Mood & Music – Keep Calm, and Carry On!

Mood & Music Blog Graphic

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Some of you might remember one of my articles for CXP Edge from a few months ago – Exploring Limits with Nootropics – Bio-Hacks for Brain Function. Well, recently I have been experimenting with Sounds and Music in a bid to enhance Cognitive Function – either to Relax, or to gain laser-like Focus!

Right now, I’m in the process of selling one house, and moving into a new home; so needless to say, my stress levels are slightly elevated; and this month I’ve got just two of my awesome Clients missing their Training (one for Business, the other for Leisure), so having an extra few hours per week to “decompress” midway through my day has actually been much-needed.

These ‘experiments’, however, have all been taking place at home. In the earlier part of my day, I’m using various Sounds and Music to get myself more motivated, boost productivity and stay amped and ready. At the end of my day – when it comes time to hit the hay – I’m seeing what works to help me wind down, relax and achieve that Zen-like state.

So, you may have heard of Music Therapy before? Or even ‘Sound-Healing’? Their origins stem back to Ancient Civilisations ranging from Greece to Tibet. Now, I won’t delve into the back-history here, but instead, let’s look at this through a more “modern lens”.

Fact is, most Athletes out there will tell you that they have their favourite music that they listen to when they want to get pumped up and ready – either for Training or for Competition. It helps them get in the zone. Heck, look online and you’ll find the [supposed] Playlists that big name Bodybuilders, Athletes and Celebs like to listen to ahead of / during their workouts (for example).

Of course, different people will have different genres that illicit the emotional and mental responses that one desires to get into the right mindset; for some, it may be cranking up some Thrash Metal… Or maybe busting out some Hip Hop does it for you? Electro-dance? I remember a bit of Darude – Sandstorm would quickly up the pace of any Group X Class way back when – still does, to be fair. But what others? Maybe some Trap? Garage? Jungle?

Zipping down to the other – less… intense? – end of the line: perhaps Classical or Jazz just gets you into that perfect place [mentally]?

In my case, I have fairly eclectic taste in music, but I’ll tell you four songs that I absolutely LOVE that help boost my mood:

AC/DC – Back in Black

Pharell – Happy

Keala Settle – This Is Me

Macklemore – Can’t Hold Us

These are what I will call ‘Incidental and Intentional Mood Enhancers’; “incidental” because if they randomly come on the radio, I can be in some kind of negative mood (upset/angry/stressed) and they can almost instantly change that… and “intentional” because I can *choose* to listen to them to alter my mood also. Their lyrics are empowering and uplifting. The instrumental music itself is powerful enough to trigger a switch.

And that’s where I want to switch over to Sounds – specifically – for a moment. See, what I have personally discovered is that while various songs might lift me up and get me into a better “headspace”, they actually don’t help me focus much… See, I convert from negative to positive – emotionally – but then I end up paying more attention to the words in the song, and singing along rather than concentrating on the task at hand.

Although, to be fair, this does depend on said task. If it is one that requires creativity and a literal “thought-process”, then it is quite difficult because my brain is processing what I’m hearing. However, if I’m trying to focus on something purely physical, then there’s no issue. Whether I’m doing a workout or chores around the house, plugging in some of my favourite tunes is always helpful.

But when I have to write content, design graphics or create videos, the lyrics of the song kind of interrupt my thoughts and I get distracted. This is where instrumental music comes into play; but I don’t mean downloading the versions of those songs simply without lyrics. No. That just leads to my mind filling in the vocal-void with the lyrics I know should be there.

Fortunately, if you go on Sound Cloud or download an App like Calm, they have a massive variety of lyric-less music to listen to.

The other week, I had to clean the entire house by myself ahead of our Realtor hosting an Open House, and there was easily 3hrs of work to be done. But I also needed to whip up the Blog Graphic for the article I published that same week – Celebrity Backed, NSF-Certified… Ladder!

So, I put on my headphones and listened to a couple of tracks on the Calm App that are in their “Focus” section; these tracks are generally a little faster paced, slightly more “intense”, and actually seriously helped get me honed in and get everything done with zero procrastination, distraction or any other mishap.

When it comes to Focus – we want to listen to music that is going to resonate with us at a level that makes our hearts beat just that bit faster, that sharpens our senses, and gets us dialled in.

For simply physical tasks, then slapping on some of your favourite jams will do the trick. But if you’re studying for something, writing something or have to process some kind of information that – by itself – is mentally taxing, then “au natural” (sans lyrics) may help better.

Now, at the other end of the spectrum, there’s the relaxation side of things…

While there are plenty of songs out there that are perfectly soothing to the soul, I am again finding that the lyric-free option seems to work best. Let me reiterate – this is all an experiment using myself as the “test subject”, so you may find that lyrics are no problem for getting you psyched up or mellowed out.

In fact, the whole idea for this experiment came about while I was online shopping! See, there’s a [relatively] new company that makes ‘advanced sportswear’ – their name is Vollebak – and their stuff is freakin’ legit! I own about half a dozen articles of their clothing ranging from half-zips to t-shirts, and it all feels downright bulletproof!

If you’ve ever watched Jimmy Fallon, you might have seen the episode where Vollebak’s Relaxation Hoodies were featured; now granted, they look like something out of an S&M catalog, but actually, they’re far from it. There’s a ton of science that goes into them – you should look ‘em up if you’re interested in finding out more – but essentially, they can help create a wearable ‘isolation tank’ of sorts, which can be used to induce a state of calm and zen.

So, I was looking at this hoodie the other week (though I first saw them on [Jimmy Fallon] The Tonight Show almost exactly two years ago from now); and anyway, I noticed that on Vollebak’s site they actually have a link to their Sound Cloud profile where you can listen to one of two tracks:

Condition Black soundtrack

or

[Baker Miller] Pink soundtrack

They’re both so… “other-worldly” – for lack of a better way of expressing it! And I definitely prefer the Baker Miller Pink track, but they kind of just transport your mind to a place that is so gloriously… disconnected

*You might do well to read up on the Condition Black clothing selection to better gauge/understand WHY the track sounds like it does. (Long story short: it’s the term that Special Ops units use to refer to a state where you’re basically surviving for dear life; hence it sounds a tad… ‘bleak’?). I am fairly certain that 99% of people will naturally prefer the sound of the “Pink” Vollebak track instead!

Thinking about it, I actually can’t help but remember this video I saw on YouTube of a man called Mark Gungor who talks about the difference between how men’s brains and women’s brains work; and the one unique thing about Men is that we apparently have this thing called ‘The Nothing Box’ – a part of our psyche that we can access that allows us to just think about absolutely NOTHING!

Having grown up around women all my life – with my Mum being single, my older sisters having been single mothers while I was growing up, having only nieces from when I was 6 right through to my teens, then going to university and being in a cohort that was 95% girls… I’m not sure I’ve ever quite had the chance to find my “Nothing Box”… until now!

Not gonna lie, my mind goes a million miles an hour sometimes, and I’ve always got something that I’m thinking of: Work; my Clients/Colleagues/Schedule. The house(s). My apartment back in Spain. The realtors here. My realtors in Spain. My tenants in Segovia. Money. The blog. The podcasts. My fitness routine. My nutrition. My relationship. My friends. My family. The bloody dog! The adorable cats. The next level on whatever PS4 game I’ve recently been sucked into. The next episode of Survivor. When I’ll next get to go on vacation. WHERE I’ll go next. My upcoming YouTube channel. Why people Follow then Unfollow on Instagram. When I’m going to get back into my Martial Arts on a serious level again. How badly I’d love to be on the new upcoming show – Titan Games! And the list goes on………

But listening to those Vollebak tracks just somehow calmed the humming buzz of the high voltage that runs through my neurons! I finally discovered that infamous “Nothing Box” – better late than never, I suppose!

I’ve also found that some ‘soundscapes’ on the Calm App worked quite well too. For example, there’s the Thunderstorm and the Campfire – both are sounds that are surprisingly easy to relax to. Funny enough, back at boarding school I had a good friend – Sean – who just *loved* thunderstorms – he always said he found them calming, and I never quite understood why… Now I do.

But there we go. While I could book a holiday to some hillside getaway and be lulled by someone playing Tibetan ‘singing bowls’, I think I’ll save the cash and listen to some equally soothing tunes from Calm and/or Sound Cloud.

So guys, this article was really more a whimsical musing of how Sound & Music can impact our mood, make us more productive, aid in creative thinking, and relax the mind so that stress just disappears – if only for a while.

There’s plenty more science and ancient tradition behind it all, so you should definitely do a little research if this has peaked your curiosity.

As it’s not exactly within my wheelhouse, so to speak, I really just wanted to skim the surface and help you glean a little something from my own personal experience dipping a toe in the waters.

I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and more importantly, I hope it gets you thinking about how you can best USE music or “soundscapes” to manipulate your mental state and enhance it.

The mind is a powerful thing, and so is sound – after all, virtually the entire universe ‘vibrates’ under a myriad of different frequencies. Choose what vibrations you let enter your mind, and you can gain some modicum of control over the world around you. Just think: they’re called good (and bad) ‘vibes’ for a reason.

Guys, have a good one, and I’ll catch you next time!

Until then, remember: Love life, and love yourself!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

Perhaps somewhat esoteric in its nature, I'm hoping that I'm opening up the topic of Music and how it can impact your mood and either help you relax or focus in a way that is not overwhelming. Have a quick read and see if you're picking up what I'm putting down...

Celebrity Backed, NSF-Certified… Ladder!

Celebrity Backed, NSF-Certified... 'Ladder'

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Okay, so first off, I just want to take a moment and apologize for being somewhat AWOL for the last couple of months. CXP simply had to take a backseat because life has been throwing several curve balls my way, and so, in order to maintain the standard and quality of what I put out there, I felt it best to just wait until I could pour 100% of my focus, love and attention back into this.

Those of you who follow me (@cxpfitness) on Instagram and Facebook will have at least seen me keeping up with posting some of my Workouts, the grub I whip up, and the Supplements I use; so I hope you’ve been liking that content!

But right, let’s get into it. A hot topic for this last week: the new supplement line known as ‘LADDER’ – founded by a foursome of Legends who have each reached the absolute pinnacle in each of their respective careers…

We have: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lebron James, Cindy Crawford and Lindsey Vonn. The proverbial Kings and Queens of their respective fields, you have Arnold – once the most formidable Bodybuilder on the Planet; Lebron – still defying Father Time as he elongates his Prime of what has been an astonishing NBA career. Cindy is one of THE *original* Super Models – the only other names that even exist in the same realm would be Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell. And finally, we have the game-changing, Olympic Gold-Medallist Alpine Skier – Lindsey.

Now, I follow Arnold on Instagram, so I was aware of Ladder pretty much the moment they [finally] took it public. However, this was opportune timing for me, as I was just getting ready to tuck back into my articles and podcasts here on CXP.

I actually held off a couple of days in the realization that a) I knew this was what I wanted to talk about as my first article back (it fits *perfectly* with the topic of my last article: Great Marketing or a Great Product… You Choose!). And b) I wanted to wait and see what other people were going to say about this new venture into the Supplement World, and the results were… well… about what I expected!

I listened to a couple of podcasts, watched some YouTube reviews/rants, and read articles online, and honestly, felt pretty underwhelmed! I mean, I hit up everyone from big [“household”] names to lesser known Content Producers. I’m talking:

Men’s Health (article)

Vibe (article)

CBS Sport (article)

Tim Ferriss (podcast)

Weik Fitness (podcast)

Massive Iron – Steve Shaw (YouTube)

Nick’s Strength and Power (YouTube)

(These aren’t all of the sources I scoured, but most of them at least)

 

Not one of them got into the truly relevant aspects of what makes the Ladder Supplement Line good or bad. I mean: the ingredients themselves, the quality of said ingredients and the standards that their products actually meet!

Instead it was just a lot of superficiality. A fair bit of ignorance. And shameless plugs for the product simply copying and pasting content from the About Page from Ladder’s website!

So, I knew I had to do it some justice! (But sorry –  let me just be clear – I’m not meaning to “bash” anyone here, so I will justify this as we go!).

Vibe and CBS Sport really just gave a background on how/why Ladder was formed in the first place (pretty much everything you can read on Ladder’s About Page). Though, Men’s Health did have ONE interview question with Arnold that was relevant (ish); the question was vague, as was the answer, and then the article just moves on to the next irrelevant question!

(In case you’re wondering – it was about how Ladder ‘works differently to other proteins and supplements’, to which the answer was an odd allusion to how one product wouldn’t work for two people with different *goals*… Well, no sh*t Sherlock!).

I think what was just a bit blatant was that these “major media monsters” were really just trying to direct traffic to Ladder’s website. They don’t utter a single syllable about the products, it’s just paid publicity, so… Slightly disappointing!

And Tim Ferriss (in Episode #349) spent all of about nine minutes of an hour-long Interview with ‘The King’ (Lebron James) and his Trainer (Mike Mancias) talking about Ladder… again though, it’s more based on the formation of Ladder as an entity, as well as its resources for the Community it is hoping to build. Tim does at least highlight that Ladder is NSF-Certified for Sport.

YouTube was where I got a bit more in the way of “opinion/review”… The most irritating thing was the ignorance.

In most cases, there was a seemingly universal problem with the fact that Ladder leverages the Celebrity status of its Founders… [Insert/cue forehead slap]. I mean, really? And, when you’re going to compare to the only brands you know (in these instances, you had Optimum Nutrition, 1st Phorm, MetRX and other Supplement Industry behemoths being put out there), it just doesn’t make sense to criticize using a person’s fame to yield business!

All companies do it! That’s the whole point of endorsements and having Brand Ambassadors!! So, frankly, the Celebrity Status “issue” should be a moot point! After all, as Social Influencers – between the four of them, they have well over 50-million Followers on Social Media – why the heck wouldn’t you capitalize on that Distribution Scale!?

But okay, roasting the most irrelevant stuff out of the discussion, let’s get into some of the things that actually matter!

So, simple fact is, there is an awfully large segment of “the market” that is concerned with ‘Price Point’, and I get that. However, these guys are seriously making mountains out of molehills! They’re talking about $2 – $2.50 being “astronomical” as a ‘per serving cost’. Well, again – when you’re comparing it to buying Optimum Nutrition [in BULK] at Costco… what the hell do you expect?

But the fact is, most of the names these guys on YouTube are dropping are Supplement Companies that have committed some of the cardinal sins of Supplement formulation: they’re either [simply] under-dosed, use proprietary blends, are guilty of protein spiking, or just don’t deliver what they put on the tub!

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Thing is, when I hear someone who has thousands of Followers say something as ignorant as ‘their products are FDA approved’ (talking about the brands they actually use) and ask ‘How is [Ladder] any different?’ (without actually taking the time to look at the formula/ingredients), it just pisses me off! Because now we have THOUSANDS of people believing the same crap that they’re saying. The same under-educated, completely un-researched, just over-simplistic “bro science” with nothing but some bulging biceps in a tight-fitting Supplement-branded t-shirt to back their arguments.

I’ll agree that there are some decent Supplements out there that you can get for cheaper. However, there are some elements of the Ladder product line that warrant a high price-tag, which I’ll get into later on. Fact is though, for as high a standard (regarding product quality) that Ladder meets, their price point isn’t out of this world, but rather, quite competitive with others on the market that are of the same calibre. But I’ll get back to that…

Another issue that some people seem to have is with the Subscription-based / Direct-to-Consumer Model that Ladder uses. Again, this is simply a business strategy. Subscription Models are the new “thing” now – Onnit uses it, Freshly uses it, Under Armour uses it. And ya know, the funniest thing is that some of these YouTube guys are comparing to GNC… clearly, they’ve never looked at GNC’s website before, because – what d’ya know – they have a Subscription-based service also! Granted, it’s not the ONLY option (like with Ladder), but still…

So, once more we have a bit of a moot point! And once more, we have the bemoaning of an aspect of Ladder that hasn’t been looked at well enough; one person was complaining about how you can’t just try it out, because then you’re tied in and can’t cancel… They clearly didn’t read this part of Ladder’s FAQs:

Ladder Cancellation Policy

 

Another point that was made on the Subscription Service was that it was “a ploy” to trick you into buying into their products in the hope that you’ll simply ‘forget about your subscription’ and just keep paying [“unwittingly”?] for several months down the line. Sorry, but that would suggest that we – the consumers – are just morons that don’t pay attention to our bank balance nor when a package rammed with supplements arrives at our doorstep every month!

That leads me to the next issue that most of the more Hulk-like ranters had about the Ladder products, and that was its packaging: Packets instead of Tubs…

Now, while there is a brief acknowledgement as to the convenience that packets offer, there is no recognition given to why gargantuan tubs of protein might NOT be so appealing to a number of people.

Again, perhaps it’s unfair to pick on these guys as they practically eat, sleep and breathe Whey Protein… but their ignorance is what is so intolerable.

See, I *get it*. Thing is, there’s wayyyy more thought that has gone into Ladder than I think anyone truly realizes! Some have recognized that there is an ambitious aim for the mass market in every sense of the word; but that’s only from the standpoint of how the Founders are comprised of two Men and two Women. Clearly, I’m talking demographics now.

Some coverage of Ladder has pointed out how the idea was originally the brainchild of Lebron, and subsequently Arnold. Only later on did Cindy and Lindsey come onboard. And this was a smart move – put a product on the market that was totally universal, meant “for him” and “for her”. Problem is, having famous females at the helm doesn’t quite cut it alone. That’s where packaging comes into play.

From a marketing perspective – they’re going “gender neutral” with the colours (simply black & white, for the most part; then full-spectrum when adding a splash of colour). Also, the fonts used on the label, and the overall aesthetic of their website is – again – very neutral. Clean, crisp, ageless. Like the Founders themselves, right?

But let’s pivot back to the Packets vs Tubs thing… so, while most Men are happy to have their “man-cupboard” rammed full of Protein Powders (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a cupboard matching that very description!)… Women – understandably – can be quite put off and/or intimidated by the notion of having a gigantic 8lb bucket of Protein!

But also, there’s the versatility and portability that comes with Packets – stereotypical as it may sound, it is pretty genius to make a product that can slip easily into a lady’s purse, no? I mean, without sounding vulgar, it’s akin to the marketing psychology that goes into tampons…. Discreet. There when you need. Convenient. Easy to use.

Sorry… never thought I’d find myself comparing packets of Protein to tampons, but hey-ho! Funny enough, the “quest for tampons” (helping a Customer who was in a bit of a “crisis”) formed the most unexpected dialogue of my interview for Virgin Active (over a decade ago) when I first got into the Fitness Industry; I got the job, so apparently the Regional Manager who interviewed me appreciated the balls it took to drop a topic like that in an interview!

Anyways… back on point!

Let’s just consider the Founders for another sec… So, we have Arnold and Cindy – both the faces that moulded the Bodybuilding and Super Model worlds into what they are today; yet despite Cindy being in her fifties, and Arnie dipping into his seventies, they are both excellent examples of how well we can age if we take care of ourselves and our bodies!

Then you have Lindsey and Lebron – both in their thirties, relatable to the younger generations, still very relevant in their respective sports, and both the more “sporty” of the four.

As a target audience, Ladder is trying its best to appeal to just about everyone possible! And let’s just de-stereotype the packet thing for a second too – fact is, Seniors (aiming to emulate Cindy and Arnold) wouldn’t want massive Tubs either, and yet, they can most definitely benefit from taking either one of the Protein Powders; and whipping it down to the other end of the line… Fact is, kids could even take a packet to school with them.

I actually remember when I was about 15, I found these boxes of Protein Powder sachets (packets) in the supermarket that were individual servings – they only had about 16g Protein per packet, but I loved them – they tasted like a healthier version of a Nestlé milkshake!

By the time I was 18 and started looking more into Sports supplements, the first “real” Protein Powder I started buying was the MetRX Meal Replacements… that came in boxes… of single-serving packets!

So, fact is – a) the packets/sachets have been around for a while, and b) they’re actually ideal for just about everyone! Minus the self-conscious men out there who can only be seen shovelling Protein into their faces Direct-from-the-Tub!

Then we have another aspect of Ladder that has been criticized, and to be honest, I find myself scrutinizing this same point here, and that’s the ‘unique’ element of being [apparently] personalized to the consumer/customer, and I’m not sure they’ve convinced me on this one.

The whole “Personalization” part of it is really just a thin veil for what is – at its core – unadulterated data collection. It’s really no different to a BuzzFeed Quiz where a certain combination of answers will yield a specific set of recommendations.

The reason Ladder uses this quiz is two-fold: firstly, because they’ll now have data that you’ve offered up that will allow them to send you additional “personalized” recommendations in the future [as their product line expands].

Secondly, it’s to cover their own a$$es! See, you’ve filled out the quiz. *You* have given them answers. They have given you recommendations to those answers. So, let’s say that you selected an answer that would clearly indicate that you’re Vegan, but then you go and buy the Whey Protein (against the recommendations of their site), then you try to slander them for selling you a Supplement that [obviously] isn’t Vegan-friendly… they can turn around and say, ‘Well, based off what YOU told us, we didn’t recommend the product that you ultimately bought. You wouldn’t have had that experience if you’d gone with what we recommended’.

So okay, I know you’re probably wondering what they ask in the quiz, right?

Well, here are the six questions they ask:

What primary goal would you like to focus on right now?

  • Losing Weight
  • Gaining Muscle
  • Improving Overall Health
  • Enhancing Sports Performance

How often do you eat protein each day?

  • Never
  • Sometimes
  • Most Meals
  • Every Meal

How often do you eat vegetables per day?

  • Never
  • Sometimes
  • Most Meals
  • Every Meal

Do you avoid products that include dairy?

  • Yes
  • No

How many times per week do you exercise?

  • Never
  • 1-2
  • 3-4
  • 5+

What is your gender?

  • Male
  • Female
  • Other
  • Prefer Not to Answer
(I’ve highlighted MY answers in yellow)

 

My results: Whey Protein (30 Pack – 5 x per week) & Energy (16 Pack – 4 x per week)

Based off my answers, this makes a lot of sense. They know I’m working out 5+ times per week, so they were always going to suggest a 30-pack; the ‘Dairy’ question automatically results in the Whey recommendation (had I selected ‘No’, they’d no doubt have offered a 30-pack of the Plant Protein instead). And the Energy product will be based off the fact that I’m clearly active, so it’s an easy upsell. The lack of Greens is likely because I selected ‘Most Meals’ on the ‘Vegetables’ question, so I’m not lacking there.

So, I respect that they’re not trying to ram everything down your throat, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel terribly “personalized”. Those are just the logical options based off a 6-question Quiz… When I think of *personalized*, I’m thinking that it’s going to be tailor made to suit my “bio-chemical profile”… Which is kinda what the claim is… Just looking at the ingredients of the four products, there’s nothing that marks them out as being outliers in the Supplement Market that will cater to *YOUR* individual needs.

That pretty much covers all the topics that were actually touched upon by other Content Producers via articles, videos and podcasts.

Now, this is already shaping up to be the longest CXP Edge article ever, so I won’t delve into this last part too deep…

But the final thing I want to talk about is WHAT is actually *in* the products!

Actually “deciphering” the Nutrition Label and Ingredients is what I’m all about here on CXP Edge – explaining why a product is top notch or not, rather than basing it off price and hype; and instead considering whether what you’re paying to put in your body is actually worth the money or not in the first place!

First up:

Whey Protein

Off the bat, the best thing I see is that all protein sources are from Isolate (not Concentrate) – big win in my books! And at 26g Protein, this is just slightly above [what has become] the Industry standard. The use of Vitamins & Minerals is nice to see, but a tad redundant when it comes to the Zinc and Magnesium (as these will have to compete with other Minerals for uptake). And the Probiotic Blend (not to be confused with ‘Proprietary Blend’) is something I’ve never seen in a Protein Powder before, and I’d say there’s good reason – it is highly unlikely that much of that Probiotic bacteria is going to reach the gut (where it NEEDS to go) as it has to survive the harsh environment of the stomach first… Conclusion: good product, just a tad too much “garnish”!

Plant Protein

It makes sense to see a Vegan option in their lineup, and this one seems on point. The likelihood is that the inclusion of ‘organic pumpkin protein’ is going to be to a minimal extent, but no doubt the true Vegans out there will relish the thought of such an “exotic” protein such as that. The Enzyme Blend is a curious one – not sure why you would put *lactase* in there… just saying. And the same argument as before can be made regarding the Probiotics. Ultimately, 21g Protein is pretty decent for being Plant-based.

Energy

This one is playing it safe in some ways – mostly regarding the Green Tea; I think that’s because a fair number of people can’t tolerate much greater amounts of it, so 100mg is enough to reap benefits, but not so much that you’ll get an upset stomach. And as far as Caffeine content goes, 98mg is very conservative, but again, just enough – especially for those with a lower tolerance for Caffeine. Creatine / Beta-Alanine / Betaine-wise, they’ve nailed it! 5g / 3g / 2.5g [respectively] are all doses that are scientifically proven to be effective, so there’s no under-dosing here! Now, I’ve talked before about Choline as an ingredient, so seeing its inclusion here is a pleasant surprise. L-Theanine also makes sense as it pairs well with Green Tea. Overall, a decent product – playing it this safe [again] just further explains their widespread approach for a Customer base.

Greens

Now, I’m not gonna lie – I think these “Green Powders” are a bit of a waste… for me at least! If you’re someone that doesn’t touch a single veggie throughout the day, then clearly, you’d benefit greatly from something like this. Doubling up as a Multi-Vitamin is a definite upside (and you get significantly more Vitamins & Minerals than you do in either of the Protein Powders). With much fabled ingredients like Spirulina, Matcha and Rhodiola (which some people have never heard of), I know that this one “has all the right things” in it… I think the main thing that “seals the deal” on this one for me though, is the fact that a) it’s Non-GMO, and b) the product – like EVERYTHING that Ladder offers – is NSF-Certified [for Sport]! And that – Ladies and Gents – is the true game-changer here…

Ladder NSF-Certified

If we go back super-briefly to one of the first major grievances that some people had about the Ladder products out the gates, it was about Pricing! Knowing that their entire line is NSF Certified tells you all you need to know about WHY… And if you haven’t read any of my content that explains that, I’ll tell you right now: NSF Certification is the gold standard when it comes to testing for purity and quality – especially in Supplements.

What most people don’t realize is that Pro Athletes (in the NFL / NBA / Olympics / etc) cannot take ANY Sports Supplements that haven’t been WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) Approved – or in the case of the Olympics, complies with the incredibly strict IOC Standards. NSF (the National Sanitation Foundation) is one of the only third-party lab tests that a Supplement can pass that will meet all these super-high standards. And getting these products tested and certified is NOT cheap!

It’s for this reason that I trust brands like dotFit and AthleanRX (both of which have NSF-Certified products). And if we’re talking about Price, then $2 to $2.50 falls right in line with these other two brands.

And by the way, both Neal and Jeff (the CEOs of these two companies) use a Subscription-based Model… and are Direct-to-Consumer! (That’s why you’ve probably never heard of them – because instead of ploughing millions into mass marketing, they focus on producing high quality products).

You can find dotFit / AthleanRX / Ladder products listed on the NSF website, thus proving their authenticity.

Anyhow, that’s all for today…

First one back – had to make it a good one!

If you’re not already following me on Instagram or Facebook, then check out my pages @cxpfitness – give us a Like/Follow, as it’ll really help to grow this gradually expanding community that I’ve been building over the course of the last year or two now.

I’ll catch you in the next one, but for now, remember: Train Hard, and Train Smart!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

First post back after a brief "sabbatical". We're looking at how Great Marketing AND a Great Product can possibly be conceived when you have the clout of global celebrity status behind your name. We're looking at the rungs of the new Supplement Line: Ladder

Great Marketing… Or a Great Product? You Choose!

Great Marketing or a Great Product_ You Choose!

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These past few months I’ve had the privilege of attending a number of Live Webinars with Neal Spruce – CEO of dotFit, Chairman of the National Academy of Sports Medicine (a.k.a. ‘NASM’), and former Bodybuilding Champion.

Neal is always very candid in these sessions, and he knows his stuff! Not only is he always very thorough in the Q&A’s at the end, but he also invites us to reach out to him [personally] if we have any other questions that we think of (later on)… I frequently take him up on this! After all, why wouldn’t I pick the brains of the man who moulded the Personal Training Industry in America (as well as other aspects of the Health & Fitness Industry) into what it is today!?

But Q&A’s aside, there is something that he said in one of his most recent Webinars that really stuck out to me:

“I can out-formulate you, or out-advertise you… Which would you prefer?”

To sprinkle a little context in there, Neal was talking about why dotFit products are more expensive and why they’re not a) marketed through mass-media or b) available through major stores like GNC or Costco. Essentially, most companies plough millions into advertising, leaving pretty “tight margins”, thus meaning that the only real way to turn a profit is to under-formulate [and hope that no-one realizes!].

Meanwhile, dotFit sells direct to the Consumer and doesn’t waste millions on marketing, and so, are able to spend the extra on creating Supplements that have clinically proven doses and are verified via the most stringent third-party testing.

This got me thinking…

The top three Sports Supplement Companies/Brands that I absolutely believe in are:

dotFit / AthleanX / Jym Supplements

As we already know, dotFit is NSF Certified (with the majority of their products).

Athlean*RX* – the Supplement Line of Jeff Cavaliere (Founder of the massively popular YouTube Channel / Fitness Business – Athlean-X) – also happens to have NSF Certification! [Again, on most of his lineup].

Like Neal, Jeff also doesn’t spend tons of cash on Marketing; his YouTube Channel has *millions* of Subscribers, therefore, he has a Target Audience and can more or less market to them for free through his videos.

As for Jym Supplements (by Jim Stoppani – phD, Founder of Jym Supplement Science), his line may not have NSF Certification, but Jim has spent the better part of the last decade educating consumers as to the fallacies of the Supplement Industry, and the whole point of him finally coming out with a Supplement Brand of his own (by popular demand) was to set itself apart and provide those consumers with a top-quality product that actually works!

Therefore, for Dr. Stoppani’s Supplements *not* to be “fully-dosed” (as labelled) would be the biggest scandal in the history of Sports Supplements! So, I for one have total faith in the integrity of his products.

These brands serve as a stark contrast to the likes of one brand in particular that epitomizes the entire point of this article:

Muscle Pharm

This company is all great marketing, but a pretty lousy product! You know by now – I don’t usually call out specific brands or companies, but in this instance, it’s not “new news”; they made headlines in recent years when they wound up in a high profile class action lawsuit!

The gist of the lawsuit was that their Protein Shake listed 40g Protein on the Nutrition Label. This product was FDA-Approved, and so, seemingly reputable by default, no? Well, as it happens, this product underwent third-party testing, and the results showed that the powder was actually comprised of barely 19.4g Protein per serving – not even HALF of what they said was in it!!

See, the thing is, FDA Approval is not worth the paper it’s printed on! Putting it really crudely, all it means for something to be “FDA-Approved” is that they have established that it won’t *kill* you… i.e. it is ‘generally safe’.

But the FDA does not require these companies to actually contain the doses of the ingredients that are claimed; hence you will ALWAYS see [in addition to the ‘FDA-Approved’ “seal”] a disclaimer saying that the statements made on the product have NOT been evaluated by the FDA.

Soooo… They approve it because it is non-toxic and won’t necessarily *harm* you. But they don’t take the time to even evaluate the claims made. Pretty damn lax if you ask me!

This is where NSF Certification should be a Gold Standard when considering a Sport Supplement! They verify doses (which inherently substantiate claims when based on basic science), and are one of the only third-party testers that comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s strict standards.

But beware of *falsely labelled* NSF Certified Products – you should check the NSF website to verify first!

PBfit is a curious example… See, their Organic PBfit product has the NSF [Certified Gluten Free] logo on the tub, and the pbfit.com site shows it too; however, their parent company – Better Body Foods – states on *their* [separate] website that, ‘PBfit® is a gluten-free product but is not certified by NSF’…

In checking the NSF Listings, neither PBfit® or Better Body Foods appear, so it could be that they *were* certified by NSF in the past, but have failed to maintain the compliance standards, and thus, lost the certification… Who knows?

Then we have Body Fortress®…

I was given a tub of their Super Advanced Whey Protein by a friend who didn’t want it, and was pleasantly surprised to see the NSF [Certified for Sport] logo (see picture below – to the right of where it reads ‘Whey Protein’). Strangely enough though, none of the pictures on their actual website show the tub with the logo…

So, given a bit of due diligence, I looked the product up on the NSF Listings (pictured above), and they DO appear there (with several other Body Fortress® products)… I’m not sure what the deal is here, but as long as NSF says they’re certified, I believe they have a decent product!

CXP Edge - One of the Four Dimensions of CXP

The problem nowadays is that we get absolutely sucked into Marketing. We allow big companies who employee Marketing Geniuses to sell us virtually anything; they understand Psychology better than most of us do… They get that there are masses out there who have the same recurring problem, and so, they pluck away at that pain-laden heart-string – not in a bid to help, but to sell you on the notion that they have the solution to your problem.

Sadly, in most cases, they do not have the solution. There’s almost never a “one-size-all” solution to our problems. After all, if we are all *unique* individuals sharing the *same* problem, then you could say that we each have to take a unique approach to overcoming the problem.

Let me give you an example:

Take Ian and Nigel (don’t ask – I literally just pulled those names outta nowhere!)…

Say they’re best buds from High School, both about the same height (5’10”-ish), and both put on not only the infamous ‘Freshman 15’, but an additional “Post-College 30”… i.e. The two of them are 45lbs overweight!

We’ll imagine they used to weigh a reasonable 170lbs, but now, they’ve “ballooned” to 215lbs…

Likelihood is, they may not even want to lose 45lbs – say they make a pact to set out on a new ‘Weight-Loss Journey’ together, and lose 30lbs; for an average man, 185lbs is pretty decent (as long as Body Fat Percentage is in check!).

Thing is, Ian has Leptin Resistance, and Nigel is Vegan. One is an additional problem, the other – while actually a very healthy lifestyle choice – simply has some slight restrictions, but it is far easier to work with.

They’re both Overweight – and this is their common problem. Heck, going off of their Body Fat Percentage, they even classify as borderline *Obese* (say they’re both sitting around 30ish% BF). However, Ian’s Leptin Resistance is a significant Health Issue – in short, his body lacks the ability to respond appropriately when Leptin is secreted [to signal that he is / should be *full*], and therefore, he has regularly overeaten over the years, thus resulting in the excessive weight-gain.

He has soreness in his Joints too (possibly the developing stages of an Arthritic Condition), so he is worried that exercise will worsen this…

Nigel – conversely – has no such Health Complications. In fact, by all reasonable judgement (medical or otherwise), his Weight is the only negative aspect of Health, but his Doctor feels that – if left unchecked – it could develop into a Health Issue.

Unlike Ian, Nigel put on the weight as a result of having fallen in love with Middle Eastern food after a Semester Abroad in Dubai as part of his Business Degree. A food-driven lust of Hummus, Tahini and Baba Ganoush as well as trying a Vegan version of the Keto Diet and having far too much Coconut Oil and Avocado led to unexpected weight piling on in a shorter period of time than Ian…

Fact is, they cannot take the SAME approach to losing the weight. Exercise-wise, Nigel could benefit from High Intensity Interval Training, however, for Ian and his sore Joints, this would likely aggravate the issue.

Nutrition-wise… Ian would need to consult a Dietician/Nutritionist to be prescribed the best natural methods to help deal with his Leptin Resistance before trying to focus solely on the weight-loss; though as a result, he’d likely lose some weight anyway as it would be a “two-birds-one-stone” kind of situation. Nigel probably just needs to readjust his Macros, and then assess his Calories-In / Calories-Out so as to ensure that he burns more than he consumes!

dotFit Logo - Black & Grey (Transparent)

While the examples of Nigel and Ian are 100% fictitious, they are absolutely realistic, and there are plenty of people out there with similar issues. But the Food / Beverage / Supplement Industry takes NONE of these intricate details into account when trying to sell to us.

As a result of this and the lack of standards imposed (or *not* imposed) by the FDA, someone like Ian could buy a Protein Shake that is supposedly low in Carbs and high in Protein – in a bid to help with his Leptin Resistance – but end up with a Supplement that is the complete opposite in its composition (similar to that Muscle Pharm Shake), and end up doing more harm than good as his Condition gets exacerbated!

On a similar note, Nigel could end up inadvertently consuming a Supplement that is supposedly Vegan, only to find that there are trace amounts of Shellfish or Dairy by-products… Clearly, NOT ideal!

Don’t be sold on some fanciful idea of what a Company’s Product *could* do (but probably won’t?)… Be diligent! Put in a bit of effort to research what you’re putting in your body. And choose a GREAT *product* over smoke & mirrors (a.k.a. Corporate Marketing).

That’s all for today’s post – I hope you have enjoyed this one!

I’ll catch you next time, but until then, remember: Train Hard, and Train Smart!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

Today we reassess our true values. What matters to us most when making the decision to buy a Sports Supplement. The answer may seem obvious... but the reality seldom is!

Nutrient Programming – An Athlete’s Approach (Part 2)

Nutrient Programming - An Athlete's Approach to Nutrition (Part 2)

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Last time here on CXP Nutrition we discussed the simple concept of Nutrient *Pairing*, whereby we combine our macros in pairs – favouring Protein & Carbs OR Protein & Fat – so as to optimize macro uptake. This week, we’re looking at the notion of “Nutrient Programming”…

Really, this is even simpler than Nutrient Pairing, but as with most of my articles here on Nutrition, you can expect me to play Devil’s Advocate and give you an independent and unbiased view!

So, what we mean by Nutrient Programming is that what you eat at certain times of the day can actually “program” your metabolism for the rest of the day. Now, as novel as this may seem, research conducted [in separate studies] by Dr. Molly Bray (Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at University of Texas) and Dr. Ryan Lowery (out of University of Tampa – also the President and Co-Founder of the Applied Science and Performance Institute) showed how you can “program” your metabolism to use *fat* [as its primary fuel source].

Interestingly enough, Dr. Lowery is a massive advocate of the Keto Diet – even co-authoring “The Ketogenic Bible” with Dr. Jacob Wilson (who really helped bring both Nutrient Pairing and Nutrient Programming to the mainstream several years ago).

While Dr. Bray – at the helm of Nutritional Sciences at UT – has produced ground-breaking work that ushered in new concepts like Nutrient Programming, she has [more recently] focused her efforts on Training Interventions and Genetics of Exercise Response (a.k.a. the “TIGER” Study).

Between the two/three of them though, a solid foundation was laid that has allowed Athletes to build their Nutrition Plan in ways that – to the more indoctrinated – might seem to defy the general “Dietary Guidelines” that are dished out (as funnelled down to GPs and Dieticians from the arcane and obsolete government-spear-headed establishments like the FDA).

What their respective studies found was that if you wake up in the morning and consume a high-fat, low-carb breakfast (with plenty of protein – in the realm of 30-40g), then for the rest of the day you can use fat at a higher percentage of fuel.

On the flipside, if you get up and have a high-carb meal first thing (which, let’s face it – is the case for most of us), you actually then become ‘fixed’ to carbohydrates as a fuel source, and that means you’re more likely to *store* fat.

This isn’t to say that you can’t have Carbs with your meals – we’re talking about your *first* meal of the day; it’s setting your body up to use Fat first. Later in the day you can have your Protein & Carb meals (which will be useful post-workout).

Now, let me just connect a couple of dots for you here…

If you remember back in January when I wrote Why You’ll Never Have the Physique of Wolverine or Wonder Woman, you might recall that I shed light on the fact that Hollywood’s fittest – from Hugh Jackman and Gal Gadot to Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson – have to train for *hours* per day in order to attain their godly figures…

Well, there is also a very specific order in which they structure their training. They do their Cardio first (usually in the morning) – typically for about an hour or so – and then do their Weight Training later in the day.

Why is this relevant?’ Glad you asked!

See, the thing about good old Cardio is that it is usually Low Intensity – aiming to keep the Heart Rate around 60-70% of its max BPM [Beats Per Minute]. The purpose of this is because in that “Zone” your body will use Fat as its primary fuel source (hence it is referred to as the “Fat Burning Zone”).

Later on, when they go and do their lifting, they are usually doing compound exercises (like Deadlifts, Squats, Push Ups, Pull Ups, etc). This will form the backbone of their Strength & Conditioning work along with Functional High Intensity Interval Training…

The “problem” with the latter is that it raises the Heart Rate to 80+% of its max, which then means that we’re using our Glycogen Stores (and even the Creatine Phosphate system – if the moves are particularly ‘ballistic’ in nature).

Starting to see the pattern yet?

It’s an extremely simple strategy: start your day off consuming a breakfast of Protein & Fat, and get in some Cardio (Steady State – or whatever keeps your Heart Rate around 60-70%) and you will be optimizing your body’s Fat utilization for the day ahead.

And if you really think about it… and this one will blow your mind a little (especially if you’ve read 3 Benefits to Intermittent Fasting and/or Everything You Need to Know About Going Keto)… this ‘programming’ actually hands in the proverbial “pink slip” on Intermittent Fasting and the Keto Diet.

Why?

Think about this: part of the reason why people follow I.F. is to stabilize their Blood Sugar Levels, but also, so that they can workout first thing in the morning when Fasted. The rationale being that Glycogen Stores / Blood-Glucose Levels will be at their lowest (because you haven’t eaten yet), thus encouraging the body to use Fat for Fuel [first].

But by ‘programming’ in this way – still eating before your workout, just ensuring that it is a Carb-free breakfast – you’ll actually achieve the same result!

Also, by doing this, you are enabling your body to tap into Fat as a fuel source – which is the entire point of the Keto Diet – but guess what? Without having to “go ‘full keto’”!

Nutrient Programming is the loophole that Athletes are able to exploit, but that the majority of us either a) simply don’t know about, or b) deem to “weird” or ‘not doable’, and so, don’t try. But let me ask you this…

Which would you rather do:

  1. Go two thirds of the day not eating, and adjust your eating schedule to cram 2000+kcal into an 8hr time slot (the bulk of which is most likely smack-dab in the middle of your working day).
  2. Restrict your diet so severely that you are minimizing your Carb intake to barely 5% (up to 10%) of your overall Calories, and have to stuff your face with ungodly amounts of high-fat foods in order to achieve a Metabolic State that you can be knocked out of with just a bite of a donut.

OR

  1. Divvy up your macros [relatively] *evenly*, PAIR them up in a way that optimizes uptake, and simply prioritize the order [throughout the day] in which you eat them.

???

Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘Well damn, Chris… we thought you were “pro-Keto”! And what the hell is wrong with Intermittent Fasting?’

Fact is, I have no problems with either. I believe both work for some people, but are not for everyone. I have personally used both “nutrition strategies” to a pretty darn decent degree of success. So really, I am neither “pro” nor “against” any of these Diet/Nutrition-based concepts; I am like Switzerland on this! And I just want YOU to know the benefits and caveats to be found before you dive in head first without realizing what you’re getting into.

Is Nutrient Programming (along with Nutrient Pairing) the solution to your Diet issues? Maybe. Maybe not! Whether it’s Keto, Paleo, Whole 30, Intermittent Fasting or these ‘Athlete’s Approaches to Nutrition’, it all comes down to one ultimate question: Does it work for YOU?

Of course, you’d probably say, ‘I don’t know cuz I haven’t tried it yet’. Okay. Fair point. But think about yourself for a sec. Your habits. Your tendencies. If you’ve tried I.F. or Keto (among others), did they work? If not, was it because you felt they weren’t sustainable? If that’s the case, then WHAT wasn’t sustainable about them?

You have to be honest with yourself here! Can you break free from how most of us have been brought up? Can you “program” your day so that you have meals with specific macro-profiles at certain times of the day? Can you prepare a dish that is just Protein and [*healthy*] Fat? Can you prepare one that is Protein and [*healthy*] Carbs? Could you separate them out and eat them that way for a SUSTAINED period of time? (Preferably, as an ongoing thing – after all, this wants to be a lifestyle, not just some fad that you try for a few weeks then give up on).

The reason why people rave about Keto is because they have made it work for them; they have been able to wake up every morning happy with eating plenty of Fat-rich food, moderate Protein, and next to no Carbs.

People swear by Intermittent Fasting – Hugh Jackman [again] is another advocate on this one – and it’s because they can go through the timetable adjustment and make their “feeding window” fit within their day.

Many [Pro/Elite] Athletes don’t have to really think about these things; a lot of them have Nutritionists and Coaches who plan it out for them – they just have to eat what their fed… though that may be (IS) greatly over-simplified.

If you can make these little tweaks to how you eat (and how you train – after all, I just shared an epic ‘secret’ with you regarding how to calibrate your Training to fit in with all of this)… Then hey, maybe you could have a breakthrough you never expected.

Now, just before I wrap up, I should tell you to talk with your Doctor – especially if you have any Health Conditions that could be aggravated from “drastic” changes to your Diet.

But there you have it – Part 2 to An Athlete’s Approach to Nutrition. If you decide to try Nutrient Pairing and/or Programming, then I hope you have great success with it/them! Please share your success stories with me, as I’d love to hear them!

In the meantime, I’ll catch you in the next one. But, remember: Eat Healthy, and Eat Smart!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

Part Two of our Athlete's Approach to Nutrition neatly stacks up the second component to this "Nutrition Strategy" and revolves around how we structure our meals throughout the day. While it is very simple, for many of us, it may not be *easy*.

Can A.I. Ever Replace Face-to-Face Personal Training?

Can A.I. Ever Replace Face-to-Face Personal Training

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Over the past few years there has been an ever-trending movement in the direction of “Tech-4-Fitness” (I may have just coined that specific term!). Granted, we’ve had the likes of FitBit around for over a decade now, but as technology has advanced we have seen the dawn of a new era of Wearable Tech and other fitness “revolutions” occurring.

Apple first launched their Apple Watch just three years ago (in 2015), and you have the likes of Myo Armband and LVL [Hydration Monitors] that are truly taking Wearable Tech to places we couldn’t have imagined at the turn of the century/millennium! (To be fair, Myo Armbands aren’t geared towards the Fitness Industry, but I can foresee ways in which their particular tech could be applied).

Anyhow, I don’t have any real “beef” with wearables – after all, I use them also, and I believe they provide many huge benefits. I have a number of my Clients using MyZone Belts during our workouts so as to accurately gauge what Heart Rate Zone they’re working in, and the device has proven to be an invaluable tool!

The “techy” side that I wanna go all ‘kid-on-a-piñata’ up in here with is related to those so-called Virtual Trainers/Classes. You may have heard of them (maybe even taken part in them?): you have a pre-recorded class projected onto a wall, or if your Club really opened up their wallet, you might even have a full on OLED / HD / 4K / Super-Screen setup…

So, there’s a room full of people ready to roll, and the projection (usually played on a loop) just plays through and everyone goes along for the ride…

But let’s rewind a little.

See, this all evolved from the online Laptop-to-TV setup that you had with the Insanity workouts (for example). What a brilliant idea, right? You’ve got Shaun T rockin’ on with his mini Tribe of über-fit bodies behind him; ebbing and flowing with the appropriate track tempo (with the music), you even had the visuals on-screen with a timer that illustrates how long you have left for that round (and the rest of the workout). Well produced. Sharp-looking. Professional. Clearly, it’s been a success over the years and people have gotten results.

Heck, I had a friend lose about 20lbs doing it, so I borrowed his copy for a day to give it a go… and I got in a pretty good workout. [This was a few years back now].

So, what’s my problem? Ya wanna know my biggest one?

It’s pretty simple: how are we supposed to know if we’re doing it right!? Form. Technique. There’s no-one in the room with you to tell you if you need to correct your positioning [so as to avoid injury]. Now, while my friend did lose 20lbs, he also developed a little back pain with it (though, only temporary)…

I asked him to show me how he’d been performing some of the exercises, and his spine was just bending in ways it shouldn’t have been bending for a bunch of them (namely Planks and Squats – letting the hips droop heavily in his Plank, and rounding his back [like a hunchback] during his Squat).

When I did it, it was awesome! But I’m a Fitness Professional – I know good form! Heck, I don’t even need to see an exercise on a screen – I can listen to a workout and perform it with great technique. If you’ve seen my Instagram videos showing Metafit / MetaPWR workouts – it’s all done to a Music Track (that gives instructions throughout), but I’m a Coach for those workouts, so of course, I know what to do.

Don’t get me wrong – there are *some* of these Virtual Classes that make perfect sense, and I can’t poke at them for this same reason… Take the Spin / RPM / Cycle Classes, for example: you’re sat on a bike doing a repetitive linear movement that takes almost no technique whatsoever. Great! Have at it!

And to be fair, playing a recording on repeat all day long is a good way to cut down on costs! 10k/year on licence fees for a class you can run 20 times per day, 365 days of the year is way more cost efficient than paying a Group X Instructor by the hour who can probably only take about 4 per day [owing to physical exertion].

Keep in mind, a Club would have to pay that same Instructor at least *double* [so, 20k/year] just to run the class 4 times per day, Monday thru Friday, for just 48 weeks out of the year…

So, we’ve evolved from Laptop Streaming/Downloads to Pre-Recorded Virtual Classes, and even Live In-Club Streaming… but again, even if I am “Live” with an Instructor – they can’t see what I’m doing from all angles and give me real-time advice on how to correct my form.

The most worrying development for me is the latest tech that takes us all back inside our homes once more…

The Mirror Interactive Home Gym (which serves as a free-standing or wall-mounted mirror when not being used for your Workout):

Photo Credit: Uncrate

Let me begin by saying that the tech is beyond impressive! And the concept is straight out of a sci-fi movie – it is truly taking us leaps and bounds in a positive direction [ultimately], but still with a couple of caveats. While it is very cool to see yourself in said mirror – alongside a Virtual Coach – and receive tons of cool data all right at your fingertips, it still comes down to Form & Technique for me.

You do have access to a Live Instructor who is supposed to give real-time instruction, but without a 360° view of YOU, how accurate can their feedback really be?

But hey, I’m not here to say that everyone has lousy form unless they’re a FitPro. To be honest, I’ve met plentyyy of FitPros who actually have crappy Form – perhaps the most disturbing of all!

So no, fact is: there are vast numbers of people who have decent awareness of their bodies and how to position themselves properly when performing various exercises. So, I certainly don’t want to base this all off a single-point argument…

The other major caveat is the Accountability Factor! And this even goes for that Virtual Spin Class! If you’re there pedalling away and start to get lazy, who the heck is gonna stop you from turning the resistance down (not that Instructors will ever STOP you from doing that); but also, what if you just stop pedalling for a few minutes? Chances are, you’ve probably got “more in the tank”, but without someone to hold you accountable, you’re likely to slack off a little! (Or a lot!)

Again, the Live/Online Trainer might be a fix here, but that’s not available through Laptop Downloads or the Pre-recorded Workouts being projected onto Studio walls.

In-Person Training – whether it’s Group X or Personal Training – will always be King in my eyes! Someone to lead you. Someone to share their expert tips on how to improve not just your Form, but heck, your *Performance*! A *real* person in front of you to make sure you give it everything you’ve got!!

That’s irreplaceable!

I have no doubt in my mind as to where “Tech-4-Fitness” will go next with all of this, and I believe that there will be an attempt to develop A.I. that can analyze your movement and give you on-the-spot feedback for all sorts. For example: to track your knees inline with your toes (to avoid Knee Valgus) during that Squat, or not to throw your back into it when doing those Biceps Curls (a little cheeky advice to tell you to use a Lighter Weight would be stellar!).

When technology can give me a complete rundown of my movement [from all angles], give comprehensive advice on how to fix it (if needed), hold me accountable if I need to step it up, keep my ego in check if I need to tone it down, and ultimately give me the motivation and personal touch that another human can… Well, maybe then I’ll come around. Until then, I believe all those factors (and more) serve as my USP’s versus a Machine any day of the week.

Technology – when integrated with Fitness – is a modern day miracle, and can help everyone from Elite Athletes to Gym Warriors achieve great things with their Health & Fitness. But I don’t think it will ever be an adequate replacement. Unless iRobot becomes real and we have a bunch of Robot Trainers named Sunny putting us through our paces and asking us about our day!

Anyhow, that’s all for today’s post. I hope you found it thought provoking! If you’ve got an opinion or comment – feel free to engage! Leave a comment below, hit me up on Facebook, or find me on Instagram!  I’d love to hear your view!

In the meantime, I’ll catch you in the next one, but remember: Train Hard, and Train Smart!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

As the Tech Industry merges evermore with the Fitness Industry, I want to briefly explore the pitfalls and opportunities to be had when we put ourselves in the hands of Technology - from Wearables to Streaming to Virtual & "Live" Coaching... Have our dreams from last century really come to fruition? And is it a good thing?

Early Bird or Night Owl – What’s Your Chronotype?

Early Bird or Night Owl - What's Your Chronotype_

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Chronos – in Greek mythology is the personification of Time. For the watch connoisseurs out there, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the term “chronograph” – the additional element found in more “sporty” watches that tracks time. So, what is a ‘chrono-type’? Well, on a more abstract level, you could say it is the “type” of time we are more inclined towards; in other words, if we are morning people or “night creatures” [of sorts], or even something in between.

It’s one of those things that is rooted throughout the entire Animal Kingdom – several species stay dormant during the day, and become active at night. Others do the complete opposite. As far as the human species goes, there is a fairly even *three*-way split.

Now, I recently read Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep’ – an outstanding book that delves into a glorious gamut of elusive yet ubiquitous scientific quandary regarding the reasons behind our sleeping patterns, the physiological *need* for sleep, and how to better understand our body’s own unique parameters that regulate our behaviour and primal activities as they relate to our slumber.

This ‘three-way split’ was the result of scientific studies that showed that about 40% of people class as “Early Birds” – they prefer to get up at or around dawn, and typically function best at this time of day. Then we have 30% of people categorized as “Night Owls” – they (we – cuz I’m one of them!) like to get up a little later in the morning, but also stay up significantly later, and their peak for productivity comes later in the day; certainly I am at my most “tuned in” around 2-6pm.

So, you’re probably doing the simple math there and wondering two things:

First, how and why there isn’t a greater percentage of Early Birds, right? (I feel like 90+% of the people I know are matter-of-factly in this category… so where are my Night Owl peeps at!?)

But second, you might also be thinking what ‘type’ the other 30% of people fall under…

Well, the jury is out as to whether there are other chronotypes to “officially” categorize them, but essentially, they literally are the proverbial Goldilocks of the bunch – they don’t get up super early, nor super late; their productivity peaks earlier than Night Owls, but later than Early Birds… and yes, they go to bed somewhere in the middle too!

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick with the two main (more widely recognized) Chronotypes.

Now, you’re probably thinking: ‘Yeah, great! I’m a “Crack-o’-Dawn-er” – always have been. This isn’t news to me.’ (Or the opposite if you’re a “Midnight-Oiler”). [Just making up my own terms now!]. Anyhow, the point is: perspective. Gauging a new one, to be precise.

See, there is an unfair amount of animosity thrown about between Early Birds and Night Owls, albeit relatively passive and harmless. However, I believe it is important to understand why we are how we are. All too often we can be made to feel bad for being an Early Riser or a Late Nighter. One is deemed overly “chipper” / eager / opportunistic; while the other is labelled as lazy / unambitious / somewhat a “procrastinator”.

The thing is, we can all be [perceived as] each of these traits depending on what time it is. At 11pm an Early Bird can be just as “lazy” (tired) as a Night Owl would seem at 6am. A Night Owl might see opportunity at later hours (perhaps doing business online with another country several time-zones away); whereas an Early Bird’s job might simply be more local and simply fall within “normal” working hours.

What we must understand is that our Chronotype isn’t simply a lifestyle choice (though, for those who force it, I guess it can be). Rather, it is part of our physiology. An unshakeable piece of the tapestry that is our DNA.

Basic biology helps explain the Why behind the What when it comes to the fact that our brain dictates our state of “awake-ness”. Specifically, our Prefrontal Cortex; you can consider this to be akin to our brain’s “HQ” (Headquarters). It’s in charge of Logic & Reasoning (among other things), and so – for a Night Owl – if we’re made to wake up ‘super early’ (by our schedules), then simply put: HQ is still “closed for business”… The necessary chain of hormonal triggers and responses hasn’t been set in motion yet because our biological clocks are hardwired to only “fire up” at times that correspond with our natural patterns (i.e. our Chronotype).

Clearly, you can see a pattern emerging here, so suffice to say that the Prefrontal Cortex in an Early Bird “shuts down” ‘early’ [when compared to a Night Owl].

Now, far from the intricacies surrounding the subject on a purely social level, I believe it is also important for it to be understood in a professional context. Namely, in Schools and Businesses. I think that Teachers need to be more aware so as not to chastise Students who struggle to be more awake at earlier hours; clearly, with kids and teenagers there is the fact that their physiology is going through an ongoing change as they physically grow and evolve into young adults.

One sleep researcher – Irwin Feinberg – actually studied the brain activity of subjects throughout their childhood and found that there is an everchanging “landscape” [of sorts] when it comes to their physiology and sleep patterns. An evolving struggle to find the right “fit” (so to speak), and it all ties in with two topics that I’ve covered before on CXP Zen: Circadian Rhythms, and Polyphasic Sleep (vs Monophasic Sleep).

See, as you’ll probably already know (but perhaps not actually realize) is that babies, infants and young children adopt polyphasic sleep patterns; that is – they sleep for a number of hours, then are awake, then sleep again, then they’re awake again (sleeping in multiple “bouts” throughout the day/night).

As adolescence looms the child has usually adapted to a monophasic sleep pattern, but now the hardwiring is determining a Chronotype. So, apart from puberty, sexuality, social development and several other massive aspects of a kid’s life that start to form in these more tumultuous years, there is also the very literal “internal struggle” when it comes to their biological clocks.

So, any Teachers reading this (which, by the way, I was a Teacher for a number of years)… now you know. Of course, you’ll have enough experience to know if it’s just a case of a “developing teen” or a kid acting out and misbehaving; but just be sure to be cognisant of what they’re likely going through.

Turning the focus to Businesses

Again, I feel it is prudent that an Employer (like a Teacher) should know their Employees! Just as it is vital to know if your Staff have any health issues (Diabetes, for example), you should also be sympathetic to them either being naturally more productive earlier or later in the day.

Unfortunately, most “common” businesses operate during ‘normal’ business hours; therefore, the Early Birds are going to have a slight advantage as they will turn up on time (maybe even *early*) and most likely pump out emails/calls/sales/etc like a machine throughout those first “crucial” (?) hours of the day. But then… have you ever noticed that they kind of ‘let up’ towards the end of the day? (NOT saying this is the case for *all* Early Birds out there, but I’ve met my fair share who plough through the first half of their workday, only to kinda kick their feet up at the tail-end of it). Seems to fly under the radar for the most part…

Conversely, Night Owls don’t do themselves any favours… often they turn up late to work. They drag through the first couple of hours (still trying to wake up and “switch on”); but then, after lunch it’s like a fire has been lit under them, and suddenly, they’re the ones hammering the phones / driving the sales / etc until the proverbial bell rings (end of day / business close).

More often than not though, the efforts made by the Night Owls are deemed somewhat “last ditch” – apparently only to make up for a lack of productivity earlier in the day. This is what is usually noted. This is what can be unfairly criticized.

So, when I say it’s about ‘Perspective’… it’s really about being more objective on the issue. Rather than noticing purely how someone Starts, perhaps notice how everyone finishes also. Better yet, why not compare the Net Results of both [the Early Birds and the Night Owls] to get a more accurate read on who is the hard worker. Who is the valuable asset.

I remember starting out in the Fitness Industry a little over ten years ago now – I began doing Sales & Corporate Relations – and I was the sole Night Owl on the Team. Everybody else was an Early Bird – they all arrived to work bright-eyed and bushy tailed, while I rocked up looking good and ready, but admittedly, desperately hiding my tired and struggling self.

I was (and still am) pretty darn unsociable for the first 5-10mins when I rock up to work, as I adjust and settle into the day. But the numbers at the end of each day/week/month… you’d never know the difference – I was consistently a Top Performer! I just peaked later in the day. While my colleagues would give me a banter-laden ribbing every morning, they couldn’t deny that I was “producing the goods”.

There are Companies out there who are evolving so as to cater to their Employees in this exact context; again – as I mentioned in my Polyphasic Sleep article (as well as my Inemuri & Siesta one) – you have the likes of Google, Apple and Virgin [even] that are going against the grain and grafting a world around their Workforces that *enables* them and empowers them, rather than unjustly penalizing them.

Google & Apple have their Sleep Pods – for employees to take naps. Some of the Virgin companies allow a liberal schedule – employees can take as much time off as they like, and even work from home in some cases… the proviso being that they MUST meet their monthly quotas/targets! So, if you were capable of smashing your quotas for the month in just one week, you could justify taking the rest of the month off… Though it isn’t *quite* that simple (the criteria is slightly more complex), it is a concept that they’ve been successfully using for a while now.

I am lucky where I work now because I am given the freedom to write my own schedule! Knowing that I operate optimally after lunch, I typically only train Clients between 1pm and 7pm – that way, they get me when I’m at full capacity, and I can give the best level of service possible. Any earlier in the day… and well, you know by now that – for me, anyway – that just wouldn’t work out quite as smoothly!

Anyhow, so that’s all for today’s article on Chronotypes. If you didn’t already know which you are, then hopefully you now better understand why you go to sleep and wake up at the times that feel most natural to you! Don’t feel bad about it – embrace it! It’s part of your genetic makeup, and if applied appropriately, can be your biggest asset!

I’ll catch you in the next one, but in the meantime, remember: Love Life, and Love Yourself!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

Today we're getting under the sheets with Early Birds and Night Owls to gauge what makes us the way we are, and to help create more awareness and understanding for those who are otherwise criticized for being one or the other.

Probiotics for Improved Health

Probiotics for Improved Health

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Gut Health has become something of a “buzz term” the past 5+ years, and there a myriad of “Gut Gurus” cropping up out of nowhere who are quick to tell you that your diet is ruining your ‘gut biome’ – the environment within your gastrointestinal tract where billions of bacteria reside.

Now, while I agree that there is a degree of truth to a lot of what is said, there is also a fair amount of scaremongering occurring too – with insufficient evidence to back up the claims being made.

Cards face up, I’m no expert – per se – on the subject of Gut Health [as a niche], but I know enough about the basics (added to an abundance about Human Physiology & Biology) to call B.S. when I see it. But I’m not putting pen to paper / fingertip to keyboard / vocals to mic in a bid to further stoke the fire on this one…

Today, I just want to look at what we can do to help promote a healthy digestive system, and the benefits we can reap from adding a simple supplement to the mix that will aid the process.

First, let me just clear up one common conundrum: the difference between pre-biotics and pro-biotics – as they are often erroneously misconstrued as being one in the same. The distinction is, however, quite simple…

Probiotics are the actual organisms (good bacteria) that help cultivate a healthy gut biome; lactobacillus bifidus being the most common one that you’ll find marketed – typically/almost exclusively among the yoghurt-based products out there.

*Pre*biotics, on the other hand, is what feeds the probiotics. Probably the most used “prebiotic” is potato starch, which the probiotics use for fuel to grow and multiply. But of course, ‘Potato Starch’ doesn’t sound nearly as sexy or… useful (?) But seriously, it’s the starch element that we’re most concerned with here; starchy foods in general are all good sources of prebiotics. Bananas are another great example!

Fermented foods are excellent prebiotics also – if you guys have been reading the CXP Fitness blog for a while now, you’ll know that I used to live in South Korea – so, *kimchi* gets a special mention here for that alone.

Conversely to all this good stuff, there is also an inadvertent villain in the mix of it all too…

Anti-biotics… Now, while they serve a purpose and – medically speaking – are relatively important to help with certain health conditions/issues, they also [quite unfortunately] decimate the gut flora (a.k.a. the good bacteria in your gut). A bit of a Pyrrhic Victory if you ask me… But then, I almost NEVER use medication, so… To quote my Mum’s cousin: ‘Con medicina te mejores en siete dias; sin medicina te mejores en una semana’ … Translation: ‘With medicine you get better in seven days; without it, you get better in a week’! Synical? Yes. Accurate? Fairly!! (Assuming you keep active and eat healthy, anyway!)

But okay, so look… what are the benefits of feeding all those little beasties in your belly? Why should we care about adding to their hundred-billion-strong population?

Well, just a few of the fundamental roles that these good bacteria play within the gastrointestinal system should tell you all you need to know:

  • They aid in nutrient absorption (which you’ll have heard me refer to in the last CXP Nutrition post).
  • They are crucial to hormone signalling.
  • They can help inhibit pathogens, and subsequently, help support the immune system.

To summarize why just those three roles alone are so important, consider this:

You can eat all the “superfoods” in the world, but without a healthy amount of probiotics / good bacteria to help extract the nutrients from them in the first place, you won’t actually reap the benefits that they’re touted for in the first place!

You’ve heard me talk about the intricacies of the Endocrine System before – our hormones – and just how paramount it is that there is a balance; a symbiosis if you will. Well, same goes for the probiotics – they’re going to help facilitate the synergy that we’re looking for here.

And if you consider ‘peak health’ to be the ability to stave off colds come rain or snow, then you’ll definitely want to keep your immune system in check with… yup! Probiotics.

There’s something else you should know about probiotics though. Something to glean over real quick seeing as how – in true nonchalant fashion – virtually all of the marketing “geniuses” of the big corporations seem to skip this little (but important) detail…

Of the *hundreds of billions* of bacteria that reside in your gut, there are in fact, several different types, not just one. So, to allude back to earlier in this post – where I mentioned lactobacillus bifidus – this is a massively oversold probiotic that is in all actuality fairly redundant. See, we actually already have several billion of this particular strain in our systems, so really, we would do well to seek different strains that we have less of, thus creating a more diverse microbiome.

So, what do I suggest?

I know of two superb Probiotic supplements that you can take (in addition to a healthy diet) in order to optimize your Gut Health.

The first is from Mark Sisson’s Primal line-up. You may have heard me talk about Mark’s blog and how it helped me several years ago when dealing with Type II Diabetes. Well, in the last few years, Mark has grown his blog into new realms – from ‘Primal Certification’ (becoming a Nutrition Coach that specializes in the Paleo/Primal diet) to an extensive range of Paleo/Primal-friendly foods, condiments and supplements. Primal Probiotics is awesome, and you should definitely check it out!

The second is from dotFIT – the supplement line that I promote on the blog; the UltraProbiotic™ is quite simply second to none! One of the best things about this one is that you actual get numerous different strains of probiotic in one capsule – not just one.

There are three standout features of both these products:

First is that their bacteria strains are acid & bile resistant meaning that they don’t get broken down by your stomach acid before they have a chance to reach the intestines (where they need to be in order to be absorbed). This is a fatal caveat of the yoghurt-based-bacteria products being sold.

Second, and this is pretty significant also, there’s the fact that neither requires refrigeration!

And third, you have the diet-conscious consideration of not needing to worry about calories, sugar or lactose – which *would* be an issue (on all counts) if you were to consume a yoghurt-based alternative.

If you’re interested in the Primal Probiotic then you should check out Mark’s site (I have a direct link on my Recommendations Page).

And you can get the UltraProbiotic™ through the dotFIT site – check out the link to their page (located in the sidebar); as a bonus, if you set up a profile through dotFIT, you’ll get a discount applied to any/all supplements you buy*.

*For complete transparency, I do get a small commission for anything you buy from dotFIT (only if you set up a profile – with me as your Trainer, which is the default option if you click on the link provided on the blog). I receive no credit / commission / compensation for referring you to Primal though – I just love Mark’s blog, resources and products, and have recommended him / them for years!

So, that’s it for this segment on Probiotics for Improved Health. Hopefully, you learned a little something about the importance of your Gut Microbiome – if only on a “surface-level” – and what to look out for / consider when looking at Probiotic Supplements/Products.

I’ll catch you in the next one, but in the meantime, remember: Eat Healthy, and Eat Smart!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

Peering on the dark side of the Gut-Health-moon... so much consideration is given to what you *shouldn't* consume in order to maintain an optimal microbiome. Let's think about what you DO want to take, which can significantly improve your overall health as a result!