Category: Exercise Science

Reflections

As I sit down to write the inaugural blog post of our newly launched web site, I reflect on years past. It was February 2001 when I first started Efficient Exercise in a small studio on Far West Boulevard in Austin. As I think back about that time period, the overwhelming feeling of gratitude hits me. We have been operating in Austin for 16 years now and many wonderful relationships have been formed. I want to send out a thank you to all of the early clients that supported us back in those first years on Far West. There were many great memories and a lot of entrepreneurial lessons learned the hard way to say the least.

Our first studio on Far West, circa 2001

As we move into a new season, I am more than pleased when I reflect on where Efficient Exercise is today. Some of the old guard so to say has moved onto new horizons including Skyler Tanner, Keith Norris, and myself. We gladly welcome the new guard as they are the leaders of Efficient Exercise today and represent us well as we grow into a bright future.

As a founder with a vision to provide a personal, more viable option to the traditional gym, I think we have accomplished this mission. As a matter of fact, when I look around Austin, or even more specifically just taking a stroll up north on Burnet Road from where we sit at 45th Street and Burnet Road, I see many alternative options to the big box traditional gym and that pleases me. I think it speaks volumes to the quality of service we provide at EE knowing the fact we have thrived for this long.

The foundational principles of Efficient Exercise are still in place, and key evolutions to our business are also fundamental to the services we provide today and into the future.

We still believe in our original foundational pillars that every workout should be safe, effective, and efficient. Similar to the medical oath, first do no harm, we aim to never hurt our clients with our exercise prescriptions. If the workout is not effective, then clients will not achieve their desired results. And of course, efficiency is the name of our game (and business). We want to keep workouts to 30 minutes because we know that our clients value their time, and working out enables them to live a healthier, more vibrant life. The gym scene is not our vibe, and we serve clients that prefer to live their life outside of the gym, getting the most bang for their exercise buck at EE. The fundamental changes in our service over the years include implementing ARX technology and making mobility and corrective exercises part of our programs.

ARX – adaptive resistance exercise, is a computer-controlled, motorized resistance training technology that advances the human body while tracking progress in the software system. We believe that proper resistance training is the foundation to our exercise prescription and ARX allows us to provide that stimulus in a more effective, safe, and efficient manner than ever before.
Strength is the base of good health and performance. Whether you are an elite athlete or a grandmother that wants to keep up with her grandchildren, we can provide you strength to live a healthier and more vibrant life. However, strength should be aligned with proper biomechanics, moving effectively in your daily life, and ensuring that your body is mobile and injury free whatever your goals may be. We assess your movement and mobility and supplement ARX-based resistance training programs with corrective exercises and mobility movements that will allow for pain-free living.
We sincerely thank everyone that has supported us over these 16 years and we gladly welcome new faces to the Efficient Exercise family. I hope to see you around EE in the many years to come.

Yours in Health,
Mark Alexander
Founder – Efficient Exercise

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On Growth Hormone, Muscle Gain, And Recovery

 

Such is the cascade

This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to growth hormone function in the face of diet and exercise. Rather, I’m going to suss out some of the misconceptions that clients are laboring under, based on some questions I’ve recently had.

Growth hormone (GH) is a hormone which has an effect on both tissue growth and fuel mobilization. GH is released in response stressors like exercise, reductions in blood glucose, and both carb restriction or fasting. Shock of shocks, GH is a growth promoting hormone, increasing protein synthesis in the muscle and liver. GH can only carry out these actions through Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which it stimulates the liver to release in the presence of insulin. To put it another way: high GH without high insulin equals little to no IGF-1.

So what about GH as it pertains to training and recovery? Well, before I get into research on how GH is released throughout the day and in response to training, I want you to know that at the end of this article I attached a list of studies that show the result of injecting GH on muscle mass and performance. Give it a look after this article.

So training does result in a GH increase. In fact it’s big in untrained subjects (10 fold increase above baseline), it’s not quite as big in trained guys (4-5 fold increase) (1,2). The thing is that it’s super brief, like back to baseline levels in an hour brief (3). Sounds great though, right? Five times higher than baseline? Here’s the thing: GH released during sleep is up to 20 times above baseline and lasts a lot longer, up to 3 hours (4). Finally, I’ll just quote this meta analysis on the subject of GH and athletics:

Claims that growth hormone enhances physical performance are not supported by the scientific literature.

What about GH’s role in fat loss? Doesn’t GH need to be elevated to move fatty acids for energy use?  Well, take a look at this study of individuals with hyperinsulimia in which they lost 20lbs in 60 days.  The drastically elevated insulin *should* have blunted the GH, which *should* have trapped the FFA’s for all eternity…but it didn’t seem to matter because they were eating less. This is why all of those “GH Diet” scams are successful: if your calories are low enough AND you’re injecting GH you’ll lose a bunch of fat. But it’s the low calories that let this happen, not the GH per se.

But I hear you all the way through the internet: I want to make sure I get whatever tiny cookie of benefit GH has to offer…should I avoid carbs after a workout to keep GH high?

Did a caveman tell you this? I really with this paleo myth would die, be buried, and be discovered by Jack Horner’s great^20 grandchild as an anthropological study of how little we knew.

Here’s the thing: GH is made higher post workout with the inclusion of carbs. So am I suggesting a big huge spike in insulin, meaning a metric ton of carbs post workout? Nay, but since you no longer have to worry about blunting GH, why not ensure protein synthesis occurs? A very small increase in insulin is needed to start protein synthesis, which is to say that a whey shake would get the job done very adequately.

Books have been written on this subject, but there’s not been Earth-shattering changes to this suggestion: if muscle gain and recovery are really really important to you, just eat a nice meal sometime soon after you train. You don’t have to rush it either; the post-workout window of opportunity is large enough to drive a truck through…just don’t decide to fast for 16 hours after the workout and you’ll cover your bases

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

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Ancestral Health Symposium 2014 Review

AHS

I’m back from the wild, wooly West and looking forward to telling you all about it. Actually, both Keith and I had speaking spots this year and as soon as his talk is available online, I’ll share it via the blog.

But let’s back up a moment: what’s the Ancestral Health Symposium? Is AHS some sort of caveman conference?

RudiCavemanLegis

Not exactly; rather it’s a conference that gathers researchers, clinicians, and laypersons who are interested at human health through the lens of the human ecological niche.

So you know how they make the animal landscapes in a zoo to be a close to the environment that the species evolved in throughout its genetic development? Yeah, it wasn’t always that way and zookeepers eventually figured out that they lived longer and stronger when they environment was no longer mismatched.

Human beings are no different and we’ve largely built environments that divorce us from the environmental stimuli that help to facilitate health and wellness. This doesn’t mean that we need to act like cavemen or attempt to find the “perfect” human diet (that’s a blog post for another time); just know that there are broad categories of stimuli that we need to check in and interact with on a regular basis to help ensure the right biological cues for health.

So having said that, let me give you a bit of the background of the AHS. Keith and I spoke back in 2011 at the first ever symposium, where we talked about what we do at Efficient Exercise in the context of the healthcare system in general. We differentiated how exercise is akin to a swim coach, which rehab & medicine are akin to a lifeguard. Tasking a lifeguard with teaching someone how to swim is outside the scope of what they’re trained to do, just as asking a physician to teach people to thrive is outside the scope of your average physician’s capability. The system is setup for them to be the arbiters of sick care, seeing as many people per day as possible who have something ill about them. If they can slip one or two notes about lifestyle in at the end of a visit, it’s often discarded by the “fix me, doc” patient attitude. This is cultural, deeply engrained.

The rest of the conference was a hodgepodge of people and ideas occupying a “paleo” space on the internet. It was lots of fun but certainly not focused yet; that takes time and more conferences.

After finishing my graduate degree, I had the time and the topic to present at AHS 2014. The symposium had grown in scope and rigor; it wasn’t enough to just be interested in this stuff; you had to present questions and topics with academic rigor. Doing your homework was required, as was questioning your assumptions. This made for higher quality presenting on average than seen in previous years. It was also a lot of fun to talk with everyone so interested in their subject matter.

My talk was titled “Resistance Training, Brain Structure, and Brain Function.” In this, I gave a brief explanation of resistance training’s historical place in the exercise science literature, discussed the bleeding edge of research with resistance training pertaining to brain structure and function, before wrapping it up with how this is evolutionarily relevant, and where the research can go from where it currently is, before making suggestions based on the literature. This is not “Skyler’s biased interpretation of the literature,” but the protocol that most frequently correlated with these changes in the literature. I can’t turn an is into an ought; it is what it is no matter what others would like it to be.

I hope you find the talk enjoyable.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

Health and Longevity: The Most Impactful Changes Are The Simplest

During this year’s PaleoFX conference, I had the opportunity to eat and shoot the shit with one Ben Greenfield. More importantly, I had the opportunity to do the same with his wife, Jessa. Great people, super passionate about helping people improve their lives and health, and a lot of fun to be around when fish skins are part of the menu.

Ben knows a LOT about the human body. He’s also part of a small cohort of people I know who have willingly had needle biopsies done just to see how many mitochondria their muscle tissue has added as a result of being in chronic ketosis (Ben has, if I recall correctly, triple the mitochondria in his muscle tissue as your average bear). He considers himself an “ancestral athlete” but doesn’t attempt to live in a cave or only train body weight because of it. He sums this up in his article: “The 10 Rules of the Ancestral Athlete.” Note, there are likely some borderline Not Safe For Work photos on that website. However, the article is great and is a long form version of something Doug McGuff likes to say:

Fred Flintstone diet with a George Jetson workout.

Ben has done a LOT of experimentation to push the limits of health and performance, much in the same way any Olympic athlete does building up to the Olympics every four years. However, Ben is curious about the outcome, as his paycheck isn’t nearly as large for all the noodling he’s wont to do. Truth be told, we’re all nerds about this stuff, but the reality is that very little of the nerding amounts to any significant improvements in health and longevity over getting the simple stuff done, consistently. Take a look below, where I plot the time/effect interval for a variety of health marker improvements that result from exercise:

Exercise per week

The curves are fairly steep: doing enough, regularly, leads to the largest changes in health outcomes. After that, it’s a lot of mental masturbation for a paltry change in outcomes. In numbers above, you have to train 350% more per week to achieve 28% more result over what 1 hour each week gets you. If you’re an Olympic athlete looking for performance, that’s worth it. But if you’re not, that’ s a waste of time, especially when you factor in all of the wear and tear that comes with that effort.

Ben even admits as much in the article. He talks about how his wife is very laissez-faire about her training and how much better it is for health:

I’m not arguing that there’s no value to rigidity, self-control, knowledge, and self-discipline, but I suspect that if we both stay on the same path, my wife will probably outlive me and have a higher quality of life in the process.

If you didn’t read the article, the context is that Jessa trains when she feels like it, eats real food when she’s hungry, and doesn’t stress about it. But she does these small things regularly with big result. She’s in great shape.

It’s the simple changes that result in the biggest health outcomes long term. This is why restrictive diets are an abject failure in the research world, why so many people hate “training,” and why this country is in really poor condition. It’s also why those who did the simple habits regularly in the Alameda 7 Study or the Blue Zones are those living the longest.

Simple is not easy, but it’s a whole mess easier than making things really complicated not much more gain.

 

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

The Elderly Need More Exercise? Yes And No.

stephen-jepson

 

An interesting discussion over at Doug McGuff’s message board regarding exercise and aging. This comment was of interest:

I suggest that the sedentary elderly require more exercise, not less. I am one such. A few minutes a week is not going to do it for sarcopenia or anything else. If I train once a week I cannot maintain my condition, strength,metabolic benefit, motivation or momentum. Nor can you if the rest of the time you are inactive.

Here was my response to this statement:

And I disagree; I think the elderly need more activity, not exercise. Further, the health education research is clear: in the elderly, physical activity and self-efficacy track side by side. The more confident a person is in their abilities, the more physically active they are; the more physically active they are, the more confident they are in their abilities.

If you make a person stronger in your studio, they’re more confident in their ability to do other activities. This is what Doug talks about when he says people want to move more after training for a number of months. Get strong and you’ll get more active relative to your starting lifestyle.

I’ll even make it a nice soundbite: have you ever heard the phrase “a stronger athlete is a better athlete?” The same is true of human beings throughout aging, that is a stronger human is a better (more active, more healthy, more resistant to cancer/metabolic disease/disability) human. (Emphasis mine…just now!)

There is a nugget of wisdom in there that I want people to pay attention to: “relative to your starting lifestyle.” If a person is doing zip and they start a once per week strength training routine that then leads them to take leisurely strolls because they enjoy it, they’re going to do a whole lot better for themselves compared to where they started as far as disease prevention and injury risk reduction. If you had a crazy triathelte at the same advanced age add the same dose of exercise, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. There’s a survivorship bias discussion that will be addressed another time, but here’s my advice: don’t take advice from an endurance athlete who has been training “all of their life” as the gospel…there’s more at play than just hard work!

I digress; elderly individuals should look at their training as an upside-down oil funnel: the widest, part is going to be activity that is very low in intensity but very high in frequency. It seems this is where one can start making a semantic argument that this too is “exercise.” However, it’s really just being a good human animal and setting a functional path: if you move a certain way today, you’ve got a good chance of moving that way tomorrow. The middle part of the funnel is going to be mobility work as maintaining joint free range of motion is paramount for maintaining activity levels. When looking at barriers to exercise, the less mobile people are, the larger their barriers to exercising become. For example, those with mobility limitations cite “poor health, fear and negative experiences, lack of company, and an unsuitable environment as barriers to exercise…”. Performing joint mobility work for 10-20 minutes a day, hell even starting at 5 minutes per day, when mobility is still pretty good will go a long way to maintaining mobility, which maintains activity levels and exercise efficacy. Finally, the tip of the funnel is exercise training, preferably of a high intensity nature. Muscle is the most plastic tissue in the body, the largest endocrine organ we have, and creating a sufficient degree of demand will improve all aspects of a person’s physiology. By its nature, it cannot be sustained for very long and requires a prolonged recovery period. That’s fine, as it means more time for the activities the person would rather be doing, which is going to set the table for continuing to do the activities until the day they die. All good stuff!

So no, the elderly do not need more exercise; they need just enough exercise to produce a body that feels good doing lots of physical activity that a person would rather be doing. Maybe this advice will produce a few more Stephen Jepsons in the world and how cool would that be?

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

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