Tag Archives: training

CrossFit Training: How fitness protects from chronic disease

CrossFit Training and recent research on links between adaptation to fitness and increased levels of anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants lower risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.There are many benefits in maintaining fitness.  Regular exercise reduces risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  While the association of exercise and disease prevention has been strong, understanding why has been unclear.  But this is changing.

CrossFit Training, Anti-oxidants, free-radicals and fitness.

Uncontrolled free-radicals are major factors in the development of serious diseases.  Diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease are all conditions where free-radicals are thought to play major roles.  Free radicals are molecules or atoms that have lost an electron.  These pose problems because they are very reactive and will grab electrons from other molecules.  Free radicals can also interact with other molecules, stress cells and throw wrenches in the works.  This includes wrench throwing into your DNA.    Damaged DNA that is not repaired can result in cancer.  Or birth defects.  Free radicals also  damage tissues and organs by damaging large numbers of cells. They can damage pancreatic beta cells and increase risk of type 2 diabetes.

CrossFit Training and How fitness protects from cancer, heart disease, diabetes.

Of CrossFit Training and General Health.  Anti-oxidants protect us from free-radicals by neutralizing them.  Having enough anti-oxidants reduces risk of diabetes, cancer, or heart disease.  Exercise causes a number of changes beyond weight loss and fitness.  And these changes play into the free-radical games.   These changes are adaptions to the increased stress of exercise.  When people are first getting in shape there is an increase in free-radical production.  And a temporary increase in physical stress.   As a result, your body suffers inflammation, along with aches and pains. This is very much like what happens when you get sick with a fever.  This may be a good part of why getting in shape sucks so much.   When you are getting in shape (or trying to push yourself to a higher level) your body will produce more free-radicals, including more reactive oxygen species, until it adapts to your new level of activity.  Part of that adaptation includes increasing production of its own anti-oxidants.  Once you have adapted you will be producing enough anti-oxidants to protect against other sources of free-radicals.

CrossFit Training, Endurance or Weight Training?

What is CrossFit looking like in terms of increasing anti-oxidants?  Is Endurance Training best?  Or Resistance Training?  So far animal testing indicates that endurance exercise works best for protection against inflammation and production of anti-oxidants (Oliveira et al. 2012).  The animals in the study were subjected to endurance training, resistance training or combination training.   Hopefully more work will be done in this area and we will get a better picture of what is optimal for humans.  Weight training (resistance exercise) remains important.  And CrossFit exercises (and high intensity interval training) show very promising results on other aspects of health and fitness.  It seems likely that adaptation to these forms of exercise (i.e. CrossFit) will produce similar results to endurance training.

 

de Lemos ET, Oliveira J, Pinheiro JP, & Reis F (2012). Regular physical exercise as a strategy to improve antioxidant and anti-inflammatory status: benefits in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2012 PMID: 22928086

de Oliveira VN, Bessa A, Jorge ML, Oliveira RJ, de Mello MT, De Agostini GG, Jorge PT, & Espindola FS (2012). The effect of different training programs on antioxidant status, oxidative stress, and metabolic control in type 2 diabetes. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 37 (2), 334-44 PMID: 22458821

Masters CrossFit: Does type of workout matter? Is CrossFit, endurance or weight training best?

There are many benefits from fitness.  And many reasons why people enjoy (or subject themselves to) CrossFit Workouts.   Staying in shape.  Looking good.  Masochistic tendencies.  However, on a deeper level regular exercise reduces risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Current research indicates Fitness may protect us from free radicals.   Free-radicals are major factors in development of disease.  Diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease are all conditions where free-radicals are thought to be involved.  Free radicals are oxidizers.  They are molecules that have lost an electron.  These pose problems because they are very reactive.  They grab electrons from other molecules.  Thus “oxidizing” them. They stress cells.  Throw wrenches in the works.  This includes wrench throwing into your DNA.  Imagine a CrossFit workout where someone loses a plate in the middle of a crowded box.   Full of people doing Fran without collars.

Damaged DNA can result in cancer.  Or birth defects.  Free radicals also  damage tissues and organs by damaging cells and increasing inflammation. For example, they can damage pancreatic beta cells and increase risk of diabetes.

What are anti-oxidants?  How do fitness and risk come into play?

Anti-oxidants are agents that protect us from free-radicals.  They neutralize them.  Having enough anti-oxidants reduces risk of chronic disease  Normally we think of anti-oxidants as something we get from vegetables.  Or fruit.  Or supplements.  However, exercise seems to be involved too.

Exercise, anti-Oxidants, Fitness and Risk

Exercise causes a number of changes.    These changes play into the free-radical game.   They are adaptions to the stress of exercise.  When people are getting in shape free radical production increases.   Your body suffers inflammation.  And aches and pains.   This is often seen after a CrossFit Workout.  And in the days following a CrossFit workout.   Especially when people are first getting started.  This is very much like what happens when you get sick with a fever.  This may be why getting in shape sucks so much.   When you are getting in shape (or pushing yourself to a higher level) your body produces more free-radicals.  But is not ready to handle them.  Adaptation to exercise includes increasing production of anti-oxidants.  Once you have adapted you will be producing enough anti-oxidants to protect from free radicals from increased exercise.  You will also have increased protection from other sources of free-radicals.

Does type of workout matter? Is CrossFit, endurance or weight training best?

Animal testing indicates that endurance exercise works best for protection from inflammation and free radicals.  The animals tested were rats.  They were subjected to endurance training, resistance training and combination training.  Hard to visualize. Hopefully more research will be done in this area.   And we will get a better picture of what is optimal for humans.  Weight training (resistance exercise) remains important.  And CrossFit exercises (and high intensity interval training) show very promising results on other aspects of health and fitness.  It seems likely that adaptation to these forms of exercise will produce results similar to endurance training.

References for further reading.

de Lemos ET, Oliveira J, Pinheiro JP, & Reis F (2012). Regular physical exercise as a strategy to improve antioxidant and anti-inflammatory status: benefits in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2012 PMID: 22928086

de Oliveira VN, Bessa A, Jorge ML, Oliveira RJ, de Mello MT, De Agostini GG, Jorge PT, & Espindola FS (2012). The effect of different training programs on antioxidant status, oxidative stress, and metabolic control in type 2 diabetes. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 37 (2), 334-44 PMID: 22458821

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CrossFit vs Running: Is CrossFit as good for cardiovascular health as running?

CrossFit vs Running: evidence from High Intensity Interval Training.

For Crossfit Womens Shirt by WODMasters
For Crossfit Womens Shirt by WODMasters: Mona Lisa and Her Kettlebells. By us. Not by Crossfit the brand. Don’t be confused.

Endurance exercise is recommended for cardiovascular health.  High Intensity Interval Training (like CrossFit) shows promising results.  Years of research have found that about 30 minutes of cardio will reduce risk of stroke and heart attack.  It will also improve insulin sensitivity, reduce risk of diabetes and improve memory and brain function.  Until very recently, there has been little research on the benefits of CrossFit type exercise on health.  These studies focus on High Intensity Interval Training.  High Intensity Interval Training consists of multiple sets of intense exercise that last 1-4 minutes.  These are spaced with short rest periods.  Or periods of light exercise.  Research on this approach to exercise indicates that this approach may be better than running (or other sustained types of cardio) in a number of ways.  These include cardio and respiratory fitness.  And also insulin sensitivity and arterial stiffness.  Arterial stiffness is an indicator for risk of cardiovascular disease.  It is also looking like High Intensity Interval Training may be better at controlling or preventing high blood pressure than the traditional 30 minutes of sustained cardio.

Is CrossFit better than running?

The question of is CrossFit better than running is not known yet.  And CrossFit is different than the types of High Intensity Interval Training being tested.  In a nutshell, CrossFit is a fitness program that involves high intensity exercise.  Many different muscle groups are targeted in a CrossFit workout (also known as a CrossFit WOD.)  Workouts may last 5-20 minutes and involve springs, weight lifting, pull-ups and other bodyweight exercises.  If you are wondering “what is CrossFit” try this link. CrossFit exercises may or may not include periods of rest between sets.  However, there is a lot of shifting of focus.  Intensity may be sustained, but not sustained on the same muscle groups.  This might be better for vascular health.

CrossFit vs Running: More research needed

Short periods of high intensity exercise improve capillary growth.  This allows for greater blood flow to tissues.  Including muscle.   It is possible that intense exercise impacting multiple muscle groups would be better than exercise that impacts only legs (as in running). This is an exciting area of research.  It will be interesting to see what comes up next.  Hopefully more research will be done soon that will look at whether or not CrossFit or High Intensity Interval Training does as well with brain health and control of diabetes.  For a look at recent papers take a look at:

Cocks, M., Shaw, C., Shepherd, S., Fisher, J., Ranasinghe, A., Barker, T., Tipton, K., & Wagenmakers, A. (2012). Sprint interval and endurance training are equally effective in increasing muscle microvascular density and eNOS content in sedentary males The Journal of Physiology, 591 (3), 641-656 DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.239566

Spence AL, Carter HH, Naylor LH, & Green D (2013). A prospective randomised longitudinal study involving 6-months of endurance or resistance exercise on conduit artery adaptation in humans. The Journal of physiology PMID: 23247114

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Creatine. CrossFit Training Post: On Creatine Supplements

What is Creatine?

In terms of athletics, Creatine is a molecule needed for muscle function.  It helps keep you from running out of ATP during short, intense bursts of activity.  Energy in ATP (high school biology refresher) ultimately fuels most life processes.  Skeletal muscle uses a lot of ATP during intense exercise.  Creatine helps recycle used ATP so it continues to be available.  Creatine supplements increase muscle force and power.  At least in the short term.  And that’s the very short of it.  Creatine also interacts with other cellular processes.  It appears to increase production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF). IGF works with Growth Hormone and Insulin to increase cell division and growth.  Creatine supplements may cause this Creatine/Growth Hormone system to step up growth.

Will being on Creatine Supplements help me gain muscle mass?

Probably yes.   This may be especially the case for vegetarians.  In average Westerners your body produces half its own creatine.  Diet (meat) supplies the other half.  Vegetarians have lower levels of creatine than meat eaters. Masters Athletes may also benefit.  Creatine may help preserve muscle mass as well.

Can Creatine Supplements help me during CrossFit Competition?

CrossFit involves intense burst of energy from many different muscle groups.  So CrossFit might be the poster child for creatine supplements.

Can being on Creatine Supplements help me with endurance sports?

Creatine probably won’t help with endurance.  And it might slow you down if you have to carry more weight.  That can be muscle mass or it might simply be retained water.

What else can Creatine Supplements do?

Creatine supplements are being studied as treatments for people with muscle disorders.  They are also being studied for use in treating major depression.  Creatine seems to increase the effectiveness of anti-depressants.

What are side effects or dangers?

One potential problem with Creatine Supplements is the increased activity of the IGF/Growth Hormone axis.  While this might help with muscle growth, increased IGF and Growth Hormone can increase risk of cancer.  Most studies of creatine supplementation have involved small numbers of subjects.  And have been for short periods of time.  This means that the effects of taking creatine for a long time are not known.

Another possible problem with creatine supplements is that they can reduce flexibility.  This might be because of increased muscle mass.  Or it might be because of fluid build-up in muscle tissue.

Venus with her Kettlebells CrossFit Shirt.

Should I be on Creatine Supplements all the time?

There is concern that taking creatine for a long time or in great amounts can cause kidney damage.  “More” is often not “better.”  Another thing to keep in mind is that the body tends to seek balance.  If you give it more of something it may respond by producing less of it itself.  This happens, for example, with testosterone.  Testosterone will increase muscle growth, but the testes will figure out that there is enough testosterone in circulation.  And it will stop making so much.  Hence the shrinking testes and reduced fertility in men who take testosterone supplements.   It is possible that taking creatine supplements will eventually result in less creatine synthesis.  If you are going to take creatine you should take it for short periods of time.  And take breaks.  Until more research is done.

Safdar A, Yardley NJ, Snow R, Melov S, & Tarnopolsky MA (2008). Global and targeted gene expression and protein content in skeletal muscle of young men following short-term creatine monohydrate supplementation. Physiological genomics, 32 (2), 219-28 PMID: 17957000

Candow DG, Forbes SC, Little JP, Cornish SM, Pinkoski C, & Chilibeck PD (2012). Effect of nutritional interventions and resistance exercise on aging muscle mass and strength. Biogerontology, 13 (4), 345-58 PMID: 22684187

Lyoo IK, Yoon S, Kim TS, Hwang J, Kim JE, Won W, Bae S, & Renshaw PF (2012). A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of oral creatine monohydrate augmentation for enhanced response to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor in women with major depressive disorder. The American journal of psychiatry, 169 (9), 937-45 PMID: 22864465

CrossFit training: Heat dissipation is key to athletic performance

Eye Pood Kettlebell Crossfit shirt
Low T? Feeling awesome increases Testosterone. Wear WODMASTERS and feel it rise.

Work on the effects of heat on athletic performance continues (see earlier post “What are we fighting when we try to push through a challenging workout” for in depth discussion). This is an important area of research for most of us because heat may be the limiting factor in performance. You body will try its best to make you stop exercising when your brain temperature reaches a certain level. Muscle cells will also start to function poorly when they are heat stressed. This is due, in part of in whole, to the sensitivity of enzymes which tend to require a pretty narrow temperature range in order to work. Exercise can raise muscle temperature above this range causing enzyme function to drop and muscle cell resources to plummet. Cooling to normal temperature will allow enzymes to return to optimal function and will allow you to resume activity faster.

Cooling speeds recovery “better than steroids.”  At CrossFit Seven in Fort Worth, TX.

Many animals, including humans, have heat transfer mechanisms. Excess body heat can be directed outwards by directing blood flow to the surface of highly perfused regions. Dog tongues are examples here, as are the ears of jack rabbits. In people facial tissue and tissue in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet serve as heat dissipators. This is probably why some people get so red in the face during runs and workouts. It may also be why some people swear by barefoot running. They may enjoy the feel of it, but they may just plain be able to go longer, harder and faster because their feet are uninsulated by thick layers of synthetic cushioning.

Researchers at Stanford University are working on a glove (not a pair of gloves; apparently one works just fine) that is effective at rapid cooling. It involves circulating cool water around the hand while applying gentle suction. It looks a lot like having a hand encased in an ironing board: not quite ready for in-play use. Let us know you devise something lower tech and tell us how it worked for you.

Grahn DA, Cao VH, & Heller HC (2005). Heat extraction through the palm of one hand improves aerobic exercise endurance in a hot environment. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 99 (3), 972-8 PMID: 15879169

Training for the CrossFit Games: CrossFit Team Competitions and Strategies

Training for Team Competition
How do CrossFit teams prepare for competition?  While trainers and team members have been devoting a lot of thought and effort to training, CrossFit team training is still in its infancy.   We talked with six trainers and teams at the South Central Regional Competition and compared their strategies with their ultimate positions on the leaderboard.
First Place.
Dallas Central  sent two teams to the Regionals this year, with one new to competition and other highly experienced.  Coach Dean Xu  says team selections for their two teams ”Team 1” and “The B Dream” were based on individual performances in the open.  Team 1’s men include Matt Anderson, James Hugo, Don Walker and Trey Kubacak.  The Dallas Central men finished 271(Walker), 209th (Hugo), 63rd (Anderson) and 8th (Kubacak) in the Open, and finished first in the teams competition. The B Dream is new to competition.  Coach Dean Xu says it has been great to watch them fail, and learn from their mistakes.  “You learn a lot from competing.” says Xu “There is so much strategy within competitions.  Learning to do transitions is extremely important.  It’s very different from individual competition where you need to pace yourself.  In team competition, you need to pace the team, not the individual.  Team members need to go “all out.” Both teams trained as a group and focused on individual weaknesses.  “There wasn’t much time to get people faster or stronger, so skills and efficiency were our major focus” said Xu.
Fourth Place.
Jason Graves and Jonathan Shelton of Crossfit Waco, Waco, TX. wanted to keep team placements clear, objective and as fair as possible.   Slots went to their box’s top three men and the top three women, according to performance in the Open.  Shelton stated that this was also the best way to keep a well-balanced team.  This is the second year they have sent a team to the regionals.  Four of this year’s team members also competed last year.   Aspiring Waco team members worked out together beginning in January 2012.  “We look for the weaknesses of each individual and base our programming on that” says Graves.  “Our members all have different strengths as well.”  “We focused on that as much as we could with the time we had.  We did a lot of Olympic Lifting, high skill movements, heavy metcons, and a variation of all other aspects of CrossFit training in our workouts,” said Shelton.  When asked what they would do differently next year, they replied “WIN!”
Seventh Place
Crossfit Lake Charles from Lake Charles, Louisiana had a strong team this year.  Their top three women all qualified for individual competition at the regionals this year , but chose to go the team route.  The three, Danielle Sawyer age 30, Megan Noris also age 30, and Ashley Navarro age 28, along with three men Ben Vines age 24, Dettef Gharst age 28, and Mitchell Sawyer age 31, have been working with an eye to the Regionals since last November when a dozen of their box members started training together for the express purpose of forming a competitive team.   “We had a team at the Regionals last year” says Danielle Sawyer “but we weren’t anywhere near as strong as we are this year.”   Mitchell Sawyer got his first muscle up at last year’s Regionals, and is now able to string them together in sets of 5-7.  “We’ve worked together every Sunday.  Our training has been essentially coachless.  We’ve been coaching each other.”  When asked to describe how their team training differs from the regular Lake Charles programming Mitchell Sawyer says “We train a lot heavier.  A lot heavier.  We do heavy Frans, pistols, muscle-ups, gymnastics and lots of stretching for mobility.  It’s made a huge difference.“  “We’re together and on the same page.  And we are all very disciplined about both training and nutrition.”  The entire team follows a Paleo-type diet. They were also able to draw from a 100-150 member pool since most of the box members competed in the Open.  Crossfit Lake Charles is very excited about the team’s success and has been very supportive.  They pulled together to raise over $3,000 for the trip to San Antonio.  They were also supported by their local Police Department, held a car wash and a raffle and received assistance from neighboring Crossfit Boxes Old Glory, Bridge City and Baton Rouge.  That kind of help can go a long way towards support team travel, lodging and meals.
Twelfth Place
Coach Brad Rains has been a Crossfitter for three years and a trainer for six months.  His team was selected from Crossfit Nola’s top men (Aaron Hyatt age 24,  260th in the open), Brandon Ecker age 32 64th in the open), Demion Reed age 24, 178th in the open) and women (Andrea Germond age 29, 194th in the open, Kelsey Moran age 21, 135th in the open, Rae Shih age 23, 280th in the open and Taryn Heyman age 23, 356th in the open).  Rains team is made of primarily experienced Crossfitters and most them are trainers as well.  The team did their best to prepare together, which was not always easy because of their varied work schedules and outside demands.  Their strategy was to strengthen weaknesses for all members with their heavy lifters focusing on cardio and their “high tempo” people building strength.  Rains says its best for all team members to be balanced so that any weaknesses in the team will be minimized.  Rains likes the change in the program.  “Last year the team workouts were individually based.  This year you needed lots of communication.  You have to talk to your partners.  We spent a week practicing strategy before heading to Texas.  Doing deadlifts together is not easy.”
The Crossfit Seven Team of Fort Worth, TX. in training.  April 2012.
Fifteenth place
Crossfit Seven of Fort Worth was coached by Ryan Shupe and Ryan “Squared” Simmons.  Their team was unique in that all the athletes were well into their 30s with the exception of 17-year old Karli Kirk.  Five of the team members competed in the 2011 Regionals, and all have been working out together as fellow box-members for years.  “We’re a tight bunch” said Shupe.   The team practiced as a group every Saturday and most Sunday’s following the open and were selected from the top finishers in the Open competition.  Two of the original members, Dusty Sides (36) and Mitzi Hiley (32) were lost to injuries.  “We spent a lot of time working on transitions, refining technique and increasing weight” said Simmons.  “And we made sure we had a great hotel with a Paleo-friendly restaurant, pool and a hot tub in San Antonio.”  The team received support from the Hotel Contessa in San Antonio, enjoyed time in the hot tub, and received sponsorship from local businesses to defray costs.
Twenty-fourth place
Coach Steve Galvan of Crossfit 210 in San Antonio took a strategy that differed from all of the other teams at the Regionals this year.  He recruited talented, experience athletes from outside his box.  “I knew exactly what I was looking for: experienced athletes with lots of fast twitch.”  He started building his team early; long before the Open. Three of the men and two of the women on the team have been doing CrossFit for less than a year.   One of the men has been at CrossFit for only a few months.  The team includes a female ironman-athlete, and a 400 meter sprinter from A&M.  Galvan focused on these six specific athletes, building their skills, correcting their weaknesses and getting them as strong as possible.  Galvan, who was a Texas State Track and Field Champion who ran for Texas A&M, and was coached in Olympic Lifting by Ursula Garza and Mark Rippetoe, brought a high level of expertise to his team.  It will be interesting to see how they place next year.