bottles away of the caffeinated and caffeine free for friends to try and half of them tell me the same thing. Being the only one I know who’s used the product for months at a time, I can say that for me, that stomach upset pretty much goes away after the first couple days. I’m sure it could be completely negated by slamming your Brain Candy with breakfast but I’m sure the product works better if you do what it says and slam it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Down-Regulation

Have you ever tried a supplement and for the first two weeks it’s the best thing you’ve ever tried but 3 weeks later it’s doing nothing for you? I can name half a dozen pre-workout products that fit in that category. Down-regulation or the body getting “used to” a supplement where you stop feeling the positive benefits is always a big concern in performance enhancing (in this case, brain power) supplements. I’ve done two experiments on this product, 4 week of the original version, a 2 week wash out, then 2 more weeks of the original, then a 1 month wash out, then 30 days of caffeine free…it’s all the same: when you’re on, YOU’RE ON! When you’re not drinking the elixir, within a few days your super powers disappear. It’s brutal when words were coming out of your noggin so fast you couldn’t even process your own genius and then all of a sudden you’re stumbling for the words to something you mastered years ago. I hate feeling dumb.  There is ZERO down regulation or getting used to in either version. I will again proclaim the caffeine free version tops the original as the latter really caused me some serious adrenal fatigue with the caffeine overkill (300mg per shot). The coming off (I’m doing a 2 week wash out of the caffeine free version now) of Brain Candy this time has been much smoother but I really miss the peak of brain performance when “on.”

How long do you feel the effects and can I make them even better?

The short answer on how long you’ll feel the positive benefits is: all day. From 15 minutes after you slammed the bottle till the time you sleep, there is no off button. With the original (caffeinated) version the caffeine wore off about 5 hours after dosing and the transition to the continuing brain performance benefits was FAR LESS because a body kick and a brain boost are two very different things! With the caffeine free version it’s just genius mode all day, the product doesn’t quit until you’ve decided it’s bed time.

Another unique way I’ve seen others on T-Nation suggest usage is to use the system come-down and save a few dollars by being on Brain Candy for 3 days followed by two days off, repeating in this cycle over and over. They claim it leaves them feeling mostly the same. While I can see this working for someone on a budget, right now I’m 3 days off Brain Candy and there is quite a difference. My super powers are diminishing quickly back to my normal. I can afford and understand the sheer value of this supplement so I see no reason to micro cycle it like this.

What happens when you take more than the suggested dosage? Oh man. I realize and many have commented that when I speak of Brain Candy I sound like a drug addict. Hell, I even use druggie terms. I’ve never touched any illegal drugs ever in my life but I do realize I sound like an addict (as I’ve known many). So, you know, for sake of this experiment (riiiiiiight) I sacrificed myself and have tried (with original and caffeine free version) consuming 2 bottles in a day. The only thing it does is ensure stomach upset and a thinner wallet. Taking more than the one bottle first thing in the morning does absolutely nothing for brain power, physical performance or energy levels. Nothing. So don’t bother trying, I’ve failed it for you.

The Effects on Sleep

Last experiment, in Part 2, I showed you a unique perspective on how the original (caffeinated) version of Brain Candy was affecting my sleep. I’ve mentioned my Zeo to Zen experiment here and will have the next installment coming soon. For sake of comparison of the caffeine free version vs. original here’s what happened with my sleeping patterns while on the caffeine free Brain Candy (the time frame of supplement use was pretty much the whole month of July):

Total Sleep:

Tanked! By over an hour. I’ll explain more later.

Deep Sleep (the sleep that truly recovers your physical body):

Higher than it’s ever been! Even despite the lack of total sleep. So what got lost?

REM Sleep (the type that organizes your brain; think defrag of your hard drive):

Scary tanked! 15 minutes lower than any month’s total this year (1:20 vs. February’s low of 1:35)

Note: The amount of times I woke and how long I was awake during the month wasn’t affected.

So what does this all mean and why did this happen?

Quite simply: with the caffeine free version my natural introvert plotted a monster coup d’état. I was able to process so much of my day (think increased computer CPU speed) while awake and have room in my brain power (think computer RAM increases) that come the end of my day I would sit in my living room and plan, plot, organize and create action for the next day. I discovered more about the patterns of my life, the reasons for all my successes, the reasons for all my failures and developed a calm about it all that would freak most extroverts out!

I see everything and it further calms me. Direction becomes extremely clear when you have this vantage point on your life.

So who wants to or even can sleep when you’re that motivated to change?

I’m not arguing the body needs sleep, I’m just warning you, the first month (or two) you use a product like Brain Candy (especially the caffeine free version) you may find yourself trading sleeping time to plot the next few years of your life. I’m already doing the smart thing and getting back to improving my total sleep.

Warnings and Suggestions of Brain Candy Usage

To caffeinate or not to caffeinate, that is the question!

If you need to tackle this day, the people in your day, or the physical task that’s not the norm, I highly suggest you opt for the original (caffeinated) version. From groggy to genius monster alpha male in about 15 minutes.  For the introvert, mildly social anxious person (especially one that doesn’t drink to create inhibition) trust me, the original version is magic here! Liquid courage and confidence.

If you’re a brain person, not a body person (meaning living in your brain is what drives your body vs. the energy of your body is what drives your brain) then the caffeine free version is for you on the regular. Crank me up 10 I.Q. points and trust me, I’m getting shit done! Students, you have no idea how easy those grades are going to creep up and how much time you’re going to save yourself in studying by utilizing this product (even if just for tests and study cramming; I get you on the poor student thing).

To negate the adrenal fatigue: now that both versions are available for purchase one could be savvy and simply mix one bottle of the original (caffeinated) version and one bottle of the caffeine free version in a cup and then pour it back into the two bottles, effectively cutting the caffeine down to 150mg, which is a MUCH more manageable dosage. Running a bottle of the original Brain Candy on days where you need body energy and on days you simply need a calm mental focus you could slam a bottle of caffeine free Brain Candy instead. By finally releasing the two versions, Biotest has given us a supplement we can highly tweak out and experiment with to see how it can work in various situations, personality types and stimulant sensitivities.

Warnings:

I’ve already covered my warnings of the original version in Part 2 and Part 3. Read them there.

These warnings are for the caffeine free version:

Everyone wants change. Everyone wants a better financial position, a better relationship with their spouse, a better relationship (or possible control) with their children, a better sense of self, less stress, more calm, a boost in ability to process your day without frustration, an increased ability to handle all the stupid or awkward interpersonal situations that can arise. We all want it, we all want more.

Hear me on this: ARE YOU IN A PLACE IN YOUR LIFE TO TRULY PUT A MAGNIFYING GLASS ON THIS LIFE? Are you ready to see yourself for the lazy bastard you really can be? Are you ready to conquer your procrastinations? Are you ready to rid yourself of all the toxic people in your life? Are you ready to lessen the stress you’ve been running on these past years (or decades)? Because it all equals the same thing: reflection and realization of what must change, what must go, what must be worked on and built by YOU.

This is what the caffeine free version of Brain Candy has done for me. The boost in nootropic-driven brain power works exactly like Biotest advertises on T-Nation. As I have no financial ties to Biotest, I’m simply a fan of their products; I’ve just given you the goods on how this product works FOR ME. Take it how you want. It’s going to cost you about $90 to figure out what a month of Brain Candy will or will not do for you. If you feel my experiences can help you decide if this product is for you and your challenges ahead, just leave me a comment below; I do my best to answer them all.

So what’s next for me?  I just smile at that question. For the answer is “a lot.” But after this first month of caffeine free Brain Candy which has enlightened me, my next phase shall be to map action. Let’s see how it turns out!

The Brain Candy Experiment – Part 3/3 (Original/Caffeinated Version Wrap Up)

View Part 1 (the intro to the project) and Part 2 (the full review of a month’s worth of Adrian vs Brain Candy {the original, caffeinated version}) to better understand what I’m talking about below.

A story:

The very first nootropic I really ventured to try was actually ginkgo biloba.

It was over 10 years ago. I took the suggested 60mg x 2-3x/day for a month and by the end I was proclaiming “Bah, it’s crap; doesn’t work worth a damn.”

But then I went “off” of it.

About two-week post ginkgo supplementation I started feeling slow. Words didn’t connect together as easily. I chalked it up to being tired. Quite simply, I felt DUMB! Was I always this dull, slow and lacking in cognitive function? In all reality when you use a nootropic to truly understand it’s power and effectiveness you need to give it an earnest go (about 30 days) and then go off of it for a good 2-4 weeks. So I went back on ginkgo to see what happened.

Well, within 2 weeks I was feeling the mind clicking again. I wasn’t fumbling for words. I could concentrate on school. I love ginkgo; think it works well (watch out for blood thinning effects!). It’s been my go-to for years when I have periods of time where increased neural function is required.

Next came a novel supplement called phosphatidylserine (PS). It was touted as being a great post-exercise cortisol reducer (which used long-term would equate to greater muscle gains). Main problem was it was WAY too expensive (we’re talking $5 a workout) as it required 4000mg of phosphatidylserine complex to yield 800mg active PS. As a side effect I noticed that it made me genius like just as ginkgo did. I looked into it further and it turns out PS helps protect the brain. They use it on old people with memory issues. The cool thing was that for neural effects you only need 100-200mg a day (a much more affordable option). I will as I age begin taking PS as a way to protect my brain from the effects of aging. But at my age (33) I’m more inclined to spend my money on nootropics aimed at optimizing and increasing my brain power.

Next came a fantastic product called Cerebro (this was before the X-Men movies BTW) by Syntrax.

Cerebro had a pretty powerful blend of bacopa monniera, huperzia serrata, rhodiola rosea (with a 10% rosavin content; unheard of at the time and still unmatched except for Biotest’s version), and vinocetine. While it worked extremely well and was well priced it didn’t sell well as Syntrax tends to suck at marketing anything other than their Nectar proteins, so it was taken off the market. Later on I would learn it’s also not good to use rhodiola rosea (an adaptagen sorta like ginseng) continuously.

Next came Biotest’s Power Drive.

I love Power Drive. Everything from the taste, to it’s powerful effects (most especially in bringing my brain back from the dead post workout) and I’ve suggested it to every student I know as a stimulant free way to increase the effectiveness of your studies. I still keep a small stock around. But it’s also been on the market probably 5+ years now. We had to have come up with something with a little more horsepower by now…

Enter Biotest’s Brain Candy! I’ve already covered the pros, cons and all the details in Part 2 of this series. But I left y’all hanging with a close out of my final opinion of the original, caffeinated version.

Brain Candy works. At least 5-10x better than ginkgo. At least 5-10x better than phosphatidylserine and at least twice as good at Cerebro ever did. I’m not so sure I can compare it to Power Drive as they really seem to work well in their respective categories, Brain Candy for true cognitive function increases and Power Drive for performance/CNS & neurotransmitter recovery in hard training. I do not like Brain Candy for workout performance. It can work but it’s just not ideal. Power Drive wins hands down here.

Now that I’ve been off Brain Candy for a good month or more when I fumble for words or just don’t sound as clear and confident as I did not so long ago I get teased by clients “Clearly, you’re off the Brain Candy.” “You were better on that stuff.” These are just a couple of the comments I get. Let’s just be clear that’s pretty much the equivalent of your wife saying: “you know honey, you were just better on Viagra.” Ugh.

MY problem is that I can’t hack the 300mg of caffiene that the original Brain Candy version (and only current publicly available version as of this date) as it absolutely destroys my adrenal/energy system. Plus I want to be able to use what caffeine I can tolerate as I see fit (pre-workout mostly).

Apparently there are a few people who agree with me. Part 1 and Part 2 have stacked close to 2000 views, mostly search engine (Google, etc) driven. Or others just want to be able to have their coffee in the morning and not risk tanked adrenals with use of the product.

Anyway, the point is, I have never been as productive, clear, stress-free (read: able to handle near everything) and at home within my own brain as I was when I tried the 30 days of Brain Candy. I then did a wash out of a month without. Then bought one more case to try 15 days to see if truly, like my original ginkgo experience that it was the Brain Candy and not some made up effect (placebo).

Now if only Biotest would stop with the tease and release the caffeine-free version already!

Pretty please with a cherry on top???

WHY you might ask (as I completely realize I just sound like a nootropic addict at this point)….

Because I have big dreams, insane amounts of ideas and quite simply my day burns me out to the point when I get home and I have time to work on the business of business or life planning…my brain has fizzled by that point.  I want the horsepower to boost me to new heights. That to-do list is exponentially growing with so little of it being tended to.

BTW, you can now find me on:

Instagram @adriancroweathletictraining

Facebook page at Adrian Crowe Athletic Training “The Crowe’s Nest”

YouTube www.youtube.com/acathletictraining

or email me directly at adrian@adriancrowe.com

Don’t Hire A Personal Trainer For Fat Loss! Part 2/2

In Part 1 of 2 in this “Don’t Hire a Personal Trainer for Fat Loss” series I set out to define one simple thing: that in the fat loss adventure, when working with a personal FITNESS trainer (which is what we are) I have my roles and you have yours.

Let me go back and reiterate your roles as a client:

Your job:

1) Show up for your sessions. Seriously, if you can’t get yourself into the door how the hell am I supposed to get you into shape??

2) Put your heart into the exercises I prescribe. When I ask if you think you could lift heavier, more explosive or just with better form…if you think you can, then answer yes and just do it!

3) Communicate things that may hurt while doing exercise. You’re not a hero for “toughing it out”

4) Communicate discomfort in any situation (such as you ladies being around a bunch of 24-year-old gym monkeys that don’t know how to act right around a lady)

5) Communicate things you really enjoy doing and or situations, things I do/can do that will motivate you to push harder

6) DON’T F*** UP YOUR NUTRITION

7) Get some sleep!

8) Lower your stress levels

My buddy Mitchell Wright over at www.homefitnessmanual.com left a very intriguing question/comment on the Part 1 blog:

“Adrian, how many clients seem to do their part from 1-8 on a regular basis?”

The short answer is not a single one does 100% of all of them. I’ve never met anyone that is perfect. Nor do I feel it’s necessary. It’s sorta the 80/20 rule. Get it right 80% of the time and you’ll probably see 100% of the results you first sought out.

The way I truly look at most stuff in fitness is to “fix” my client’s greatest weaknesses first (poor posture, not enough strength, poor cardiovascular shape, etc.) and then when I’ve made the rounds in what was once weakness I’m usually left working with  a client who has become a badass. I joke sometimes but in truth it’s not a joke: my girlfriend’s mom could kick most of your asses! But it took me a while to get her there. And in the roles of who does what job, it was a hard thing for her for focus on her greatest weakness: food intake.

When she was able to work on that, bang, then came the greatest fat losses over shortest periods of time.

So when I say don’t hire a personal fitness trainer for fat loss, I’m not being literal. 80% of people that walk in my door come to lose fat. What I am saying is I have my job and you have yours. Your biggest job is to get #6 right in the list above!

So how do you eat to accomplish fat loss?

Let me detour for just a short moment. And in case you couldn’t tell this blog will be the uber blog. I intend to have to never answer the food question ever again. Basic guidance and tips, sure; that falls in my job description. I’m happy to tell you an apple is always better for fat loss than a banana.

People literally hire me to take them through a workout. You’re paying $50-60 for a 60-90 minute workout session. Now, sure there’s a lot that happens outside of that idea. Some life coaching, some psychologist work, some BFF cheering on, some smack-you-upside-the-head-when-you-need-it, and some education on many topics. But at the end of the day you pay me to take you through a workout you probably wouldn’t push yourself through on your own. Right? You don’t pay me to come home with you, cook your meals, watch you like a hawk to ensure you eat what you’re supposed to when you’re supposed to and my job surely isn’t to spoon feed you…right? (For the record, no, you can’t hire me for that job.) You have to feed you. You have to prep, cook, eat, and clean up after yourself.

Muscle breakdown, improvements of your fitness levels and small but important bump ups in your metabolic level happen in the gym.

Fat loss 100% does or 100% does not happen directly because of what you do in the kitchen. Ask any nutritionist, dietician, bodybuilder, bikini model and any athlete in any sport…they won’t argue against this point. Ever. So I hope we’re clear and I now hope to give some answers, options and clarity on the really important topic:

So how do you eat to accomplish fat loss?

I have a question for you: why isn’t everyone doing P90X? Why is Crossfit still alive? Why haven’t bodybuilders, yoga masters, professional MMA fighters and Vogue cover models all switched to P90X? It is the best, no? It works for every one in every situation, no?

Why is there Weight Watches, Jenny Craig, Dr. Bernstein, the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the HCG Diet? I mean, isn’t Paleo the answer for absolutely everyone on the planet?

I’m being facetious for a reason. There are many, many, MANY ways to get you from point A to point B in your fat loss and fitness gain journey. What us personal fitness trainers know best is what works best for YOU, the client, is the nutritional strategy that you’re most likely to stick with on the long term. I have my favorites but I’m not naïve enough to think they’ll always work for absolutely everyone. Unfortunately, there is this unique thing called YOU and your personality quirks that have destroyed all of us fitness trainer’s plans on becoming uber millionaires because of our genius discovery of the one, the only way to obtain as much fat loss as you desire. In just 3 easy installments of $99.99! Order today!!

I will say this at least 1000 times in my career: I only know what I see happen right in front of me. No certification, no expert, no scientific paper and no late-night infomercial squid is going to have me believe against what I’ve seen benefit my clients and help them achieve their goals. If you lost 50lbs and kept it off using the Jenny Craig system, as shit as I may personally feel that nutrition system is…it worked. Period. End of conversation. It worked for that client.

In the past 5 years and over 6000+ training sessions with a wide population base, here’s what I’ve seen work, I will then leave it to you to go with your gut feeling as to which approach you feel will work best for you and that you can really get behind on the long term.

Category 1: The Choose This Not That Method

Who it’s for: those who don’t play well with others telling them what to do; in fact they generally revolt and do the opposite. If you tell these people that they can no longer eat their beloved peanut butter well to hell with you sir, I’m now going to eat double! For these folks, it’s not about rules, it’s about better choices. It’s not about that “you must never have an ounce of caffeine or you’ll ruin your entire body” nonsense, it’s about the three Redbull’s a week aren’t gonna kill you and if it makes you happy in life, go for it! 3 a week, not 3 in one day. There’s a difference!

I find this is a good place to start for emotional eaters. For the most part that’s women. For women it’s more about the moment; stressed out of your mind because your crazy mother-in-law called you a _____ again, chocolate seems like the right answer right now!

For guys in this category, it’s not that we aren’t emotional eaters we just portray it in a different way. I call it Sense-of-Entitlement eating. I worked hard all this week. I had a rough day at the office. I’ve put in my 3 workouts this week. I mowed the lawn like the wife’s been nagging me to do so to hell with you wife, I’m going out with the boys to slam two pitchers of beer, eat a dozen hot wings and nearly a whole large pizza to myself!

Starting to sound like someone?

If that someone is you, for now, right now make it your mission not to completely stop. Just make better choices. Drink a pint of beer, have a couple of hot wings and only two slices of pizza. And tomorrow, add 20 minutes to your jog.

For lunch, at your favorite sandwich restaurant, forget the sauces, drop the meatballs and opt for chicken breast and some light Italian dressing instead.

Instead of GMO-soy laden Kashi cereal for breakfast, instead scramble up three eggs and have a small handful of mixed unroasted nuts (walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts; just mix it up!).

Drop the soda. Drink more green or white tea instead of 6 pots of coffee a day. If you drink alcohol every weekend, drink once a month instead. I promise, it won’t kill you.

I’ve seen RIDICULOUS fat loss when the average Joe or Jane goes from what’s become the typical North American (fast, processed food) to the “this is simply a better option than that over time” eating strategy.

In my opinion, a great resource for this style of eating is Tosca Reno’s Eat-Clean diet, cookbooks and other written resources (including the awesome food magazine Clean Eating which you can get at your local grocery store).

When that stops working for you, and you’ll recognize when it has, it’s time to add in some time tested rules.

Category 2: Play by the Rules!

So you’ve gotten to the stage of what you feel is damn clean eating comparative to when you first started this journey. But the progress has come to a grinding halt. Now what?

Tips, tricks, rules and guidelines. It’s time you adopt a select 6-12 of these to set yourself on a stricter path.

I personally feel those at this stage are best to adopt one of two strategies:

1)      Regular, Intermittent Fasting. For my overview of fasting for fat loss and why I suggest it for certain clientele in this nutrition Category (2) see my blog HERE I’m not the expert. See www.eatstopeat.com OR download this free eBook: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/intermittent-fasting

Fasting is NOT for everyone. Hell, it’s not even for a good 50-80% of you. The hard rule is that fasting is not going to work if you’re starving yourself and in a state of nutrient deficiency already (e.g. those that only eat two meals a day or go more than 12hours without eating).

2)      This absolutely fantastic guide developed by coach Nick Tumminello over at Performance University. Read this: http://nicktumminello.com/2012/01/the-perfect-meal-what-to-eat-to-lose-fat-build-muscle/

When it comes to other tips and tricks I find you have to look at the situation individually. First find your greatest struggle.

Hungry all the time? Try adding 2 Ziploc sandwich sized baggies of raw veggies as your snacks each day.

Are you drinking 4L of fluid a day, preferably mostly water? No, well, get on building that up. I’d suggest as you do that you add fresh chopped lemon or lime to that water. One it makes you go pee less as your body has to filter the lemon/lime out of it first and two both of those alkalize the body which most of us could use. One note, both lemon and lime can be hard on teeth enamel. If you develop sensitive teeth cut the lemon/limes for a while.

Carbohydrate timing can really be a science. But understand this: carbs (especially sugar) are our easiest, fastest source of energy. Fats are a slower but equally good source of energy. Proteins are mostly used for repair. So a good rule of thumb is that when you are active you can afford carbs. When sitting on your ass in a cubicle for 8 hours, stick to proteins and veggies and little high-fiber fruit (apples, pears). Also, I’ve read some research showing that the body is more sensitive (in a good way) in utilizing carbs early in the day and fats later. So those silly cut off rules of “no starches past 4pm” can work. My only rule here is that you need to fuel your workouts. If you train hard with weights in the evening, you should have one serving of carbs (think rice, yam, potato) split before and after your workout.

For those who have abused carbs and are healthy (no diabetes, health conditions) I’ve read some great suggestions on the 100-125g carbs maximum/day rule. This is a must read article: http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/one_hundred_gram_carb_cure if you’re worried about performance, time 80g of those carbs in the pre-intra-post workout period. That leaves only low cal veggies (salads) along with copious amounts of protein that will make up your meal plan.

The only rules are that there are no perfect rules. But find 6-12 you can fully commit yourself to for the next 6-12 weeks and be amazed at the level of progress you make!!

And when that stops working, then I recommend people take the leap of finding yourself a VERY specific nutritional strategy designed specifically for you.

Category 3: Personal Training for Food

It took me a few years to realize that trying to be the jack-of-all-trades in regards to brining fitness and health to an individual was the absolute wrong way to go. I had to realize what I’m great at and where I’d be better served in referring out.

So when we’ve been training for a few weeks and your low back pain just won’t subside, you have a few options and I’ve got some great connections to a chiropractor with awesome ART skills, a physiotherapist who does IMS and a massage therapist if I think that’ll help. Fixing you isn’t my job, it’s theirs. As one of my favorite coaches out there said it best: “I’m bringing fitness back!!”

Now, back in the day I’d write nutrition programs for my clients. But it’s not my passion. It’s not my expertise. And while I generally bash nutritionists and dieticians for trying to make people eat the government food pyramids (a great way to be shaped like a pyramid!), there are professionals out there that do specialize in body recomposition (fat loss, muscle gain), athletic performance and special population (vegetarian, diabetic, allergies) nutrition protocols. Over time I learned to seek out and align myself with individuals I saw bringing consistent progress to their clients.

Hear me on this: If you’ve changed to eating “clean,” if you’ve minimized or eliminated the processed junk, if you’re keeping your alcohol low, if you’ve been following some sound guidelines and rules as described in Category 2 above and STILL you’re not happy with your results: it’s time to hire a professional.

Here I have two go to gents:

1)      Scott Abel whom I greatly respect for his approach to training, nutrition and coaching. Look into his services here: http://www.scottabel.com/coach-scott-abel-services.php He’s been invaluable in making me a better trainer over these past 5 years.

2)      Jeff “Wet Wolf” Kuh. I needed to develop a closer relationship with a nutrition expert to help my clients better realize their goals. As most of my clients come to me with aesthetic goals (fat loss, muscle gain) his before/after style website and the testimonials of his clients spoke loudly. And naturally my personality works best with and I respect how Jeff does what he does. He’s a no-bullsh*t, tough-love sorta dude whom I’ve found to be very reasonable if you’re willing to put in the work (sticking to your meal plan). See his website at www.wetwolftraining.com

The only hesitation I find with my clients hiring a nutrition coach is that just like their decision to hire a personal fitness trainer (me) it really came down to them getting to know a little about me, how I do what I do, what my “style” is and being clear about what I expect. I’m perfectly fine when a client tells me that I am not the trainer for them. I am me. I have my way of doing things. If it doesn’t suit you, the best I can do is perhaps refer you to another qualified trainer I know that may suit you better.

With that said, I asked Jeff if he’d be up for an in-depth interview, which follows my summary.

Summary

I know this blog is long. I set out to cover this subject once and for all. I hope after you’ve read it you’ve discovered where you are on the scale of being more and more regimented in your nutrition planning. It basically comes down to this: if you’re out-of-control, eating crap all the time, start replacing it with quality foods. If it was once living, it’s probably good for you. Pasta doesn’t grow on a tree. Stop eating it. If you’ve made the transition to buying, prepping, cooking and regularly eating quality foods and have run into a plateau, then it’s time to experiment with some guidelines, rules, tips and/or tricks such as I outlined above. If yet still you are not happy with your gains/losses and/or physical performance: you need a professional. Period. Here’s my sincerest advice to you in regards to that: Hire an individual you can trust, work with and respect. I have listed two above such gentlemen. Lastly, am I saying that if your diet is a train wreck that you need to work your way through Category 1, then 2 and finally hire a professional? NO. But let me ask you this: are you ready to pay someone to tell you exactly what to eat and when? No? What if I told you that if you are ready for that, it will mean the absolute fastest fat loss or muscle gains OF YOUR LIFE!

The point is…go with your gut. You should know the direction to take now.

 

Today, I’m stoked to introduce you to Jeff “Wet Wolf” Kuh:

Adrian Crowe (AC herin): I discovered you on the Figure Athlete/T-Nation website a few years back. You immediately came across as a guy in the know. How about you shoot us a brief resume/background for those that may not know of you:

Wet Wolf (WW herin):  I signed a collegiate football scholarship and played for 4 years. When my playing days ended I lost over 50 lbs going from 21% body fat down to 5% body fat in 16 weeks. After graduation I went on to be a collegiate strength coach. From there I transitioned to the private sector as personal trainer for the next 10 years. I’ve had 25 articles published over an 8 month period by the highest paying fitness website in the world (at the time). That led me to creating an online website where I sold customized eating patterns and training programs. Since starting my online business I’ve had over 200 successful fat loss case studies from 16 different countries and wrote an eBook. I transitioned to doing the online program design as a full time gig back in 2011.

AC: When suggesting my personal fitness training clients take on your services one of the big questions I get are related to what certifications or education related to nutrition/diet do you hold or where did you learn the macro science/magic you always impress me with?

WW: You know what’s funny is when I was writing my articles back in early 2009 under a pseudonym I had people contacting me requesting I build a diet program for them. None of them asked me for my resume or who I’d trained, in fact no one even knew my name! So why in the world were they asking me to build them a diet program if they didn’t know a single thing about me?

I’ll tell you why. I sold them on my articles.

When I first started out back in 2001 in the private sector I had several certifications. I won’t reveal which certs they were as I don’t want to endorse any organizations. However one of the certifications was one of the most respected in the industry. In fact I remember after I took the exam I wasn’t any better at doling out nutrition advice.

It didn’t equip me with the knowledge to build effective fat loss or muscle building eating patterns, and it didn’t make me any better as a trainer. In fact none of the certifications did. One of the biggest misconceptions people have out there is that holding a cert or degree actually makes you better at performing your job in the fitness industry. In other industries that’s different. But in the fitness industry having a cert or degree does not better equip you to design an effective personalized nutrition program or customized eating pattern.

The biggest pit falls of certifications & academic curricula is that they don’t teach you how to actually build diet programs. In fact very little of what you even learn has any carry over to real world program design.

In fact it can actually make you worse at program design. I’ve never been shy about voicing my dislike for the pernicious information registered dietitians dish out as seen in my infamous video here.

Dietitians base their entire weight loss protocol off the calories in vs. calories out formula. They’re never focused on fat loss but rather on weight loss. Their battle cry for weight loss is always exercise more and eat less. I’m the only person in the fitness industry or on the planet it seems who says the way to smart healthy fat loss is to exercise less and eat more.

Let me explain.

What I’ve found is that the people who sign up with me who are trying to burn fat but have hit a stubborn plateau are over training and under eating. If you’re already hitting the gym 2 x day, 6 x week, popping fat burners 2 x day and gulping down energy drinks and eating tilapia & asparagus every meal what’s next?  Where do you go from there? Gym 3 x day and twigs & berries? See my point? You have to ditch the chronic over training, drop the fat burners and use food as your chief weapon in the fat loss battle.

Nutrition for fat loss isn’t like math where 1 + 1 will always equal 2. It doesn’t matter what your body fat % is or you gender or your age, no matter who you are, 1 + 1 will always equal 2 does not hold true when it comes to food. Two different people can respond totally different to the same type and portion size of food.

The way I gained knowledge was through testing. I would read, study & absorb different articles by “experts,” books by renowned fitness authors & diet gurus. I bought diet programs from some of the very first online fat loss program pioneers in the industry. I took everything I learned and tested the info on myself and on my clients. I stuck with and improved what worked and ditched what didn’t.

Bruce Lee had a great quote which definitely rings true for me in my journey, “Absorb what is useful and reject what is useless.” Most of the stuff, I’d say 99% of the stuff I read and experimented with on myself and on my clients just wasn’t very effective. The stuff the fitness rags say, “experts” say, text books say or the academic curricula say just doesn’t always work out that way in the real world. It has very little validity in a real world scenario. Does that make sense? It just doesn’t pan-out in the real world. Real world fat loss adversity does not come to you in black & white, it’s different for everybody.

The way I deliver my “magic” as you put it has to do with my very high emotional & intellectual aptitude on how to write program design. Granted it took many years of real world experience in the front line trenches to refine my skills and develop the working knowledge I have today. The biggest misconception I get is that you can learn how to do this. You can study how to get better & use testing like I did but you’ve got to have a God-given aptitude to be really effective at building diet programs and building eating patterns for the individualized customized person. You’ve got to be able to think outside the box and be able to see the forest for the trees. That’s a skill set you can refine over time but you’ve also got to be born with.

The backbone of my eating pattern design is built through three scientifically-backed, proven principles and guidelines but you’re not going to read about two them in text books. They are beyond the scope of what’s being taught in North American certification organizations and academic institutions. Oddly enough I stumbled across them by mistake back in 2003. Since then I’ve refined them and tweaked them along the way to “fit” the different somatotypes of folks I work with.  It’s all out there and it’s proven but you’re not going to find it in textbooks or certification manuals.

You know, the longer I’ve been in this business the more I’ve learned that folks really care less about a certification and more about what you’ve done for others or more appropriately what you can do for them.  Bottom line is that testimonials & success stories mean a lot more then pieces of paper.

AC: Wow, that’s quite the answer! I know what you’re saying though; I see it all the time in personal training where the art and science of workout program design really just doesn’t come to life as it should. Any Joe trainer can write 12 exercises on a piece of paper and call it a workout. But when I ask the “why” questions it all starts falling apart. Okay, let’s move on. Who is your typical clientele? Have you worked with really out of shape (read: obese) folks? Pro athletes? Do you have a preferred client to work with (in relation to training experience or sport)?

WW: I really love this question! My typical clientele now is through online training. I don’t train folks at a gym or do boot camps. I’m just in front of the computer. Being a former collegiate football player and then strength coach at the University of Florida I worked with athletes that were 1st round NFL draft picks , top athletes that have gone on to play professional sports. And at the time were All-Conference or All-American collegiate athletes who were phenomenal physical specimens.

From there I transitioned to the private sector back in 2001. That’s where I worked with everyone from skinny junior high kids in puberty to geriatric folks battling obesity and everything in between. Might have been the guy in his 30’s who was a former collegiate athlete who wanted to get back in shape or the petulant, despondent single woman who was trying to shrink her waist line.

95% were female, some were hot, some had a great attitude and some were angry at life for a number of reasons but they all wanted to burn fat.

Now since I’m totally online, 90% of all my clients are females. Most are probably in the age 30-50 demographic. About 70% are married with kids. I currently have 2 folks who are in their 60’s and two teenagers on board.

AC: Do you work with vegetarians? Any specific challenges or insight/opinion you can provide for this bunch?

WW: Yes I do. It’s funny you ask this because I have a quote I coined on my Facebook page where I say, “If you’re a vegetarian and you’re trying to burn body fat that’s like taking a knife to a gun fight.” What I mean by that is it’s a mismatch.   It’s like trying to climb a cactus. However it can be done with the right tools.

In fact one of the vegetarians you sent my way, Muni actually lost 7 lbs her first month once I built her a fat loss specific vegetarian eating pattern.

As a vegetarian, your complete protein sources are limited; therefore you have to be on point with the carb & fat sources you eat. And Muni did just that. So although it is more challenging, it can be done.

AC: Alright, let’s get into the meat and potatoes (excuse the pun). Where are people royally screwing up or quite simply just don’t get it in relation to diet?

WW: People trying to “figure out” what to eat on their own, trying to “wing it” on their own. This never works. This doesn’t work for 2 reasons:

1)      People don’t have the emotional aptitude to eat the right foods.  People have a compelling fear of food. I can’t tell you how many folks have come to me quivering in fear about the certain disaster that awaits them if they eat their last meal too late at night.  People are also afraid of large portions of food, yes even healthy food. I once had a girl email me in absolute terror just to make sure she was supposed to eat her ½ cup of quinoa. You see when you cook quinoa it greatly expands thus that little bitty scoop now takes up five times as much space after you zap it in the microwave. Same amount of calories and carbs as before but the increased volume had taken a death grip on this poor girl’s emotional aptitude rendering her defenseless against her compelling fear of food. “It was just so much I just wanted to make sure I was supposed to eat it all!” So they eat small or moderate amounts of healthy food which doesn’t have the caloric load to support their energy expenditure. Then a couple days later they are starving and fall off the deep end with an all-out jail break binge. Then the same vicious cycle starts all over. Wash-Rinse-Repeat.  When it comes to healthy food, more is less.

2)      People lack the Intellectual aptitude to design their own effective fat loss program. Quite simply they just don’t know what to eat. When someone signs up with me I have them list on their evaluation the foods they currently eat. Every single person always eats the wrong foods or isn’t eating the right foods. It’s a re-occurring theme of three problems, too much protein, too many processed foods and dairy.

Now the question is why do people think they can figure it out on their own? I mean, where does this false bravado come from? Two reasons:

1) Everywhere you look, Dr. Oz, fitness mags, fitness celebs, diet blogs, the news, etc. people are always telling you what to eat. Top 3 foods to burn belly fat, top 8 ways to trim your waist line, top 10 clean recipes, etc. people hear so many tidbits of advice they think they are equipped to do it on their own.

2) People have been eating their entire life. You have to eat to live and you eat every day. So people think that because they’ve been doing it their whole life and you have to eat to survive that surely then can manage on their own. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If this weren’t the case you wouldn’t have so many people trying to burn fat, who couldn’t.

AC: Where do you stand on the dietary supplement issue? Do you recommend them? And if you do, are they absolutely necessary for your program? What about the fat burner usage?

WW:  I am a fan of using supplements but let me be clear it is a very short list. I do not endorse any one brand but cherry pick the best products from a variety of brands. I do recommend a very short list to my clients. I’m not going to say they are 100% necessary to follow my program but at the same time with over 1000 sign ups I’ve never had anyone that insisted to void them altogether.

My stance on fat burners is that unless you are doing a competition or a photo shoot you have no business taking them. My general rule of thumb is that if you can’t get under 20% body fat (excluding extreme endomorphs) by eating healthy and exercising alone you have no business taking fat burners.

Fat burners should be taken acutely not chronically.

AC: How about training? And what’s your opinion on typical (read: machines in gym) cardio?

WW:  People have a poor Training Economy (doing crummy exercises) and they over train. That’s why 99% of the folks you see in the gym either regress or look the same year after year. When it comes to exercise, less is more.

My opinion is evidence based off the 1000 or so folks who have signed up with me and filled out an evaluation and the last 17 years as a collegiate athlete, college strength coach and private sector personal trainer.

AC: You’re big on people using your online forums for progress journaling. Why? What benefits would someone see by using this service? Is it necessary and what loss is there if someone chooses to opt out of this?

WW:  My online forum provides a great source of accountability, social support and mentorship for the members. Starting a personal journal in my message forum is very valuable because you are surrounded by like-minded individuals.  All the folks following a customized eating program like yourself are in the same boat as you. The biggest benefit is that the members feed off each other’s success and lift each other up when someone has a bad day. I’ve seen some women totally change their mentality and outlook by following the success of another member. It’s an amazing thing to behold. Never underestimate the power of being surrounded and supported by like-minded individuals who are all fighting for the same thing as you are!

Your journal is where I will field all your questions you may have about your program. You see, when folks know other people will be reading what they write they often tend to ask fewer stupid questions.

If someone chooses to opt out of this service it is very foolish for the following reasons: 1) the support they receive is included in their program price. They’re paying for this. Your program price isn’t ONLY for the program delivery; it also includes the ongoing support, coaching & adjustments that may be necessary over the course of the month.  2) They are missing out on the intangibles such as social support, accountability & mentorship. If someone claims they don’t feel comfortable posting their journey with others they can simply use a pen name when they register as most my clients do this anyway. This way you will remain anonymous. 3) Posting in your journal also opens up the communication lines. The more you communicate with me the better your chances are to be successful.

AC: You’re known, especially on Facebook, for showing some “tough love” (to put it nicely). Anything you care to say to those that may not be able to handle it or quickly feel offended?

WW: I’ve found that 90% of folks respond best to “tough love” or the “No B.S.” approach. People respect it because it’s not sugar coated. I’m always brutally honest with people. Basically 90% of folks respond well to it and 10% don’t. In the end most people respect a brutally honest answer that helps them even if it’s not what they want to hear.

AC: One look at your website: www.wetwolftraining.com can leave one confused on which program may be best for them. I generally suggest for my clients the Quick Fix Diet (QFD) for those looking for the best “eat this to attain your goals” type of plan. Then I recommend the Oscillating Macronutrient Eating Pattern (OMEP) for those that really need more serious coaching in their nutrition plan. Where would you suggest someone start?

WW:  I agree with what you said 100%. That’s a perfect way to present it.

AC: Alright, last one. Time to put you on the spot. As a personal fitness trainer I really believe in the old story of teaching a man to fish so he may be able to feed himself long term versus simply giving him a fish for the day. I’d say a good 50-75% of clients could care less to learn the how’s and why’s; that’s why they come to us – to tell them what to do to help them reach their goals. But what about those that want to learn? Say if I’m a new client, I feel I need the enhanced level of coaching OMEP provides and choose to take it on for 6-12 months, during that time frame am I going to learn how to eat best for my body and goals? Where do you stand on the teaching front?

WW: I specialize in program delivery and support and that’s what I deliver. One question I never answer is the “why” question. Folks need to focus less on the “why” and focus more on the “doing” the actual program that lies in front of them. My motto is pretty simple: “Read your program, trust your program, obey your program then watch your program work!”

I also have an aggregate of articles, webinars & YouTube recordings where I dish out important info for smart eating that anyone can watch without ever paying me anything.

AC: Alright, Jeff. Thank you very much for your time. On a final note, until last week I didn’t even know you had a YouTube channel. Where else can we find you and what’s the best way for someone to learn more about your services?

WW: I would suggest people browse around the journal section of my message board and get inside street info on what my members are doing straight from the horse’s mouth.

My Facebook page is still the best place to read daily tid bits of info from me.

It has been my pleasure Adrian, glad I could share my thoughts with you.

BTW, you can now find me on:

Instagram @adriancroweathletictraining

Facebook page at Adrian Crowe Athletic Training “The Crowe’s Nest”

YouTube www.youtube.com/acathletictraining

or email me directly at adrian@adriancrowe.com

The Brain Candy Experiment – Part 2/3

I know, I know. You’re wondering if Adrian became so Limitless that he disappeared from his blogging adventures leaving you all hanging about this mysterious Brain Candy supplement that sounds all too interesting.

So have I become Limitless?

Well, sorta, but not really is the short answer. I called that sh*t in Part 1, there was bound to be a serious flaw to this product in relation to the ridiculous 300mg caffeine dosage level. You mind as well read part 1 if any of this is to make sense.

This installment, Part 2 of the Brain Candy Experiment will really be the best read if you want an honest opinion of the supplement. I’m going to first give an overall review and then break it down into all the nuances for those that want more info.

Overall Review: Yay or Nay?

If I were forced to give a simple Yay or Nay as to the product’s worth in trying (if the marketing hype on T-Nation you read has really got you interested) then quite simple: it’s a big Yay! It’s worth the purchase to experiment for yourself.

At this time (end of April 2012) the caffeine-free version has not been released to the general public for sale so I am reviewing the full caffeine version. The taste is okay, not great. The claim to reducing social anxiety I have witnessed first hand. My mental clarity hasn’t ever been this sharp; EVER. My mood (as mentioned in Part 1, I have mild bipolar disorder) has been incredibly stable and positive. My ability to handle stupidity (of my own accord and others especially) and stress are fantastic. Lastly, my overall sense of well-being (mentally; not physically, read more if you want to understand) was greatly improved the 28 days I ran this experiment on myself.

But the supplement is far from perfect. It has some major flaws. It has some very major perks as well. So before you click the good ol’ Add-To-Cart button I suggest you read on.

The Adrian Crowe Style Review:

Let’s go step by step in every detail of what the product claims as well as other notes I wish to convey. Shall we start with an easy one:

Taste

It’s the exact liquid flavoring system they use for all their products (Surge Workout Fuel, Anaconda and Mag-10) which is a VERY BORING orange flavor. Not orange creamsicle. Not orange, the fruit or fruit juice. But artificial, boring, sorta gross popsicle style orange. It’s tolerable but in my opinion very lazy on their part to not release a better, more refreshing flavor seeing how we’re supposed to slam this stuff first thing in the morning; groggy, bad breath and all. Seriously, give me a lemon/lime, grapefruit, pineapple, sour apple or something!!

From what I understand the caffeine free version is supposed to taste like citrus which I’m assuming they used the same flavoring as with Biotest’s Alpha-GPC liquid product which is fine by me as that taste is quite good (and that product is awesome BTW).

Digestion

This stuff really doesn’t sit well in the stomach. On day 1 I though I just had a mild tummy ache. By day 3 I realized it was the Brain Candy. I was able to negate that by drinking it with my breakfast but then again that also slightly limits its absorption. 3 other people I gave bottles too felt the nauseated stomach too.

Increases Confidence

That’s a big claim on Biotest’s part but they felt so strong about Brain Candy’s ability they listed it first on the bottle in regards to what the product was formulated to do.

Confidence is a tough thing to judge. Is confidence something I perceive in myself? That others perceive in me? What’s the difference between confidence and a sense of well-being or what about ego???

I think to answer the question we’d have to first define attributes in our lives that bring us confidence. For me, it’s my ability to communicate, articulate and, in general, find a way to help people solve problems and challenges in their lives especially related to their health and fitness. Guess I chose the right job.

So did Brain Candy increase my ability to articulate, communicate and help me help others even better? Yes! And big, resounding yes!!

I’ve never been so clear in mind, in my entire life, than in the past month I was supplementing with Brain Candy (quote me on that if you like). It was that which increased my confidence greatly.

Reduces Social Anxiety

I have to wonder where Biotest was going with this one? Seems an interesting tag to attach to a nootropic product. For most people social anxiety is a non-issue. For others, it can be very debilitating. It can be as simple as being a gloomy person who really feels annoyed and aggravated around others to very unique disorders like Anthropophobia (fear of people) or Agoraphobia (fear of open spaces; people who don’t leave their houses).

For me, my social anxieties have always been related to large groups of people. One-on-one I’m awesome, totally comfortable and can be myself. Two others, sure, no problem. Three, okay, if I sorta know them at least. 4 or more and it’s all downhill. I go from being the one who’s usually talkative to the dude in the corner who’s super quiet and just wants to go back to being a homebody.

I don’t drink so the idea of parties where drinking is occurring just irks me and I have zero interest in. That may simply be my social anxiety, my annoyance of people when drunk (I don’t find it funny, I find you stupid), or that I’m just an introvert by nature and I have enough of the extrovert-run world we live in within my career as is. I work with people, very closely for 8-16hrs of my day, the last thing I really want is more people in my off time.

However, I was invited to a birthday party, at a restaurant recently for a buddy of mine. I enjoy his company and really wanted to wish him a happy b-day, so me and my gal went. The problem was two-fold: there would be significant drinking and the other dozen people there I’d never met. Huge problem. Before Brain Candy that is.

I took a whole bottle about an hour before the event. Not once did I feel the uncomfortable, crawling in my skin, get me outta here feeling I normally would. I was able to relax, talk at relative ease with strangers, tolerate those drinking around me (even when they got mighty tipsy). In fact, everyone that knows “he (me) doesn’t do this sort of thing” was utterly surprised I stayed the whole night and was one of the last to leave.

Dare I say: I enjoyed myself.

Improves Mood

Aside from the major flaw of this product which I’ll talk about after this one category, I must say my mood has greatly improved. Perhaps a better way to put it is that my mood weathers the storms.

In reading about Brain Candy on the T-Nation website there was mention of a scale that really rung home for me.

You know those psycho happy people, that no matter what they’re always chipper? Even when they have a “bad day” it seems like it’s just one of our “normal” days? Let’s call those people the +5’s.

You know those doom and gloom depressive people? The ones where everything is “just fine” or “okay, I guess”; the glass always half empty sort? Energy vampires can fall into this category too. Let’s call them the -5’s.

Okay, so most people fall somewhere in the middle, right? If I had to put myself on that scale, I’d call myself a +2.

What really intrigued me was the discussion on T-Nation regarding how when a +5 person has a down day they maybe get knocked down to a +2 or at worst, a 0 (let’s call that a blah, blue day). But when a 0 to +2 person (such as myself) has a bad day, well we can slide down the scale a lot sharper and end up at a -2 or -3. And don’t get me started on those that live at a -5, because everything is always seemingly going wrong.

What if we could weather the storms of life better? Enter Brain Candy. Now, being a +2 by nature and living with mild bipolar disorder (my manic moments come around 11am-1pm and my down phase starts at 8pm and leads me right through to bed time) I am VERY unstable from day-to-day. If y’all ever wonder why I am seemingly ON one day and OFF the next; that’s why. I slid way down the scale the night before and haven’t bounced back yet. Sometimes it can take a couple of days to get myself out of a funk.

In the 28 days of using Brain Candy I had only one single down. One. Usually I have one extreme one a month (read: crazy suicidal thoughts even when I’m totally happy about my life thus far; yay team bipolar!), and 2-3 normal downs a week. I had one down. That’s friggin major!!

Energy

I know what you were thinking when you read the Brain Candy product page: sounds like an energy drink with brain stuff added in. So what are we talking about here? A Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar, NOS except with gingko or other brain stuff?

One look at the ingredient label would really suggest that. So being a person that really likes caffeine in the form of energy drink (albeit I limit myself) and try to stick with Q instead, this really appealed to me. For about the same price ($3 per drink; I know they are cheaper in the States) I could get a better formulated energy drink that has some major hype behind it. Sounds good, you’re thinking. You can finally get off that 6 can a day habit. haha

I must first admit that 1) I’m caffeine sensitive 2) I’ve faced adrenal fatigue many times in the past due to too much caffeine in my day 3) I’m highly sensitive to most supplements (in all ways) and 4) I highly enjoy and usually recommend Biotest supplements as I feel they make some pretty good ones.

Brain Candy is absolute destruction to your adrenal glands/energy system. Worst crash in my life. Day 1 was horrid. By Day 15 I was near falling asleep between sets of heavy front squats. By Day 28 I am left absolutely destroyed in relation to my ability to produce and maintain basic levels of energy. I’m yawning all day. People keep asking me “what’s wrong dude?” I knew it was going to happen with the 300mg of caffeine in this product.

Yes, it got me going in the morning; great buzz. But after the half way point it was barely bringing me back to my old normal.

I can’t explain how absolutely terrible a feeling it is to have raised confidence, reduced social anxiety, to be more clear in the mind than you ever have been before and yet you’re so completely exhausted you can’t drum up the energy to go change your life.

Biotest has failed by over-caffeinating the product. 150mg would have sufficed. 300mg is overkill.

And what if you’re one of those that could drink a pot of coffee and go right to sleep? Well, I’d have to suspect that this product’s positives which I’ve outlined in the above categories would also not be felt to the degree I felt them.

Sleep, the Side Note

For those that don’t know I track my sleep via a Zeo Mobile Sleep Manager system. It allows me to check my total sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep, how many times I woke during the night and for how long, how long it took me to fall asleep, etc. So what happened?

Well, let’s look at the numbers:

My total sleep trend the past 4 months:

As you’ll see in the month prior to Brain Candy (I started Mar 28th) I was working and succeeding at increasing all factors of my sleep, most importantly the total time.

Let’s look at what the weeks looked like during the experiment:

At first I was so wound up I couldn’t sleep, but by day 8 where I made a note in my journal about being exhausted all the time you’ll see my sleep time increased. BUT then it started dying come week 4. Why?

Let’s look at Deep Sleep (you know the kind where you wake after 2 hours and go, wow, I could almost get up and go about my day; in other words the most important part of sleep, in my opinion of course):

It tanked. Big time. So badly on the daily basis I actually had to take some melatonin to boost it 1-3 nights a week, hence why I was able to get it back up sort of. Now it may not seem like much but an extra 10-15 mins of Deep Sleep is major! Most people see about 1-1.25 hours of deep sleep if they had 8 hours total sleep.

How about REM?

As to be expected, with more total sleep you will generally see an increase in REM sleep. I don’t find the extra 15-45mins of REM sleep really does too much for me in terms of feeling rested. Also of note however, that come week 4, when I reached adrenal fatigue, my sleep as a whole went to shit, despite being completely exhausted.

Why?

I worked quite hard since January to get myself to only wake 1-2 times a night. During the experiment it doubled. So I was having more interrupted sleep which we all know ruins the quality we feel when we wake.

Last thing:

Not only was I waking up more but I was awake longer. Again, not good.

Now, I fully admit, this may be simply because I’m a caffeine sensitive individual. But you are here for a review which is an opinion and I’m quite simply trying to show you more data then you’ll ever find in any other review of the product…period. You can judge for yourself from here.

Summary

If after reading the above review, understanding the major flaw of this product being over caffeinated and how that can lead to adrenal fatigue, understanding yourself and how well you handle 3 cups of coffee worth of caffeine in one shot on empty stomach and you’re still interested in all the exceptional positives I’ve laid out above, I’d say give it a whirl.

If you know you’re caffeine sensitive stay away from the original version. While the cracked-outta-my-mind feeling can be fun, the jitters and inability to focus on one thing (because Brain Candy makes it so you focus on 10 at the same time) can be rather bothersome.

Now, how does Adrian heal himself after this experiment? Well, I’m going caffeine free. No pre-workouts, no green tea (I don’t drink coffee already). I’m doing a 2 week wash out. I’m also going to have to take an adrenal support supplement, up my vitamin C and increase my salt intake slightly (all things that have helped me recover from this position in years before). I’m also heading into the first vacation I’ve had in 3 years so the lack of work stress and ability to sleep in longer if I choose will be a big help.

When Biotest finally releases the caffeine-free version of Brain Candy I’ll be the first to order, guaranteed! I want the mental clarity, the mood weathering, the confidence in my abilities all taken to that level again….but I can’t do the cracked out (300mg caffeine) version. I know where my personal caffeine limits are in a day. I would like to be able to control that.

So c’mon Biotest, get your stuff in order and release it already!

So did Adrian become Limitless?

In the mind, yes, very much so! But try being the world’s fastest runner chained to a stone wall.

I didn’t get very far.

Note: in Part 3 I will let you know how I recover from the adrenal fatigue and let you know how I weather being off of Brain Candy as well as if I then notice any other nuances versus being ON.

BTW, you can now find me on:

Instagram @adriancroweathletictraining

Facebook page at Adrian Crowe Athletic Training “The Crowe’s Nest”

YouTube www.youtube.com/acathletictraining

or email me directly at adrian@adriancrowe.com

From Zeo to Zen – The Project – Installation 1 – Intro

Sleep

I’ve never had a great relationship with sleep.  I’ve gone through a few distinctive cycles in my life. When I was a teenager I slept ALL THE TIME. I was probably sleeping more hours than I was awake. In my early 20’s, just as I was beginning to get a handle on my ups and downs with my bipolar disorder I went through a year of having nightmares damn near every night. That led me to read a book about a supplement/brain chemical called 5-HTP as well as some experimentation with lucid dreaming (a terrible idea). In my mid-twenties when I was working my Monday-Friday 9-5 cush job I could afford to have erratic sleeping patterns and to allow my natural night owl to go wild, routinely staying up to 2am and struggling to get up at 7:30am to get ready for work. On Sundays, I would sleep just like a teenager, wasting half my day.

When I began my personal fitness trainer career my schedule all of a sudden became the accommodation of everyone else’s. Needed me to be at work for a 5:30am session, no problem! Needed me there to train at 11pm, sure, I’m a rock star; no problem! My record was 4 years ago where I trained 12 one-on-one clients in 16 hours. I’m awesome, right??

No.

I am convinced that all of us have one major “flaw” or thing we do that ruins 80% of our lives’ goals and dreams. If we could “fix” that one thing, we would quite simply improve 80% of what we don’t accomplish, what we procrastinate and we’d make better choices. Think about it…what’s that one thing for you? It could be your crappy eating. It could be your pessimism. It could be your lack of exercise. It could be your indecisiveness or fear of risk.

For me it is sleep. If I stay up too late, generally I’m tired the next day (duh). But somehow I also didn’t prep my food for the next day so my meals are not up to snuff. I didn’t get to do all the hygiene things I intended. I may miss a workout because I’m just too damn exhausted. I’m not as focused at work. My client’s notice when I’m tired. My lady and our relationship suffers as well for when I’m finally done work and it’s time for us to be together, I’m usually passing out on the couch. All while proclaiming “why are there not enough hours in a day!”

My lack of sleep management has f**ked up near everything I feel has gone the wrong way in my life. Jobs, relationships, goals, dreams…everything!

From Zeo to Zen – The Project

As the start of this year, on Facebook I saw a really weird picture (below) on the always interesting Mike T Nelson’s page. If you’re on Facebook, he’s worth the add for interesting health stuff he puts out.

This looks cool and complicated…right up my alley!

I did some Google searching and found the source of this info and it’s a product called the Zeo Sleep Manager. It really rung home for me as a way to not only commit myself to overcoming this sleep deficit (read: PROBLEM!) in my life but to also do as I love: experiment with my body and learn about it.

I always thought it would be cool to go into a sleep lab and be hooked up to a bunch of machines and have them spit out some information about what’s going down in the mousetrap of a brain I got upstairs. But part of me knew it wouldn’t really be accurate as I’m very particular about how I sleep. It’s gotta be with the right pillow, a fan on, temperature cool and my lady in my arms. Not really the type of sleep environment sleep labs offer.

What do you mean I can wear this funny looking (read: never getting laid at 3am ever again) gizmo on my forehead and when I wake it’ll tell me cool stuff about what just happened when I went to Neverland? Sign me up!

It’s been four months and for the better part of it, I’ve done next to nothing except wear the gizmo and really try to get to bed earlier after I realized how much I was sucking at sleeping in Jan/Feb (<5.5hrs/night). I had to understand what my baseline was before I go messing with it.

My not so vast, but still, improvements in total sleep the past 4 months

The Point of the Project

I’ve pretty much already alluded to my desire to learn just what happens while I’m sleeping. But also, I’m after the elusive formula. If I go to bed at X time and sleep for Y hours, attaining a minimum of Z hours worth of deep and REM sleep then I shall wake feeling rested, ready for my day and sans bag-under-thy-eyes.

I don’t know what that number is. I hear people lay claim to it all the time: “If I don’t get my 8 hours, I’m useless.” “I only need 4 good hours and I’m golden!” I call bullshit. Where’s your frame of reference? Have you tested it every way you can think of?

I’ve read some of the science on how long we “should” be sleeping as well as some sleep history that was really of interest, especially biphasic sleeping. But at the end of the day I don’t know what Adrian needs, even after 33 years. Sounds like a challenge worth tackling.

I don’t want to drag out this initial introduction to the experiment out. I will get into an official product review of the Zeo Mobile Sleep Manager which I simply hook up to my iPhone each night.

I will also be using the Zeo to check how various sleep and other supplements can/will affect my sleep. And lastly I will be sharing tips, tricks and valuable experience I learn on how to improve sleep as I hear all too often:

“I’m tired!!”

So am I, my friends. I’m tired of being tired.

Bloob-Allz: Hurts Soooo Good! Review, Usage and Raffle Contest!

I’m here today to tell you: blue balls are real! They hurt, they last a long time, they really need to be released, they work great on women and by far are the best thoracic spine self myofascial release product on the market!

Wait………..what?!?!

Bad Blue Balls!

Good Blue Balls!

Product Review:

As some of you may know, I’ll fully admit to my addiction to self myofascial release (SMR) as well as my ridiculous habit of owning far too many rollers, sticks, balls and every other type of tool out there for performing SMR. I have an ode to SMR here, a complete product market review here and in case you feel lost in what to do with all the toys, I put together about 2 hours worth of instruction videos for every usage I know. Don’t believe my crazy:

I take SMR seriously!

Okay, to the topic at hand. A couple of months ago I saw a picture floating around Facebook, similar to my picture above of me holding the Bloob-Allz product in my hand. I immediately recognized the shape and intention:

Finally a product truly designed to target this one very important self myofascial release area: lumbar & especially thoracic spine. Anyone who’s used two taped up tennis balls in this set up knows there are some major flaws:

The flaws of dual (taped up) tennis balls for SMR:

1) You need good balls, ones that are meant for “hard court” which comes at a price (for me about $3.50-$4.00 for a 3-pack. This becomes quite costly over the year.

2) When you first build a pair they work very well, but over time, especially in a clinical setting such as I’m using them (5-8+ clients a day), they flatten to a mushy substance worth next to nothing and therefore we lose all benefit of using them.

3) It’s an art form getting them packed as superbly as I’ve done above, let alone doing it every week (again cost, annoying)!

4) For us SMR connoisseurs, who truly dedicate a great deal of time into making our bodies feel better and recover faster from the torture we put it through, well many times, even when brand new, the two tennis balls just don’t cut it

5) Lastly, from a perfectionist standpoint, dual (taped up) tennis balls work superbly in the lower back, somewhat decent in the low-mid back but by the time you get up towards the mid-back (rhomboids, mid-traps) on anyone over 5’2″ or over 150lbs they really can’t get in to dig at the areas we really have the most trigger points and muscle knots!

I’ve said it time and time again: in regards to self myofascial release, while I could probably make a foam roller work on every part of my body, it doesn’t mean it’s the absolute best or even the optimal way to target that unique area of the body. You need the right tool for each job! Case in point, the TFL area (think dress pant pocket line) can be hit with a foam roller and most company’s products demonstrate how, but by fluke I figured out that the best way to hit it is not with a roller, but actually a softball or baseball. It just works better!

And that’s what Bloob-Allz does: it works better than dual (taped up) tennis balls, especially for thoracic mobility and self myofascial release of the mid-back (rhomboid, mid-trap) area where near all of us have muscle knots and trigger points.

Why It’s Better: The Pros

Take the inverse of all of the flaws of using dual (taped up) tennis balls I outlined above and that’s why Bloob-Allz are worth the purchase. For the upfront cost of about $30 I’m buying a product that is going to last a LOT longer than tennis balls (especially in a clinical setting such as with my 5-8+ personal training clients each day). They do not degrade into a smooshy, useless product as all tennis balls flatten quite quickly with the usage we currently use them for. They are hard, which I’ll explain later can be a con, but in reality, if you’re going to do SMR, it’s going to be somewhat (or a lot) painful – what matters in performing SMR (as laid out in my guidelines video) is that you need to be able to relax into that pain for the “release” or resetting effect to happen. If you can do that with the Bloob-Allz product, the euphoric feeling Joe (the inventor) describes is absolutely amazing. Near orgasmic, in fact!

Where this product shines far above what’s currently on the market is the fact that with a few easy turns you can widen the balls further away from each other (about 1.25″ apart). Why is that important? Well, let’s look at some back anatomy:

Back musculature is incredibly complex. You can see the cross hatch and various ups, downs, sideways, etc of all the different muscles. You’ll also notice that the most vertical running group of muscles (called the erector spinae group) run ride beside the spine itself such as this:

While other muscles, especially the rhomboids and mid-trapezius run in completely opposite (side to side) and fan out quite a distance from the spinal column shown here:

The rhomboids shown in bold red are a VERY common source (I’m talking epidemic level) of trigger points, pain and even dysfunction for most people.

Trigger points, muscle knots and tension in this area can lead to postural issues (such as slouching and shoulder protraction) which can lead to serious pains in the front shoulder and neck. In fact when people tell me their neck is stiff I immediately have them go searching in their mid-back for trigger points and 90% of the time the have a nasty trigger point on the same side as the neck pain.

I’m not going to go into further detail of the absolute necessity for people to maintain good thoracic spine mobility as I’ve explained before how granny, with her inability to put her shirt on because of her serious hunchback didn’t happen overnight.

I’ve also been searching for the magic cure that would fix these knots and trigger points I so frequently get in that mid-back area (as do so many of my clients, friends, family). I’m not sure there is one. I’ve tried chiropractic treatment, active release technique (ART), IMS, acupuncture, massage and every type of heat and cold product out there. No success. I’m not 100% convinced (as I still have hope and keep searching for the answer) the best way to ensure I don’t really suffer is to DIAL DOWN the tension in that area FREQUENTLY!

And the Bloob-Allz are the single best product on the market for that job!

The Cons: 

You can’t please everyone. I’ve tried for the past two years to really “convert” my clients into SMR junkies to save them from the aches and pains of life, movement, sports and our training sessions and some have really taken it to heart. Others couldn’t be bothered, until they get injured and realize they should have been doing this all along. And still others refuse to follow the advice of so many of the good coaches, personal trainers, chiros and physiotherapists preaching the benefits of SMR.

As much as I wanna be the guy to say, yes it hurts but just suck it up princess, I can’t ignore the fact that some people have VERY low pain tolerance, that they turn very off from sources of pain. I’ve tested the Bloob-Allz product on every single one of my clients and it’s about 80/20. 80% know how well they work and reach for them in my toy bucket and the other 20% simply prefer the “old school” dual (taped up) tennis balls. For one simple reason, “I don’t want those damn Bloob-Allz; they’re just too hard!” proclaimed my client a few days ago.

I’ve mentioned to Joe (the inventor) that it would make sense to have a Bloob-Allz “Lite” product on the market, made of a slightly less dense/hard material, but equally as durable for this clientele. It’s the major flaw for those that really struggle to get through the pain/discomfort factor of SMR to obtain the benefits.

Lastly, via my experimentation on myself and clients I’ve found that because of the profound “release” or resetting effect of the Bloob-Allz, I recommend they are used in the post-workout equation or the between workout recovery equation of SMR. Using Bloob-Allz during the SMR portion of a warm up can work but, in my opinion, you really should be taking some serious time (10mins) on the product to truly obtain the best benefits. The euphoric feeling after using the Bloob-Allz was so surprising the first time, I had to sit down for 20 minutes to let my system reset. Probably not a good idea to get that sort of relaxation level going for a client right before you make them do a heavy, hard or intense workouts. So I suggest clients (but I give them the option) use the dual (taped up) tennis balls during the SMR series of my warm ups and the Bloob-Allz get saved for post-workout or between workout recovery.

Conclusion:

I love this product. I use it every day. Multiple times a day sometimes when my back is really sore or my trigger points from heavy back, deadlift and posture work are wound right up.

I’ve created a review, explanation and demonstration of use video here to describe the nuances of how to use the product as well as show you a unique way I’ve found this product to work elsewhere in the body! Watch that video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW77E4Hi1Mk

No good self myofascial release connoisseur, SMR junkie or someone dealing with mid-back muscle knots or thoracic mobility issues is complete without their own set of Bloob-Allz!

Visit the Bloob-Allz website today for more details and to purchase!

 My collection, now complete with Bloob-Allz!

AN EXTRA SPECIAL TREAT: RAFFLE CONTEST – ENDS APRIL 20, 2012

Joe, the inventor of Bloob-Allz has sent me TWO free pairs of Bloob-Allz to raffle off with the unveiling of this product review. Interested in the product after my review? Here’s how you enter:

1) Subscribe to my blog. Pretty easy, look down on your right hand corner. See the grey “Follow +” button, click on that, enter your email address and done. Now, of course it’s a perk for me to have a greater subscribing readership. It allows me to reach a greater audience and gets my name out there more.  If you dig the sort of info I put out, I’m happy. If it’s just not your forte, after the winner of the contest has been announced, feel free to unsubscribe (which is just as easy). I promise, I won’t take offense to it. I will also note, you may wish to hang around as I’ve got more giveaways just around the corner and I’m hoping to be able to do this often.

2) Post a comment below answering this question: what is your main interest/feature of trying out this product? Note that all comments have to be moderated by me before showing up so don’t panic if yours doesn’t show up immediately. I will cross check that you’ve subscribed to the blog and then reply to your comment by letting you know that you’re entered.

Rules of the Contest:

1)  Each entry is for 1 Bloob-Allz only. I am giving away two Bloob-Allz but they are going to two separate entry winners.

2. Contest dates run: April 3rd, 2012 and last day you can enter is 11:59pm PST Friday, April 20th. The winner will be announced Sunday, April 22nd via the blog so check back on that date (you’ll get an email anyway because you’re subscribed to the blog).

3. Contest is only open to those in Canada AND the United States. I will pay for shipping. If you are outside of Canada or the United States (say the United Kingdom), if you wish to pay for shipping and you win, we can set that up.

4. Like any contest, prizes have no cash value; you may NOT trade for such. Don’t enter the contest unless you’re genuinely interested in owning a set of your very own Bloob-Allz!