OPTIMIZATION CHECKLIST 2019
This “Optimization Checklist 2019” is quite simply, a basic checklist of some of the things you can do to optimize your training in the gym and life outside the gym. This list is not all encompassing of everything you could do, but is a list of things I believe to be most useful and things I have tried myself. It is my perspective on optimization and it will and should continue to evolve over time. It is my belief that one of the cornerstones of living an optimized life is to be a life long learner. It is also my belief that each of us has a calling and a purpose and that we should strive to be our best.
I decided to put together this list for several reasons.
- It is a checklist for me to personally utilize to stay in touch with the areas of my life that I believe are important for my own optimization.
- It is a checklist I am using with my Optimization clients to help them be their best selves.
- It is a list that several clients have asked me to put together so they can actually see some of the things I focus on personally.
The goal of sharing this list is that you may find something helpful to apply to your own life. What it is not intended to do is make you feel inadequate or guilty if you are not doing everything on the checklist. Ultimately, you will have your on list. This list is to give you ideas of things that you may not have considered.
There are many areas we can focus on but I have narrowed it down to five critical areas.
All of the areas above are critical for optimization in our lives . To fully optimize we need to integrate all five of these areas. However, I would agree with Bobby Maximus in saying “The Mind is Primary” and also with Mark Divine in his “Unbeatable Mind” program where his first lesson is titled “Win First In The Mind Before Stepping Onto The Battlefield”.
Here are some areas where you can focus your attention.
1. Goal Setting
2. Morning Ritual
3. Evening Ritual
4. Mental Exercises:
a .BOO (Background of Obviousness)
b. What Wolf Are You Feeding? (positivity)
c. News Blackout (removing negativity)
d. Future Self (creating your identity as you want to be)
f. Habit Inventory (taking inventory of your current habits as outlined in “Atomic Habits”)
5. Growth mindset (be a life long learner always striving to gain knowledge)
All of these things I have either written about before, will be writing about in the future, or will be having workshops on this year.
Coaching physical training is what I have spent most of my day doing for the last 30 years. I have no idea how many training sessions I have overseen over that time. However, when I only did one on one training where the sessions lasted 30 minutes and I averaged at least 80 sessions a week for over 10 years I would have done somewhere in the neighborhood of 32,000 sessions in that time alone. When I meet with new clients to discuss their goals it almost always revolves around something physical. Of course that makes sense since our classes revolve around physical training. What I hope to convey is that our training is much more than just a workout to break a sweat and burn a few calories. What I am most passionate about and get extremely excited about is people who transform, as a result of our training, not only physically but mentally and spiritually as well.
The full benefit of our physical training program is gained when you integrate the mind, body, and spirit. It has many benefits but I’ll break it down to a few major benefits as I see it.
I still remember one of my Health Science professors at Clemson say, “We can’t always assume people value their health”. I remember thinking, “What?” A few years later I remember being at Duke when my Dad was going through cancer treatment and seeing people outside the hospital with IV’s in their arms smoking cigarettes. Well, I realized then she was right and I was pissed. Now I know not everyone values their health or at least not until they lose it. If you do value your health then exercise is a critical part of being healthy. Greg Glassman the founder of Crossfit in his article called “What is Fitness” gave an interesting perspective on sickness, wellness, and fitness. Some people say that there is not a direct correlation to health and fitness. That is you don’t necessarily become more healthy as you become more fit. His perspective was that those people are looking at health as simply the absence of disease. He presented the idea of sickness to fitness was on a continuum and that as you become more fit you do become more healthy.
The term functional fitness originated from the field of physical therapy. It was used to describe training focused on getting patients back to their normal daily activities. Functional training later became an integral component of and another way to describe training for athletic development. The premise of this method of training is that not all training is necessarily equal regarding its transference of abilities or skills outside of the gym. In this sense, functional training is meant to transfer to develop a better athlete, especially, as it relates to their sport. I personally believe that functional training leading to functional fitness is important. However, I also believe some people have taken it too far. There are many different methods and philosophies of training. Among some, the debate on which of these methods or philosophies is best can be very heated. Bodybuilding, including movements designed to isolate muscles are often frowned upon by those who espouse the benefits of functional fitness. Machine training is another method of training that is typically thought of by many to be less functional. I made a decision several years ago to move towards what I considered more functional training. At the time, I relied heavily on machine training as a tool to deliver our particular brand of high intensity training. We got good results from this type of training in terms of getting people stronger, leaner, and better conditioned. For those interested in added muscle, we were able to do that as well. Back in my days of bodybuilding I relied heavily on machines as well. One reason I moved away from machines was that I thought the training wasn’t as functional as it could be. For instance, I remember thinking,”What good was it for someone to be able to lift a lot of weight on a leg press or chest press if they couldn’t even squat properly or do a pushup.” What I now know is that you can use a combination of exercises and tools to help people become more functional human beings and athletes. If someone says you are not doing functional training because you don’t do olympic lifts or that if you do curls and machine training you aren’t training functionally, I would wholeheartedly disagree. I consider anything that helps you outside the gym in your daily life or in you sport to be functional training. You could also consider part of my definition of functional fitness to include improving movement capacity. In our FITFLO system of training I list movement as the number one priority. This starts with the basic movements such as squat, hinge, push, and pull. Our program is designed to help you learn to develop these patterns of movement properly by developing a healthy range of motion and engaging the correct muscles in the proper sequence. Beyond that, we want to introduce you to many other movements to help you improve your movement capacity, neuroplasticiy, mobility, and ultimately your freedom to move.
When it comes to functional fitness I believe strength should be a cornerstone. It has been and will continue to be an integral component of our training. If you have good movement and are free to move then adding strength to that movement will improve functionality in whatever you do. In our FITFLO system we have several different methods we utilize to build strength. The more conventional proven method of building strength is our Plan Strong method. We also have our more innovative methods of strength training which include our Master Strength, strongman, and bodyweight methods. It is our goal to help you find the method that not only resonates with you but is the best method to help you optimize your strength.
To quote from Greg Glassman’s article called “What is Fitness”, there are three metabolic pathways that provide the energy for all human action. These “metabolic engines” are known as the phosphagen pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway.
The first, the phosphagen, dominates the highest-powered activities, those that last less than about ten seconds. The second pathway, the glycolytic, dominates moderate-powered activities, those that last up to several minutes. The third pathway, the oxidative, dominates low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes. Here’s an excellent reference for additional information: http://predator.pnb.uconn.edu/beta/virtualtemp/muscle/exercise-folder/ muscle.html
Our goal in our training is to develop all three of these pathways. We do this primarily through engaging in high intensity interval training and circuits. I believe there is more bang for your buck in regards to the benefit of such training especially when it comes to the time required for such training. That is not to say that lower intensity exercise is not beneficial or that it should be avoided. It is just that going for a 30-60 minute low intensity walk, run, bike,etc, can be done on your own and is not the best use of time in a group training session.
Recommended training frequency for optimization
Strength Training: 1-2 days per week
Metabolic Conditioning: 2-6 days per week
Movement work: everyday
Ultimately finding a way of eating and supplementing that gives your body the fuel it needs to become the person you want to be is the goal of optimal nutrition. You have to be willing to experiment to see what works best for you physiologically and psychologically. Our goal is to give you some systems to apply to help you in this quest. Here are four sample approaches to assist you.
- Follow general guidelines focused on food quality. In other words, you don’t count calories or macros. You simply focus on eating whole nutritious foods. This includes meat (grass fed beef, fish, poultry) ,vegetables (preferably non starchy), fruits (preferably lower glycemic) and fats (grass fed butter, coconut, nuts, seeds). Avoid processed foods, vegetable oils, sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes.
- If you need more direction in terms of not only what foods to eat but more detail in terms of the amounts, then we have a second approach. We recommend following any of Mark Sisson’s Primal Eating Plans. Individual coaching is available to help you implement and integrate these plans into your lifestyle.
- Another approach and the system I consider the gold standard in regards to lasting change is our 12 month ProCoach program. As a participant in this program you receive daily lessons, as well as, monthly coaching, troubleshooting and accountability sessions.
- Yet another approach which you can use in conjunction with our coaching is nutrition testing. This testing can come in several forms. This can include genetic test to help determine what foods and type of diet may work best for you. It also can include nutrient testing and other blood work to help determine which nutrients you may be deficient in, as well as, looking at hormone levels and other biomarkers of health.
In my experience, lack of sleep is one of the biggest yet most overlooked components of living an optimized life. I believe this is especially true for hard driving and successful people. The attitude around sleep may be changing but for people around my age it seems that we were taught somewhere along the way that getting more sleep just meant we were lazy. There is the possibility of sleeping too much but I would say that most of us don’t get the amount or quality of sleep we need to truly be at our best.
The general recommendation for sleep is 7-9 hours per night. It is not just about the time in bed or even the time sleeping but about the quality of sleep as well. If you are not sure about your quality of sleep two of the best tracking devices on the market are the Oura ring and the WHOOP. I have used them both and have found the information gleaned from them eye opening. It has motivated me to focus more on my sleep and it has definitely made a difference in how I feel and perform. These devices not only track sleep but Heart Rate Variabilty (HRV) as well.
I would rate sleep as the number one in regards to recovery but here are a few other tools that can be beneficial that I use on a regular basis.
- Mobility Work ( yoga, stretching, corrective movements)
- Cold water immersion (ice bath or cold shower)
- Body Tempering
I mentioned sleep as being one of the most overlooked things regarding life optimization but Spirituality may be the most overlooked or under appreciated. Spirituality can take on many different meanings to different people but my goal here is to give you my simple interpretation of what it means to me.
First, I believe spirituality and religion are two separate things. I do believe you can be both religious and spiritual. However, I also believe you can be religious without being spiritual and you can be spiritual without being religious.
I personally believe in a higher power and to me spirituality encompasses some level of connection to that higher power. I choose to believe we all have a purpose and one of the critical things for optimization, which includes, finding happiness is finding that purpose. I have often talked about finding your “WHY” as it pertains to your personal goals. I usually talk of this in the mental aspect of our training. Here I am talking on a much bigger scale. Finding connection to your purpose and to others is a huge aspect to spirituality in my opinion.
I have mentioned that all the five critical areas need to be integrated and when it comes to the mind and spirit I sometimes have difficulty separating them. So, there will be carry over among all the areas but certainly the mental and spiritual.
How can you work on your spirituality?
Again I can only give you my perspective but here are some of the ways I work on it.
- Sitting in silence, either meditating, or box breathing.
- Gratitude practice(focusing on what I am thankful for)
- Hard physical training. I have to admit some of the times I have felt closest to God were during hard physical training. I still remember my experience during Kokoro climbing a mountain during a 20 mile ruck and wondering if I was going to make the time deadline. I simply had a mantra/prayer all the way up. When I was later asked by one of the coaches where my spiritual awakening occurred I had no trouble answering, “On that mountain”.
- It is still one of my greatest thrills in coaching seeing someone overcome obstacles they previously thought they were incapable of and knowing it is not about the physical or even mental but simply their spirit driving them.
Another exercise that can help you work on positivity and can be incorporated into your spiritual work is one that I learned from the Human Potential Institute. Dr. Mark Atkinson refers to this exercise as looking at below ground indicators. You can view the entire exercise here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/thinkific-import/2606/Belowthelineindicators-1516095925081.pdf.
What does my daily/weekly/monthly schedule look like for in regards to optimization.
Bulletproof coffee (2 scoops chocolate collagen, 1tbs Brain Octane, grass fed butter, coffee)
Listen to Brian Johnson’s Optimize+1,
5:00 box breathing in the morning preferably or later in the day,
Gratitude practice (write down three or more things I am thankful for)
Strength Training Specific work:
1-3 days per week
3-4 days per week
3 Days per week
Movement and Mobility Work:
(Stretching, Body Tempering, Corrective exercise, movement practice, or yoga) Everyday
I try for at least 7 hours per night. I prefer to get 8. I try to get a nap in the afternoon if I don’t get as much sleep at night.
We starting using black out curtains in our bedroom which have been very helpful. We also got a new mattress this year which I believed helped with my sleep.
Other things I have experimented with to improve sleep:
Supplements: Dr. Kirk Parlsley’s Sleep Remedy, Curcumin, CBD Oil,
Other devices: Oura ring or WHOOP for tracking sleep and recovery, Circadia
At the beginning of 2018 I experimented with Mark Sisson’s 21 day Keto Reset plan and continued following a Primal Eating plan for the majority of the year. I wanted to compete at 175 for BJJ competition last year. This required a weight loss of about 10 pounds. I was able to do so while maintaining my energy to train. I also, finished my Precision Nutrition certification in 2018 and incorporated the principles from our Pro Coach program into my lifestyle.
I also, did nutritional testing with Dr. Koniver to help determine where I was nutritionally deficient.
Ones that I take daily: fish oil 10-12 grams, vitamin d, CoQ10, Kion Flex, Brain Octane, amino acids
Twice monthly: Vitamin IV
Once Monthly: NAD+ IV
Other supplements I have tried: Organify, ketones, Biotropic, Qualia
I am sure there are others I have tried this year but I can’t remember all of them at this time.
Other recovery tools: sauna and ice bath or cold shower. I plan to use these on a more consistent basis (daily) in 2019.
“News blackout” avoid listening, watching, or reading news when possible
Listening to or reading something positive or educational daily
Restarting Unbeatable Mind program in 2019
Finishing Unbreakable Lessons in 2019
Educational courses in 2018: Precision Nutrition certification, Primal Health Coach certification, Clubbell Strength seminar, Flow Fit and Tacfit seminar and workshops, Plan Strong seminar
Box breathing daily, meditation, prayer
Our big picture vision for this year and moving forward is to help you be your best! This past weekend we had a workshop on this very subject. We viewed Brain Johnson’s Master class looking at ten big ideas on this very subject. For those who were able to attend this will be a recap.For those who were not able to be there here is a brief summary of those big ideas.
1. Operationalizing Virtue
This is something I am really focused on this year. This goes for both helping myself as well as helping others. It is great to have goals but you need systems, a process, and action to see those goals to fruition. It is also great to accumulate knowledge but application of that knowledge is what will empower you to be your best. As Brian says, “Less Chit Chat More Arete”.
2. Eudaimonic Identity = Optimus You
There are many different exercises you can utilize to help with this idea. As Tony Robbins says, we are all motivated by one of two things. We move towards pleasure and away from pain. An exercise that can help you move towards pleasure is the “Future Self” visualization. This is an exercise we recently challenged you to try during our “Spiritual Challenge” back in December. It is a great exercise to help create the vision of what your best self looks and feels like. For motivation from the pain side of things Brian says take a visit to Hell. It goes something like this. You are nearing the very end of your life and as you are taking your last breaths in walks the person you could have been. The gap between who you are and who you could have been some people call Hell. You can’t do anything about the past but you can certainly control your future by what you do from here forward.
3. The Big Three
Without your health you have nothing. You have to have energy to pursue your goals and to show up and do your best everyday. How you stay healthy and create energy revolves around three fundamentals. You need to move, eat well, and sleep/rest. This is our speciality. We have systems to help you in each of these areas and are here to support you on your journey to greater health, fitness, and energy.
What unique skills and abilities do you posses. Can you find the link between your passion, purpose and principles.
Who can you support, serve, and love.
7. 100,000X + 1 Quadrillion
The little habits you create each day help you compound your improvement over time. Creating a system or algorithim to move you towards your goals and being your best self is key. Just getting a little better each day will lead to an incredible transformation over time. Kaizen is the Japanese word that represents this idea.
8. Masterpiece Days
What does you Masterpiece day look like. Picture that day in your mind and write it down. What are the big most important things you can incorporate each day to help in your big three.
9. Decisions and Disciplines
We are constantly making decisions that either move us toward who we want to be or not. Our life is an accumulation of all of those decisions both big and small. There are three types of decisions. There are reactive, structured, and expansive.
10. To Dare or Not to Dare
When you reflect on some of your greatest accomplishments you may find that they occurred just on the other side of fear. Vice versa there may have been some times when fear stopped you from trying something and as a result you don’t know what could have been. Be not afraid!
The mission at Alliance is to help you Optimize your training in the gym, as well as, your life outside the gym. My passion for optimization is at an all time high. My excitement is fueled by the fact that, with all the current knowledge, tools, and resources we have available, human potential is nearly unlimited. The Alliance programs are designed for both optimization in specific areas,as well as, overall optimization. It is up to you to decide what you value and which areas of your life you choose to pursue optimization.
Here are what we focus on specifically through our core Alliance training programs.
1. FITFLO– Health and functional fitness
2, Parisi Speed School– Speed, power, agility and athletic attribute development
3. Brazilian Jiujitsu– the art of Jiujitsu for self defense and sport
These are the specific areas we are aiming to help you optimize. There are numerous other benefits associated with the work done in each of these specific areas. Each program lends itself to be a program for self development which can carry over into other areas of your life. The lessons you learn and the confidence you gain can sometimes be a greater benefit than the original stated purpose for training. For example, you may start a program because you needed to lose weight either due to health concerns are the fact you want to look and feel better However, you may eventually find that the increased energy, confidence, and comraderie associated with training are a greater benefit than the weight loss. As stated in the book, “Zen in the Art of Archery”, the author says that the art is not undertaken for the mere sake of learning the art but as a portal to enlightenment.
Regardless of the area you would like to optimize, I have found beliefs and habits to be integral in the process. Let us first look at beliefs.What I have witnessed in 30 years of coaching is that one of the biggest obstacles stopping people from reaching their goals is the true belief in themselves that they can achieve that goal. To take this a step further some people will not even set a goal or commit to optimization due to the fact that they believe they may fail. in many cases this is not even a conscious decision. Through self reflection we can uncover some of these limiting and often unconscious beliefs. One exercise I have mentioned previously is to simply take some quiet time to reflect and write down all the beliefs that come to mind about any particular area of your life. Don’t make any judgement on these beliefs just simply record them as they come to mind. You can do this over several days just spending a few minutes each day being introspective. Take a couple of days off and then go back and examine each of those beliefs more closely to determine if they are empowering beliefs or disempowering ones. Then of those disempowering ones examine where those beliefs originated and if they are actually true. The second exercise is the is the “Future Self” exercise. If you want to change, you need to visualize yourself as the person you wish to be. If you cannot see yourself in that light then the change will difficult.
Having belief and seeing yourself as the person you want to be are a step in the the right direction but are not enough for optimization. You also need to take action. Again to use the simple but not easy example of weight loss. You may believe your can lose weight and you may see yourself as a leaner version of yourself but you need to change your behavior if you want to be successful. You need to have a plan or a system and take action i order to effect this change.
If you really break it down, we are for the most part where we are in area of our life as a result of the decisions and actions we repeatedly make. Another way of thinking of this is that we are culmination of our daily habits. If we want to change or optimize in area we need to take a look at what our habits are surrounding it. Again if we look at the area of weight loss. Most people don’t gain weight over a short period of time but rather do so over a period of months or years. The habits surrounding their eating and moving eventually led them to where they are. To make a change they must change their habits. This is the basis of our 12 month nutrition program that helped Victor lose 80 pounds. It is ultimately developing one new habit on top of another or stacking habits. Brian Johnson’s, “Optimize +1”, program is based off a similar principle. Each day Brian provides something a thought upon which you can take action on to help optimize your life. James Clear’s book, “Atomic Habits”, does a fantastic job of explaining how we develop habits and how we can choose and change habits to help us become our best. He breaks down the process of developing habits into four simple steps:
We will be working more diligently to provide future challenges as a group to help you develop the habits that will help you optimize your life. In our individual training program “Optimized Self Upgrade” we are able to fine tune these habits to meet more specifically with the client. Keep an eye out for our next challenge coming up in December.
If you have been receiving emails from me for the last several years, you may have noticed that the sign-off of each of those messages has evolved. The original message was “Show Up, Don’t Quit.” Over time it has become “Commit, Show Up, Don’t Quit, Be Uncommon, Be Your Best Self.” The theme of my primary message has evolved somewhat over time as well. For instance, much of what I used to write about was being a warrior and the “Warrior’s Path.” More recently I have been writing about the path to mastery, being your best self, self-actualization, or arete. Ultimately, they are all the same, and their path is indeed a warrior’s journey.
What I would like to discuss today is a different perspective on this journey. It was one I was reminded of during our recent workshop with Coach Gwint Fisher. These are the typical steps we go through when learning any new skill. Although we will focus on physical skills today, these steps are not limited only to physical skills. The steps are as follows:
1. Unconscious Incompetence
2. Conscious Incompetence
3. Conscious Competence
4. Unconscious Competence
If you set out to develop a skill such as moving better or learning Jiujitsu the first step, Unconscious Incompetence, simply means you don’t know what you don’t know. If you don’t desire to learn or get better at something you could consider it as ignorant bliss. However, if you want to learn or get better, this is where a coach can be very valuable. At this stage, the coach is going to give direction and demonstrate the technique or movement and then have you repeat it while bringing your attention to where you may not be performing competently. Not everyone responds well to this stage. Some people may think of having attention brought to their incompetence as a negative. I would recommend viewing it as a positive. It gives you an opportunity to improve. In our Jiujitsu program, we have a beginner and intermediate class which helps students learn the fundamentals of Jiujitsu. In the old days, we simply had new students spar the first day where they discovered they were incompetent by getting tapped out. Looking back, this was not the best, and definitely not the safest, way to learn.
Once you have become aware of the areas for improvement, you have a choice to make. You can ignore the incompetence and continue to do what you have been doing, or you can begin working on making the corrections. This choice may seem evident, but I have seen on many occasions people not understanding this process choose the path of ignorance. I like to recall a specific example from Jiujitsu to demonstrate. Years ago (before our fundamental program) we had a student who said he wanted to learn Jiu Jitsu to be better defend himself in case he was to ever be in a physical confrontation. He had been training a few months when he called one day and said he wanted to cancel his membership. We asked why and he answered that he got tapped out by a 16-year-old kid. He said that he decided he was going to begin training to run marathons instead. Now he may have changed his strategy for self-defense to merely running away from physical confrontation, but instead, I think he just chose to turn a blind eye to his incompetence rather than working on it. By the way, that same kid, who I taught back then teaches me now and taps me out. My view of this is that he helps me realize where I need to improve and as a result makes me better every day. We sometimes see the same faulty thinking in fitness. If you perform a workout that exposes your weakness, lack of mobility, or the fact that you were not in as good a shape as you thought, you can choose to begin working on these weaknesses or you can just go back to whatever your routine was before and be guaranteed not to improve. In this phase, a good coach will continue to give feedback to help you perform more optimally. You may not be there yet, but you are aware of what you need to do.
In the third stage of conscious competence, a good coach will continue to give feedback and cues to help you perform better. As you learn, you eventually will be able to perform competently, but you still have to think about it. Using myself as an example, if you watch me squat, you may notice that I sometimes will adjust my feet after each rep or at least at some point during a set. Somewhere along the way, I created a faulty squat pattern, possibly from training around and compensating for an injury over 30 years ago. My right foot will externally rotate and point out further than the left unless I consciously focus on it and even then I sometimes have to correct it. I have been working on this for at least five years (never said I was a fast learner).
In the fourth stage, you are not only able to perform competently, but you do so unconsciously. You do it as second nature and without even thinking. It is wired into your nervous system. Our goal as coaches at Alliance is to help get you to this stage. It doesn’t matter if it’s a kid running effortlessly with perfect technique, an adult picking up an odd heavy object demonstrating a perfect hinge with no back pain, or a Jiujitsu practitioner transitioning from one position and technique to another in a seamless flow, this is what we hope to help you accomplish. This is mastery.
I hope this has given you a different view of the path to mastery and that it helps you on your journey.
It’s a question that we get frequently, and it can be confusing, especially when there is so much information available on both sides of the issue. Primal Health expert, Mark Sisson, used to recommend red wine as part of his Primal Health plan but now has changed his stance after abstaining from alcohol himself. Here’s some helpful info from the Primal Health coach course regarding some of the adverse effects of alcohol.
Alcohol’s Impact on the Body
As a source of “empty calories” (seven calories per gram) and a potential contributor to insulin resistance, alcohol has a negative effect on body composition goals. However, contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not convert into fat upon ingestion. Rather, alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and has an immediate effect on the brain and other tissues; hence the resulting “buzz.” Since alcohol is a toxin, the body works quickly to metabolize the alcohol through oxidation. This detoxifies and removes the alcohol from the bloodstream before it damages organs and tissues. In the liver, enzymes convert alcohol into acetaldehyde and then acetate. This is what happens to most of the alcohol consumed, but some alcohol escapes metabolic process and is excreted unchanged through the breath or urine.
As the “first to burn” calorie source, alcohol . . .
- Inhibits fat metabolism.
- Makes carbs more likely to be converted into fat.
- Can stimulate increases in appetite.
While alcohol is being burned or converted into acetate, the metabolism of other fuels is put on hold. That’s why alcohol calories are known as the “first to burn.” Not only is fat burning put on hold while the alcohol calories are burned through, but any carbohydrate calories consumed with alcohol are more likely to be converted into fat and stored instead of burned. Similarly, fat calories consumed with alcohol will more likely be stored as fat instead of burned (if they are consumed without insulin-stimulating carbohydrates).
Alcohol inhibits lipolysis (fat burning) and glycolysis (glucose burning) because it is the first to burn. Not surprisingly, studies correlate frequent consumption with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In fact, according to Enoch Gordis, MD, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the stupor commonly associated with drunks could often be more due to hypoglycemia than to the effects of alcohol. A pattern of frequent alcohol consumption can also result in decreased insulin sensitivity.
Not only that, alcohol gives you the munchies, triggering an area of the brain that controls hunger. And when you do eat, those calories are more likely to be stored as fat. Alcohol ingestion thus detracts from fat loss goals by contributing empty calories (that you will burn before tapping into stored body fat), interfering with other ingested calories (promoting the conversion of ingested carbs into fat), and increasing appetite. Along those lines, if alcohol is to be consumed, it is best consumed alone to mitigate fat storage concerns, and, of course, in a sensible and moderate manner.
Alcohol can also affect body composition by altering the healthy balance of sex hormones in both males and females. Alcohol is known to be directly toxic to the testes, lowering testosterone levels in males. Frequent consumption can disturb hormone functions in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, damage sperm, and compromise fertility in both sexes. In premenopausal females, frequent alcohol consumption can cause an assortment of reproductive problems, including abnormal menstrual cycles, delayed ovulation, and infertility. These negative effects are well associated with alcoholics, but reproductive issues can also occur in “social” drinkers.
Alcohol can also compromise athlete peak performance and recovery in varied ways. It can mess with your deep sleep cycles, and the critical hormonal processes (especially the release of Human Growth Hormone during deep sleep) that repair and rejuvenate your body for the next day. All-time triathlon great and current coach Mark Allen suggests that alcohol preoccupies the liver, hindering the liver’s crucial role in processing nutrients for performance and recovery (including interfering with testosterone production); interferes with water balance in cells, which hampers ATP production; and hinders your ability to perform in the heat.
In postmenopausal women, alcohol has been found to promote elevated levels of estradiol (estrogen), which commonly falls dramatically after menopause. The elevated blood estrogen levels from moderate alcohol consumption can deliver some health benefits by helping to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease without increasing the risk of bone loss, liver disease, or breast cancer. Due to the toxic effects of alcohol and its negative influence on the healthy metabolism of other calories, anything beyond occasional, casual drinking will have an adverse effect on healthy metabolic and hormonal function.
Take the Sober October Challenge
This challenge, like many of our challenges, is designed as an experiment to take you out of your comfort zone and help you gain a fresh perspective of your current health. The challenge comes from an idea I got from Joe Rogan. I have been told by a few respected clients and friends that this is the stupidest challenge ever and that October may not be the ideal month for such a challenge but there are no other months that rhyme with “sober.”
The challenge consists merely of abstaining from all alcohol for one month and is not an indictment of alcohol but an opportunity to experiment and learn about yourself. If you choose to take on our challenge, send us some feedback and let us know how it goes.
Much of my focus for the last couple of years has been on how to best optimize training in the gym and life outside it. The FITFLO system encompasses just that. Ultimately FITFLO is about life optimization. I also realize FITFLO is my perspective on life optimization and that it is based on my own specific values and beliefs. Not everyone has the same set of values and beliefs and there is nothing wrong with that. You can still benefit from training at Alliance even if your values and beliefs differ. Simply take any aspects of our training and utilize them where they fit in with your specific goals.
First, I want to give you a clearer view of where my idea of optimization comes from and what it means to me. From that, my hope is that you may see how it fits for you. As far back as I can remember it was engrained in me that I should do my best. Honestly, I don’t specifically remember where this idea originated from, but my parents certainly played a role in instilling this concept. What I do recall is sitting in church at an early age and hearing the parable of talents. In this story where a wealthy master gave his servants a certain number of talents before leaving to go away for a period of time. One servant receives five, another two, and one servant received one. When the master returned he was please with the two servants that had taken the talents and invested them to create more while one simply buried his to avoid losing it. He rewarded the servants who had invested while he took away the talent from the one who simply buried his and did nothing with it. I remember being young enough to not really understand but thinking that it was okay to bury it for fear of losing it. I would say this was my first true memory of optimization. My belief became that we were meant to go out and develop what talents God has given us. Of course, along the way there have been many coaches and teachers that emphasized this same idea of applying work ethic in order to become your best. There is also the Theory of Human Motivation from psychologist, Abraham Maslow, known as the “Hierarchy of Needs”. There are eight levels of development where each level must be satisfied before moving to the next. The two top levels have to do with self optimization. The seventh level is self actualization and the eighth is transcendence, where after self actualizing you have the need to help others self actualize. We also have the word from Greek philosophy, “Arete”. This is a word I have mentioned previously which means being your best self from moment to moment. I learned about this from Brian Johnson of Optimize.me. I have become a big fan of Brian and follow his Optimize.me website daily. These are just some of the origins from which I have developed my belief of the importance of optimization.
What I or anyone else considers to be optimization will be based on what they value. Let me use a few examples to illustrate this point. When we first started our Jiujitsu program I made the assumption that everyone had the same goals for training as I did and I quickly learned that was not the case. Therefore I decided to create a handout questioning what the students goals were. I remember one particular response which, at the time, baffled me. One student’s response was that “he did not have any goals in particular and that he was pretty happy with where he was.” Another example comes from Tony Robbins. At one of his trainings he quizzed two people about there goals and what it took to make them happy. The first, was a man who most would have considered to be very successful. He had a successful business and was a millionaire, he was healthy, and had a great family. When asked what it took to make him happy his answer was that he had to make more money, get his body fat from 15% down to 12% etc. The second guy was known at the workshop as the guy with the most energy and when asked what it took to make him happy his answer was simply, “Every day above ground is a good day.” Part of me wants to say that the guy with no goals and the guy who looks at everyday as a good day need to be more motivated to improve themselves but who am I to say. If they are actually happy and are productive members of society then more power to them.The guy who had very defined goals and by most peoples standards was super successful was unhappy. Maybe happiness is as Mo Gawdat puts it in his book ,”Solve for Happy”, simply a combination of your expectations and perceptions. What I consider to be an optimized life is one where we are happy, healthy, and strong. What I am looking for is to help those with similar values and beliefs optimize.
So what is the FITFLO approach to becoming happy, healthy, and strong? To reiterate, happy is an individual thing but to me revolves around finding a balance of mind, body, spirit , and connection. So optimization revolves around those things. To optimize we need to focus on the following five critical areas:
These are many of the same areas that human potential coaches such as Mark Divine, Dave Asprey, and Ben Greenfield emphasize in their programs. We have been providing group challenges in each of these areas this year in order to help you optimize and we will continue to do so. What we are doing next is providing a more individualized approach to this process where we create specific action steps and hold you accountable to their execution. Last year we began working on this more individualized approach but it was more related to the physical area and movement. We are now ready to help you take it to the next level as we move towards Arete and an optimized life.
More details on this program to come this month.