Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Birth Control & Muscle Gains

Article written by Amy Payne

Your nutrition is 100% in check and your training is spot on.  You rest, hydrate, and take your vitamins but your gains in the gym seem relatively low for all the work that you put in.  Have you ever considered that little blue pill could be doing more than stopping your body from ovulating?  Yes ladies, your oral contraceptive (OC) may be making your gains in the gym harder to achieve.  I was hitting the gym hard; my nutrition was completely dialed in, but still wasn’t seeing the gains I had hoped for.  My husband suggested I quit taking my OC as it may be counter acting the ability for my body to build muscle.  I was game; did some digging and this is what I found.  

So exactly what oral contraceptives are we talking about here? Any that contain the female sex hormone estrogen and its counterpart progesterone.  So let’s ask the question, what is the main purpose of estrogen? Estrogen is actually the grouping name for the hormones, estrone, estradiol and estriol.  Estrogen is primarily the hormone that creates sexual feelings and urges in females and is also responsible for stimulating the characteristics that make a woman a female, i.e. boobies.  So now you are probably thinking well yeah duh…but what does the pill have to do with my lifting?  Well, when you pop your pill it increases your hormone levels of estrogen.  When women have too much estrogen in their bodies they may feel bloated, retain water, gain weight, notice tenderness in the breasts, and most severe suffer from blood clots.  Research has found that OC also alter normal hormone levels, decreasing levels of a woman’s natural muscle building hormone.

Texas A&M conducted a study with 2 groups of women ranging from 18-31 yrs. of age who went through 10 weeks of resistance training with the same set and rep schemes. 
Both before and after the trial, researchers found, women using oral contraception had dramatically lower blood levels of natural anabolic — as in muscle-building — hormones than did recruits not on the pill. The anabolic hormones included DHEA and its more abundant sulfated form, DHEAS. Compared to non-pill-users, women taking oral contraceptives also had substantially higher concentrations of cortisol, a hormone associated with the breakdown of muscle. At the conclusion of the study researchers stated, “We were surprised at the magnitude of differences in muscle gains between the two groups; with the non-OC women gaining more than 60% greater muscle mass than their OC counterpart.”

Since I have discontinued my use of oral contraceptives for more than a year now, I have added 75lbs to my squat, almost 40lbs to my bench, and nearly 25lbs to my deadlift!  I am moving more weight overhead and feel stronger overall.  I continue to train hard, eat to fuel my body, hydrate and rest, and the gains keep coming. I am currently sitting at 167lbs with my body fat less than 14%.

Now I am not saying to just come off all forms of birth control, be safe and be smart. But if you have everything dialed in and you are working your ass off, you may want to check out what your OC could be doing to you besides preventing pregnancy. 

Oral Contraceptive Use Impairs Muscle Gains in Young Women
Chang Woock Lee1, Mark A. Newman2 and Steven E. Riechman1,3
1 Health and Kinesiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
2 Human Energy Research Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
3 Nutrition, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Monday, July 22, 2013

10 Ways To Get More Protein Into Your Diet

Article written by Joan Jennings

One common question that we at LBEB get asked is, "what are some different ways I can incorporate protein powder into my diet"? Most people just consume protein powder with water in order to get their daily fill, but I'm here to tell you there's more interesting options than just mixing with water. Here's how I make everyday foods and drinks better by adding protein powder.

1. Pudding

Tapioca and pudding are some of my favorite snacks, and I take this to the next level by adding half a scoop of vanilla protein powder to it. Make sure to add a flavor that makes sense so it doesn't clash. Since tapioca and vanilla pudding are my preference, I add vanilla protein to make the flavors consistent.

2. Yogurt

Yogurt is one food that's very versatile in terms of adding protein powder. Since there's so many yogurt options, any fruit flavor would work. I personally prefer Greek yogurt since the consistency is thicker and can mask the powder taste a little better.

3. Coffee

Thanks to the official LBEB protein coffee connoisseur Fletcher Pierce, we're now obsessed with adding protein to coffee. Like many people, I enjoy a cup of Joe every morning so including a bit of protein is a no-brainer. Due to my love for anything cinnamon-related, I like to add cinnamon bun flavored protein to it which works really well. If you're feeling a little more daring, Fletcher will tell you that mango protein with coffee is the way to go.

Fletcher and his Bubba Mug

4. Milkshake

While this isn't something you drink on a regular basis, you can make your milkshakes better by adding a scoop of protein to it. What can be better than dessert with 40 grams of extra protein?

5. Granola & Cereals

If you're a simple breakfast kind of person, adding protein powder to your morning cereal is a great way to go. It's easy and tastes great. I like to use something generic like vanilla or chocolate protein so it doesn't clash with the cereal.

6. Pancakes & Waffles

If you're more ambitious and make the effort to prepare pancakes or waffles for breakfast, those can also be great options for being an extra source of protein. Just add a scoop of vanilla protein to your batter and mix before you begin cooking.

7. Baked Goods

There are tons of baked goods that would work well with protein powder without ruining the flavor. Making blueberry muffins? Add a scoop of blueberry protein to the batter mixture. Making brownies? Add a scoop of chocolate protein.

Depending on what you're making, adding protein to these foods and drinks can taste a little grainier than you're typically used to, however mixing with the right protein powder will not compromise the flavor if done correctly. Plus, in the end, what's wrong with a little change in texture if you're wanting to make gains?

Since there's so many different food and drink flavors, I keep a collection of different protein flavors to be able to mask the powdery flavor. Most places will sell protein in 5lb bags which can get pricey if you're looking to purchase multiple options. My favorite site is True Nutrition ( which actually sells it in 1lb containers, so it makes purchasing multiple flavors much more affordable. Luckily, since True Nutrition is also the official supplier for LBEB, everyone can get an extra discount on their purchases by using the code: LBEB5.

What are your favorite ways to incorporate protein in your diet? Share your ideas in the comments!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Call It A Comeback

Article written by Stephanie Garibaldi

I can’t believe that it was a year yesterday that I had experienced the worst pain, fear, and heartache of my life.  It sounded and felt like a gunshot bullet to my back.  The pain was so fierce that it dropped me to the ground instantly.  Legs immediately felt like they were being torched with flames.  The first thought that came through my mind was “am I going to be able to lift again”? 

I have not really told anyone about my story. How I injured my back, and to what extent.  Only my team, coaches, family, and close acquaintances.  It is high time that you all know my story.  You must BELIEVE that you can bounce back.  All it takes is discipline, heart, drive, and an incredible support team, oh and a lot of Seinfeld.   I am not going to sit here and tell you that it was all cupcakes and roses because it was not.  I spent many days and nights high on pills going through mass depths of depression.  Wondering if I am going to lose my massage business, am I going to be able to get back on the platform, how long.. how long… how long… Everyday tasks were almost unbearable.  Even getting up to go to the bathroom was such a task.  I remember my husband having to help me walk, because I could not lift them up off the floor.  Him saying “baby you are not strong enough to walk yet, you are just going to have to shuffle your feet for now”.  Lying in bed for endless days, doped up on morphine watching the movie “STRONG”. Cheryl Hayworth’s story really helped me get my mind free from all the cobwebs for a while. 

I was excited to go to Seattle for my first LBEB Summit.  It was the first time that we all got to meet each other and Lift Big Eat Big. I was in the middle of training for my first powerlifting competition at the time.   My numbers were really escalating quite rapidly.  I had just made the transition from Crossfit to oly/powerlifting.  I was EXTREMELY excited because it was deadlift day with my team.  I took a couple of days off prior to the summit because I knew that we were going to be lifting big in Seattle and I did not want to be sore.  My warm-up consisted of Stretches/band work, etc...  With dead lifts I like to do 5’s, triples, doubles, then singles. When I hit 300 pounds, I still felt really strong. I then jumped up to 315 pounds.  That was a PR for me. I then put 325 pounds on the bar.  That went up like butter.  Attempting 340 pounds after that was where I question myself every damn day.  I was bringing it up, got it past my knees, and then it happened. The pop, burning, the agony.  Why couldn’t I have just stayed with the double PR?  Way too big of a jump.  Especially with how heavy I was going.  I immediately went to my hotel room and got into an ice bath. That did help, but the next morning was the absolute worst.

When I returned to San Diego I did end up competing in my powerlifting competition in pain.  It was the next week upon returning.  I had spent so much time training for it.  (This is when being a young minded athlete comes into play).  My Dr. could not get me into see him until the following week.  It turns out that I ended up deadlifting, benching, and squatting with 2 disc herniations and 2 disc bulges. NOT A SMART IDEA.  All the way from L4 through S1.  Also growing between my vertebrae was a cyst about the size of a quarter. It was oddly sitting on my nerve causing pain running down my legs.  My Dr. prescribes narcotics, bed rest and sends me on my way. 

Now being an athlete going from lifting every day, to being basically bedridden is depressing already. Throw in morphine, Vicodin, and any other narcotic that you can think of and that was the deep hole that I was trapped in.  After about 4 weeks of bed rest and realizing that this is going to get me no where I called up S10 Fitness.  Mr. Christopher Daly and Mr. David Stein.  These gentleman brought me back to life.  I remember hobbling through their doors in so much pain.  They really focused on strengthening my core as well as treating my body as a whole. That’s just what I needed.  They emphasized a lot on my core.  Bridging, side planks. At first I could not even get down on the ground so I had to use the bench.  CRAZY. Planks with my elbows against the wall.  After about 2 weeks of therapy I started noticing a HUGE difference in my strength and flexibility. Along with weaning off of the narcotics.  I started to see the light at the end of my tunnel of haze.  The both of them together worked on my gate, balance, and overall attitude.  I owe you both so much. Thank you.

After having therapy with S10 for about a good 3 months, 3xs a week, 60 min sessions. I figured I was strong enough to go see the master of Olympic Weightlifting.  Mr. David R Miller, owner of Crossfit Fortius in San Diego Ca.   I was kind of skeptical at first.  My Dr. had basically said “your lifting career is over, bed rest and these pills is what I am prescribing you.  If you do decide to go back into weightlifting you will be sorry and it will bite you in the ass”.  Hmmm……  So with that I make the call to Dave.  He instantly says “Get off of that couch and get in my gym and let’s start moving you around. Your muscles will atrophy and you will lose your strength if you wait any longer”.   That’s all I needed to hear. I figure if I’m up and able to move around now. I should just go and see what he has to say.  BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE.  I hand him all of my MRI papers, we go over all my injuries, what happened. How my therapy is going. Everything that a coach needs to know to be able to coach an athlete back from a serious injury.

 You know that saying “If you can’t fix it with squats or fish oil then you are probably going to die” (You better it’s an LBEB shirt).  Throw RDLS into that mix as well.  Squats and RDLS were the only two lifts that I did for about 4 to 6 weeks.  Along with consuming an enormous amount of fish oil. With the amount that I consumed I’m surprised that I don’t have gills.   The set/rep scheme was easy at first. Bodyweight everything.  I then advanced to PVC pipe, then bar, etc.  My mobility was so extremely crucial while getting back under the bar.  I would spend countless hours of really working on my core, stretching my hamstrings, calves, and my gluteal muscles so that they don’t pull down on my back.  The foam roller took the place of my husband for a while. It was cool, he understood. PVC work was crucial as well. Keeping my pectorals and shoulders open so I didn’t have forward head posture and place any unwanted tightness on my back.  No extra tightness or tension was key in my recovery. 

 While all of this recovery delightful progress was going on.   I get a call from my Spine Dr.  telling me that he wants to go ahead and do surgery to get the cyst out of my back.  DAMNIT!!! I’m getting stronger why do they need to do this?  I prayed about it and my family was praying for me.  I just talked to god and asked is this necessary?  Do you even want me to lift anymore?  What does all of this mean?  Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.  I am in your hands.  After the phone call was over I called coach and broke the news to him. He said “we shall just continue to work hard, make progress, and get you the strongest that you can be before surgery.   That’s just what we did for about another 4 to 6 weeks.  The Dr. could not get me in until then.  Thank goodness, because in those 4 to 6 weeks the cyst had dissolved and it was gone.  Praise God!  When I had went in for my checkup my spine dr. had this look of amazement on his face. He had asked if I was doing yoga.  I said “nope squats, RDLS, and a handful of fish oil”.  LBEB style.

Just recently about 3 to 4 months ago I had decided to start training for the Army and Navy weightlifting championships here in San Diego.  Coach and I both thought I was strong enough and my numbers were rapidly increasing.  Then another nightmare reared its ugly head. I went to see my chiropractor for a routine maintenance check and ended up in a wheelchair at the ER.  The chiropractor had re ruptured my disc.  I was out of commission for a good 2 months.  I had to miss my first competition that I was going to compete in. I took the exact same steps as my first back injury. Therapy, time, squats RDLS, and fish oil. It worked, and here I am writing my story today. 

Lift Big Eat Big saved me during the times of my injuries. Eating big is the only way that I kept up my strength and size while I was not lifting.  I remember sometimes not having an appetite at all because of all the medication I was on.  I just had to force myself to eat.  I knew that this would aide in my recovery and it did.  I did keep my strength and it showed on the platform when I made my return under the bar. Thank you Brandon for such an amazing concept.  I am a true believer.

I’m not sharing my story for pity. I am telling you to motivate, drive, and inspire. If there are any lifters out there that are reading this and are going through a serious injury.  Take time to heal, and know that this too shall pass.  Listen to your therapists, specialists, coaches and have an excellent support team.  Surround yourself with positive people that motivate, inspire, and believe in you.  You will always have good days and bad days, painful ones, not so painful ones.  Complete your regimen and do what your specialists tell you to do.  They are there to help, and aide you in your recovery.

In closing I would like to thank all of you for your motivation and inspiring messages I have received during my injuries. You know who you areJ. To my coaches, therapists, and specialists.  May we continue to work together to make this body even stronger.  You will never know how much you all mean too me.   I will be competing in my second weightlifting competition this Saturday because of you.  I will continue to get stronger, keep sticking to my regimen, and never look back.  There is never a day that I don’t think about my back injuries.  Every time I am under that bar on my platform its tucked away in the back of my head. The trick is to keep it there and not let it rear its ugly face again.   STAY STRONG LIFTERS. LBEB FOR LIFE.