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Getting an extra boost is always desirable for a workout. Whether you are looking for an edge on a big day or just dragging a bit and need a pick me up, energy drinks have become a quick grab for both the athlete and those trying to get through the work day. As always, it comes down to what is in the energy drink that should be considered. Obviously, the number one “pick me up” ingredient is caffeine. Now there isn’t anything wrong with utilizing some caffeine, but overuse will decrease its usefulness and have a negative impact on your body.

                Caffeine is a stimulant. That means it will give you energy, but it does not mean it does not come with side effects. For example, caffeine may cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. In that effect it is similar to a basic warm up before exercise; it will get our body temperature up, get the blood flowing, and prepare body for the actual workout. From that stand point, it isn’t the worst thing. Personally, when I climb mountains, I will have Cliff Blocks with caffeine handy because the extra energy and calories work great when I am at an altitude where the last thing I want to do is eat. These would not be as useful if I used them all the time though, as tolerance to caffeine also occurs. Unfortunately so does addiction.

                It is one thing to use caffeine for an occasional workout, but it is completely different thing to use caffeine all day. The more one uses caffeine, the less effective, more addictive and worse the side effects become. I mentioned some of the side effects and can reason how they would be good for exercise, but let’s think of those effects during times of rest or at least physical rest.  An example is 2 cups of coffee sitting in rush hour traffic. The caffeine can cause restlessness and perhaps anxiety. Coffee with breakfast, energy drink for your morning workout, mid afternoon iced coffee to get through the day, and then a soda with dinner now you’re in trouble!  Another fun side effect of caffeine is the increased excretion of calcium. Now that useful occasional drug has the potential to cause lasting side effects to the body including decreased bone health. So what do we do for energy instead?

                I don’t necessarily recommend stopping a single daily cup of tea or coffee. The increased antioxidants are a great benefit and the amount of caffeine isn’t going to send you on a downward spiral. I do encourage people to consider the thought behind the extra pick me up. Do you need a boost or do you need more rest? Caffeine can stay in the system for 6 hours, so that night cap is affecting your sleep whether you want to admit it or not. Realistically, you want caffeine, but you need water and electrolytes. Dehydration has a profound effect on energy levels. We recommend drinking half of your bodyweight in ounces of clear filtered water per day.  To gain electrolytes you can be sure to eat a balanced diet. What about energy for the everyday workout?

                If you are dropping back to a max one cup a day of tea/coffee and you are a multiple cup drinker per day, the first week will be tough. Nervousness, irritability, and headaches are not uncommon. Once that is done what are options for energy? A pre-workout energy shot can be useful and does not have to contain enough caffeine to turn a slug into a cheetah. My personal favorite is Elevate Shots by Thorne. It contains minimal caffeine (2mg per serving), which means the pick up is more gradual and thankfully the crash is non-existent. It works off a proprietary herbal blend to give adaptogenic support (think balancing more than stimulating). Using Elevate before longer workouts is awesome and you will experience great stamina. They are portable, single dose and even tasty. If you want to learn more about these, come into the clinic and check them out.  The other amazing and simple way to help maintain natural energy without overloading on caffeine is a homemade sports drink. Below is a great and simple recipe for one that I got from my colleague at Source Naturopathic Dr. Robert McElroy.

Home Made Sports Drink

An amazing and simple way to help maintain natural energy without overloading on caffeine is a homemade sports drink.

 

                This is just one of many options for creating a homemade sports drink. It is also significantly lower in cost than picking up a Gatorade (with way too much sugar) or an energy drink (with way too much caffeine) at your local store. It also allows you to pay closer attention to what your body actually requires in regards to nutrients. With adequate hydration (water and electrolytes) and the occasional use of adaptogenic herbs (see your natural health care provider first!), a high caffeine intake will no longer be as appealing. If it is, seeing a health care practitioner for a screening would be a great idea. Have questions? Please feel free to comment below or contact us directly. If you liked it please remember to share this with your friends! Thanks for reading.

False Grip Gymnastics Rings

I work with CrossFit enthusiasts regularly to help them improve specific gymnastic skills

 

As a hand balancing instructor, I work with CrossFit enthusiasts regularly to help them improve specific gymnastic skills. As a Bellevue acupuncturist, I see CrossFit enthusiasts with injuries some avoidable, some not.   Regardless of my relationship with the athlete, I’ve learned they enjoy taking their health and fitness seriously and want to reach their full potential. To help do that, I have compiled my top 3 tips for the Crossfit athlete.

Prehab– CrossFit can be very hard on the shoulders. In order to continue to train injury and pain free, consider a prehab routine. In the case of Crossfit, strengthening the core, rotator cuff and periscapular muscles should be considered.  Check out the video to see some great exercises that can help keep shoulders healthy and prepared for the stress that a good WOD can put on them.

Periodization– Creating a cycle of intensity in your exercise program helps achieve goals and improve the overall quality of said program. This is especially true if you compete in any CrossFit competitions, but works great for every CrossFit enthusiast. If you look at any professional athlete’s training program you will clearly see periodization.  It is an annual plan to layout goals, how to achieve them, and how to do so without getting avoidably injured. It is not written in stone and can be modified to meet an athlete’s individual needs. If you take baseball as an example, these athletes have a clear off season. This does not mean they sit on the couch and eat chips though. The professional athlete will utilize the off season to work on specific skills and to maintain overall health. During spring training season, they take sport specific time to get ready for serious competition. As spring training comes to the end, official season begins. This is when there is constant training and a high level competition occurring. This shows a clear annual training plan for these athletes and it keeps them at their best.  So how would this look for a CrossFit competitor?

If we break down skills of CrossFit into three aspects; gymnastics skills, weight lifting, and high intensity cardio, then periodization will be easier to implement. Most CrossFitters I work with tend to have a preference for a specific area, which from a competitors stand point can come back to bite them. Having a planned approach can all skills will be addressed to be well rounded. A good plan can also prepare the athlete for a competition. For example, take a certain competition, say the CrossFit Open, and make it the main event of the year. Planning that time to be a physical peak would be great to focus on. Divide the rest of the year into cycles where skills are focused on in divided sections. An example is to focus on gymnastic skills such as muscle ups and handstand walks for a few weeks, then switch to a focus on weight lifting for a few weeks followed by cardio skills (i.e. double unders). When working on specific skills, it doesn’t mean that is the only thing you do during this time, just that these skills will be the focus. Continue to rotate these during your off season. Perhaps two months before the Open, enter your own “spring training” where you begin to combine the skills you work on in a way that directly mimics how the Open competition will be. This is a good time to even check out other local competitions or encourage your gym to have an in-house competition. As the Open gets closer (about a week before,) taper the workouts down and take some rest days. The skills have been trained, mimicking of real life challenge has been performed, so taking some time to ease off will be very beneficial. Rest, prevent injuries, and prepare mentally. This will allow you to enter the Open fresh, trained and ready to PR!

Recovery– I could probably write an entire book on recovery, but some important aspects to ensuring an adequate recovery are:

Stretch– All too often people want to get in and get out with a workout. They will slam out a new personal record on the WOD, then get out of the gym to get on with their day. Taking just a few minutes to work on flexibility will not only help with recovery, but improve one’s overall skill level.

Sleep– Something people often neglect is rest. The body needs adequate sleep to work on recovery. When we sleep, we enter a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). The body gets a chance to relax and focus on repairing the day’s work. Personally, before sleeping is when I like to take my herbs and supplements tailored to recovery. I tend to think of sleep as my time to prepare so that tomorrow’s work out can be even better than today’s.

Nutrition– The best way to ensure the body recovers, is to make sure it is adequately nourished. This can be accomplished with a combination of good whole foods and quality supplementation. If you look back at our blog about supplements for athletes, it will give you a small intro into recovery supplementation. As far as diet goes, one simple tip is to be sure to get protein within 30 minutes after a workout. Protein is the building block for muscles. Feed the body protein and it will get to work on healing everything that is torn down during a workout.

Health Team– There is a reason they are called health care professionals. Take the time to have a team that is familiar with your health goals. This can be a Naturopath focusing in the nutritional aspects, an acupuncturist that focuses on sports (like the one’s at Pins and Needles!) helping manage pain and keeping muscles healthy, and a massage therapist to keep the kinks out.

 

Implementing these three tips into your life can really help improve athletic ability within CrossFit. Be sure to take the time to speak with professionals (health care and coaches) to reach your specific goals. If you have specific questions please feel free to leave a comment or contact us! And don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more great tips!

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