Tuesday, October 30, 2012

LED Lighting Revolution: It's About Time!

LED lights have been around for a while now (first practical use in 1962!), but with the falling prices of CFLs and the dirt cheap incandescent lights still available its been pretty hard to make a good case for a $50 LED bulb... especially with the cost of electricity at 0.12 $/kWh on average...

Things are changing though; current generation LED lights have fixed the problems with color/dispersion/dimming that plagued earlier bulbs, and LEDs are available at large retailers like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes (and online at Amazon) which are helping to drive down costs. Right now, you can buy your standard 60 W equivalent LED bulb for around $20-30, which is a huge improvement from the past but still a large investment to make in a product with uncertain longevity. After all, my experience with CFLs has been pretty bad... they might save energy now, but in a year or two when they burn out it's hard to justify the price. I mean, they're suppose to last 5-7 years under normal use (theoretically resulting in substantial savings), but at least in my experience, that's far from the truth (judging by online reviews, it seems like I'm not alone). So, when it comes to LEDs I can see how people might be hesitant, especially with manufacturers touting 20+ year lifespans. Although in my experience, LEDs tend to last longer than the electronics their in! I'm still left thinking, if I buy one of these for 2-3 times the price of a CFL is it really going to last anywhere near 20 years or will it die 5 years from now, after the warranty runs out (and I've lost my receipt)  and with no option but to buy another one? Plus, they always make a big deal about the pay-back period for their LED bulb vs the standard incandescent... but I've never seen it compared to their real competition, the CFL bulb which would be much longer! 

Test Case (Kitchen Lighting, assuming 8 hrs/day, 0.12 $/kWh): Cost Per Year

65 W BR30 Incandescent [$4] - 0.065 kW * 2920 h/year * 0.12 $/kWh = 22.78 $/year

16 W BR30 CFL [$10] - 0.016 kW * 2920 h/year * 0.12 $/kWh = 5.61 $/year

13 W BR30 LED [$25] - 0.013 kW * 2920 h/year * 0.12 $/kWh = 4.56 $/year

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Superstarch: Optimum Intra-exercise Nutrition?

This is an interesting presentation on how our body's energy systems (glucose vs. fat metabolism sources) work to fuel our body during exercise, and how to optimally re-fuel the body during intense/long duration workouts... Superstarch... helps you maintain your blood glucose levels without spiking insulin and decreasing the utilization of fatty acids for energy during exercise. Seems like interesting stuff, what do you guys think? All hype or is this something that could be the next big thing for optimizing performance, especially in longer duration events.

You can read the full article here: Peter Attia's Website

I might have to give this "Superstarch" a try (10% off code: "UCANPA")... I've been hesitant because of the price, but maybe the performance benefits are worth it. I'll let you know how it goes, feel free to leave your feedback in the comments if you've tried this yourself!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Post Workout Nutrition: Self Experimentation

To optimize my Post Workout (PWO) nutrition I've been experimenting with a few things lately (UPDATED: Post Workout Nutrition: Self Experimentation Redux)... it's a little bit of a departure from purely eating "real food", although I look at my PWO stack as a supplement and still eat a huge re-feed meal (real food) of grass-fed beef/salmon/eggs and sweet potatoes. This is also still a trial and error process, I'm experimenting with the various nutrient stacks to find what really works and doesn't for me, and I'd recommend you do the same if you're interested in a little biohacking! I'd personally stay away from the "Extreme Power Protein" type mixes out there, it's much better to make your own and know exactly what goes into it.

Research strongly shows that glucose helps with the body's absorption of nutrients after intense exercise, effectively "shuttling" the nutrients into the muscle tissue. Therefore, I think it's essential for a PWO stack to include a moderate (<20g, dose depends on intensity/duration) amount of natural sugars (roughly 70% glucose, 30% fructose optimal absorption) to aid in delivering any nutrients you have in your stack to the tissue/muscle. To blunt the blood sugar spike from the glucose, I add a natural whey protein concentrate (non-denatured, whole protein) to my stack (slows digestion), which also provides essential amino acids (whey protein concentrate is one of the most complete protein supplements) for muscle growth. Additionally, I've been adding Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) along with the whey as well (BCAAs essential for building muscle).

Alright, so here's the current stack I use in my PWO protein shake (11.2 oz ONE Coconut water w/ Whey Factors Chocolate). Coconut water has electrolytes (potassium, sodium, etc), it's good for hydration, and the sugar is approximately 70% glucose, 30% fructose:

  • Creatine: ON Micronized Creatine Monohydrate (CM), muscle building staple and increased IQ (research, 2, 3). This is undoubtedly the supplement with the most impact on strength, recovery and performance, hands down. If I had to choose just one supplement out of the stack, this would be it! Recently, I've been experimenting with different forms of creatine to improve absorption (theres's creatine HCL, creatine kre-alkalyn, creatine ethyl ester, creatine malate, etc.), since I seem to be a CM non-responder. Although a little pricey, I think Creatine HCL is the best alternative form, and I've seen a big difference since switching from CM (research). 
  • Beta Alanine: NOW Beta Alanine, increases blood flow/circulation and increases endurance. The tingling sensation also blunts the PWO soreness, which can be nice after a long brutal ride (or lifting session).
  • Citrulline Malate: Primaforce Citrulline Malate, Precursor to L-Arginine and provides prolonged NO production, Malic acid aids in ammonia disposal from increased protein metabolism (research2).
  • L-Glutamine: NOW Glutamine, there's not much scientific evidence that Glutamine is really effective at improving strength/power directly, but it's good for your gut and with all the PWO food and other supplements I like to add it in too (After-all, you are what you "digest", not necessarily what you "eat").
  • BCAAs:  ON BCAA Unflavored, essential amino acids... UPDATE: Whey protein concentrate contains BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine) and so does whole food (meats), so it's not essential to supplement with this. Some people swear by BCAAs, but personally I haven't noticed much of a difference with adequate protein intake. TL;DR - Won't hurt but might not be worth the money.
  • L-Arginine: NOW L-Arginine, gives your muscles the PUMP (increases circulation), NO (nitric oxide) precursor in you body. UPDATE: I've tried this for a while and I haven't notice any difference at all. Maybe it makes a bigger difference pre-workout, but for me I'll just use citrulline malate in the future.

I use the suggested serving of each (for the most part, adjust to personal preference), mixed with the coconut water protein shake described above... Like I mentioned, I'd mess around with dosage and timing and see what works best for you! Personally, I work out fasted/semi-fasted (because of this) and just use the stack PWO. Many people take these supplements before working out for the PUMP/endurance gains, ymmv. Be careful with the Beta Alanine at first, the "tingling" effects are quit noticeable (I'm up to 1 level tsp now). Let me know if there are any additional suggestions in the comments... Good Luck! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Getting Strong: My Lifting Philosophies...

In general, I follow a Leangains style approach to lifting and diet, with a few tweaks of my own thrown in... I realize Martin probably wouldn't be too pleased, since changing up the protocol is what gets people in trouble, but for me it's worked pretty well so far. First of all, my diet is Paleo/Primal so no cheese cake (well, maybe a little bit, haha). Second, I tend to be on the low carb side of the diet. So, on days that I don't lift I generally eat VLC (no carbs besides those naturally in veggies), and on days I lift (generally Mon, Wed, Fri) I eat the equivalent to one good sized sweet potato or 1 cup of rice PWO, the rest is protein and fat (see The Leangains Guide for specifics on macro/calorie/timing/intermittent fasting specifics).

Now, for the lifting variations... I like Martins Reverse Pyramid Training, and I use it as part of my workout rotation (I generally switch it up every month or so, with a rest week thrown in-between). However, through all my experimentation with everything from high rep/lower weight to low rep/heavy weight lifting (and everything in between), I've come to the conclusion that my body works best when I lift relatively heavy. So, with a little bit of trial-and-error I've come up with a style of training I like to call Incremental Fatigue (IF). I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of this, and probably not the first person to write about it, but this is the method I use to train with the Big 4 lifts (Bench Press, Chin-up, Dead-lift and Squat):

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Personal Paleo Code!

If you've been hesitant about going "Paleo", thought it was too complicated or just wondered where to even start this might be the program for you... Chris Kresser L.Ac (check out his amazing site too!) does a great job bringing together the evolutionary based diet, supporting science and then laying out a plan of how to apply this to your life. This is more than just reading a book, and applying a diet. This is a personally tailored complete lifestyle change. He doesn't just give you a cookie-cutter diet plan and send you on your way... the Personal Paleo Code is a step-by-step process to find what "diet" is best for YOU.

If you've already got the "Paleo" thing figured out and you're just working on optimizing that last 5%, this is probably not going to help you much... but if you're just getting started, and are lost in the "diet" craziness, this could be exactly what you've been looking for...

Learn more about the Personal Paleo Code
Personal Paleo Code