Category Archives: Gym

Pre-workout Coffee

According to sale pitches from health and supplement shops, “caffeine is a powerful stimulant which can increase mental alertness and improve physical energy levels.” This is a well researched area and it has been shown on several accounts that caffeine has a positive effect on both endurance capacity and in reversing muscle fatigue (see references).

Caffeine and Biology?
Caffeine acts on the central nervous system, increasing alertness and concentration, which also stimulates adrenaline release and – in doses above 5mg/kg body weight – mobilizes fatty acid release. This means more fatty acids are used for energy and less glycogen, therefore increasing endurance. Caffeine can also increase the strength of muscle contractions which is advantageous for both anaerobic and aerobic activities.

The level of stimulation varies depending on several factors, including the amount used, the level of tolerance a person has to caffeine (as seen with habitual caffeine users), metabolism, and other drug use.

Coffee?
Drinking two cups of coffee an hour before exercise, may encourage your muscles to burn more fat and help you exercise longer and harder.

To make the most of its benefits, drink coffee with no or only a small amount of low fat milk, simply because milk slows down the absorption of caffeine.

If a person already drinks 3 to 6 cups of coffee a day, the pre-workout caffeine will do little for increasing energy levels or focus. The tolerance to caffeine will be so that the extra caffeine will make little difference. For the person who does not drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks (e.g. Red Bull and Coke etc) regularly, the caffeine might give a slight energy boost for the workout.

Are there Side effects?
When caffeine is consumed in large quantities, it’s side effects include anxiety, trembling and sleeplessness. If you are sensitive to caffeine, it is best to avoid it. Scientific research shows there is no link between long term caffeine use and health problems. However, there is a connection between raised cholesterol levels and heavy coffee consumption which is caused by certain fats in coffee.

Conclusion
To benefit from caffeine, follow the simple steps below:
1) cut (or minimize) caffeine out of your regular diet
2) consume two cups of coffee an hour before your workout
3) reap the rewards!

Appendix
Data from Bridge et al. (2000) show that caffeine increases endurance time at 75% VO2max. This study also demonstrated the positive effect of caffeine on athletes’ rate of perceived exertion during exercise for 45min. Similarly, Graham & Spreit (1991) reported an increased time to exhaustion in athletes exercising at 85% VO2max following caffeine ingestion at 9mg per kilogram of body weight.

Pay-as-you-go Gyms

Recently pay-as-you-go gyms have been popping up. When I was travelling and working away from home a lot, I found these gyms to be thoroughly enjoyable. They are well equipped and much better than the standard hotel gyms. At £5 a go, it’s not bad at all.

The main perks of these gyms are no joining fees, no gym induction, no contract and 24/7 opening :)

Two that I’ve been to:
1) The gym group
2) Pure gym

I think easyJet have also started getting into this market too, with the easyGym. That’s the next one on my list.

Notes from weight training eBooks (BFFM and Holy Grail)

I’ve been reading two eBooks about resistance/weight training and diet: burn the fat, feed the muscle; and the Holy Grail.  I made some notes, because I’m geeky like that, and thought I’d share them with you:
  • Repetition guidelines:
    • Strength/Power 1 – 5 reps
    • Hypertrophy (size) & some strength 6 – 12 reps
    • Local endurance/ little size 12-20 reps
    • Abs & Calves 10-25 reps
  • More sets and exercises are not necessarily better. Better training means more intensity, good exercise form and continuous progression
  • Eat both protein and carbs in the post workout meal. Carbs eaten after workouts will replenish glycogen, restore blood sugar, and cause a beneficial insulin spike, which will suppress the catabolic hormone cortisol, and drive amino acids into the muscle cells.
  • Do cardio and weights separated into 2 sessions, if possible. 
  • To maintain good flexibility, you should stretch three or four times per week. To increase flexibility to the maximum level possible, you need to stretch on a daily basis.
  • Goal Setting:
    • Focus on one goal, not conflicting goals. 1) fat loss 2) Muscle gain 3) gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time (the Holy Grail!)
    • Set long term and short term goals
    • Goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound
  • Body fat % classifications:
    • Lean = 10 – 14%
    • Ripped = 3 – 6%

Update and Isometric training

It’s been a while, so I’m going to spoil you with a three post wammy!  I competed at the GTI English Open championships the Sunday before last where I lost second round in points sparring and narrowly won the continuous sparring category.  This (and the upcoming comps) has motivated to get my ass back to training.

I’m still working in London, so am trying to cram in as much training during the weekend as I can.  There is hope though – I may have two leads for good clubs in central London; one kickboxing club and one ITF club.  If anyone knows of any decent clubs in central London I’d be happy to hear them!

Before this surge in training I was hitting the gym, mixing it up with some isometric training; static resistance training.  For example one of the most common isomteric exercises is the plank.  


An isometric exercise : the plank

I used the same isometric principles during my weight sessions e.g. dumbbell chest press, pausing for the count of 20 at the bottom of the exercise and at the top.  Likewise for bicep curls, shoulder press, lateral raises and tricep kickbacks etc.

From this experience I found it somewhat frustrating, as you don’t work up a sweat and it’s a different kind of burn, which meant that I felt like I was barely working.  I used to think, if I’m not sweating and if it doesn’t hurt then I’m not working hard enough – with isometric training this is definitely not the case.

I’ve now moved onto plyometric/ballistic training for that explosive power which is much needed in sparring.  See next post for an update on my plyometric/ballistic training experience.